- In remarks on Thursday, Chief Executive Abdullah made his most direct and public criticisms to date of Pres. Ghani, accusing him of failing to consult on government appointments, failing to implement election reform, and suggesting that “if someone does not have the patience for discussion, then they are not fit for the presidency”. Ghani has not responded, but anonymous presidential sources suggested that Abdullah’s comments were timed to mollify his supporters an upcoming Jamiat-i-Islami party meeting. At another review meeting on Thursday, Pakistani civilian and military officials agreed to form a “high level task force” to oversee the implementation of the National Action Plan against terrorism, although details are otherwise limited. PPP opposition leaders blamed Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan for failing to implement the NAP and prevent Monday’s bombing in Quetta. The Pakistani military announced the arrest of six suspected militants in Rawalpindi in “combing operations” over Thursday night. Major routes to the Helmand provincial capital of Lashkar Gah have reportedly been cut off; defense ministry spokesmen insisted that the province would be protected “at all costs”. Pakistan’s GEO TV reported that the crew of a Pakistani helicopter that crashed in Logar province last week had been released, although officials have not confirmed the report and as of Thursday said they were still working to secure the group’s release. Pakistani civil society activists protested the passage of a new law that imposes penalties on various broadly defined online crimes. Pakistan Awami Tehreek leader Tahir ul Qadri postponed his planned nationwide protest campaign earlier this week, and has not a set new date despite pledges that the protests will take place.
Pakistan – Security
- Quetta Attack Aftermath: Thursday’s meeting of top military and civilian leaders agreed to establish a “high level task force” to oversee the implementation of the National Action Plan against terrorism, and to improve communications between intelligence and security agencies; details were limited. Speaking at a weekly press briefing, the foreign ministry’s spokesman said that “involvement of foreign elements working in cahoots with their local contacts” to carry out Monday’s attack in Quetta “cannot be ruled out”. Pakistan’s military spokesman announced the arrest of six suspected militants in “combing operations” in Rawalpindi over Thursday night, but provided few details; there have been no reports that civilian officials in Punjab have formally requested military policing assistance, previously a point of tension between the PML-N and the military. Speaking to the press on Thursday, PPP opposition leaders Khurshid Shah and Aitzaz Ahsan blamed Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan for failing to implement the NAP and prevent the bombing in Quetta; the PPP and PTI staged a walkout during Chaudhry Nisar’s speech to parliament on Wednesday. [WSJ] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
- Provincial Policing: The Express Tribune reports that the Khyber Paktunkhwa police are facing a shortage of civil service officers for senior officer positions. In a hearing on Thursday, the Supreme Court directed the Sindh government and federal government to cooperate and provide resources for the provincial police; the court also ordered screenings of private security guards. In Punjab, 3338 constables have been recruited so far for a Special Protection Unit tasked with protecting Chinese engineers working on development projects in the province.
Pakistan – Politics and Diplomacy
- ‘Cybercrime Law’ Protests: Civil society activists criticized the passage on Thursday of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill, saying it gave security agencies “unbridle powers” to pursue criminal charges against online speech and access to information, and broad censorship powers to the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority regulator. Reuters notes that the bill outlaws “spoofing”, and could potentially be used to prosecute satirical or parody sites. [Dawn]
- Opposition Campaigning and Other Political Activity: Speaking on Thursday, Pakistan Awami Tehreek leader Tahir ul Qadri insisted that his party would carry out sit-ins in more than 100 cities across the country, demanding justice for 14 PAT activists killed in a clash with Lahore police in June 2014. Earlier this week, Qadri had postponed his protest plans, which had been scheduled to begin August 16, and new no date has been set. [ET] [ET] [ET]
Pakistan – Remainders
- Investigations Continue into U.S. National’s Attempted Return to Pakistan [Dawn]
- NAB Files Case Against Former Army Chief’s Brother in DHA Lahore Land Scam [Dawn]
- Railway Bombing in Hyderabad Averted [ET]
- Iran Deputy Foreign Minister Visits Karachi [Dawn]
- Minority Parliamentarians Seek to Open Top Government Positions to Non-Muslims [Dawn]
- PSO Receives 42 LNG Shipments Over Past 17 Months [ET]
- BISP to Review Beneficiary Eligibility [Dawn]
- PEMRA Bans ARY News Program for Comments Over Judge’s Son’s Kidnapping [Dawn] [ET]
Afghanistan – Security
- Helmand Under Siege: TOLO reports that all roads to the Helmand provincial capital of Lashkar Gah have been cut off; a defense ministry spokesman insisted that “Helmand province will be protected at any cost, Helmand province will be cleared and no threats will reach Lashkar Gah”. Taliban fighters are reported to control five out of the province’s fourteen districts, and to be fighting to seize control of seven more. [RFE/RL]
- Reports of Pakistani Helicopter Crew’s Release: Pakistan’s GEO TV reported Thursday that the crew of a Pakistani helicopter that crashed in Logar province last week had been released, although there are few details and no official confirmation. Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman said Thursday that efforts were still ongoing to negotiate the crew’s release. [Dawn]
- Other Attacks and Operations: Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal told an Afghan television interviewer that the Islamic State’s Khorasan affiliate commander Hafiz Saeed Khan had been confirmed to have been killed in Afghan military operations in the Kot district in late July, echoing Afghan military claims; U.S. and Daesh officials have not confirmed Saeed’s death. Five people, including two soldiers, were killed in a bombing at a marketplace in the Shindand district in Herat on Thursday; no claim of responsibility has been reported. [TOLO]
Afghanistan – Politics and Diplomacy
- Abdullah Opens Up with Criticism for Ghani: Speaking to a televised gathering of young supporters at his office on Thursday, Chief Executive Abdullah voiced some of his most direct and public criticism to date against his unity government partner Pres. Ghani, saying that Ghani had not been consulting him on government appointments and had not made progress on electoral reform pledges. Abdullah added that “there are arguments in any government, but if someone does not have the patience for discussion, then they are not fit for the presidency, either.” Abdullah suggested he would meet with Ghani on Saturday to discuss some of these issues. Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor and former intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh voiced support for Abdullah’s criticisms. Pres. Ghani has not commented on Abdullah’s remarks; an anonymous presidential source tells Pajhwok that Abdullah’s remarks were “aimed at to attract the attention of members of Jamiat-i-Islami”, noting an upcoming meeting of the party and suggesting that the Jamiat might try to put forward an alternative to Abdullah as chief executive. [Reuters] [TOLO]
- Judicial Shuffle: A spokesman for the presidency says that the government has reshuffled around a thousand judges and at least 50 attorneys to different positions around the country as part of its judicial reform program.
Afghanistan – Remainders