Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Protestors Seeking to Disrupt Taseer Vigil Arrested; US Man Believed to Be Held by Haqqanis

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  • Lahore police arrested as many as 150 people who had planned a counter-demonstration against a vigil that was to be held for the late Punjab governor Salman Taseer; Shaan Taseer, one of his sons, says that he has received death threats after he spoke out against the blasphemy law earlier this week. The wife of a Massachusetts man tells The News and the NYT that she believes he was kidnapped while seeking to travel from Khost to Pakistan to interview Sirajuddin Haqqani in May 2014. A spokesman for Pres. Ghani denied that anyone had been offered Vice President Dostum’s position, as claimed by Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor earlier this week. A spokesman for the Hezb-e-Islami suggested that Gulbuddin Hekmatyar might return to Kabul prior to his removal from the UN sanctions blacklist, and called on Russi and France to drop their opposition to his de-listing. Hearings continued on the Panama Papers; the PML-N is reportedly seeking the support of the MQM in the Senate to pass its preferred legislation that would govern an inquiry commission.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Protests on Taseer Death Anniversary: Lahore police arrested as many as 150 people on Wednesday who had rallied in opposition to a vigil for the late Punjab governor Salman Taseer; the head of the Tehreek-e-Laibaik Ya Rasool Allah group was among those arrested. Shaan Taseer, one of Salman’s sons, told police earlier this week that he had received death threats after he made statements on Twitter and Facebook calling for prayers for those accused under Pakistan’s blasphemy law. [Reuters] [AP]
  • Panama Papers Hearings: At Supreme Court hearings on Thursday, lawyers for Prime Minister Sharif submitted responses to questions from the court about the timeline of his time in office and his ownership of overseas assets. The PTI plans further filings to dispute previous statements from the government. The PML-N is meanwhile reportedly seeking the support of the MQM and other smaller parties in the senate in an effort to push through its preferred legislation governing an inquiry commission into the Panama Papers. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Tensions with India: Speaking at a conference on Kashmir in Islamabad on Thursday, Prime Minister Sharif condemned “seventy years of brutal repression” in Indian Kashmir, and praised former militant commander Burhan Wani, saying his “martyrdom has become a rallying point for the freedom loving people of the territory”. At a State Department press briefing on Wednesday, spokesman John Kirby did not confirm Pakistani press reports that the U.S. had agreed to mediate between India and Pakistan on two disputed Indus dam projects, but said the U.S. was “in regular communication with the Indian and Pakistani governments on a wide range of issues”. On Thursday, the Sindh provincial government released 219 Indian fishermen detained for violating Pakistani territorial waters; another hundred fishermen remain in detention. [AP] [Dawn]
  • Karachi Operation: Malir district police are seeking the inclusion of Karachi mayor Waseem Akhtar on the “Fourth Schedule” list of individuals sanctioned for involvement in anti-state, sectarian, or terrorist activities, the Express Tribune reports. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • CPEC Project: Prime Minister Sharif chaired a meeting on Wednesday to review the recent Joint Cooperation Committee meeting in Beijing on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, and was quoted saying that CPEC’s benefits should be “equitably distributed” among all provinces in Pakistan. Planning Minster Ahsan Iqbal told a press conference afterwards that around 5,000 megawatts of more than 8,810 currently under construction or in the process of being financed would be completed by 2018. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Turkish Police Free Six Kidnapped Pakistani Nationals [Dawn] [ET]
  • Pakistan Navy Seeks to Acquire Modern Warships [Dawn]
  • Zardari and Bilawal to Contest Seats on Different Party Symbols [Dawn]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Governor Reverses FATA School Closure Plan [ET]
  • Mounting Financial Woes for PIA [Dawn]
  • Rally in Support of FATA Merger [ET]
  • Prime Minister Announces National History and Literary Heritage Fund [Dawn]
  • Sindh Demands Control Over Tourism Assets, Rejects PM’s Executive Order [Dawn]
  • Commentary: Birth of Another Dependency – Are we now getting locked into a cycle of borrowing and imports under the garb of CPEC even as the more important pillars of the external sector — exports, remittances and FDI — shrivel up?” [Khurram Husain, Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • American Man’s Kidnapping Disclosed: In a statement to the NYT and Pakistan’s The News, Jane Larson, the wife of 74-year old Massachusetts resident Paul Overby, said that he had disappeared in May 2014 after attempting to travel from Khost province to Pakistan to interview Sirajuddin Haqqani. She said she believed he was being held hostage by the Haqqani network; no public ransom demands have been reported. Overby previously traveled to and reported on Afghanistan during the anti-Soviet jihad era.
  • Attacks and Operations: At least one person was killed and two wounded in a roadside bombing in Jalalabad on Thursday morning; the target was reported to be a police vehicle. The Qaisar district police chief in Faryab province was wounded along with five others in a suicide bombing attack on Thursday. Two Afghan policewomen were killed in separate attacks in Helmand’s Nawa district and the Uruzgan capital of Tirin Kot; the Taliban are believed to be responsible for the former incident, while the latter victim is reported to have been killed by her husband after seeking divorce. The Ministry of Defense said that it had killed two foreign fighters among six others during operations along the Helmand-Nimroz highway.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Dostum-Atta Dispute: A spokesman for Pres. Ghani on Wednesday said that no offers had been made to “any individual or entity” to replace Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum, as Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor claimed in an interview earlier this week. Advisors to Abdullah Abdullah criticized Noor’s ongoing negotiations with the government, suggesting they were a matter of his personal aggrandizement.
  • Hezb-e-Islami Suggests Early Return to Gulbuddin: A spokesman for the Hezb-e-Islami said Thursday that Gulbuddin Hekmatyar could return to Kabul prior to the removal of UN sanctions on him. In a Pajhwok interview, spokesman Hameed Azizi said that Pres. Ghani had written to French authorities, seeking the removal of their objections to Hekmatyar’s de-listing, and called on Russia not to block the move. But Azizi also criticized slow progress in freeing HIG prisoners.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghanistan Struggles to Absorb Wave of Returnees from Pakistan [WSJ]
  • 15 Governors Yet to Register Assets [TOLO]
  • Ceremony Commemorates 13th Anniversary of Afghan Constitution [TOLO]
  • Afghan Exports to Uzbekistan Rise [TOLO]
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