Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: US Reengages with Taliban Over Frozen Assets; Budget Passed in National Assembly

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Topline

  • In a vote on Wednesday, the Pakistani nationalassembly approved the budget the coming fiscal year, adding additional tax measures announced by the government last week. In remarks on Tuesday, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail downplayed any concerns over reports that former finance minister Ishaq Dar would return to the country next month and replace him; Dar told the BBC that his “intention to return to Pakistan next month is almost confirmed”.
  • The WashingtonPost reports that the Biden administration has reengaged with the Taliban to discuss potential mechanisms to allow the Afghan central bank to access currently frozen currency reserves; the US is reportedly seeking a system through which “career central bankers and bureaucrats could manage the assets to stabilize the Afghan economy — while simultaneously erecting safeguards that would ensure the funds are not siphoned off for misuse by the Taliban”. Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi departed for Doha on Tuesday to hold talks with US officials, accompanied by ministry of finance and central bank officials. On Tuesday, Sec. Blinken announced that the United States would provide $55 million in aid to support humanitarian operations in response to last week’s earthquake in Paktika.
  • The Lahore High Court continued hearings on Wednesday on challenges to Hamza Shehbaz’s election as chief minister in Punjab. In a statement on Wednesday, PML-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain endorsed Chaudhry Parvez Elahi for the chief minister’s position.
  • At least one Iranian border guard was killed in a clash with “armed miscreants” at the Iran-Afghanistan border in Nimroz province, Iran’s state news agency reported on Tuesday.

Pakistan — Security

  • India Border Meeting: Commanders from the Pakistan Rangers and the Indian Border Security Force met at the border in Rajasthan on Wednesday.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Punjab Standoff: The Lahore High Court continued hearings on Wednesday on challenges to Hamza Shehbaz’s election as chief minister in Punjab; in earlier hearings on Tuesday, judges suggested that a new election might be held to resolve the dispute. PML-Q leader and Punjab assembly speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi is continuing to run a breakaway session of the assembly in parallel to the one run by the PML-N government. In a statement on Wednesday, PML-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain endorsed Elahi for the chief minister’s position. [The Nation]
  • Legal Proceedings: The Judicial Commission of Pakistan adjourned on Tuesday without an agreement on the nominations of seven judges to the Sindh High Court, and will reconvene after Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s return to the country; he participated remotely while traveling abroad. The Peshawar High Court rejected a petition seeking Khyber Paktunkhwa Chief Minsiter Mahmood Khan’s disqualification from office over remarks he made supporting PTI protest marches last month. [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: The Nation reports that former Pres. Zardari met with Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Tuesday to discuss concerns over the MQM’s potential split from the coalition government due to tensions following last weekend’s local government elections in Sindh. At least one person was killed in clashes with police in Karachi on Tuesday evening as demonstrators protested power outages in the city. [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Passed: In a vote on Wednesday, the nationalassembly approved passage of the government’s budget legislation for the coming fiscal year, adding additional tax measures announced by the government last week. The Khyber Paktunkhwa and Balochistan assemblies passed supplementary budgets for the outgoing fiscal year in votes on Tuesday. In a press conference on Tuesday, Imran Khan denounced the government’s management of the economy; in separate remarks, Imran claimed that the economy could be stabilize by seizing wealth stolen by his political rivals. In remarks on Tuesday, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail downplayed any concerns over reports that former finance minister Ishaq Dar would return to the country next month and replace him; Dar told the BBC that his “intention to return to Pakistan next month is almost confirmed”. [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • COVID Crisis: National Command and Operation Center officials met with Sindh provincial health officials on Tuesday as coronavirus cases have spiked in Karachi over the past week; at a meeting on Wednesday, PM Shehbaz ordered the “full activation” of the NCOC.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Balochistan Cabinet Approves Deployment of Security Forces at Highways [Dawn]
  • Punjab Government Considering Fresh Crackdown on South Punjab Gangs [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Ambassador Meets Texas Governor [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Iran Border Clash: At least one Iranian border guard was killed in a clash with “armed miscreants” at the Iran-Afghanistan border in Nimroz province, Iran’s state news agency reported on Tuesday; details are limited, but Khaama Press reported that Taliban border forces had crossed over into Iran after an earlier incident in which two Afghan boys were killed by Iranian forces. [8AM]
  • Balkab Clashes: In a statement on Monday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied allegations that civilians had been killed in fighting between Taliban forces and a group led by dissident Taliban commander Mawlawi Mehdi Mujahid. Hezb-e-Wahdat-e-Islami leader Karim Khalili accused the Taliban of committing “war crimes” in the Balkhab district in Sar-e-Pul where the fighting took place.
  • Retaliation Against Former Security Personnel: TOLO and Hasht-e-Subh separately report the arrest of former Afghan government security personnel in Parwan and Kapisa.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Kabul Gathering: The Taliban are expected to convene a gathering of religious leaders and local political leaders in Kabul starting on Wednesday; an agenda has not yet been announced. At a separate event on Tuesday, activists called for the inclusion of women in the gathering. [TOLO]
  • International Engagement: Pres. Putin visited Tajikistan on Tuesday and met with Pres. Emomali Rahmon to discuss security concerns in Afghanistan, among other issues; in a statement, Putin said that “we are trying to build relations with the political forces that control the situation” in the country and “we are working from the premise that all ethnic groups in Afghanistan must properly participate in running the country”. The Pakistani government has ordered the issuance of six-month multiple entry visas for Afghan transporters in an effort to facilitate bilateral trade. The BBC interviews the Afghan ambassador in India, who was appointed by the previous government and remains independent of the Taliban. [The News]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Asset Freeze: The WashingtonPost reports that the Biden administration has reengaged with the Taliban to discuss potential mechanisms to allow the Afghan central bank to access currently frozen currency reserves; the US is reportedly seeking a system through which “career central bankers and bureaucrats could manage the assets to stabilize the Afghan economy — while simultaneously erecting safeguards that would ensure the funds are not siphoned off for misuse by the Taliban”. Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi departed for Doha on Tuesday to hold talks with US officials, accompanied by ministry of finance and central bank officials.
  • Humanitarian Assistance: On Tuesday, Sec. Blinken announced that the United States would provide $55 million in aid to support humanitarian operations in response to last week’s earthquake in Paktika. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Poppy Cultivation Still Ongoing Despite Ban [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: New Strains in Govt After Sindh Elections; Taliban Prepare to Convene Kabul Gathering

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Topline

  • The Pakistani coalition government is showing new strains following complaints from the MQM, JUI-F, and other parties; PM Shehbaz convened a meeting of party leaders on Monday evening.
  • Religious leaders as well as some tribal elders and business leaders will reportedly convene in Kabul starting on Wednesday; TOLO reports that the gathering will discuss the status of girls’ education, but a full agenda has not been announced.
  • Speaking at a conference on Tuesday, PM Shehbaz said that the IMF had agreed to provide $2 billion in lending to Pakistan following the resumption of its agreement, but that “our ultimate goal is self-reliance”. Finance Minister Miftah Ismail said separately that Pakistan had received a memorandum from the IMF on Tuesday to finalize the terms of the agreement. Meanwhile, PML-N leader Ishaq Dar is reportedly preparing to return to Pakistan next month to join the federal cabinet and replace Ismail as finance minister.
  • On Monday, the Taliban ministry of defense claimed that clashes between Taliban forces and a group loyal to former Taliban commander Mawlawi Mehdi Mujahid had ended; deputy prime minister Abdul Salam Hanafi visited the Balkhab district in Sar-e-Pul to meet with local community leaders.
  • Two policemen and a polio vaccination campaign worker were killed in a shooting in North Waziristan on Tuesday; a civilian bystander was also wounded.
  • On Monday, the UN launched a new funding appeal to raise $110 million to support humanitarian assistance for victims of last week’s earthquake centered in Paktika.

Pakistan — Security

  • Polio Vaccinators Attacked: Two policemen and a polio vaccination campaign worker were killed in a shooting in North Waziristan on Tuesday; a civilian bystander was also wounded. No immediate claim of responsibility was reported for the attack. Pakistan has reported 11 new polio cases so far this year, all in North Waziristan. [AP]
  • LeT Crackdown: The AP confirms earlier reports of the arrest and conviction of Lashkar-e-Taiba operative Sajid Mir, who it reports was sentenced on terrorism financing charges in mid-May.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Coalition Tensions: On Monday, former Karachi mayor and MQM leader Waseem Akhtar accused the PPP of violating the terms of the MQM’s coalition agreement through its conduct of the local elections in Sindh. The JUI-F has also objected to the government’s decision to appeal a ruling on the charging of interest by the Federal Shariat Court to the Supreme Court. Two lawmakers from Balochistan raised complaints in the national assembly on Monday, accusing the government of neglecting promises to provide additional development spending in their constituencies. PM Shehbaz hosted a meeting of coalition party leaders on Monday evening. [ET]
  • Elections: The Election Commission has ordered a report from Sindh police officials on violence during the weekend’s local government elections in Sindh, in which at least two people were killed. The Balochistan High Court ordered the suspension of local elections scheduled to be held in Quetta in August while it hears challenges against new constituency boundaries. The ECP has scheduled re-polling in thirteen wards across eight districts for the first phase of elections in Balochistan for July 2. On Monday, the PTI petitioned the ECP, objecting to changes to electoral rolls. [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Legal Proceedings: Supreme Court Justice Qazi Faez Isa has objected to the convening of the Judicial Commission of Pakistan on June 28 to consider additional nominees to the high courts, which comes as Isa is traveling outside the country. The Lahore High Court may issue an order on Hamza Shehbaz’s disputed election as chief minister on Tuesday. [Dawn] [The News]
  • Other Political Activity: Imran Khan called on supporters to join the party’s “Tiger Force” activist wing in advance of weekend protest rallies planned for Islamabad and across the country; The Nation reports that the party is focused on mobilizing for the Punjab by-elections scheduled for July 17. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • IMF Negotiations: Speaking at a conference on Tuesday, PM Shehbaz said that the IMF had agreed to provide $2 billion in lending to Pakistan following the resumption of its agreement, but that “our ultimate goal is self-reliance”. Finance Minister Miftah Ismail said separately that Pakistan had received a memorandum from the IMF on Tuesday to finalize the terms of the agreement. The Nation reports that PML-N leader Ishaq Dar is preparing to return to Pakistan next month to join the federal cabinet and replace Ismail as finance minister. Separately on Monday, Pakistan and France reached an agreement to extend the payment timeline for $107 million in debts. [The News] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan Notifies Strategic Export Control List [ET]
  • India Blocks Pakistani Embassy Twitter Accounts [Dawn]
  • PM Shehbaz Approves Coal Import from Afghanistan [Dawn]
  • Sindh Assembly Approves Budget [Dawn]
  • Commentary: Politics at the Bench: The Pakistani Judiciary’s Ambitions and Interventions – “In the past fifteen years, the superior judiciary has moved beyond just arbitrating political disputes to playing a tutelary role of its own within the political system: constraining the authority and vetoing the policies and actions of elected institutions in order to shape politics and policies in line with its own preferences.” [Yasser Kureshi, CEIP]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Resistance Reports: On Monday, the Taliban ministry of defense claimed that clashes between Taliban forces and a group loyal to former Taliban commander Mawlawi Mehdi Mujahid had ended, and denied that the Taliban had taken any casualties; deputy prime minister Abdul Salam Hanafi visited the Balkhab district in Sar-e-Pul to meet with local community leaders. Mawlawi Mehdi’s status has not been reported. [8AM]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Loya Jirga Gathering: Religious leaders as well as some tribal elders and business leaders will reportedly convene in Kabul starting on Wednesday; Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed that a gathering would be held but did not specify dates and did not describe it as a Loya Jirga. TOLO reports that the gathering will discuss the status of girls’ education, but a full agenda has not been announced.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Higher Education Minister Protests Renewal of Travel Ban [TOLO]
  • Cholera Cases Rising in Takhar [Ariana News]
  • Herat Officials Claim 2000 Hectares of Poppy Fields Cleared  [Ariana News]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Violent Sindh Elections Strain MQM Coalition Partnership; Taliban Appeal for More Quake Aid

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Topline

  • At least two people, including the brother of a PTI candidate, were killed in election violence during the local government elections held across fourteen districts in Sindh on Sunday; opposition parties accused the PPP government of manipulating results and abusing their control of provincial resources. MQM leader Waseem Akhtar warned that the party could quit the federal governing coalition if its concerns were not addressed. PM Shehbaz met earlier with MQM party leadership during a visit to Karachi on Saturday, where the MQM reportedly accused the government of failing to uphold the terms of their coalition agreement.
  • Pakistan has reportedly arrested Sajid Mir, a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative accused of planning the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, in order to meet compliance criteria for the Financial Action Task Force. Dawn reports that Mir was sentenced to a prison term in early June.
  • In a statement on Saturday, the Taliban appealed for additional international aid in response to last week’s earthquake centered in Paktika, and for the removal of sanctions and release of frozen central bank assets. The UN has warned of a potential cholera outbreak in the aftermath of the quake. The Taliban ministry of public health denied reports of a shortage of female doctors to treat injured women in the area. The UN has announced the allocation of $10 million in emergency response funds. China and the UK pledged additional aid for the relief effort; Pakistan dispatched a second shipment of relief supplies on Friday.
  • Clashes continue between Taliban fighters and the group led by former Taliban commander Mawlawi Mehdi Mujahid in the Balkhab district in Sar-e-Pul province; the Taliban reportedly carried out an airstrike on his home in the district on Saturday morning. Rival ethnic Tajik and Pashtun Taliban factions are also reported to have clashed during a sporting event in Bamiyan city on Friday.
  • On Monday, the Lahore High Court overturned an Election Commission decision and ordered it to seat five PTI members in the Punjab assembly to fill five reserved seats whose members had been disqualified for having defected to back Hamza Shehbaz’s election for chief minister in April. The move leaves the PML-N and PTI effectively tied in the number of seats held in the Punjab assembly until by-elections are held for twenty vacant assembly seats in July.
  • Kabul Polytechnic University has closed its facilities through July 3 and will reportedly be used as the site for a national gathering of religious leaders this week.
  • Former Faryab militia commander Nizamuddin Qaisari returned to Afghanistan from Iran on Sunday.
  • Chaudhry Wajahat Hussain, brother to PML-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, announced on Saturday that he intended to create a separate party to maintain his alignment with the PTI, which he accused Shujaat of abandoning.
  • Chief of Army Staff Bajwa visited Saudi Arabia on Sunday and met with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Bajwa also met with the family of former Pres. Musharraf in Dubai on Saturday.

Pakistan — Security

  • LeT Operative Arrested: Nikkei Asia reports that Pakistan has arrested Sajid Mir, a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative accused of planning the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks; Pakistani officials declined to comment on the reports, and have previously denied knowledge of his whereabouts. Dawn reports that Mir was sentenced in a Lahore anti-terrorism court at the beginning of June. Pakistan is reported to have taken the action in order to meet compliance criteria for the Financial Action Task Force.
  • Journalist Detained: Journalist and social media activist Arsalan Ahmed was detained from his home in Karachi on Friday by paramilitary Rangers personnel; he was released on Saturday morning and accused by the Rangers of maintaining “contact with a terrorist group” and “receiving financial assistance”. [ET]
  • Attacks and Operations: Two unidentified militant suspects were killed in a clash in Dera Ismail Khan on Friday, the Pakistani military announced. On Saturday, the military announced that it had killed four terrorist suspects in an operation in North Waziristan. On Sunday, two soldiers and seven terrorist suspects were killed in another clash in North Waziristan. Peshawar Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed visited a jirga in South Waziristan on Friday. Elsewhere, gunmen attacked a Frontier Corps vehicle in Jacobabad on Saturday, killing a civilian bystander and wounding eight people; one man was arrested in connection to the attack. On Sunday, PM Shehbaz chaired a meeting to review security concerns, pledging to reinstitute the National Action Plan against terrorism and strengthen the role of provincial governments. [The Nation] [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Elections: At least two people, including the brother of a PTI candidate, were killed in election violence during the local government elections held across fourteen districts in Sindh on Sunday. On Friday, the Sindh High Court had dismissed petitions from the MQM and PTI to delay the elections over disputes regarding constituency boundaries; the MQM said it would appeal that ruling to the Supreme Court. Several other violent clashes were reported at polling stations across the province; polling staff were reportedly kidnapped in the Kashmore district. The MQM alleged that ballot boxes had been stolen and results manipulated in the Mirpurkhas, Nawabshah, and Sukkur districts and called for the suspension of voting there; party leader Waseem Akhtar warned that the MQM could quit the federal governing coalition if its concerns were not addressed. The PTI, Grand Democratic Alliance, and other opposition parties in the province accused the PPP of poll rigging and abusing their control of provincial resources for the elections; the PTI announced intentions to petition the Supreme Court for the annulment of the elections. By-elections were also held on Sunday for the PK-7 Swat constituency in Khyber Paktunkhwa, where the PTI candidate beat the ANP, which previously held the seat. [The News] [The News] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Punjab Standoff: On Monday, the Lahore High Court overturned an Election Commission decision and ordered it to seat five PTI members in the Punjab assembly to fill five reserved seats whose members had been disqualified for having defected to back Hamza Shehbaz’s election for chief minister in April. The move leaves the PML-N and PTI effectively tied in the number of seats held in the Punjab assembly until by-elections are held for twenty vacant assembly seats in July. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Legal Proceedings: On Saturday, the PTI filed a Supreme Court petition challenging the government’s amendments to the National Accountability Bureau law, which Pres. Alvi has refused to sign off on. The Express Tribune reports that Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial has proposed the elevation of Lahore High Court judge Shahid Waheed to the Supreme Court, out of the line of seniority. Justice Qazi Faez Isa has reportedly sought the removal of Supreme Court registrar Jawad Paul, accusing him of “diverting public resources” and “shirking his responsibilities”. Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah skipped a court hearing on Saturday where he was to be indicted on 2019 drug charges. At a press conference on Friday, Punjab Law Minister Malik Ahmad Khan suggested that the provincial government could file defamation or treason charges against the PTI leadership for its “irresponsible statements about the army and judiciary”. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Army Chief Visits Gulf: Chief of Army Staff Bajwa visited Saudi Arabia on Sunday and met with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who awarded him the King Abdulaziz medal and discussed bilateral security cooperation. The Express Tribune reports that Bajwa also met with the family of former Pres. Musharraf in Dubai on Saturday. [ET]
  • Threats Against Imran Khan: PTI leaders alleged on Saturday that they had caught a member of Imran Khan’s household staff planting a recording device in Imran’s bedroom; Islamabad police said that they were investigating the incident. [The News] [ET]
  • Other External Relations: Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar met with UK PM Johnson on the sidelines of the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Rwanda on Saturday.
  • Other Political Activity: Chaudhry Wajahat Hussain, brother to PML-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, announced on Saturday that he intended to create a separate party to maintain his alignment with the PTI, which he accused Shujaat of abandoning. Shujaat rejected accusations that he and his sons had taken bribes from the PPP leadership to join the government and dismissed the formation of the new party. PM Shehbaz met with MQM party leadership during a visit to Karachi on Saturday; the MQM reportedly accused the government of failing to uphold the terms of their coalition agreement. Shehbaz also met with former Pres. Zardari to offer condolences following the death of his mother last week; on Friday, he visited Gwadar, where he pledged additional development projects and assistance to local fishermen. On Saturday, Imran Khan announced new plans for nationwide protests and a rally in Islamabad against the government on July 2. On Sunday, former ISI chief Lt. Gen. Zaheerul Islam spoke at a rally for the PTI candidate for the PP-7 Rawalpindi by-election. Gilgit-Baltistan governor Raja Jalal Hussain Maqpoon resigned on Sunday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The News] [The News] [The News] [The Nation] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Economic Reforms: In a statement on Sunday, the finance ministry said that it expected to finalize terms with the IMF on Monday to revive Pakistan’s lending agreement with the Fund. Finance Minister Miftah Ismail announced on Friday that a new $2.3 billion Chinese loan had been deposited with the State Bank of Pakistan to help shore up the country’s foreign exchange reserves. Speaking in the national assembly on Friday, Ismail defended new income and corporate tax measures announced last week. PTI leader Asad Umar denounced the measures at a Friday press conference. The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority approved tariff rate hikes on Monday. [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Defense Minister Draws Criticism for Suggesting Army Should Pick Its Own Leadership [Dawn] [ET]
  • AJK Man Sentenced to Death on Blasphemy Charges [Dawn]
  • Balochistan Government Seeks Federal Support for Security Expenses [ET] [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Rejects Single Bid for LNG Shipment for July [Dawn]
  • New Polio Case Reported in North Waziristan [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Reimposes Domestic Travel Mask Mandate as COVID Coronavirus Cases Rise [Reuters] [Dawn]
  • Islamabad High Court Orders Foreign Office to Assist Family of Aafia Siddiqui to Secure US Visa [ET] [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Resistance Reports: Hasht-e-Subh / 8AM reports ongoing clashes between Taliban fighters and the group led by former Taliban commander Mawlawi Mehdi Mujahid in the Balkhab district in Sar-e-Pul province; the Taliban reportedly carried out an airstrike on his home in the district on Saturday morning. A Taliban police chief and ten fighters were reportedly killed in the clashes. Rival ethnic Tajik and Pashtun Taliban factions are also reported to have clashed during a sporting event in Bamiyan city on Friday. Separately, sources in Panjshir report that the Taliban have been withdrawing fighters from the area. Taliban forces have reportedly resumed house-to-house searches in parts of Kabul, arresting Panjshiri residents. Elsewhere, two former government security members were reportedly killed in separate incidents in Ghor and Kandahar. [8AM] [8AM] [8AM]
  • Security Force Restructuring: The Taliban’s official news agency announced on Saturday that a new special security unit had been formed to provide protection services for deputy prime minister Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Loya Jirga: Kabul Polytechnic University has closed its facilities through July 3 and will reportedly be used as the site for a national gathering of religious leaders. [TOLO]
  • Former Faryab Commander Returns: Former Faryab militia commander Nizamuddin Qaisari returned to Afghanistan from Iran on Sunday; in remarks on his return, Qaisari professed a desire to “unify people” and called on the Taliban to form an inclusive government representing “all ethnic groups in the country”. [TOLO]
  • International Engagement: Acting UN special representative for Afghanistan Ramiz Alakbarov told a UN Security Council session on Thursday that “a strategy of continued engagement and dialogue remains to be the only way forward for the sake of the Afghan people”. Alakbarov visited earthquake relief operations in Paktika on Sunday. The UN Human Rights Council will hold a session on July 1 on women and girls’ rights in Afghanistan. Taliban foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi spoke by phone with his Iranian counterpart on Friday. In remarks on Sunday, Muttaqi expressed optimism over improvements in relations with the rest of the world. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • India Delivers Another Shipment of Wheat to Afghanistan [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Polio Vaccination Campaign Launched in Western Afghanistan [Ariana News]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Aftershocks Continue in Paktika; New Taxes Imposed on Large Industries

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Topline

  • Earthquake aftershocks in the Paktika area continued on Friday; the official death toll has reportedly increased to at least 1,150 people, with at least as many injured. UN officials have reported lower death toll estimates of around 770 people. Assistance shipments and began arriving in the area on Thursday; some Taliban officials in Paktika indicated on Thursday that they had effectively discontinued rescue operations with no expectations of further survivors, although other reports suggest those efforts are still ongoing. The US embassy for Afghanistan said that it was “working with partners to deploy medical teams to provide immediate care to people affected” and providing funds to “the UN and experienced, carefully chosen international partners”. The Indian external affairs ministry announced that it had deployed a “technical team” to Kabul on Thursday to its former embassy facility to “closely monitor and coordinate the efforts of various stakeholders for the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance”.
  • In an interview on Thursday, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said that there was “no possibility” of reversing the former FATA’s merger with Khyber Paktunkhwa province as part of negotiations with the TTP.
  • Taliban fighters in Sar-e-Pul’s Balkhab and Qom Kotel districts have reportedly clashed with forces led by former Taliban commander Mawlawi Mehdi Mujahid, a member of the Hazara minority community who split with the group earlier this month.
  • On Friday, PM Shehbaz announced new taxes on large industries, saying that it was “time for the affluent citizens to do their part”; speaking in the national assembly, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail said that the surcharges were a “one-time tax” for the fiscal year.

Pakistan — Security

  • TTP Negotiations: Speaking in an interview on Thursday, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said that there was “no possibility” of reversing the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas’ merger with Khyber Paktunkhwa province, as reportedly sought by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan in ongoing negotiations. Sanaullah also said that individuals linked to the 2014 Army Public School attack “can never be considered for a pardon”. [ET]
  • Army Chief Appointment: An anonymous aide to PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari tells The Nation that he is considering supporting an extension to Chief of Army Staff Bajwa’s tenure in office.
  • Espionage Against India: An Indian engineer working for India’s Defense Research and Development Laboratory was arrested last week on charges of leaking details on Indian missile development projects to a ISI operative posing online as a woman.
  • PTM Crackdown: Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement lawmaker Ali Wazir was transferred back to the Karachi central jail on Thursday evening from the hospital, where he was reportedly attacked and has complained of being confined to his bed.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Elections: The first phase of local government elections in Sindh is scheduled to be held on June 26; the Sindh High Court is still hearing challenges to the schedule and against constituency boundaries. On Thursday, the Punjab government cabinet approved amendments to its local government law. Local elections in Balochistan have been scheduled for eight districts on August 28. [The News]
  • Legal Proceedings: An Islamabad district court granted bail to Imran Khan on vandalism charges related to the party’s march on Islamabad last month. The Judicial Commission of Pakistan will meet on June 28-29 to consider nominees for the Sindh High Court and Lahore High Court. [The News]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • IMF Negotiations: Speaking to PML-N senators on Thursday, PM Shehbaz acknowledged that “more difficulties are to come” as the government undertakes economic reforms in order to secure the renewal of its lending agreement with the IMF, saying that the PTI government’s violation of previous agreements now meant that the IMF “doesn’t trust” Pakistan. The State Bank of Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves have fallen to $8.24 billion as of last week. On Friday, PM Shehbaz announced new taxes on large industries, saying that it was “time for the affluent citizens to do their part”; speaking in the national assembly, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail said that the surcharges were a “one-time tax” for the fiscal year. PTI leader Asad Umar denounced the measure. Separately, the government is reportedly considering further electricity tariff rate hikes. [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [ET]
  • Development Projects: A review by the ministry of economic affairs on Thursday of foreign-funded development projects in Pakistan found that $15 billion worth of projects out of $34.8 billion in total were either “not progressing well or unable to deliver the desired outcomes”, particularly in the energy sector. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan Navy Frigate Commissioned in China [ET]
  • Coronavirus Cases Rebound in Karachi and Other Cities [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Resistance Reports: Taliban fighters in Sar-e-Pul’s Balkhab and Qom Kotel districts have reportedly clashed with forces led by former Taliban commander Mawlawi Mehdi Mujahid, a member of the Hazara minority community who split with the group earlier this month after his removal from his position as intelligence chief for Bamiyan province. Taliban army chief of staff Qari Fasihuddin Fitrat led a delegation to the area on Thursday. Hasht-e-Subh / 8AM reports that as many as seven Taliban fighters were killed. Separately, the National Resistance Front claimed to have killed six Taliban fighters in attacks in Panjshir’s Rokha district on Thursday.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Evacuation Efforts: In a letter to the State Department and USAID earlier this week, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko accused the agencies of obstructing its investigations into the collapse of the Afghan government and security forces and evacuation of U.S. personnel from Kabul last August. A spokesman for the State Department expressed concern that past SIGAR investigations had exceeded the organization’s mandate and were conducted without State Department input, but said that “State and USAID are committed to assisting SIGAR with its important auditing and oversight role.” Separately, Germany’s foreign minister reported Thursday that Germany had helped to evacuate roughly 21,000 former Afghan employees from Afghanistan since last August, but that the government was still seeking to support the evacuation of roughly 10,000 additional people, around half of whom have left the country but have not yet been resettled in Germany.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Earthquake Aftermath: The UN Security Council met on Thursday to review the impacts of Wednesday’s earthquake and the humanitarian response. Aftershocks in the Paktika area continued on Friday; the official death toll has reportedly increased to at least 1,150 people, with at least as many injured. UN officials have reported lower death toll estimates of around 770 people. The NYT interviews survivors from the village of Gayan, near the epicenter of the quake, which has reportedly been almost completely destroyed. Assistance shipments and began arriving in the area on Thursday; some Taliban officials in Paktika suggested on Thursday that they had effectively discontinued rescue operations with no expectations of further survivors, although other reports suggest those efforts are still ongoing. Taliban finance ministry officials appealed for international humanitarian aid on Thursday, which they said “should not be politicized”. The US embassy for Afghanistan said that it was “working with partners to deploy medical teams to provide immediate care to people affected” and providing funds to “the UN and experienced, carefully chosen international partners”. The Indian external affairs ministry announced that it had deployed a “technical team” to Kabul on Thursday to its former embassy facility to “closely monitor and coordinate the efforts of various stakeholders for the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance”. The European Commission announced a €1 million assistance pledge on Thursday. Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif spoke by phone with Taliban prime minister Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund on Thursday to discuss the provision of aid. [Reuters] [Reuters] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Dawn] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • US Courts Central Asian Nations to Combat Potential Terrorism from Afghanistan [WSJ]
  • US Repatriates former Hezb-e-Islami Commander Held at Guantanamo for 15 Years [NYT] [AP]
  • Flooding Damages Crops and Homes Across Afghanistan [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: FATF Takes Step Towards Clearing Pakistan from Grey List; Earthquake Kills Hundreds in Paktika

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Note: The news returns to its regular daily update schedule from today, with coverage of events during the June 15 – June 23 period. Apologies for the interruption in service and resulting length of this brief. Thanks for reading.

Topline

  • In a statement on June 17, the Financial Action Task Force announced that it had “made the initial determination that Pakistan has substantially completed its two action plans” to meet compliance criteria for anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing controls. Pakistan remains on the “grey list” pending an “onsite visit” by FATF officials, the date for which has not been set.
  • More than a thousand people have been killed in an earthquake in Paktika over the night of June 21-22; the death toll is expected to rise as rescue operations continue. The country is also facing heavy rainfall across several provinces; disaster management officials report that as many as 400 people have been killed in separate flooding across the country. The Taliban announced the allocation of Afs 1 billion to provide assistance to victims’ families. Japan and South Korea have pledged aid; initial shipments of assistance from Qatar, Iran, and Pakistan began arriving on June 23.
  • IMF and Pakistani finance ministry officials are continuing negotiations for the revival of the stalled lending agreement; on June 22, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail said that he expected an extension and increase in the amount of the loan, but did not provide details. The government further raised petroleum prices on June 16, for the third time in the past month, and is reportedly considering the imposition of additional taxes to meet Fund criteria. As of June 21, the State Bank of Pakistan’s foreign reserves had declined to $8.99 billion; on June 22, Ismail announced a new lending agreement with a Chinese bank consortium that he said would provide $2.3 billion.
  • At least two people, including a Taliban security guard, were killed in an attack on a Sikh temple in Kabul on June 18; the Islamic State later claimed responsibility for the attack.
  • On June 20, the UK government confirmed the release of five British nationals who had been detained by the Taliban in December; former journalist and Kabul businessman Peter Jouvenal was among those released. In a separate statement, the UK charge d’affaires for Afghanistan, Hugo Shorter, said that the UK did not support “any activity inciting violence for political purposes” in Afghanistan.
  • The MQM narrowly won by-elections for the NA-240 constituency in Karachi on June 16, beating the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan candidate by a margin of 65 votes. Overall turnout was low, and at least one person was killed and several injured in a shooting at a polling station that targeted Pak Sarzameen Party leader Mustafa Kamal, who was injured. Separately, the Islamabad High Court has postponed local government elections in the capital, ordering changes to constituency boundaries; those elections had been scheduled for July 31.
  • On June 21, the UN Security Council withdrew sanctions exemptions for Taliban minister of higher education Abdul Baqi Basir Awal Shah and deputy minister of education Said Ahmad Shahidkhel; sanctions exemptions for thirteen other Taliban officials were extended.
  • PM Shehbaz, top army and intelligence officials, and parliamentary leaders met on June 22 to review negotiations with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.
  • On June 17, former German ambassador Markus Potzel was appointed deputy special representative for the UN to Afghanistan. Outgoing special envoy Deborah Lyons issued a farewell statement on June 16; her replacement as special representative has not yet been announced.
  • The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority is reportedly seeking to centralize control over domain name system servers in the country; the PTA denied the report.
  • On June 20, Pres. Alvi formally refused to assent to legislation passed by the government amending the NAB law and electoral law. In remarks at a press conference on June 22, federal Law Minister Azam Nazeem Tarar suggested that the government would finalize an appointment for the NAB chairman by the end of the week.
  • The PML-N government in Punjab held a rival session of the Punjab assembly starting on June 15 to introduce its budget amid ongoing disputes with Punjab assembly speaker and PML-Q leader Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, who had blocked the presentation of the budget the day prior.

Pakistan — Security

  • FATF Scrutiny: In a statement on June 17 following a plenary session in Germany the preceding week, the Financial Action Task Force announced that it had “made the initial determination that Pakistan has substantially completed its two action plans” to meet compliance criteria for anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing controls. The FATF said that Pakistan would remain on the “grey list”, to which it was added in 2018, pending an “onsite visit”, the date for which has not been announced. The Express Tribune quotes anonymous official sources who say they expect that process to run through at least February 2023. Pakistani civilian and military officials welcomed the announcement, with PTI former government officials claiming credit for the change in status. A “special cell” was formed by the Pakistani army in 2019 to address the FATF listing. [AP] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [The News]
  • TTP Negotiations: Speaking at a press conference on June 22, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said that negotiations with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan would “be taken forward under the guidance of parliament” and “under the framework of the constitution”; he did not elaborate. Sanaullah’s remarks followed a meeting earlier in the day between PM Shehbaz, top army and intelligence officials, and parliamentary leaders to review the talks. On June 18, Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid reconfirmed the current ceasefire agreement between the TTP and Pakistani military. Meanwhile, Karachi police announced the arrest of a TTP suspect on June 19. [The News] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • PTM Crackdown: Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement lawmaker Ali Wazir, who has been imprisoned on sedition charges since December 2020, was allegedly attacked twice outside the Karachi hospital where had had been transferred on the evening of June 22; Wazir accused jail authorities of transferring him there to prevent his attendance at the national assembly budget session.
  • Balochistan Attacks: Five laborers working on a road construction project in Balochistan’s Harnai district were kidnapped in an attack on the evening of June 17; three were killed and another five wounded in the attack. No claim of responsibility was reported. Separately, a police officer was killed in a driveby shooting in the town of Dera Murad Jamali on June 18. On June 19, the military announced that it had killed six Baloch Liberation Front militants in an operation in the Panjgur district. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Waziristan Attacks: Six people, including four youth activists, were killed in an attack on their vehicle in North Waziristan on June 19. A Pakistani soldier was killed in an attack on his checkpost in North Waziristan on June 18. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Internet Controls: Pakistan Today reports that the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority is seeking centralize control over domain name system servers in the country, which would allow it to directly monitor web traffic searches and institute domain blocks directly without providing a list of restricted domains to internet service providers. In a statement following the article’s publication, the PTA said it had “only implemented an automation of block of unlawful content”, and denied that it was seeking a centralized DNS system. [Dawn]
  • External Relations: Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington, Masood Khan, met with Pres. Biden on June 15 for an official photograph; they “had a brief conversation on building a strong basis for moving the US-Pakistan ties forward”, according to an embassy readout. On June 14, PTI leader Shireen Mazari objected to reported meetings by US ambassador Donald Blome with the Pakistani foreign ministry. Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari visited Tehran from June 14-15, where he met with Pres. Raisi and his counterpart Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian; at a joint press conference, Bilawal said that the two sides had “come closer to resolving” some of the obstacles to bilateral barter trade, but did not provide details. In remarks at an event in Islamabad on June 16, Bilawal called for re-engaging with India, saying it did not “serve our objective that we have practically cut off all engagements”; in a statement the following day, the foreign ministry said that Bilawal’s remarks were “interpreted out of context” and that there was “no change in Pakistan’s policy on India”. PM Shehbaz met with delegations of Saudi and Bahraini businessmen on June 20 and June 22, calling for investment in Pakistan. Chief of Army Staff Bajwa met with the visiting Italian chief of defense in Rawalpindi on Thursday.[ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • PTI Fundraising: On June 21, the Election Commission announced the completion of hearings on alleged illegal overseas fundraising by the PTI; a verdict has not been announced. Earlier on June 15, the PTI argued that the ECP should resolve complaints against all the major political parties and delay verdict until all cases are heard. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • NAB Leadership: In remarks at a press conference on June 22, federal Law Minister Azam Nazeem Tarar suggested that the government would finalize an appointment for the National Accountability Bureau chairman within the next two days. In remarks on June 21, PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz accused Imran Khan of blackmailing former NAB chairman Javed Iqbal; the Public Accounts Committee in the national assembly has opened an investigation into the issue. On June 20, Pres. Alvi formally refused to assent to legislation passed by the government amending the NAB law, which a joint session of parliament had passed on June 9 to override his earlier veto; in a press conference on June 21, Imran Khan said that the PTI would petition the Supreme Court against those amendments. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Elections: Provisional results indicate that the MQM narrowly won by-elections for the NA-240 constituency in Karachi on June 16, beating the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan candidate by a margin of 65 votes. Overall turnout was low, at less than ten percent; TLP leaders have called for a recount and alleged manipulation of the results. ECP officials are investigating at least one polling station whose ballot box was reportedly taken, and formed an inquiry committee on June 23. At least one person was killed and several injured in a shooting at a polling station that targeted Pak Sarzameen Party leader Mustafa Kamal, who was injured; police have filed charges against both the TLP and PSP leadership for the incident. On June 19, Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah ordered additional police security measures ahead of local government elections in the city scheduled for July 24. The first phase of local elections in four other divisions of Sindh will be held on June 26. Separately, the ECP is investigating clashes on June 18 between rival PTI and PML-N activists ahead of the PP-167 Lahore by-elections. On June 20, the ECP formally requested assistance from the military to provide security for local elections and the upcoming bye-elections. Meanwhile, the Islamabad High Court has postponed local government elections in the capital, ordering changes to constituency boundaries; those elections had been scheduled for July 31. By-elections for the NA-245 seat in Karachi held by the late Aamir Liquat Hussain have been scheduled for July 27. On June 19, Pres. Alvi refused to assent to amendments to the election law forced through by the government earlier this month. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The News] [The News] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • PTI in Opposition: The PTI staged demonstrations in several major cities around the country on June 19 to protest rising inflation; addressing the crowds through remote broadcast, Imran Khan denounced the current government’s management of the economy and reiterated accusations that the United States had conspired to oust his government. In an interview on June 14, Pakistani military spokesman Maj. Gen. Babar Iftikhar said that the military had “no objection whasteover” to the formation of a judicial commission to investigate Imran’s allegations of a foreign conspiracy, but noted previous statements by the civil-military National Security Committee dismissing conspiracy claims. PTI leaders criticized Iftikhar’s remarks; he denied that he was “making a political statement”. In remarks on June 22, Imran Khan denied that he was seeking to make former ISI chief Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed the next chief of army staff prior to his ouster, but said that his political rivals “feared that if that would have happened then it would shatter their future”. [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The News] [Dawn]
  • Punjab Standoff: The PML-N government in Punjab held a rival session of the Punjab assembly on June 15 to introduce its budget amid ongoing disputes with Punjab assembly speaker and PML-Q leader Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, who had blocked the presentation of the budget the day prior. The Lahore High Court has begun hearing a challenge to an ordinance from Governor Balighur Rehman curtailing Elahi’s powers as speaker. The PML-N-led assembly approved its budget in the absence of the opposition in a vote on June 22. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Other Legal Proceedings: Dissident PTI Punjab assembly lawmaker Aisah Nawaz has petitioned the Supreme Court for a review of its ruling discounting the votes of lawmakers who defect from party guidance. The Supreme Court Bar Association also filed an review petition on June 23. On June 20, a Lahore accountability court granted PM Shehbaz a permanent exemption from court appearances in a 2019 fraud case related to his family’s sugar mill. On June 15, PML-Q leader Moonis Elahi was charged with money laundering; he received bail after a court appearance on June 22. The Islamabad High Court has formed a commission to investigate former PTI minister Shireen Mazari’s arrest last month, ordering a report by July 4. The IHC dismissed charges against Mazari’s daughter for defamation against the military leadership on June 20. PTI Sindh provincial assembly member Shabbir Qureshi was arrested on sexual assault charges on June 19. [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The News] [The News] [The News]
  • Musharraf Return: In a statement on June 14, Nawaz Sharif said that he had “no personal enmity” towards former Pres. Musharraf, and that the government should allow his return to Pakistan. Pakistani military spokesman Maj. Gen. Babar Iftikhar confirmed in an interview on June 14 that the military was in contact with Musharraf’s family regarding his return. In a statement on June 19, Musharraf’s family said that they were still considering the “significant medical, legal, and security challenges” before making a decision on his return. [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: In remarks at a PPP rally on June 22, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari called for supporters to “give this government some time to carry out economic and electoral reforms”. Separately, the PPP has announced that it will endorse the PML-N candidates for twenty Punjab assembly constituencies vacated after the defection and disqualification from office of PTI lawmakers in April. Rival factions of the Balochistan Awami Party split after Balochistan assembly speaker Mir Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo was elected party president on June 20; former chief minister Jama Kamal Khan Alyani has rejected his leadership. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • IMF Negotiations: In a Reuters interview on June 22, the IMF representative for Pakistan said that “important progress has been made” in ongoing negotiations for the revival of the stalled lending agreement; Finance Minister Miftah Ismail confirmed the talks and said that he expected an extension and increase in the amount of the loan, but did not provide details. The government had further raised petroleum prices on June 16, for the third time in the past month. Ismail told journalists that “all budget-related issues had been settled” with the Fund; Dawn reports that the government has agreed to additional petroleum taxes and a progressive corporate tax to support poverty programming, among other revenue reforms. At a press conference on June 23, Ismail confirmed plans for additional income taxes on those with incomes over Rs 150 million, saying that the government was ensuring that “the sacrifice is shared”. As of June 21, the State Bank of Pakistan’s foreign reserves had declined to $8.99 billion; on June 22, Ismail announced a new lending agreement with a Chinese bank consortium that he said would provide $2.3 billion. PM Shehbaz reportedly plans a national address following the finalization of the IMF agreement; in remarks in parliament on June 16, Shehbaz blamed his PTI predecessors for the need to cut fuel subsidies and return to the IMF. The finance ministry team reportedly met with US Ambassador Blome on June 17 to discuss the IMF program. Separately, a EU delegation arrived in Islamabad on June 22 to review Pakistan’s GSP+ trading status. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Budget Debate: Most national assembly lawmakers skipped the parliamentary session on June 15 to debate the current federal budget proposal; several ministers, including Finance Minister Ismail, also skipped the debate on June 22, prompting complaints from fellow coalition members. In a June 14 interview, Pakistan’s military spokesman Maj. Gen. Babar Iftikhar defended the budget’s allocation for defense spending, arguing that it had declined in real terms and as a share of GDP. Separately, PTI and PPP lawmakers brawled in the Sindh assembly on June 14, disrupting the PPP’s budget presentation. The Balochistan provincial government presented its budget proposal for the new fiscal year on June 21. On June 18, the Punjab provincial government adopted new restrictions on market activity after 9 PM to curtail energy consumption. [AP] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Plaintiff Withdraws from Terror Financing Case Against National Bank of Pakistan [Dawn] [ET]
  • Islamabad Police Seek to Tighten Registration of Foreigners and Refugees [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Seeks Out-of-Court Settlement in Reko Diq Case [ET]
  • Karachi Court Orders Autopsy of Aamir Liquat; Sindh High Court Blocks Action [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • First Batch of Pakistani Students Return to China After COVID Restrictions [ET]
  • Lawmaker Daniyal Aziz Hospitalized After Traffic Accident [Dawn] [The News]

Afghanistan — Security

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Prisoner Releases: On June 20, the UK government confirmed the release of five British nationals who had been detained by the Taliban in December; their identities were not disclosed, but family members confirmed that former journalist and Kabul businessman Peter Jouvenal was among those released. In a separate statement, the UK charge d’affaires for Afghanistan, Hugo Shorter, said that the UK did not support “any activity inciting violence for political purposes” in Afghanistan. [WSJ] [Ariana News]
  • Travel Restrictions: On June 21, the UN Security Council withdrew sanctions exemptions for Taliban minister of higher education Abdul Baqi Basir Awal Shah and deputy minister of education Said Ahmad Shahidkhel; sanctions exemptions for thirteen other Taliban officials were extended. Human rights groups had called for the broader reinstatement of sanctions. In a statement on June 22, the Taliban criticized the reimposition of sanctions on the two officials. [Ariana News]
  • UN Envoy: On June 17, former German ambassador Markus Potzel was appointed deputy special representative for the UN to Afghanistan. Outgoing special envoy Deborah Lyons issued a farewell statement on June 16, expressing heartbreak for “the millions of Afghan girls who are denied their right to education, and the many Afghan women full of talent who are being told to stay at home”. Lyons held the position since 2020; her replacement as special representative has not yet been announced. [TOLO] [Ariana News] [Khaama Press]
  • Haibatullah Meets with Kandahar Businessmen: Taliban supreme leader Haibatullah Akhunzada made a rare public appearance in Kandahar on June 20, meeting with leaders of the local business community.
  • International Engagement: In remarks to reporters on June 19, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid blamed the United States as the “biggest obstacle” to recognition for the Taliban government. In separate remarks on the 19th, deputy foreign minister Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai called on Afghanistan’s neighboring countries to expand relations. In a June 14 interview, Russian envoy Zamir Kabulov said that Russia would decide on recognition for the Taliban government “regardless of what the United States and everybody may think” but that this would be contingent on “inclusive ethnopolitical government”; on June 15, a spokesman for Pres. Putin said that recognition “is not on the current agenda”. The head of the Afghan chamber of commerce and industry signed an agreement with the Russian counterpart chamber in a visit to Moscow on June 23. Uzbekistan’s national security advisor visited Kabul on June 20 for meetings with senior Taliban officials; the two countries have agreed to conduct a survey for a rail project linking Mazar-e-Sharif and Jalalabad. [Ariana News] [Ariana News] [Ariana News] [TOLO]
  • Women’s Rights: In remarks on June 19, Taliban deputy foreign minister Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai said that every man and woman in Afghanistan had a “natural and Islamic right” to education. Hasht-e-Subh / 8AM reports that the Taliban have imposed new dress restrictions on female teachers in Ghazni province. [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Refugees and Repatriation: On June 14, the Biden administration loosened terrorism-related immigration restrictions for Afghan individuals who had been forced to interact with the Taliban government. The UNHCR estimates that more than 250,000 Afghan nationals seeking asylum have crossed into Pakistan since January 2021. The Taliban ministry of refugees and repatriation reports that as many as 700,000 Afghans have returned to the country since the collapse of the former government last August; the UN reports only 850 refugees have participated in the voluntary repatriation program from Pakistan since January 2022, however. On June 21, Taliban foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi met with a group of former government officials who have returned to the country, pledging to protect their safety. [TOLO] [Ariana News]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Paktika Earthquake: More than a thousand people have been killed in a shallow, magnitude 6.1 earthquake in Paktika over the night of June 21-22; it is the deadliest earthquake to strike the area since 2002. The death toll is expected to rise as rescue operations continue, which are still ongoing as of this writing. The country is also facing heavy rainfall across several provinces; disaster management officials report that as many as 400 people have been killed in separate flooding across the country. Taliban supreme leader Haibatullah Akhunzada issued a statement of condolence following the quake on June 22. The Taliban have announced the allocation of Afs 1 billion to provide assistance to victims’ families, and the Taliban foreign ministry said that it would welcome foreign assistance. Japan and South Korea have pledged aid; initial shipments of assistance from Qatar, Iran, and Pakistan began arriving on June 23. [AP] [Guardian] [Guardian] [ET] [TOLO]
  • Economic Management: Taliban deputy prime minister Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar called on Afghan expatriates to reinvest in the country at a conference in Kabul on June 19; the Taliban announced the formation of a state-run corporation to consolidate and manage $250 million from a group of thirteen unidentified investors. Earlier, Afghan central bank officials met with a group of economist and professors from Afghan universities on June 15 to discuss management of the currency.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • US May Let Tajikistan Hold on to Fleeing Afghan Aircraft [Reuters]
  • Former Government Employees Hold Protest Over Unpaid Pensions [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Commentary: Policing Public Morality – “The Taleban and Amr bil-Maruf may have changed in terms of how they want to enforce particular behaviour and dress, but they still think it is right to impose their reading of sharia on other Afghans.” [Sabawoon Samim, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: More Reforms Needed to Revive IMF Loan; Former Officials Spent Millions on Properties Abroad

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Topline

  • In a statement to Reuters on Monday, the IMF’s country representative for Pakistan said that “our preliminary estimate is that additional measures will be needed to strengthen the budget and bring it in line with key program objectives”. The government agreed to further electricity tariff hikes in a cabinet committee meeting on Monday. Ongoing disputes between Punjab assembly speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi and the PML-N government in Punjab led to the postponement the provincial budget announcement; the assembly session has been rescheduled for Tuesday afternoon.
  • The WSJ reports that several former Afghan government officials — including former finance ministers Eklil Hakimi and Khalid Payenda and former National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib, among others — have spent millions on properties in the United States, the UAE, Turkey, and several major European cities.
  • Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari arrived in Tehran on Tuesday for a two-day visit, his first since taking office.
  • The Taliban have established a new council of religious leaders for Takhar province; in remarks during a visit to the province over the weekend, Taliban deputy interior minister Mawlavi Noor Jalal Jalali said that the new ulema council “is higher than the provincial council” under the previous government and “the chairman of this council has direct contact with the supreme leader” Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada.
  • Nafees Naeem, an editor for the television channel Aaj News, was detained in Karachi overnight and later released early Tuesday morning.

Pakistan — Security

  • Journalist Detained: Nafees Naeem, an editor for the television channel Aaj News, was detained in Karachi overnight and later released early Tuesday morning. [AP]
  • Missing Persons: Karachi police arrested at least 28 people in a crackdown on a group of protestors demonstrating outside the University of Karachi on Monday against the abduction of two Baloch students. The two students were released on Tuesday after a week in detention.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • External Relations: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari arrived in Tehran on Tuesday for a two-day visit, his first since taking office. In an interview on Monday, Russian ambassador to Pakistan Danila Ganich suggested that Imran Khan’s visit to Moscow in February was “one of the factors” leading to his ouster, and confirmed that the two governments had not finalized an agreement on discounted oil and wheat sales. US Ambassador Donald Blome visited the Pakistan Stock Exchange in Karachi on Tuesday.
  • Musharraf Critically Ill: Family members of former Pres. Musharraf tell the Express Tribune that they have sought permission from military authorities for his return to Pakistan; The Nation quotes family sources saying that he is unable to travel, however.
  • Legal Proceedings: The PTI petitioned the Islamabad High Court on Tuesday to challenge the Election Commission’s deferral of the election of five reserved seats in the Punjab assembly until after by-elections are held. The PTI also petitioned the Supreme Court to challenge the ECP’s decision not to disqualify PTI lawmaker Raja Riaz on defection charges. The court heard arguments from former IHC judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui’s on Monday as part of his challenge against his removal from office in 2018. In a bail ruling on Monday, the court hearing money laundering charges against PM Shehbaz and Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz concluded that “at this stage”, no definitive evidence of the charges had been proven. [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: The PTI has endorsed candidates in all but two of the twenty Punjab assembly by-elections scheduled to take place on July 17. PTI lawmaker Muhammad Sibtain Khan was appointed opposition leader in a session on Monday. JUI-S leader Maulana Muhammad Khan Sherani met with Imran Khan on Monday. [Dawn] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Debate: In a statement to Reuters on Monday, the IMF’s country representative for Pakistan said that “our preliminary estimate is that additional measures will be needed to strengthen the budget and bring it in line with key program objectives”. In a separate interview, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail defended the government’s withdrawal of petroleum subsidies in the budget as a necessity to revive the IMF agreement. The government reportedly agreed to electricity tariff hikes in a cabinet committee meeting on Monday. The national assembly began debate on the budget on Monday; speaking at a separate event, Imran Khan accused the government of neglecting the needs of farmers, risking food insecurity. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Provincial Budgets: Ongoing disputes between Punjab assembly speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi and the PML-N government in Punjab led to the postponement of Monday’s budget announcement; the assembly session was adjourned until Tuesday afternoon. The Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial government unveiled its budget on Monday, with Rs 1.332 trillion in total outlays. The Sindh provincial cabinet approved a Rs 1.71 trillion budget on Tuesday, which will be presented in the assembly later today. [ET] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Terrorist Suspect Arrested in Quetta [The Nation]
  • Turkish Ambassador Meets Air Chief of Staff [Dawn]
  • In Hottest City on Earth, Others Bear Brunt of Climate Change [Reuters]
  • Asian Development Bank Officials Discuss Power Transmission Project [The Nation]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Detainee Released: Axios reports that an Afghan-American freed by the Taliban earlier in April, Safi Rauf, helped serve as an intermediary for the family members of another Afghan-American woman who had been held by the Taliban, and who was released last week.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Former Officials Purchased Properties Abroad: The WSJ reports that several former Afghan government officials — including former finance ministers Eklil Hakimi and Khalid Payenda and former National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib, among others — have spent millions on properties in the United States, the UAE, Turkey, and several major European cities.
  • Government Formation: The Taliban have established a new council of religious leaders for Takhar province; in remarks during a visit to the province over the weekend, Taliban deputy interior minister Mawlavi Noor Jalal Jalali said that the new ulema council “is higher than the provincial council” under the previous government and “the chairman of this council has direct contact with the supreme leader” Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada.
  • Refugees and Repatriation: The US Air Force cleared a flight crew of any wrongdoing after they took off from Kabul airport during the evacuation last August with people still clinging to the wings of the plane; one person died after being caught in the plane’s wheel well. [WAPO]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Humanitarian Assistance: Taliban deputy foreign minister Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai met with the international program director of the aid group Save the Children on Monday. Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan announced on Tuesday that Pakistan would upgrade the Mohammad Ali Jinnah hospital in Kabul to a teaching hospital. [Ariana News]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Former Iraqi Commander at Gitmo Pleads Guilty to War Crimes in Afghanistan [NYT]
  • Taliban Close Stores in Zabul for Unpaid Electricity Dues [8AM]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PML-N Government Unveils New Budget; Abdullah Abdullah Returns to Afghanistan

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Topline

  • The PML-N coalition government submitted its budget to parliament on Friday for the forthcoming fiscal year; outlays total Rs 9.5 trillion, of which approximately 17.5% goes to overt defense spending (not counting pensions), and 45.4% to debt servicing costs. PTI leaders in Khyber Paktunkhwa, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and Gilgit-Baltistan protested cuts in development spending allocations to the provinces and territories. The Punjab and Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial governments are scheduled to release their own budgets for the coming fiscal year on Monday.
  • Former chief executive Abdullah Abdullah returned to Afghanistan on Saturday after spending nearly six weeks in India visiting family members.
  • Multiple unclaimed attacks across Afghanistan on Sunday left as many as thirteen people dead and fifteen wounded, including an attack targeting airport personnel in Mazar-e-Sharif and a roadside bombing in Spin Boldak targeting a Taliban border force commander.
  • Chief of Army Staff Bajwa completed a previously unannounced three-day visit to China, where he met with Chinese Central Military Commission Vice Chairman Gen. Zhang Youxia and other defense officials.
  • Outgoing UN special envoy Deborah Lyons met with Taliban interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani on Saturday, where she discussed humanitarian assistance and “the need to fight terrorism and narcotics”, among other issues. She also met with Abdullah Abdullah after his return to the country. Qatar’s national security advisor also visited Kabul and held talks with Taliban officials.
  • PML-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and his son Chaudhry Salik Hussain are reportedly considering splitting to form a separate party from the PML-Q after they aligned with the PML-N, rather than the PTI.
  • PakistaniPrime Minister Shehbaz Sharif approved a new visa policy on Saturday allowing 30-day transit visas for Afghan nationals with onward immigration approvals.

Pakistan — Security

  • Chinese Military Cooperation: On Sunday, the Pakistani military announced that Chief of Army Staff Bajwa had completed a previously unannounced three-day visit to China, where he met with Chinese Central Military Commission Vice Chairman Gen. Zhang Youxia and other defense officials. The two sides “reaffirmed their strategic partnership in challenging times and agreed to continue regular exchange of perspectives on issues of mutual interest”, according to a Pakistani military readout. [ET] [Dawn]
  • TTP Negotiations: Pakistan People’s Party leaders met in Islamabad on Friday to discuss terrorism concerns and the ongoing negotiations with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan; in a statement afterwards, party secretary general Farhatullah Babar said that “the PPP believes that all decisions must be taken by parliament”. Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said in a statement that the PPP “will be reaching out to allied parties to create consensus on the way forward”; he formed a three-member committee of PPP lawmakers on the issue on Sunday. The News reports that a PPP member of the jirga delegation that visited Kabul earlier this month did so without the party’s authorization. On Sunday, a Pakistani soldier was killed in an exchange of fire in North Waziristan; no immediate claim of responsibility was reported. [Dawn] [ET]
  • Civil-Military Tensions: The News reports that the Pakistani military revoked pensions and other benefits for five retired army officers last month for their participation in “the anti-army campaign” protesting against the ouster of the PTI government in April.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PTI in Opposition: In an interview on Saturday, PML-Q leader Chaudhry Parvez Elahi said that Imran Khan had postponed protest plans until after the July by-elections in Punjab. In a separate interview on Sunday, Imran said that protest plans would be announced after “we get permission from the Supreme Court”. The Nation notes the participation of PTI lawmaker Mian Khan Mohammad Jamali in Friday’s budget session as a potential signal that not all PTI lawmakers intend to follow through with the resignation from the assemblies. Zain Qureshi, son of former PTI minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, has filed to contest the PP-217 by-election. [The Nation] [ET]
  • Legal Proceedings: A Lahore court upheld bail orders for PM Shehbaz and Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz in the money laundering cases; both men made court appearances for the hearing, where they disputed the charges against them. Islamabad police officials filed a report with the Supreme Court on Friday on the PTI’s demonstrations in the D-Chowk area of Islamabad on May 25, which the court had previously prohibited. The Federal Investigation Agency is reportedly opening a money-laundering case against PML-Q leader Moonis Elahi, who dismissed the report as a “pressure tactic”. [The News] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Musharraf Critically Ill: In a statement on Friday, family members of former Pres. Pervez Musharraf confirmed that he was “critically ill” and had been hospitalized for the past three weeks, saying that he had been diagnosed with amyloidosis. [Dawn]
  • Local Elections: On Sunday, the Punjab provincial government announced the restoration of the 2019 local government law. The Nation reports that local elections will be held in Balochistan’s Quetta and Lasbela districts in the first week of July.
  • Other Political Activity: The Express Tribune reports that PML-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and his son Chaudhry Salik Hussain may split to form a separate party from the PML-Q after they aligned with the PML-N, rather than the PTI. In an interview on Saturday, PML-Q leader Chaudhry Parvaiz Elahi insisted that the party “would remain united”. JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman met with Chaudhry Shujaat on Saturday, and former Pres. Zardari met with Salik Hussain and PML-Q minister Tariq Bashir Cheema on Sunday. PPP senator Raza Rabbani has sought the release of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement lawmaker Ali Wazir to participate in the budget session in parliament; Wazir has been held in custody since December 2020. [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Funeral Service Held for Aamir Liaquat [Dawn] [ET]
  • Protests Held Against Abduction of Baloch Students at Karachi University [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Probes Hindu Temple Desecration in Karachi [AP]
  • Foreign Minister Bilawal Speaks with OIC Officials in ‘Islamaphobia’ in India [ET]
  • PM Shehbaz Speaks with Indonesian President [The Nation]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: At least one person was killed and four injured in a magnetic bomb attack targeting a Taliban police vehicle in the Kunar provincial capital of Asadabad on Sunday; no immediate claim of responsibility was reported for the attack. Separate bombings on the same day injured four civilians in Kunduz city and one civilian bystander in the Badakhshan capital of Faizabad. Hasht-e-Subh / 8AM also reports that a roadside bombing in the Spin Boldak district in Kandahar on Sunday killed a Taliban border force commander. Also on Sunday, two airport personnel were killed and six injured in a driveby shooting targeting their vehicle in Mazar-e-Sharif; no claim of responsibility was reported for that attack. Elsewhere, the National Resistance Front claimed to have killed nine Taliban fighters in an attack in Panjshir on Sunday, and to have attacked a Taliban base in Kapisa. On Monday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid announced on Monday that a “militant commander” was killed in an overnight operation in Kabul’s Bagram district; he did not specify the commander’s affiliation. Earlier, the Taliban announced that they had killed eight Islamic State fighters in an operation in the Takhar capital of Taloqan on Saturday evening; Khaama Press reports clashes between rival Taliban groups in the city. Local Taliban police tell Ariana News that seven ISIS fighters and two civilians were killed in the raid. [Khaama Press] [Ariana News]
  • Security Force Restructuring: Former Afghan government soldiers held a demonstration outside the ministry of finance in Kabul on Saturday, demanding pension payments. Hasht-e-Subh reports complaints from residents in Zabul that the Taliban are establishing bases on private land. [TOLO]
  • Journalist Abducted: Abdul Hanan Mohammadi, a local journalist in Kapisa, was reportedly abducted on Sunday; details of his case are limited.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Abdullah Returns from India: Former chief executive Abdullah Abdullah returned to Afghanistan on Saturday after spending nearly six weeks in India visiting family members. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • International Engagement: Outgoing UN special envoy Deborah Lyons met with Taliban interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani on Saturday, where she discussed humanitarian assistance and “the need to fight terrorism and narcotics”, among other issues. She also met with Abdullah Abdullah after his return to the country. Qatari National Security Advisor Mohammad bin Ahmed al-Misnad visited Kabul and met with Taliban deputy prime minister Abdul Ghani Baradar, Sirajuddin Haqqani, and other officials. In remarks during a meeting with Turkmenistan Pres. Serdar Berdimuhamedov on Friday, Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin reiterated that “the main obligations for the reconstruction of Afghanistan… should be undertaken by the United States and its allies”. Taliban deputy foreign minister Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai attended a national day ceremony at the Russian embassy in Kabul on Saturday, where he thanked Russia for the “political support they have given us at the international level”. [Ariana News] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Refugees and Repatriation: PakistaniPrime Minister Shehbaz Sharif approved a new visa policy on Saturday allowing 30-day transit visas for Afghan nationals with onward immigration approvals. UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Kelly Clements arrived in Kabul on Sunday for talks with Taliban officials on refugee repatriation. The Washington Post reports on efforts to reunite families separated during last August’s evacuations of Afghans to the United States.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Projects: Officials from the Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat electricity utility held talks with Turkmenistan officials on Monday to discuss a proposed transmission line project linking the city of Kerki in Turkmenistan to Kabul.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghans Go Hungry as US and Taliban Officials Blame Each Other [WAPO]
  • Ariana Airlines Plans New Plane Purchases [Ariana News]
  • Four New Deputy Ministers Appointed in Ministry of Mines [TOLO]
  • Russia Reportedly Planning Tariff Exemptions for Afghanistan [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Shehbaz Approves Govt Salary Increases in New Budget; UN Special Envoy’s Tenure Ends

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Topline

  • PM Shehbaz chaired a cabinet meeting on Friday prior to the announcement of the government’s budget for the coming fiscal year; Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said that Shehbaz had authorized a 15% increase in government salaries, over the ten percent proposed by the finance ministry. Earlier on Thursday, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail released the finance ministry’s annual economic survey report, which estimated 5.97% GDP growth for the outgoing fiscal year.
  • UN special representative Deborah Lyons’ term in office ended on Thursday; no immediate replacement has been announced by the UN.
  • The Hindustan Times reports that Taliban officials sought to assure a visiting Indian delegation last week that “it will not allow terrorism against [a] third country from its soil” and would take action against militant groups targeting India such as Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Hizbul Mujahadeen.
  • In a joint session of parliament on Thursday, the PML-N coalition government passed amendments to the national electoral law and the National Accountability Bureau, after Pres. Alvi had previously returned the legislation to parliament.
  • On Thursday, Saudi Arabia announced a $30 million grant to the Afghanistan Humanitarian Trust Fund being managed by the Islamic Development Bank and the OIC.

Pakistan — Security

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Legislative Amendments: In a joint session of parliament on Thursday, the government passed amendments to the national electoral law and the National Accountability Bureau, after Pres. Alvi had previously returned the legislation to parliament. A group of female PTI lawmakers held a protest outside the parliament building during the session. Separately, the senate passed legislation governing Pakistan’s debt limits, a condition of ongoing IMF talks. [The Nation] [ET]
  • Legal Proceedings: A Lahore court granted bail on Friday to a group of fourteen PTI leaders who face charges related to the party’s May 25 protest march on Islamabad. The Islamabad High Court denied a PTI petition seeking to block ongoing Election Commission hearings on the party’s overseas fundraising. [The News] [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Planning: PM Shehbaz chaired a cabinet meeting on Friday prior to the announcement of the government’s budget for the coming fiscal year; Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said that Shehbaz had authorized a 15% increase in government salaries, over the ten percent proposed by the finance ministry. On Thursday, former Pres. Zardari hosted a dinner for coalition partners, at which “leaders of all political parties of the unity government expressed confidence in the prime minister”. Earlier on Thursday, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail released the finance ministry’s annual economic survey report, which estimated 5.97% GDP growth for the outgoing fiscal year. Pakistan’s trade deficit grew to $58.9 billion during the July-March period, a nearly 50% increase year-on-year; inflation rose to 11% for the July-April period. Total public debt reached Rs 44.37 trillion, of which external debt totaled $88.8 billion. In remarks on Thursday, Imran Khan claimed credit for economic growth during the PTI’s tenure and blamed the current government for inflation. [The Nation] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Jamaat-e-Islami Protests Remarks by BJP Spokesperson [AP]
  • WAPDA Signs Contracts for Karachi Water Project [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Resistance Reports: Hasht-e-Subh / 8AM reports that the Taliban have deployed as many as 400 additional personnel to Kapisa province in the areas neighboring Panjshir.
  • Security Force Restructuring: Taliban police officials in Balkh tell Ariana News that “a number” of former police officers from the previous government have returned to service, and say that they have established a training center for female police recruits. Separately, the ministry of defense announced that it had returned two cargo aircraft to service that were damaged last August.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • International Engagement: UN special representative Deborah Lyons’ term in office ended on Thursday after two years; she previously received an extension to her posting in December. No replacement has been announced by the UN. Separately, the Hindustan Times reports that Taliban officials sought to assure a visiting Indian delegation last week that “it will not allow terrorism against [a] third country from its soil” and would take action against militant groups targeting India such as Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Hizbul Mujahadeen. The head of the state-run Ariana Airlines tells TOLO that the airline will resume regular flights to India, China, and Kuwait “soon”. [TOLO]
  • Refugees and Repatriation: Afghan refugees continued protests in Pakistan on Friday, calling for actions on their asylum applications to third countries.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Humanitarian Assistance: On Thursday, Saudi Arabia announced a $30 million grant to the Afghanistan Humanitarian Trust Fund being managed by the Islamic Development Bank and the OIC.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Taliban Reiterates Pledge of Safety for Returning Officials [TOLO]
  • Commentary: US Engagement with Afghanistan Isn’t Over, and We Need a New Policy – “The U.S. should insist on meeting with the Taliban leadership in Kandahar, since it is in doubt whether the ministers in Kabul speak authoritatively for the Taliban’s religious leadership.” [Anne Patterson and Ronald Neumann, The Hill]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Taliban Unveil New Police Uniforms; Government Seeks Energy Conservation Measures

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Topline

  • On Wednesday, the Taliban interior ministry announced the creation of new uniforms for the national police, which they said would initially be distributed to officers in Kabul and Kandahar.
  • PM Shehbaz chaired a meeting of the National Economic Council on Wednesday, joined by the chief ministers of Sindh, Punjab, and Balochistan; the meeting “agreed in principal” to a proposal to close public markets after 8:30 PM in order to conserve electricity.
  • Former PTI lawmaker and televangelist Aamir Liquat Hussain passed away after being hospitalized abruptly over Wednesday night; the cause of death has not been determined.
  • The Sindh High Court has declined a MQM petition to block the first phase of local government elections from being held as scheduled on June 26.
  • NBC reports that approximately 2,500 Afghans have left the country since the start of April on US-purchased flights on the state-run Ariana Afghan Airlines, made indirectly through the Qatari government.

Pakistan — Security

  • Commanders’ Conference: Chief of Army Staff Bajwa chaired a meeting of army formation commanders on Wednesday; Dawn notes that the last such conference took place only two months prior. The Pakistani military quoted Bajwa saying that the army “shall always fulfil its responsibilities towards security, integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan as a sacred duty.” Separately, Bajwa met with the visiting Qatari Air Force chief. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PTI in Opposition: In remarks on Wednesday, Imran Khan said that he would announce a date for new nationwide protests “within the next few days”, which he claimed would be “the biggest in Pakistan’s history”. In a statement on Wednesday, the Pakistani military rejected allegations by journalist Shaheen Shebai that the military establishment had pressured former finance minister Shaukat Tarin to quit the PTI government in April. [ET] [ET] [The News]
  • Legal Proceedings: The Sindh High Court has declined a MQM petition to block the first phase of local government elections from being held as scheduled on June 26. A witness in the money laundering case against PM Shehbaz Sharif and his family, Maqsood Chaprasi, passed away on Thursday. The Supreme Court has begun hearings on the constitutionality of sections of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act introduced by the PTI government; the Lahore High Court and Islamabad High Court previously split on their rulings on the issue. On Wednesday, former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the March 2021 election of senate chairman Sadiq Sanjrani. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: Former PTI lawmaker and televangelist Aamir Liquat Hussain passed away after being hospitalized abruptly over Wednesday night; the cause of death has not been determined. The national assembly has been adjourned until Friday; a joint session of parliament had been scheduled to take up amendments to the electoral law and National Accountability Bureau law. PML-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain met with PM Shehbaz on Wednesday to discuss the upcoming Punjab by-elections. The national assembly passed an amendment to the criminal procedure code that will remove judicial powers from district officials in Islamabad. [Dawn] [Dawn] [The News] [The Nation] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Economic Reforms: PM Shehbaz chaired a meeting of the National Economic Council on Wednesday, joined by the chief ministers of Sindh, Punjab, and Balochistan; the meeting “agreed in principal” to a proposal to close public markets after 8:30 PM in order to conserve electricity. Khyber Paktunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan did not participate in the meeting and the provincial finance minister said that the government had not agreed to the proposal. The Express Tribune reports that PM Shehbaz has ordered renewed efforts to secure additional wheat imports from Russia.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Public Accounts Committee Seeks Details of Independent Power Producer Agreements [ET]
  • PM Shehbaz Attends Ceremony at UK Embassy [The Nation]
  • Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah Meets Saudi Ambassador [The Nation]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Security Force Restructuring: On Wednesday, the Taliban interior ministry announced the creation of new uniforms for the national police, which they said would initially be distributed to officers in Kabul and Kandahar. The exact size of the new force is unclear; deputy interior minister Mawlawi Noor Jalal Jalali said that approximately 50,000 Taliban personnel had undergone training courses, and ministry spokesman Abdul Nafi Takor indicated that approximately 120,000 uniforms were being procured. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Refugees and Repatriation: NBC reports that the US government is making indirect payments through Qatar for bulk plane tickets for flights on the state-run Ariana Afghan Airlines to facilitate the evacuation of Afghan refugees; approximately 2,500 Afghans have left the country since flights resumed at the end of March.
  • Social Controls: The AP reports on the arrest by the Taliban of YouTube activist and former model Ajmal Haqiqi and three other colleagues, who the Taliban have accused of “disrespecting Islam and the Quran”.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • TAPI Project: The Taliban governor for Herat, Noor Ahmad Islamjar, met with the Turkmenistan ambassador to Afghanistan on Thursday to discuss proposals for the TAPI gas pipeline project, which officials suggested would begin “in the next six months”. Afghan officials have yet to begin work on land acquisition for the pipeline.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Students in South Call for Girls’ Schools to Reopen [TOLO]
  • Commentary: A Short Visit to the Taliban’s Tense and Quiet Capital – “The real arguments about policy seem to be happening far away from the spotlight, among senior clerics in Kandahar, and it’s often difficult to guess what’s coming next from the reclusive leadership.” [Graeme Smith, ICG]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PPP and PML-N Discuss Punjab By-Election Plan; New Panjshir Governor Reportedly Appointed

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Topline

  • Former Pres. Zardari and Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz met in Lahore on Tuesday to discuss a joint strategy for July by-elections scheduled to fill twenty seats vacated after the disqualification of PTI lawmakers who defected in support of Hamza’s election.
  • The Washington Post reports on the Taliban crackdown on resistance groups fighting in Panjshir; Hasht-e-Subh / 8AM reports that the Taliban have appointed a new governor from Helmand to Panjshir, Mohammad Nasim Noori.
  • On Tuesday, Pakistan’s federal cabinet approved reductions in fuel allocations for government employees and the restoration of Saturday as a working holiday in an effort to reduce energy demand; officials denied that they were planning to further hike petroleum prices in conjunction with the announcement of the new fiscal year budget this week. Speaking on Tuesday, Finance Minister Ismail said that Pakistan would need approximately $41 billion over the next year to pay back existing external debts and finance its trade deficit.
  • The Indian government is reportedly “close to a decision” on whether to resume a limited diplomatic presence in Kabul.

Pakistan — Security

  • Counterterrorism Operations: In a statement on Tuesday, the Pakistani military said that it had killed two Baloch Republic Army militants in an operation in the Nushki district in Balochistan, and another two unidentified militant suspects in a separate operation in North Waziristan.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PTI in Opposition: Speaking to supporters in Islamabad on Tuesday, Imran Khan accused the government of seeking to arrest him in order to “break the momentum of the movement against it”, and pledged to continue protest efforts until a date for early elections was announced. [ET] [Dawn] [The News]
  • Foreign Relations: German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock cut short a two-day visit to Pakistan on Tuesday after testing positive for COVID-19; she had met with Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and participated in a joint press conference on Tuesday.
  • Legal Proceedings: Officials from the Islamabad police, ISI, and Intelligence Bureau are preparing to submit reports to the Supreme Court on Wednesday on the PTI’s protests in Islamabad last month; the Express Tribune reports that the agencies have concluded that the PTI leadership “incited” party activists in defiance of prior court orders against demonstrations in the D-Chowk and ‘Red Zone’ areas of Islamabad. The Lahore High Court continued hearings on Tuesday on challenges to Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz’s election. [ET] [The News] The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: Former Pres. Zardari and Chief Minister Hamza met in Lahore on Tuesday to discuss a joint strategy for July by-elections scheduled to fill twenty seats vacated after the disqualification of PTI lawmakers who defected in support of Hamza’s election. The Nation reports that Zardari agreed that the PPP would not contest any of the seats, and that the PML-N will endorse the re-election of the former PTI lawmakers. Separately, Balochistan Chief Minister Mir Abdul Quddus Bizenjo approved the formation of three new administrative districts. [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Economic Reforms: In statements on Tuesday, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb and Finance Minister Miftah Ismail denied that the government was planning to further increase petroleum prices as part of its budget package, to be announced this week. Panic buying was reported in several major cities following reports of a further price hike. On Tuesday, the federal cabinet approved reductions in fuel allocations for government employees and the restoration of Saturday as a working holiday in an effort to reduce energy demand. Speaking on Tuesday, Finance Minister Ismail said that Pakistan would need approximately $41 billion over the next year to pay back existing external debts and finance its trade deficit. Speaking at a conference on Tuesday, PM Shehbaz renewed a call for a “charter of economy” agreement among the major political parties. In a separate press conference, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal said that the government would continue to support most development projects initiated by the previous government under the Public Sector Development Program. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The News]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Italian Police Seek Pakistani Nationals Linked to 2020 Attack in Paris [AP]
  • World Bank Approves $258M to Support Primary Healthcare Systems [Dawn]
  • Qatari Air Force Commander Meets Pakistan Air Force Chief of Staff [The Nation]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Resistance Reports: The Washington Post reports on the Taliban crackdown on resistance groups fighting in Panjshir; contrary to Taliban insistence that “there is no fighting at all”, local residence report regular attacks on Taliban checkposts, dozens of casualties, and sweep arrests of civilians. Hasht-e-Subh / 8AM reports that the Taliban have appointed a new governor from Helmand to Panjshir, Mohammad Nasim Noori. Elsewhere, four Taliban members were reportedly killed in a driveby shooting attack in Mazar-e-Sharif over Tuesday night. [8AM]
  • Other Attacks: A child was killed by a previously unexploded mortar shell in Kunduz on Tuesday. A local businessman was kidnapped earlier this week in Mazar-e-Sharif.
  • Military Materiel: Hasht-e-Subh / 8AM reports that Iran has returned an unspecified number of military vehicles and equipment to the Taliban after it was exfiltrated from the country by the former government and security services last summer.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • International Engagement: The Indian government is reportedly “close to a decision” on whether to resume a limited diplomatic presence in Kabul, following a recent visit by external affairs ministry joint secretary JP Singh last week. UK Labor Party shadow foreign secretary David Lammy and shadow minister for international development Preet Gill are visiting Kabul to review international humanitarian assistance efforts. [Ariana News]
  • Official Returns: Former education minister Ghulam Farooq Wardak returned to Kabul on Wednesday as part of a Taliban initiative for the return of former government officials.
  • Social Controls: The Taliban General Directorate of Intelligence arrested four YouTube performers and activists on charges of “insulting Islamic sacred values”.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Health Crisis: The ministry of public health reports that roughly 820,000 people, including 570,000 children, have been treated for malnutrition so far this year; in total, 3.8 million children across the country are reportedly suffering from at least some form of malnutrition. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Taliban Factions Reportedly Clash Over Sar-e-Pul District Governor’s Appointment [8AM]
  • Ministry of Education Seeks to Fill More Than 7000 Teacher Vacancies [TOLO]