Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Punjab Operations Target Baloch Militants; Hezb-e-Islami Peace Deal Nears Announcement Again


  • Pakistani military border police and paramilitary Rangers conducted “combing operations” in the Rajanpur district near the border with Balochistan on Saturday, killing eight militant suspects that military spokesmen said were affiliated with the Baloch Liberation Army; operations also took place in the Dera Bugti district in Balochistan. In an Eid message, Heb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar attributed delays in finalizing a peace agreement to divisions within the Afghan government; in his Eid address on Monday, Pres. Ghani suggested that an agreement was close but that “some issues are left” to finalize. Nangarhar provincial police chief Zorawar Zahid was killed in a bombing in the Hesarak district on Sunday. A spokesman for the Uruzgan provincial governor claimed that planning was underway for an operation to “eliminate the Taliban from Uruzgan” in the coming week. The PTI has apparently scrapped plans for a march on Prime Minister Sharif’s Raiwind residence, saying that they will not protest outside the residence itself and will set a new date for the event; opposition parties, including the Pakistan Awami Tehreek, had distanced themselves from the planned protest. Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah will reportedly meet to discuss electoral reform plans. MQM leader Farooq Sattar announced on Saturday that the party would not collect sacrificial animal hides during Eid ul Azha, previously a major source of revenue for the party; Sattar was injured in a car crash on Sunday evening, but has been hospitalized and is in stable condition. India’s foreign ministry announced that Pres. Ghani would visit India September 14-15 for talks with Prime Minister Modi. Pakistan’s foreign ministry rejected Ghani’s complaints that Afghan exports were not being allowed to transit the Wagah border crossing into India.

Pakistan – Security

  • Military Operations Target Balochistan Separatists: On Saturday, the military’s public relations arm announced that eight militants and one security officer had been killed in “combing operations” in the Gayandari area of Punjab’s Rajanpur district, on the border with Balochistan. Military border police and the Punjab Rangers, backed by army helicopters, are carrying out the operations, with local district police telling Dawn they were not involved. An ISPR spokesman described the targets as members of the Baloch Liberation Army, and said nearly 50 had been arrested. Separately, the Frontier Corps targeted Balochistan Republican Army camps in the adjoining Dera Bugti district in Balochistan on Saturday, seizing weapons caches and arresting two suspects. [ET]
  • FATA and KPK Attacks and Operations: Military airstrikes killed nine militant suspects in the Tirah Valley area of the Khyber Agency on Friday. In Peshawar, a police officer was killed in a driveby shooting on Friday. On Sunday, a leading polio vaccination campaign official, Dr. Zakaullah Khan, was killed in a driveby shooting in Peshawar, which the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s Jamaat-ul-Ahrar splinter group claimed responsibility for.

Pakistan – Politics and Diplomacy

  • PTI Scraps Plans for Raiwind Protest: Speaking after a meeting of PTI party leaders in Islamabad on Friday, Imran Khan announced that the party would not target the prime minister’s residence in an upcoming protest rally in Raiwind, and would set a new date for the protest, which he insisted would be announced soon after further consultations with other opposition parties. Most major opposition parties have indicated they will not take part in the march; the PPP is now planning its own series of rallies later this month. On Saturday, PAT leader Tahirul Qadri said that he would not join a Raiwind march, attributing the decision to the risk that the PML-N would respond with violence against Qadri’s supporters; at a Lahore rally the day prior, Qadri reiterated allegations that the Sharif family was secretly employing Indian nationals at its factories. On Saturday, Prime Minister Sharif met with PML-N senator Zafarul Haq to discuss draft legislation on a “Commission of Inquiry”, among other items. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET]
  • MQM in Turmoil: On Saturday, MQM leader Farooq Sattar announced that the party would not collect sacrificial animal hides during the Eid-ul Azha period, a significant annual source of revenue for the party; Sattar cited the past arrest of party activists and seizure of hides, and said that the MQM was focusing instead on reorganization. The MQM’s candidate for the PS-127 Sindh Assembly seat filed a Sindh High Court petition challenging the outcome of the election. Separately, the Pakistani interior ministry reported that UK Home Office authorities had confirmed receipt of and passed on their incitement complaint against Altaf Hussain for investigation by the British police. On Sunday evening, Sattar suffered shoulder injuries following a car crash on a Karachi highway; he has been hospitalized and is in stable condition. [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • FATA Reforms: A “grand Jirga” featuring tribal representatives from all seven agencies met in Peshawar on Sunday and called on the government to hold a referendum regarding proposed FATA reforms currently under review by a government committee. Separately, displaced North Waziristan residents held a protest in Bannu on Sunday, criticizing the federal and provincial governments for failing to provide them with assistance. [ET]
  • Legal Politics: The Islambad High Court has issued a restraining order against the replacement of the current membership of the Pakistan Bar Council’s 21 committees with new leadership, following a switch in affiliation by a member of the executive committee to a faction led by lawyer Asma Jahangir.

Pakistan – Economics and Development

  • Tax Revenues: On Friday, Finance Minister Dar released a directory of legislators’ tax records, showing that national assembly lawmakers paid arounds Rs 310.8 million in taxes in the 2014-15 fiscal year, up by around 30% from the year prior. Both Prime Minister Sharif and Imran Khan paid significantly less in taxes in the 2015 fiscal year than the year before, records indicated. A PTI spokesman accused the government of misreporting Khan’s income and tax details. Five ministers, including Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan, have not filed income tax returns; overall, 120 legislators out of 1,169 in the national parliament and provincial assemblies failed to file tax returns. [Dawn]
  • China-Pakistan Economic Corridor: The Express Tribune reports that Chinese Communist Party Vice Minister of the International Department Zheng Ziasong told a visiting PPP delegation in Beijing on Saturday that “political consensus coupled with unanimity in approach is essential to draw the maximum benefits” from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project. In a separate meeting between Iran’s ambassador to Pakistan Mehdi Honardoust and the head of the Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Honardoust expressed interest in participating in CPEC projects.

Pakistan – Remainders

  • Pakistani Lawyers Gather to Reflect a Month After Quetta Hospital Bombing [WAPO]
  • PM Sharif to Highlight Kashmir Conflict During UNGA Remarks [Dawn]
  • Bill Proposes Gender-Disaggregated Vote Counting [Dawn]
  • Three NADRA Officials Arrested Over Issuance of National ID Cards to Foreigners [Dawn]
  • Finance Ministry Concerned Over Falling Exports [ET]
  • Pakistan and Russia to Hold Joint War Games [ET]
  • Stranded Workers Begin Repatriation from Saudi Arabia [Dawn]
  • Cabinet Approves Land Acquisition for Diamer Bhasha Dam [Dawn]
  • Federal Government Seeks Land for 46 New Hospitals [ET]
  • Commentary: MQM Without Altaf Hussain? – “Altaf Bhai may have become Altaf Saheb overnight and lost the veto powers he had under the MQM’s unamended constitution, but he still casts a long shadow over the organisation he founded. Can the party survive dissociated from his cult of personality or will it tear itself apart?” [Ahmed Yusuf and Ammar Shahbazi, Dawn]

Afghanistan – Security

  • Nangarhar Police Chief Killed: Nangarhar provincial police chief Brigadier General Zorawar Zahid was killed in a roadside bombing in the province’s Hesarak district on Sunday evening; Taliban spokesmen claimed responsibility for the attack, although it is unclear if Zahid was directly targeted. Police officials says that a “weapons clearing operation” has been underway in Hesarak for the past few days. One civilian man was killed and his son wounded in a bombing in Jalalabad city on Saturday morning; no claim of responsibility has been reported. Airstrikes in the Achin and Deh Bala districts on Saturday killed at least thirteen Daesh-affiliated militants, Afghan army officials reported. [TOLO] [AP] [TOLO]
  • Urzugan Operations: A spokesman for the Uruzgan provincial governor told Reuters on Saturday that after repelling a Taliban attack on the provincial capital of Tirin Kot, Afghan security forces were planning a “massive operation in three or four days” to “eliminate the Taliban from Uruzgan”. The Reuters piece reports that the U.S. conducted at least three airstrikes on Taliban forces positioned around the city on Friday, in addition to Afghan Air Force strikes. Although officials say that the city has now been secured, police sources tell TOLO that they are running low on ammunition.
  • Other Attacks and Operations: TOLO reports that August was the most violent month in the Afghan conflict in the past two years, with over 1,300 security incidents reported around the country. Kabul police officials said they had tightened security in the city in conjunction with Eid ul Azha, calling on residents to avoid celebratory gunfire; police sources tell TOLO that they have not been searching trucks entering the city. On Saturday, the NDS announced the seizure of over 35 tons of explosive materials in two trucks from Pakistan; the two drivers, both reported to be from Khost, have been arrested. The Afghan Air Forced carried out airstrikes in the Faizabad district of Jowzjan on Saturday, reportedly killing at least nine militant suspects. A U.S. drone strike also reportedly struck a group of militants in the Khak-e-Safid district of Farah province on Saturday night; details of the targets have not been reported. [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [TOLO]

Afghanistan – Politics and Diplomacy

  • Hezb-i-Islami Peace Agreement: Reports on Friday suggested that the government was preparing to sign a peace agreement with Hezb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar; his son, Habibur Rehman Hekmatyar, made a Facebook announcement on Friday in which he said the government and HIG had reached an agreement on all articles of the draft. In an Eid message on Sunday, the elder Hekmatyar attributed delays in the agreement’s conclusion to divisions within the unity government. A HIG source tells the Express Tribune that they were expecting the agreement to be announced on Saturday evening. In his Eid address on Monday, Pres. Ghani thanked HIG negotiators and the High Peace Council, saying that “some issues are left and those are issues that would be very important for implementing peace… these issues should be solved within a limited period of time.” He did not provide further details but said that “God willing, the agreement will be finalised soon and we will witness a major step toward the creation of peace environment and end of fighting”. [TOLO]
  • Unity Government Divisions: TOLO reports that Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah will meet soon to discuss electoral reforms, with proposals for a switch to single-member districts reported to be a main point of contention. Both leaders attended Martyrs Week ceremonies at the presidential palace on Saturday. In remarks on Friday, former minister and Herat strongman Ismail Khan criticized the government, saying that “if the system fails to stop waywardness, corruption and bullying, then we have to act against those who one day pose for a picture with (one person) and one day with (another) to establish their authoritarian approach”, an apparent reference to Ghani. In a TOLO interview, second deputy to the chief executive Mohammad Mohaqiq also warned that divisions between Ghani and Abdullah were compounding the problems facing the government and that ministers and directors were not being given authority to do their jobs. [TOLO]
  • Mullah Haibatullah Issues Eid Message: In a public message on the occasion of Eid-ul-Azha, Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada called on Taliban fighters to consult with “honorable religious and spiritual leaders, tribal influential and pious men of insight” and to avoid harassing civilians, and for members of the Afghan security services to “deeply think over their jeopardizing position of their being in the ranks of the invaders”. [Khaama Press]
  • Ghani to Visit India: Pres. Ghani will visit India on September 14-15, India’s foreign ministry announced on Saturday, for talks with Prime Minister Modi and for meetings with the Indian business community. Ghani is expected to renew requests for additional attack helicopters from India, in addition to artillery, ammunition, and spare parts. [TOLO]

Afghanistan – Economics and Development

  • Transit Trade: Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman told the BBC Urdu service on Saturday that Pakistan was “fulfilling its commitment to the Afghan people by providing them a trade transit facility”, saying that Afghan goods were free to export goods to India through the Wagah border crossing with Pakistan. The day prior, Pres. Ghani was quoted telling the UK’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan that “if Pakistan does not allow Afghan traders to use the Wagah border for imports and exports of their goods, Afghanistan will also not allow Pakistan to use Afghan transit routes to reach Central Asia and other countries for exports”.

Afghanistan – Remainders

  • From Where Agha Jan Motasim Sits, Demand is Growing for Afghan Peace [NYT]
  • Ethnic Tensions, Taliban Attacks Pose Traps for Afghan Leaders [Reuters]
  • In a Shift, U.S. Includes Families in Hostage Rescue Efforts [NYT]
  • AIHRC Raises Concerns Over Government Child Welfare Policies [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Afghan Exodus: Smuggling Networks, Migration, and Settlement Patterns in Turkey – “Turkey is both a means and an end for Afghan migrants.” [Noah Arjomand, AAN]

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