Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Supreme Court Hears Nawaz Bail Plea; US Freezes Out Afghan Security Advisor

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Topline

  • The Supreme Court of Pakistan heard a bail plea on medical grounds from lawyers for Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday, and will issue a verdict within a week. Nawaz’s family members accuse the government of blocking access to him in prison. Meanwhile, Shehbaz was questioned over his role in the 2014 Model Town clash in Lahore, and faces a new National Accountability Bureau investigation over his use of Nawaz’s plane while serving as chief minister.
  • Reuters reports that the U.S. State Department has conveyed the message that it will no longer engage with Afghan National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib after his public remarks last week criticizing Special Envoy Khalilzad.
  • Ariana News reports that another meeting of Afghan political leaders and the Taliban will take place in Qatar, although no date has been announced; the Afghan government has reportedly refused invites to send a delegation.
  • India’s External Affairs ministry has filed a complaint with Pakistan over alleged harassment of its diplomats by Pakistani intelligence services during the peak of the two countries’ crisis earlier this month.
  • One of seven Indian engineers kidnapped in Baghlan last May was freed on Monday, Indian officials announced; the circumstances of his release and details of the other captives’ conditions were not disclosed.
  • The Pakistani rupee fell to a new record low against the dollar in trading on Monday, which analysts interpret as a depreciation by the government ahead of talks with the IMF.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: India’s foreign ministry made a formal complaint to Pakistan last week accusing its intelligence agencies of harassment and “aggressive surveillance” of Indian diplomats posted in Pakistan since the cross-border crisis late last month. Negotiators from India and Pakistan are scheduled to hold talks on the Kartarpur pilgrimage corridor on Tuesday. In a statement on Monday, China’s foreign ministry said that it had “pro-actively promoted peace talks and played a constructive role in easing the tense situation” between India and Pakistan earlier this month, without providing details.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PML-N Corruption Cases: A Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa heard arguments on Tuesday on a bail plea on medical grounds made by lawyers for Nawaz Sharif; a verdict will be announced March 26. Shehbaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz accused the government of blocking their access to Nawaz in prison. Shehbaz made a statement on Monday to the Joint Investigation Team re-investigating the 2014 Model Town clashes, denying responsibility for the incident; Nawaz is scheduled to be interviewed by the JIT in prison on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the National Accountability Bureau challenged the Lahore High Court’s grant of bail to Shehbaz, and has reportedly opened an investigation into Shehbaz’s use of the prime minister’s plane while serving as chief minister. The NAB filed new charges against Nawaz’s former personal secretary on Monday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Other Corruption Investigations and Legal Battles: Speaking to a business audience on Monday, minister of state for revenue Hammad Azhar said that the government estimated that there were more than 152,000 offshore bank accounts owned by Pakistani nationals, holding an estimated $11 billion in assets. On Tuesday, the Sindh High Court granted fresh bail to former Pres. Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur in the money laundering case against them but denied a request for a stay on the transfer of the case to a Rawalpindi accountability court. Two more suspects were arrested in connection to the case on Monday. [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: In a meeting with PM Khan on Monday, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar defended the increase in salary for Punjab provincial assembly members. Opposition representatives boycotted voting in the Sindh assembly for committee chairmanships, as they continue to protest the denial of the Public Accounts Committee to an opposition chair. BNP-M and MQM-P party leaders will hold coalition talks with the PTI, with both reportedly “unhappy” with their partnership. [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Currency Devaluation: The Pakistani rupee fell to a record low of Rs 139.4 to the dollar in trading on Monday, a move analysts interpret as further government depreciation of the currency ahead of an IMF delegation visit scheduled to take place next month. Speaking on Monday, Planning Minister Khusro Bhaktiar suggested that the government would “adopt a flexible exchange rate”.

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Three Police Officers Wounded in Dera Ismail Khan Bombing [Dawn]
  • Punjab Police Plan 3,000 Additional Hires [Dawn]
  • Lahore High Court Bench Reviews Judicial Inquiry Report on Sahiwal Shootings [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Court Reserves Verdict on Naqeebullah Mehsud Killing [ET]
  • Musharraf Hospitalized in Dubai [ET] [Dawn]
  • Senate Planning Committee Seeks Report on Nai Gaj Dam Cost Increase [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Indian Engineer Freed: On Monday, the Indian External Affairs ministry announced that an Indian engineer who had been kidnapped in Baghlan province in May 2018 had been freed; six other Indian nationals remain in captivity from the incident, and details of the man’s release were not disclosed. [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Attacks and Operations: In a statement on Monday, the ministry of defense said that 58 Afghan Border Police soldiers had “returned home” after fleeing across the border into Turkmenistan from fighting in the Bala Murghab district in Badghis; the ministry said another 58 soldiers had been captured by the Taliban. Earlier reports had suggested that all of the unit had been taken captive. Military officials in Faryab claim to have killed 25 Taliban fighters in airstrikes in the Qaisar district on Monday. Afghan army special forces conducted raids on Taliban targets in the Chahar Darah district in Kunduz on Tuesday, reportedly killing as many as 35 Taliban fighters. The district police chief for the Baraki Barak district in Logar province was killed in a roadside bombing on Monday. Reuters profiles the heavily fortified ‘green zone’ in Kabul, and notes plans for the expansion of another ‘blue zone’ layer of security. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khabarnama]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • US-Afghan Govt Tensions: Reuters reports that the U.S. State Department conveyed a message to Pres. Ghani that it would no longer receive or do business with National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib after his public comments last week accusing Special Envoy Khalilzad of deliberately marginalizing the Afghan government and pursuing his own personal political interests in peace talks with the Taliban. The State Department declined to comment publicly; the piece notes that the security advisor’s office is fully funded by the United States, although no suspension of funding is reported. [WAPO]
  • Peace Talks: A meeting of Afghan political parties on Monday resolved that they would not accept any changes to the current government system as established in the Afghan constitution in future talks with the Taliban; a spokesman for Junbesh-e-Milli said that the parties “are not endorsing [an] Islamic emirate under any condition”. Ariana News reports that a delegation of as many as 80 Afghan political leaders will hold another round of talks with the Taliban in Qatar; no date has been announced, and the Afghan government has reportedly rebuffed proposals that it send negotiators as part of the talks.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • UAE Expresses Interest in Afghan Saffron Exports [TOLO] [Ariana News]
  • 10 Killed in Herat Flash Floods [TOLO]
  • $631 Million MOU Signed on Badakhshan Power Transmission and Dam Construction Project [Khaama Press]
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Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: China Blocks Sanctions on Jaish Leader; US Rebukes Mohib After Public Criticism of Khalilzad

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Note: The news returns to its regular daily update scheduled from today; this edition covers events from March 14 – 18. Apologies for the interruptions in service and resulting length of this brief. Thank you for reading.

 

Topline

  • On Wednesday, China placed a technical hold on a UN Security Council resolution that would have imposed sanctions on Jaish-e-Mohammad leader Masood Azhar. Reuters reports that India and Pakistan had threatened to carry out missile strikes on each other during the height of their crisis in late February. On Thursday, diplomats from Pakistan visited New Delhi to hold talks on the Kartarpur pilgrimage corridor; a joint statement said the talks were “cordial” and “constructive”.
  • Speaking in Washington on Thursday, Afghan National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib complained that U.S. negotiations with the Taliban were “decreasing the legitimacy of the Afghan government”, and accused U.S. Special Envoy Khalilzad of pursuing his own political ambitions in the talks, suggesting he was seeking to serve as “viceroy” to an interim government. The US State Department summoned Mohib on Friday to rebuke those remarks.
  • On Thursday, the Taliban released an audio message from political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, in which he said that recent talks with the U.S. in Qatar had “created the opportunity to resolve things and find a solution in the future”.
  • Meanwhile, anonymous NATO diplomats tell Reuters they are “broadly rethinking” commitments to long-term financial assistance for Afghanistan as they have been marginalized from U.S.-led peace talks. Special Envoy Khalilzad met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Sunday.
  • Militia forces loyal to former Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor clashed with Afghan security personnel in Mazar-e-Sharif on Thursday after the appointment of a new provincial police chief, Gen. Abdul Raqib Mubariz; the interior ministry said that at least 25 militiamen were arrested. Noor and presidential candidate Hanif Atmar denounced Mubariz’s appointment; the defense and interior minister traveled to Mazar on Friday and met with Noor, after which tensions appear to have cooled.
  • Foreign Minister Qureshi has called a consultation meeting on March 28 with the heads of the parliamentary parties on the implementation of Pakistan’s National Action Plan against terrorism.
  • On Friday, Sec. Pompeo announced the imposition of visa restrictions on investigators working for the International Criminal Court on an investigation into possible war crimes by U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
  • PML-N leaders continue to accuse the PTI government of mistreating Nawaz Sharif and neglecting his health concerns, which the PTI accuse the PML-N of politicizing.
  • On Friday, a Karachi banking court approved the transfer of money laundering charges against former Pres. Zardari and other associates to a National Accountability Bureau court in Rawalpindi; Zardari petitioned the Sindh High Court to block the transfer.
  • Finance Minister Umar has acknowledged that a previously-reported agreement with the UAE to provide $3.2 billion worth of oil to Pakistan on deferred payment “most probably will not materialize”; he did not specify the reason behind the failure to reach an agreement. Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Umar said that Pakistan “has come closer to reaching an agreement with the IMF”; he did not offer specifics but said that “we did not bow to their demands”.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • China Blocks Sanctions on Jaish Leader: On Wednesday, China blocked a UN Security Council resolution that would have imposed sanctions on Jaish-e-Mohammad leader Masood Azhar; it was the fourth such move since 2009. The Chinese move was a “technical hold” rather than an outright veto, leaving open a revisiting of the issue in six months; in a statement on Friday, the Chinese foreign ministry said it was “willing to strengthen communication with all parties, including India, to appropriately handle this issue”. [AFP] [The Nation] [Reuters]
  • Tensions with India: Reuters reports that Indian and Pakistani officials had conveyed threats that they would launch missile strikes against one another during the height of the crisis in late February, and that Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval had conveyed a warning to the head of the Pakistani ISI, Asim Munir, that India was “prepared to escalate” its response against militant groups in Pakistan. Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Foreign Minister Qureshi said that Pakistan would “have to stay alert along the Line of Control and maintain vigilance of Pakistan’s airspace” until Indian elections conclude in May. Also on Saturday, Pakistani military officials announced that they had shot down an Indian quadcopter drone near the Line of Control. On Monday, the Pakistan Air Force said that it was carrying out takeoff and landing exercises on Pakistani highways as part of its readiness preparations. On Thursday, diplomats from India and Pakistan met in New Delhi to discuss a pilgrimage route for Sikh pilgrims; a joint statement said that the talks were “cordial” and “constructive”. [AP] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Counterterrorism Crackdown: On Monday, Foreign Minister Qureshi sent notices to the heads of the parliamentary parties inviting them to a consultation meeting on March 28 on the implementation of the National Action Plan against terrorism. Earlier on Thursday, PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari criticized the PTI government’s crackdown on militant groups, citing allegations that three federal cabinet members had “known links” to members of nominally banned organizations. [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Balochistan Attacks: Four people were killed and as many as ten injured in a bombing attack on a rail line near the town of Dera Murad Jamali in Balochistan on Sunday; no immediate claim of responsibility was reported. On Thursday, two people were killed and seven injured in a bombing at a marketplace in Panjgur. [Reuters] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Sharif Health Concerns: In a statement on Saturday, the PTI accused the PML-N of politicizing allegations of ill health and poor treatment for Nawaz Sharif; Shehbaz Sharif accused the government of negligence in his brother’s care in separate remarks on Saturday. A public statement on Saturday by Nawaz called on PML-N activists to refrain from holding rallies in support of him, as had been planned for March 23. On Sunday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry reiterated that the government was committed to providing medical care to the former prime minister. On Monday, Maryam Nawaz disavowed a letter attributed to her appealing to the U.S. embassy to intervene in Nawaz’s case. The Supreme Court will hear a petition from Nawaz seeking bail on medical grounds on Wednesday. On Thursday, an accountability court approved questioning of Nawaz as part of the re-investigation of the 2014 Model Town clashes. [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Former Officer Found Dead: On Friday, former army officer and defense analyst Asad Munir was found dead in his home in Islamabad; police officials reported that the cause of death was suicide. A suicide note attributed to Munir, which circulated on social media afterwards, called on the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to “take notice of [National Accountability Bureau] officials’ conduct so that other government officials are not convicted for the crimes they had not committed”; Munir had faced several inquiries in the past year. [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: On Friday, a Karachi banking court approved the transfer of a money laundering case against former Pres. Zardari and other associates to a Rawalpindi accountability court. Lawyers for Zardari and others petitioned the Sindh High Court to reverse that decision on Saturday. The NAB announced Saturday that it had summoned Zardari and his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari for questioning in Rawalpindi on March 20 in a related real estate case. Speaking earlier on Wednesday, Bilawal denounced the NAB as “a bureau of political engineering”. Meanwhile, Dawn reports that the Federal Board of Revenue has recovered unpaid taxes on overseas assets for only one out of 400 offshore bank accounts that it has subjected to scrutiny over the past five months. On Wednesday, the FBR announced new controls on “benami” accounts held on behalf of another beneficiary. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [ET]
  • Qureshi Visits Beijing: Foreign Minister Qureshi arrived in Beijing on Monday for a three-day visit, where he will hold talks with his Chinesse counterpart and other officials. [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: On Wednesday, the Punjab assembly passed legislation to raise the salaries of provincial assembly members; PM Khan subsequently expressed “extreme disappointment” with the move, and summoned Chief Minister Usman Buzdar over the issue on Monday. On Friday, Buzdar amended the bill to remove lifetime privileges accorded to the chief minister. Members of the ‘Grand Democratic Alliance’ in Sindh announced plans to mobilize for local elections following a meeting on Thursday. On Friday, the MQM-Pakistan vowed to oppose proposals reportedly under consideration by the PPP provincial government to increase the number of districts in Karachi and to appoint a second mayor focused on the city’s rural districts. On Saturday, the Quami Watan Party, Mazdoor Kissan Party, National Party, Awami Workers Party, and Paktunkhwa Ulasi Tehreek announced that they would “use a single platform to work for the rights of Pashtuns”. [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • UAE Oil Deal Falls Through: Finance Minister Umar tells the Express Tribune that a previously-reported agreement with the UAE to provide $3.2 billion worth of oil to Pakistan on deferred payment “most probably will not materialize”; he did not specify the reason behind the failure to reach an agreement. The UAE has provided $2 billion in deposits to the State Bank of Pakistan, of a $3 billion commitment.
  • IMF and ADB Talks: Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Finance Minister Umar said that Pakistan “has come closer to reaching an agreement with the IMF as the differences between Pakistan and the IMF over a possible bailout package have decreased”; he did not offer specifics but said that “we did not bow to their demands”. A new IMF mission chief for Pakistani is scheduled to visit on March 26th; the Express Tribune reports that Pakistan has also sought $500 million in budgetary support from the Asian Development Bank, which is likely to be contingent on first securing an agreement with the IMF. [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • CPEC Projects: Foreign investment in Pakistan fell 23% to $1.62 billion during the first eight months of the fiscal year, which some analysts attribute to the completion of several projects previously begun under the CPEC framework. Planning Minister Khusro Bhaktiar told reporters on Friday that the government was shifting plans for the Karachi-Peshawar railway line under CPEC from a Build, Own, Transfer basis to an Engineering, Procurement and Construction model. [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Energy Crisis: Speaking to a senate committee on Friday, Petroleum Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan pledged that gas consumers would be compensated for “overbilling”; PM Khan has reportedly ordered the establishment of a Rs 500 million fund to repay consumers. The Express Tribune reports that the government is preparing to further hike gas prices beginning in the new financial year by as much as 41%. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Day of Mourning Held in Solidarity with New Zealand Victims [Dawn]
  • Punjab Police Officers Granted Bail Powers [Dawn]
  • Foreign Secretary Speaks with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister [The Nation]
  • Sindh Home Secretary Summoned in Arms License Case [Dawn]
  • Verdict Delayed in Mashal Khan Case [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Musharraf Hospitalized in Dubai [Dawn]
  • New Pakistani Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Presents Credentials [ET] [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Womens’ March Organizers Highlight Online Death Threats [Reuters] [Guardian] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • PM Khan Visits Former FATA Districts to Launch Health Card Program, Pledges Rs 100 Billion Annually in Development Spending [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [ET] [ET]
  • Government Projects Rs 675 Billion Public Sector Development Program for Next Fiscal Year [Dawn]
  • PM Khan Launches Online Visa Facility for 175 Countries [Dawn]
  • FBR Extends Tax Filing Deadline till March 31 [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Commentary: Jaish-e-Mohammad: Under the Hood – “Azhar’s links across the jihad and intelligence spectrum make it difficult for anyone to take a decisive action against him.” [Ayesha Siddiqa, The Diplomat]
  • Commentary: Deadly Embrace – “Pakistan needs to change its perspective on the relationship by reconciling to the fact that Pakistan-US differences have been permanent and agreements temporary.” [Touqir Hussain, Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • New Balkh Police Chief’s Appointment Sparks Standoff: At least five civilians and two security personnel were wounded in clashes that broke out in Mazar-e-Sharif on Thursday between supporters of former governor Atta Mohammad Noor and other Afghan security personnel, following the appointment of Gen. Abdul Raqib Mubariz as the new provincial police chief, replacing Gen. Ikramuddin Sami. A spokesman for the ministry of interior said that least 25 militiamen were arrested. Presidential candidate Hanif Atmar, whose ticket Noor is backing, criticized the “use of force” by government commandos, and said the appointment of the new police chief was aimed at marginalizing rivals. Minister of Defense Asadullah Khalid and Minister of Interior Massoud Andarabi visited Mazar-e-Sharif on Friday, where they met with Noor; afterwards, Noor said that “we came to a good conclusion” in their discussions, but did not provide specifics. Andarabi told TOLO on Friday that “the situation in Mazar-e-Sharif is completely normal”, adding that “the new appointment is only aimed at improving the affairs and it is a normal routine”. [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
  • US Announces Visa Bans for ICC Investigators: In a statement on Friday, Sec. Pompeo announced that the U.S. would impose visa restrictions on investigators for the International Criminal Court working on an inquiry into allegations of possible war crimes by U.S. forces or allies in Afghanistan, adding that “we’re prepared to take additional steps, including economic sanctions, if the ICC does not change its course.” [AFP] [TOLO]
  • US Strategy: Pres. Trump reportedly held a briefing session on Afghanistan on Friday; no details of the meeting have been reported. [TOLO]
  • Interior Ministry Denies Report of Raid on Mullah Zaeef’s Home: On Sunday, spokesmen for the interior ministry denied initial reports that Afghan commandos had set siege to the Kabul home of former Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, saying that the operation had targeted “Mullah Tooti”, identified as a “land usurper”. [TOLO]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: On Sunday, the Taliban reportedly took captive as many as 100 Afghan soldiers after their unit was pushed back from an attempt at seeking refuge in neighboring Turkmenistan from the Bala Murghab district in Badghis province, the site of heavy fighting for the past week. Fifty soldiers from the force reportedly surrendered earlier on Saturday. Afghan officials in Uruzgan say they are investigating reports of a friendly fire incident in Tirin Kot on Wednesday; airstrikes and an NDS raid reportedly struck Taliban targets in Tirin Kot on Saturday. A television journalist was killed in a shooting in Khost city on Friday, the fourth Afghan journalist to be killed this year; the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. Two people were killed in a magnetic bomb attack in Kabul on Saturday; the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which they said targeted an interior ministry official. Four people were killed in a roadside bombing in Kandahar’s Arghandab district on Saturday evening; the target was reportedly a local militia commander. Separate airstrikes targeting Islamic State forces in Nangarhar’s Khogyani district on Friday and Sunday reportedly killed seven fighters; another seven Taliban fighters were reportedly killed in an airstrike on Sunday night. 28 Taliban fighters were reportedly killed in Afghan army operations in the Qaisar district in Faryab. A U.S. drone crashed near Bagram airbase on Sunday. A NYT tally for the March 8 – 14 period estimates at least 74 government security personnel and 26 civilians were killed in attacks around the country. [Reuters] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khabarnama] [Khabarnama] [Khabarnama]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • National Security Advisor’s Complaints Draw US Rebuke: In remarks to journalists during a visit to Washington on Thursday, Afghan National Security Advisor and former ambassador Hamdullah Mohib said that US and Taliban talks in Qatar were “decreasing the legitimacy of the Afghan government”, which “does not have the kind of transparency [on the process] we should have”. Mohib was also directly critical of U.S. Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, whose past considerations of a presidential candidacy he noted, and who he accused of seeking to sideline Afghan leaders in order to become the “viceroy” of an interim Afghan government. In a statement on Friday, the U.S. State Department said that it had summoned Mohib, who was given a message that “attacks on Ambassador Khalilzad are attacks on the department and serve only to hinder the bilateral relationship and the peace process”. Chief Executive Abdullah criticized Mohib’s comments in remarks on Friday, saying that “our relations with our international partners require more caution and concentration”; Second Vice Pres. Danish met with U.S. Deputy Ambassador Karen Decker on Saturday, where he was reported to have “emphasized the prevention of any misunderstanding in the strategic relationship between the governments of Afghanistan and United States”. In a statement on Sunday, presidential candidate Hanif Atmar voiced support for Khalilzad and the peace talks. On Monday, US Ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass met with High Peace Council secretariat chief Umer Daudzai and chairman Karim Kalili; speaking earlier during a visit to Tehran on Sunday, Daudzai expressed concerns over a lack of coordination of a “multiplicity of initiatives” across the region in support of the peace process. [WAPO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khabarnama]
  • Taliban Release Baradar Message on Talks: On Thursday, the Taliban released an audio message by political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, in which he said that recent talks with the U.S. in Qatar had “created the opportunity to resolve things and find a solution in the future”; the NYT notes concern among the Taliban ranks over a possible compromise on the withdrawal of U.S. forces, and Baradar assured supporters that there were no points in the discussion “that may have gone against our principles”. Baradar added that Afghans should not worry about internal conflict and “everyone will be treated very well”, saying that “if [Afghans] think of us like brothers I trust in God that all the problems will be solved”. [TOLO]
  • Allied Concerns Over Talks: Anonymous NATO diplomats tell Reuters they are “broadly rethinking” commitments to long-term financial assistance for Afghanistan as they have been marginalized from U.S.-led peace talks. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that “the future force level of NATO troops is very much dependent of course on the outcome of those talks”. Special Envoy Khalilad met with Stoltenberg on Sunday; in a tweet, Khalilzad said that “we came together. We will coordinate adjustments in our presence together. And if we leave, we will leave together.”
  • Regional Diplomacy: On Sunday, Pres. Ghani departed for a trip to the UAE; earlier last week, he visited Azerbaijan. Ghani met with UAE prime minister Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum on Monday. On Saturday, the Afghan foreign ministry summoned Pakistan’s embassy counselor to formally protest remarks by PM Khan during a meeting in Bajaur the day prior, in which he had predicted that “a good government will be established in Afghanistan, a government where all Afghans will be represented”, after the conclusion of peace talks. Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale met with Special Envoy Khalilzad on Saturday, reportedly conveying the message that “India’s preference is for having an elected government in Kabul and not an interim arrangement when the US withdraws its forces”. [Reuters] [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • U.S. and China Clash Over ‘Belt and Road’ in UN Security Council Afghanistan Resolution [AP]
  • VP Danish Vows Support for Freedom of the Press [TOLO]
  • Candidates Continue Protests Over Parliamentary Results [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Indian Companies Invest in Afghanistan Healthcare [TOLO]
  • Officials Say Exports Through Afghanistan-China Rail Link to Begin Soon [TOLO]
  • ADB to Fund Kandahar Energy Projects [TOLO]
  • Investigation Into Afghan Football Federation Abuse Allegations Stalls [NYT]
  • Commentary: The U.S. Needs More from the Taliban Than a Cease-fire and Talks – “The administration ought to insist that the Taliban accept a U.S. timeline for withdrawal measured in years rather than months; and it should be clear that the last forces will not depart until there is an Afghan peace accord — not just a cease-fire and talks.” [WAPO Editorial Board]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: UN to Review Sanctions on Masood Azhar; US and Taliban Recess from Talks Without Agreement

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Note: The news will be on hiatus through the end of the week and will return on or around Monday, March 18 with a full summary of the intervening period. Apologies for the interruption in service, and thank you for reading.

 

Topline

  • The UN Security Council is expected to review a proposal for sanctions on Jaish-e-Mohammad leader Masood Azhar on Wednesday; China has blocked such moves in the past. On Thursday, a Pakistani delegation is scheduled to visit India for talks on the Kartarpur pilgrimage corridor, the first high-level diplomatic engagement between India and Pakistan since the attack in Pulwama last month.
  • US and Taliban negotiators broke off sixteen days of consecutive talks on Tuesday, without an announcement on a draft peace agreement; both sides described the talks as having made progress on an agreement on the withdrawal of U.S. forces and a Taliban commitment to preventing the use of Afghan territory for international terrorism, although the Taliban denied that talks were held on a ceasefire agreement or intra-Afghan dialogue. The two sides will reportedly meet again later this month after further consultations.
  • US and Afghan soldiers reportedly clashed in a friendly fire incident on the outskirts of the Uruzgan provincial capital of Tirin Kot on Tuesday evening, culminating in a U.S. airstrike on an Afghan checkpost that killed at least six soldiers; the U.S. military has yet to comment on the incident.
  • Reuters reports that the Pakistani military is pushing to engage in the development of the Reko Diq mining project, and reports interest by China and Saudi Arabia in the project.
  • The Afghan attorney general’s office imposed travel restrictions on five senior IEC staffers as part of investigations into allegations of fraud in the parliamentary elections held last fall.
  • The Election Commission of Pakistan disqualified Karachi deputy mayor Arshad Vohra from office on Wednesday, holding that he had violated “floor-crossing” restrictions after being elected with the support of the MQM and then defecting to join the PSP.
  • The State Bank of Pakistan announced receipt of a $1 billion deposit from the UAE on Tuesday.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Counterterrorism Scrutiny: The UN Security Council is expected to review a resolution on Wednesday to impose sanctions on Jaish-e-Mohammad leader Masood Azhar; China has blocked such initiatives in the past. [Dawn]
  • Missile Test: On Tuesday, the Pakistan Air Force announced a successful test of an “extended range smart weapon” from a JF-17 aircraft, which officials said has “day-and-night capability to engage a variety of targets with pinpoint accuracy”; few other details were released. [The Nation] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Tensions with India: Pakistan is expected to send a delegation to India on Thursday to hold talks on the implementation of the Kartarpur pilgrimage corridor, the first high-level diplomatic engagement between the two countries since the Pulwama attack last month.
  • External Diplomacy: UK Defense Secretary Stephen Langrove visited Pakistan on Tuesday, where he met with Chief of Army Staff Bajwa and other Pakistani military officials. Earlier on Tuesday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas met with PM Khan and Foreign Minister Qureshi for talks on regional tensions with India and the Afghan peace process. On Wednesday, the military’s chief spokesman announced that Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad would be the guest of honor at the Pakistan Day parade on March 23. [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Nawaz Health Concerns: Maryam Nawaz and Nawaz Sharif’s personal physician claimed on Tuesday that he was suffering from recurrent angina attacks; the Express Tribune reports that the PPP-affiliated National Institute of Cardiovascular Disease in Karachi is considering seeking Nawaz’s transfer to their facility for treatment.
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: On Wednesday, the Election Commission disqualified Karachi deputy mayor Arshad Vohra for switching parties in violation of “floor crossing” provisions, after being initially elected on the nomination of the MQM and subsequently joining the PSP; his lawyers indicated he would appeal. An accountability court granted custody to the National Accountability Bureau of two suspects in the money laundering case against former Pres. Zardari and his associates. The NAB submitted its witness list on Tuesday in the Nandipur power project corruption case against former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and other officials. On Tuesday, the national assembly committee on law rejected proposed legislation to increase the number of judges on the Islamabad High Court. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: PM Khan met with PML-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain on Tuesday to discuss their coalition partnership. Opposition leaders from the PML-N and PPP criticized the government for failing to fill vacancies on the Election Commission. [The Nation] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Military Plans Role in Reko Diq Project: Reuters reports that the Pakistani military’s Frontier Works Organization is “taking a key role” in a new effort to develop the Reko Diq gold and copper mine project, which has been stalled in an international arbitration dispute with a Canadian mining consortium that was denied a mining lease in 2011; both China and Saudi Arabia have reportedly expressed interest in the project.
  • Financial Crisis: On Tuesday, the State Bank of Pakistan announced receipt of a second $1 billion tranche in deposits from the UAE, with $1 billion in pledges still outstanding; earlier reports had indicated that $2 billion would be received in this tranche. [Dawn]
  • TAPI Project: Officials from Turkmenistan and Pakistan signed an agreement on the TAPI gas pipeline on Tuesday. [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Trade Deficit: Pakistan’s trade deficit contracted to $21.5 billion for the first eight months of the fiscal year, an 11% year-on-year decline, as imports declined, but export growth remains low, new figures from the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics indicate.

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Balochistan Provincial Apex Committee Vows ‘Zero Tolerance’ for Terrorism [Dawn] [ET]
  • FATA Paramilitaries Protest Merger with Police [Dawn] [ET]
  • Death Sentences for ‘Chotoo Gang’ Members [AP] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Foreign Minister Qureshi Addresses Business Leaders in Islamabad [ET] [The Nation]
  • Government Plans Poverty Alleviation Ministry [Dawn]
  • Cabinet Reviews Dam Financing Options [ET]
  • Sindh Chief Minister Meets ADB Official to Discuss Development Projects [Dawn] [ET]
  • Planning Ministry Prepares for PM Visit to Belt and Road Forum Meeting [The Nation]
  • Supreme Court Orders Report on Lal Masjid Land Dispute [Dawn]
  • Center, Provinces Owe Over Rs 150 Billion in Power Dues [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Friendly Fire Incident: The NYT reports that an Afghan and US military unit clashed in a friendly fire incident on the outskirts of the Uruzgan provincial capital of Tirin Kot over Tuesday evening, culminating in a US airstrike on the Afghan unit’s base; at least six Afghan soldiers were reportedly killed. The US military has not commented on the incident as of this writing.
  • Security Leadership Appointments: On Tuesday, the ministry of defense announced the appointment of Gen. Bismillah Waziri as the new chief of staff of the Afghan Army, Yasin Zia as deputy minister of defense, and Gen. Fahim Rahim as commander of the Afghan Air Force.
  • Attacks and Operations: The AP has additional reporting on the attack on an Afghan television journalist in Lashkar Gah on Tuesday. Four policemen were killed in an attack on their checkpost in the Dar-i-Suf Payan district in Samangan on Tuesday. Military officials in Kunduz claim to have killed seven Taliban fighters in airstrikes in the Khan Abad district on Wednesday. [TOLO] [Khabarnama] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • US-Taliban Talks End Without Breakthrough: On Tuesday, US and Taliban negotiators announced that they were breaking off more than two weeks of consecutive talks in Qatar. Although no agreement was announced, Special Envoy Khalilzad said that “we made progress, and we had detailed discussions to reach an understanding on issues that are difficult and complicated; he said that “when the agreement in draft about a withdrawal timeline and effective counter-terrorism measures is finalized, the Taliban and other Afghans, including the government, will begin intra-Afghan negotiations on a political settlement and comprehensive ceasefire” ”, adding that “there is no final agreement until everything is agreed”. A spokesman for the Taliban said that “progress was achieved” on an agreement on the withdrawal of U.S. forces and a pledge by the Taliban to “preventing anyone from harming others from Afghan soil”, but that there was no agreement on a ceasefire or intra-Afghan talks; the Taliban said that the two sides “will deliberate over the achieved progress [and] share it with their respective leaderships”. The two sides reportedly plan to meet again later this month, although no date was reported. A spokesman for Pres. Ghani said that “we hope to witness a long-term comprehensive cease-fire with the Taliban, and hope that direct negotiations” between the government and the Taliban “begin soon”. [Reuters] [AFP] [Khaama Press] [Khabarnama] [TOLO]
  • Elections: On Tuesday, the attorney general’s office imposed a travel ban on five senior Independent Election Commission staffers as part of investigations into alleged fraud and corruption in the parliamentary elections held last October. [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Three New AC-208 Aircraft Transferred to Afghan Air Force [Khaama Press]
  • In Taliban-Controlled Areas, Afghan Women Face Restrictions, But Some Find Ways to Push Back [WAPO]
  • Former NDS Chief Nabil Denies Claim Mullah Omar Lived in Afghanistan After 2001 [TOLO]
  • Ghani to Recognize ‘Sadat’ Ethnic Group [Ariana News]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Bolton and Pompeo Speak with Pakistani and Indian Officials; Loya Jirga Set for April

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Note: Due to travel, the news may experience disruptions from its usual daily schedule this week. Connections and time zones permitting, updates will be delivered through Wednesday; there will be no update Thursday or Friday. Normal service will resume by March 18th. Apologies for the interruptions, and thank you for reading.

Topline

  • US National Security Advisor Bolton spoke with FM Qureshi on Monday, while Sec. Pompeo spoke to Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale; Bolton said that Qureshi had assured him that “Pakistan would deal firmly with all terrorists and will continue steps to deescalate tensions with India”. The Saudi Arabian and German foreign ministers also visited India and Pakistan, respectively, on Monday.
  • PM Khan and Chief of Army Staff Bajwa met to discuss security on Monday, but no details of their conversation were reported.
  • The Afghan government has set April 29 as the new date for a planned consultative Loya Jirga on the peace process, with High Peace Council secretariat chief Umer Daudzai chairing the jirga’s organizing commission. In separate remarks on Monday, Chief Executive Abdullah, National Security Advisor Mohib, and Foreign Minister Rabbani insisted that the government would not compromise on the structure of the constitution and rejected peace talks that did not include the government.
  • Dozens of Afghan soldiers were killed or captured in a Taliban attack on their base on the Bala Murghab district in Badghis province on Monday.
  • PTI leader Jahangir Tareen suggested Monday that the government might allow Nawaz Sharif to seek medical treatment abroad “if Nawaz’s treatment can only be done in London”.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: US National Security Advisor Bolton spoke by phone with Foreign Minister Qureshi on Monday, who Bolton said had assured him “that Pakistan would deal firmly with all terrorists and will continue steps to deescalate tensions with India”. Meanwhile, Sec. Pompeo spoke with Indian foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale on Monday, during which they “discussed the importance of bringing those responsible for the [Pulwama] attack to justice and the urgency of Pakistan taking meaningful action against terrorist groups operating on its soil” according to a State Department readout. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir visited India on Monday after visited Pakistan the day prior. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas visited Pakistan on Tuesday after an earlier trip to Afghanistan, meeting with Qureshi; he said afterwards that “we both agreed that cross-border terrorism has to be permanently stopped”. Meanwhile, Indian police officials in Kashmir claim to have killed a Jaish-e-Mohammad operative who they describe as a “key conspirator” behind the Pulwama attack. [Dawn] [ET]
  • Counterterrorism Crackdown: PM Khan and Chief of Army Staff Bajwa met on Monday to discuss Pakistan’s internal and external security; no details of their conversation were reported. Punjab police Counter-Terrorism Department officials have reportedly placed bounties on 62 alleged terrorists, including members of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, and Al Qaeda. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Balochistan Bombing: Four police Counter-Terrorism Department officers were wounded in a bombing targeting their vehicle in Quetta on Monday; no claim of responsibility was reported.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Nawaz Health Concerns: Speaking in Lahore on Monday, PTI leader Jahangir Tareen suggested that the government was potentially open to allowing him to leave the country for medical treatment, saying that “if Nawaz’s treatment can only be done in London, then the government will look into it”. Speaking after a meeting with Nawaz on Monday, PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that Nawaz was “looking quite unwell”. [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: The National Accountability Bureau is expected to petition the Supreme Court to challenge Shehbaz Sharif’s release on bail. An Islamabad accountability court delayed hearings on the indictment of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani until Mar 28. A Lahore High Court judge recused himself from hearing a petition seeking PM Khan’s disqualification on Monday. On Monday, Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa announced plans to establish “model courts” in every district in the country.[Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: Speaking in the Punjab assembly on Monday, opposition leader Hamza Shehbaz criticized the PTI government for underspending on the provincial development budget. Dawn notes that the government has missed the constitutional deadline for the appointment to fill the vacancies of two now-retired Election Commission members. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • PM Approves ‘CPEC-Style Security Force’, Incentives to Spur Petroleum Investment [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Elected OIC Parliamentary Union Deputy Chair [Dawn]
  • Diamer-Bhasha Fundraising Reaches Rs 10 Billion [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Legislation Yet to Be Put Forward for PM’s Housing Plan [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Remittances Rise to $14.35 Billion in First Eight Months [ET]
  • Government Finalizes Powers for Seizure of ‘Benami’ Assets [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Government Reviews Plans for Revenue Transfer to Former FATA Districts [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: On Monday, the Afghan government set a new date for its planned consultative Loya Jirga on the peace process, which will now be held on April 29. High Peace Council secretariat chief Umer Daudzai will chair the jirga’s organizing commission. Speaking at a meeting of ministers on Monday, Chief Executive Abdullah insisted that there “will be no compromise” on the “principle of the republic system [that] has been defined by the Constitution”. In a meeting with German Foreign Minister Maas in Kabul on Monday, Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani emphasized that “any program where there is no a role for the Afghan government and the people will not be acceptable for us”.
  • Regional Diplomacy: UN Special Representative Tadamichi Yamamoto spoke before the UN Security Council on Monday as part of a quarterly briefing on the situation in Afghanistan; he welcomed efforts to negotiate peace but expressed concern over preparations for presidential elections currently scheduled for July. National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib also addressed the council, stressing that “the Constitution must be respected” in any peace talks, “as well as the democratic state and elected government it constitutes”. Afghan, Chinese, and Pakistani diplomats held talks in Kabul on Monday. [Ariana News]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Herat-Delhi Air Corridor Launched [TOLO]
  • Thousands Affected by Flooding in Southern Provinces [TOLO]
  • Report: The Secret Life of Mullah Omar – “The story that emerges is that the U.S., and almost everyone else, had it wrong. After 2001, Mullah Omar never stepped foot in Pakistan, instead opting to hide in his native land—and for eight years, lived just a few miles from a major U.S. Forward Operating Base that housed thousands of soldiers.” [Bette Dam, Zomia Center (pdf)]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistan Takes Steps to Show FATF Compliance; Wolesi Jirga Blocked from Returning After Recess

Note: Due to travel, the news may experience disruptions from its usual daily schedule this week. Connections and time zones permitting, updates will be delivered through Wednesday; there will be no update Thursday or Friday. Normal service will resume by March 18th. Apologies for the interruptions, and thank you for reading.

Sign up to receive this update by email.

 

Topline

  • Pakistani officials say that the government is planning to re-designate several terrorist groups cited as concerns during the last review meeting of the Financial Action Task Force as “high-risk entities”, imposing additional scrutiny on their operations. Pakistan’s finance ministry said Saturday it was seeking the removal of India from the FATF review board, citing its “clear motivation to hurt Pakistan’s economic interests”.
  • Anonymous Pakistani diplomatic sources say that India’s dossier on the Pulwama attack does not “contain any actionable intelligence”, although Pakistan’s foreign ministry said Sunday that Pakistan was still “reviewing” the material. India confirmed Saturday that its ambassador to Pakistan would return to his posting, reciprocating a similar move by Pakistan last week.
  • US and Taliban talks in Qatar reportedly continued through the weekend, but there were no public reports of the details of the meetings. On Friday, a spokesman for Pres. Ghani said that the Afghan government “will not participate in meetings in Moscow format”, and would only agree to “government-centered and face-to-face meetings” between the Taliban and the government.
  • On Sunday, the Afghan government barred returning parliamentarians from entering the parliament building after the expiration of parliament’s winter recess; final results for the elections held in October have yet to be fully certified and no date has been set to swear in new legislators.
  • PM Khan spoke by phone with Iranian Pres. Rouhani on Saturday, who reportedly said that Iran was “awaiting [Pakistan’s] decisive operations against” the militant group Jaish-al Adl after last month’s attack on Revolutionary Guard soldiers near the Balochistan border.
  • On Saturday, PM Khan said that he had directed the Punjab government to “guarantee that every health facility in the country be made available” to Nawaz Sharif for his treatment; a mobile medical unit was dispatched to the Lahore prison where Nawaz is being jailed.
  • A new book by Dutch reporter Bette Dam reports that Taliban leader Mullah Omar lived in a safe house in the Zabul provincial capital of Qalat for several years, and that he did not seek refuge in Pakistan; a spokesman for the Afghan government dismissed the report as “delusional”.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • FATF Sanctions: Dawn reports that, in the wake of a Financial Action Task Force meeting last month that had expressed concern that Pakistan had “not demonstrate[d] a proper understanding of the terror financing risks posed by Daesh, Al Qaeda, Jamaatud Dawa, Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Haqqani network) and persons affiliated with the Taliban”, the government has re-designated all of those groups as “high-risk entities” and will impose greater scrutiny over their operations and finances, in order to show FATF compliance. In a statement on Saturday, the Pakistani finance ministry said that Finance Minister Umar had written to the FATF seeking the exclusion of India from its role as co-chair of the FATF’s Asia-Pacific Joint Group, citing “clear Indian motivation to hurt Pakistan’s economic interests”, which would “undermine the impartiality and spirit of the peer review process”. Umar tells the Express Tribune that Pakistan “will also lobby with the friendly countries to get India removed”, and suggested that Pakistan could be cleared from the FATF grey list by September. The Asia-Pacific Joint Group is scheduled to meet next to review Pakistani compliance in May. [The Nation]
  • Tensions with India: Speaking during a public gathering in Thar on Friday, PM Khan said that “this government will not allow Pakistan’s land to be used for any kind of outside terrorism… We will not allow any militant group to function in our country now”. He also blamed PM Modi for “letting loose a reign of terror on the Muslim population of India” and for failing to respond to his professed offer of dialogue in the wake of the Pulwama attack. Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Azad Jammu and Kashmir prime minister Raja Farooq Haider said that “the terrorists in Kashmir are the ones in uniform” and that “the UN charter fully empowers the Kashmiris to take up arms against occupation”. Anonymous Pakistani sources tell The Nation that the Indian dossier on the Pulwama attack does not “contain any actionable intelligence”; a foreign ministry statement on Sunday said that Pakistan was still “reviewing” the dossier but maintained that the attack was of “indigenous origin”. On Saturday, India’s foreign minister announced that its ambassador to Pakistan would return to his posting, following a similar move by Pakistan earlier last week after both ambassadors were recalled at the height of the crisis. Local officials in Azad Jammu and Kashmir reported that two civilians were killed in cross-border shelling on Sunday. [Reuters] [Reuters] [Reuters] [AP] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Airspace Restrictions: Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority extended the partial closure of its airspace for another three days on Saturday. [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Iranian President Speaks with PM: Iranian Pres. Rouhani spoke by phone with PM Khan on Saturday; the Iranian press quoted Rouhani saying that “we are awaiting your decisive operations against” the militant group Jaish-al Adl, which claimed responsibility for an attack on Iranian Revolutionary Guard soldiers last month near the Balochistan border. A statement by PM Khan’s office said that “both leaders agreed on the need for closer cooperation among the two intelligence agencies in combatting terrorism” and said that Khan would visit Iran at an unspecified future date. [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Nawaz Health Concerns: On Saturday, PM Khan said that he had directed the Punjab government to “guarantee that every health facility in the country be made available” to Nawaz Sharif for his treatment; a mobile medical unit was dispatched to the Lahore prison where Nawaz is being jailed. Nawaz’s daughter Maryam Nawaz had claimed on Friday that his condition was worsening. On Saturday, Shehbaz Sharif quoted his brother saying that examining doctors had said they had no orders to begin treatment for him. PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari met with Nawaz at the Lahore jail on Monday, saying beforehand that he had “no political agenda for the meeting”. Separately, lawyers for Nawaz petitioned the Supreme Court again on Monday, seeking bail on medical grounds. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: On Friday, an Islamabad accountability court remanded Aftab Ahmed Menon, an associate of former Pres. Zardari and Sindh Board of Revenue, to the custody of the National Accountability Bureau for 13 days as part of an investigation into a land scam. The Joint Investigation Team investigating Zardari on money laundering charges sought Zardari’s property records from the Sindh Board of Revenue on Friday. On Monday, lawyers for Zardari argued against the transfer of the money laundering cases against him to the Islamabad NAB. Also on Monday, an Islamabad accountability court indicted former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, and several others as part of a corruption case related to the Nandipur power plant project. The Lahore High Court will hear a petition seeking PM Khan’s disqualification from office on Monday. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: The Nation reports that elections for local government bodies in Khyber Paktunkhwa may be held in November . PM Khan chaired a series of meetings and briefings from the Punjab provincial government in Lahore on Saturday. Opposition parties in the Sindh assembly continue to protest the PPP government’s refusal to grant chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee to an opposition member. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Financial Crisis: On Saturday, the State Bank of Pakistan announced that the UAE would make the second $2 billion tranche deposit this week of a $3 billion pledge made earlier in January. Speaking at event on Saturday, Finance Minister Umar said a $2.1 billion Chinese deposit is expected to be received the following week. [The Nation]
  • Energy Crisis: In response to senate questioning, Minister for Power Omar Ayub Khan said that the federal and provincial governments collectively owe Rs 42.453 billion to electric power distribution companies, which he said would be repaid this fiscal year. [ET]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • As Polio Goal Nears, Pakistan Pushes Against Vaccine Misinformation [Reuters]
  • Farooq Sattar Urges Military to ‘Give Mohajirs Their Due Space in Politics’ [Dawn] [ET]
  • Supreme Court Says Federal Shariat Court Lacks Jurisdiction Over Draft Legislation [ET]
  • Pakistan Rolls Out Visa on Arrival for UK, Turkey, China, Malaysia, and UAE [ET]
  • Anti-Terrorism Court Denies Bail to BAP Lawmaker Accused of Abducting Rival [Dawn]
  • Civil Courts Begin Operations in Former FATA Districts [Dawn]
  • PM Curbs Ministry of Information’s Power to Make PTV Appointment [Dawn]
  • $2.3 Billion in World Bank Aid Stalled [Dawn]
  • Commerce Advisor to Attend Investment Forum in Qatar [APP]
  • ExxonMobil Suspends Offshore Drilling Near Karachi Coast [ET]
  • Commentary: The Pashtuns’ Year of Living Dangerously – “Over the past year, a Pashtun awakening has transformed war-torn Waziristan from a hotbed of terrorism to a battleground for civil rights. But can the movement bring real change?” [Abubakar Siddique, The American Interest]
  • Commentary: Balakot, Deterrence, and Risk: How This India-Pakistan Crisis Will Shape the Next – “An India with few other viable options for deterrence, increasingly enamored by military swashbuckling and encouraged by the United States, may become seduced by competitive risk-taking.” [Arzan Tarapore, War on the Rocks]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Civilian Casualties: Military officials in Wardak report that a local Taliban commander was killed in an airstrike in the Sayyidabad district on Saturday; local provincial council officials say that as many as nine civilians were also killed in the operation. The NYT reports that a US airstrike called in by a CIA-backed Afghan paramilitary force in the Hesarak district in Nangarhar province on Sunday evening killed at least 13 civilians, including a doctor and his family. A US military spokeswoman confirmed that strikes had taken place but did not confirm the reports of civilian deaths.
  • Pakistan Border Tensions: Residents in Nangarhar tell TOLO that Pakistani forces have resumed cross-border shelling into the Goshta and Lal Pur districts; no casualties were reported.
  • Police Leadership Shakeup: On Monday, deputy interior minister Khoshal Sadat announced the replacement of 11 police district commanders in Kabul, citing poor performance in securing the city. [Khaama Press]
  • Mullah Omar Reportedly Lived in Southern Afghanistan: A new book by Dutch reporter Bette Dam reports that Taliban leader Mullah Omar lived in a safe house in the Zabul provincial capital of Qalat for several years, near the governor’s compound and a US military base, and that he did not seek refuge in Pakistan; Taliban sources claim that Omar’s house was even searched by U.S. forces, but that he was not found at the time. The book suggests that Omar “took almost no active role in the Taliban after delegating power in 2001”, until his ultimate death in 2013. A spokesman for Pres. Ghani dismissed the report as “delusional” and “an effort to create and build an identity for the Taliban and their foreign backers”, saying that “we have sufficient evidence which shows he lived and died in Pakistan. Period!” [Reuters] [WSJ]
  • Attacks and Operations: Provincial officials in Badghis reported that as many as 20 Afghan police officers were killed in a Taliban attack on their checkpost in the Bala Murghab district on Sunday evening. On Sunday, provincial officials in Nangarhar announced that the “mastermind” of last week’s attack on a construction company in Jalalabad had been killed in an NDS operation in the Moman Dara district. In Paktika, another Taliban commander was reportedly killed in an interior ministry special forces raid on Sunday. Three Taliban militants were reportedly killed and two Pakistani nationals arrested in an Afghan army operation in the Ab Band district in Ghazni on Saturday. A civilian farmer was killed in a roadside bombing in Kandahar’s Daman district on Friday. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: US and Taliban talks in Qatar continued on Saturday, with no public reports of the details of the meetings. In a statement on Friday, the Taliban’s spokesman said that talks remained focused on the details of the two issues… the withdrawal of all occupying forces from Afghanistan and not allowing” the country to be used as a base for international militancy, with no discussions on “internal aspects”. Separately on Friday, a spokesman for Pres. Ghani said that the Afghan government “will not participate in meetings in Moscow format”, and would only agree to “government-centered and face-to-face meetings” between the Taliban and the government. TOLO interviews Afghan investors who express uncertainty over the course of the peace process. [TOLO]
  • Elections: On Sunday, the Afghan government barred returning parliamentarians from entering the parliament building after the expiration of parliament’s winter recess; final results for the elections held in October have yet to be fully certified, and parliamentary leaders accused the government of violating the constitution by blocking their entry. Under amendments to the Afghan election law instituted by Pres. Ghani last month, the Electoral Complaints Commission is no longer the final arbiter of election complaints, which can be appealed to a “special court”, which has yet to be formed. [Pajhwok] [TOLO]
  • Fahim Death Anniversary Marked: Many senior Afghan politicians gathered in Kabul on Saturday to commemorate the five-year death anniversary of former vice president and Northern Alliance commander Mohammad Qasim Fahim. [Khabarnama]
  • Regional Diplomacy: Kabul will host a trilateral meeting of officials from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China on Monday. German’s foreign minister visited Mazar-e-Sharif on Sunday. National Security Advisor Mohib arrived in New York on Sunday to attend a session of the UN Security Council.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Khalili Calls for Investigation Into Kabul Attack [TOLO]
  • Ghani Visits Farah to Observe Relief Operations [TOLO]
  • New Afghan Ambassador to UN Presents Credentials [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Ministry of Public Health Estimates 5,900 HIV/AIDS Patients in Afghanistan [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistani Civilian and Military Leaders Review Crackdown; US-Taliban Talks Continue

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Topline

  • PM Khan chaired a cabinet meeting on Thursday focused on reviewing the government’s announced crackdown on officially sanctioned terrorist organizations; Chief of Army Staff Bajwa also chaired a meeting of army corps commanders on Thursday, ordering efforts to back up the crackdown.
  • US-Taliban negotiations in Qatar entered their twelfth day on Friday; the NYT reports that talks have “nearly collapsed on several occasions”, and that the two sides are currently debating the terms of a Taliban commitment to prevent Afghanistan from being used as a future site for launching terrorist attacks.
  • Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday, CENTCOM chief Gen. Joseph Votel said that there were “no orders to withdraw anything” from Afghanistan, and that “the political conditions of where we are in the reconciliation right now don’t merit withdrawal”.
  • The death toll from Thursday’s ISIS attack on a gathering in Kabul has risen to 11, with as many as 95 wounded, including presidential candidate Abdul Latif Pedram. Mohammad Mohaqiq accused the government of “collaborating” in the attack, prompting a rebuke from a spokesman for Pres. Ghani.
  • Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir met with senior Pakistani civilian and military leaders on Thursday, offering to mediate between Pakistan and India.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Counterterrorism Crackdown: Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry pledged that the government would “consult all parliamentary leaders” over its ongoing actions against officially sanctioned terrorist groups, and reiterated that “Pakistan will not allow anyone to use its soil against any other country”. PM Khan chaired a cabinet meeting focused on the interior ministry’s crackdown. Also on Thursday, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa chaired a meeting of army corps commanders, ordering “further efforts in line with the decisions of the government to accelerate the implementation of [the National Action Plan against terrorism] while rendering full assistance to other state institutions”. Control over the Jamaat-ud-Dawa headquarters in Lahore was seized on Thursday. PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari endorsed the government’s actions but also said that “if the PTI government is serious, then it must let go of those ministers who support the banned groups”, without identifying those individuals by name. The AP interviews Pakistanis who express support for such groups. [Guardian] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Tensions with India: Pakistani security officials have repeatedly barred Reuters reporters from visiting the Jaish-e-Mohammad seminary that was the reported target of Indian strikes near Balakot last week. Foreign Minister Qureshi and PM Khan held meetings with Pakistan’s ambassador to India on Thursday and Friday, who is set to return to his posting. Speaking at a weekly press conference on Thursday, Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman said that the Indian dossier on the Pulwama attack “was being evaluated and a response would be given soon”. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir met with top Pakistani civilian and military officials on Thursday, who welcomed offers to mediate between Pakistan and India. Two Pakistani prisoners died in Indian jails on Thursday and Friday, one reportedly of natural causes and the other of illness. [WAPO] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Sami-ul Haq Secretary Cleared of Murder Charges: On Thursday, a Rawalpindi judge ordered the release of Ahmed Shah, the former secretary to the late JUI-S leader Maulana Sami-ul Haq, after being held for a week in police custody. Haq’s sons had submitted affidavits attesting to Shah’s innocence. [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: The National Accountability Bureau submitted an interim report to the Supreme Court on Thursday on its investigation into alleged money laundering by former Pres. Zardari and other associates. On Friday, the Supreme Court refused to hear a petition from civil society activists seeking an inquiry into alleged extra-judicial killings by former Karachi police officer Rao Anwar. In remarks on Friday, Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa noted the large case backlog facing the judiciary, and urged appointments to fill vacancies. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: A spokesman for the Punjab government insisted on Thursday that the government was ready to offer Nawaz Sharif “all possible cooperation” for health treatment within Pakistan, but suggested Nawaz was seeking treatment abroad. PM Khan visited Thar on Friday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Tax Revenue: Speaking to a meeting of chambers of commerce in Islamabad on Thursday, PM Khan said that he was “constantly having discussions” with government finance officials on how to “generate revenue and make [the Federal Board of Revenue] a business-friendly institute”, and that “if we realise that the FBR cannot be fixed, we will create a new FBR”. FBR officials announced investigations into 18,000 potential tax evaders on Thursday. [ET]
  • LNG Import: The Express Tribune reports that a Pakistani government delegation is seeking to negotiate an increase in liquefied natural gas imports from Qatar, despite ongoing National Accountability Bureau investigations into the import contract, initiated under the PML-N government.

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Women’s March Held to Mark International Women’s Day [Dawn] [Guardian]
  • Suspects Arrested in Murder of Afzal Kohistani, ‘Honor Killing’ Whistleblower [WAPO] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • PSP Leader’s Step-Mother Accused of Instigating His Murder [ET]
  • Private Sector Borrowing Jumps 92% Year-on-Year [Dawn]
  • Sale of State Land Slowed by Privatization Commission Regulations [ET]
  • 42 Vying for Pakistan Television Managing Director Spot [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • US Strategy: Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday, CENTCOM chief Gen. Joseph Votel said that there were “no orders to withdraw anything” from Afghanistan, saying that “the political conditions of where we are in the reconciliation right now don’t merit withdrawal”. Votel acknowledged that “Afghan forces are dependent on the coalition support we provide for them”, and urged that “any decision to reduce forces in Afghanistan should be done in full consultation with our coalition partners and of course the government of Afghanistan”. [Reuters]
  • Kabul Attack Toll Rises: The death toll from Thursday’s mortar attack on a gathering of senior Afghan politicians and supporters of the late Hebz-e-Wahdat leader Abdul Ali Mazari has risen to 11 as of Friday; as many as 95 others were reportedly wounded. Presidential candidate Abdul Latif Pedram, a presidential candidate, was among those wounded. The Islamic State had claimed responsibility for the attack. Second deputy to the chief executive Mohammad Mohaqiq, who was dismissed from his position by Pres. Ghani after joining Hanif Atmar’s presidential campaign ticket, accused the government of “collaborating with such circles to use them as a tool against its political rivals in view of current sensitive situation”; a spokesman for Pres. Ghani said that Mohaqiq’s comments were “an insult to the security and defense forces of the country”. [AP]
  • Attacks and Operations: Airstrikes in Kunduz on Wednesday reportedly killed six Taliban fighters. A NYT tally for the March 1 – March 7 period estimates that at least 119 government security personnel and 26 civilians were killed in attacks around the country. [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: The current round of US-Taliban negotiations continued into its twelfth day on Friday; TOLO reports that Mullah Abdul Manan, the brother to movement leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, has joined the talks. The NYT reports that the two sides have “nearly collapsed on several occasions”, and that the two sides are currently debating the terms of a Taliban commitment to prevent Afghanistan from being used as a future site for launching terrorist attacks; Taliban negotiators have reportedly cited disagreement over the definition of the term “terrorism” and proposed a more general pledge that Afghanistan would not “be used as a launching pad for international attacks”. In a statement on International Women’s Day, UN special representative Tadamichi Yamamoto said that “women cannot be left behind as Afghanistan charts its way towards sustainable peace”. First Lady Rula Ghani also pledged Thursday that women’s rights “will not be compromised in the peace process”. In an interview on Thursday, former Pres. Karzai said that talks with the Taliban “should be inclusive”. Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on the international community “to give firm support for the Afghan-led, Afghan-owned reconciliation process”. [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Number of Female Employees in Civil Service Rises [TOLO]
  • Commentary: What’s In a Woman’s Name? No Name, No Public Persona – “Across Afghanistan, women are not addressed or referred to by their names in public.” [Rohullah Sorush, AAN]

 

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Crackdown on Sanctioned Groups Continues; Islamic State Targets Political Gathering in Kabul

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Topline

  • Pakistan’s interior ministry said Thursday that it had seized control of 182 seminaries and many other facilities linked to Jamaat-ud-Dawa and other officially sanctioned terrorist groups as part of a crackdown launched earlier this week.
  • At least three people were killed in a mortar attack on a gathering in Kabul commemorating Hebz-e-Wahdat party founder Abdul Ali Mazari; Chief Executive Abdullah and other senior political figures were present at the time of the attack but appear to have been unhurt. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for that attack, and for Wednesday’s attack on a construction company in Jalalabad.
  • Pakistani military officials report that two civilians were injured in cross-border firing at the Line of Control on Wednesday. Anonymous Pakistani diplomatic sources suggest that the US and Saudi Arabia are pressing for direct backchannel talks between India and Pakistan. China’s vice foreign minister visited Pakistan on Wednesday and Thursday, and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir arrived on Thursday.
  • The new Afghan Independent Election Commission chairwoman, Hawa Alam Nuristani said Wednesday that he IEC would proceed with the use of biometric voter registration devices in the presidential elections scheduled for July.
  • Pakistan’s national assembly passed the PTI government’s second budget amendment in a vote on Wednesday, over protests by the opposition.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Counterterrorism Crackdown: In a statement on Thursday, Pakistan’s interior ministry said that it had taken over control of 182 seminaries and many schools, hospitals, and other facilities around the country and had placed 121 people in “preventative detention” as part of a nationwide crackdown on officially sanctioned terrorist groups announced earlier this week. A spokesman for the Jamaat-ud-Dawa protested the action. [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Tensions with India: On Wednesday, Pakistan’s military said that two civilians had been injured in cross-border firing at the Line of Control in Kashmir. One person was killed and at least 29 injured in a grenade attack in Indian Kashmir on Thursday. Pakistani airspace remains partially closed. Chairing a meeting of PTI parliamentarians on Wednesday, PM Khan was quoted saying that “the threat of war was over”. The Express Tribune reports that the US and other foreign actors are pushing for direct backchannel talks between India and Pakistan. Foreign Minister Qureshi credited the US and other countries for their work as mediators in remarks on Wednesday. China’s vice foreign minister Kong Xuanyou visited Pakistan and met with top civilian and military officials on Wednesday and Thursday; the Chinese foreign ministry reiterated support for the Pakistan-China partnership, and said that China “appreciates Pakistan’s remaining calm and exercising restraint from the beginning”. A U.S. State Department spokesman declined to comment publicly on Wednesday on Indian complaints over Pakistan’s alleged use of F-16 jets during last week’s engagement at the border, but said the U.S. was “going to continue to take a look”; anonymous Pakistani diplomatic sources deny that any restrictions were placed on the jets’ use by the US. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Saudi Foreign Minister Arrives: Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir arrived in Pakistan on Thursday, after earlier delays to his planned trip. [Dawn]
  • Nawaz Health Concerns: In a statement on Thursday following a meeting with his brother Nawaz Sharif, Shehbaz Sharif quoted Nawaz saying that he “would prefer an honourable death instead of allowing the government to exploit his medical condition for petty gain”. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said Thursday that PM Khan had ordered the Punjab government to give Nawaz access to “any hospital or doctor of his choice for medical treatment”.
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: On Wednesday, the Supreme Court released a detailed verdict in its rejection of an appeal by PML-N leader Talal Chaudhry against a contempt of court case, holding that “the protective cover so provided to freedom of speech and expression cannot be stretched to cover a speech, comment or publication which may tend to influence, impede, embarrass or obstruct the administration of justice”. On Thursday, the Supreme Court ordered that former Pres. Musharraf make a statement remotely through video link in the treason case pending against him. [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • PM Approves New National Tariff Policy [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Government Orders Another Investigation Into Gas Price Hike [Dawn]
  • Government Planning Privatization of Eight Govt Organizations [ET]
  • Former Police Chiefs Oppose Proposal to Restructure Central Superior Services [Dawn]
  • Whistleblower in 2012 Kohistan Child Murder Case Killed [Dawn] [ET]
  • Commentary: A Peace Plan for India and Pakistan Already Exists – “A return to back-channel diplomacy is necessary, and the Musharraf-Manmohan peace process needs to be dusted off and looked at again.” [Ahmed Rashid, NYT]
  • Commentary: The India-Pakistan Conflict Was a Parade of Lies – “Whether you got your news from outlets based in India or Pakistan during the conflict, you would have struggled to find your way through a miasma of lies.” [Farhad Manjoo, NYT]

 

Afghanistan — Security

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Preparations: In remarks after being elected chair of the Independent Election Commission on Wednesday, Hawa Alam Nuristani said that the IEC would proceed with the use of biometric voter registration devices in the presidential elections scheduled for July. [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ghani Visits Kunar to Inaugurate Projects [TOLO] [Pajhwok]

 

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Govt Continues Seizure of JeM and JuD Facilities; IEC and ECC Chairs Chosen

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Topline

  • Pakistani security services have continued to seize seminaries and other facilities linked to Jaish-e-Mohammad and Jamaat-ud-Dawa as part of a crackdown announced on Tuesday. Although officials insist that the action is not being taken in response to international pressure and have sought to raise doubts over the claim of responsibility for the Pulwama attack by Jaish-e-Mohammad, Pakistan’s finance secretary acknowledged on Tuesday concerns over the possibility of FATF sanctions if Pakistan filed to take action.
  • Although cross-Line of Control firing continued on Tuesday and Wednesday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry sought to signal a de-escalation of tensions, saying its ambassador to New Delhi would resume his post and that a delegation would visit India on March 14 to hold negotiations on a travel corridor for Sikh pilgrims.
  • In a public speech in Iowa on Monday, Sec. Pompeo said that Afghan peace talks were “incredibly complicated” and expressed hoped that he might “travel there in a couple weeks and help move it along a little bit myself”.
  • On Wednesday, two female commissioners, Hawa Alam Nuristani and Zuhra Bayan Shinwari, where elected as the chairs of the Afghan Independent Election Commission and Electoral Complaints Commission, respectively.
  • At least sixteen people were killed in an attack on a construction company near the Jalalabad airport on Wednesday morning; the Taliban denied responsibility.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Counterterrorism Crackdown: On Wednesday, the Pakistani government seized several seminaries and other facilities linked with Jamaat-ud-Dawa and its charity wing, the Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation, continuing a crackdown against officially banned terrorist organizations that was announced by the foreign and interior ministries on Tuesday. A Jaish-e-Mohammad mosque in Sialkot was also seized. Anonymous Pakistani sources insist that the actions are not being taken in response to external pressure in the wake of the Pulwama attack in Kashmir, and another report in The Nation suggests that an Indian dossier on the attack “only contains allegations”, without proof of responsibility by Jaish despite its public claim. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, however, Finance Secretary Arif Ahmed Khan expressed concerns that Pakistan might face sanctions from the Financial Action Task Force if it failed to implement controls on terrorist financing; the FATF will review Pakistan’s performance again in June. In a CNN interview, Pakistan’s chief military spokesman said that “instead of blaming Pakistan, the world should assist Pakistan, facilitate Pakistan in getting rid of such organisations”, and said that Jaish had not made its claim of responsibility “from within Pakistan”. [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Tensions with India: One Pakistani civilian was reported wounded in across-Line of Control firing on Tuesday, and both militaries traded fire again on Wednesday, although no casualties were reported. Speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Qureshi said that “there appears to be a de-escalation in tensions”, and praised Sec. Pompeo and other international mediators with contribution to the resolution of last week’s crisis. A State Department spokesman said Tuesday that the U.S. was urging “direct communication” between both sides. Pakistan’s ambassador to India will return to his posting, and a Pakistani delegation is scheduled to visit India on March 14 to discuss a travel corridor for Sikh pilgrims. Indian and Pakistan resumed barter trade at the Uri border crossing on Tuesday. [Reuters] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Supplemental Security Spending: A meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet met on Tuesday and approved an additional Rs 8 billion in supplemental spending, about half of which will go to the Pakistan Air Force, and half to the Pakistan Rangers and other paramilitary forces on the western border.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Punjab Information Minister Replaced: Following the removal from office of Punjab Information Minister Fayyaz Chohan on Tuesday after his offensive comments against members of the Hindu minority living in Pakistan, other PTI cabinet members distanced themselves from his remarks. PTI leader Syed Sumsam Ali Bokhari was sworn in as Chohan’s replacement on Wednesday. [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was elected chairman of the national assembly committee on human rights on Tuesday. [ET] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Notifies Formation of Police Stations in Former FATA Districts [ET]
  • Detention of Maulana Sami-ul Haq’s Secretary Extended [Dawn]
  • PM Orders Increase in Strategic Oil Reserves [ET]
  • PM Pledges Release of Rs 20 Billion in Net Hydel Profit for Khyber Paktunkhwa [ET]
  • US Reduces Visa Validity for Pakistani Nationals [ET] [The Nation]
  • Companies Pledge $2 Billion in Investments for Housing and Manufacturing Sector [Dawn]
  • Commentary: The Other Nuclear Threat – “[The U.S.] needs to think carefully about how it deals with Pakistan’s risk taking, the implicit signals it sends to India about risk acceptance, and the still-inescapable American role in managing risk escalation in one of the world’s most unpredictable nuclear theaters.” [Joshua White, The Atlantic]
  • Commentary: Trump Doesn’t Want to Play Peacemaker – “There is still time for the Trump administration to show up, but if Washington will not show leadership at this moment, others can and should engage.” [James Schwemlein, Foreign Policy]

 

Afghanistan — Security

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: A U.S. State Department spokesman said Tuesday that talks with the Taliban in Qatar were still ongoing, “and progress is being made”. In a public speech in Iowa on Monday, Sec. Pompeo said that the talks were “incredibly complicated” and expressed hoped that he might “travel there in a couple weeks and help move it along a little bit myself”. Speaking on Tuesday, High Peace Council secretariat chief Umer Daudzai said that the U.S. “cannot reach an understanding with the Taliban on whether to keep its troops in Afghanistan”, suggesting that the Bilateral Security Agreement with the Afghan government, signed in 2014, was the governing document for the troop presence. Daudzai also acknowledged delays in preparations for the government’s consultative Loya Jirga, previously scheduled for March 18, and said a new date would be announced “in the near future”. [Reuters]
  • Election Preparations: On Wednesday, the new commissioners of the Independent Election Commission and Electoral Complaints Commission elected members Hawa Alam Nuristani and Zuhra Bayan Shinwari as the chairs of the respective commissions. Both are women, a first. The international Election Support Group in Kabul welcomed the appointments of the new commissioners on Tuesday and urged them to “expeditiously move forward with the finalization of the parliamentary election results, and preparations for the upcoming elections in 2019”. In a TOLO interview, presidential candidate Abdul Latif Pedram suggested that elections should be postponed in favor of a focus on the peace process with the Taliban.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • National Security Advisor Meets Uzbek Foreign Minister [TOLO] [Khabarnama]
  • Death Toll from Flooding Rises to at Least 59 [Reuters] [Guardian]
  • Helmand Peace March Leader Passes Away [Khabarnama]
  • Ghani Visits Kunar to Inaugurate New Projects [Khaama Press]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: New Crackdown Launched on JeM and Other Sanctioned Groups; JeM Blamed for Helmand Attack

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Topline

  • The Pakistani government announced a new crackdown on militant and terrorist groups sanctioned by the UN Security Council; on Tuesday, the interior ministry said it had arrested 44 members of such groups, including the brother of Jaish-e-Mohammad leader Masood Azhar and other individuals identified in an Indian dossier on the Pulwama attack, although officials earlier sought to deflect suggestions that the action was being taken in response to that incident.
  • On Tuesday, the Pakistani Navy said that it had spotted and warned off an Indian submarine near Pakistan’s territorial waters. Several Pakistani press sources, citing anonymous official accounts, claim that India was preparing to conduct a missile strike on Pakistan during the height of last week’s crisis, and credit the Pakistani military and international intervention with deterring the move.
  • In remarks on Monday, Afghan defense minister Asadullah Khalid accused Jaish-e-Mohammad and the Taliban in cooperating on an attack on an Afghan army base in Helmand, which he said was plotted in Pakistan.
  • In a CNN interview on Sunday, National Security Advisor John Bolton said that “it’s going to be important to try and keep a counterterrorism presence in Afghanistan” and that the administration had no “blind trust” for the Taliban.
  • The foreign ministers of Russia and Qatar met in Doha on Monday to discuss their respective roles as hosts to meetings on the Afghan peace process.
  • A Pakistani delegation is expected to visit Beijing this week for further negotiations on the Pakistan-China Free Trade Agreement.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Government Announces Crackdown on Militants: On Monday, the Pakistani foreign ministry announced that the government would impose new controls on terrorist organizations banned under UN Security Council sanctions, so that “all kinds of assets and properties of all organisations will be in the government’s control”. The move follows a meeting at the interior ministry on Monday to review implementation of Pakistan’s National Action Plan against terrorism. On Tuesday, the interior ministry announced that it had detained 44 members of banned organizations, including Jaish-e-Mohammad leader Masood Azhar’s brother, Hamad Azhar, and other individuals identified in an Indian dossier conveyed in the wake of the Pulwama attack last month. Officials had earlier denied that the crackdown was being taken in response to the Pulwama attack. [NYT] [Reuters] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • India-Pakistan Tensions: In a statement on Monday, Pakistan’s military accused Indian forces of cross-border firing along the Line of Control, but said no casualties had been incurred. Federal minister for Kashmir Ali Amin Khan Gandapur pledged compensation for victims of the cross-border shelling during a visit to Muzaffarabad on Monday. On Tuesday, the Pakistani Navy announced that it had spotted and warned off an Indian submarine near Pakistani territorial waters on Monday evening. As of Monday, Pakistan had fully reopened its airspace to normal operations, and the Samjhota Express train service to India resumed on Monday morning. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court issued a ruling barring the broadcast of “Indian content” on Pakistani TV channels. Anonymous Pakistani sources claim that India was preparing to conduct a “missile attack” during the height of tensions last week, “with the backing of Israel”, and credit the Pakistani military and ISI, as well as international pressure, with deterring the attack. Speaking on Monday, former Pres. Zardari said that the opposition was “exercising restraint” due to the security situation. Punjab Information Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan came under domestic and intra-party criticism for derogatory remarks against Hindus living in Pakistan last week; he resigned on Tuesday. [AP] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Afghan Border Tensions: Security sources tell Dawn that Pakistani military forces retaliated across the Afghan border with artillery fire after their checkpost was attacked by unidentified militants.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Nawaz Health Concerns: The Supreme Court rejected a petition for an early hearing on Nawaz Sharif’s plea for bail on medical grounds. On Tuesday, Maryam Nawaz warned that her father health condition was “life-threatening”, saying he was being denied treatment by the government. Hospital sources tell the Express Tribune that Nawaz has refused an angiography. [ET]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: Shehbaz Sharif and Hamza Shehbaz are expected to be indicted in a case related to the family’s Ramzan Sugar Mills property on March 16. Former Pres. Zardari’s bail was extended again at a hearing on Tuesday. The National Accountability Bureau has issued another summons for former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi for March 7. The Supreme Court issued new guidelines for suspect identification procedures for eyewitnesses on Monday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: Opposition parties in the Sindh assembly boycotted proceedings on Monday to protest the provincial government’s denial of the Public Accounts Committee chairmanship to the opposition. On Monday, the national assembly passed an amendment to the election law establishing a dedicated judicial panel to hear election-related complaints. Meanwhile, the Election Commission issued a final notification for the constituency delimitation for Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial assembly seats from the former FATA districts. [Dawn] [ET] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Chinese Trade and Investment: A Pakistani delegation will visit Beijing this week to resume negotiations on the Pakistan-China Free Trade Agreement, Pakistan’s ambassador to China reported. The Express Tribune reports that the ministry of planning has diverted Rs 24 billion from CPEC-related projects to support development spending projects chosen by parliamentarians.
  • Energy Crisis: Power ministry officials report that they raised Rs 200 billion through a sukuk Islamic bond issue last week, which was used to reduce circular debts within the power sector and make payments to Pakistan State Oil, independent power producers, and others. Prior to the payment, circular debt within the system reportedly totaled over Rs 1.64 trillion.

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Five Wounded in Chaman Bombing [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Police Officer Killed in Karachi [Dawn]
  • Draft Aviation Policy Finalized [Dawn] [ET]
  • Pakistan, On Verge of Polio Eradication, Faces Human Hurdles [WAPO]
  • Committee Formed on Balochistan Concerns Over Sui Gas Field Development [The Nation]
  • Supreme Court Orders Release of Funds for Nai Gaj Dam [Dawn]
  • PM Meets with Business Leaders [APP]
  • Commentary: Are Nuclear Weapons Keeping the India-Pakistan Crisis from Escalating – or Making it More Dangerous? – “Scholars disagree about whether nuclear weapons stabilize or destabilize relations between adversaries.” [Caitlin Talmadge, WAPO]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Defense Minister Links Helmand Attack to Pakistan: Speaking during a visit to Bagram Airbase on Monday, Afghan defense minister Asadullah Khalid alleged that Monday’s attack on an Afghan army base in Helmand had been plotted in Pakistan, and claimed that it had been carried out jointly by the Taliban and Jaish-e-Mohammad. [TOLO]
  • US Strategy: In a CNN interview on Sunday, National Security Advisor John Bolton said that Pres. Trump had decided that “it’s going to be important to try and keep a counterterrorism presence in Afghanistan”, and said that while the administration was “putting a lot of energy” into peace talks, “there’s no blind trust in the Taliban”. [TOLO]
  • Attacks and Operations: Military officials in Kunduz claim to have killed 21 Taliban fighters in in air and artillery strikes in the Imam Sahib district. Air and ground operations in the Faizabad district of Jawzjan province and Qaisar district of Faryab province also reportedly killed 29 Taliban fighters. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: The foreign ministers of Russia and Qatar met in Doha on Monday, where they discussed coordination of their roles as hosts to negotiations on the Afghan peace process. Russia’s ambassador to Washington urged cooperation between Russia and the U.S. on the Afghanistan peace process during remarks on Monday. Pakistan’s ambassador to the US also voiced support for U.S negotiations efforts during remarks on Monday. The NYT interviews rural Afghans who voice “a desperate urgency” for peace.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Nicholas Kay Assumes Post as Senior NATO Civilian Representative [Khabarnama]
  • Twelve Killed in Helmand Flooding [Khabarnama]
  • Commentary: New Electoral Commissioners, Amendments to the Electoral Law – “The commissioners’ first job will be trying to sort out parliamentary election results for the 15 provinces which are still pending. They also have to prepare for the all-important presidential poll.” [Ali Yawar Adili, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Tensions Reduced as Indian Pilot Freed; US and Taliban Continue Talks

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Topline

  • Firing continued along the Line of Control on Friday after the release of a captured Indian pilot, but as of Sunday officials on both sides were reporting “relative calm”. Several countries have reached out to mediate and urge a de-escalation of tensions, including the UK, Qatar, Jordan, and Russia.
  • Indian officials have begun to back off of initial claims that hundreds of casualties were inflicting in the Balakot airstrikes last week targeting Jaish-e-Mohammad militants, with the Indian Air Chief saying Monday that the air force was “not in a position to clarify how many people were inside” the training facility.
  • Although they deny any connection to the Pulwama attack last month, Pakistani sources suggest that they are preparing to impose new restrictions on militant groups like Jaish. In a BBC interview, Foreign Minister Qureshi suggested that despite the JeM claim of responsibility for the Pulwama attack, the group’s leadership had denied any connection to the incident.
  • US and Taliban representatives resumed talks in Qatar on Saturday, which appear to be ongoing as of this writing. Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar has reportedly begun engaging directly in the talks, which US military commander Gen. Miller is also participating in.
  • On Saturday, a spokesman for Pres. Ghani said that he had asked “Afghan politicians and different layers of the society” to nominate representatives so that a new “effective team would be formed to lead negotiations” for a new round of intra-Afghan talks. A spokesman for the High Peace Council suggested on Sunday that the government’s planned consultative Loya Jirga on peace talks could be delayed, citing weather concerns.
  • New members of the Afghan Independent Election Commission and Electoral Complaints Commission were sworn in on Monday after being elected in a vote by presidential candidates on Friday.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Indian Pilot Returned: Pakistan returned captured Indian pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman on Friday evening at the Wagah border crossing; his return was delayed by several hours from the initially reported time, although Pakistani sources tell the Express Tribune that the intention was always to release him between 8 – 9 pm local time. Immediately prior to his release, Pakistani media broadcast a second video statement made by Varthaman while in custody, in which he praised the Pakistani military for his treatment and criticized the Indian media for its coverage of his capture. PM Khan held a cabinet meeting on Friday prior to the pilot’s release. On Saturday, India repatriated the body of a Pakistani man who had been beaten to death while in prison in the wake of the attack in Pulwama, Kashmir, in late February; funeral services for the man were held on Sunday. [NYT] [WSJ] [Reuters] [Guardian] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Dogfight Details: The US embassy in Pakistan confirmed on Sunday that it was investigating Indian claims that the Pakistani Air Force had used U.S.-provided F-16 fighter jets in the engagement with Indian forces last Wednesday that ended in the shooting down of Wing Commander Varthaman’s plan, saying that “we take all allegations of misuse of defense articles very seriously.” Pakistan denies the use of the F-16 in the dogfight. The NYT looks at the overall state of India’s aging air fleet. [Dawn]
  • Border Tensions Remain High: At least eight people, including two Pakistani soldiers, three Indian civilians, and three Pakistani civilians, were killed in renewed cross-Line of Control firing over Friday night. As of Sunday, however, both sides were reporting “relative calm” and no casualties from shelling in the past 24 hours, although crackdowns in Indian Kashmir continued, with two militants reportedly killed in a multi-day long standoff with Indian forces. Pakistan’s chief military spokesman stated Sunday that the armed services “remain on alert”, and Pakistan Air Force chief Mujahid Anwar Khan directed pilots to “keep their guard up” during a visit to forward operating bases on Monday. Airports in Karachi, Islamabad, Peshawar, and Quetta resumed partial flight operations on Friday evening, and Pakistan International Airlines announced the resumption of normal commercial flights at those airports beginning Saturday. As of Monday, there are conflicting accounts as to whether airspace has been fully reopened. Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid announced the resumption of the cross-border Samjhota Express train service beginning Monday. [NYT] [NYT] [WAPO] [AP] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Balakot Strike, Pulwama Attack, and Related Reports: Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley refused to provide further details on the Indian airstrike in Balakot, Pakistan last week, saying that “the armed forces must have, and our security and intelligence agencies must have, a full leeway in dealing with situations, and if anybody wants operational details to be made public … he certainly does not understand the system”. At a press conference on Monday, Indian Air Chief Birender Singh Dhanoa said that the air force was “not in a position to clarify how many people were inside” the Jaish-e-Mohammad training facility targeted in the strike, putting the onus on the Indian government to clarify earlier reports of hundreds of casualties. Anonymous Pakistani officials tell the Express Tribune that they have “found no evidence whatsoever of any involvement of Pakistan or any organization” in the Pulwama attack, which was claimed by Jaish-e-Mohammad; in a BBC interview on Friday, Foreign Minister Qureshi suggested that there was “confusion” over JeM’s responsibility, saying that the group’s leadership “have denied that”. Anonymous Pakistani sources tell Dawn that a “decisive crackdown against extremist and militant organizations” is “imminent”, although they deny any connection to the Pulwama attack. [ET] [Reuters] [Hindustan Times]
  • International Mediation: In another BBC interview on Friday, Foreign Minister Qureshi insisted that there was “neither compulsion nor pressure to release the Indian pilot”. Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Bajwa spoke by phone with military officials in the US, UK, and Australia on Friday, as well as the ambassadors of the US, UK, and China; he was quoted warning that Pakistan would “surely respond to any aggression in self defence”. US and Pakistani sources tell Reuters that a major crisis with India would curtail Pakistani support for the Afghan peace process; anonymous Pakistani officials tell The Nation that “we want a meaningful role from the US. They are a superpower and can ask India to stop aggression”. UK Prime Minister May spoke by phone with PM Khan on Sunday, welcoming “his commitment to reducing tensions with India” but also emphasizing “the importance of Pakistan taking action against all terrorist groups”. Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani also spoke by phone with PM Khan on Saturday, and Jordanian King Abdullah did so as well on Friday. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir, who was earlier reported to be planning a visit to Pakistan on Friday, visited India first and was reportedly planning to visit Pakistan later on Sunday, although that visit does not yet appear to have materialized. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov spoke by phone with FM Qureshi again on Friday, reiterating an offer to mediate. Despite Foreign Minister Qureshi’s skipping a meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, a ministerial meeting on Saturday passed a resolution condemning “the recent wave of Indian terrorism in occupied Jammu and Kashmir”, which India’s foreign ministry rebuffed. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Wire]
  • Domestic Responses: The Washington Post looks at PM Modi’s response to the crisis, and the domestic political pressure on him in advance of nationwide elections slated for April. Pakistan’s national assembly introduced resolutions condemning Indian actions in Kashmir on Friday, and endorsing a Nobel Peace Prize for PM Khan for his action to release the captured Indian pilot on Saturday. On Monday, Khan said that he was “not worthy” of the award, and said it should go to “the one who solves the Kashmir dispute according to the wishes of the Kashmiri people”. Pakistan Ulema Council leader Tahir Ashrafi vowed Friday that religious leaders would “join the armed forces at the border if India shows any military aggression”. Demonstrations in support of the Pakistani army were held in Khyber Paktunkhwa on Friday. PPP leader Sherry Rehman called for the government to provide more information on “under what conditions the Indian Air Force pilot has been handed over to India”, but PPP activists in Sindh also held rallies in support of the army on Sunday. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Arrest in Sami-ul Haq Murder: On Friday, police in Rawalpindi arrested Maulana Sami-ul Haq’s former secretary in connection with his murder last fall. [ET]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: Nawaz Sharif petitioned the Supreme Court on Friday to seek bail on medical grounds from his current jail sentence. Hamza Shehbaz met with PML-N leaders Khawaja Saad Rafique and Khawaja Salman Rafique in their Lahore jail on Saturday; their detention was extended until March 19 by a court order on Monday. Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani alleged mistreatment by the National Accountability Bureau while speaking during an assembly session on Friday. [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: Parliament is expected to resume normal business on Monday after two days of joint meetings on the India-Pakistan crisis last week. Speaking on Sunday, Pak Sarzameen Party leader Mustafa Kamal endorsed a presidential system for Pakistan. On Sunday, members of the Sindhi nationalist party the Quami Awami Tehreek elected Ayaz Latif Palijo as their party president. [ET]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Inflation Rises: Inflation rose to 8.2% for the month of February, a four-year high. [ET]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • TLP Chief’s Detention Extended Again [Dawn] [ET]
  • Militant Suspect Killed in Shikarpur Shootout [Reuters]
  • Supreme Court Acquits Alleged Suicide Bomber Trainer [ET] [The Nation]
  • Family of Sahiwal Shooting Victim Seeks Withdrawal of ‘Fabricated’ FIR [Dawn]
  • Mohmand Paramilitary Khasadars Refuse to Accept Replacement by Uniformed Police [ET]
  • Islamabad High Court to Hear Petition Against Pakistan TV Director’s Appointment [Dawn]
  • Former ISI Chief Javed Ashraf Qazi Seeks Removal of Name from Exit Control List [Dawn]
  • PM Khan Voices Support for More Housing Density [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Cement Export to India Suspended After Tariff Duties Raised [The Nation]
  • OGRA Recommends 22% Increase in LPG Prices [Dawn] [ET]
  • Securities and Exchange Commission Allows Greater Foreign Investment in Stock Exchange [ET]
  • Government Considering Withdrawal of Bank ‘Super Tax’ [ET]
  • Commentary: The Young Suicide Bomber Who Brought India and Pakistan to the Brink of War – “Anxiety about the next fatal step, the cries of revenge and war, and the military escalations all will continue haunting India, Pakistan and the broader world as long as everyone insists on looking away from the issue driving the crisis: the long, bloody dispute over Kashmir.” [Basharat Peer, NYT]
  • Commentary: Pakistan Released the Indian Pilot, But It Needs to Do More – “Pakistan can no longer link its tolerance or support for terrorist groups with the grievances of the people of Kashmir in hope of securing international attention or support.” [Husain Haqqani, WAPO]

 

Afghanistan — Security

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: US and Taliban negotiators resumed talks in Qatar on Saturday after a two-day break; in an interview on Friday, a Taliban spokesman told the NYT that “we have moved the agreement forward, but we have not completed it”. Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar has joined direct negotiations with Special Envoy Khalilzad and US and NATO commander Gen. Scott Miller. Talks thus far have reportedly focused on a ceasefire agreement and Taliban pledge to deny foreign terrorist groups permission to operate in Afghanistan; no progress has been reported on the Taliban’s refusal to recognize the Afghan government. A spokesman for the Afghan High Peace Council said that “decision[s] will not be made there about Afghanistan. We hope that the US coordinates every step it is taking in Qatar with the High Peace Council and the Afghan government”. On Saturday, a spokesman for Pres. Ghani said that he had asked “Afghan politicians and different layers of the society” to nominate representatives so that a new “effective team would be formed to lead negotiations” for a new round of intra-Afghan talks, following the Moscow talks between the Taliban and opposition politicians last month. On Sunday, a spokesman for the HPC suggested that the government’s planned consultative Loya Jirga on the peace process could be delayed due to weather conditions. [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Dawn]
  • Elections: Following voting by candidates for the presidential election on Friday, Pres. Ghani appointed new members to the Independent Election Commission and Electoral Complaints Commission on Sunday, as well as new heads of the secretariats for each body; the new commissioners were sworn in on Monday. U.S. Ambassador John Bass welcomed the move in a statement and urged the certification of final parliamentary election results in short order. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khabarnama]
  • Regional Diplomacy: National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib visited Uzbekistan on Monday to hold talks with Uzbek officials; the Taliban announced Sunday that the Uzbek foreign minister had met with Mullah Baradar in Doha. On Saturday, Afghanistan’s deputy foreign minister hosted trilateral talks with the ambassadors of India and China.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Taliban Revive Harsh Rule in Badakhshan [RFE/RL]
  • Former Journalist and Aide Wounded in Encounter with Dostum Bodyguards [TOLO]
  • Kandahar Governor Hayat Meets with Army Leaders [Khaama Press]
  • At Least 20 Killed in Flash Flooding in Kandahar [AP] [Reuters] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Second VP Danish Vows Support for Press Freedom [TOLO]
  • Visa Issues Delay Afghan Football Federation Investigations [TOLO]