Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Red Cross Staffer Kidnapped in Kunduz; Interior Minister Continues to Rebuff Critics

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Topline

  • A Red Cross staff member, reportedly a foreign national, was kidnapped by unidentified gunmen in Kunduz on Tuesday. The Taliban released new video of an American-Canadian couple and their two sons born in captivity on Monday, in which they appeal for their release. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan continues to rebuff criticism and refuse calls for his resignation from the PPP and PTI. Retired judge Javed Iqbal told a senate committee on Monday that activist estimates of the number of missing persons in Balochistan were exaggerated and that the commission he heads had only identified 96 such individuals. Former Hezb-e-Islami commander Zardad Faryadi was reportedly released from NDS custody on Monday, after being detained following his deportation from the UK last week. A group of Arab hunters led by the UAE interior minister were attacked in the Panjgur district on Monday; they were unhurt. At a meeting on Monday, Prime Minister Sharif ordered that the provincial chief ministers be consulted on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects in their provinces. The World Bank made an $83.5 million incentive fund payment to the Afghan finance ministry after it completed several reform criteria.

Pakistan — Security

  • Interior Minister Faces Criticism: During Monday’s parliamentary proceedings, the PTI called for a special session to discuss the judicial commission investigation into the Quetta Civil Hospital attack, noting in particular concerns over Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s meetings with banned militant organizations like Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat. Nisar held another press conference on Tuesday, again rebuffing calls from the PPP for his resignation and saying he was “only under pressure of my conscience”. He hosted a luncheon for outgoing ISI chief Lt. Gen. Rizwan Akhtar on Monday. [Dawn]
  • Missing Persons: Retired judge Javed Iqbal, the head of the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, told the senate interior committee on Monday that only 96 individuals were “missing” in Balochistan, saying that higher figures provided by activists were “exaggerated”. The two Balochistan senators on the committee objected to his report. [ET]
  • Arab Hunters Attacked: A group of Arab hunters from Abu Dhabi, led by UAE interior minister Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, were attacked in the Panjgur district on Monday; they were unhurt, and no claim of responsibility has been reported. [Dawn]
  • Sindh Police Chief Suspension: Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah denied that the government had forced the Sindh police chief to go on leave, but asserted his authority to make any appointments changes without the concurrence of the federal government.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Protests and Other Political Activity: During the national assembly session on Monday, the PTI continued calls for Prime Minister Sharif to address the assembly regarding the Panama Papers. In the Khyber Paktunkhwa assembly, the PML-N-led opposition boycotted proceedings, protesting what it said was the concentration of development funds in only four districts. [ET] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • CPEC Project: In remarks on Twitter and at a seminar in Islamabad on Monday, China’s acting ambassador to Pakistan Lijian Zhao defended the China-Pakistan economic corridor from criticism, saying the project would benefit all provinces and rejecting corruption concerns. At a meeting on Monday, Prime Minister Sharif ordered that the four provincial chief ministers be consulted on all projects under CPEC in their respective provinces. [ET]
  • CNG Price Deregulation: On Tuesday, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources announced that pricing of compressed natural gas would be deregulated in Sindh and would no longer be set by the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority; pricing had previously been deregulated in Punjab and Khyber Paktunkhwa.
  • Withdrawal of Rs 5000 Notes Proposed: The senate backed a resolution on Monday calling for the withdrawal of Rs 5000 currency notes over the course of 3-5 years, which officials said would encourage the use of bank accounts and reduce the size of the undocumented economy. More than one trillion Rs 5000 notes are reported to be in circulation, and law minister Zahid Hamid objected to the proposal.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Abbottabad Commission Head Calls for Declassification of Report [Dawn]
  • Musharraf Credits Raheel Sharif with His Exit from Pakistan [Dawn] [ET]
  • Release Curfew Eased in Chakwal After Attack on Ahmadi Mosque [ET]
  • Rs 130 Million Distributed to Displaced Khurram Agency Residents [APP]
  • FIR Contradicts Rangers Version of Hyderabad ‘Failed Suicide Attack’ [Dawn]
  • Questions Raised Over Khyber Paktunkhwa Government Ad Contract [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Red Cross Worker Kidnapped: On Tuesday, unidentified gunmen kidnapped a Red Cross staff member, releasing three others after stopping their vehicles while traveling on the Kunduz-Balkh highway on Tuesday. No information has been released about the identity of the staff member, but a spokesman for the Kunduz provincial governor tells the AP that the hostage is a foreign national. [TOLO]
  • Hostage Video Released: The Taliban released a new video on Monday of an American-Canadian couple and their two children born in captivity, who have been held since 2012 after they were abducted while on a backpacking trip in Afghanistan. Taliban sources tell Reuters that the Haqqani network is holding the family and that they are seeking the release of three senior members, including the brother and maternal uncle of Sirajuddin Haqqani. Canada’s foreign ministry called for the unconditional release of the family.
  • Officer Corps Inflation: The NYT notes that there are nearly a thousand general officers in the Afghan armed forces, and potentially more who have not been documented; many have received the rank through political appointment or in lieu of pay. The figure is more than the number of general officers in the U.S. armed forces, which is three times larger in total size.
  • Attacks and Operations: An IED explosion at a bazaar in Kunduz city on Monday afternoon killed one person and wounded at least 22 people. Nangarhar security officials report that eight Islamic State fighters were killed in a U.S. drone strike in the Haska Mina district on Tuesday. On Monday, the Ministry of Defense reported that five Lashkar-e-Taiba militants were killed when their bomb exploded prematurely in Kunar’s Asmar district. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Hezb-e-Islami Commander Released: Former Hezb-e-Islami commander Zardad Faryadi was released from NDS custody on Monday after his deportation last week from the UK, where had had been serving a sentence for war crimes.
  • Taliban Talks: Briefing the UN Security Council on Monday, Special Representative Tadamichi Yamamoto called on the Taliban to hold direct peace talks with the Afghan government, saying that “we all know that the conflict in Afghanistan has no military solution” and that “basic agreement on fundamental principles should make it possible to reach a peace agreement, as long as countries in the region are prepared to play their part in a positive, supportive way.” [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Incentive Funds: The World Bank made a $83.5 million incentive fund payment to the Ministry of Finance on Tuesday after it met reform criteria “in income resources, organizational reforms, tax management, aid effectiveness and provincial budgets.”

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Family Members Struggle to Save Boy Sex Slaves [AFP]
  • ‘No One is Above the Law’, Ghani Asserts [TOLO]
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