Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Saudi Arabia Invited to Invest in CPEC; US Military to Scale Back Use of Body Count Metrics

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Topline

  • Speaking on Thursday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry denied that Nawaz Sharif had been freed from jail as part of any secret deal, and denied that his imprisonment had been an item of discussion during PM Khan’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia.
  • Saudi Arabia has been formally invited to become an investor in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, Chaudhry announced; a Saudi trade delegation is expected to visit Pakistan in October to discuss possible investments.
  • In a statement to the NYT following inquiries over its use of enemy body counts as a metric for progress, a spokesman for the US military command in Afghanistan said that it was scaling back its use of such reporting.
  • Members of Pakistan and Afghanistan’s Shia communities are commemorating Ashura; security is heavy around the country in Pakistan, and in Afghanistan some members of the Hazara Shia community are calling for their own independent militias, criticizing the government’s efforts.
  • Speaking at ceremonies commemorating the death anniversary of former Jamiat-e-Islami leader Burhanuddin Rabbani, his son Salahuddin Rabbani reiterated calls for a “change in the election system” and complaints over preparations for the upcoming parliamentary elections. In his remarks, Chief Executive Abdullah suggested that the IEC had agreed to institute biometric voter registration measures, a key opposition demand.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Ashura Observed: Ashura processions are being held across Pakistan by members of Pakistan’s Shia community on Friday, with a heavy security presence deployed in the major cities. Cellular service was suspended in most major cities beginning Thursday, and border crossings with Iran and Afghanistan have been temporarily closed. In statements on Friday, PM Khan cited the battle of Karbala as “a battle between truth and falsehood which continues till date”, and Pres. Alvi cited the martyrdom of Imam Hussain as a lesson “to fight oppression and tyranny”. [Dawn] [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Sharif Release: Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry denied that Nawaz Sharif had been released from prison as part of any “secret deal”, and said that Nawaz “never came under discussion” during PM Khan’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia, adding that “Nawaz Sharif will be in and out of jail. This thing will continue”. Nawaz did not meet with party activists and leaders on Thursday, but will reportedly begin holding consultations on Friday; PML-N senator Mushahidullah Khan told reporters that there “will be no change in Nawaz Sharif’s narrative” and said that the party was “not ruling out taking to the streets on the rigging issue”. [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Local Government Reforms: Dawn reports that the Balochistan provincial government has opted not to follow the PTI in introducing changes to the local government system in Khyber Paktunkhwa and Punjab; PM Khan is expected to review and approve proposed reforms on Saturday.
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: Ismail Dahiri, an aide to former Pres. Zardari who was arrested in late June on weapons charges, was freed on bail on Wednesday. Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar will lead hearings over a petition seeking PM Khan’s disqualification from office on Monday. Former PPP senator Faisal Raza Abidi was charged with defaming the judiciary over remarks he made during a TV interview in early July. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: The deadline for petitions to be filed in election tribunals contesting the outcome of the July 25 polls is Saturday; tribunal hearings are scheduled to begin next week. In remarks on Thursday, MMA and Jamaat-e-Islami leader Liaquat Baloch said that the parliamentary committee investigating complaints of election rigging should be headed by a member of the opposition. PM Khan met with top party aides on Thursday.

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Saudi Arabia to Join CPEC: Speaking at Thursday’s press conference following the conclusion of PM Khan’s two-day visit to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry announced that Saudi Arabia had been “formally invited to become a partner” in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor; a Saudi trade delegation is expected to visit in October, and Chaudhry said that “we expect major investments”. In interviews with the Saudi press, PM Khan reiterated his desire for Pakistan to play a mediating role in conflicts in the Middle East. [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan Re-Elected to IAEA Board of Directors [ET] [Dawn]
  • Government Expected to Extend Say of Afghan Refugees Beyond September 30 [Dawn]
  • Qureshi Departs Saturday for UNGA Meetings, US Talks [Dawn]
  • Sindh Police Chief Forms Committee on Draft Police Reforms [Dawn] [ET]
  • Punjab to Screen Seminary Students [ET]
  • Supreme Court to Hear Naqeebullah Mehsud Case Next Week [The Nation]
  • PM to Chair CCI Meeting on Saturday [ET]
  • Pakistan Undecided on Cancellation of ADB Smart Meter Loan Project [ET]
  • Report: Double Game: Why Pakistan Supports Militants and Resists US Pressure to Stop – “Policymakers should focus less on trying to change Pakistan’s security policies and instead find ways to leverage its existing strategic perspective in pursuit of U.S. interests.” [Sahar Khan, Cato]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • US Scales Back Use of Body Count Measures: In a statement to the NYT on Thursday following inquiries over the use of enemy body counts in press statements, the US military command in Afghanistan said it would “refrain from publishing this type of information unless absolutely necessary to provide context in extenuating circumstances”. Some sources suggest that the use of inflated casualty claims was in part intended to “persuade [Pres. Trump] to increase troop levels and highlight counterterror missions as pathways to success”.
  • Ashura Security: Shia residents of western Kabul tell RFE/RL they have no confidence in government pledges of security and have called for the formation of local self-defense forces; the government has backed the formation of local militia units in the wake of recent attacks. In remarks on Friday, Hazara leader Mohammad Mohaqiq criticized the government for failing to properly arm and equip the regular Afghan security forces. [TOLO] [Ariana News]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Rabbani Death Anniversary: Several Afghan political leaders attended a ceremony on Friday commemorating the death anniversary of former president and Jamiat-e-Islami leader Burhanuddin Rabbani; his son, Salahuddin Rabbani, reiterated complaints over preparations for the upcoming parliamentary elections, calling for a “change in [the] election system”. Chief Executive Abdullah said that the government had agreed to the use of a biometric voter registration system, and suggested that the Independent Election Commission would make an announcement to this effect.

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Farah Port Restrictions: TOLO reports that the ministry of finance has banned the import of fuel, cement, and several other products from Iran through the Abu Nasr Farahi border crossing port, beginning last week; ministry officials declined to comment, but reporting suggests that the move was taken in an attempt to curtail corruption in the customs department.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Achin District ALP Under Investigation After Protests [Pajhwok]
  • Afghan Journalists Dying in Record Numbers to Report the War [AFP]
  • Pentagon Issues Contract for M4 Rifle Procurement for Afghan Forces [Khaama Press]
  • Concerns Raised Over Prolific Use of Foreign Currencies [TOLO]
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Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Nawaz Sharif Released from Prison; Ghani Meets with Modi

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  • Nawaz Sharif was released from prison and returned to his home in Lahore on Wednesday after the Islamabad High Court suspended his sentence; the National Accountability Bureau is reportedly planning to appeal the court ruling to the Supreme Court. PML-N supporters celebrating Nawaz’s release.
  • Pres. Ghani met with PM Modi in New Delhi on Wednesday, discussing bilateral economic and security cooperation. Afghanistan’s ambassador to India, Shaid Abdali, announced his resignation shortly after the conclusion of Ghani’s visit; he has held the position for six years.
  • Ghani attended an Ashura ceremony in western Kabul on Thursday, calling for national unity and condemning recent attacks on the Shia community.
  • PM Khan met with the heads of the Saudi royal family and with UAE officials during travel on Wednesday; during interviews, Imran praised Saudi anti-corruption campaigns and expressed a desire for Pakistan to serve as a mediator within the Muslim world. No specific pledges of financial support were announced during the trip.
  • Chief of Army Staff Bajwa met with Chinese Pres. Xi Jinping on Wednesday, pledging to guarantee the security of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor project.
  • Afghanistan’s deputy foreign minister will visit Moscow on Thursday for talks about the rescheduling of a Russian-organized multilateral conference on Afghanistan’s peace process, which Russian officials say the Taliban has agreed to participate in.
  • India and Pakistan’s foreign ministers will meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York later this month, Indian foreign ministry officials confirmed Thursday.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Ashura Security: In a statement, Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Khan Afridi pledged to ensure the security of Ashura processions during the month of Muharram, which began around the country on Wednesday. Partial suspensions of cell phone service are planned in several major cities during processions on Thursday and Friday. A driveby shooting was reported outside a mosque in Rawalpindi early Wednesday morning; no injuries were reported and there has been no claim of responsibility. [ET] [ET] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Nawaz Sharif Released from Prison: Nawaz Sharif and his family members were released from prison and returned home to Lahore on Wednesday after an Islamabad High Court ruling suspended their sentences while hearing appeals against their conviction. That ruling held that prosecutors had failed to establish Nawaz’s ownership of London properties disclosed by the Panama Papers leaks, suggesting potential for an ultimate acquittal. PML-N supporters celebrated the verdict; Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry insisted that the judiciary was independent and that “the law will find its way”, and that the PTI government had no role in the case. The National Accountability Bureau is reportedly planning to appeal the IHC ruling to the Supreme Court. [NYT] [WSJ] [AP] [Reuters] [Guardian] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Imran Visits Gulf: PM Khan met with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, pledging “complete solidarity with each other in their efforts at preserving their sovereignty and territorial integrity”. In interviews, Imran suggested that “Pakistan would like to play a reconciliatory role in bringing the Muslim world closer”, and expressed admiration for Saudi anti-corruption campaigns. Foreign Minister Umar also met with his Saudi counterpart during the trip, but a spokesman for the foreign ministry denied knowledge of any pledge of Saudi financial assistance. PM Khan subsequently traveled to the UAE, where he met with Crown Prince Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi. [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Bajwa Meets Xi: Chief of Army Staff Bajwa met with Chinese Pres. Xi Jinping in Beijing on Wednesday, pledging to protect the China Pakistan Economic Corridor “at all costs”. Xi pledged continued support for Pakistan, saying that “those who oppose [the] Belt and Road Initiative or CPEC shall never succeed as this is an initiative of peace and development not only for China but for the region and beyond.” Separately, Pakistan’s religious affairs minister Noorul Haq Qadri met with China’s ambassador to Pakistan Yao Xing, where he raised concerns over the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in China. [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Indian Talks: A spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign ministry confirmed on Thursday that PM Khan had written to PM Modi calling for the resumption of dialogue between the two countries, and the Indian press reports that Khan has proposed a meeting between the two countries’ foreign ministers on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly later this month. The Indian foreign ministry confirmed on Thursday that the two ministers would meet. Separately, the Pakistani foreign ministry said that it had had “no formal communications” with India over the proposed reopening of the Kartarpur corridor for Sikh pilgrims to visit Pakistan. [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Refugee Citizenship: Leaders of the Balochistan National Party threatened to quit the ruling government coalition over PM Khan’s proposal to grant permanent citizenship to Afghan and Bangladeshi refugees born in Pakistan, noting that their coalition agreement with the PTI had included a commitment to the repatriation of Afghan refugees. National Party leader Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo also opposed the proposal.
  • Other Political Activity: During debate on Wednesday, opposition members in the senate called for the national assembly committee investigating alleged election rigging to be expanded to included representatives from the upper house of parliament. Karachi mayor Waseem Akhtar and Sindh local government minister Saeed Ghani traded accusations of neglecting Karachi’s development. [ET] [The Nation] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Five Children Injured in Mohmand Toy Bomb Blast [ET]
  • Supreme Court Orders Investigation Into UAE Properties [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Supreme Court Suspends Three Military Court Death Sentences [The Nation]
  • Council of Common Interest to Meet Monday [Dawn]
  • Government to Lease Out Radio Pakistan HQ [ET]
  • LHC Chief Justice Proposes 11 New Judicial Appointments [ET]
  • Debate on Budget Amendment to Begin Monday [The Nation] [ET]
  • Increase in Gas Cost Fuels CNG Price Hike Fears [Dawn]
  • Railways Ministry to Raise Fares for Dam Fund [The Nation]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Ashura Security: Pres. Ghani attended an Ashura ceremony in the Dasht-e-Barchi district in western Kabul on Thursday, condemning recent attacks against the Shia community and calling for national unity.
  • Attacks and Operations: At least five Afghan security personnel were killed in attacks on multiple checkposts in the Ab Band district in Ghazni province on Thursday morning; the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks. TOLO reports that over thirty percent of students in Ghazni have stopped attending classes due to security concerns following Taliban attacks on the city in August. [Pajhwok]
  • Police Assistance: On Wednesday, the UK assumed the role of rotating co-chair of the International Police Coordination Board for donor assistance to the Afghan police services, taking over from Canada. Speaking on the occasion, Interior Minister Wais Barmak claimed that more than 97% of all police had been biometrically registered so as to reduce “ghost” payrolls. [Ariana News]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Ghani Visits India: Pres. Ghani met with PM Modi in New Delhi on Wednesday, holding talks on the “joint fight against terrorism, expansion of bilateral economic and transit relations, regional connectivity, development of Afghanistan-India air corridor”, and other issues. Modi announced an extension for a scholarship program for Afghan students and the training of Afghan civil service staff. Shortly after the conclusion of Ghani’s visit, Afghanistan’s ambassador to India, Shaid Abdali, announced his resignation; he has held the position for more than six years. [TOLO] [Dawn]
  • Russian Talks: Afghan Deputy Foreign Ministry Hekmat Karzai will visit Moscow on Thursday to discuss potential new dates for a multilateral conference on Afghan peace talks. Russia’s foreign ministry also said that the Taliban were prepared to take part in the conference. [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghan Wrestlers’ Stories Live On After Bombing [NYT]
  • NGOs Estimated to Have Spent $884M in Afghanistan in Last Year [Khaama Press] [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Islamabad High Court Suspends Sharif Sentence; VP Danish Criticizes Parliament’s US BSA Review

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  • In a ruling on Wednesday, the Islamabad High Court suspended the prison sentences of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, and Mohammad Safdar, pending a resolution of their appeals against their convictions in the Avenfield properties case.
  • Speaking on Tuesday, Vice Pres. Mohammad Sarwar Danish criticized the Wolesi Jirga’s recent vote calling for a review of the US-Afghanistan Bilateral Security Agreement, saying MPs “should not undermine Afghanistan’s national interests in pursuit of their political differences”.
  • Afghan police are reported to have arrested at least sixteen people and to have broken up sit-in protests outside the Independent Election Commission’s offices in Nangarhar; during a visit to Balkh, Interior Minister Wais Barmak warned of action against any further disruption.
  • PM Khan is expected to meet with Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in Saudi Arabia today. In China, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa met with Central Military Commission Deputy Chairman Zhang Youxia.
  • Pres. Ghani arrived in India on Wednesday for talks with PM Modi.
  • Predominantly Shia residents of western Kabul tell the Washington Post they are anticipating further violence during the Muharram and Ashura period; Pres. Ghani ordered additional steps to strengthen security in the area on Wednesday.
  • In a ruling on Tuesday, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar called on the provinces to drop their objections to the Kalabagh Dam project, whose construction leaders in Sindh and Khyber Paktunkhwa have sought to block.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Army Chief in China: Chief of Army Staff Bajwa met with Chinese Central Military Commission Deputy Chairman Zhang Youxia, who praised bilateral military ties as “an important backbone of relations between the two countries”. [Dawn] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Balochistan Attack: Two paramilitary Levies personnel were killed in a shooting on Tuesday evening in the Killa Saifullah district in Balochistan; no claim of responsibility was reported. [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • IHC Suspends Sharif Sentence: Shortly after the conclusion of arguments on Wednesday, the Islamabad High Court suspended the sentences of Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, and Mohammad Safdar in the Avenfield properties case, pending the final resolution of their appeals against their convictions. Speaking to reporters earlier on Tuesday, Shehbaz Sharif denied “any underhanded deal” for the Sharif’s release. [ET] [The Nation]
  • PM Khan in Saudi Arabia: PM Khan is expected to hold talks with Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman on Wednesday after arriving in Saudi Arabia the day prior. [Reuters] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Navy Chief Downplays US Aid: Speaking at an event at the Pakistani embassy in Washington, Pakistan Navy Chief of Staff Zafar Mahmood Abbasi said that “we want good relations with or without security assistance” from the US, and that “we can work without US assistance”.
  • Refugee Citizenship: Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah pushed back at PM Khan’s proposal to grant citizenship to the children of Afghan and Bangladeshi refugees born in Pakistan, saying that it would “open the floodgates” to “people who are living in our country illegally”. The UNHCR praised the proposal in a statement on Tuesday. [ET] [ET] [Guardian] [Dawn]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: On Tuesday, former Pres. Zardari filed a Supreme Court petition challenging an order seeking details on his family assets. The Supreme Court heard a case on Tuesday over charges of illegal employment practices by the National Accountability Bureau. On Wednesday, the court ordered a report by the Federal Investigation Agency into properties held by Pakistani nationals in the UAE. Hearings began on Tuesday in an accountability court trial against former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and other officials over alleged corruption in the Nandipur power project. [Dawn] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: The ECP has completed preparations for ballot printing for the by-elections scheduled for October 20. The Nation reports that the PML-N is conducting an internal investigation into its electoral losses. PAT leader Tahir-ul Qadri arrived in Lahore on Wednesday, calling on the PTI to imprison PML-N leaders Shehbaz Sharif and Rana Sanaullah for their role in the 2014 Model Town clash. [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Dam Construction: In a Supreme Court verdict on Tuesday, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar dismissed objections to the construction of the Kalabagh Dam project, calling on provincial governments to “bury their perceived differences and put their heads together earnestly and sincerely to ensure water security for the prosperity of Pakistan and our future generations”. [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Budget Amendment: Additional reporting on the government’s proposed budget amendments, unveiled on Tuesday, notes that the government has dropped requirements that purchasers of new cars or property have a record of filing income taxes. Former finance minister Miftah Ismail criticized the move in remarks to Dawn. [The Nation] [ET]
  • CPEC Project: Speaking in the senate on Monday, Planning Minister Khusro Bakhtiar said that the previous government had chosen some China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects “for political reasons” and that the new government would “reprioritize” CPEC, including a shift from coal to hydroelectric power projects. Planning ministry officials said that projects under the “western route” of CPEC had not in fact been funded by China but rather by Pakistan’s own Public Sector Development Program.

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Arson Spree in Gilgit-Baltistan Stokes Suspicion of Pakistani Forces [NYT]
  • Sindh High Court Rejects Police Report on Missing Persons [The Nation]
  • UK Home Secretary Meets Punjab Chief Minister [ET] [The Nation]
  • Religious Affairs Minister Proposes Creation of ‘Federal Fatwa Center’ [ET]
  • Foreign Ministry Says No Talks with India on Reopening Kartarpur Border [The Nation]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Government Proposes Interest-Free Loans for Entrepreneurs [ET]
  • Report: The Quetta Experience: Attitudes and Values within Pakistan’s Army – “This study offers a revealing window into the thinking of three groups of Pakistani Army officers—senior officers (brigadier and major generals); senior mid-level officers (lieutenant colonels and colonels); and junior mid level officers (captains and majors)—who served at the Pakistan Army Command and Staff College in the city of Quetta between 1977 and 2014.” [Wilson Center]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Bilateral Security Agreement Review: Speaking on Tuesday, Second Vice President Mohammad Sarwar Danish criticized the Wolesi Jirga’s recent vote calling for a review of the US-Afghanistan Bilateral Security Agreement, saying they “should not undermine Afghanistan’s national interests in pursuit of their political differences”. In a response on Wednesday, Deputy Wolesi Jirga Speaker Humayoun Humayoun affirmed parliament’s authority and intention to conduct a review.
  • Attacks and Operations: On Wednesday, Pres. Ghani ordered the Kabul police chief and National Directorate of Security to take steps to improve security in western Kabul city. Shia residents in western Kabul tell the Washington Post they are anticipating further sectarian violence during the Muharram period. Kandahar officials report at least sixteen Taliban fighters and four border police officers were killed in a clash in the Shorabak district on Tuesday evening. [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Protests: Nangarhar provincial police confirmed on Tuesday that they had arrested at least sixteen demonstrators blocking access to the Independent Election Commission offices in Jalalabad and had broken up the sit-in. Speaking during a visit to Balkh on Wednesday, Interior Minister Wais Barmak warned of further action by the police against any disruptions of the election process. Separately, the Afghanistan Central Civil Registration Authority halted the distribution of paper ID cards to be used for voter registration, and said it would now switch back to focusing on the distribution of electronic national ID cards.
  • Ghani Visits India: Pres. Ghani has departed on a visit to India, and is expected to hold talks with PM Modi on Wednesday. [Pajhwok] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Exports Rise: Speaking on Tuesday, acting Minister of Industry and Commerce Ajmal Hamid Abdul Rahimzai said that Afghanistan’s exports had risen by 32% during the first eight months of the fiscal year, touting efforts to expand trade routes; Chamber of Commerce officials note that the country still has a pronounced trade deficit, and foreign investment is minimal.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ministry of Communications Implicated in ‘Bribe for Job’ Scandal [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Parliament Forms Committee on Vote Complaints; Protests Continue Outside IEC Offices

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Topline

  • On Tuesday, Pakistan’s national assembly agreed to the formation of a parliamentary committee to investigate allegations of election rigging during July’s polls, with equal representation from government and opposition representatives.
  • Former Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor threatened “public uprisings” after reports that demonstrators seeking to hold a sit-in at the Independent Election Commission offices in Herat had been detained; a sit-in was held at IEC offices in Jalalabad but was reportedly broken up on Tuesday. Other protests in Helmand, Kandahar, and Balkh are reportedly continuing. Speaking at a UN Security Council briefing on Monday, UN Special Representative Tadamichi Yamamoto warned that the protests could “jeopardize the holding of the elections on time.
  • PM Khan departed on Tuesday for a three-day visit that will include travel to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
  • Finance Minister Umar unveiled the government’s proposed amendment to the current fiscal year budget in a speech in parliament on Tuesday, which includes higher tariffs on luxury imports and an increase in the income tax rates for high-income individuals, among other steps. On Monday, the government hiked natural gas prices for almost all consumers, although low-income consumers saw the lowest increases.
  • Afghan Ministry of Water and Energy officials testifying before the Wolesi Jirga on Monday warned that Afghanistan’s water levels had dropped by around 62% as a result of ongoing drought.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • COAS in China: Chief of Army Staff Bajwa met with his counterpart Gen. Han Weiguo, the head of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, on Monday, to discuss security cooperation and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project. [Dawn] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Complaints: On Tuesday, the national assembly approved the formation of a parliamentary committee to investigate allegations of vote-rigging during the recent general elections, with the PTI government backing the move. FM Qureshi, who introduced the motion, said that the government and opposition would have equal representation on the committee. PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had threatened protests the day prior if the government failed to take action in response to rigging allegations. Separately, fewer than 7,500 expatriate Pakistanis are reported to have registered to participate in the upcoming by-elections on October 20. [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET]
  • PM Visits Saudi Arabia: PM Khan departed on Tuesday for a two-day trip to Saudi Arabia, his first official travel since taking office; he will follow the trip with a visit to the UAE. Foreign Minister Qureshi and Finance Minister Umar are accompanying him on the trip, along with other top aides. [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Refugee Citizenship: PPP and Sindhi nationalist leaders criticized PM Khan’s proposal to grant full citizenship to the children of Afghan and Bangladeshi refugees born in Pakistan; anonymous foreign ministry sources attribute the move to “an effort to placate both the US and Afghanistan”. Speaking in parliament on Tuesday, PM Khan said that “before taking a final decision on the matter, a consensus will be reached” but reiterated a commitment to the proposal.
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: The Islamabad High Court will hold hearings on Tuesday on a PTI challenge against ECP hearings scrutinizing its overseas fundraising, which the PTI has stonewalled and sought to block. The Joint Investigation Team investigating money laundering charges against former Pres. Zardari has sought reports from the State Bank of Pakistan and Securities and Exchange Commission as it begins work. On Monday, the UK National Crime Agency announced that it had arrested Farhan Junejo, a former aide to PPP leader Makhdoom Amin Fahim, on money laundering charges. The Express Tribune reports that Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar has nominated Judge Muhammad Anwarul Haq as the next Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: Pres. Alvi made his first official address to a joint session of parliament on Monday. On Monday, the PTI nominated Shahzad Waseem to fill the Punjab senate seat vacated by Punjab governor Chaudhry Sarwar. The PTI has nominated Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari as special assistant to the prime minister for overseas Pakistanis. MQM leader Aamir Khan claimed Monday that the party would be given the overseas Pakistanis ministry position as part of its coalition agreement with the PTI.  [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Amendment: On Tuesday, Finance Minister Umar introduced the government’s proposed amendment to the current fiscal year budget, which includes cuts to federal development programs, the revocation of tax breaks for high-income salaried employees, the doubling of tax rates on the highest income slab to 30%, and increased customs duties on luxury items, among other measures. On Monday, the government approved increases in natural gas prices for consumers of up to 143%, as well as increases for some commercial and industrial sectors, although the lowest income consumers will see an increase of only 10%. The move is expected to generate Rs 94 billion in additional revenue. Separately, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah also announced amendments to the Sindh provincial budget, cutting new development spending by Rs 24 billion. [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Dam Fundraising: On Monday, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority issued a warning to private media channels against broadcasting “derogatory remarks and comments” criticial of the Supreme Court and Chief Justice Mian Saqib’s dam fundraising initiative. Former Pres. Musharraf announced a donation to the fund on Monday.

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Punjab Police Counter-Terrorism Department Claims to Have ‘Broken’ TTP and Hizb-ul Ahrar [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Orders Investigation Into Pakpattan Officer’s Transfer [Dawn]
  • PAT Leader Tahir-ul Qadri to Return to Pakistan [Dawn]
  • Peshawar High Court Hears Military Court Convict’s Appeal [Dawn]
  • Karachi Anti-Terrorism Court Orders Release of Men Accused of TTP Fundraising [Dawn]
  • Six Injured in Kharan Grenade Attack [ET]
  • FIA Blocks 19 Prospective Illegal Emigrants from Entering Iran [Dawn]
  • Austerity Car Auction Falls Short [Reuters] [Dawn] [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • US Strategy: Stars and Stripes reports that NATO is planning the expansion and hardening of current temporary working structures at its headquarters in Kabul. The Daily Beast reports that US and allied military officials sought to influence Pres. Trump’s decision-making on a continued commitment to Afghanistan by seeking embed reporting from Fox News, although the arrangement does not appear to have actually happened.
  • Attacks and Operations: At least nine Afghan Local Police members were reportedly killed in an insider attack at a checkpoint in the Char Bolak district in Balkh province on Tuesday; the gunman fled after seizing weapons from the post. Military officials in Wardak claim to have killed at least 30 Taliban fighters during operations in the Jalrez district, and report that US airstrikes in the Nader Shah Kot district in Khost killed another four. On Tuesday, the NDS announced the arrest of 26 ISIS militants in Kabul accused of planning sectarian attacks during the Ashura and Muharram period. [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Stand-Off: Independent Election Commission offices in Nangarhar were reopened on Tuesday, provincial government officials reported, after protestors affiliated with the Grand National Coalition established a sit-in protest on Monday; other offices in Balkh, Helmand, and Kandahar remain closed. Opposition leader Atta Mohammad Noor warned of “public uprisings” after reports of protestors being arrested in Herat province on Monday. Speaking at a UN Security Council briefing on Monday, UN Special Representative Tadamichi Yamamoto warned that the protests “hinder the work of the IEC and jeopardize the holding of the elections on time.” [Ariana News] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ghani Meets with NDS Officials [Khaama Press]
  • London Embassy Hosts Afghan-UK Business Summit [TOLO]
  • The Hotel in Afghanistan That Refuses to Close its Doors [NYT]
  • Report: Briefing to the UN Security Council by Special Representative Yamamoto –“Regardless of the reforms which are being implemented, the parliamentary elections will undoubtedly be a major test for Afghanistan’s young democratic institutions.” [UNAMA (pdf)]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Foreign Minister Qureshi Visits Kabul; Opposition Protestors Block IEC Offices

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Topline

  • Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi traveled to Kabul on Saturday for a one-day visit, meeting with Pres. Ghani and other top Afghan officials. Prior to his visit, US Ambassador to Afghan John Bass told an Indian interviewer that Pakistan was considering proposals to allow direct Afghan-India transit trade through Pakistan, but Pakistani foreign ministry issued a statement denying that account.
  • Protestors affiliated with the pan-opposition Grand National Coalition of Afghanistan have launched sit-in protests outside Independent Election Commission offices in Helmand, Balkh, and Kandahar, blocking access to the buildings just weeks ahead of the parliamentary elections.
  • Nawaz Sharif and his family were returned to jail on Monday after the conclusion of their parole, following funeral services for Kulsoom Nawaz on Friday.
  • The PTI government is reportedly reviewing proposals for changes to the laws governing local government bodies, including the possible reversion to non-partisan elections and the further devolution of union councils to smaller units based on new census data.
  • Police in Khyber Paktunkhwa have sought the arrest of several top leaders of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement after protests were held in Swabi in mid-August; the Peshawar High Court has agreed to hear a challenge against the arrests.
  • Afghan Taliban sources tell NBC News that they are seeking the release of Anas Haqqani as part of a prisoner exchange linked to an upcoming round of direct talks with U.S. diplomats; US officials declined to confirm whether any prisoner exchange was under consideration.
  • In remarks on Sunday, PM Khan said that Pakistan would grant citizenship to Afghan and Bangladeshi refugees born in Pakistan.
  • Speaking on Saturday, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar threatened to bring treason charges against critics of his fundraising initiative for the construction of hydroelectric dams; the Express Tribune reports that the government has delayed the issue of new bonds aimed at the Pakistani diaspora so as not to compete with the chief justice’s fundraising initiative.
  • Chief of Army Staff Bajwa is traveling to China on a three-day visit.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Kulsoom Nawaz Funeral: Funeral prayers were held for Kulsoom Nawaz in Lahore on Friday, attended by her surviving family members, many prominent political figures, and several thousand supporters. PPP leaders Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and former Pres. Zardari visited Nawaz on Sunday to offer condolences, as did PML-Q leaders Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Moonis Elahi and the brother of the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Thani bin Hamad al-Thani, among others; Pres. Alvi also spoke with Shebaz Sharif by phone on Monday. Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, and Mohammad Safdar were returned to jail on Monday after the conclusion of their parole period. [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Federalism and Devolution: At a meeting on Saturday, government officials reportedly decided not to seek the early end of local government bodies terms, but to devolve union councils into smaller units on the basis of new population data. Dawn reports that officials discussed proposals to revert to non-partisan elections for local bodies but failed to reach an agreement; a task force reviewing local government legal reforms has been granted another week to continue work. On Saturday, the Supreme Court issued a detailed verdict on a case related to the dissolution of the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council which among other things affirmed that the federal-provincial Council on Common Interests must follow legislation passed by parliament, and that CCI approval is not required for legislation. Dawn reports that the Balochistan provincial government is seeking the renegotiation of the delayed National Finance Commission award. [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Arrest Warrants for PTM Leaders: On Friday, police officials in Khyber Paktunkhwa’s Swabi district were reported to have sought the arrest of several Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement leaders in connection to a rally the group held in Swabi on August 13. The Peshawar High Court agreed to hear a PTM petition on Friday challenging the arrest orders. [Dawn]
  • Citizenship for Refugees: Speaking on Sunday, PM Khan announced that the government would extend Pakistani citizenship and National ID Cards to all Afghan and Bangladeshi refugees born in Pakistan. The UN estimates around 60% of the Afghan refugee population in Pakistan was born there, or around 1.5 million people. [VOA]
  • Overseas Legal Cooperation: Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Law Minister Farogh Naseem announced that his ministry had finalized a draft law on mutual legal assistance with foreign jurisdictions as part of an effort to strengthen investigations into overseas financial crimes; further consultation meetings are planned for the coming week with officials from the ministry of interior, Federal Investigation Agency, and National Accountability Bureau. On Monday, Naseem signed a cooperation agreement with visiting UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid, which would also allow for the repatriation of convicted individuals. [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Other Corruption Investigations and Legal Battles: On Saturday, the NAB petitioned the Supreme Court to quash the Islamabad High Court’s hearing an appeal by Nawaz Sharif seeking a suspension of his sentence in the Avenfield properties case; the Supreme Court dismissed the petition on Monday, imposing a fine for what it described as a “frivolous” motion. Separately, the Supreme Court gave former Railways Minister Saad Rafique a month’s time to respond to allegations of excessive losses during his tenure. On Monday, the Supreme Court ordered a medical evaluation of Anwar Majeed, a key suspect in the money laundering charges linked to former Pres. Zardari. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • By-Elections: The ECP was due to release the final candidate lists for the upcoming October 14 by-elections for eleven national and 26 provincial assembly seats on Sunday, but had not done so as of this writing. On Friday, the ECP extended the deadline for overseas Pakistani nationals to register to participate in the vote until Monday. The Nation reports that only 6,319 expats had registered as of Sunday. The PML-N candidate for NA-65 withdrew on Sunday, clearing the way for PML-Q leader Chaudhry Salik Hussain. By-elections for the PK-71 Peshawar seat, vacated by Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial governor Shah Farman, have been set for October 21. [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: PM Khan made his first official visit to Karachi since taking office on Sunday, where he reviewed security and federal development projects in the city and held talks with Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah over revenue-sharing between the federal and provincial governments. The Express Tribune notes that PTI legislator and televangelist Aamir Liaquat was barred from meeting with Khan. Gilgit Baltistan governor Mir Ghazanfar Ali Khan announced his resignation on Friday. [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Dam Fundraising: On Saturday, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar initiated suo motu hearings on the extraction of groundwater by bottled water companies; on Sunday, Chief Justice Nisar ordered a forensic audit of Nestle Pakistan’s mineral water operations. In remarks during the hearings, he suggested that he was considering treason charges against critics of his fundraising initative for the construction of dam projects, who he said were “enemies of the state”. The PPP, ANP, and Sindhi nationalist parties criticized the chief justice’s endorsement of the Kalabagh dam project. Speaking on Sunday, PM Khan said that he was aiming to raise Rs 30 billion annually for the dam construction fund. The Express Tribune reports that the government has postponed the issuance of dollar-denominated bonds aimed at the Pakistani diaspora so as not to compete with the chief justice’s fundraising initiative. [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Army Chief Visits China: Chief of Army Staff Bajwa arrived in Beijing on Sunday for a three-day visit, the military announced. Bajwa had met with China’s ambassador to Pakistan last week following reports over the possible renegotiation or review of the CPEC project. The South China Morning Post provides further background on the competing business interests of commerce advisor Abdul Razak Dawood, whose criticism of CPEC terms prompted Chinese rebuke last week. [Dawn] [The Nation] [Reuters]
  • Economic Reforms: Government sources tell the Express Tribune that the planned package of budget amendments and economic reforms under preparation by the government may cost it support in the upcoming by-elections. Another cabinet meeting is planned for Monday to consider the creation of a new slab for domestic natural gas customers in an effort to offset the effects of a tariff hike on the poor. Dawn reports that the government is preparing to form a task force on energy sector reforms, led by former independent power producer CEO Nadeem Babar. The Express Tribune notes that rising US interest rates and rising international oil prices are compounding Pakistan’s balance of payments problems. [The Nation] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Former Taliban Commander Killed in Bannu [The Nation]
  • Three Injured in Peshawar Court Shooting [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Punjab Government Takes Disciplinary Action Against Deputy Commissioners [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Grills Punjab Chief Minister Over Officer’s Transfer [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Special Bench Defers Appeal Against Bail in Mashal Lynching Case [ET]
  • MQM Says PM Khan Agreed to Census Audit [Dawn]
  • Sindh and Balochistan Chief Ministers Hold Talks on Security [The Nation]
  • Balochistan Chief Minister Holds Talks with NLC on Chaman Cargo Terminal [ET]
  • Pakistan-China Fiber Optic Cable to Start Functioning by Year-End [ET]
  • Railways Minister Proposes Land Sale [ET] [The Nation]
  • Supreme Court Bans ‘Commercialization’ of Residential Properties in Lahore [Dawn]
  • Government Auctions Cars, Bans Entertainment Funds [The Nation] [ET]
  • Foreign Investment Drops in August to $160 Million [ET]
  • Government Plans Takeover of National Testing Service [ET]
  • Over 170,000 Posts Vacant in Federal Government [Dawn] [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: Five Afghan army personnel were killed when their helicopter crashed in the Khaki Safad district in Farah province on Friday evening; officials attributed the crash to a technical fault and denied any insurgent attack. At least fifteen security personnel were killed as the Taliban launched attacks on multiple checkposts in Farah’s Bala Balok and Posht Rod districts on Monday. Four NDS intelligence service members were killed along with a civilian bystander in a roadside bombing on the outskirts of the Parwan provincial capital of Charakar on Saturday. On Monday, five police officers and as many as 22 Taliban fighters were killed in an attack near the Badghis provincial capital of Qala-i-Now; five security personnel were also killed in an attack on their base in the Baghlan-i-Markazi district in Baghlan. Kunar officials report that at least three ISIS fighters were killed in a US raid in the Watapur district over Sunday night; US drone strikes were also reported in the district. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Pakistani Foreign Minister Visits: Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi visited Kabul on Saturday, holding meetings with Pres. Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah, and other senior officials, including his counterpart Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani. Top Pakistani military and civilian leaders met on Friday prior to Qureshi’s trip to discuss Pakistan’s regional relations. In a statement after his meetings, the Pakistani foreign ministry said that Qureshi had “provided an opportunity to set out the contours of the new government’s future engagement with Afghanistan to build mutually beneficial relationship and enhance cooperation between the two countries”; he also reportedly extended an offer to train Afghan police in Pakistan. The Afghan foreign ministry said that the two sides had discussed a joint meeting of religious scholars and another round of trilateral talks with China, but no dates were announced for those talks. In an interview with the Indian Economic Times on Saturday, US Ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass said that Pakistani officials had “expressed a willingness to start talking with [their] Afghan counterparts for parameters to enabling trade between India and Afghanistan through Pakistan”, saying that “increased connectivity through central and south Asia through Afghanistan — those are all missed opportunities if Pakistan has its sole focus on perpetuating the status quo”. In a statement on Sunday, the Pakistani foreign ministry denied that it was considering permitting direct Afghan-India trade. [ET] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Election Protests: Activists affiliated with the Grand National Coalition opposition group held sit-in protests outside the offices of the Independent Election Commission in Helmand, Balkh, and Kandahar on Saturday, barring IEC employees from accessing those offices just weeks ahead of the parliamentary elections scheduled for October 20. IEC and interior ministry officials condemned the move, which comes after opposition leaders rejected the voter registration process and warned of protests if the government did not meet their demands. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Pajhwok]
  • Taliban Talks: Anonymous Taliban sources tell NBC News that they are demanding the release of Anas Haqqani as part of a prisoner exchange tied to upcoming direct talks with United States diplomats in Qatar. US officials declined to confirm whether any prisoner exchange was under consideration or to publicly acknowledge the planned talks. [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Some MPs Oppose Move to Review Bilateral Security Agreement [TOLO]
  • National Security Council Rejects ‘Internet Rumors’ Regarding Hanif Atmar Resignation [Khaama Press]
  • Central Bank Concerned About Outflow of US Dollars to Iran [TOLO]
  • National Security Advisor Inaugurates Training Program for Afghan Pilots [Pajhwok]
  • Afghan Government Pledges Efforts to Address Refugees’ Problems [TOLO]
  • National Procurement Commission Approves Afs 821 Million in Contracts [Khaama Press]
  • Afghan-India Trade Show Concludes in Mumbai [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Kulsoom Nawaz Funeral to Be Held Today; Ghani Praises US Strategy

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Topline

  • Funeral services will take place later today in Lahore for Kulsoom Nawaz; the Punjab provincial government has extended Nawaz Sharif’s parole through September 17.
  • Pres. Ghani praised the US South Asia strategy in remarks to the families of victims of recent attacks in Kabul and in an interview with VICE News, but the government has not yet commented on calls from parliament and opposition politicians led by former Pres. Karzai for a review of the US-Afghanistan Bilateral Security Agreement.
  • Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu held a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Qureshi on Friday, pledging mutual support, and also met separately with Chief of Army Staff Bajwa.
  • MQM-Pakistan leader Farooq Sattar announced his resignation from the party’s coordination committee on Thursday; he had previously suggested he might contest the NA-247 by-election with the endorsement of the PTI, but the party announced the endorsement of another candidate for the seat on Thursday.
  • Following a cabinet meeting on Thursday, Pakistani information minister Fawad Chaudhry denied that the government was planning to increase gas or electricity prices or change the tax rates for salaried employees.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • North Waziristan Operations: On Thursday, the Pakistani military announced that it had killed four militant suspects linked to an attack in North Waziristan that had wounded five soldiers earlier in the day; three soldiers were also reported to have been killed in the search operation. [ET] [AP]
  • Pishin Bombing: Three paramilitary Levies personnel were killed in a bombing in Balochistan’s Pishin district on Friday; the apparent target of the attack, the assistant commissioner, was unharmed. [Dawn] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Kulsoom Nawaz Funeral: Members of the Sharif family met the body of Kulsoom Nawaz upon arrival in Lahore on Friday; funeral services are scheduled to be held later Friday evening, and congregational prayers are planned for Sunday. Senior PPP and PTI leaders are reportedly planning to attend. The Punjab government has extended Nawaz Sharif’s parole through September 17. [The Nation]
  • External Relations: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu held a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Qureshi on Friday, with both sides pledging support for each other; Qureshi said that talks focused on boosting trade ties. Cavusoglu also met separately with Chief of Army Staff Bajwa. Separately, the UK ambassador to Pakistan met with Bajwa on Thursday to discuss regional security. PM Khan spoke by phone on Thursday with French Pres. Macron, who reportedly offered cooperation in the energy sector and water resource management. The Nation reports that Khan may make his first official trip as prime minister to Saudi Arabia next week. [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Tensions with India: Speaking at a weekly press conference on Thursday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman rejected the joint statement issued following Sec. Mattis’ visit to India last week, saying that “mentioning of a third country with unsubstantiated accusations in a formal outcome document is inconsistent with the established diplomatic norms”. [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Civil Service Reform: Speaking to an audience of civil servants on Friday, PM Khan pledged to “free [the] bureaucracy from political intervention”, and said that “the country cannot be saved if there is no accountability”. The Express Tribune reports that several groups of civil servants have written to the government objecting to the composition of its task force on service reforms. [Dawn]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: During arguments in the Islamabad High Court on Thursday, National Accountability Bureau prosecutors challenged Nawaz Sharif’s petition to suspend his sentence, arguing that Nawaz’s appeal against the verdict should be heard instead. The UK government has reportedly denied an extradition request against former finance minister Ishaq Dar. On Thursday, the Supreme Court upheld a Lahore High Court ruling that several sugar mills owned by the Sharif family had been illegally relocated to southern Punjab. [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: MQM-Pakistan leader Farooq Sattar announced on Thursday that he would resign from the party’s coordination committee, citing “personal commitments”; Sattar had previously suggested he might receive a PTI party ticket to contest the NA-247 by-elections. On Thursday, however, the PTI announced its candidate endorsements for the upcoming by-elections nationwide, and backed Aftab Siddiqui for the NA-247 race. On Friday, the ECP extended the deadline for overseas Pakistani nationals to register to participate in by-elections by two days, to September 17. The Khyber Paktunkhwa cabinet added four advisors and special assistants on Thursday. [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Economic Reforms: Speaking to reporters after a cabinet meeting on Thursday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that the government was not planning to change the tax rates for salaried employees or alter gas and electricity prices. [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • CPEC Project: Speaking to reporters on Friday, Minister for Planning Khusro Bakhtiyar confirmed that the government was planning to open up CPEC projects for third country investments and put a new priority on the development of Gwadar port, but said that it would not review previous projects. [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Death Sentence Issued in Blasphemy Case [AP]
  • Pakistani and Egyptian Naval Forces Conduct Joint Drills [ET]
  • Peshawar High Court Agrees to Hear Appeal in Military Courts Case [Dawn]
  • 11,803 Pakistanis Held in Foreign Jails, Interior Ministry Reports [Dawn] [ET]
  • PPP Leader Farhatullah Babar Seeks Review of Pardon Law [ET]
  • PM Orders Pakistan Railways to Retrieve Encroached Land [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Foreign Exchange Reserves Continue Drop [Dawn] [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • BSA Debate: The Afghan government has not directly commented on calls in parliament and among opposition groups led by former Pres. Karzai for a review of the Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States, but TOLO quotes Pres. Ghani speaking during a meeting with families of victims of recent attacks in Kabul saying that the “US strategy for Afghanistan and the South Asia strategy is a thing for which the people of Afghanistan were waiting for forty years.”
  • Attacks and Operations: At least six local militia members were killed in a Taliban attack on their checkpost in Samangan province on Thursday evening, provincial officials report. Paktia provincial officials claim to have killed the Taliban spy chief for the southeastern region, identified as Zainatullah, in an airstrike on Thursday. [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Talks: In an interview with VICE News, Pres. Ghani praised the Trump administration’s strategy towards Afghanistan, saying that “the ceasefire showed that this country is ready for reconciliation”. Former Taliban official Waheed Muzhda tells the VOA that talks between the US and Taliban are deadlocked over the question of long-term U.S. access to bases in Bagram and Shorabak. [Pajhwok]
  • Election Complaints: In remarks to Ariana News, former Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor warned of “widespread fraud and irregularities” in the parliamentary elections, which he said was “not acceptable for any of our people”.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Finland Will Not Deport Afghan Families with Children [TOLO]
  • Nimroz Identified as Key Human Trafficking Route to Iran [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Funeral Preparations for Kulsoom Nawaz; Karzai Leads Call for Bilateral Security Agreement Review

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Topline

  • Funeral prayers were held for Kulsoom Nawaz in London on Thursday, and her body will be repatriated to Lahore on Friday for a full funeral. Nawaz Sharif has declined to meet with most visitors except family after being released on parole; he underwent a medical checkup on Thursday.
  • Former Pres. Karzai and several other prominent Afghan political leaders met on Wednesday and called for a review of the US-Afghan Bilateral Security Agreement; the Wolesi Jirga also separately voted for a review to be undertaken.
  • PM Khan received an eight-hour security briefing at ISI headquarters on Wednesday, afterwards praising the intelligence agency as “our first line of defense”.
  • Pakistani officials are reportedly seeking to shift China Pakistan Economic Corridor projects away from large infrastructure and towards more private Chinese factories that would employ Pakistani labor, the WSJ reports.
  • The Pakistani federal cabinet is meeting on Thursday to consider budget revisions, including cuts to the Public Sector Development Program and a reversal of tax concessions made by the last government, as well as whether or not to raise gas prices.
  • India’s Tata Power signed a memorandum of understanding with Afghanistan’s DABS power utility at the India-Afghanistan International Trade and Investment show in Mumbai on Wednesday.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • ISI Briefing: PM Khan visited the headquarters of the ISI on Wednesday for an eight hour long briefing on “strategic, intelligence, and national security matters”; afterwards, he praised the intelligence agency as “our first line of defence” and the “best intelligence agency of the world”. [ET] [The Nation]
  • FATA Attacks: Five security personnel were wounded when their patrol came under fire in North Waziristan on Thursday; no claim of responsibility was reported.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Kulsoom Nawaz Funeral Plans: Shehbaz Sharif arrived in London on Wednesday to arrange for the repatriation of Kulsoom Nawaz’s body to Pakistan; funeral prayers were held in London on Thursday morning, and a full funeral will be held in Lahore on Friday. A joint session of parliament has been postponed until Monday due to the funeral plans. Nawaz Sharif received visitors at his residence in Lahore but only met with relatives; party spokeswoman Marriyum Aurangzeb said that he would meet other political leaders and party activists on Thursday. Nawaz reportedly underwent a medical checkup on Thursday. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: The Joint Investigation Team formed by the Supreme Court to investigate money laundering charges against former Pres. Zardari established its secretariat in the offices of the Federal Investigation Agency in Karachi on Thursday. On Wednesday, Lawyers for Nawaz Sharif concluded their arguments in their appeal before the Islamabad High Court against his conviction in the Avenfield properties case. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: Former Balochistan home minister Sarafraz Bugti was elected to a vacant senate seat in a vote in the assembly on Wednesday. Separately, Balochistan chief minister Jam Kamal Khan insisted that he was treating all coalition partners equally; the PTI’s provincial leader, Sardar Yar Muhammad Rind, has complained of being marginalized. On Wednesday, the ECP dismissed a petition seeking the cancellation of the PML-N’s party registration. [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • CPEC Project: The WSJ reports that the PTI government is seeking “major changes” to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, shifting away from large infrastructure projects to more Chinese private sector factories to employ Pakistani laborers, as well as healthcare and sanitation projects. The Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce separately called on Finance Minister Umar to allow for a “level playing field” for third country investors in CPEC projects.
  • Budget Review: PM Khan is chairing a cabinet meeting on Thursday focused on proposed budget revisions and other economic reforms; the government is reportedly planning to reverse tax concessions for salaried workers offered by the PML-N government and reduce exemptions, as well as make cuts to the Public Sector Development Program. The government is expected to introduce a budget amendment bill at the joint session of parliament next week. The meeting will also reportedly make a decision on whether or not to raise gas prices. [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Dam Construction: On Wednesday, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar denounced critics of his dam fundraising initiative, accusing them of “pursuing someone else’s agenda”. The Water and Power Development Authority is reviewing five bids for the Diamer Bhasha dam project. [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Turkish Foreign Minister to Visit [ET]
  • Three Islamic State Suspects Arrested in Karachi [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Eight Missing Persons in Balochistan Return Home [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Restrictions on Clerics’ Movement Ahead of Muharram [ET]
  • Task Force Considering FATA Secretariat Merger Plan [Dawn]
  • New Sindh Police Chief Takes Office [Dawn]
  • Inquiry Denies Interference by Chief Minister in Police Officer’s Transfer [Dawn]
  • Pakistani Ambassador to UK Summoned on Charges of ‘Erratic Behavior’ [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • PBS Opposes Census Validation Exercise [The Nation]
  • Prime Minister’s House to Be Converted into Postgraduate University [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Opposition Calls for BSA Review: Several high-profile Afghan political leaders, including former Pres. Karzai, former national security advisor Hanif Atmar, second deputy Mohammad Mohaqiq, and others, gathered in Kabul on Wednesday and called for a review of the US-Afghan Bilateral Security Agreement. A majority of parliamentarians separately voted on Wednesday for a review to be undertaken. [Ariana News]
  • Attacks and Operations: Air and ground operations in several Baghlan districts killed at least 36 Taliban fighters, army officials reported on Thursday. Another 35 militants were reportedly killed in operations around Gardez city and the Zurmat district in Paktia.
  • Prisoner Review: Pres. Ghani inaugurated new construction projects at Pul-e-Charki prison on Thrusday and met with representatives of inmates, pledging to review their cases.

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Nangarhar Protests: The Jalalabad-Torkham highway reopened on Wednesday after an agreement was reached for demonstrators to end their protests seeking action against Achin district Afghan Local Police commander Bilal Pacha; the demonstration was the target of this week’s suicide bombing.
  • Regional Relations: Speaking at a Martyr’s Week event on Thursday, Pres. Ghani accused unspecified “regional elements” of “attempting to cut the relations of Afghanistan with the world”. In India, Chief Executive Abdullah told reporters that he would “start with being optimistic” about the new Pakistani government under Imran Khan “and hope this optimism will prove to be well-founded”.

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Indian Investment: Indian power utility Tata Power signed a memorandum of understanding with Afghanistan’s Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat during the India-Afghanistan International Trade and Investment show in Mumbai on Wednesday; the exact terms of the partnership were not reported.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ghani Criticizes Aerial Firing During Massoud Day Rallies [Khaama Press]
  • Peace Convoy Visits Balkh [TOLO]
  • Report: Promoting Gender Equity in National Priority Programs: USAID Needs to Assess this $216 Million Program’s Achivements and the Afghan Government’s Ability to Sustain ThemSIGAR found that, after 3 years and $89.7 million spent, USAID/Afghanistan has not fully assessed the extent to which Promote is meeting its overarching goal of improving the status of more than 75,000 young women in Afghanistan’s public, private, and civil society sectors.” [SIGAR (pdf)]
  • Commentary: The Taliban’s Fight for Hearts and Minds – “To what degree are the Taliban winning public support? The answer is not clear-cut.” [Ashley Jackson, Foreign Policy]
  • Commentary: Washington Threatens Court if it Investigates Alleged US War Crimes in Afghanistan – “Bolton’s tirade comes as the judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber are weighing up whether or not to launch a full investigation into the war crimes allegedly perpetrated in Afghanistan since May 2003 when the Rome Statute setting up the Court came into force in Afghanistan.” [Kate Clark, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Nawaz Allowed Parole for Wife’s Funeral in Lahore; Taliban Prepare for Direct US Talks

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Topline

  • Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, and Mohammad Safdar were released on parole on Wednesday to allow them to attend funeral services in Lahore for Nawaz’s wife Kulsoom Nawaz; Shehbaz Sharif departed for London on Wednesday to recover her body. The family declined an offer from PM Khan for government assistance in facilitating her return.
  • Taliban sources tell the AP that they are planning for a second round of direct talks with the United States before the end of the month, and that proposals during the first round included a ceasefire during the parliamentary election period and requests for access to or the release of Taliban prisoners.
  • Following controversial remarks by government economic advisors suggesting the possible freeze or renegotiation of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa met with China’s ambassador to Pakistan and pledged that “CPEC is Pakistan’s economic future and its security will not be compromised”.
  • The death toll from Tuesday’s suicide attack at a demonstration in eastern Nangarhar province rose to at least 68 people, with scores more injured; the Taliban denied involvement in the attack, which has not been claimed.
  • Junbesh-e-Milli deputy Abdullah Qaraqul complained to Ariana News that the Afghan government had not met its commitments to Vice Pres. Dostum and had a “monopolistic view”.
  • The Supreme Court of Pakistan dismissed an interior ministry appeal against a Lahore High Court ruling from April to allow the Jamaat-ud-Dawa to continue its welfare activities through the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Supreme Court Dismisses Appeal Against JUD: In a ruling on Wednesday, a Supreme Court bench dismissed an appeal by the interior ministry challenging a Lahore High Court ruling issued in April to allow the Jamaat-ud-Dawa to continue welfare activities through its Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation wing.
  • Muharram Security: On Tuesday, Peshawar officials barred Afghan nationals from entering the city, and also imposed other restrictions during the Muhurram period. [ET]
  • Balochistan Levies Strengthened: On Tuesday, Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal approved a Rs 8 billion plan to restructure and strengthen the paramilitary Levies Force, including additional training and the creation of several special units within the force.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • CPEC Project: Chief of Army Staff Bajwa met with China’s ambassador to Pakistan on Tuesday and assured him that “CPEC is Pakistan’s economic future and its security will not be compromised”. The meeting followed controversy over remarks by government economic advisors and reports that the PTI government was considering freezing or renegotiating elements of the CPEC plan. [The Nation] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • New Punjab Police Chief Vows Reforms [Dawn]
  • Journalist Killed in Khanewal [ET]
  • Four Indicted in Mashal Lynching Case [Dawn]
  • Finance Minister Rejects Pension Concessions for His Brother, Former Sindh Governor [ET]
  • PEMRA Auctions Five Satellite TV Licenses [Dawn]
  • Report: Acts of Intimidation: In Pakistan, Journalists’ Fear and Censorship Grow Even as Fatal Violence Declines – “As killings of journalists in Pakistan decline so too does press freedom, as the country’s powerful military quietly, but effectively, restricts reporting by barring access, encouraging self-censorship through direct and indirect acts of intimidation, and even allegedly instigating violence against reporters.” [Committee to Protect Journalists]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Death Toll Rises from Nangarhar Bombing: The death toll from Tuesday’s suicide bombing at a rally in the Momand Dara district in Nangarhar has risen to at least 68 people, with 165 or more wounded, according to government spokesmen. The Taliban denied responsibility for the attack, which has not been claimed. Protestors had been seeking action against a local militia commander, Bilal Shah, accused of abuses; officials tell the Washington Post that he has since been arrested. [Reuters] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Attacks and Operations: Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Sec. Mattis said that the Afghan government had increased vetting and training in order to reduce insider attacks within the security forces. Balkh police officials denied reports that Taliban fighters had taken control over several security checkposts in the Chamtal district after attacks on Monday. New operations were launched in Nangarhar’s Chapahar district on Tuesday, targeting Islamic State forces. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Talks: Taliban sources tell the AP that they are planning a second round of direct talks with the United States before the end of the month; those sources described the talks as still being in a preliminary stage, but said that the first meetings in July had included discussions over a ceasefire during the parliamentary elections period and a Taliban request for access to detained prionsers.
  • Dostum Tensions: Junbesh-e-Milli party deputy Abdullah Qaraqul tells Ariana News that Vice Pres. Dostum has not been allowed to carry out his full duties since returning to Afghanistan and “there is still a monopolistic view”, accusing Pres. Ghani of “not standing by his commitments”.

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • India-Afghanistan Trade Show: Chief Executive Abdullah, US Ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass, and other officials attended a trade show in Mumbai on Wednesday sponsored by USAID. [Khaama Press]
  • Iran Trade Declines: Afghan trade with Iran has declined since the imposition by the United States of new sanctions, Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industries officials tell TOLO. Speaking to reporters on Monday, US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells said that the US would not issue a sanctions waiver for the joint India-Iran-Afghanistan Chabahar port project.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • The Afghanistan War Has Gone on So Long That People Born After 9/11 Can Now Enlist [WAPO]
  • In New Memoir, Kerry Says NUG Proposal Came from Ghani [TOLO]
  • Families of Victims Allege Discrepancies in Ministry of Interior Compensation [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Privatizing the US Effort in Afghanistan Seemed a Bad Idea; Now It’s Even Worse – “Bureaucratic changes that impede the work of the Program Support Office are likely to intensify the legal concerns attached to any plan to privatize U.S. efforts in Afghanistan, as well as concerns about effectiveness and abuse.” [Deborah Avant, WAPO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Officials Push Back on Report of CPEC Delays; Taliban Prepare for Direct US Talks

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Topline

  • Pakistani and Chinese officials refuted remarks made by commerce advisor Abdul Razak Dawood in a Financial Times interview on Monday, in which he suggested that the new government might pause and seek to renegotiate China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects.
  • The Taliban are reportedly preparing a delegation for another round of direct talks with the United States, with prisoner releases reportedly at the top of the Taliban’s agenda; Reuters also reports that the Taliban are considering the replacement of Qatar political office chief Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai.
  • In remarks on Tuesday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry claimed that Sec. Pompeo had promised that the US would not block a Pakistani request to the IMF for a new bailout loan; the US embassy declined to comment. An IMF staff team is due to visit Pakistan later this month for talks, although Finance Minister Umar said no decision on a loan application had yet been made.
  • In a speech on Monday, US National Security Advisor Bolton denounced the International Criminal Court and vowed to retaliate if the ICC attempted to bring war crimes charges against US personnel or officials in connection to the Afghanistan conflict.
  • At least 22 people were killed when a suicide bomber targeted a protest in Nanaghar’s Mohamand Dara district on Tuesday; no claim of responsibility was reported.
  • The Sindh High Court ordered the formation of a special tribunal and Joint Investigation Team to hear cases related to violent protests in Karachi on May 12 2007.
  • Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar accused the government of manipulating the upcoming parliamentary elections and complained that Hezb-e-Islami concerns over the voter registration process and other issues were being ignored; he nonetheless said he wanted elections to be held on time and rejected proposals for the formation of an interim government.
  • The UN estimates that more than 275,000 Afghans have been displaced by drought, and more than two million affected nationwide.
  • Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s wife Kulsoom Nawaz passed away in London on Tuesday after a months-long battle with cancer; she was 68.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • CPEC Project: In a statement on Monday, Pakistan’s commerce ministry rejected a Financial Times report that had quoted commerce advisor Abdul Razak Dawood suggesting that Pakistan might put the China Pakistan Economic Corridor project “on hold for a year”. China’s foreign ministry also released a statement describing the article as “ill-intentioned” and “based on distorted and misquoted information.” Dawood later claimed his comments had been taken out of context. Shehbaz Sharif denounced the government over the issue on Monday, saying that its position on CPEC was “the same as the nation’s enemies”. [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • IMF Talks: Speaking on Tuesday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry claimed that Sec. Pompeo had pledged not to block any Pakistani requests to the IMF for a bailout package when he met with Pakistani officials last week. The US embassy did not comment. An IMF staff team is due to visit Pakistan before the end of the month for talks, although Finance Minister Umar said no determination had been made yet on whether to seek new loans.
  • Dam Donations: On Monday, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa pledged approximately Rs 1 billion in funds on behalf of the army to Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar’s special dam construction fund, which a spokesman for the military said represented the contribution of two days’ salaries from all officers and one day’s salary from all enlisted personnel. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Energy Crisis: A meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee of the federal cabinet reversed a decision by PM Khan last week to allow a 46% hike in gas tariff rates. Bloomberg reports on Pakistan’s negotiations of liquified natural gas purchase in 2016, which is now under scrutiny by the National Accountability Bureau and the Supreme Court. [ET] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Army Chief Approves Thirteen Death Sentences Under Military Courts [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Russian and Pakistani Foreign Ministers to Meet at UNGA [The Nation]
  • JUI-F Leader’s Brother to Be Removed as Commissioner for Afghan Refugees [The Nation]
  • Commission on Enforced Disappearances Disposes of 3519 Cases [ET]
  • PM Khan to ‘Personally Monitor’ Housing Construction Plans [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Remittances Rise in July-August Period [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: At least 22 people were killed and 23 wounded in a suicide bombing that targeted a gathering of protestors on the Jalalabad-Torkham highway in the Mohmand Dara district in Nangarhar on Tuesday; no immediate claim of responsibility was reported. Protestors were reported to have been seeking the dismissal of a local militia commander in the Achin district. Military officials in Paktia claim to have killed at least 35 militants during operations in the Zurmat district. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [AP] [TOLO]
  • Bolton Rejects ICC Oversight: In a speech on Monday, US National Security Advisor John Bolton denounced the International Criminal Court and warned of retaliatory sanctions and other actions if the court moved to indict American soldiers or officials on war crimes charges related to the conflict in Afghanistan. [TOLO]
  • Security Review: Pres. Ghani chaired a meeting at the ministry of defense on Monday evening to review the security situation around the country; as well as preparations for Ashura ceremonies later this month. The ministers of defense and interior and chief of the National Directorate of Security skipped a parliamentary summons for a briefing on security on Monday, prompting calls for their removal. [Ariana News]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Talks: Reuters reports that the Taliban are planning to send a delegation to hold another round of direct talks with U.S. representatives at an unspecified future time and location; Taliban sources say the delegation will be led by Qatar political office chief Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, but that he will be replaced with an unnamed successor at some point in the future. The release of Taliban prisoners is reported to be at the top of the group’s negotiating agenda. [Ariana News]
  • Hekmatyar Election Complaints: Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Hezb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar accused the government of manipulating the upcoming parliamentary elections, questioning the postponement of district council elections and restrictions on voting by refugees. He also criticized the voter registration process, but said that he wanted elections to be held on time and opposed the formation of an interim government. [Khaama Press]
  • Pakistan Talks: Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is due to visit Kabul on September 15, The Nation reports.

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Drought Displacement: UN officials estimate that at least 275,000 people have been displaced by drought in western Afghanistan, more than the total number estimated to have been displaced by conflict, and that more than two million people nationwide affected by the drought.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • UN Officials Warn Against Rushed Repatriation of Afghan Refugees in Europe [Reuters]
  • Ministry of Interior Pledges to Investigate Massoud Day Mayhem [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Chinese FM Discusses CPEC with New Govt; Bombing Targets Massoud Demonstrations in Kabul

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Topline

  • Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi held talks with top Pakistani civilian and military leaders over the weekend following his arrival on Friday; in a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Qureshi, Wang touted the benefits of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, but the Financial Times reports that the new government is seeking a review of many of the projects agreed to under CPEC. Dawn reports that the two sides agreed to invite third-country investors to participated in planned special economic zones under CPEC, and to expand the CPEC portfolio to include “social sector and regional development schemes”.
  • At least seven people were killed in a suicide bombing attack in Kabul on Sunday that targeted supporters of the late mujahedeen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, who were demonstrating in the city on the anniversary of his death. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. Earlier, Pres. Ghani met with residents in western Kabul and pledged additional security measures for the capital.
  • Several attacks were reported around the country in Afghanistan, killing dozens of Afghan security personnel. The provincial governor of Sar-e-Pul warned that its provincial capital was in danger of falling to the Taliban if reinforcements were not sent; the Taliban reportedly took control of the Khamab district in Jowzjan province on Sunday.
  • Pres. Arif Alvi was sworn into office on Sunday. On Saturday, four additional ministers were inducted into the federal cabinet.
  • PML-N leaders are reportedly considering “mass protests” in response to the PTI’s reported plans to amend local government laws and introduce a system of directly-elected mayors; a meeting of PML-N local councilors last week was reported to have been poorly attended, however, and the party is holding another meeting today.
  • Pres. Ghani reportedly ordered the retirement of eight ambassadors and sixteen senior foreign ministry officials last week, including the Afghan ambassadors to Russia, Qatar, Germany, and Iran, among other countries.
  • In an address on Friday, PM Khan echoed Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar’s calls for donations to a special fund for dam construction, appealing to expatriate Pakistanis to help fund the project. Around Rs 1.93 billion has reportedly been raised under the initiative so far.
  • Finance Minister Asad Umar reportedly pledged not to raise electricity and gas tariffs for export-oriented industries in a meeting with business leaders on Friday. The government is reportedly considering new taxes and customs duties in an effort to close the fiscal and current account deficits.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Police Transfers: On Friday, the federal government ordered the transfer of the provincial police chiefs for Punjab, Sindh, and Khyber Paktunkhwa provinces; former Punjab police chief Syed Kaleem Imam was appointed to the Sindh chief’s position, former Khyber Paktunkhwa chief Muhammad Tarir to the Punjab position, and Salahuddin Khan Mehsud to the Khyber Paktunkhwa position. Dawn reports that the new Punjab government is planning to rotate out 90 senior police officers who had served under the PML-N government to other provinces. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Tensions with India: A civilian man was killed in cross-border firing along the Line of Control on Monday, Pakistani military officials reported. In an interview on Friday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that the government had proposed visa-free border crossings for Sikh pilgrims from India seeking to travel to Kartarpur, but that “no positive response has been received so  far from Indian side”. Speaking on Friday, India’s ambassador to Pakistan said that “a new political window opened up” following the recent elections “and we are filled with cautious hope”, but that “terrorism is a deal-breaker”. [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Chinese and Saudi Diplomats Visit: Following his arrival on Friday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi held meetings with his counterpart Foreign Minister Qureshi and with PM Khan and Chief of Army Staff Bajwa. Speaking at a joint press conference on Saturday, Wang pledged to complete negotiations on a free trade agreement by the end of the year, and to encourage greater Pakistani exports to China. Qureshi said that the China Pakistan Economic Corridor “will remain a priority for the government”, and Wang touted the benefits of the project, denying that it was imposing debt burdens on Pakistan. The Financial Times reports that the government plans to review past investment agreements under CPEC; Commerce Minister Abdul Razak Dawood suggests that the government might “put everything on hold for a year so we can get our act together” and seek to extend CPEC’s term by another five years. Ministry of Planning sources tell the Express Tribune that the government is seeking to fast-track development at Gwadar port under CPEC. Dawn reports that the two sides agreed to invite third-country investors to participate in CPEC special economic zones and to add “social sector and regional development schemes” to the project’s portfolio. Separately, Saudi information minister Awwad bin Saleh Al-Awwad visited Islamabad and met with PM Khan and other officials on Sunday. Both Wang and Awwad also met with Pres. Alvi. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Government Formation: On Sunday, President Arif Alvi was sworn into office, following the expiration of President Mamnoon Hussain’s five year term in office on Saturday. On Saturday, PM Khan inducted four new ministers into the federal cabinet, all from the PTI. The Punjab provincial government also reportedly plans to add nine new members, and two additional ministers were sworn into the Balochistan provincial cabinet on Friday. [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Election Complaints: Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif reiterated demands for an inquiry into alleged election rigging, threatening to disrupt parliamentary proceedings if the government did not take action. In response, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that the government was open to a probe but that the opposition had yet to provide details to substantiate its allegations. [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Local Government Reforms: Dawn reports that the PTI is planning to eliminate tehsil council level local government bodies and to strengthen the power of directly elected city mayors; up to a third of provincial annual development budgets would be distributed to local councils. PML-N sources tell the Express Tribune they are considering “mass protests” against any changes to the system, although the report notes that many local representatives skipped a PML-N conference on the issue last week. Another meeting is planned for Monday. [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Economics Advisor Resignation: Speaking on Saturday, JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman accused the PTI government of “promoting vulgarities on the dictates of the West”, criticizing the appointment of economist Atif Mian to the Economic Advisory Council and saying that “if you want to build a Pakistan for Ahmadis, it would happen over our dead bodies”. Asim Ijaz Khawaja and Imran Rasul, two other appointees, resigned over the weekend following the government’s removal of Mian from the council on Friday. [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: The Express Tribune reports that a PTI government task force is considering amendments to the accountability laws to prevent the National Accountability Bureau from “misusing its powers” and limit its powers of arrest. On Friday, the NAB revised its standard operating procedures to set a ten-month timeline for the period from complaints to filing a court case. During hearings on Friday, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar questioned the scope of his own powers to initiate suo motu hearings, and sought opinions from the attorney general and Supreme Court Bar Association. On Friday, the Islamabad High Court formed a bench to begin hearings on an appeal by Nawaz Sharif against his conviction in the Avenfield properties case. On Saturday, the foreign ministry cancelled the diplomatic passport of former finance minister Ishaq Dar as part of ongoing efforts to force his return to Pakistan. On Monday, the Lahore High Court issued a bailable arrest warrant against former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi for his comments surrounding a Dawn interview in May by Nawaz Sharif. The NAB has filed new corruption charges against former prime minister Yousaf Gilani, summoning him for questioning on Sept 26. The Lahore High Court dropped contempt of court charges against PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal on Monday. [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: Re-polling is underway in the PK-23 Shangla constituency on Monday, where low female turnout had prompted the ECP to invalidate the election day results. The ECP is updating voter registration lists ahead of the October by-elections, and reported Friday that more than 106 million voters had been registered. PML-N Sindh chapter president Syed Shah Mohammad Shah announced the dissolution of the party’s provincial organization on Sunday, and the formation of a new advisory committee to reorganize the party chapter. PTI Balochistan leader Yar Muhammad Rind warned on Friday that the party would not “allow the running of affairs unilaterally” by the Balochistan Awami Party-led provincial government. PM Khan chaired a meeting on the government’s media strategy on Sunday. Former PM Abbasi is expected to contest the NA-124 by-election from Lahore. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Dam Construction Drive: In an address on Friday, PM Khan called for further donations to the special fund established by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar for the construction of additional dams, particularly from members of the Pakistani expatriate community. As of last week, the chief justice’s fund had reportedly raised Rs 1.93 billion (approximately US$ 15M), almost all from domestic sources; speaking on Saturday after a meeting with two private foundations, Chief Justice Nisar vowed to continue his fundraising efforts. The Punjab cabinet announced Saturday that its members would donate one month’s salaries to the efforts, and Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed pledged that Pakistan Railways would provide Rs 100 million annually to support dam construction efforts. The Pakistani embassy in the United States launched an appeal to expats over the weekend. [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [APP]
  • Economic Reforms: Circular debts in the energy sector totaled Rs 1.18 trillion as of the end of July, including Rs 596 billion in debts and another Rs 582 billion held by the Power Holding Private Ltd. Speaking to business leaders on Friday, Finance Minister Umar pledged not to increase electricity and gas prices for export-oriented industries. The Express Tribune reports that the government is considering additional taxes and customs duties in order to close the fiscal deficit and reduce imports. In comments on Monday, PM Khan suggested that the government might seek to tap “dead capital” from government-owned lands and buildings as a substitute for foreign aid. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Soldier Killed in Awaran Operation [Dawn] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Army Chief Vows to Take Care of Families of Martyrs [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Chinese-Built Patrol Vessel Inducted into Pakistan Maritime Security Agency Fleet [Dawn]
  • Musharraf Trial Hearings Set for October 9 [ET]
  • Karachi Mayor’s Car Stolen at Gunpoint [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Security Restrictions Imposed Ahead of Muharram [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kabul Security: At least seven people were killed and more than two dozen wounded when a suicide bomber on a motorcycle detonated near a procession in Kabul on Sunday commemorating the death anniversary of mujahedeen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement. Earlier in the day, another would-be suicide bomber was killed by police before detonating his explosives. Earlier on Friday, Pres. Ghani met with members of the Dasht-e-Barchi community, where a double bombing earlier in the week killed dozens at a gym; TOLO interviews members of the community who call for the government to cede security to local militias. In his remarks Ghani announced the division of Kabul into four security zones, and agreed to the formation of a “Joint Security and Peoples Committee”, the specific role of which available reporting does not define. Former special forces commander Gen. Syed Mohammad Roshandili was appointed the new security chief for the capital on Saturday. On Sunday, the ministry of interior reported it had made more than a hundred arrests in connection to aerial gunfire during the Massoud demonstrations; TOLO interviews residents angry at the security disruptions. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Ariana News] [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: At least twenty Afghan security personnel were killed in a Taliban attack on multiple checkposts in the Baghlan-e-Markazi district in Baghlan province over Saturday night; in remarks to the NYT a spokesman for the Afghan defense ministry downplayed the significance of the attack, which follows several other recent attacks in the area. At least nine security personnel were killed in a separate attack on Saturday in Herat province. On Monday, Sar-e-Pul provincial governor Zabihullah Amani warned that the provincial capital was “on the verge of collapse” after Taliban attacks over Sunday night; no casualty details have been confirmed, but the Taliban are reported to have cut off the highway linking Sar-e-Pul and Jawzjan. Taliban fighters also overran the Khamab district center in Jawzjan on early Monday morning, killing at least eight Afghan security personnel. Another thirteen Afghan security personnel were reportedly killed in an attack on their checkpost in the Dasht-e-Archi district in Kunduz, and 14 militiamen were killed in attack an attack in the Dara Suf district in Samangan. In Wardak, at least 11 security personnel have been killed in fighting in the Dai Mirdad district since Saturday evening. Twelve civilians were killed in a mortar attack in Helmand’s Gereshk district on Monday. Military officials in Badakhshan claim to have killed the Taliban military commission chief for the province in an operation in the Orgu district on Saturday. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Massoud Death Anniversary: Chief Executive Abdullah and other political leaders took part in blood drives and other ceremonies over the weekend to commemorate the death anniversary of mujahedeen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud and Martyr’s Week. [TOLO]
  • Diplomats Retired: TOLO reports that Pres. Ghani has ordered the retirement of eight ambassadors — including the ambassadors to Germany, Russia, Qatar, and Iran — and sixteen ministry of foreign affairs officials.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghan Media Under Pressure After Journalists’ Deaths [Reuters]
  • Ingrid Hayden Appointed Deputed UN Special Representative [TOLO]
  • Turkmenistan Opens Plant to Ship Power to Afghanistan [AP]
  • Commentary: A Cheer to Trump’s Outreach to the Taliban – “The administration’s willingness to begin direct talks should underscore to the Taliban that the United States believes talks are the only way to achieve its stated goal — stabilizing Afghanistan to prevent it from reverting to a safe haven from which terrorists could strike America and its allies.” [Douglas Lute and Dennis McDonough, NYT]
  • Commentary: Is the Taliban Prepared to Make Peace? – “What does the Taliban ultimately want, and is its leadership sincere about peace talks? My own conversations with people close to, and in contact with, Taliban political figures in recent months suggest that there is a genuine, if temporary, opening for peace.” [John Walsh, Foreign Affairs]
  • Commentary: How the US Government Misleads the Public on Afghanistan – “Seventeen years into the war in Afghanistan, American officials routinely issue inflated assessments of progress that contradict what is actually happening there.” [Rod Nordland, Ash Ngu, and Fahim Abed, NYT]
  • Commentary: The Tragic Death of an Afghan Journalist with a Different Kind of Courage – “Samim was very different from many of his contemporaries, an all-too-rare embodiment of the qualities Afghanistan needs to become a humane, open-minded and modern society.” [Pamela Constable, WAPO]