Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: More Details on FATA Reform Plan; Haqqani Commander Identified as Target of Kurram Strike

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  • Additional details on the package of FATA reforms approved by the Pakistani cabinet on Thursday indicate that the government plans to merge the region with Khyber Paktunkhwa over a five year period. The government has pledged a Rs 110 billion ten-year development package for the FATA, and the appropriation of three percent of the federal divisible tax revenue pool to the region. Local government elections are planned for after the 2018 parliamentary elections. JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman reiterated his opposition to the plan in the absence of a public referendum.
  • Afghan forces retook control of the Tala Wa Barfak district in Baghlan on Friday. In Laghman, security forces retook control of several checkpoints outside the provincial capital that the Taliban had seized earlier this week.
  • The AP identifies the target of Thursday’s drone strike in the Kurram Agency as a senior Haqqani network commander, Qari Abdullah Subari, who previously participated in the 2014 prisoner exchange for Bowe Bergdahl’s release.
  • Two Pakistani army soldiers were killed in an operation in Bannu on Thursday. Prime Minister Sharif met with top military and civilian officials on Friday to reaffirm support for Operation Radd-ul Fasaad.
  • Pakistan’s military accused India of cross-border firing at the Line of Control in Kashmir on Thursday; no casualties were reported. Foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz told the senate on Friday that the government was preparing charges against accused Indian spy Kulbushan Yadav, and pledged that he would not be extradited.

Pakistan — Security

  • Counterterrorism Crackdown: On Thursday, the military announced the death of two army soldiers in an operation in the Bannu frontier region; four unidentified terrorist suspects were also reported to have been killed. Chief of Army Staff Bajwa attended funeral services in Peshawar on Friday. Bajwa earlier visited the Multan Garrison on Thursday, praising the security forces and vowing to take on “all troublemakers”. On Friday, Prime Minister Sharif chaired a meeting of senior military and civilian officials, affirming support for Operation Radd-ul Fasaad, which a readout said “reflects upon the unilateral national resolve and commitment of complete obliteration of terrorism from the entire country”. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Kurram Drone Strike: Reuters provides additional details on Thursday’s reported drone strike in the Kurram Agency, identifying one of the men as a senior Afghan Taliban commander, Qari Abdullah Subari, and the other another Taliban member. The AP identifies him as a top Haqqani network commander who participated in the 2014 prisoner exchange for Bowe Bergdahl’s release; a Taliban official confirmed his death but located it “in the area of Khost”, and did not attribute it to the same U.S. strike.
  • Tensions with India: Pakistan’s military public relations arm accused India of “unprovoked firing” across the Line of Control on Thursday; no casualties were reported. Responding to questions in the senate on Friday, foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz said that the government was in the process of preparing a case against accused Indian spy Kulbushan Yadhav, and ruled out any possibility for his extradition. [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • FATA Reforms: Additional details on Thursday’s approval by the cabinet of a package of reforms for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas indicate that the government has approved a Rs 110 billion, ten-year development package for the area; the extension of Supreme Court and Peshawar High Court jurisdiction; and the conducting of local government elections after the 2018 parliamentary polls. Foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz, who led the government’s committee on reforms, told a press conference that the plan calls for the merger of FATA with Khyber Paktunkhwa within five years, and that “administrative control of FATA will be handed over to the provincial government and the federal government will deal only with security and financial resources for FATA”. Aziz also said that the government planned to transfer three percent of the federal divisible pool of taxes to the FATA. PTI, Jamaat-i-Islami, and Quami Watan Party officials generally welcomed the plan but said that the merger process should proceed more quickly; JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman reiterated his opposition to the plan, saying that a public referendum on the issue was necessary. Prime Minister Sharif visited North Waziristan on Friday, inaugurating a new dam project. [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: Former Pres. Zardari, who arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday, has reportedly modified the agenda of the party’s planned multi-party conference on Saturday on the renewal of military courts legislation to include a review of FATA reform proposals and the implementation of the National Action Plan against terrorism. Both the PTI and PML-N will not attend. On Thursday, the Lahore High Court ordered the sealing of two Sharif family-owned sugar mills as it heard challenges against their relocation. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • TAPI Pipepline: Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi officially inaugurated the route survey of Pakistan’s portion of the TAPI gas pipepline project on Friday.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • No City Curfew for Lahore Cricket Finals, Law Minister Says [Dawn]
  • Quetta Police Arrest Two Suspects and Seize IED Precursors [ET]
  • Jamaat-e-Islami Seeks to Ban Dowry Practices in Khyber Paktunkhwa [Dawn]
  • State Bank Exchange Reserves Drop Below $17 Billion [ET]
  • Sindh Chief Minister Vows to Maintain Port Qasim Textile City Project [ET]
  • 19,000 Pakistani Students Studying in Chinese Universities [APP]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: A spokesman for the Baghlan provincial governor reported Friday that Afghan security forces had retaken control of the Tala Wa Barfak district after the Taliban captured it on Wednesday. In Laghman, Afghan forces retook control of several checkpoints around the provincial capital of Mehterlam, which had fallen to a Taliban attack earlier this week; the provincial governor claims as many as twenty Taliban fighters were killed. Nangarhar provincial officials report that a senior Taliban commander and five other fighters were killed in a U.S. drone strike in Nangarhar’s Lalpur district on Wednesday. The Ministry of Defense reported Friday that special forces operations in Zabul’s Arghandab district killed 17 Islamic State-affiliated fighters on Thursday. [AP] [Pajhwok] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Kunduz Governor Claims Taliban Offered Peace to Target ISIS: In comments to Ariana News, Kunduz governor Asadullah Amar Khail claimed that Taliban representatives had reached out to him and offered a peace agreement so that both sides could target the Islamic State in the area instead.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Dam Cancellation: The Ministry of Finance will receive $40 million in warranties following the cancellation of three dam projects in Herat, Paktia, and Faryab, work on which began five years ago but had only entered initial stages. A spokesman for the ministry pledged that work would resume in the future.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Police Officer Complains of Malfunctioning Weapons During Recent Kabul Attack [TOLO]

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