Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: ISIS Fighters Attack Kabul Military Hospital; Thousands Cross Temporarily Reopened Border

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Topline

  • The Islamic State attacked Kabul’s main military hospital on Wednesday morning, beginning with a suicide bombing at the main gate and continuing through a seven-hour gunbattle. Initial reports indicate at least three people were killed, but the NYT puts the death toll at thirty or more; dozens more have been wounded.
  • Roughly 20,000 people reportedly crossed back into Afghanistan at the Chaman and Torkham border crossings on Tuesday after Pakistan temporarily reopened the border.
  • A joint commission on the release of Hezb-e-Islami prisoners has referred a list of 200 inmates to Pres. Ghani for pardon and release; HIG spokesmen complained that the government was moving slowly to implement their peace agreement.
  • The Islamabad High Court heard a petition brought by the son-in-law of Lal Masjid leader Abdul Aziz, seeking a crackdown on alleged blasphemy on social media; the petition targets five activists who were earlier extrajudicially detained in January, some of whom have subsequently left the country.
  • The Election Commission of Pakistan will boycott future meetings of the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms to protest criticism from the PTI.
  • Citing other security demands, Punjab police officials say they will not provide additional security resources to enumerators scheduled to begin work on the national census next week.

Pakistan — Security

  • Afghan Border Temporarily Opened for Second Day: Large crowds were reported at the Torkham and Chaman border crossing after they were temporarily opened for a two-day period on Tuesday and Wednesday to allow Afghan nationals stranded by the border’s closure to return home. Roughly 20,000 are reported to have returned to Afghanistan on Tuesday. The Nangarhar provincial government government has promised free transportation from the border to Jalalabad. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Defense Minister Khawaja Asif said that Pakistan “was in favour of good terms with Afghanistan but it would never compromise on the drive against terrorism”. Opposition parliamentarians criticized the government’s policies on Afghanistan during debate on Tuesday. Khyber Paktunkhwa chief minister Pervaiz Khattak visited Lahore on Tuesday, criticizing the Punjab government’s “discrimination” against Pashtun residents. [ET]
  • Military Courts: A four-party coalition of smaller parties led by the PML-Q released its own recommendations on Tuesday on legislation for the revival of the military courts system, proposing a two-year tenure for the courts and that terrorism be “defined, explained and debated in the parliament, [and that] no political party or worker be victimized” by the courts.
  • Counterterrorism Crackdown: Security officials in Swabi say operations in the area have killed ten more militant suspects, after the death of two army personnel in an operation against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan earlier on Tuesday. Elsewhere, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has ordered a “security audit” of all shrines in the province; Karachi police have reviewed the security of 200 local shrines. Sindh police chief A.D. Khawaja has ordered police to enforce reporting requirements by hotels and guesthouses on their guests’ identities. [ET] [ET]
  • Sindh Police Chief: The Express Tribune reports that the Sindh government, which previously placed police chief A.D. Khawaja on forced leave in December, may be removed and replaced after disputes over his appointment of a number of police superintendents.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Blasphemy Penalties: The Islamabad High Court heard arguments on Tuesday seeking the “elimination of blasphemous content” on social media, and has summoned the interior minister to respond. The petition, brought by the son-in-law of Lal Masjid leader Abdul Aziz, also seeks action against five bloggers and activists who were detained at the beginning of the year; on Wednesday, the court ordered the government to restrict travel from the country by those “involved in posting blasphemous content”. [Dawn]
  • Gulf Diplomacy: During a meeting with Qatari prime minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani on Tuesday, Chief of Army Staff Bawja offered Pakistan’s cooperation on “cyber security, defense production, and ease of travel”. In Kuwait, Prime Minister Sharif and Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah pledged to boost bilateral trade and to hold negotiations on a Gulf Cooperation Council-Pakistan free trade agreement. [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: Following continued criticism from PTI chairman Imran Khan and other members of the party, Chief Election Commission Sardar Muhammad Raza has written parliament and conveyed the Election Commission’s intention to boycott upcoming meetings of the parliamentary committee on electoral reform. On Tuesday, PTI leader Jahanghir Tareen announced that the party had finalized its proposals on electoral reform. The Nation notes that former Intelligence Bureau director Ijaz Shah has joined the PTI’s core committee.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Census Planning: Punjab police officials have refused to provide additional security details for the national population census scheduled to begin next week, Dawn reports.
  • Water Disputes: On Tuesday, the Balochistan Assembly passed a resolution charging Sindh with stealing portions of the province’s water share as allocated by the Indus River System Authority agreement.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Driver Linked to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Implicated in Death of Karachi Counter-Terrorism Officer [ET]
  • Soldier Killed in Quetta Bombing [Dawn]
  • Kidnapped Karachi Industrialist Freed in Hub [Dawn]
  • Balochistan High Court Bar Association Rejects Interior Minister’s Complaint on Inquiry [Dawn]
  • Prime Minister Vows to End Violence Against Women [ET] [ET]
  • Pakistan and World Bank Unveil ‘Solar Maps’ [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Sindh Assembly to Complain to Federal Regulators Over Karachi Electric Pricing [Dawn]
  • 179 Schools Rebuilt in Malakand Division [ET]
  • Former Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah Dies [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Hezb-e-Islami Agreement: A joint commission tasked with reviewing the status of Hezb-e-Islami prisoners and clearing them for release as part of the peace agreement signed last fall has identified 200 inmates and has referred that list to the president for approval, the commission announced Tuesday. Hezb-e-Islami spokesmen complain that the government is moving slow to implement the agreement.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ministry of Agriculture Signs Contracts for Irrigation Network Expansion [TOLO]
  • Baghlan Residents Protest New Governor [Pajhwok]
  • Report: Afghanistan 2016 Human Rights Report – “Widespread disregard for the rule of law and official impunity for those who committed human rights abuses were serious problems.” [US State Department (pdf)]
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