Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Afridi Family Denied ID Card Renewals; Drone Strike Kills Breakaway Taliban Faction Leader

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  • Family members of Dr. Shakil Afridi are being denied renewals of their computerized national ID cards, block their access to many government services, a lawyer for Afridi tells the AFP. A son-in-law of the breakaway Taliban faction commander Mullah Muhammad Rasool was reportedly killed in a U.S. drone strike targeting a vehicle traveling between the Khost and Kurram border. An advisor for Pres. Ghani confirmed reports that Gulbuddin Hekmatyar would return to Kabul in the next two to three weeks, and said the government was working provide housing for him and would appoint around 200 Hezb-e-Islami members to a new protective service detail for Hekmatyar. The Sindh Rangers announced on Thursday that they had killed Lyari gang leader Baba Ladla in a raid; two of his associates and two police officers were also killed. Muhammad Zubair was sworn in as the new Sindh governor on Thursday. Pakistan’s Air Force denied reports that a special flight had been chartered to transport a horse gifted by Prime Minister Sharif to the emir of Qatar; separately, a group of the emir’s advance staff were reportedly arrested in Balochistan after they tried to circumvent a Levies checkpoint in Mashkeel. Pakistani expatriates who have not lived in the country for six months will not be counted in the upcoming census, the Statistics Bureau announced on Wednesday.

Pakistan — Security

  • ID Cards Denied to Shakil Afridi Family Members: A lawyer for Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor detained in connection to his alleged cooperation with the CIA in conducting surveillance in Abbottabad as part of the hunt for Osama bin Laden, told the AFP on Wednesday that Afridi’s wife and children were being denied a renewal of their computerized National ID cards, which restricts their ability to enroll children in school, obtain a passport, or vote in elections, among other key functions. Afridi’s own card expired in 2014 and he has also been denied renewal.
  • Lyari Gang Leader Killed: On Thursday, the Sindh Rangers announced that they had killed Lyari gang leader Noor Muhammad, aka Baba Ladla, as well as two of his close associates. Two police officers were also killed in the operation.
  • Hafiz Saeed Detention: In a statement on Wednesday, the Interior Ministry rebuffed Indian calls for a “credible crackdown” on Hafiz Saeed and Jamaat-ud-Dawa, saying that the government had placed him under house arrest “as per its obligations vis-à-vis listing of JuD under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1267,” and that “Pakistan is a democratic society, where judiciary takes free, independent and transparent decisions. If indeed India is serious about its allegations, it should come up with concrete evidence” against Saeed that could be used in a court of law. [ET] [ET]
  • Military Courts: The Express Tribune reports that a faction of the PML-N, including Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Finance Minister Dar, are pushing for the government to take action to renew the military courts system and resolve the investigations into a leaked account of civil-military tensions last fall, out of concern over the government’s relationship with the military.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Qatari Ties: Prime Minister Sharif has reportedly gifted a horse to Qatari emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani; a spokesman for the Pakistan Air Force denied that it was being transported to Qatar through a special C-130 flight. Separately, on Wendesday Balochistan Levies officials arrested sixteen members of the emir’s advance staff who were in Mashkeel to prepare for a bustard hunt, and who attempted to circumvent a checkpoint barrier. [ET]
  • Sindh Governor Sworn In: Former privatization commission chairman Muhammad Zubair was sworn in as the governor of Sindh on Thursday; he is a brother of PTI leader Asad Umar. Zubair’s appointment opens a vacancy at the privatization commission; the Express Tribune names Miftah Ismail, Daniyal Aziz, and Ashfaq Tola as potential candidates for replacement, in a piece that also notes delays in appointing a finance secretary and chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue. [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Census Planning: Pakistani expatriates who have lived outside the country for more than six months will not be counted in the upcoming census scheduled to begin in mid-March, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics announced on Wednesday, potentially impacting around seven million overseas workers. Six months’ residence in a new province will also be required to be counted as a resident of that area.
  • TAPI Pipeline: Route survey and feasibility study work on the TAPI gas pipeline project will begin in Pakistan in mid-February, to be carried out by the German firm ILF.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Chief of Army Staff Visits Sialkot Cantonment [Dawn] [ET]
  • Azada Jammu and Kashmir Police Arrest ‘Tehreek-e-Taliban Kashmir’ Suspect [Dawn]
  • More than 800 Militant Surrender Over Past Year in Balochistan [Dawn]
  • MQM Accuses Sindh Government of Discrimination [ET]
  • Stability Helps Boost Middle-Income Consumption in Pakistan [WSJ]
  • Baldia Factory Fire Survivors Reject Settlement Offer [ET]
  • Lahore High Court Blocks LPG Auction [Dawn]
  • Pakistan’s Oil Production Reaches Two-Year High [ET]
  • PML-N Legislators Criticize Government Agriculture Policies [Dawn]
  • Report: Water Security: Pakistan’s Most Critical Development Challenge – “Pakistan’s water profile has changed drastically from being a water abundant country, to one experiencing water stress.” [UNDP Pakistan]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Family of Breakaway Taliban Commander Killed in US Strike: A vehicle carrying Mullah Akhtar Rasool, the son-in-law of the commander of a breakaway Taliban faction who was reportedly detained in Pakistan last spring, was hit by a U.S. drone strike on the border between Khost and the Kurram Agency, Pakistani press sources report. Akhtar Rasool, also said to be a leader of that breakaway faction, is reported to have been killed in the strike along with four others; details remain limited. [Dawn]
  • Helmand Operations: Helmand provincial officials report that at least 32 Taliban fighters have been killed over three days of fighting in the Sangin district; details on Afghan security forces’ casualties have not been released. During his visit to Lashkar Gah, Chief Executive Abdullah met with Afghan soldiers and vowed to defend the city. [TOLO]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: On Thursday, the Ministry of Defense reported that at least twelve Islamic State fighters, including commander Qari Munib, were killed in airstrikes in the Achin district; earlier on Wednesday, two U.S. drone strikes in the Haska Mina district reportedly killed five ISIS fighters. Two doctors working for the Badghis Public Health Department were kidnapped in the Qadis district on Wednesday evening, and are believed to be held by the Taliban. Kandahar provincial officials say they disrupted an operation that was preparing a suicide car bombing attack in the Maiwind district. [Khaama Press] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Hezb-e-Islami Agreement: An advisor to Pres. Ghani confirms to TOLO that Gulbuddin Hekmatyar will return to Kabul within the next two to three weeks despite the unresolved question of his removal from the UN sanctions blacklist, and that the government would provide housing for him. Around 200 Hezb-e-Islami members will also be appointed under the General Directorate for the Protection of VIPs to provide security for Hekmatyar.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Germany Indicts Afghan Man Believed to Have Fought with Taliban [AP]
  • Italy Pledges Assistance for 155 KM Herat Road Project [Khaama Press]
  • Central Bank Seeks Recall of Defaced Banknotes [TOLO]
  • Commentary: The Art of the Deal in Afghanistan – “Reaching a settlement would require the United States to keep an open-ended troop presence as its main bargaining chip, while demonstrating willingness to discuss and negotiate a timetable for complete troop withdrawal with Afghanistan, its neighbors and the Taliban.” [Barnett Rubin, NYT]

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