Note: The news will be on hiatus on Monday, January 2, and will return with a full summary of the long weekend on Tuesday, January 3. Have a safe and happy new year, and thank you for reading.
- Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali is due to retire on Friday, with his successor Mian Saqib Nisar to take office on Saturday. Speaking on Thursday, JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman opposed any further extension for the tenure military courts created under the 21st Amendment to the Pakistani constitution. A spokesman for the Taliban’s Qatar office welcomed the trilateral talks between Russia, China, and Pakistan earlier this week, saying they “understood the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is a political and military force”. Gunmen in Kunduz city killed a leading Sikh community figure on Thursday; no claim of responsibility has been reported. Pakistan’s foreign ministry has opposed a proposed formula for states that are not Non-Proliferation Treaty signatories to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group. At least ten Afghan army helicopters have crashed or made emergency landings in the past two months, ministry of defense officials confirmed. A suicide bomber injured at least two people and killed himself in an attack near a mosque in Rahim Yar Khan; officials with the police Counter-Terrorism Department appear to have been the target. The Planning Ministry announced on Thursday that the Joint Cooperation Committee of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project had agreed to create a working group to assess proposals to fund the construction of the Diamer-Bhasha dam and other projects to support “Pakistan’s water security”.
Pakistan — Security
- Military Courts: Speaking to reporters in Peshawar on Thursday, JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman opposed permanent status for military courts created through the 21st Amendment to the constitution, saying an extension for the courts past their two-year sunset period “will be a confession on part of the government that it has failed to achieve the goals of the National Action Plan during the last two years”. In a statement on Thursday, the senate secretariat noted that the upper house had already passed two pieces of legislation to improve existing legislation on terrorism prosecutions and witness protections. [ET]
- NSG Membership: Pakistan’s foreign ministry said Thursday that it opposed a proposed formula for evaluating Nuclear Suppliers Group membership applications from countries that, like Pakistan and India, had not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, saying it “would be clearly discriminatory and would contribute nothing in terms of furthering the non-proliferation objectives of the NSG.”
- Rahim Yar Khan Bombing: A suicide bomber detonated near a mosque in Rahim Yar Khan on Friday, killing himself and injuring at least two people; the target of the attack is reported to be two Punjab Counter-Terrorism Department officials, whose office is nearby. [ET]
- Military Exercises: Jordanian and Pakistani soldiers held a joint counterterrorism training exercise in Attock on Thursday; Chief of Army Staff Bajwa, observing exercises, was quoted by the military’s spokesman saying that Pakistan had “successfully defeated terrorism and is now in the consolidation phase”. [ET]
- Military Appointments: On Thursday, Prime Minister Sharif appointed Maj. Gen. Azhar Naveed Hayat as the new director general for the Punjab Rangers; he previously headed an infantry division in Quetta, and replaces Maj. Gen. Umar Farooq Burki.
Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Chief Justice Retires: Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali will retire on Friday; the Express Tribune offers a retrospective on his 15-month tenure. Mian Saqib Nisar is expected to be sworn in as the next chief justice on Saturday, and one of his tasks will include reconstituting a bench previously headed by Jamali to hear arguments related to the Panama Papers and please for Prime Minister Sharif’s disqualification from office.
- Opposition Protests and Other Political Activity: PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar tells Dawn that the PPP is not planning to carry out a “long march” against the government in Islamabad, but will still hold “many small protest rallies and public meetings will be held in different cities, including the federal capital”; a schedule for those protests has not been announced. Imran Khan told reporters on Thursday that the PTI was open to joining an opposition alliance with the PPP. The PTI suspended the party membership of 10 party activists on Thursday, citing their support for rival candidates in local party elections. Also on Thursday, the Election Commission disqualified Basheer Ahmed Halepota, a PPP Sindh provincial assembly member, for electoral code violations during local government elections in Badin earlier this year.
Pakistan — Economics and Development
- CPEC Talks Focus on Water Projects: In an announcement on Thursday, the Planning Ministry said that the meeting in Beijing of the Joint Cooperation Committee on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor had decided to constitute a working group on hydroelectric dam projects on the Indus river, particularly the Diamer Bhasha dam project. China also agreed to finance a 4,000 megawatt power transmission line linking Matiari and Lahore, at a cost of $1.5 billion; State Grid of China will carry out the work, to begin in January and take roughly 20 months to complete. [Dawn]
- Tharparkar Crisis: Nine infants have reportedly died from malnutrition and associated diseases in Sindh’s Thar district over the past 48 hours, raising the official death toll to 476 so far this year; unofficial reports put it at more than 600 deaths.
Pakistan — Remainders
- Prime Minister Chairs Kashmir Council Budget Session [ET]
- Interior Minister to Constitute New Prosecution Committee in Axact Case [ET]
- Police Granted More Time to File Charges in Baldia Factory Fire Case [ET] [ET]
- National Commission for Human Rights Disputes Gadani Factory Fire Death Toll [ET]
- In a Pakistan Family, a Deal is Made, a Girl is Given as a Bride [WAPO]
- Government Considering Oil Prices Hike [ET]
Afghanistan — Security
- Kunduz Sikh Leader Killed: On Thursday, unidentified gunmen killed Lala Del Souz, the head of the Sikh minority community in Kunduz city; TOLO reports only three Sikh families currently remain in the city, down from 40 families previously. Police say they have arrested three suspects, but provide no further details; no claim of responsibility has been reported. [Khaama Press]
- Helicopter Crashes: A ministry of defense spokesman confirmed on Friday that army helicopters had crashed or made emergency landings at least ten times in the past two months.
- Other Attacks and Operations: Taliban fighters have reportedly closed the Helmand-Kandahar highway and have destroyed the majority of bridges along the road. As many as 11 police officers were killed in an attack on their checkpost in Farah province on Thursday night; a spokesman for the governor said only two officers were killed. The Ministry of Interior announced the arrest of an Islamic State volunteer in Kunar province on Thursday, who they identified as a Pakistani national.
Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Taliban Welcome Trilateral Talks: A spokesman for the Taliban’s Qatar office welcomed this week’s trilateral conference in Moscow between Russia, China, and Pakistan, saying that those countries “understood the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is a political and military force” and the group’s proposal to de-list Taliban members from a UN sanctions blacklist “is a positive step forward in bringing peace and security to Afghanistan”. [TOLO]
- Hezb-e-Islami Leader Criticizes Taliban: Habiburrahman Hekmatyar, a son of Hezb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, participated in a gathering honoring the victims of the attack on member of parliament Mir Wali’s Kabul home; Habiburrahman denounced the Taliban as “slaves of foreigners”.
- Standoff with Parliament: A spokesman for Chief Executive Abdullah said that the government would act on parliament’s no-confidence votes against seven cabinet ministers once the Supreme Court issues a ruling on the issue.
Afghanistan — Remainders