Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Ghani Appoints Dostum to ‘Marshal’ Title; Judge in Nawaz Case Dismissed by LHC

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Topline

  • On Friday, Pres. Ghani formally appointed former Vice Pres. Abdul Rashid Dostum as “Marshal of Afghanistan”, conferring the title “for his services in resolving the political stalemates and ensuring security in the country”.
  • On Wednesday, a group of Jamiat-e-Islami party leaders — including Atta Mohammad Noor, Younus Qanooni, Ismail Khan, and others — met and voted to remove Salahuddin Rabbani as president of the party and replace him with Enayatullah Shadab, one of the party’s founders.
  • A spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry reiterated denials on Thursday that Russia had provided weapons to the Taliban, responding to remarks by Sec. Pompeo the day prior in which he suggested that such small arms sales had been happening for the past decade. Russia also denied that Pompeo had raised the issue in meetings with his counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
  • The Afghan foreign ministry announced plans for a virtual meeting to be held next week “to help build a foundation for a regional and international consensus on the Afghan peace process and to strengthen the prospects of the start of the intra-Afghan talks.”
  • On Friday, the Lahore High Court’s administrative body reportedly ordered the dismissal of judge Arshad Malik, who had issued the order convicting Nawaz Sharif in the Al-Aziza Steel Mills Case and later came under scrutiny over recorded remarks in which he suggested he had been coerced into doing so.
  • As of Friday, Pakistan reports 221,896 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 1.35 million tests, with at least 4,551 associated deaths. Additional neighborhoods in Karachi were placed under ‘smart lockdown’ orders on Friday. USAID has donated 100 ventilators to Pakistan for distribution across the country.
  • As of Friday, Afghanistan reports 32,324 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 74,287 tests, with at least 819 associated deaths.
  • On Thursday, Malaysia’s aviation regulator announced a temporary suspension of all pilots employed by its domestic airlines holding Pakistani licenses, following similar earlier actions by the UAE and Vietnam.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: On Friday, the Lahore High Court’s administrative body reportedly ordered the dismissal of judge Arshad Malik, who had issued the order convicting Nawaz Sharif in the Al-Aziza Steel Mills Case and later came under scrutiny over recorded remarks in which he suggested he had been coerced into doing so. PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif welcomed the move and called for his brother’s sentence to be overturned. On Thursday, the Supreme Court denied a federal government petition to suspend a Sindh High Court order staying further investigations against sugar mill operators. The Islamabad High Court has ordered hearings on allegations that federal minister Faisal Vawda held dual nationality while contesting the 2018 general elections. [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [ET] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: Six Punjab assembly members from the PML-N and one from the PPP met with Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar on Thursday to discuss development projects in their constituencies; the opposition parties have announced plans for disciplinary actions against their members, while a group of PTI lawmakers has protested over funds going to the opposition constituencies. The caretaker cabinet took up their portfolios in Gilgit-Baltistan on Thursday. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of Friday, Pakistan reports 221,896 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 1.35 million tests, with at least 4,551 associated deaths. Speaking in a press conference on Friday, Planning Minister Umar expressed concern that while the overall coronavirus pandemic situation in the country was receding, Karachi was a significant exception “where we are not seeing that much improvement”. Additional neighborhoods in Karachi were placed under ‘smart lockdown’ orders on Friday. In Khyber Paktunkhwa, restrictions were lifted in 89 localities on Thursday. On Friday, USAID donated 100 ventilators to the National Disaster Management Authority for distribution across the country. Emirates has resumed flight services to Islamabad, Lahore, and Karachi after an earlier suspension, but will require proof of a negative COVID tests for outbound travelers. At a press conference on Thursday, a group of religious leaders called on the public not to individually participate in the Eid ul Azha sacrifices this year. The Sindh provincial government will impose restrictions on public cattle markets normally established during Eid. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Pilots Licensing: Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, PTI government ministers defended their announcement of investigations into pilot licensing for PIA in the wake last month’s crash in Karachi; investigations are still ongoing and would continue for “a few months”, according to Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Haider Zaidi. The PTI accuses its predecessors of illegally issuing licenses and “ruining” PIA. On Thursday, Malaysia’s aviation regulator announced a temporary suspension of all pilots employed by its domestic airlines holding Pakistani licenses, following similar earlier actions by the UAE and Vietnam. In a meeting on Thursday with representatives of the Pakistani Civil Aviation Authority and PIA employees, PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari vowed to “restore the workers’ share” of state-owned enterprises and to overturn the PTI government’s proposed privatization of three major airports. [ET] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Sindh Agriculture Minister Calls for Repatriation of Afghan Refugees [Dawn]
  • ECP Reshuffles District Election Officers Ahead of Local Government Delimitation [Dawn]
  • Sindh to Merge Allowances with Salaries to Cut Pensions [ET]
  • Committee Shelves Proposal for Roosevelt Hotel Privatization [ET] [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Seeks to Raise $700M Through Satellite Services Regulation [ET]
  • Cabinet Reviews K-Electric Tariff Increase Proposal [ET] [The Nation]
  • World Bank to Establish $500M Credit Line to Support Low-Cost Housing [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Russian Bounties Program: A spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry reiterated denials on Thursday that Russia had provided weapons to the Taliban, responding to remarks by Sec. Pompeo the day prior in which he suggested that such small arms sales had been happening for the past decade. Russia also denied that Pompeo had raised the issue in meetings with his counterpart Sergei Lavrov. The NYT reports that Pres. Trump, who had already pushed for a withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country, may now be even more determined to do so. The AP overviews the history of US-Russia relations over Afghanistan. The Washington Post reports on the April 2019 car bombing near Bagram that is now under scrutiny as having potentially been instigated through the Russian bounty program.
  • Attacks and Operations: Officials reported more than a hundred deaths and injuries amongst Afghan security forces, Taliban fighters, and civilians in attacks and operations around the country on Thursday, Khabarnama notes.

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: In a statement on Thursday following meetings between Amb. Khalilzad and Pakistani officials, the U.S. embassy in Islamabad quoted Khalilzad noting “how close the sides are to starting intra-Afghan negotiations and the importance of resolving remaining issues quickly”. Pres. Ghani held talks with his counterparts from Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan on Thursday to discuss the peace process; a spokesman for the Afghan ministry of foreign affairs said that a virtual meeting would be held next week with delegates from twenty countries and several international organizations “to help build a foundation for a regional and international consensus on the Afghan peace process and to strengthen the prospects of the start of the intra-Afghan talks.” Trilateral talks with representatives from China and Pakistan are also being planned; no specific dates were announced.
  • Dostum Promoted to ‘Marshal’: On Friday, Pres. Ghani formally appointed former Vice Pres. Abdul Rashid Dostum as “Marshal of Afghanistan”, conferring the title “for his services in resolving the political stalemates and ensuring security in the country”. Initial reporting has not clarified what, if any, authorities will come beyond the title, which was one element of the power-sharing agreement reached between Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah in May. [Ariana News] [TOLO]
  • Jamiat Split: On Wednesday, a group of Jamiat-e-Islami party leaders — including Atta Mohammad Noor, Younus Qanooni, Ismail Khan, and others — met and voted to remove Salahuddin Rabbani as president of the party and replace him with Enayatullah Shadab, one of the party’s founders. Rabbani had split with Abdullah Abdullah after his agreement with Ghani, and appears to have retained the support of a faction of the party, including Ahmad Zia Massoud. [Khabarnama] [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Senate Criticizes Inaction on Ex-Finance Minister Corruption Case [TOLO]
  • Ghani Faces Criticism Over Remarks About Youth [TOLO]
  • Commentary: The Cursed Platoon – “Clint Lorance had been in charge of his platoon for only three days when he ordered his men to kill three Afghans stopped on a dirt road. A second-degree murder conviction and pardon followed. Today, Lorance is hailed as a hero by President Trump. His troops have suffered a very different fate.” [Greg Jaffe, WAPO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistan Denies Report of Military Buildup at LOC; NYT Identifies Middleman in Russia Network

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Topline

  • In a statement on Thursday, Pakistan’s chief military spokesman denied Indian media reports that Pakistan had deployed additional troops to the Line of Control border in Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and that Chinese troops had been deployed to an airbase in Skardu.
  • The NYT identifies an Afghan smuggler and businessman who is reported to have served as a “key middleman” who distributed money from a Russia military intelligence unit to reward Taliban fighters for attacking U.S. troops in Afghanistan; Rahmatullah Azizi is reported to have escaped arrest after a series of raids on his associates at the beginning of the year and is now believed to be living in Russia. In remarks on Wednesday, Sec. Pompeo said that “the fact that the Russians are engaged in Afghanistan in a way that’s adverse to the United States is nothing new” and that “it’s why we have spent so much time over this past year at the president’s direction to reduce risk to our forces in Afghanistan”.
  • In remarks during a visit to Logar province on Wednesday, Pres. Ghani suggested that “the beginning of intra-Afghan talks will be decided next week”, but did not specify a date. Several mortar rounds struck nearby during Ghani’s visit, but no casualties were reported.
  • As of Thursday, Pakistan reports 217,809 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 1.327 million tests, with at least 4,473 associated deaths. The National Command and Operation Center reports that approximately half of the cumulative confirmed caseload have at this point recovered from the virus.
  • As of Thursday, Afghanistan reports 32,022 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 73,515 tests, with at least 807 associated deaths.
  • Foreign Minister Qureshi spoke with EU officials on Wednesday to seek the reversal of a ban on PIA flight operations to Europe.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: In a statement on Thursday, Pakistan’s chief military spokesman denied Indian media reports that Pakistan had deployed additional troops to the Line of Control border in Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and that Chinese troops had been deployed to an airbase in Skardu. Pakistan formally protested recent cross-border ceasefire violations with the Indian charge d’affaires on Wednesday. Pakistan and India also made a biannual exchange of lists of prisoners held by each side on Wednesday. [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Pearl Murder Case: On Thursday, the interior ministry extended the detention through September 30 of four men previously acquitted by the Sindh High Court for the murder of Daniel Pearl, citing risks to public safety if they were released.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Corruption Investigation and Other Legal Battles: The Supreme Court will hold hearings on Thursday on a government petition challenging a Sindh High Court ruling barring further action against sugar mill owners on the basis of an earlier inquiry. Contempt of court hearings were also held on alleged threats against Judge Qazi Faez Isa by a Rawalpindi cleric. [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: At a press conference on Wednesday, PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari accused the government of wanting to “assassinate” his father, former Pres. Zardari, by risking COVID infection as he faces summons from the National Accountability Bureau. The chief ministers of Punjab and Balochistan met in Lahore on Wednesday to discuss inter-provincial cooperation. [Dawn] [The Nation] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of Thursday, Pakistan reports 217,809 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 1.327 million tests, with at least 4,473 associated deaths. As of Wednesday, the National Command and Operation Center reports that approximately half of the cumulative confirmed caseload have at this point recovered from the virus. Sindh provincial officials are debating the extension of “smart lockdown” restrictions in parts of Karachi, which are set to expire over Thursday night; lockdowns were extended for two weeks in other parts of the province and in Balochistan on Wednesday. Doctors in Karachi urged the city government to restrict cattle markets within the city during the upcoming Eid period to curtail the spread of the pandemic. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • PIA Restrictions: Foreign Minister Qureshi spoke with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell on Wednesday to seek the reversal of a ban on PIA flight operations to Europe, announced earlier this week. The NYT reviews PIA’s many troubles. PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari called for the removal of Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan, alleging that his own educational degree was faked. [Dawn] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • 15 Killed in Clash Between Two Tribes in Kurram [ET]
  • US International Development Finance Cooperation CEO Meets Commerce Advisor [ET]
  • Inflation Rose to 10.74% in FY 20 [ET]
  • Punjab Adjusts Pension Rules to Save Rs 59.1 Billion; KPK Govt Says it Met Revenue Target [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Government Lifts Ban on Furnace Oil Imports to Meet Electricity Demand [Dawn] [ET]
  • Government to Revisit Proposal to Sell Roosevelt Hotel [Dawn]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Government to Amend Property Laws [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Russian Bounties: The NYT identifies an Afghan smuggler and businessman who is reported to have served as a “key middleman” who distributed money from a Russia military intelligence unit to reward Taliban fighters for attacking U.S. troops in Afghanistan; Rahmatullah Azizi is reported to have escaped arrest after a series of raids on his associates at the beginning of the year and is now believed to be living in Russia. In tweets on Wednesday, Pres. Trump continued to insist that the story was a “hoax”. U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said that the administration was pursuing an investigation against the source of the leak of the reports, and claimed that Pres. Trump was not informed of the earlier findings by his CIA briefer “because it was unverified intelligence”. In separate remarks on Wednesday, Sec. Pompeo said that “the fact that the Russians are engaged in Afghanistan in a way that’s adverse to the United States is nothing new” and that “it’s why we have spent so much time over this past year at the president’s direction to reduce risk to our forces in Afghanistan”. [NYT]
  • Attacks and Operations: At least one civilian was killed and nine other people wounded, including five police officers, in a double bombing in Mazar-e-Sharif on Wednesday. The herat provincial police chief was wounded in a roadside bombing in the Pashtun Zargun district on Wednesday. [TOLO] [Khabarnama] [Khabarnama]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: In remarks during a visit to Logar province on Wednesday, Pres. Ghani said that the Taliban are “continu[ing] the war” and are “not committed to bringing peace to the country”. Ghani added that “the beginning of intra-Afghan talks will be decided next week”, but did not specify a date. Several mortar rounds struck nearby during Ghani’s visit, but no casualties were reported. Separately on Wednesday, Amb. Khalilzad met with Foreign Minister Qureshi in Islamabad to discuss the peace process. In a statement on Thursday, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan called for a de-escalation to the conflict and to “lay the necessary foundation for the talks by showing their commitment to peace through immediate and concrete actions to protect civilians and reduce violence. [Ariana News] [Khabarnama]

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Wolesi Jirga Approves Budget Amendments [TOLO] [Ariana News]
  • Central Bank Refers Case Files of Fired Officials to Attorney General’s Office [TOLO]
  • Pakistan Opens Two More Border Crossings for Trade with Afghanistan [Khabarnama]
  • Report: Ghosts of the Past: Lessons from Local Force Mobilization in Afghanistan and Prospects for the Future – “The continual cycles of conflict and mobilization in Afghanistan over the last few decades have contributed to a greater prevalence of the sort of community divisions, erosion of community-protective structures, and dominance of predatory commanders and factional networks that spoil local defense models.” [GPPI / AAN]
  • Report: A Failed Afghan Peace Deal – “A U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan without a peace deal would significantly increase the level of violence in Afghanistan, risk a growing regional war, trigger a humanitarian crisis, allow an extremist Islamic group to overrun Kabul, and raise serious questions among allies about U.S. reliability.” [Seth Jones, CFR]
  • Report: Biannual DOD Report to Congress on Afghanistan – “During the initial portion of the reporting period, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) adjusted its operational approach to intensify pressure on the Taliban to reduce violence and meaningfully participate in intra-Afghan negotiations.” [US DOD (pdf)]

 

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Imran Says ‘No Doubt’ India Behind PSX Attack; US Tracked GRU-Taliban Money Flow in Early 2019

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Topline

  • Speaking in the national assembly on Tuesday, PM Khan said there was “no doubt” that India had sponsored the attack on the Pakistan Stock Exchange earlier this week, and claimed to have preempted four other attempted terrorist plots around the country.
  • U.S. intercepts of electronic money transfers records and arrests of hawala network operators confirmed the existence of a money flow from a Russian military unit and the Taliban, the NYT reports. A cache of money was also reportedly found in a raid in Kunduz city around the beginning of this year. White House officials were reportedly first informed in “early 2019” of these reports, but the full assessment of the intelligence community only came later in March. In a readout of a call between Sec. Pompeo and Mullah Baradar on Monday, the State Department said that Pompeo had “made clear the expectation for the Taliban to live up to their commitments, which include not attacking Americans”.
  • UN and AIHRC investigators have attributed Monday’s mortar attack on a market in the Sangin district in Helmand to Afghan security personnel, after the Taliban initially attacked an army unit from an area nearby; the Afghan defense ministry denied that account.
  • On Tuesday, the European Union Air Safety Agency barred PIA from operating within the EU for a six month period, following reports by Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan last week that as many as 262 pilots from Pakistani airlines were under scrutiny for “dubious” aviation licenses. The UK has also withdrawn PIA operating permits, and the UAE is re-verifying the credentials of Pakistani pilots and engineers employed by its airlines.
  • Ambassador Khalilzad held talks with the foreign ministers of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan in Tashkent, and also spoke by videoconference with Pres. Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah.
  •  As of Wednesday, Afghanistan reports 31,838 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 72,996 tests, with at least 774 associated deaths.
  • As of Wednesday, Pakistan reports 203,094 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 1.305 million tests, with at least 4,395 associated deaths.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: Speaking in the national assembly on Tuesday, PM Khan said that there was “no doubt” that India had sponsored the BLA attack on the Pakistan Stock Exchange in Karachi earlier this week, and claimed to have preempted four other attempted terrorist plots around the country. The Express Tribune reports that Pakistan plans to “forcefully raise” the issue with the Ambassador Khalilzad. A Pakistani civilian boy was killed in cross-border firing over Tuesday night at the Line of Control border in Kashmir. [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: Former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and seven other people were acquitted in a second case related to the Rental Power Project begun during his tenure as water and power minister; the National Accountability Bureau announced its intention to appeal. The Federal Investigation Agency took custody on Tuesday of a Rawalpindi cleric accused of threatening Judge Qazi Faez Isa. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: Speaking in the national assembly on Tuesday, PM Khan dismissed suggestions that he would be removed from his position before the completion of his term in office, and vowed that “reforms are inevitable now” despite opposition from “the beneficiaries of a corrupt order”. Separately, PM Khan appointed twelve members to the caretaker cabinet in Gilgit-Baltistan. The government reshuffled several senior civil service positions on Wednesday, including the appointment of Yousuf Naseem Khokhar as interior secretary. [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of Wednesday, the government reports 203,094 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 1.305 million tests, with at least 4,395 associated deaths. Sindh reported a record high test positivity rate on Tuesday. The Punjab government extended a further 15-day “smart lockdown” across parts of seven cities, empowering district commissioners to decide on further extensions in their jurisdictions. The main national traders’ union has warned of protests if they are not allowed to fully reopen their operations.
  • EU Bans PIA Flights: On Tuesday, the European Union Air Safety Agency barred Pakistan International Airlines from operating within the EU for a six month period, effective Wednesday, following reports by Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan last week that as many as 262 pilots from the PIA and other airlines were under scrutiny for “dubious” aviation licenses. The UK Civil Aviation Authority has also withdrawn PIA operating permits at three airports. The UAE has also sought to re-verify the credentials of Pakistani pilots and engineers employed by its airlines. The PIA pilots union has protested the government list, noting that many of the pilots have either retired or left the airline; the Pakistan Airline Pilots Association suggested that it might file a defamation suit against Minister Khan. The Islamabad High Court dismissed a petition seeking Khan’s removal from office on Wednesday. Separately, the government extended permission for domestic flight operations at six airports through end-August. [AFP] [AP]
  • Budget Planning: Provisional figures indicate that the Federal Board of Revenue collected Rs 3.981 trillion in taxes in the outgoing fiscal year, Rs 1.58 trillion short of its original collection target but slightly above the final revised target; after adjusting for refunds, however, collection was on par with the preceding year. On Tuesday, the World Bank approved a $500 million budgetary support loan to support Pakistan’s energy sector. [Dawn] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Government Fails to Extend Permission for Afghan Refugees Living in Pakistan [ET]
  • New Committee Formed to Investigate Petrol Shortages [ET] [Dawn]
  • CPEC Business Council Formed [The Nation]
  • Surgeon General Nigar Johar Becomes First Female Lieutenant General [Dawn] [ET]
  • New Polio Case Reported in South Waziristan [ET] [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Russian Bounty Program: The NYT reports that U.S. officials intercepted electronic data showing a large financial transfer from a Russian military bank account and a Taliban-linked account; Afghan intelligence officials are reported to have detained several businessmen operating hawala money transfer networks over the past six months who served as links between the Taliban and GRU. A cache of money was also reportedly found in a raid in Kunduz city around the beginning of this year. Some Afghan officials suggest that the money largely went to local criminal networks who carried out attacks as “freelancers” for the Taliban. The Washington Post reports that White House officials were first informed in “early 2019” of these reports, but that the full assessment of the intelligence community only came later in March. The WSJ reports that the National Security Agency dissented from the assessment, although not over the central finding that the GRU had paid bounties. U.S. Democratic House of Representatives lawmakers were briefed at the White House on Tuesday after earlier briefings for Republicans on the issue the day prior. In a readout of a call between Sec. Pompeo and Mullah Baradar on Monday, the State Department said that Pompeo had “made clear the expectation for the Taliban to live up to their commitments, which include not attacking Americans”. [NYT]
  • Attacks and Operations: UN and Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission investigators have attributed Monday’s mortar attack on a market in the Sangin district in Helmand to Afghan security personnel, after the Taliban initially attacked an army unit from an area nearby; the Afghan defense ministry denied that account. A civilian was killed and at least ten others wounded, including eight security personnel, in clashes in the Pashtun Zargun district in Herat over Tuesday night. An explosion hit a market in Jalalabad on Tuesday evening; no casualties were reported. [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khabarnama] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: Ambassador Khalilzad held talks with the foreign ministers of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan in Tashkent on Tuesday to discuss the Afghan peace process and regional connectivity projects. Khalilzad also spoke by videoconference with Pres. Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah. [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Dasht-e-Barchi Hospital Reopens Without MSF [Khabarnama]
  • Central Bank Leadership Defends Recent Dismissals [TOLO] [Ariana News]
  • Report: ‘You Have No Right to Complain’: Education, Social Restrictions, and Justice in Taliban-Held Afghanistan – “Afghans in Taliban-held districts have told Human Rights Watch that Taliban officials do not recognize any need to listen to them or allow them to air grievances or make recommendations. Instead Taliban officials generally see the communities as either with them or against them, and view criticism only as a challenge to their authority and evidence of affiliation with the enemy.” [HRW]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pompeo and Baradar Speak by Phone; Pakistani Officials Blame India for PSX Attack

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Topline

  • Reports of alleged “bounties” offered by a Russian military intelligence unit for Taliban fighters to carry out attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan date to at least early 2019, the AP reports. An April 2019 attack in which three U.S. Marines were killed is under investigation as potentially having been linked to the Russian program. The findings were included in written briefing materials for Pres. Trump in late February of this year, which he is widely reported to regularly ignore.
  • Sec. Pompeo spoke by videoconference with Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban announced on Tuesday, saying they had discussed the “implementation of the agreement, foreign troop withdrawal, prisoner release, start of intra-Afghan dialogue and reduction in (military) operations.” Baradar also met with Iran’s special representative for Afghanistan.
  • Pakistani officials have blamed India for instigating Monday’s attack on the Pakistan Stock Exchange in Karachi, which was claimed by the Balochistan Liberation Army. Four Pakistani civilians were wounded in exchanges of fire at the Line of Control in Kashmir on Monday. A group of Indian diplomats expelled in a tit-for-tat move left Islamabad on Tuesday.
  • The Afghan National Security Council accused the Taliban of carrying out an average of 44 attacks per day since late February, killing or wounding 24 civilians daily.
  • Four men acquitted by the Sindh High Court of their convictions in the 2002 murder of Daniel Pearl may be released later this week after the Supreme Court denied an appeal to suspend the lower court’s ruling while it hears appeals.
  • As of Tuesday, Pakistan reports 209,192 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 1.283 million tests, with at least 4,304 associated deaths. The number of new COVID patients at hospitals across Pakistan has reportedly fallen.
  • As of Tuesday, Afghanistan reports 31,517 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 72,318 tests, with at least 746 associated deaths.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Stock Exchange Attack: In a statement on Monday, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa praised the military and civilian security personnel that responded to the Balochistan Liberation Army attack on the Pakistan Stock Exchange earlier in the day, vowing to “foil all efforts of enemies aimed at destabilizing hard earned peace”. Foreign Minister Qureshi told reporters that “all clues are leading to India” for instigating the attack; Interior Minister Ijaz Shah announced an investigation into the incident. Security has been tightened in Islamabad and Rawalpindi following the attack. China’s foreign ministry condemned the attack; in its claim of responsibility, the BLA said it was targeting Chinese investments in Pakistan. [ET] [ET]
  • More Tensions with India: Four Pakistani civilians were wounded in shelling along the Line of Control in Kashmir on Monday. On Tuesday, PM Khan reiterated Pakistan’s protests over changes to domicile laws in Indian Kashmir. A group of 38 Indian diplomatic personnel departed for New Delhi on Tuesday after a tit-for-tat expulsion of diplomatic staff between the two countries. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Pearl Murder Case: The Supreme Court’s ruling on Monday to deny a suspension of the Sindh High Court’s order acquitting four men for involvement in the 2002 murder of Daniel Pearl while it hears the upper court hears an appeal against the lower court’s ruling may allow them to be freed later this week. [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: Former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf was acquitted in another case related to the Turkish rental power project in an Islamabad accountability court ruling on Tuesday. In a separate case related to charges of illegally accepting gifts while in office, arrest warrants were issued against former Pres. Zardari. The Judicial Commission of Pakistan will consider nominees for two Peshawar High Court vacancies this week. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: PM Khan met with a group of lawmakers on Monday to hear complaints regarding their constituencies. In remarks in the national assembly on Tuesday, Khan reiterated that the “government is not going anywhere” and rejected opposition calls for his resignation. PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari met with Jamhoori Watan Party leader Shahzain Bugti on Monday. [The Nation] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of Tuesday, Pakistan reports 209,192 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 1.283 million tests, with at least 4,304 associated deaths. The number of new COVID patients at hospitals across Pakistan has reportedly fallen. [Dawn]
  • Budget Passage: Dawn reports in more detail on amendments made to the federal budget prior to its passage on Monday, most related to tax adjustments. [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Chinese Borrowing: On Tuesday, the State Bank of Pakistan announced receipt of $1.3 billion in lending from Chinese banks.

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • OGRA Fines Three Oil Marketing Companies Accused of Hoarding [ET]
  • Power Outages Continue in Karachi [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Russia Bounty Reports: Reports of alleged “bounties” offered by a Russian military intelligence unit for Taliban fighters to carry out attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan date to at least early 2019, the AP reports. An attack near Bagram airbase in April 2019, in which three U.S. Marines were killed, is reported to be under investigation as potentially having been linked to the Russian program. The findings were included in written briefing materials for Pres. Trump in late February of this year, which he is widely reported to regularly ignore. The findings were disseminated more broadly in May; the White House is facing heavy criticism for failing to respond to the issue. Some sources suggest mixed views within the intelligence community on the accuracy of the Russia program reports, and official statements from the White House, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Pentagon suggest that it the finding is still under assessment. [CNN] [WAPO] [WAPO]
  • Attacks and Operations: In a statement on Tuesday, the Afghan National Security Council accused the Taliban of carrying out an average of 44 attacks per day since late February, killing or wounding 24 civilians daily. At least 20 civilians were killed in mortar attacks on a livestock market in Sangin district in Helmand on Monday; the government and Taliban accuse each other of carrying out the attack, with the provincial governor accusing the Taliban of also carrying out a car bomb attack nearby. Two civilians were killed in a roadside bombing in the Nawa district in Helmand on Tuesday. The district police chief of Uruzgan’s Dehrawood district was killed in an attack over Monday night in the provincial capital of Tirin Kot. A Taliban attack on several checkposts in the Koh-e-Safi district in Parwan province was repelled on Monday. The NYT profiles one of the victims of an attack in Kabul that killed two employees of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. [TOLO] [Khabarnama] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Pompeo and Baradar Speak: Sec. Pompeo spoke by videoconference with Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban announced on Tuesday, saying they had discussed the “implementation of the agreement, foreign troop withdrawal, prisoner release, start of intra-Afghan dialogue and reduction in (military) operations.” Baradar also met with Iran’s special representative for Afghanistan. On Monday, the Taliban announced the release of 21 Afghan government prisoners. In a Reuters interview, Pakistan’s ambassador to Kabul said that talks between the government and the Taliban could begin next month, but expressed concern over “rising violence”. [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of Tuesday, the ministry of public health reports 31,517 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 72,318 tests, with at least 746 associated deaths. At a cabinet meeting on Monday, Pres. Ghani ordered investigations into allegations of corruption in the use of coronavirus response funds. The Taliban have reportedly ordered the reopening of schools in Ghazni province without provisions to prevent the spread of the pandemic.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • $1.6 Billion in Bribe Payments Estimated for 2018 [TOLO]
  • Interior Ministry Says it Arrested More Than 5,000 Drug Traffickers in Past Year [Ariana News]
  • Foreign Minister Atmar Talks with Iranian Energy Minister on Shared Water Resources [Khabarnama]
  • Wolesi Jirga Again Calls for Government to Nominate Cabinet Members for Confirmation [Khabarnama]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Russia Sponsored ‘Bounties’ for Attacks on US Forces; BLA Attacks Karachi Stock Exchange

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Topline

  • The NYT reported that U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit sought to offer “bounties” to Taliban fighters who carried out attacks on U.S. and allied military targets in Afghanistan. The report does not specify a timeline under which the agreement is reported to have been in place. The Washington Post reported that the bounties “are believed to have resulted in the deaths of several U.S. service members”, but did not clarify further details. There were 20 US combat casualties in 2019, and four in 2020; the Taliban have not attacked U.S. forces since their agreement in February. The Taliban’s spokesman denied the report, as did Russia’s foreign ministry. The finding was reportedly briefed to Pres. Trump, the National Security Council, and other American officials at a meeting in late March, but the White House is reported to have not yet authorized any steps in response. The White House later claimed that neither Trump nor VP Pence had been briefed on the reports; on Sunday, Trump claimed that “intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me”. CNN reports that the Trump administration is “close to finalizing” a decision to withdraw a further 4,000 troops from Afghanistan “by the fall”, bringing force levels to around 4,500 troops, the lowest level since 2001.
  • The Balochistan Liberation Army claimed responsibility for an attack on the Pakistan Stock Exchange in Karachi on Monday morning; three security personnel and four attackers were killed in the attack, which did not disrupt trading.
  • On Saturday, the National Security Council accused the Taliban of killing 21 civilians and wounding 30 others in attacks over the previous week. Two employees of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission were killed in a magnetic bomb attack in Kabul; no claim of responsibility was made for the attack.
  • Ambassador Khalilzad departed on Sunday for travel to Qatar, Islamabad, and Uzbekistan; the State Department said that he would also conduct virtual meetings with Afghan officials throughout the trip.
  • The BNP-M joined a joint opposition statement on Sunday rejecting the PTI government’s budget. The PML-Q skipped a dinner gathering of PTI and other coalition partners at PM Khan’s residence on Sunday; despite the brush-off, the PML-Q leadership supported the government in the budget vote on Monday. The Grand Democratic Alliance has also complained that the PTI is neglecting its coalition commitments.
  • As of Monday, Pakistan reports 165,209 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 1.262 million tests, with at least 4,167 associated deaths. Daily testing fell in Sindh last week, contributing to a drop in test processing nationwide. Pakistan is among the countries restricted from travel to the EU when it reopens external borders in July.
  • As of Monday, the Afghan ministry of public health reports 31,238 confirmed COVID-19 cases out of 71,549 tests, with at least 733 associated deaths. The U.S. military has withdrawn contractors from its main base in Jalalabad due to the pandemic.
  • On Monday, the Pakistani national assembly passed the government’s budget bill, despite opposition protests. The Punjab, Balochistan, and Sindh provincial assemblies also passed their budgets in votes over the weekend.
  • On Friday, the Pakistani ministry of finance increased petroleum product prices, ahead of the normal monthly adjustment schedule and without a formal recommendation from the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority to do so.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Stock Exchange Attacked: Four gunmen attacked Pakistan’s main stock exchange in Karachi on Monday, killing three security officers before they themselves were killed; the Balochistan Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the attack. Police officials indicate that the attackers appear to have been attempting to take hostages, but they were unable to enter the exchange building. Trading continued through the attack. [WAPO] [Guardian]
  • Tensions with India: On Sunday, Pakistani military officials reported shooting down an Indian quadcopter drone that crossed over the Line of Control. In a statement on Saturday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry objected to India’s issuance of domicile certificates to non-Kashmiri locals, accusing India of seeking to “turn Kashmiris into a minority in their own land”. Separately, Foreign Minister Qureshi said that Pakistan was preparing to reopen the Kartarpur pilgrimage corridor to Indian travelers beginning on Monday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Coalition Politics: PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari spoke separately with the leaders of the PML-N, JUI-F, and National Watan Party on Friday, calling for the convening of a multi-party conference in the next week and agreeing to oppose the government’s budget proposal. Bilawal also spoke with BNP-M leader Akhtar Mengal on Saturday; the BNP-M joined a joint opposition statement on Sunday rejecting the budget. National assembly speaker Asad Qaiser has revived a committee to consider the BNP-M’s complaints regarding Balochistan policies. The PML-Q skipped a dinner gathering of PTI and other coalition partner lawmakers at PM Khan’s residence on Sunday, citing “busy schedules”; despite the brush-off, the PML-Q leadership has agreed to support the government in the budget vote. Khan assured attendees that the government “will definitely complete its term”. On Thursday, Grand Democratic Alliance leader Ayaz Latif Palijo accused the PTI of neglecting its coalition government commitments to the party in Sindh; on Saturday, Planning Minister Umar and Sindh Governor Imran Ismail met with the PML-F president, Syed Sibghatullah Shah Rashidi, in an attempt to ensure the party’s support for the upcoming budget vote. [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: The Supreme Court Bar Association has opposed a government proposal to revoke the licenses of lawyers involved in “violence or any other adversarial activity”. The federal government has appealed the Supreme Court against a Sindh High Court ruling blocking it from proceeding with investigations against sugar mill owners. New corruption indictments against former Pres. Zardari have been deferred again until July 6. In response to a PPP petition, the Islamabad High Court has sought an explanation from the ministry of interior for the visa status of American disinformation publicist Cynthia Ritchie; separately, Islamabad police submitted a report which found Ritchie’s allegations of sexual assault against PPP senator Rehman Malik to be unsubstantiated. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: A meeting of the National Command and Control Center on Saturday noted a decline in testing around the country, from around 30,000 tests processed as of June 21 and 21,000 as of June 26; the decline was largely driven by a drop in testing in Sindh. The test positivity ratio increased in Sindh as testing fell, up to 22% as of the 26th. As of Monday, the government reports 165,209 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 1.262 million tests, with at least 4,167 associated deaths. On Saturday, the power ministry ordered areas of the country placed under lockdown to be exempted from any power cuts. The Civil Aviation Authority has imposed new travel restrictions, barring airlines from issuing tickets to passengers showing coronavirus symptoms. Pakistan is among the countries restricted from travel to the EU when it reopens external borders in July. [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Budget Debate: In a vote on Monday, the national assembly passed the government’s budget bill, despite opposition protests. Amendments to the budget were made on party-line votes in the assembly on Friday. The Punjab, Balochistan, and Sindh provincial assemblies passed their budgets in votes over the weekend. The ministry of economic affairs reported that Pakistan received $7.5 billion in foreign loans during the first 11 months of the outgoing fiscal year, 58% of the initial budget estimate; approximately 80% of total loans were non-project based and used to finance Pakistan’s budget deficits. At least $2 billion in additional lending has been reported in June. [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • CPEC Projects: The Financial Times reports that Pakistan is seeking negotiate a delay in tariff payments on two coal power plants set up under the previous government through CPEC, which an investigation report alleges have over-charged by as much as $3 billion through inflated costs and interest payments. Capacity payment guarantees to power generators are projected to reach Rs 1.5 trillion over the next two years. Finance Advisor Hafeez Shaikh met with Chinese ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing on Friday.
  • Energy Pricing: On Friday, the ministry of finance increased petroleum product prices, ahead of the normal monthly adjustment schedule and without a formal recommendation from the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority to do so. Petrol prices were hiked by 25.6%; officials cited the rise in global prices following OPEC and Russian product cuts, and inventory shortfalls which they blame on hoarding by oil marketing companies. Opposition lawmakers denounced the move. [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Supreme Court Rejects Plea for Suspension of Daniel Pearl Murder Convicts’ Acquittal While Hearing Challenge Against Sindh High Court Ruling [ET] [Dawn]
  • Two Security Personnel Wounded in Waziristan Bombing [Dawn]
  • PTM Leaders Say Confidence-Building Measures Should Precede Government Talks [Dawn]
  • Protests Continue Over Karachi Power Outages [ET] [Dawn]
  • MQM Gunman Arrested [ET]
  • PM Khan Launches Ehsaas Cash Transfer Program in AJK [ET]
  • Gilgit-Baltistan General Election Set for August 18 [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • PIA Moves to Assuage Concerns Over ‘Dubious’ Pilot Licenses [Reuters] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • New Polio Case Reported in Rajanpur [The Nation]
  • PM Khan Approves Grant to Construct Hindu Temple in Islamabad [Dawn] [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Russian Intel Reported Incited Taliban Attacks on US Forces: The NYT reported, and several other outlets subsequently confirmed, that U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit, Unit 29155 of the GRU military intelligence service, sought to offer “bounties” to Taliban fighters who carried out attacks on U.S. and allied military targets in Afghanistan. The report does not specify a timeline under which the agreement is reported to have been in place, although a follow-on piece reports that U.S. intelligence and special operations forces in Afghanistan were tracking reports of the practice as early as January. Some unspecified number of militants are reported to have collected some funds, although the mechanisms for doing so are not clarified in the reporting; the Washington Post reported that the bounties “are believed to have resulted in the deaths of several U.S. service members”, but did not provide further details. There have been no American combat casualties in Afghanistan since the end-February peace agreement was reached with the Taliban, but there were 20 American combat casualties reported in Afghanistan in 2019, and four in 2020 prior to February. Details of the program are reported to be “based at least in part on interrogations of captured Afghan militants and criminals”. The Taliban’s spokesman denied the report, as did Russia’s foreign ministry. The finding was reportedly briefed to Pres. Trump, the National Security Council, and other American officials at a meeting in late March, but the White House is reported to have not yet authorized any steps in response. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany later claimed that neither Trump nor VP Pence had been briefed on the reports; on Sunday, Trump claimed that “intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me”. Former Vice President Joe Biden denounced the administration’s inaction as “a betrayal of the most sacred duty we bear as a nation, to protect and equip our troops when we send them into harm’s way.” [WSJ] [AFP]
  • Troop Drawdowns: CNN reports that the Trump administration is “close to finalizing” a decision to withdraw a further 4,000 troops from Afghanistan “by the fall”, bringing force levels to around 4,500 troops, the lowest level since 2001. Sec. Esper reportedly discussed the plan in a meeting with NATO allies last week. The U.S. has already drawn down its forces to around 8,600 troops, and under the agreement signed with the Taliban in February, committed to a full withdrawal by April 2021, provided the Taliban also met security commitments. [Khabarnama]
  • Attacks and Operations: The NYT reports on rising violence as the Taliban continue attacks on Afghan security personnel around the country. In a statement on Saturday, Pres. Ghani “stressed the need for an end to the violence to help kick start intra-Afghan talks as soon as possible”; the EU warned that violence levels were “unacceptably high”. On Saturday, the National Security Council accused the Taliban of killing 21 civilians and wounding 30 others in attacks over the previous week. On Saturday, two employees of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission were killed in a magnetic bomb attack in Kabul; no claim of responsibility was made for the attack, which was denounced by Amb. Khalilzad and other officials. Kandahar police officials report that NATO forces conducted an airstrike in the Arghandab district early Saturday morning to reinforce a police checkpost. Afghan forces carried out airstrikes in the Sozma Qala district in Sar-e-Pul on Saturday. At least five Afghan security personnel were killed in an attack on their checkpost in the Imam Sahib district in Kunduz early Sunday morning. Six civilians were reportedly killed in a roadside bombing in the Washir district in Helmand on Sunday; as many as 23 civilians were reportedly killed in a mortar attack on a market in the Sangin district in Helmand on Monday, which the Taliban blamed on Afghan security services. [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Ariana News] [Khabarnama] [Khabarnama]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: A spokesman for Pres. Ghani said that the government had freed 3,895 Taliban prisoners as of Saturday, but “no positive steps have been taken by the Taliban to pave the way for intra-Afghan talks”; the Taliban say they have released more than 600 prisoners. Special Representative Khalilzad departed on Sunday for travel to Qatar, Islamabad, and Uzbekistan; the State Department said that he would also conduct virtual meetings with Afghan officials throughout the trip. Khalilzad will be accompanied on the trip by the head of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, Adam Boehler.

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of Monday, the ministry of public health reports 31,238 confirmed COVID-19 cases out of 71,549 tests, with at least 733 associated deaths. TOLO reports that the ministry of finance has only spent Afs 50 million on health services from a special budget set aside for the coronavirus response, around a tenth of the total allocation. Local officials in Helmand report that they have received only two working ventilators from the MOPH. The U.S. military has withdrawn contractors from its main base in Jalalabad due to the pandemic, halting moral, welfare and recreation services. [Khabarnama]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Parliament Calls for Cabinet Confirmations Before Summer Recess [Khabarnama]
  • Central Bank Employees Reject Corruption Allegations Following Dismissals [TOLO] [Ariana News] [Khabarnama]
  • US Senators Seek Emergency Refugee Protection for Afghan Sikhs and Hindus [Khabarnama] [TOLO]
  • Afghanistan Resumes Exports to Europe Via ‘Air Corridor’ [Khabarnama]
  • India Sends New Wheat Consignment Through Chabahar Port [Khabarnama]
  • Khost-North Waziristan Border Crossing Reopens to Pedestrian Movement [Khabarnama]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PM Khan Defends Government Tenure; State Department Lists Afghanistan Over Child Soldiers

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Topline

  • PM Khan addressed the national assembly on Thursday, defending his government’s management of the economy and the coronavirus pandemic. In his remarks, Khan criticized his predecessors, including charging them with “siding with the U.S. in the war on terror” but getting little in return, and claiming that “no one insults us now”. In doing so Khan described the 2011 U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden as having “martyred” bin Laden, provoking denunciations from opposition parties.
  • The State Department included Afghanistan among ten countries accused of government-sponsored forced labor in a report on Thursday, citing the “policy or pattern” of child soldier recruitment and sexual abuse. The listing brings the risk of restrictions on non-humanitarian assistance in the next fiscal year, although the president may waive such sanctions.
  • Newly leaked audio dating to his time as interior minister appears to show Vice Pres. Amrullah Saleh directing police to kill anyone who defies police orders while operating on the Kabul-Parwan highway; Saleh’s office said that the tape had been forged.
  • As of Friday, Pakistan reports 195,727 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 1.193 million tests, with at least 3,962 associated deaths.
  • As of Friday, Afghanistan reports 30,451 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 69,558 tests, with at least 638 associated deaths.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: A Pakistani civilian was wounded in cross-border firing at the Line of Control on Thursday, the military reported. In a Reuters interview on Thursday, Foreign Minister Qureshi repeated claims that India had expelled Pakistani diplomatic staff from the embassy in New Delhi to divert domestic attention over the recent casualties suffered in a border clash with Chinese forces in Ladakh. [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PM Addresses Assembly: On Thursday, PM Khan addressed the national assembly as part of the ongoing budget debate, responding to criticisms of the government’s management of the economy and the coronavirus pandemic. In his remarks, Khan criticized his predecessors, including charging them with “siding with the U.S. in the war on terror” but getting little in return, and claiming that “no one insults us now”; in doing so Khan described the 2011 U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden as having “martyred” bin Laden, provoking denunciations from opposition parties. [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: On Thursday, Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed opened hearings into reports of “derogatory, contemptuous, and scandalous language” against Judge Qazi Faez Isa following last week’s Supreme Court ruling on disciplinary charges against him. Former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf was acquitted in the Rental Power Project case against him on Thursday. The Khyber Paktunkhwa government has opened a judicial investigation into new allegations against several police officers accused of beating a suspect in custody. [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: Federal science minister Fawad Chaudhry rebuffed calls for his resignation in a statement on Friday; The Nation reports that Foreign Minister Qureshi and Planning Minister Umar have sought his removal. [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Planning Minister Umar said that Pakistan is projected to reach “225,000 or fewer” COVID-19 cases by the end of the month, which he suggested was an improvement over earlier projections, adding that “if we all play our part, the spread of the virus can be controlled”. As of Friday, Pakistan reports 195,727 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 1.193 million tests, with at least 3,962 associated deaths. Former Jamaat-e-Islami leader Syed Munawar Hasan passed away on Friday; his death was not confirmed as being coronavirus-related. At least 3,000 patients are reported to be in critical condition. The Express Tribune reports that despite an increase in testing capacity in Sindh, few people are actually seeking tests. More localities have been sealed in Lahore as part of the government’s targeted lockdown controls. On Thursday, Etihad Airways and Fly Dubai joined Emirates in suspending flight operations from Pakistan. The Pakistan Cricket Board is reportedly considering relaxing testing criteria for players to participate in an upcoming tour in England, requiring only one negative test as opposed to two. [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Budget Debate: National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser overruled a government budget proposal to cut the budgetary allocation to the assembly and the senate, endorsing a senate recommendation. The Punjab assembly passed amendments to the government’s initial budget proposal on Thursday, rejecting opposition amendments on party-line votes. The Federal Board of Revenue estimates a loss of Rs 30 billion due to tax exemptions given to top government, judicial, and military officials in the outgoing fiscal year. [Dawn] [The Nation] [ET] [ET]
  • State Bank Cuts Rate: In an unscheduled announcement on Thursday, the State Bank of Pakistan further cut its policy interest rate to 7 percent, its fifth cut in the past 100 days; rates have been cut by 6.25% during that time period. [ET] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Airline Association Expresses Concern Over ‘Serious Lapse’ on Pilot Licensing [Reuters] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Army Chief Addresses National Defense University [ET]
  • Five Accused Al Qaeda Militant Sentenced [Dawn]
  • Three Accused MQM Militants Arrested in Karachi [ET] [Dawn]
  • Signing Ceremony for Chinese Construction of Kohala Hydropower Project [ET] [ET]
  • K-Electric Blames Outages on Furnace Oil Shortage [Dawn] [ET]
  • War, Lies, and Hashtages: Pakistan’s Twitter Battles [AJE]
  • Report: Country Reports on Terrorism 2019: Pakistan – “Pakistan took modest steps in 2019 to counter terror financing and to restrain some India-focused militant groups following the February attack on a security convoy in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir claimed by Pakistan-based JeM.  Thus far, however, Islamabad has yet to take decisive actions against Indian- and Afghanistan-focused militants who would undermine their operational capability.” [State Department]
  • Commentary: Will the Afghan Peace Process Be Pakistan’s Road to Redemption? – “By February 2020, when the U.S.-Taliban peace deal was signed, Pakistan had not only propelled itself back into America’s good graces, it was testing out an ambitious new approach to foreign policy, hoping that it could begin to shed its image of a state associated with terror.” [Madiha Afzal, Brookings]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Afghanistan Accused of Forced Child Trafficking: In a new annual human trafficking report on Thursday, the State Department included Afghanistan among ten countries accused of government-sponsored forced labor, citing the “policy or pattern” of child soldier recruitment and sexual abuse. Inclusion on the reports ‘Tier Three’ of countries brings the risk of restrictions on non-humanitarian assistance in the next fiscal year, although the president may waive such sanctions. [Trafficking Report (pdf)]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan met with Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Bajwa on Thursday to discuss “matters arising from his recent Kabul visit, [the] Afghan peace process, upcoming APAPPS meeting, strengthening bilateral relations and the current situation in the region”. In a UN Security Council briefing on Thursday, UN special representative Deborah Lyons said that she was “cautiously optimistic” that talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban could start within the next few weeks. [TOLO]
  • Saleh Accused of Threats: Newly leaked audio dating to his time as interior minister appears to show Vice Pres. Amrullah Saleh directing police to kill anyone who defies police orders while operating on the Kabul-Parwan highway; Saleh’s office said that the tape had been forged. [Khabarnama]
  • Corruption Investigations: Speaking on Thursday, US Special Inspector General John Sopko accused the government of “only paying lip service” to anti-corruption efforts, which he suggested was “the most insidious threat the Afghan government faces” and warned would “weaken the government’s bargaining position during future peace negotiations”. On Thursday, the central bank announced the suspension of four officials on charges of corruption, which have been referred to the Attorney General’s Office.

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of Friday, the ministry of public health reports 30,451 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 69,558 tests, with at least 638 associated deaths. TOLO notes discrepancies in MOPH statements regarding ventilators donated to support the government’s coronavirus response, after earlier reports that as many as 32 ventilators had been smuggled to Pakistan.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghanistan Struggles with Fate of ‘Daesh Wives’ [Guardian]
  • Report: Afghanistan’s Fight Against Corruption: Crucial for Peace and Prosperity – “This report recommends that the government develop a realistic long-term strategy that builds on past achievements; that the Anti-Corruption Commission be swiftly established; that the law-enforcement capacity dedicated to corruption investigations and related arrests be boosted; that oversight and management of public resources be strengthened; and that justice sector reforms be prioritized by fostering judicial independence.” [UNAMA (pdf)]
  • Commentary: New World Drug Report: Opium Production in Afghanistan Remained the Same in 2019 – “With almost no eradication and diminishing alternative livelihoods initiatives, government actions had almost no effect on illicit farming.” [Jelena Bjelica, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Afghan Security Forces Reporting High Rates of COVID; PIA Grounding At Least 150 Pilots

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Topline

  • The Washington Post reports that some Afghan security forces units are facing infection rates of as high as 60-90%; officials figures are classified, and testing availability is extremely limited. The Afghan ministry of public health reports 30,175 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 68,626 tests, with at least 675 associated deaths.
  • In remarks at a USIP event on Wednesday, Abdullah Abdullah said that the government was “open to discussing” the formation of an interim government if raised by the Taliban in intra-Afghan talks, saying that “we are hesitant to drop conditions before the start of our conversations, but the decision will lie when we have the talks… Let’s get to the negotiating table.”
  • In remarks on Wednesday, Pakistani Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said that the government was grounding approximately 150 PIA pilots in order to scrutinize their licenses, which he said had been found to be “dubious”.
  • The number of new coronavirus cases reported in Pakistan has fallen from a recent peak; as of Thursday, Pakistan reports 192,970 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 1.171 million tests, with at least 3,903 associated deaths. Sindh Health Minister Azra Fazal Pechuho warned that the pandemic could continue for a year and that second and third waves of the coronavirus were “inevitable”.
  • On Wednesday, the Balochistan High Court nullified the appointment of finance advisor Hafeez Shaikh to the National Finance Commission and ordered the appointment of a “non-political individual” to represent Balochistan on the commission. The senate approved amendment recommendations for the government’s budget proposal, including a 10% increase in government employee salaries. The IMF has lowered its forecast for Pakistan’s GDP growth rate in the next fiscal year to one percent.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Plane Crash Inquiry: Speaking in the national assembly on Wednesday while briefing members of the preliminary findings of an investigation into a Pakistan International Airlines crash in Karachi last month, Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said that the government was grounding approximately 150 PIA pilots in order to scrutinize their licenses, which he said had been found to be “dubious”. PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari called for Sarwar’s resignation, calling for an independent inquiry into the crash. [WSJ] [AP]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: Judge Qazi Faez Isa’s wife has filed a report with Islamabad police, alleging that her husband and family have received death threats after last week’s Supreme Court ruling quashing a government disciplinary case against him. On Thursday, former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf was acquitted in the Rental Power Plant case against him. New petitions have sought the deportation of American disinformation publicist Cynthia Ritchie. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: Special assistant to the prime minister Shahzad Akbar has been elevated to membership in the PTI party’s core leadership committee. Gilgit-Baltistan caretaker chief minister Mir Afzal was sworn in on Wednesday. [ET]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: PM Khan met with members of his ‘Tiger Force’ volunteer initiative on Thursday, urging the public to follow government health protocols. The number of new coronavirus cases reported in Pakistan has fallen from a recent peak; as of Thursday, Pakistan reports 192,970 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 1.171 million tests, with at least 3,903 associated deaths. Sindh Health Minister Azra Fazal Pechuho warned that the pandemic could continue for a year and that second and third waves of the coronavirus were “inevitable”. The government will impose new screening on outgoing flight passengers, following the temporary suspension by Emirates of its services from Pakistan. Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar ordered officials to maintain price controls for medicines and other essential items. [The Nation] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Budget Planning: On Wednesday, the Balochistan High Court nullified the appointment of finance advisor Hafeez Shaikh to the National Finance Commission and ordered the appointment of a “non-political individual” to represent Balochistan on the commission. In senate debate on Wednesday, the upper house approved amendment recommendations for the government’s budget proposal, including a 10% increase in government employee salaries. The State Bank of Pakistan confirmed the receipt of $1 billion in lending from the Asian Development Bank and World Bank on Wednesday. [The Nation] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Economic Indicators: The IMF has lowered its forecast for Pakistan’s GDP growth rate in the next fiscal year to one percent. As of May, Pakistan’s current account deficit for the first 11 months of the fiscal year total $3.29 billion, a 73.6% decline year-on-year; overall exports have fallen by 7% during the same period, to $20.94 billion. [ET] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Journalists Allegedly Tortured in Response to Reporting on Chaman Quarantine Center Conditions [RFE/RL]
  • NEPRA to Investigate Karachi Loadshedding Complaints [Dawn] [ET]
  • Diamer-Bhasha Dam Contractors Begin Work at Site [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: In remarks at a USIP event on Wednesday, Abdullah Abdullah said that the government was “open to discussing” the formation of an interim government if raised by the Taliban in intra-Afghan talks, saying that “we are hesitant to drop conditions before the start of our conversations, but the decision will lie when we have the talks… Let’s get to the negotiating table.” [Reuters] [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of Thursday, the ministry of public health reports 30,175 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 68,626 tests, with at least 675 associated deaths. The Washington Post reports that some Afghan security forces units are facing infection rates of as high as 60-90%; officials figures are classified, and testing availability is extremely limited. The ministry of finance reports an estimated loss of $285 million in revenues in the second quarter of the current year due to the pandemic; customs revenues have fallen 20% due to border closures and a decline in imports. The MOPH reportedly owes $29 million for the purchase of health equipment and are seeking an additional $150 million to support coronavirus response efforts. [Khabarnama]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Parliament to Investigate Recent Clashes Between Locals and Nomads in Wardak [TOLO] [Khabarnama]
  • Son of Prominent Afghan Scholar Self-Immolates in Iran to Protest Discrimination [RFE/RL]
  • Ministry of IT Seeking to Expand Internet Access [Khabarnama] [Ariana News]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: India Expels Pakistani Embassy Staff; ICC President Criticizes US Pushback Over Inquiry

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Topline

  • On Tuesday, the Indian foreign ministry ordered Pakistan to reduce its embassy staffing in New Delhi by half within the next week, following the detention and expulsion of two Indian staff last week. Foreign Minister Qureshi said Wednesday that India’s actions “amounts to a clear violation of the Vienna Conventions” and said that Pakistan had responded with a matching demand for the reduction of Indian staffing at its embassy in Islamabad.
  • In a Guardian interview, the president of the International Criminal Court criticized punitive measures ordered by the U.S. State Department against ICC prosecutors and their family members after the court moved to open investigations against U.S., Afghan, and Taliban forces over potential war crimes in the Afghanistan conflict.
  • As of Wednesday, Pakistan reports 188,925 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 1.15 million tests, with at least 3,755 associated deaths. Seven more Pakistani cricket players have tested positive for the coronavirus in advance of a planned tour of England in August, for ten cases total; the Pakistan Cricket Board said that the tour nonetheless remains “on track”.
  • As of Wednesday, the Afghan ministry of public health reports 29,715 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 67,451 tests, with at least 639 associated deaths.
  • A cabinet meeting in Islamabad on Tuesday reportedly devolved into a dispute between ministers after remarks by federal science minister Fawad Chaudhry in an interview the day prior, in which he criticized intra-party rivalries and the role of non-elected advisors.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: On Tuesday, the Indian ministry of external affairs ordered Pakistan to reduce its embassy staffing in New Delhi by half within the next week, following the detention and expulsion of two Indian staff last week; India accused Pakistan of “barbaric treatment” of its personnel, and said that Pakistani diplomats had been “engaged with acts of espionage and maintained dealings with terrorist organizations”. Pakistan dismissed the allegations as a pretext to seek the reductions; Foreign Minister Qureshi said Wednesday that India’s actions “amounts to a clear violation of the Vienna Conventions” and said that Pakistan had responded with a matching demand for the reduction of Indian staffing at its embassy in Islamabad. Qureshi suggested that India had taken the action “after being beaten and embarrassed” by China in their border dispute in Ladakh. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: The Express Tribune notes that disciplinary charges filed against Sindh High Court judge K.K. Agha, filed at the same time as proceedings were initiated by the government last year against Supreme Court judge Qazi Faez Isa, have yet to be resolved. At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the PTI government reiterated a commitment to initiate investigations against sugar mill owners identified in a recent inquiry commission. Separately, however, the Sindh High Court stayed action while hearing a petition from mill owners against the investigation; the Islamabad High Court had previously dismissed a matching petition. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: Tuesday’s cabinet meeting reportedly devolved into a dispute between ministers after remarks by federal science minister Fawad Chaudhry in an interview the day prior, in which he criticized intra-party rivalries and the role of non-elected advisors, including PTI leader Jahangir Tareen. Punjab information minister Fayazul Hassan Chohan called for Chaudhry to resign in an interview on Tuesday. Separately, former police chief Mir Afzal has been appointed caretaker chief minister for Gilgit Baltistan ahead of elections. [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of Wednesday, Pakistan reports 188,925 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 1.15 million tests, with at least 3,755 associated deaths. Seven more Pakistani cricket players have tested positive for the coronavirus in advance of a planned tour of England in August, for ten cases total; the Pakistan Cricket Board said that the tour nonetheless remains “on track”. Emirates temporarily suspended flights from Pakistan “through early next week” after passengers tested positive for the coronavirus. The Express Tribune reports shortages of medicines in Punjab as cases have risen there. The Guardian reports a growing black market for blood plasma from recovered patients. The Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial government is considering a proposal to allow the reopening of wedding halls. [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Budget Debate: Balochistan Awami Party leader Jam Kamal Khan Alyani said that his party “has not taken any decision, or made any announcement, to quit the PTI-led coalition government so far”, but said that it would protest current allocations to the province proposed in the federal development budget. On Tuesday, the Balochistan High Court ruled against the formation of the National Finance Commission, ordering that new appointments be made. Several PTI lawmakers criticized the government’s budget proposals in national assembly debate on Tuesday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • PIA Crash Report Blames Pilot Error [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Chinese Military Medical Delegation Meets with Army Chief [ET]
  • ‘Digital Pakistan’ Program Awarded to Company Linked to Jahangir Tareen [Dawn]
  • Islamabad High Court Refuses to Stay Government Action Against Oil Marketing Companies [ET]
  • Senate Finance Committee Approves Tax Concessions for Gwadar Port [ET]
  • Reporters Boycott Balochistan Assembly Session in Protest of Colleagues’ Arrests in Chaman [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Seeks Conference Between Government Representatives and AQ Khan Over Security Complaints [Dawn] [The Nation]

 

Afghanistan — Security

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • ICC Investigations: In a Guardian interview, the president of the International Criminal Court criticized punitive measures ordered by the U.S. State Department against ICC prosecutors and their family members after the court moved to open investigations against U.S., Afghan, and Taliban forces over potential war crimes in the Afghanistan conflict.

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Integrity Watch Afghanistan Accuses Government of Politicizing Ministry of Finance [TOLO]
  • Uzbekistan Special Representative Hold Talks with UK Counterpart on Afghan Peace Process [Khabarnama]
  • Nearly 340,000 Afghan Nationals Repatriated from Iran Since January [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PM Khan Again Opposes Full Lockdown; Five Attorney General Employees Killed in Kabul

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Topline

  • In remarks on Monday, PM Khan suggested that “if [the] provinces had consulted me, I would not have allowed a lockdown”, which he said was “not a solution to the pandemic”. As of Tuesday, Pakistan reports 184,731 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 1.126 million tests, with at least 3,695 associated deaths. Public hospitals in Lahore are reportedly nearly at capacity, and  oxygen price hikes have also been reported.
  • Five employees of the Afghan attorney general’s office were killed in an attack in Kabul on Monday; Amb. Khalilzad denounced the attack, saying it was “carried out by enemies of peace”; the Taliban denied responsibility and said they were “launching a comprehensive investigation” into the incident.
  • In a joint statement on following talks in Tehran on Sunday, the Afghan and Iranian foreign ministries “emphasized the need for a reduction in violence in Afghanistan aimed at building confidence and creating a positive environment for the quick start of the intra-Afghan negotiations, achieving a permanent ceasefire and ensuring enduring peace in Afghanistan”, and “agreed to take required measures” to prevent the reoccurrence of recent incidents in which several Afghan migrants had been killed.
  • As of Tuesday, the Afghan ministry of public health reports 29,481 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 66,800 tests, with at least 618 associated deaths.
  • A meeting of Pakistan’s Economic Coordination Committee approved an increase in the borrowing authorities of the provincial governments.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: Foreign Minister Qureshi and Azad Jammu and Kashmir president Masood Khan participated in a virtual conference of the Organization of the Islamic State on Monday, which focused on the ongoing Indian crackdown in Kashmir; Qureshi also spoke separately with his Saudi counterpart on the issue. [Dawn] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: An Islamabad accountability court is reportedly preparing to issue indictments against former Pres. Zardari and other suspects in a money laundering case at the next hearing of the case on July 7. On Monday, the Islamabad High Court cleared the Federal Investigation Agency to investigate a PPP complaint against alleged defamatory tweets by American disinformation publicist Cynthia Ritchie. [The Nation] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: Opposition and government lawmakers sparred over the government’s budget proposal, its management of the economy, and its coronavirus response in the upper and lower house of parliament on Monday. PM Khan reviewed development plans for the former FATA districts at a meeting on Monday. Khan is chairing a cabinet meeting on Tuesday. [The Nation] [ET] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: PM Khan reviewed the government’s pandemic response at a meeting on Monday, ordering the formulation of “clear standard operating procedures” for the upcoming Eid ul Azha period in July, and for the use of the government’s “Tiger Force” volunteer program in enforcing the implementation of “smart lockdowns”. In separate remarks, Khan suggested that “if [the] provinces had consulted me, I would not have allowed a lockdown”, which he said was “not a solution to the pandemic”. As of Tuesday, Pakistan reports 184,731 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 1.126 million tests, with at least 3,695 associated deaths. In Punjab, at least 1,177 healthcare workers have reportedly tested positive for the virus; public hospitals in Lahore are reportedly nearly at capacity. Oxygen price hikes have also been reported. A coalition of Sindh doctors’ unions withdrew from a protest on Monday, allowing the reopening of outpatient departments. The Express Tribune reports an increase in typhoid cases in Khyber Paktunkhwa alongside the coronavirus. Three Pakistani cricket players who had been set to participate in a tour in England have tested positive for the virus. [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Budget Planning: Speaking to the senate finance committee on Monday, Federal Board of Revenue official Hamid Ateeq Sarwar said that the government’s tax collection projections for the coming fiscal year were based on an assumption that the economy would recover from the coronavirus pandemic by the end of September. The Express Tribune notes that the Punjab provincial government budget includes a commitment to generating a surplus of Rs 125 billion in revenue in order to help the federal government meet its deficit targets. A meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet approved an increase to the borrowing authorities of the provincial governments. [ET] [ET] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Four Militant Suspects Killed in Peshawar Raid [AP]
  • Karachi Anti-Terrorism Court Seeks Production of Former Lyari Gang Leader Uzair Baloch [ET]
  • Army Chief Visits Naval War College [ET]
  • PIA Crash Inquiry Report to Be Presented in National Assembly; Human Error Blamed [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Islamabad High Court Rejects Plea to Stop FIA Probe Into Fuel Crisis Case [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: Five people were killed in an attack on a vehicle carrying employees of the Afghan attorney general’s office in Kabul on Monday; there was no claim of responsibility for the attack, but the attorney general’s office blamed the Taliban for the shooting. Amb. Khalilzad denounced the attack, saying it was “carried out by enemies of peace”; the Taliban denied responsibility and said they were “launching a comprehensive investigation” into the incident. In a statement, Pres. Ghani called on the Taliban to “renounce violence”. In a separate attack, a Kapisa appeals court judge was killed in the provincial capital on Tuesday morning. At least 12 Afghan security personnel were reportedly killed in a Taliban attack on their checkpost early Tuesday morning in the Dasht-e-Archi district in Kunduz. Six policemen were killed in another attack in the Chahar Bolak district in Balkh over Monday night. A member of Afghanistan’s Sikh minority community was kidnapped in Paktia on Monday, prompting a statement of condemnation by the Indian external affairs ministry; no claim of responsibility has been reported. [Khabarnama] [Khabarnama] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Regional Diplomacy: In a joint statement on following talks in Tehran on Sunday, the Afghan and Iranian foreign ministries “emphasized the need for a reduction in violence in Afghanistan aimed at building confidence and creating a positive environment for the quick start of the intra-Afghan negotiations, achieving a permanent ceasefire and ensuring enduring peace in Afghanistan”, and “agreed to take required measures” to prevent the reoccurrence of recent incidents in which several Afghan migrants had been killed. Special Envoy Khalilzad held talks with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, on Monday. Separately, the Uzbekistan special representative for Afghanistan held talks with the Pakistani special representative to discuss the Afghan peace process. [Khabarnama]

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PTI Govt Won’t Appeal Ruling on Judge’s Case; Afghan Security Forces Face Record Casualties

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Topline

  • PTI government officials said they would not challenge the Supreme Court ruling on Friday quashing an initial set of disciplinary charges against Judge Qazi Faez Isa, but would direct the Federal Board of Revenue to move ahead at the court’s order to investigate Isa’s assets. The Pakistan Bar Council plans to challenge the FBR investigation as well.
  • In a statement on Sunday, the Afghan National Security Council reported that at least 291 Afghan security personnel had been killed in 422 attacks across the country in the past week; another 550 were wounded, in what it said was the deadliest week for Afghan security forces casualties in the past 19 years. On Saturday, the NSC said that 42 civilians had been killed and 105 wounded over the past week.
  • Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar met with Pakistan’s special envoy for Afghanistan and with UNAMA special representative Deborah Lyons in Qatar.
  • A Pakistani teenage girl was killed and two other civilians wounded in cross-border firing along the Line of Control in Kashmir over Saturday night. Two Indian embassy staffers detained after a traffic accident last week were transferred back over the Wagah border crossing on Monday; they were previously reported to have been released after their initial arrest.
  • Foreign Minister Hanif Atmar met with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Tehran on Sunday for discussions following the deaths last month of Afghan refugees in Iran in two major incidents.
  • BNP-M leader Sardar Akhtar Mengal has rebuffed outreach from the PTI to rejoin the government coalition, and is reportedly preparing to formally join the opposition benches in parliament. Mengal met with JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman on Saturday.
  • As of Monday, Pakistan reports 181,088 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 1.102 million tests, with at least 3,590 associated deaths. At a press conference on Sunday, health advisor Zafar Mirza noted that 72% of all COVID-related deaths were individuals over the age of 50, urging senior citizens to avoid public gatherings. On Friday, Pakistan signed agreements with the WB, ADB, and AIIB totaling $1.5 billion to support its response to the pandemic.
  • As of Monday, the Afghan ministry of public health reports 29,143 confirmed COVID-19 cases out of 65,847 tests, with at least 598 associated deaths. As many as 20 people at the U.S. embassy in Kabul have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, the majority of the Nepalese Ghurka guards.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: A Pakistani teenage girl was killed and two other civilians wounded in cross-border firing along the Line of Control in Kashmir over Saturday night, the Pakistani military reported. Pakistan formally protested the incident with the Indian embassy on Sunday. On Monday, Pakistani authorities released two Indian embassy staffers who had been detained following a traffic accident in Islamabad last week, returning them across the Wagah border crossing; previous reports had suggested that they were released shortly after their initial arrest. The Organization of the Islamic Conference will host a virtual meeting on the situation in Kashmir on Monday, at Pakistan’s request. [ET] [ET]
  • Waziristan Attacks: Two Pakistani army soldiers were killed in an attack on their convoy in North Waziristan on Sunday; no claim of responsibility was reported. [AP] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Supreme Court Ruling in Judicial Disciplinary Case: Additional reporting covers the Supreme Court ruling on Friday that quashed a government case against Judge Qazi Faez Isa, on charges that he and his family members had held undeclared assets abroad. Speaking at a press conference after the verdict, special assistant to the prime minister Shahzad Akbar said that the government would not appeal the ruling, but that the Federal Board of Revenue would begin an investigation into Judge Isa’s family’s assets, as directed by the court. The Pakistan Bar Council is preparing a further legal challenge against the FBR investigation. On Saturday, PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari reiterated a call for investigations into the government’s previous charges agaist Judge Isa. [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Other Corruption Investigations and Legal Battles: In a meeting of PTI party leaders on Saturday, PM Khan repeated a pledge to take action against sugar mill owners found to have profited from price hikes earlier this year. On Saturday, the Islamabad High Court ruled against the formation of a new inquiry commission to be led by special assistant Shahzad Akbar. The Nation reports that Islamabad police view allegations of sexual assault brought by American disinformation publicist Cynthia Ritchie against PPP leader Rehman Malik as “unsubstantiated”; an Islamabad court has ordered the conclusion of arguments in a case brought by the PPP against Ritchie by June 24. The National Accountability Bureau arrested four people in Sukkur accused of misappropriated government wheat stocks. [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: BNP-M leader Sardar Akhtar Mengal has rebuffed outreach from the PTI to rejoin the government coalition, and is reportedly preparing to formally join the opposition benches in parliament; talks with a PTI delegation are continuing, however. Mengal met with JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman on Saturday, voicing opposition to any changes to provincial autonomy provisions guaranteed under the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. Separately, former MQM leader Muhammad Anwar alleged that the party had received funds from the Indian intelligence services. [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Interior Minister Touts ‘Unprecedented Success’ Against Terrorism [ET]
  • Preliminary Report on PIA Crash Expected Monday [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Former Lahore Police Officer Abducted After Criticizing Police Abuses [ET]
  • Two MQM Activists Arrested [ET] [ET]
  • Religious Leader Mufti Naeem Passes Away from Heart Attack [ET]
  • ADB Agrees to $235M Loan for Karachi Bus Rapid Transit System [ET]
  • Government Announces Rs 14 Billion to Counter Locust Swarms [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • FDI Rises to $2.4 Billion in May [ET]
  • Italian Oil Exploration Firm Planning Exit from Pakistan [ET] [Bloomberg]
  • 1400 MW Additional Electricity for Karachi Approved [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: In a statement on Sunday, the National Security Council reported that at least 291 Afghan security personnel had been killed in 422 attacks across the country in the past week; another 550 were wounded. The NSC said this was the deadliest week for Afghan security forces casualties in the past 19 years, saying that “Taliban’s commitment to reduce violence is meaningless, and their actions inconsistent with their rhetoric on peace.” On Saturday, the NSC said that 42 civilians had been killed and 105 wounded over the past week. The deputy provincial governor of Daikundi province accused the Taliban on Sunday of having taken approximately 60 civilians hostage over the past week; around 26 civilians are reported to have later been freed. The Taliban denied the allegations. Nuristan provincial governor Hafiz Abdul Qayyum survived an attack on his convoy in Kabul on Sunday morning; one of his bodyguards was killed. No claim of responsibility was reported for the attack. The head of the Herat customs department survived a roadside bombing near the Iranian border on Saturday. At least 15 militiamen were reportedly killed in attacks on multiple checkposts in the Namakab and Chahab districts in Takhar on Saturday night. Taliban fighters attacked a police station in Baghlan’s Nahrin district over Saturday night; officials say three police officers and two Taliban fighters were killed. A prayer leader at a mosque in the Dand-e-Ghori district in Baghlan was killed on Saturday; police accused the Taliban of killing him after he performed funeral services for a police commander. Two Afghan army officers were killed in an attack in the Nahri Saraj district in Helmand on Friday. A roadside bombing in the Paghman district in Kabul killed four family members of Assadullah Walwalji, a prominent national writer. [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khabarnama] [Khabarnama] [Khaama Press] [Ariana News]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: Pakistani special envoy for Afghanistan Mohammad Sadiq Khan met with Taliban leader Mullah Baradar in Qatar last week, the Taliban confirmed, saying they had “discussed with him problems being faced by the Afghan refugees, businessmen and travelers” as well as “the coming intra-Afghan negotiations”. Baradar also met with UN Special Representative Deobrah Lyons over the weekend to discuss the peace process and “cooperation for the prevention of spread of COVID-19”. A spokeswoman for the state ministry of peace affairs said that “arrangements will be made for the venue and date of intra-Afghan talks” after “the completion of the prisoners swap between the two sides and a halt in the violence”. [TOLO]
  • Tensions with Iran: Foreign Minister Hanif Atmar met with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Tehran on Sunday for discussions following the deaths last month of Afghan refugees in Iran in two high-profile incidents; the two sides are reported to be working on a “comprehensive cooperation agreement covering economics, transit, political and border security that will be finalized within the next three months”. [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: Minister of Public Health Ahmad Jawad Osmani claimed on Sunday that new coronavirus cases were peaking; as of Monday, the ministry reports 29,143 confirmed COVID-19 cases out of 65,847 tests, with at least 598 associated deaths. As many as 20 people at the U.S. embassy in Kabul have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, the majority of the Nepalese Ghurka guards. The embassy has not confirmed a specific number of cases but said affected staff had been quarantined and that other staff were being tested. Pajhwok reports that 32 ventilators donated to the ministry of public health were stolen and smuggled to Pakistan for sale.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Abdullah Cabinet Choices Remain Stalled [TOLO]
  • Afghan Mothers Appeal for MSF to Continue Kabul Clinic Operations [TOLO]
  • Parliament Seeks to Block Media Law Amendments [TOLO] [TOLO] [Ariana News]
  • Report; Deliberate Attacks on Healthcare in Afghanistan During COVID-19 Pandemic – “The report documents 15 incidents [between March 11-May 23] affecting healthcare provision, where 12 were deliberate attacks and the remaining incidents involved incidental harm. Most of these healthcare-related incidents – eight of the targeted attacks and two of the incidents with incidental harm – were attributed to the Taliban.” [UNAMA]
  • Report: UNAMA Quarterly Report to UN Security Council – “Between 7 February and 14 May, UNAMA recorded 5,543 security-related incidents, a 2 per cent decrease compared with the same period in 2019.” [UNAMA (pdf)]