- Pakistan continues to dispute that India’s claims of “surgical strikes” across the Line of Control on Thursday actually took place. Pakistan has reportedly captured an India soldier, which Indian military officials later confirmed, saying he “inadvertently cross over to the Pakistan side” and that the incident was unrelated to Thursday’s action. Indian officials are reported to be considering further actions against Pakistan, including the revocation of most-favored nation trading status and renewed crackdowns on informal trade between the two countries. The UN condemned a U.S. airstrike in Nangarhar’s Achin district that took place earlier this week, reporting that as many as 15 civilians had been killed; U.S. military spokesmen backed an Afghan government assessment that most victims were Islamic State militants. The PTI will hold a rally in Raiwind today; Imran Khan told reporters on Thursday that he would “send a message to Modi” as well as Prime Minister Sharif. Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin issued a statement on Friday calling on fighters to respect a ceasefire with the government; a spokesman for the Wardak provincial governor reported that Hezb-e-Islami fighters had clashed with Haqqani network fighters on Thursday. U.S. Special Representative Richard Olson said Thursday that he expected international donors to pledge roughly $3 billion annually through 2020 for Afghanistan at the upcoming Brussels donors conference. Following a visit to Beijing, Pakistani Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal announced a new $5.5 billion Chinese loan to upgrade the Karachi-Lahore railway.
Pakistan – Security
- Indian Soldier Captured after Disputed ‘Surgical Strike’: Following a press conference on Thursday in which Indian military forces announced that they had carried out “surgical strikes” across the Line of Control, Pakistani news sources reported that one Indian soldier had been captured and a number killed. Details of that incident are murky in terms of timing and location, but Indian army officials later stated that a soldier with the 37 Rashtriya Rifles had “inadvertently crossed over to the Pakistan side of the Line of Control”; they denied reports that Indian soldiers had been killed and said the incident was unrelated to the earlier strikes across the border. Pakistan’s military spokesmen denied that they were holding the soldier in comments to the Express Tribune, although Pakistani ambassador to the UN Maleeha Lodhi confirmed it in an Al Jazeera interview, and Indian sources said the DGMOs hotline had been used to confirm the capture. Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh told reporters on Friday that “all attempts are being made to secure his release”. Scroll.in offers a detailed account of the decision-making on the Indian side behind Thursday’s strikes; the Indian Express and The Hindu offer accounts of the raids, describing casualties “in the double digits” but providing few details on the targets of the strikes. Pakistani official sources and press continue to dispute the contention that a strike took place at all; Prime Minister Sharif chaired a cabinet meeting on Friday, which issued a statement “completely rejecting” the claim. The cabinet readout also quoted Sharif pledging to “defend our homeland against any aggression” and saying that the Kashmir dispute remained “the unfinished business of Partition, which cannot be wished away”. Funeral services for a Pakistani soldier killed in what the military says was an exchange of cross border fire were also held on Friday; there are new reports of firing on Friday as well. An Indian soldier who was critically injured in the Uri army base attack earlier this month succumbed to injuries on Friday, bringing the death toll to 19. India’s National Investigation Agency revised the biographical details of two men it is interrogating on charges of acting as “guides” for the gunmen in the Uri attack. Indian officials are reported to be considering further steps to withdraw most-favored nation trading status for Pakistan and to crack down on informal trade, and Prime Minister Modi is reported to be considering restrictions on air links between the two countries. US State Department spokesman John Kirby said Thursday that “our message to both sides is the same, to encourage them to increase communication to deal with this threat and avoid steps that escalates the tension.” Pakistan’s chief justice will skip a conference scheduled to take place in India later in October; India’s Motion Picture Producers Association has imposed a ban on Pakistani artists and technicians from working in India “till normalcy returns”. [The Wire] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET]
- Newspaper Executive Freed: Jang Group director of coordination Abid Abdullah was freed on Thursday evening after being kidnapped the day prior in Peshawar; no details of his release have been reported. [Dawn]
- Jamaat-ul-Ahrar: The AP profiles the TTP splinter group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar; the group’s spokesman denies claims that it operates based from Afghanistan.
Pakistan – Politics and Diplomacy
- PTI Prepares for Raiwind Rally: Preparations are underway for today’s PTI rally in Raiwind; speaking to reporters on Thursday, Imran Khan said that “Initially I had to give a message to Nawaz Sharif, but tomorrow I will send a message to Modi too”, referring to recent tensions of India’s reported strikes across the Line of Control. The Express Tribune notes banners in the area put up by rival PML-N activists calling on the PTI to drop its march plans. Around 7,500 policemen will be deployed to provide security for the march; the Sharif family residence has been cordoned off by shipping containers. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET]
Pakistan – Economics and Development
- New China Pakistan Economic Corridor Loan: Following a visit to Beijing earlier this week, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal told a press conference on Thursday that he had secured an agreement for a new $5.5 billion loan with China to upgrade the Karachi-Lahore railway line.
Pakistan – Remainders
- Fazlur Rehman Calls for Referendum on FATA Reforms [Dawn] [ET]
- Muharram Security Plans Finalized [ET] [ET]
- Third Bench Declines to Hear Asim Hussain Plea [ET]
- PEMRA Dismisses Ahmadi Complaints [Dawn]
- Peshawar High Court Censures Peshawar Officials Over City Pollution [ET]
- Commentary: Pakistan Won’t Reverse Seven Decades of Anti-India Policy Without Diplomatic Process – “The novelty here is not that India struck. It is that it chose to announce its operation with great fanfare.” [Shashank Joshi, Hindustan Times]
- Commentary: Pakistan’s Marginalization in South Asia – “Pakistan cannot hold the future of the region hostage to its India paranoia.” [Harsh Pant, WSJ]
Afghanistan – Security
- Achin Airstrike Killed Civilians, UN Says: In a statement on Thursday, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan condemned a U.S. airstrike that took place in Nangarhar’s Achin district on Wednesday, saying that at least 15 civilians had been killed in the incident. A delegation sent to investigate by the Nangarhar provincial governor claimed that only five civilians had been killed, with the rest of the casualties Islamic State fighters and commanders. U.S. military spokesmen backed the Afghan government’s assessment, but said “we continue to work with Afghan authorities to determine if there is cause for additional investigation.” The U.S. military statement also said that “Daesh is killing innocent Afghan men, women, and children” and “continue to put innocent lives at risk by deliberately surrounding themselves with civilians”. [WAPO] [AP] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
- Other Attacks and Operations: Vice President Dostum visited Faryab province on Wednesday, accusing the ISI of supporting Taliban forces in the area. A roadside bombing in the Qads district in Badghis province killed at least ten civilians on Thursday.
Afghanistan – Politics and Diplomacy
- Hezb-e-Islami Peace Agreement: In a statement on Friday after the signature of a peace agreement with the government the day prior, Hezb-e-Islami officially called on its fighters to respect a ceasefire with Afghan security forces. The Wardak governor’s spokesman reported that Haqqani network and Hezb-e-Islami fighters clashed in the Mulakhel area on Thursday, leaving ten Haqqani fighters dead; neither side has confirmed the incident. In his remarks on Thursday, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar called on the government to free Hizb-e-Islami prisoners. [WAPO] [TOLO] [TOLO]
Afghanistan – Economics and Development
- Brussels Conference: Speaking at an event on Thursday, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Olson said that he expected approximately $3 billion in annual donor commitments for Afghanistan through 2020 at the upcoming donors conference in Brussels next week.
Afghanistan – Remainders
- Three Relatives of New York / New Jersey Bomber Detained in Afghanistan After Deportation from UAE [Stars and Stripes]
- Commentary: Peace with Hekmatyar: What Does It Mean for Battlefield and Politics? – “He has no army to bring home from the trenches, but has, in the past, proved able to rally huge political support around himself.” [Borhan Osman, AAN]
- Commentary: The Brussels Conference on Afghanistan: Between Aid and Migration – “For many donor countries, the key issues remain: the elections, the peace process, regional cooperation, mutual accountability and aid effectiveness. And on these issues, the Afghan government has only very modest achievements to report.” [AAN]