Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Attack on Shia Shrine in Kabul; Taliban Leaders Arrested in Balochistan

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Topline

  • At least 17 people were killed and dozens injured in an attack on a Shia shrine in Kabul on Tuesday evening; the Taliban denied responsibility. The Express Tribune reports that three Taliban leaders, including Mullah Nanai, a former intelligence chief and current chief justice for the group, have been detained in Balochistan. Indian government officials have reportedly decided not to release evidence of the disputed cross-border “surgical strikes” into Pakistani Kashmir. Chinese foreign ministry officials say they will “try to normalize strained relations” between India and Pakistan.  Continued heavy fighting is reported around Farah city; around 300 Afghan commandos have been deployed to shore up defenses in Lashkar Gah. A unit of Afghan National Civil Order Police reportedly surrendered to the Taliban following an attack near Tirin Kot on Tuesday. The Supreme Court of Pakistan will hear a final appeal from Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010.

Pakistan – Security

  • Ashura Processions: Police and army soldiers have been deployed to provide security for today’s Ashura processions, including at least 200,000 personnel in Punjab and 50,000 in Sindh; no significant incidents of violence were reported in processions on Tuesday. In messages on Tuesday, Prime Minister Sharif and President Hussain called for national unity. [ET] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan – Politics and Diplomacy

  • Tensions with India: The Indian Express reports that despite domestic pressure the Indian government has decided not to release evidence of its disputed “surgical strike” across the border into Kashmir, concluding that to do so would “push the Pakistan Army into a corner” and that “war is not in India’s interest at this point”. A Chinese foreign ministry official told Pakistani journalists on Tuesday that Chinese Pres. Xi Jinping would “try to normalize strained relations” between India and Pakistan during a visit to Goa to attend a BRICS summit on October 15, adding that “Pakistan and India should shun the talk of war”. Dawn reports Pakistani diplomats are considering proposals to form a “greater South Asian economic alliance” to counter Indian dominance of SAARC, including Central Asian states, China, and Iran. [ET] [The Hindu]
  • Travel Ban on Journalist: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Amnesty International, and Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, among other groups, issued statements protesting the government’s reported travel ban on Dawn columnist Cyril Almeida, whose reporting last week on civil-military disputes over a crackdown on militant groups targeting India and Afghanistan sparked repeated denials from the government and restrictions on his movement. In an editorial, Dawn said that it would “defend itself robustly against any allegation of vested interest, false reporting or violation of national security.” [WSJ]
  • Supreme Court to Hear Blasphemy Appeal: The Supreme Court will hear an appeal plea on Thursday from Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy whose case was taken up by Punjab governor Salman Taseer before his assassination in 2011. [AFP] [WSJ]
  • Opposition Protests and Other Political Activities: PML-N leaders are determined not to bow to the PTI’s protest campaign or accept its demands for investigations against Prime Minister Sharif’s family, the Express Tribune reports. PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will reportedly begin interviewing nominees for the party’s Punjab leadership positions starting Oct 18. On Tuesday, MQM-Pakistan leaders dissolved the party’s student organization cabinet, a move that was again rejected by the MQM’s London leadership. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan – Remainders

  • Sindh Deploys Additional Police at Balochistan Border [Dawn]
  • Pakistan and Iran Sign MOU for New Payment Mechanism [ET]
  • Prime Minister Sharif to Visit Azerbaijan [APP]
  • Parents of Qandeel Baloch Reject Mercy for Brother Who Killed Her [AFP]

Afghanistan – Security

  • Attack on Shia Shrine in Kabul: A group of gunmen attacked the Karte Sakhi Shrine in Kabul on Tuesday evening, opening fire on worshippers preparing for Ashura ceremonies. All of the gunmen – there were variously reported to have been three, one, or five attackers – were killed; some initial reports indicated that they took hostages during the attack. On Wednesday, the Interior Ministry reported that 17 people had been killed in the attack, and at least 62 injured, including a dozen policemen. TOLO reports that a provincial council member from Daikundi, Samya Mohammadi, was among those killed. The Taliban denied responsibility for the attack. Khaama Press reports a second attack took place at another mosque in the Karte Char area of the city, but provides no details on casualties. [AP] [Reuters] [Ariana News] [TOLO]
  • Taliban Leaders Arrested: The Express Tribune reports that three Afghan Taliban leaders, including Mullah Nanai — identified as the head of intelligence under Mullah Akhtar Mansoor and the Taliban’s chief justice under Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada — were arrested in Balochistan over the weekend; a Taliban source attributed the arrests to the Taliban’s refusal to participate in talks with the Afghan government.
  • Other Attacks and Operations: In a statement on Tuesday, Ministry of Defense officials acknowledged that 96 Afghan National Army soldiers had been killed in the past week, without providing further details. Continued heavy fighting is reported in Farah city, where TOLO reports the Taliban have taken control of eastern portions of the city. Vice President Dostum left Kabul for Faryab province on Tuesday after the reported fall of the Ghormach district to Taliban control. Security officials in Helmand say that more than 300 Afghan commandos, backed by U.S. airpower, have been deployed to push back Taliban forces encircling the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah. A unit of 65 Afghan National Civil Order Police has reportedly surrendered to the Taliban after another attack on the Uruzgan provincial capital of Tirin Kot on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Afghan security forces broke a Taliban siege around a military base in Baghlan. [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Money Laundering Sanctions: On Tuesday, the U.S. Treasury Department issued sanctions against three family members of Altaf Khanani, a Pakistani man who is accused of providing money laundering services for the Taliban through his Al Zarooni Exchange and faces charges in Miami later this month.

Afghanistan – Remainders

  • Ghani Makes Surprise Visit to Ministry of Mines, Criticizes Performance [Khaama Press]
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