Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Ghani Extends Ceasefire, But Taliban Refuse to Reciprocate; Nawaz Extends London Stay

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Topline

  • Following images of Taliban and government soldiers celebrating the Eid ceasefire, Pres. Ghani announced on Saturday a ten-day extension to the government’s ceasefire, through the end of the month. The Taliban’s spokesman refused to reciprocate, however; anonymous Taliban sources tell the Guardian the insurgent leadership met on Sunday and that hardliners were alarmed at the reports of fraternization between the two sides, although other sources suggest that the insurgents might agree to another ceasefire during Eid al-Adha in September.
  • The ceasefire appears to have been broadly observed by both sides through Sunday evening, but the Islamic State claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing outside Jalalabad on Saturday that killed at least 36 people and wounded scores more; many of the victims were reported to be Taliban fighters. Another bombing in Jalalabad on Sunday killed at least 19 people; no immediate claim of responsibility for that attack was reported. On Monday, a district governor in Nangarhar was killed, and Taliban fighters attacked several districts in Farah province, killing at least five police officers.
  • Pres. Ghani spoke by phone with Pakistan’s caretaker prime minister and army chief on Friday, confirming earlier reports that TTP commander Maulana Fazlullah had been killed in a US drone strike. The TTP have not named a successor or confirmed Fazlullah’s death.
  • Nawaz Sharif’s wife Kulsoom Nawaz remains in critical condition in London, and her family has delayed plans to return to Pakistan as she remains on life support.
  • As many as 122 candidates have been identified as dual nationals by the Federal Investigation Agency, although some disputed those charges. The process of candidate scrutiny will conclude on Tuesday. Separately, the Election Commission has rejected Balochistan High Court orders to redraw constituency boundaries in Quetta district.
  • A convoy of peace activists arrived in Kabul on Monday after a 38-day march by foot from Helmand.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • TTP Chief Killed: Pres. Ghani spoke by phone with Chief of Army Staff Bajwa and caretaker PM Mulk on Friday, confirming earlier reports that Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan leader Maulana Fazlullah had been killed in a US drone strike in Kunar earlier in the week. The Pakistani military said that Fazlullah’s death was a “positive development”. Ghani’s office said that he had also “urged the PM and COAS to take practical steps to bring Afghan Taliban residing in Pakistan to the negotiation table”. The TTP has yet to confirm Fazlullah’s death or announce a successor. Separately on Monday, the Federal Investigation Agency reportedly arrested a senior TTP commander, identified as Bahadur Jan, who was attempting to fly from Peshawar to Dubai. [WSJ] [WAPO] [AP] [TOLO] [ET]
  • Quetta Attack: Three paramilitary soldiers were killed in a driveby shooting targeting their vehicle in Quetta on Saturday; no claim of responsibility has been reported. [AP] [ET]
  • North Waziristan Attack: Three Pakistani soldiers were killed in a cross-border attack in North Waziristan on Friday, the military announced; five attackers were also reportedly killed, but no claim of responsibility was reported.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Kulsoom Nawaz Still in Critical Condition: Kulsoom Nawaz reportedly remains in stable but critical condition, and remains sedated and on life support; her son Hasan Nawaz said that she had not suffered internal bleeding after suffering a heart attack last week. Shehbaz Sharif arrived in London on Saturday to visit his sister-in-law; other members of the Sharif family have reportedly postponed plans to return to Pakistan. A former PTI member was briefly detained by police after entering Kulsoom’s hospital room without authorization on Friday; he denied wrongdoing and was not arrested. [The Nation]
  • Election Administration: The Federal Investigation Agency has reportedly identified 122 candidates for the national and provincial assemblies who hold dual nationality, including several high-profile politicians; some disputed those charges, however. The process of candidate scrutiny is due to conclude on June 19, followed by an appeals process. On Friday, the Election Commission rejected orders from the Balochistan High Court to redraw constituency boundaries in Quetta, upholding its earlier delimitation plan. On Saturday, the PTI called on the caretaker administration to remove the head of the Intelligence Bureau, accusing him of “running a political cell” to benefit the PML-N. [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: On Friday, the National Accountability Bureau opened another new investigation against Nawaz Sharif and his family, after journalist Asad Kharal — who survived an attack in Islamabad earlier this month — filed a petition accusing him of illegal foreign money transfers. [The Nation] [ET]
  • Election Campaigning and Other Political Activity: The rival factions of the MQM-Pakistan led by Farooq Sattar and Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui are reportedly seeking to reconcile ahead of the elections, but Sattar himself appears to be excluded from reconciliation offers, after he lost a challenge over the party’s official leadership. PPP sources tell The Nation that party leaders will focus on candidate ticket allocations in south Punjab after Eid. The PML-N announced its slate of Sindh candidates on Saturday. Jamaat-e-Islami leader Siraj-ul Haq tells Dawn that the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal alliance will reach a consensus over candidate endorsements after Eid, acknowledging that the parties currently appear to be “working at cross purposes”. The PTI has ruled out a seat adjustment agreement with former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who is now contesting as an independent candidate; Chaudhry Nisar himself also denied any agreement with the PTI. [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Army Chief Visits Line of Control for Eid [ET]
  • President Hussain to Visit Tajikistan for Four-Day Visit [ET] [The Nation]
  • World Bank Pledges $460M for Khyber Pass Economic Corridor [ET] [TOLO]
  • Federal Govt Yet to Pay Rs 2.83 Billion in Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metrobus Subsidies [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Ghani Extends Ceasefire, But Taliban Do Not Reciprocate: In remarks on Saturday, Pres. Ghani announced the extension of the government’s ceasefire, previously due to end on June 20; Ghani did not initially specify the duration of the extension at the time, but a National Security Council meeting on Sunday set the extension for ten days. Ghani reiterated that he was ready for “comprehensive peace and talks” and indicated a willingness to discuss the future presence of international forces. US, UN, and NATO officials again endorsed the government’s ceasefire move and echoed his calls for the Taliban to do the same. In his remarks Ghani noted widely distributed images and reports of Taliban and Afghan government forces embracing and conducting joint prayers. Interior Minister Wais Barmak met with Taliban fighters outside Kabul on Saturday. Leaders of the Afghan High Peace Council reiterated calls to extend their ceasefire on Sunday. However, the Taliban’s spokesman said Sunday that the group would not extend its ceasefire past that evening; the Guardian reports that the Taliban leadership met on Sunday and had been “stunned by the jubilant scenes”, and that some hardliners were alarmed over “mixing with Afghan forces”. A Taliban statement on Sunday ordered commanders to “stop mujahedeen from attending such gatherings”, warning of potential risks of civilian casualties following a bombing in Nangarhar on Saturday, noted below. Former NDS chief Amrullah Saleh also warned that allowing the Taliban entry into government-controlled areas was a “grave mistake” on the part of the government. Other Taliban sources tell the Guardian that the Taliban are considering another ceasefire at the next Eid festival in September. On Monday, five Afghan policemen were killed in a coordinated Taliban attack on several districts in Farah province. [NYT] [WAPO] [WSJ] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Pajhwok]
  • Nangarhar Bombings Disrupt Ceasefires: Overall reports suggest that the Eid ceasefire was broadly observed by both government and Taliban forces, although the Washington Post reports that it began to deteriorate before the official conclusion on Sunday evening in some locations. However, a suicide bombing attack killed at least 36 people and wounded more than 65 at one of the celebrations between government and Taliban forces in the Rodat district outside the Nangarhar capital of Jalalabad on Saturday; the Islamic State claimed responsibility, describing the target as “a gathering of Afghan forces”. Police sources indicate that many of the casualties were Taliban fighters. Another bombing in Jalalabad on Sunday reportedly killed at least 19 people and wounded 60 or more; no immediate claim of responsibility was reported. [NYT] [WSJ] [Guardian] [AFP] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: The ministry of defense announced on Sunday that its forces had killed an unidentified “foreign militant” and arrested three Urdu-speaking women in a raid in the Dishu district in Helmand. An Afghan airstrike on a group of ISIS fighters in Kunar’s Chapa Dara district on Monday reportedly killed two. The acting district governor for Nangarhar’s Ghani Khail district was killed in an shooting on Monday; no claim of responsibility was reported. [Khaama Press]
  • Dutch to Increase Afghan Deployment: On Friday, the Dutch defense ministry announced that it would “extend and intensify” its mission to Afghanistan, deploying 60 additional personnel to Balkh province and six to Kabul. [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Marchers Arrive in Kabul: A small group of activists who marched by foot from Helmand to call for peace and a ceasefire to the conflict between the government and Taliban arrived in Kabul on Monday after a 38-day long trek. Several of the marchers were treated for injuries and dehyrdration after their arrival. The NYT and Reuters profile and interview some of the marchers. [AP] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ghani Meets with IDP Representatives [TOLO]
  • Afghan Sikh Leader Holds out Hope for Dwindling Minority [AP]
  • Karzai Reverses, Says He Will Not Run for President Again [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Pentagon Admits Afghanistan’s New Black Hawks Can’t Match Its Older Russian Choppers – “A new official report raises serious concerns about whether the new helicopters will actually hurt the Afghan military’s ability to operate.” [Joseph Trevithick, The Drive]
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Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: TTP Chief Fazlullah Reportedly Killed in Kunar Drone Strike; Ghani Welcomes Eid Ceasefire

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Topline

  • Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan commander Maulana Fazlullah has reportedly been killed in a U.S. drone strike in Kunar province earlier this week; a U.S. military official confirmed the strike took place, but the TTP has not confirmed his death as of this writing.
  • Pres. Ghani praised the Taliban’s ceasefire announcement in Eid remarks issued on Friday, as did US and NATO commander Gen. John Nicholson.
  • The ECP has begun forming election tribunals to hear appeals regarding the acceptance or rejection of candidate nomination papers; at a security meeting on Thursday, the ECP decided to seek army security for the ballot paper printing phase, beginning June 20.
  • The Afghan government freed around 180 Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin prisoners on Thursday as part of the peace agreement negotiated last year; more than 500 have been freed in total.
  • Nawaz Sharif’s wife Kulsoom Nawaz’s health has reportedly deteriorated, as she suffered a heart attack and lost consciousness on Thursday; he and his daughter Maryam Nawaz are currently in London to visit her.
  • On Thursday, the Peshawar High Court overturned a ban on the entry of PTM leader Mohsin Dawar to North Waziristan.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • TTP Leader Reportedly Killed in Kunar Strike: Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan leader Maulana Fazlullah was reportedly killed in a U.S. drone strike in Kunar province on Wednesday or early Thursday, along with four other senior commanders, according to Pakistani and Afghan military sources; a spokesman for the U.S. military confirmed that it had carried out a strike against “a senior leader of a designated terrorist organization,” but did not offer a confirmation of Fazlullah’s death. An Afghan defense ministry official told the AP that the strike took place in the Marawara district near the border with Pakistan. A TTP source tells Reuters that the group is still attempting to confirm whether Fazlullah was killed. [Reuters] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [TOLO]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Preparations: At a meeting on Thursday on security preparations for the upcoming elections, the Election Commission decided to request the deployment of army personnel at printing offices to guard ballot papers, beginning June 20. On Friday, the ECP formed an election tribunal for Khyber Paktunkhwa to hear appeals over the decisions by returning officers to accept or reject candidate nomination papers. Four new members were added to the Punjab caretaker cabinet on Friday. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Kulsoom Nawaz Health Deteriorates: Nawaz Sharif’s wife Kulsoom Nawaz suffered a heart attack and was placed on a ventilator on Thursday, the family announced shortly after arriving in London; she is reported to be unconscious. [AP] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • PHC Overturns Restrictions on PTM Leader: On Thursday, the Peshawar High Court voided a ban on the entry of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement leader Mohsin Dawar’s entry to North Waziristan; the court has not issued a detailed judgement.
  • Candidate Nominations and Other Political Activity: The Nation reports that the rival factions of the MQM-Pakistan in an attempt to reach an agreement on party tickets, despite the removal of Farooq Sattar as the party’s official leader. Protests continued outside Imran Khan’s home in Islamabad on Thursday over the distribution of party tickets. On Thursday, the PTI announced a slate of 24 national and 51 provincial assembly candidates for Sindh. Anonymous PPP sources acknowledge to Dawn that the party is struggling to identify top candidates in Punjab, many of whom have defected to the PTI. [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: On Thursday, the accountability court hearing corruption charges against Nawaz Sharif and his family ordered lawyers for the defense to start their final arguments after the Eid holidays. The Islamabad High Court heard arguments on Thursday related to the removal of PTI leader Zulfi Bukhari from the Exit Control List. The National Accountability Bureau has summoned former finance minister Miftah Ismail as part of an investigation into natural gas contracts during his earlier tenure as chairman of Sui Southern Gas Company. [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan Condemns Killing of Kashmiri Journalist Shujaat Bukhari [NYT] [AP] [Guardian] [Reuters] [The Nation]
  • Pakistan Air Force Officers Charged with Group Captain’s Murder [Dawn]
  • Rupee Declines Further Against the Dollar [ET]
  • Law Minister Proposes International Litigation Cell [ET]
  • Corruption Investigation into Malik Riaz Aide Transferred to Rawalpindi [Dawn]
  • Water Pressures Rise as Drought Meets Growing Population [Reuters] [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Ceasefire Agreement: In Eid remarks on Friday, Pres. Ghani expressed hopes that the ceasefire announced by the Taliban and the government would continue past the holiday period. NATO commander Gen. John Nicholson also issued an Eid message, stating that “this is the best opportunity for the Taliban to accept the peace offer, end the bloodshed, and be part of the solution to bring peace and a better life to his nation and the children of this country”. In a statement on Thursday, VP Dostum also welcomed the ceasefire. A small group of women activists marched in Jalalabad on Wednesday evening in support of the ceasefire. [TOLO] [Ariana News]
  • HIG Prisoners Freed: On Thursday, the government freed another 180 members of the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin as part of the peace agreement negotiated with the group last year; over 500 HIG members have reportedly been freed to date.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Senate Deputy Speaker Says Govt Failed to Investigate Zanbaq Square Attack [TOLO]
  • Fake IDs Reportedly Being Distributed in Paktia Districts [TOLO]
  • Report: Counternarcotics: Lessons from the U.S. Experience in Afghanistan – “Eradication efforts had no lasting impact, and eradication was not consistently conducted in the same geographic locations as development assistance. Alternative development programs were often too short-term, failed to provide sustainable alternatives to poppy, and sometimes even contributed to poppy production.” [SIGAR]
  • Commentary: A Window for Peace May Be Opening in Afghanistan – “After several years of trying to support peace as the U.N. secretary general’s special representative for Afghanistan, I strongly believe that the elements of a potential deal are now discernible through the haze and dust of war.” [Tadamichi Yamamoto, WAPO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Taliban Follow Ghani in Ceasefire Announcement; ECP Begins Candidate Scrutiny

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Note: The news returns to its regular daily update schedule from today, with a summary of the June 9 – 14th period following below. Apologies for the interruption in service and resulting length of this brief. Thanks for reading.

 

Topline

  • The Taliban followed Pres. Ghani in announcing an Eid ceasefire on Saturday, although Taliban spokesmen denied that the move was taken in response to the government’s action and said that attacks on foreign forces would continue. In an Eid message on Wednesday, Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhunzada called on the US to enter into direct negotiations with the Taliban, saying that the “only path to rescuing ourselves from all these calamities is for all American and other occupying forces to leave our country and for an independent, Islamic, intra-Afghan government to take root”.
  • Chief of Army Staff Bajwa visited Kabul on Tuesday for talks with Pres. Ghani and other Afghan officials; details of their discussions are limited, but the Pakistani military quoted Bajwa voicing support for the government’s peace efforts.
  • Despite the two sides’ ceasefire commitments, attacks continued around the country, including a Taliban assault on the Kohistan district in Faryab and a Islamic State-claimed suicide bombing in Kabul that killed more than a dozen people.
  • The Election Commission of Pakistan began scrutinizing candidate nomination forms on Tuesday after the closure of the nomination period on Monday; several hundred candidates are reported to have defaulted on bank loans or owe unpaid electricity dues. Caretaker PM Mulk appointed new provincial chief secretaries and police chiefs for all four provinces and Islamabad on Wednesday; the PTI has called for more replacements of other top bureaucrats.
  • Nawaz Sharif’s lawyer, Khawaja Haris, recused himself from the corruption trial against him on Monday after the Supreme Court ordered another one-month extension in proceedings; Nawaz denounced the court’s order as a form of “pre-poll rigging” and said that his fundamental rights were being violated.
  • The Milli Muslim League, Jamaat-ud-Dawa’s political party, was denied registration by the ECP on Wednesday; the party’s candidates are reportedly planning to contest under the banner of the already-registered Allah-o-Akhbar Tehreek party instead.
  • There are many reports on the efforts by Pakistani political parties to strategize over the allocation of party tickets for candidates; top party leaders from the major parties are contesting multiple constituencies, including in Karachi and Khyber Paktunkhwa. Former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan announced that he would not accept a PML-N ticket and would contest independently.
  • Pres. Ghani attended the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Beijing over the weekend, where other heads of state voiced support for the government’s peace efforts.
  • Ghani fired minister for water and power Ali Ahmad Osmani on Saturday; Osmani insisted that he would continue his duties, and Chief Executive Abdullah criticized the move. Separately, the minister of urban development announced his resignation on Wednesday.
  • Former Pres. Musharraf failed to appear before the Supreme Court on Thursday, which had offered conditional approval for his contesting of the upcoming elections were he to do so.
  • The Islamabad High Court upheld a challenge to MQM-Pakistan leader Farooq Sattar’s registration as the formal leader of the party, recognizing the Bahadurabad group’s Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui as the party leader instead.
  • Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission reports low rates of candidate filings for district council elections, and Reuters reports concerns among donor countries over the accuracy of voter registration numbers and persistent vacancies at the IEC.
  • The Pakistani rupee declined nearly 4% against the dollar at the start of the week; caretaker Finance Minister Shamshad Akhtar said that “market forces should decide” the value of the rupee and that it would not be “sustainable” to maintain a stable exchange rate. Akhtar noted declining foreign exchange reserves but said that the caretaker administration lacked a mandate to engage in talks with the IMF over a new loan program.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • PTM Protests: Following talks with government representatives on Tuesday, Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement leaders said that they had agreed to call off planned protests in North Waziristan; the two sides have scheduled another round of talks for June 22. On Friday, officials in South Waziristan banned all public gatherings for a month’s time. On Thursday, PTM leader Mohsin Dawar challenged his expulsion from North Waziristan at the Peshawar High Court. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Army Denies Involvement in Bukhari Abduction: Speaking to reporters last Friday, Pakistani military spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor denied any involvement on the part of the army in the brief abduction of columnist Gul Bukhari last week, insisting that “we actually want a thorough investigation in this case”. [Reuters] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Indian Border Clashes: At least four Indian paramilitary soldiers were killed in cross-border clashes in Kashmir on Wednesday; Pakistani officials denied involvement and blamed India for firing first. Earlier on Friday, two Pakistani civilians were wounded, and a Pakistani civilian was reportedly killed in firing on Tuesday.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Candidate Scrutiny Begins: Chief Election Commissioner Sardar Muhammad Raza met with caretaker Prime Minister Nasir-ul Mulk on Tuesday to brief him on election preparations. On Friday, the ECP altered the election schedule, extending the period for candidate scrutiny through June 19, and pushing back the appeals and withdrawal period as well. More than 19,000 candidates filed to contest the national and provincial assembly elections at the close of the application period on Monday, and the ECP began reviewing applications with the assistance of the Federal Board of Revenue, National Database and Registration Authority, and State Bank of Pakistan on Tuesday. Dawn reports that more than a hundred candidates have been flagged as being bank defaulters by the SPB, and more than 1,500 owe unpaid electricity bills. Several legal challenges have been filed against top party leaders, including Maryam Nawaz and Imran Khan. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [ET]
  • Nawaz Lawyer Quits Proceedings: On Sunday, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar gave a third extension to the deadline for the completion of anti-corruption court proceedings against Nawaz Sharif and his family, ordering daily proceedings over the next month. Nawaz’s lawyer, Khawaja Haris, recused himself from the case on Monday; Nawaz told a press conference afterwards that his fundamental rights were being violated in the case, and in remarks on Tuesday denounced the case as “pre-poll rigging” meant to influence the outcome of the July 25 polls. Nawaz appointed Jahangir Jadoon as his new lawyer on Thursday; the court has set June 19 as the date for final arguments. Separately, the court continued to press for action in investigations into allegations that the PML-N and other parties had received ISI support during the 1990 elections; in a statement, Nawaz denied receiving such support, as did the leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami and other politicians implicated in the investigation. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [ET]
  • Caretaker Administration: Following an ECP directive on Tuesday, PM Mulk appointed new provincial secretaries and provincial police chiefs for the four provinces and Islamabad on Wednesday; Dawn offers brief biographies of the appointees. At a meeting to discuss security plans for the elections on Thursday, the ECP announced plans for the military to oversee the printing and distribution of ballots. Caretaker cabinets took oaths of office in Punjab and Balochistan on Monday and Tuesday and in Khyber Paktunkhwa on Thursday. Dawn notes that the caretaker administration has yet to file details of their personal assets. Meanwhile, PTI leaders have called for the replacement of the head of the Benazir Income Support Program, the NADRA chairman, and the federal interior secretary, accusing them of bias in favor of the PML-N. Separately, Paktunkhwa Milli Awami Party leader Mehmood Khan Achakzai accused the ECP of discriminating against Pashtuns in drawing constituency boundaries for Balochistan, which he said his party would not accept. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • MML Denied Party Registration: On Wednesday, the ECP again denied the Jamaat-ud-Dawa-linked Milli Muslim League’s application for registration as a political party; the Islamabad High Court had ordered the ECP to review its previous decision on the matter. A spokesman for the MML indicated that it would challenge the ruling; the Express Tribune reports that the party’s candidates will contest under the banner of the “Allah-o-Akhbar Tehreek” party, which has already received registration approval. JuD leader Hafiz Saeed’s son, Hafiz Talha Saeed, has filed nomination papers for the NA-91 Sargodha constituency. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Chaudhry Nisar Splits with PML-N: On Monday, former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan announced that he would contest the upcoming elections as an independent, rejecting offers of a party ticket from the PML-N, which he described as “a family party”. Nisar declined to answer questions as to whether he would ultimately affiliate with the PTI. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Musharraf Return: On Monday, the Supreme Court ordered NADRA to unblock former Pres. Musharraf’s national ID card and for him to be allowed to return to the country to contest parliamentary elections; on Wednesday, Chief Justice Nisar gave Musharraf 24 hours to return to the country and appear before the court for hearings brought by his lawyers against his disqualification from contesting the 2013 elections. Nomination papers were reportedly filed on Musharraf’s behalf for constituencies in Chitral and Karachi. Musharraf did not appear before the court on Thursday, prompting the court to withdraw its earlier order allowing him to contest elections and postponing hearings indefinitely. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • MQM Divisions: On Monday, the Islamabad High Court upheld an earlier ECP decision to remove Farooq Sattar as the official party leader for the MQM-Pakistan, in response to a challenge brought by the Bahadurabad group faction led by Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui. Sattar denounced the ruling. [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • FATA Reforms: At a meeting on Monday, PM Mulk reviewed the status of FATA reform implementation. Earlier on Friday the Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial government re-designated the political agents and other bureaucrats posted to the FATA as deputy commissioners, and halted the collection of special tariffs from the area. [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Candidacy Filings and Other Political Activity: The major political parties submitted their slates for reserved seats for women and minorities on Monday. After several reversals, PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif ultimately filed nomination forms to contest three national assembly constituencies from Karachi; Imran Khan and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also plan to contest constituencies in the city. Top national party leaders also plan to contest multiple constituencies in Khyber Paktunkhwa. Former PM Abbasi will face Imran Khan in the NA-53 constituency. Former Pres. Zardari’s will contest the NA-213 constituency, while his two sisters, Faryal Talpur and Azra Fazal Pechuhu, contest two Sindh provincial assembly seats. PTI activists protested outside party headquarters in Islamabad beginning Saturday over the party leadership’s choice of ticket allocations, many of which are reported to have favored recent defectors to the party. The PML-N will not announce its full slate of party tickets until after Eid. The Pakistan Awami Tehreek has reportedly decided not to boycott the polls, but party leader Tahir-ul Qadri will not serve as a candidate. A PML-N source tells Dawn that the party may negotiate seat adjustments with the ANP, JI, MQM, and JUI-F. The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal coalition of religious parties remains divided over endorsements for constituencies in Punjab’s Jhang district and in several districts in Khyber Paktunkhwa. The MMA and BNP-M have agreed on a seat adjustment in the Khuzdar district. [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Other Judicial Activity: On Monday, the Supreme Court cleared Awami Muslim League leader Sheikh Rashid on charges that he had “misdeclared” his assets in his 2013 candidacy nomination forms. In a dissenting note from that ruling, Judge Qazi Faez Isa questioned the criteria under which politicians were disqualified or cleared of charges. In a hearing on Saturday, Chief Justice Nisar suggested that a “core committee” should be formed to consider disputes between the provinces over the construction of water projects like the Kalabagh Dam. PPP Sindh leader Nisar Ahmed Khuhro criticized the comments, saying that it was outside the court’s mandate to consider the issue. On Saturday, Chief Justice Nisar ordered action against cable operators broadcasting foreign content. [Dawn] [The Nation] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • IMF Talks: Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, caretaker Finance Minister Shamshad Akhtar said that “market forces should decide the value of [the] dollar” and rupee, and that “if we maintain exchange rate stabilisation for a long time, it is not sustainable”. The rupee declined 3.8% against the dollar on Monday, the fourth major currency devaluation since July 2017; in a statement after the close of trading, the State Bank of Pakistan said that “this market-driven adjustment in the exchange rate along with other recent policy measures are expected to contain the imbalances in the external account thereby containing aggregate demand and also facilitate the prospects for generating non-debt creating inflows”. Although she noted high public debts and declining exchange reserves, Akhtar said that the caretaker government did not have a mandate to engage in negotiations with the IMF over a new loan program. [AFP] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Energy Crisis: On Monday, the caretaker administration approved a hike in petroleum prices for the remainder of June. Earlier on Sunday, Imran Khan called on PM Mulk to brief the country on the state of the power sector and “whether the promises and claims by the PML-N government to end load-shedding were nothing but a pack of lies”. Caretaker Minister for Energy Ali Zafar held a press conference on Tuesday, noting continuing weaknesses in the transmission system, but declining to “engage in the blame game”. Hikes in electricity tariffs in April have reduced circular debt within the energy sector to Rs 499 billion, the Express Tribune reports. On Wednesday, the government signed an agreement with the World Bank for a $425M loan project aimed at upgrading the transmission system. [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pres. Hussain Attends SCO Summit, Meets Xi and Rouhani [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation] [Xinhua]
  • BNP Leaders Survive Separate Attacks [Dawn]
  • Court Orders Provision of “Better Jail Facilities” for Rao Anwar [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Prosecutor Declines to Share Info About Uzair Baloch’s Military Custody with Courts [Dawn]
  • Karachi Police Arrest Two Militant Suspects [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Hears Complaint Against Bahria Town Construction [Dawn]
  • Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz Travel to London for Eid [Dawn] [ET]
  • Imran Khan Travels to Medina, Accompanied by Aide Who Had Been Barred from Travel Abroad [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Asim Hussain Allowed to Travel Abroad [Dawn] [ET]
  • Hamza Shehbaz and Alleged Wife ‘Call Truce’ After Meeting with Chief Justice [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Mobile Phone Taxes Withdrawn After Supreme Court Order [Dawn]
  • K-Electric Names New Chairman [ET] [ET]
  • Firm Established to Build 45 Hospitals Failed to Do So, Senate Told [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Ghani Meets Pakistani Army Chief: Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Bajwa visited Kabul on Tuesday for meetings with Pres. Ghani, Gen. Nicholson, and other Afghan officials. The Pakistani military quoted Bajwa “congratulat[ing] Afghanistan authorities on recent peace initiatives especially in respect of the Holy month of Ramazan” and expressing a desire that “these steps gain more of permanence, ultimately leading towards an enduring peace”. Bajwa’s visit followed a meeting of the directors general for military operations from both countries in Rawalpindi on Monday, focused on the creation of liaison postings and coordination centers at the Torkham and Chaman border crossings. [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [ET] [The Nation]
  • SCO Summit: Pres. Ghani and other regional leaders attended a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Qingdao, China, over the weekend; in his remarks, Ghani said that “having formed a national consensus on peace we are firmly committed to a political solution to the conflict with the Taliban”. PM Modi, also attending, said that “all parties in the region should respect the sentiment with which President Ghani has taken courageous steps for peace”, while Pres. Rouhani of Iran said that his country “will spare no effort to help establish sustainable peace and fight terrorism in Afghanistan”. In his remarks, Pres. Xi said that “we need to give full play to the role of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group to facilitate peace and reconstruction in Afghanistan”. [Pajhwok]
  • Cabinet Minister Sacked, Another Resigns: In a statement on Saturday, the presidential palace announced the firing of Minister of Energy and Water Ali Ahmad Osmani, replacing him in an acting capacity with deputy minister Mohammad Gul Khulmi. Osmani attended a contract signing ceremony on Sunday and insisted that he would continue his work; on Monday, Chief Executive Abdullah criticized Osmani’s removal. Separately, Minister of Urban Development Sadat Mansoor Naderi announced his resignation on Wednesday. [Khaama Press]
  • Election Preparations: On Wednesday, the Independent Election Commission expressed concerns at low rates of filings by candidates for district council elections, with several districts not registering any candidates. In total 3058 people have registered for 2800 seats. Another 2369 candidates have registered for parliamentary elections. Reuters notes extensive vacancies in IEC appointments and concerns over the accuracy of voter registration figures on the part of international donors. On Thursday, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office said that at least 58 people had been arrested on charges of voter registration forgery. [Pajhwok]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Australia’s Ugly Turn in Afghanistan [Sydney Morning Herald] [ABC Australia] [AP]
  • Helmand Peace Convoy Reaches Wardak [TOLO]
  • Territorial Army Cadets Undergo Training in Kabul [TOLO]
  • Karzai ‘Open’ to Running Again for President [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Ghani Visits Kandahar [Khaama Press]
  • MPs Allege ID Cards Being Issued to Pakistani Nationals [TOLO]
  • College Student Shot by Taliban in 2016 Graduates with Honors [WAPO]
  • Afghan Shoppers Go Online to Avoid Bombs, Harassment [Reuters]
  • Afghanistan and Uzbekistan Meet to Discuss Trade Ties [TOLO]
  • Groundwater Pollution Renders Parts of Afghan Capital Uninhabitable [RFE/RL]
  • Commentary: Peace (Hopefully) for a Few Days: A Ceasefire for Eid as Helmand Marchers Approach Kabul – “While the ceasefire is welcome, there are still three other demands from the marchers: talks, forming a ‘system’ acceptable to all and a timetable for foreign troop withdrawal.” [Ali Mohammad Sabawoon, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pence Speaks with Caretaker PM; NATO Commander Endorses Ghani Ceasefire

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Note: The news will be on vacation through mid next week and will return with a summary of the intervening period on Thursday, June 14th. Apologies for the interruption in service, and thanks for reading.

 

Topline

  • VP Pence spoke by phone with caretaker PM Mulk on Thursday; on Friday, Mulk chaired a meeting of the National Security Committee, which included discussions of their call and a review of Pakistan’s preparations for the meeting of the Financial Action Task Force later this month.
  • US and NATO commander Gen. John Nicholson and other allies endorsed Pres. Ghani’s announced ceasefire towards the Taliban; Nicholson told reporters on Friday that operations the Islamic State would continue and intensify in the interim.
  • Candidates continue to file nomination forms for the upcoming elections; the Election Commission has extended the filing deadline until Monday.
  • Chief Executive Abdullah is on a visit to the UK, meeting with foreign secretary Boris Johnson on Thursday.
  • The political administration in North Waziristan has barred PTM leader Mohsin Dawar from the area for a three-month period, accusing him of “instigating the people through provocative speeches against the state”.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • PTM Protests: Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement leader Mohsin Dawar has been expelled from North Waziristan by the political administration for a three-month period, after being charged with “instigating the people through provocative speeches against the state”.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Pence and Mulk Speak: VP Pence spoke by phone with caretaker prime minister Nasir-ul Mulk on Thursday, following an earlier call to Chief of Army Staff Bajwa by Secretary of State Pompeo. Details of the call were not disclosed, but Pence was reported to have “wished the prime minister well for the effective implementation of the mandate of the caretaker government to hold the general elections in the country”. Mulk chaired a meeting of the National Security Committee on Friday to discuss the call with Pence, and to review the security situation and Pakistan’s preparations for an upcoming meeting of the international Financial Action Task Force. [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Election Preparations: The Election Commission has extended the deadline for candidate nomination filings through Monday. On Thursday, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar overturned high court rulings that had voided the ECP’s delimitation of constituency boundaries in the Haripur and Quetta districts. In separate hearings, the ECP argued that it would not be able to conduct absentee voting for overseas Pakistani expatriates; Chief Justice Nisar indicated that he would revisit the issue for special by-elections. Punjab caretaker chief minister Hasan Askari Rizvi took the oath of office in Lahore on Friday; a seven-member caretaker cabinet for Sindh also took office on Friday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [ET]
  • Election Campaigning: Candidates continue to file nomination forms, including PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto, who will contest the NA-246 seat (as well as the NA-200 Larkana seat), and PSP leader Mustafa Kamal (who filed forms to contest two national assembly and two provincial assembly seats from Karachi). Imran Khan also filed nomination papers for a Karachi constituency; he will reportedly contest as many as five constituencies. Pakistani electoral law does not impose residency requirements and allows candidates to contest multiple seats, although they may only choose to serve from one if victorious in multiple areas. On Friday, former Sindh governor and senate chairman Mian Muhammad Soomro announced that he would join the PTI. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: On Friday, the accountability court hearing corruption charges against Nawaz Sharif formally appealed to the Supreme Court for another extension in the proceedings of the case. The ECP continues to refuse to participate in an ECP investigation into its overseas fundraising activities. [The Nation] [ET]
  • Musharraf Return: At a hearing on Thursday, Chief Justice Nisar ordered that former Pres. Musharraf not be arrested in the event that he returns to the country to contest elections, provided that he appear before the court. However, the Express Tribune reports that Musharraf’s national ID card and passport have been blocked by the National Database and Registration Authority. Speaking to reporters on Friday, Nawaz Sharif said that it was “beyond comprehension” that Musharraf could be allowed to contest elections. [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Bill Gates Discusses Polio Vaccination Campaign with Army Chief; New Case Reported in Balochistan [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • PTI Councillor Survives Gun Attack in Peshawar [The Nation]
  • Caretaker PM Seeks New Petroleum Strategy [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Government Ceasefire Order: There is additional reporting on Pres. Ghani’s announcement of a unilateral ceasefire towards the Taliban on Thursday; the UN, State Department, and NATO, among others, welcomed the proposal, and Gen. Nicholson in a statement said that US forces would also uphold the ceasefire. Speaking to reporters on Friday, Nicholson said that operations against the Islamic State “will continue, in fact will be even intensified during this period of ceasefire as we focus on ISIS”. The NYT reports that many local Afghan army and police commanders were initially unaware of the proposal, and expressed skepticism about its impacts; on Friday in Nangarhar, military officials said that they killed ten Taliban fighters, including five Pakistani nationals, but had that their forces had “finished the operation and will now follow the ceasefire plan”. [WSJ] [AP] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Attacks and Operations: Three people were killed, including a police officer, in a suicide attack on the Jalalabad home of Feridon Mohmand, a member of parliament; he was not home at the time of the attack, and no immediate claim of responsibility was reported. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Abdullah on UK Visit: Chief Executive Abdullah met with UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson while visiting London on Thursday, who pledged continued support for Afghanistan; he is also expected to meet with PM May and other UK officials.
  • Civil Service Vacancies: The Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission reports over 25,000 vacancies in government offices, pledging to fill more than 18,000 of them within the next three months.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ghani to Attend SCO Summit [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Ghani Announces Ceasefire Through Eid; PML-N Objects to Punjab Caretaker Choice

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Topline

  • On Thursday, citing the recent fatwa by Afghan religious scholars, Pres. Ghani announced a unilateral ceasefire with the Taliban through the end of Eid, although Afghan military commanders indicated that operations would continue against the Islamic State and other foreign terrorist groups. The Taliban have not yet responded to Ghani’s announcement.
  • The NYT and Reuters note the tightening media environment in Pakistan in the run-up to the elections and pressure from the military authorities on reporters.
  • On Thursday, the ECP appointed Hasan Askari Rizvi as caretaker chief minister of Punjab, and Alauddin Marri as caretaker chief minister of Balochistan; the PML-N has protested Askari’s appointment. The ECP has set a June 11 deadline for candidates to submit financial asset affidavits accompanying their nomination forms. On Thursday, Chief Justice Nisar began hearing petitions regarding new constituency delimitations set by the ECP.
  • NATO has reportedly frozen payments for around 30,000 Afghan police salaries suspected of actually going towards police commanders; the NYT interviews some officers in the field who report having gone without pay for months now
  • On Wednesday, the National Accountability Bureau opened new investigations against Nawaz Sharif and former PM Abbasi over the negotiation of a LNG import agreement with Qatar.
  • Sec. Pompeo spoke by phone with Chief of Army Staff Bajwa on Wednesday. Pakistan is meanwhile revising a draft action plan for submission to the Financial Action Task Force.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Pompeo and Bajwa Talk: Secretary of State Pompeo and Chief of Army Staff Bajwa spoke by phone on Wednesday, discussing “he need for political reconciliation in Afghanistan, and the importance of targeting all militant and terrorist groups in South Asia without distinction”, according to the State Department. [AP]
  • FATF Report: The caretaker federal cabinet reviewed a draft action plan report to the Financial Action Task Force that Pakistan will submit detailing its counter terrorism financing efforts; Pakistani officials are reportedly planning to lobby China for more proactive support in the next FATF meeting.
  • Waziristan Clashes: Political authorities in South Waziristan have reportedly rejected a demand by the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement that members of a “peace committee” militia that reportedly includes former Taliban members be barred from entering the main market in Wana. A curfew has been imposed in Wana and more than 80 people have reportedly been arrested.
  • Quetta Attacks: A police officer was killed and another wounded in a driveby shooting in Quetta on Wednesday; no claim of responsibility was reported. On Thursday, an injured Frontier Soldier who had been evacuated from the Kohlu district for medical treatment died in a helicopter crash near Quetta; the two pilots of the helicopter survived. [Dawn]
  • Dir Bombing: Three people, including two police officers, were killed in a roadside bombing in the Lower Dir district in Khyber Paktunkhwa on Thursday; there was no immediate claim of responsibility. [AP] [ET] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Military Intervention in Elections: The NYT and Reuters note the tightening crackdown on the press in Pakistan in advance of the general elections, and efforts by the military to control public debate. In a meeting on Wednesday with caretaker prime minister Nasir-ul Mulk, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa pledged “full support” for the completion of elections on schedule and the deployment of military personnel to provide security at the polls. The British High Commission in Pakistan expressed concern over the abduction and subsequent release on Wednesday of columnist Gul Bukarhi, who is a dual UK national. [ET] [The Nation]
  • Caretaker Government: On Thursday, the Election Commission appointed businessman Alauddin Marri as caretaker chief minister for Balochistan, and security analyst Prof. Hasan Askari Rizvi as Punjab caretaker chief minister. Former Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah criticized Askari’s appointment, accusing him of bias against the PML-N, and on Thursday former PM Abbasi warned that the PML-N would not accept his appointment. [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Election Preparations: Following Supreme Court orders on Wednesday, the ECP ordered candidates to submit financial statement affidavits to accompany their nomination papers by June 11. On Thursday, the Peshawar High Court voided constituency delimitation plans in the Swat district. Separately, however, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar began hearings on delimitation challenges, indicating he would personally hear all such cases, and dismissed several challenges that the other high courts had previously upheld. [Dawn]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: On Wednesday, the National Accountability Bureau opened new investigations against former prime ministers Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Nawaz Sharif, probing allegations of misuse of authority related to the negotiation of a LNG import agreement with Qatar during Abbasi’s tenure as petroleum minister. Arguments continued on Thursday in the Avenfield properties corruption case against Nawaz; the court rejected a petition from Nawaz and his daughter to be allowed a five-day exemption to visit Kulsoom Nawaz in London. The Supreme Court dismissed a petition seeking the removal from office of NAB director Javed Iqbal on Thursday. [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Campaigning and Other Political Activity: On Wednesday, PTI Sindh leader Liaquat Jatoi demanded the removal of all senior district and police officials from their postings, accusing them of favoritism towards the PPP. On Thursday, former prime minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali announced his intention to join the PTI. Shehbaz Sharif will reportedly contest the NA-192 constituency, and Imran Khan the NA-243 constituency; the PPP is reportedly in talks over a seat adjustment with the MMA in the Swabi district. Despite strains, The Nation reports that the PML-N will grant party tickets to former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. A spokesman for former Pres. Musharraf claimed he would return to Pakistan after Eid; on Thursday, the Supreme Court ordered Musharraf to appear in person as part of an appeal against his disqualification from contesting the 2013 elections. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Ranger Killed in Karachi Shootout [ET] [ET]
  • Supreme Court Orders Response on Water Shortage by June 21 [Dawn] [ET]
  • Awami Tehreek Leader Rasool Bux Palijo Passes Away [ET] [Dawn]
  • ADB to Support “Micro-Hydroelectric” and Solar Power Projects [ET]
  • President to Attend SCO Summit [The Nation]
  • Report: Pakistan’s Institutions: We Know They Matter, But How Can They Work Better? – “The essays in this volume offer a series of specific recommendations about how to orchestrate governance reforms within Pakistani institutions.” [Wilson Center (pdf)]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Ghani Announces Unilateral Ramadan Ceasefire: In a statement on Thursday, Pres. Ghani announced that Afghan security forces would engage in a unilateral ceasefire starting next week through the end of Eid, from June 12- 20, although he said Afghan security forces would continue operations against “Daesh and other foreign-backed terrorist organizations and their affiliates”, and the army chief of staff indicated that security forces would continue to respond to insurgents if attacked. The deputy interior minister said that the plan had been coordinated with U.S. military officials, who declined comment. In his announcement, Ghani referenced the fatwa issued by a gathering of religious scholars earlier this week in Kabul, calling for peace talks. The Taliban have not responded with a statement as of this writing. [Reuters] [AP] [TOLO]
  • Police Salary Payments Frozen: The NYT reports that NATO officials have withheld salary payments for around 30,000 officers since March suspected of padding commanding officers’ accounts, and interviews several officers in the field who report having gone without pay as a result. In a TOLO interview, Ghazni provincial police chief Fareed Mashall estimated the presence of around 1,100 “ghost” police officers on provincial police rolls.
  • Attacks and Operations: USA Today reports that U.S. airstrikes have destroyed around 40 Humvees stolen by the Taliban in operations since January 2015. A U.S. drone strike in the Suki district in Kunar province reportedly killed two ISIS fighters. Afghan Air Force airstrikes in Faryab’s Dawlatabad district on Wednesday reportedly killed 12 Taliban fighters; on Thursday, Afghan army officials claimed to have killed a senior Taliban military commander for the province in a special forces raid in the district. [TOLO] [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Preparations: A member of the Independent Election Commission tells Ariana News that the commission has sent a list of candidates to the presidential palace to consider as nominees to fill the vacant secretariat chief position. On Wednesday, the Wolesi Jirga formed a committee to look at complaints regarding preparations for the election process.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • DABS Says Naghlo Dam Turbine Installation Almost Complete [TOLO]
  • ‘I Couldn’t Even Scream’: Survival and Abuse Inseparable for Kabul Children [Guardian]
  • Commentary: Why Farah? A Short History of the Local Insurgency – “Given that the Taleban were never fully defeated in Farah and that their presence – as well as their capabilities and resources – have been rebuilt over the last decade, they remain a threat and one that is unlikely to be defeated militarily.” [Thomas Ruttig, AAN]

 

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Journalists Abducted and Attacked in Lahore; NATO Ministers Discuss ANSF Support

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Topline

  • Gul Bukhari, a Pakistani columnist and activist, was briefly abducted from her home over Tuesday evening, but later released. Separately, TV anchor Asad Kharal was attacked in Lahore, and was subsequently hospitalized.
  • NATO defense ministers are meeting this week to discuss continued support for the Resolute Support mission and funding for the Afghan security forces after 2020. The UAE and Qatar will contribute forces to the RS mission, although the exact size of their deployments was not reported.
  • The Election Commission will choose caretakers for Punjab and Balochistan after assembly committees in both provinces failed to reach consensus on an appointee. In a ruling on Wednesday, the Supreme Court ordered candidates for the elections to submit an affidavit accompanying their nomination forms with additional details regarding their assets.
  • The Afghan presidency announced orders to release 269 Hizb-e-Islami prisoners as part of the HIG peace agreement. A spokesman for the High Peace Council said separately that Saudi Arabia would host an international conference of Islamic scholars focused on Afghanistan within the next month.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Journalists Abducted and Attacked: Gul Bukhari, a columnist and activist who had been publicly critical of the Pakistani military, was briefly abducted from her home in Lahore over Tuesday night. Her family later issued a statement saying she was unharmed and asking for privacy. In a separate incident, Bol TV anchor Asad Kharal was attacked by unidentified men in Lahore on Tuesday; he was subsequently hospitalized. [Reuters] [AP] [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Prosecution Witnesses Report Threats in Naqeebullah Mehsud Murder Case [Dawn]
  • PTI Seeks to Block Release of Book by Imran Khan’s Ex-Wife [The Nation] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Chief Justice Hears Petition on Aafia Siddiqui [ET]
  • Supreme Court Dismisses Appeal Over 2007 Case on Attack on Former Chief Justice [Dawn]
  • Court Restores FBR Investigation Powers [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Assistance Mission: NATO defense ministers are meeting in Brussels this week to discuss the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan; speaking to reporters prior to the meeting, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg noted the boost in allied troop deployments to support the training mission this year, and said the alliance would be “discussing how to extend funding for the Afghan forces beyond 2020”. On Tuesday, the Afghan National Security Council announced that it had approved the deployment of troops by the UAE and Qatar as part of the Resolute Support mission; exact deployment figures were not reported. [Khaama Press]
  • Attacks and Operations: A policeman and Independent Election Commission staffer were killed in a bombing near a voter registration center in the Baghlan provincial capital of Pul-e-Khumri on Wednesday; no claim of responsibility has been reported. Six soldiers were killed and seven wounded in a Taliban attack on a checkpost in Badghis province on Tuesday. A U.S. airstrike in the Nerkh district in Wardak province reportedly killed four Taliban fighters. The Washington Post visits Farah, where the local military leadership accuses Iran of sponsoring recent Taliban attacks on the provincial capital,. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Pajhwok]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: On Wednesday, the office of the president announced plans to release 269 Hezb-e-Islami prisoners as part of the peace agreement with HIG. Separately, a spokesman for the High Peace Council tells Ariana News that Saudi Arabia will hold an international conference of Islamic scholars focused on Afghanistan within the next month.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ghani Welcomes Chinese Investment [TOLO]
  • Contracts for Water Supply in Four Provinces Signed [Khaama Press]
  • Commentary: Surrounding the Cities: The Meaning of the Latest Battle for Farah – “Despite some fluctuation in their territorial gains, the Taleban have managed to establish and hold positions that are threat to a number of key population centres and national highways.” [Thomas Ruttig et al, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Six-Member Caretaker Cabinet Sworn In; ISIS Claims Attack on Kabul Ulema

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Topline

  • A six-member caretaker cabinet was sworn in on Tuesday; at an earlier briefing for caretaker prime minister Nasir-ul Mulk, finance ministry officials reportedly expressed alarm at the state of Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves, and urged new negotiations with the IMF on a loan package. The ECP appointed former justice Dost Muhammad Khan as caretaker chief minister for Khyber Paktunkhwa on Tuesday.
  • The Islamic State claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack on a gathering of religious scholars in Kabul. Pres. Ghani condemned the attack and endorsed the group’s fatwa condemning suicide attacks and terrorism, and reiterated calls for the Taliban to join in a negotiations process; a spokesman for the Taliban denied responsibility in Monday’s attack but rebuffed the ulema group’s ruling, saying it had been taken under US pressure.
  • Although he reiterated that he would not accept delays for the upcoming elections, Chief Justice Saqib Nisar continued to hold hearings on petitions related to election administration; the Lahore High Court is also hearing petitions regarding absentee voting and ballot design.
  • The Afghan ministry of mines cancelled a contract with an investor consortium led by Mahmood Karzai for the Ghori Cement factory in Baghlan, citing unpaid dues and a failure to meet production and investment commitments.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • IS Claims Attack in Balochistan: The Islamic State claimed responsibility for a suicide attack at a security checkpost in Mastung, Balochistan on Monday evening, in which three Frontier Corps soldiers were killed.
  • Waziristan Clashes: Dawn provides additional background on the clash between Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement supporters and the Maulvi Nazir Taliban group in Wana, South Waziristan over the weekend; the local PTM leader has reportedly agreed to a jirga-mediated agreement to halt public activities until after Eid. Soldiers imposing a curfew in Wana killed a man on Monday evening, who initial reporting did not identify. Elsewhere, PTM and PKMAP activists held a rally in Swat to condemn the Wana clashes.
  • Army Professes Neutrality in Elections: Speaking at a press conference on Monday, army chief spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor said that despite the political tensions related to the upcoming elections, “you should not drag security forces into this”, and denied involvement by the military in media censorship or other interventions. Ghafoor also suggested that the PTM was being exploited and manipulated by “the enemies of Pakistan”. [ET]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Caretaker Government: A six-member caretaker cabinet was sworn in on Tuesday. At an earlier briefing, finance ministry officials reportedly sought permission to engage in talks with the IMF on a new loan program, a decision that was deferred until after the formation of the cabinet. Former State Bank governor Shamshad Akhtar was chosen for the caretaker finance minister portfolio. The Punjab and Balochistan assemblies formed committees on Monday to consider nominees to serve as caretaker chief minister, after earlier failing to reach an agreement. The ECP appointed retired justice Dost Muhammad Khan to serve as Khyber Paktunkhwa caretaker chief minister on Tuesday. [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Election Preparations: Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar continued to hear petitions related to the election administration, saying that he would not accept delays to the election schedule; Monday’s hearings focused on challenges to the code of conduct prepared by the ECP. The Lahore High Court also took up a petition on absentee voting by Pakistani expatriates, and on the lack of a “none of the above” option on ballots. [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: Chief Justice Nisar held suo motu hearings on Monday on water shortages around the country. Shehbaz Sharif did not appear before National Accountability Bureau investigators on Monday investigating charges of mismanagement and embezzlement from the Punjab water utilities; he was summoned to appear again on June 25. The NAB is reportedly tightening internal security after an unidentified employee was recently found to have taken investigation records home. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Election Campaigning and Other Political Activity: Nawaz Sharif addressed party supporters in Islamabad on Monday, urging them to turn out and vote in the upcoming polls. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will contest national assembly elections from the NA-246 constituency, where his mother and father previously were elected from; Reuters profiles Bilawal. Anonymous PPP sources tell The Nation that former Pres. Zardari and Bilawal’s younger sister Aseefa will also contest the polls; former PPP prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani filed nomination papers for the NA-158 seat in Multan. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Awami Muslim League leader Sheikh Rashid suggested elections should be delayed, citing the summer heat. [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • World Bank Proposes ‘Neutral Expert’ to Review Complaint on Indian Dam [Dawn] [ET]
  • Three Killed in Kohlu District Operation [Dawn]
  • Karachi Police Arrest TTP Suspect [Dawn]
  • Imran Khan’s Ex-Wife Files Defamation Notice Against Critic Of Her New Book [ET] [The Nation]
  • PPP Seeks Removal of BISP Head [ET]
  • Plaintiff Beaten in Bahria Town Case [Dawn]
  • Water Crisis Deepens in Thar [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kabul Bombing Aftermath: The Islamic State claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack on a gathering of religious scholars in Kabul, which the Taliban had earlier denied involvement in. Pres. Ghani denounced the attacks, endorsing the gathering’s earlier fatwa ruling that had held that suicide attacks violated the principals of Islam. In a video message, Ghani reiterated calls for the Taliban to “choose the path of peace and instead of taking part in destruction of the country, take part in construction of the country”. A spokesman for the Taliban rebuffed the ulema group’s fatwa, saying that it had been “issued based on the recommendations of the foreigners to increase pressures on the group”. [AP] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: The ministry of defense claims to have killed 40 Taliban fighters during operations to retake control of Takhar province’s Dasht-e-Qala district. [Pajhwok]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • ID Program: A spokesman for the Afghanistan Central Civil Registration Authority announced plans to open additional centers in Kabul for the issuance of electronic national ID cards; around 35,000 applications have reportedly been received to date, and 1,500 cards issued.

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Cement Contract Cancelled: On Monday, the ministry of mines and petroleum cancelled a contract for the Ghori Cement Factory in Baghlan, a project owned by a consortium that includes the former president’s brother Mahmood Karzai. The Afghan Invesment Company, which holds the contract, was accused of failing to boost production, failing to make good on investment pledges, and owing $13 million in dues.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Court Investigates Gun Loss Case at Interior Ministry [TOLO]
  • Government Approves Afs 1.6 Billion in New Contracts [Khaama Press]
  • Kabul-Kandahar Highway in Need of Repair [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Supreme Court Suspends Order on Candidate Forms; Kabul Bombing Targets Ulema Gathering

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Topline

  • On Friday, the Lahore High Court issued an order to the Election Commission of Pakistan to revise its candidate nomination forms for the upcoming election, just as it began preparing to accept candidacy filings. Political party leaders warned against any delay in the polls, ad the ECP and caretaker government appealed the verdict to the Supreme Court, which suspended the LHC’s decision, clearing the way for the ECP to begin accepting nominations. The status of separate court orders from the Islamabad and Balochistan High Courts overturning ECP decisions regarding the demarcation of electoral constituencies appears to remain unresolved, however.
  • A suicide bombing struck a gathering of clerics in Kabul on Monday that had met to issue a religious decree condemning such attacks; at least 14 people have reportedly been killed. No claim of responsibility has been reported, and the Taliban denied involvement in the attack.
  • At least two people were killed and dozens wounded in a shooting at a Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement rally in Wana, South Waziristan on Sunday; local officials blamed members of the Maulvi Nazir Taliban group.
  • The PTI appears to be divided over its own choice of caretaker nominees for Punjab; talks have also stalled in Khyber Paktunkhwa and Balochistan, with the choice potentially falling to the ECP.
  • Chief Justice Nisar continued hearings in the Asghar Khan case, summoning Nawaz Sharif and other politicians accused of receiving military support in the 1990 elections, and also scrutinized the salaries of public sector companies in Punjab, expressing dissatisfaction with an appearance by Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • FATA Attacks: On Sunday, the Pakistani military announced that it had repelled multiple attempted cross-border militant attacks on checkposts in Bajaur and Balochistan’s Qamar Din Qarez area; five security personnel were wounded, and six militants reportedly killed. Elsewhere, a political officer was killed and three paramilitary soldiers wounded in an attack on their vehicle in North Waziristan; activists held protests on Saturday. On Sunday, two Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement activists were killed and dozens wounded in a clash at a rally in Wana, South Waziristan; the AFP identifies the attackers as members of the Maulvi Nazir group of local Taliban militants. [AP] [Reuters] [ET]
  • Tensions with India: Indian and Pakistani officials held annual talks on maritime disputes and search and rescue cooperation in New Delhi on May 28. A Pakistani man was wounded in cross-border firing in the Poonch district in Azad Jammu and Kashmir on Friday, police officials report; on the Indian side, two soldiers were reportedly killed. Continued firing in the Sialkot area on Sunday reportedly killed two women and wounded as many as 24 people on the Pakistani side. [AFP]
  • Ship Purchase Agreement: On Friday, the Pakistani Navy signed an agreement for the purchase of two Type 054 A warships from the China Shipbuilding Trading Company.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Court Rulings Throw Polling Schedule in Doubt: On Friday, the Lahore High Court issued a ruling ordering the Election Commission to redesign candidate nomination papers to include more data about the candidate’s finances and other background details, which had been struck from the nomination papers as part of the Elections Act of 2017. Separately, the Islamabad High Court issued additional orders overturning ECP plans for constituency delimitation in the Abbottabad district, and the Balochistan High Court ordered new delimitations for constituencies in Quetta district. ECP officials convened an “emergency meeting” on Saturday to review the new orders, and suspended plans to begin the distribution of nomination papers. The ECP petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the lower court rulings, and caretaker Prime Minister Nasir-ul Mulk also directed the attorney general’s office to appeal against the LHC verdict. The leaders of the PML-N, PPP, and other parties warned against any delays in the general elections, currently scheduled to take place on July 25, and signaled their intentions to contest the rulings; a PTI spokesman also said that it would join legal cases against any change in the polling schedule. The president of the Balochistan Awami Party, Jam Kamal Alyani, called for elections to be delayed until October, however, citing weather concerns; the Balochistan assembly passed a resolution last week proposing a one-month delay. In a separate ruling on the same petition previously heard by the LHC, the IHC held that election forms would not need to be revised, splitting with the LHC. On Sunday, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar heard appeals from the ECP and suspended the LHC ruling; speaking earlier in a separate case on Friday, the chief justice said that “no one should be in doubt about the elections, we won’t allow delay in any case”. Reporting does not indicate a resolution of the lower courts’ orders regarding the change to constituency boundaries, however. Following the ruling on Sunday, the ECP issued a revised schedule for candidate nomination paper submissions, which have now been extended until June 8. The Chief Justice continued to hear arguments over the nomination forms on Monday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Caretaker Governments: Caretaker Prime Minister Nasir-ul Mulk visited his hometown of Swat over the weekend, where he is reportedly finalizing choices regarding a caretaker cabinet. He is scheduled to receive a briefing on the economy on Monday. The PTI is split over its own choice of nominees for the position of Punjab caretaker chief minister, with party spokesman Fawad Chaudhry announcing a different slate of nominees than Punjab opposition leader Mian Mahmoodur Rasheed on Friday. Shehbaz Sharif proposed four nominees for the PML-N on Saturday. Sindh caretaker chief minister Fazalur Rahman took the oath of office on Saturday. The choice over caretaker chief minister for Khyber Paktunkhwa will fall to the ECP after a parliamentary committee failed to reach agreement on Saturday; talks in Balochistan have also been stalemated. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Election Campaigning: The PML-N will begin deciding on candidate tickets starting Monday, with Nawaz Sharif to play a leading role in the decision-making process despite his formal removal from party office. Maryam Nawaz will reportedly contest the NA-125 seat, previously won by her mother. The Nation reports that former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan may not be given a party ticket due to his disagreements with senior leadership. Former Punjab governor and PML-N senator Zulfiqar Ali Khan Khosa joined the PTI on Friday; his son, Dost Muhammad Khosa, was not allowed to join the party. Former MQM national assembly member Rashid Godil joined the PTI on Sunday. The PTI has finalized its nominees for seven FATA national assembly seats on Saturday, and for 11 national assembly and 17 provincial assembly constituencies in Sindh earlier last week. Rival factions of the PTI clashed at the party’s headquarters in Karachi on Saturday over the choice of Karachi party president Firdous Shamim Naqvi for the PS-102 constituency. Former Sindh home minister Zulfiqar Mirza and his wife former national assembly speaker Fehmida Mirza announced their split from the PPP and alignment with the PML-F-led “Grand Democratic Alliance” in Sindh on Sunday. Former PTI leader Sahibzada Usman Abbasi joined the PPP on Friday. Nawab Siraj Raisani announced the merger of his Balochistan Muttahida Mahaz with the Balochistan Awami Party on Sunday. The JUI-F and JI split over the distribution of candidates in the Lower Dir district, despite a nominal alliance. Pakistan Awami Tehreek leader Tahir-ul Qadri returned to Pakistan on Monday. MQM-Pakistan leader Farooq Sattar suggested on Sunday that his faction might boycott the upcoming elections, citing complaints over the delimitation of Karachi constituencies; the party’s London-based faction has already announced a boycott. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: Chief Justice Nisar held hearings on Saturday on the government’s failure to implement the Asghar Khan case verdict, ordering a response by Wednesday from a number of politicians, including Nawaz Sharif, accused of receiving funds from the military during the 1990 election. In a separate hearing, Chief Justice Nisar rejected reporting from the Punjab police on the provision of security to political leaders and their family members. On Friday, the Nisar heard challenges against the salaries for the heads of public sector corporations in Punjab, which continued on Sunday with an appearance by Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, whose responses did not satisfy the chief justice. Shehbaz has been summoned again on Monday, and his son Hamza Shehbaz separately faces charges over allegations from a woman claiming to be a neglected wife. On Monday, the accountability court hearing corruption charges against Nawaz Sharif indicated it would seek a further extension from the Supreme Court to continue hearings. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Two Rangers Men Injured in Hub Suicide Attack; Attacker Killed in Karachi [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Government Expresses Concerns Over FATA Merger Implementation [Dawn]
  • Compensation Paid to Families Prior to US Defense Attache’s Departure [ET]
  • AJK Legislature and Council Approve Amendments to Constitution [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Imran Khan’s Former Wife’s Autobiography Riles PTI Before Launch [Dawn] [ET]
  • Lawyers and Nationalist Parties Protest Disappearances in Sindh [Dawn]
  • Maulana Abdul Aziz Returns to Lal Masjid Pulpit for First Time Since 2014 [ET]
  • Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Elevated to Supreme Court [ET] [The Nation]
  • Chinese Engineer Found Dead at Embassy [Dawn] [ET]
  • Ten More Infants Die in Mithi from Malnutrition [Dawn]
  • Inflation Rises in May, Rupee Weakens [ET] [ET]
  • Trade Resumes at Iranian Border Crossing [ET]
  • CAA Suspends Shaheen Air Flight Operations [The Nation]
  • Commentary: The Generals and the Art of Undermining Democracy in Pakistan – “Pakistanis see the return of “tutelary democracy,” as the military disempowers politicians who stray from its positions on foreign policy and national security, supports a new king’s party and punishes the press for providing fair coverage to its perceived opponents.” [Abbas Nasir, NYT]

 

Afghanistan — Security

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Mes Aynak Project: On Sunday, the ministry of mines said that it had “completed an assessment” of recommendations and complaints by the Chinese company managing the copper mine project at Mes Aynak in Bamiyan province, work on which has been effectively frozen.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Senators Complain US Not Enforcing Security Agreement [TOLO]
  • Hekmatyar Rejects Proposal to Rename Afghanistan to ‘Khorasan’ [Ariana News]
  • Labor Ministry Seeks to Finalize Agreement with UAE on Work Visas [TOLO]
  • Jawzjan Parliamentarian Dies of Heart Attack [Khaama Press]
  • Former Taliban Captive Joshua Boyle Granted Bail in Canada [AFP]
  • Russian Pilot Found After Three Decades Missing in Afghanistan [AFP]
  • Report: Incremental Peace in Afghanistan – “A radical new approach is needed in Afghanistan to build peace step-by-step. There needs to be a move beyond peace rhetoric, through a progressive, step-by-step process towards a political settlement which builds stability, confidence and legitimacy over time.” [Accord]
  • Report: Global Initiative on Out-of-School Children: Afghanistan Country Study – “In 2015, approximately 61 million children of primary school age were out of school, as were 62 million of lower secondary school age and an additional 141 million children of upper secondary school age. Children who are out of school are amongst the most vulnerable and hard to reach members of society.” [UNICEF / Govt of Afghanistan (pdf)]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Assemblies Dissolved and Election Schedule Announced; Taliban Deny Reports of Talks

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Topline

  • The outgoing Pakistani government completed its full term and the assemblies were dissolved at midnight on Thursday, clearing the way for elections. PM Abbasi warned against any delay in the election schedule, which Caretaker PM Nasir-ul Mulk, who was sworn in on Friday, pledged to avoid. The Election Commission issued its schedule for elections on Thursday; candidate filings are due by June 6. Khyber Paktunkhwa Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak has requested that the ECP hold elections for provincial assembly seats from the FATA simultaneously with the polls; the Islamabad High Court continues to rule on petitions challenging constituency boundaries set by the ECP.
  • In a statement on Friday, the Taliban “categorically denied” remarks earlier this week by Gen. Nicholson suggesting that Taliban commanders were engaged in talks with Afghan government representatives.
  • On Friday, a Supreme Court bench overturned former foreign minister Khwaja Asif’s disqualification from office, allowing him to contest the upcoming elections.
  • Zabul governor Khial Mohammad Hussaini resigned on Friday; a replacement has not yet been named.
  • A final meeting of the outgoing cabinet approved a package of tax incentives for the FATA and the payment of more than Rs 31 billion in tax refund claims.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Internal Security: Dawn reports that the new National Internal Security Policy, released on Thursday on the government’s final day in office, focuses heavily on the regulation of mosques and seminaries, as well as increased social media monitoring.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Assembly Terms Conclude, Election Preparations Begin: The five-year terms of the national and provincial assemblies concluded at midnight on Thursday. In his final remarks, PM Abbasi warned against any delay in the elections; he later called for treason charges against delay proponents in a TV interview. In addition to a resolution passed in the Balochistan assembly earlier this week calling for an election delay, Khyber Paktunkhwa Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak is reported to have petitioned the Election Commission to hold polls for provincial assembly seats for the former FATA at the same time as the upcoming general elections, rather than next year as planned; a PTI spokesman said that “elections cannot be delayed for any reason including the merger of Fata in K-P”, however. The Islamabad High Court continues to issue rulings on petitions challenging constituency delimitation decisions by the ECP. Meeting with political party representatives on Thursday, Chief Election Commissioner Sardar Muhammad Raza assured them that polls will be held on July 25 as previously announced. The ECP issued the schedule for the upcoming general elections on Thursday, setting a June 6 filing deadline for candidates, whose inclusion on the ballot will be finalized after reviews, appeals, and withdrawals by June 29. The ECP also issued a code of conduct for observers and polling staff. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Caretaker Negotiations: Former Chief Justice Nasir-ul Mulk was sworn in as caretaker prime minister on Friday; he told reporters that elections would be held on schedule. Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah announced the appointment of former provincial chief secretary Fazal-ur-Rahman as the caretaker chief minister for Sindh on Thursday evening; he had been an opposition nominee. The PTI proposed additional names for the Punjab caretaker role on Friday. An assembly committee was formed in Khyber Paktunkhwa to consider nominees after earlier deadlock between the chief minister and opposition leader. [AP] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • SC Overturns Asif Disqualification: In a ruling on Friday, a Supreme Court bench overturned former foreign minister Khawaja Asif’s disqualification from office, allowing him to contest the upcoming elections; the court did not release a detailed order explaining its rationale for the reversal. Separately, the former head of the Panama Papers Joint Investigation Team acknowledged that he lacked evidence to prove Nawaz Sharif’s ownership of the Al-Aziza Steel Company, one of the cases reopened against Nawaz following the verdict. [Reuters] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: PML-N senator and former Punjab governor Zulfiqar Ali Khosa is expected to join the PTI after talks with the party, the Express Tribune reports. Farooq Bandial, a local business leader in the Khushab district, joined the PTI and was expelled from it within 24 hours on Thursday, after reports of his conviction on rape charges in 1979 prompted a backlash. Ashraf Gujjar, a lawyer for Mumtaz Qadri and former PML-N candidate, also joined the PTI. The PML-Q and PTI have agreed to negotiate a seat adjustment in Sialkot district; the PPP district president defected to the PTI. The PPP announced that party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will contest the NA-200 Larkana constituency in the upcoming polls. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Next Round of PTM-Jirga Talks on June 7 [Dawn]
  • JIT Declares Missing Person Case One of ‘Enforced Disappearance’ [Dawn]
  • Cabinet Leaves Asghar Khan Case Implementation to Next Govt [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Interior Ministry Orders Suspension of Musharraf Passport [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Government Defers Oil Price Hike [ET]
  • Three Men Linked to Land Theft Arrested in Rawalpindi [Dawn]
  • Judicial Commission Seeks Immediate Replacement for Sindh Local Govt Secretary [Dawn]
  • Extreme Heat Forces Closure of Peshawar Airport for Repairs [Dawn]
  • Foreign Exchange Reserves Drop to $10.03 Billion [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: Following Wednesday’s attack at the Ministry of Interiorl headquarters, the Kabul police chief warned of the need to conduct stops and searches of all vehicles. Police announced that they had defused a bomb planted at a roundabout in the city on Friday. Nangarhar provincial government officials say nine ISIS fighters were killed in artillery strikes in the Haska Mina district on Friday. [Khaama Press] [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Talks: In a statement on Friday, a Taliban spokesman “categorically reject[ed]” remarks by Gen. John Nicholson earlier this week in which he suggested that “mid-level, senior-level Taliban leaders” were engaged in quiet talks with government representatives.
  • Zabul Governor Resigns: Zabul governor Khial Mohammad Hussaini resigned on Friday, the Independent Directorate of Local Governance announced; deputy governor Rahmatullah Yarmal will fill the role in acting capacity.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Helmand Peace Activists on Their Way to Ghazni [TOLO]
  • Government Asked to Reconstruct Kabul-Kandahar Highway [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PTI Reverses Support for Punjab Caretaker; Nicholson Says Taliban-Initiated Attacks Decline

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Topline

  • The PTI reversed course and has dropped support for Nasir Mahmood Khosa as caretaker chief minister for Punjab, after initially nominating him; Khosa recused himself on Thursday. Parliament’s term expires today; speaking in the national assembly, PM Abbasi said that “not even a day’s delay would be acceptable in the elections”, following the passage in the Balochistan assembly of a resolution calling for a one-month delay.
  • The Islamabad High Court voided constituency delimitations in another six districts on Wednesday; the ECP has not responded publicly to the rulings. The ECP met with political party leaders and released a provisional code of conduct for the elections on Thursday.
  • Speaking at a briefing on Wednesday, US and NATO commander Gen. John Nicholson said that enemy-initiated attacks had declined during the February-April period, although he acknowledged that that data came from Afghan military sources that the US military had previously questioned the accuracy of. Nicholson said that “mid-level, senior-level Taliban leaders [are] engaging with Afghans” and “talking and fighting”.
  • The attackers targeting the Interior Ministry in Kabul on Wednesday wore army uniforms and used a military vehicle, sources indicate; Nicholson said that the Haqqani network was believed to have organized the attack, which has not been publicly claimed.
  • Pres. Hussain signed into law the amendment authorizing the merger of the FATA and Khyber Paktunkhwa province on Thursday.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • FATA Attacks: Two Pakistani army soldiers were killed and three injured when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb in North Waziristan on Wednesday; no claim of responsibility has been reported. In a separate attack on Wednesday, one man was killed and three wounded in an attack on a mosque in Bajuar; the victims were reported to be members of the Tableegh-e-Jamaat, but no claim of responsibility has been reported. [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Supreme Court Questions Security Provisions: At a hearing on Thursday, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar questioned the provision of police security for Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s sons Hamza and Salman Shehbaz, which a police official denied was being provided. [ET]
  • Army Chief Visits Quetta: Chief of Army Staff Bajwa visited Quetta on Wednesday; speaking at the Command and Staff College, Bajwa said that Pakistan was “on a positive trajectory of peace and stability” but that “the job is not completed yet and we have to carry forward the gains towards enduring peace”. [Dawn] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Caretaker Talks: The PTI reversed course on Wednesday and withdrew its support for Nasir Mahmood Khosa as caretaker chief minister for Punjab, who the party itself had nominated for the position. Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah initially said that it would not be possible to withdraw Khosa’s nomination, but he recused himself on Thursday. The PTI has instead proposed analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi and former Khyber Paktunkhwa police chief Nasir Durrani for the position. Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Quddus Bizenjo said that a choice on caretaker chief minister there would be made by June 3. The Sindh chief minister and opposition leader may meet Thursday to decide the caretaker choice. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Other Election Preparations: On Wednesday, the Islamabad High Court rejected the Election Commission’s constituency delimitations in another six districts, for ten total now voided; the ECP has yet to comment on the rulings and their implications for election plans. The ECP met on Thursday with parliamentary party leaders to discuss the code of conduct for the elections, and released a provisional code afterwards. The National Assembly’s term will expire at midnight on Thursday, completing the outgoing government’s five year tenure. Speaking before the assembly at a final session on Thursday, PM Abbasi stated that “not even a day’s delay would be acceptable in the elections”; his remarks follow a resolution passed in the Balochistan assembly on Wednesday calling for a one-month delay to the election schedule. [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [APP]
  • FATA Reforms Signed Into Law: Pres. Hussain signed the constitutional amendment merging FATA and Khyber Paktunkhwa into law on Thursday. The Express Tribune notes that draft regulations preserve considerable powers for former political agents in the FATA, who will be reappointed as district commissioners. [AP]
  • Other Political Activity: PM Abbasi met with the All Pakistan Newspaper Society on Wednesday, decrying censorship of the media and saying that “our government made every effort to ensure freedom of expression”. The MQM failed to introduce legislation proposing the creation of a new province in Sindh during a national assembly session on Wednesday. The Makhdoom family in the Matiari district are reportedly preparing to split from the PPP and ally with the PTI and PML-F. [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Chief Justice Displeased Over Govt’s Failure to Respond in Asghar Khan Case [ET]
  • Attorney General’s Office Split from Law Ministry [ET]
  • NAB Investigating Bahria Town, Seeks Ban on PSO Director’s Travel [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Joint Chiefs Chairman Visits Tajikistan [The Nation]
  • Sindh Counter-Terrorism Department Reports Over 86% Acquittal Rate [Dawn]
  • Jails Over Capacity by 22,000 Prisoners, Supreme Court Told [ET]
  • PM Inaugurates Quetta Airport [ET] [The Nation]
  • PM Rejects Overseas Postings for Senior Bureaucrats [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Interior Ministry Attack: The attackers targeting the Interior Ministry in Kabul on Wednesday were wearing military uniforms and using vehicles “that made it seem as if they were from the international coalition”, officials indicate. At least one police officer was killed in the attack. No claim of responsibility has been reported; speaking to reporters, Gen. Nicholson said that “we believe it was a Taliban, Haqqani attack, but we’re still developing that information”. [AP] [Khaama Press]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: A spokesman for the Takhar provincial governor said that Afghan forces had retaken control of the Dasht-e-Qala district on Thursday after around seven hours of fighting. Army officials in Nangarhar say at least 17 ISIS fighters were killed in a US drone strike in the Deh Bala district on Wednesday. More than a hundred people were freed from a Taliban prison in the Kajaki district in Helmand on Wednesday night, officials announced. At least six people were wounded in a suicide car bombing attack in Helmand’s Gereshk district on Thursday morning. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Talks: Speaking to reporters at a briefing on Wednesday, US and NATO commander Gen. John Nicholson said that insurgent-initiated attacks in February and April had declined by 30% compared to previous years, although Nicholson acknowledged that those figures were based on Afghan government reporting, which the US military has previously declined to guarantee as reliable. Nicholson suggested that “mid-level, senior-level Taliban leaders [are] engaging with Afghans” and “talking and fighting”, adding that “a lot of the diplomatic activity and dialogue is occurring off the stage, and it’s occurring at multiple levels”.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Security Leaders Skip Parliamentary Summons [TOLO]
  • Nangarhar Court Sentences ANA Soldiers Over Extortion of Cash [Pajhwok]