Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Military Announces New Counterterrorism Operations; 7 Dostum Bodyguards Submit to Questioning

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Topline

  • On Wednesday, Pakistan’s military announced “Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad”, or “Elimination of Discord”, which it described as a cross-country operation against the “residual/latent threat of terrorism”. The move follows the authorization of policing actions by the paramilitary Punjab Rangers.
  • The Afghan Interior Ministry announced Wednesday that seven of Vice President Dostum’s bodyguards had appeared for questioning by the Attorney General’s Office following a standoff earlier this week in connection to arrest orders against them for charges of abuse against former Jawzjan governor Ahmad Eschi. Current reporting has not confirmed whether they have in fact been arrested as part of the questioning, or the whereabouts of two other guards also included in the original arrest order.
  • Arguments have concluded and the judges have recessed in the Supreme Court hearings on the Panama Papers; Judge Asif Saeed Khosa vowed to “decide this case only by the law”
  • An explosion near a marketplace in Lahore on Thursday killed at least nine people and wounded more than 20; the circumstances of the blast are unclear and no claim of responsibility has yet been reported.
  • Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan renewed calls for the reopening of border crossing points between the two countries; Kandahar provincial officials say that Pakistan has expelled as many as 500 refugees previously living near the border areas.
  • Pres. Ghani met with General Nicholson and General Salvatore Farina, the commander of the NATO Allied Joint Force Command, to discuss NATO assistance to the Afghan security forces.
  • Prime Minister Sharif is in Turkey for a three day visit that will include talks on trade and security cooperation.

Pakistan — Security

  • Counterterrorism Crackdown: On Wednesday, Pakistan’s main military spokesman announced “Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad”, which Dawn translates as “Elimination of Discord”, a cross-country military operation aimed at “eliminating residual / latent threat of terrorism, consolidating gains of operations made thus far and further ensuring security of the borders”. The announcement comes after government’s move to authorize police actions by the paramilitary Rangers in Punjab, and followed a meeting between Chief of Army Staff Bajwa and the heads of the Punjab Rangers, the Punjab corps commanders, and the intelligence agencies. Separately on Wednesday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan ordered the Rangers to “enhance surveillance and employ scientific methods with improved intelligence coordination” in Islamabad, and to conduct “combing operations” in Islamabad and Rawalpindi; at least 40 were arrested in Rawalpindi. Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Imran Khan said that “no extremist organisation should be allowed to operate in the country” and that the National Action Plan against terrorism “should have been implemented in letter and spirit”. Investigation continue into the Sehwan shrine bombing and the Charsadda courthouse attack. [ET] [ET]
  • Lahore Bombing Kills At Least Nine: A large explosion at a building under construction near a marketplace in Lahore’s Defence neighborhood killed at least nine people and wounded more than 20 on Thursday; some sources conflict as to whether the blast was caused by a bomb or other source, but police officials say they found traces of explosives at the scene. No claim of responsibility has been reported as of this writing. [Reuters]
  • Military Courts: PPP leaders Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, former Pres. Zardari, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, and parliamentary opposition leader Khursheed Shah met on Wednesday and are reported to have agreed not to oppose the renewal of military courts provided other opposition parties were also on board.
  • FATA Attacks and Operations: A roadside bombing on Wednesday killed a local pro-government tribal elder in the Mohmand Agency and wounded his wife. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Arguments Conclude in Panama Papers Case: All sides completed their final arguments in the Supreme Court hearings on the Panama Papers on Thursday, with the bench reserving judgement; Judge Asif Saeed Khosa vowed to “decide this case only by the law”. During the final stage of arguments, lawyers for the PTI accused the PML-N government of entering into a liquefied natural gas import contract with Qatar to reward a Qatari prince who had provided two letters vouching for the Sharif family’s accounts of the money trail for its London real estate holdings. [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Sharif Visits Turkey: Prime Minister Sharif arrived in Anakara on Wednesday for a three-day visit focusing on trade and security cooperation; Sharif is expected to visit the Turkish parliament and attend the fifth session of the Pakistan-Turkey High Level Strategic Cooperation Council, among other meetings. [ET]
  • NADRA Director General Arrested: National Database Registration Authority Tahir Akram was arrested on Thursday on embezzlement charges connected to the rental of office space; he had been suspended from his position last October. [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: At least 56 Khyber Paktunkhwa local government representatives in the PK-7 Peshawar constituency, the majority of them members of the PTI, have resigned, protesting what they said was Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak’s ignoring the area’s development needs. Former national assembly member Nabil Gabol announced that he was rejoining the PPP on Wednesday, following his split from the MQM in 2015. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan to Receive New Helicopters [Dawn]
  • Police Report Drop in Targeted Killing in Karachi [Dawn]
  • Interior Ministry Drops Travel Restrictions on Model Ayyan Ali [Dawn] [ET]
  • SECP and SBP Seeks to Curb Unregulated Lending Operations [Dawn]
  • Jail Official Convicted for Attempt on Accused Blasphemer’s Life [ET]
  • Petroleum Ministry Opposes Proposed Ban on New LNG Power Plants [ET]
  • Gwadar to Serve as Balochistan ‘Winter Capital’ [ET]
  • Dividend Tax from Matiari-Lahore Transmission Line Waived for Chinese Company [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • NATO Assistance: On Wednesday, Pres. Ghani met with General Nicholson and General Salvatore Farina, the commander of the NATO Allied Joint Force Command, for discussions on the alliance’s continuing support for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces and the government’s four-year security plan.
  • Attacks and Operations: Airstrikes on the outskirts of Kunduz city killed at least ten Taliban fighters on Wednesday, according to army spokesmen. U.S. airstrikes in the Garmser district of Helmand on Wednesday killed 11 Taliban fighters, the provincial governor’s office reported. In Nangarhar, the Ministry of Interior said Wednesday that its forces had killed a dozen Islamic State-affiliated fighters in operations in the Haska Mina district over the past 24 hours; another six were reportedly killed in an airstrike on Thursday. Ministry of Interior officials report that a large truck bomb was destroyed in an airstrike in Ghazni’s Nawa district on Tuesday, before reaching its target. [Khaama Press] [Ariana News]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Dostum Bodyguards Submit to Questioning: Seven of Vice President Dostum’s bodyguards appeared before Attorney General’s office for questioning in connection to the abuse of former Jawzjan governor Ahmad Eschi, the Ministry of Interior announced in a statement on Wednesday, without elaborating further. Arrest orders are previously reported to have been issued for nine of Dostum’s guards, and his Kabul home was surrounded by police and military personnel earlier this week, although Dostum denied that it was due to the outstanding arrest orders. Reports do not confirm whether any of the guards were in fact detained or the details of their questioning. [Khaama Press]
  • Tensions with Pakistan: Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal called for the reopening of the border between the two countries on Thursday, saying that the Torkham and Chaman border crossings “should have reopened by now” following talks earlier this week. Kandahar provincial officials report that Pakistan has expelled nearly 500 Afghan refugees who were living near the border areas to Afghanistan. Speaking at a ceremony on Wednesday, former interior minister Umar Daudzai warned against Pakistani military intervention in Afghanistan; speaking separately to an EU delegation, Chief Executive Abdullah said that Taliban “safe havens and training centers must be eliminated first” as a precursor to peace talks.
  • Germany Deports 18 Afghans: A group of at least 18 Afghan asylum seekers were deported from Germany on Wednesday. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Foreign Minister Rabbani Calls for ‘Change in Government System’ [TOLO]
  • Tajikistan’s Sarez Dam Spillway Threatens 320 Afghan Villages [TOLO]
  • Ministry of Communications Plans Launch of 4G Wireless [Khaama Press]
  • All Schools Remain Closed in Warduj District in Badakhshan [TOLO]
  • Report: Focused Engagement: A New Way Forward in Afghanistan – “A peace process may require more than a decade to produce a general cease-fire and a series of conflict-ending negotiations. Progress in governmental reform, regional diplomacy, and in confidence-building measures should provide the evidence needed for America’s continued support.” [Christopher Kolenda, CNAS]
  • Commentary: Insurgent Peace-Making: A New Approach to End the War in Afghanistan – “This would involve a peace process open to all Taliban with standing within their own network, and able to speak for a sizable group of fighters, and who are looking for a negotiated end to the conflict.” [Theo Farrell, War on the Rocks]
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