Pakistan-Afghanistan Updates: Documents Leaked on Circa-2010 Visas; NATO Says ANSF Withdrew from Sangin ‘On Their Own Terms’

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Topline

  • Documents leaked on Thursday appear to confirm earlier reports that the PPP government delegated significant authority to then-ambassador Husain Haqqani to issue visas without extra scrutiny from other agencies, something he previously wrote he had used to facilitate U.S. intelligence operations seeking to track down Osama bin Laden.
  • NATO’s Resolute Support mission issued a statement Thursday saying that Afghan forces had withdrawn from their base in the Sangin district center “on their own terms” and had repositioned to a new district center some two kilometers away; U.S. forces assisted in the airlift and destruction of the abandoned bases.
  • Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency announced the arrest of three men on blasphemy charges on Friday; their identities have not been disclosed. Islamabad police have reportedly sealed the Lal Masjid and blocked a planned demonstration against blasphemy on Friday.
  • Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, U.S. Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti noted concerns over possible Russian support for the Taliban in Afghanistan, but did not provide details.
  • Pres. Ghani appointed a new governor of Farah province on Friday, former Ghazni parliamentarian and NDS director Mohammad Arif Shah Jahan.

Pakistan — Security

  • Punjab Police Chief Set to Retire: The Express Tribune reports that the likely replacement for outgoing Punjab provincial police chief Mushtaq Ahmed Sukhera is the current Lahore police chief, Amin Wains; earlier this week the government requested the transfer of Tariq Masood Yasin, the Islamabad police chief, to the Punjab service, who Dawn suggests may be tapped to replace Wains.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Visa Controversy: Documents leaked to the Pakistani press on Thursday appear to confirm previous reports that the PPP government empowered then-ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani to issue visas “without having to refer each aforementioned visa applications to the concerned authorities in Pakistan”. Earlier this week, foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz told the senate that the embassy’s issuance of visas had increased 50% following that period; in an op-ed last month, Haqqani acknowledged doing so in order to support U.S. intelligence operations seeking to track down Osama bin Laden. PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar responded Friday that “the purpose was to expedite, not bypass, the process” and the letter’s “regurgitation at this time is politically motivated and aimed at diverting attention from the real issue”. [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Blasphemy Arrests: The Federal Investigation Agency arrested three men who it charged with publishing blasphemous content on social media on Friday; their names have not been released, but they were remanded to FIA custody for a week after being presented before an Islamabad anti-terrorism court. Separately, Islamabad police sealed off access to the Lal Masjid and the home of mosque leader Maulana Abdul Aziz, blocking a planned rally against blasphemy. [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Day Ceremonies: At a ceremony on Thursday, Pres. Hussain conferred 46 military and 50 civil awards, for gallantry or contributions to the arts and sciences. Jamaat-ud-Dawa staged a demonstration in Lahore on Thursday, condemning the house arrest of leader Hafiz Saeed. [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Gilgit-Baltistan Territory Dispute: On Friday, the Khyber Paktunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan governments are due to sign an agreement to resolve a territory dispute along a stretch of territory adjoining the Karakoram Highway, following negotiations begun last summer.
  • Other Political Activity: Speaking at an event in Lahore on Thursday, former Pres. Zardari accused the Sharif family of “arrogant and dictatorial” behavior, and criticizing the 2013 parliamentary elections. On Thursday, Pak Sarzameen Party leader Mustafa Kamal announced a protest campaign in Karachi beginning the first week of April. Punjab University has banned all student organizations and restricted visitor access to the campus following a clash between the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba and a Pashtun student group earlier this week. PPP leader Syed Zahir Ali Shah met with Khyber Paktunkhwa chief minister Pervaiz Khattak on Thursday but rejected an offer to join the PTI. [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • PIA Seeks Aid: In a Reuters interview, PIA CEO Bernd Hildenbrand, who is under investigation over the cost of an aircraft leasing deal, warned that the carrier was losing market share to Gulf airlines and suggested that the government would need to take steps to restrict access and provide more support to the national airline.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Prime Minister Using Discretionary Powers to Connect Gas Supply to Win Voter Support [ET]
  • Planning Commission Opposes LNG Terminal Leasing at Gwadar [Dawn]
  • Two Women Arrested in Karachi Over Currency Smuggling [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Air Force Academy Renamed in Honor of Air Marshal Asghar Khan [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: In a statement on Thursday following reports that Afghan security forces had abandoned the Sangin district center, the NATO Resolute Support mission said that the withdrawal had been deliberate and that forces “left on their own terms”, “repositioning” to a new district center approximately two kilometers south. U.S. forces assisted in the airlift and in the destruction of the abandoned bases. There is apparently no remaining civilian presence in the area. The Afghan Ministry of Defense also said that an army brigade remained in the district “and there are no major security concerns”. [RFE/RL] [TOLO] [Ariana News] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Concerns Over Russian Support: NATO Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti told a Senate armed services committee hearing on Thursday that he had seen “increased [Russian] influence in terms of association and perhaps even supply to the Taliban”, but did not provide further details. At Thursday’s weekly press conference, a spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign ministry confirmed that it would participate in the Russian-hosted conference on Afghanistan scheduled to be held in early April, but said it had not been decided at what level, and had not been confirmed whether the Afghan Taliban would participate, which Afghan government officials had previously ruled out. [RFE/RL] [WAPO]
  • Elections Support: UK Ambassador to Afghanistan Dominic Jermey visited Herat on Thursday; in an interview with TOLO News, he said that the UK “strongly supports the implementation of the e-voting system in Afghanistan and will provide all out support to the Afghan government and the country’s election management bodies”.
  • New Governor Appointed: On Friday, Pres. Ghani appointed Mohammad Arif Shah Jahan, a former Ghazni parliamentary representative and National Director of Security director in Ghazni, to become governor of Farah province.

Afghanistan — Remainder

  • Afghan Children, Deprived of School, Tell of Their Deepest Fears [NYT] [TOLO]
  • Defense Ministry Welcomes Reports of Indian Helicopter Assistance [TOLO]
  • US Belatedly Welcomes Reopening of Afghanistan-Pakistan Border [Dawn]
  • Businessman’s Son Kidnapped in Kabul [TOLO]
  • Commentary: America Can’t Terror-Proof Afghanistan – “With or without more troops, under the present strategy, the U.S. commitment would have to be eternal, because it does nothing to mitigate the geopolitical conditions that created an enabling environment for global terrorism in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region and which can be addressed only by political means.” [Barnett Rubin, The National Interest]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Taliban Seize Sangin District Center; Military Parade Commemorates Pakistan Day

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Topline

  • The Taliban have taken control of Helmand’s Sangin district after a small group of police and soldiers withdrew following overnight attacks; the Taliban claim to have seized former bases and military equipment, although Afghan forces say they carried out airstrikes to destroy abandoned materiel. The district police chief tells the AP that a counterattack is currently in preparation.
  • A military parade and other ceremonies commemorated Pakistan Day, the anniversary of the 1940 Lahore Resolution calling for the creation of a country for Muslims in British India.
  • Prime Minister Sharif met with JUI-F and PkMAP leaders on Wednesday after their opposition during the vote on Wednesday over the renewal of military courts; voting on the amendment has not yet taken place in the senate.
  • India’s ambassador to Afghanistan confirmed that India was considering an Afghan request to supply parts and repairs to 18 currently-grounded Russian helicopters, with a decision slated for “within a few months”.
  • Nine Afghan Local Police militia members were killed in an insider attack at a highway checkpost in Kunduz over Wednesday night.
  • Taliban sources tell the AP that Pakistan met with representatives in Islamabad to pressure the group to enter into peace talks in Afghanistan, ahead of a Russian-hosted conference on the conflict schedule for early April.
  • Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan announced plans to meet with ambassadors from Muslim countries on form a “united ummah” to confront the issue of “blasphemy”, reiterating demands that social media providers comply with government demands to curtail such content.
  • The Pakistani national assembly passed senate-amended legislation governing national inquiry commissions, clearing the way for its signature into law.

Pakistan — Security

  • Military Courts: Following their opposition to the revival of the military courts system during the vote in the national assembly, Prime Minister Sharif held separate meetings on Wednesday with JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman and PkMAP leader Mehmood Khan Achakzai. The amendment has yet to be voted on in the senate.
  • Census Workers Attacked: A three-man census team was fired at during a visit to a village in the Ghotki district on Wednesday; two men were arrested, and no injuries were reported.
  • Rail Tracks Bombing: Two small bombs exploded on the railway line linking the Sindh cities of Mehrabpur and Rohri on Wednesday evening, halting rail service but causing no injuries. No claim of responsibility has been reported.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Pakistan Day Celebrated: A military parade and other ceremonies commemorated the 77th Pakistan Day celebration on Thursday, which marks the anniversary of the Lahore Resolution of 1940 calling for the creation of a separate country for Muslims out of British India. Visiting military delegations from Saudi Arabia, China, and Turkey also took part in the parade. Speaking at a ceremony at Pakistan’s embassy in New Delhi, ambassador Abdul Basit expressed hope that bilateral relations would improve and said that “Pakistan is keen to settle all the issues with India, including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, through dialogue”. In his remarks, former Pres. Zardari called for “rededicate[ing] ourselves to the ideals of democracy, rule of law and welfare of the people”. [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Blasphemy Controls: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan announced on Wednesday that he had called a meeting of ambassadors to Pakistan from Muslim countries to “tackle this very important issue of blasphemy as a united ummah”, and reiterated his intention to “take the strictest of measures” against social media companies who failed to comply with government demands that they curtail “blasphemous” content and provide information about those posting it. Facebook has not commented directly on the issue, but its report on blocks at the request of national governments cites 25 pieces of content blocked in Pakistan during the first half of 2016. Twitter’s own transparency report said that the Pakistani government had requested information on 60 accounts in 2016, and sought the removal of 51 of them, which Twitter said it did not comply with.
  • Other Political Activity: Despite low attendance and opposition walkouts in the national assembly on Wednesday, the PML-N pushed through legislation on national inquiry commissions, which was earlier approved with amendments by the senate; it now goes to the president for signature. During Election Commission hearings on Wednesday, ECP officials complained that the PTI was using delaying tactics in its repeated adjournment requests on hearings into charges that it had violated campaign finance law by raising money overseas, saying that no more extensions would be granted when hearings resume on April 3. Former MQM provincial assembly member Shaikh Abdullah announced on Wednesday he would join the Pak Sarzameen Party. A Karachi anti-terrorism court renewed arrest orders against MQM leader Altaf Hussain and nine other party leaders on Wednesday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Tax Complaints: A coalition of chambers of commerce and business lobbies issued a declaration on Wednesday demanding the withdrawal of discretionary powers to the Federal Board of Revenue, accusing tax officers of “twisting their arms and blackmailing them” and focusing on squeezing more revenue out of existing taxpayers as the number of filers has declined.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Cricket Star Joins Military Initiative to Discourage Poppy Cultivation in FATA [ET]
  • Islamabad Police Chief to Shift to Punjab [ET]
  • Islamabad Capital Development Authority Tells Supreme Court US Embassy Building Did Not Violate By-Laws [ET]
  • Constable Killed in Sialkot Shooting [The Nation]
  • Sindh Chief Minister Pledges to Overhaul Public Education System [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Summons NAB Chairman on Illegal Appointments Case [ET]
  • Former Sindh Bar Council Vice Chairman Resigns, Alleging Corruption [Dawn]
  • Government Plans to Introduce Budget in Late May [The Nation]
  • Saeed Ahmad Appointed President of National Bank of Pakistan [The Nation]
  • Commentary: Fighting on Three Fronts – “Pakistan’s fixed and unchanging position on India and Afghanistan, and its inability or reluctance to deal with what threatens these countries, like non state actors and the Afghan Taliban, has come to calcify Pakistan’s foreign policy.” [Touqir Hussain, Express Tribune]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Taliban Take Control of Sangin District: Taliban fighters captured control of Helmand’s Sangin district over Wednesday night after Afghan security forces conducted a “tactical withdrawal” from the district center, officials reported Thursday. A Taliban spokesman said that the group now held the police headquarters and a military base, and had seized military equipment left behind, although Afghan Air Force airstrikes were reportedly carried out to destroy some abandoned materiel and bases. A Khaama Press source says forces withdrew due to a lack of resupply amidst ongoing fighting, while other sources attribute it to a desire to avoid civilian casualties. District police chief Mohammad Rasoul tells the AP that only eight policemen and 30 Afghan soldiers were on duty at the time of the Taliban siege, and said that they were planning a counterattack. [NYT] [WAPO] [TOLO]
  • Indian Military Aid: India’s ambassador to Afghanistan Manpreet Vohra confirms to Reuters that India is considering an Afghan request to provide repairs and parts for 18 currently-grounded Russian-made helicopters in use by the Afghan Air Force, at an estimated cost of around $50 million. He suggested that a decision would be finalized “within a few months”.
  • Other Attacks and Operations: An Afghan Local Police officer killed nine of his colleagues in an apparent insider attack at a checkpost on the Kunduz-Ali Abad highway in Kunduz province on Wednesday night; police officials say they believe the attacker has fled to join Taliban. [TOLO] [Pajhwok] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Talks: Two anonymous Taliban sources tell the AP that Pakistan hosted a meeting with their leadership to press them to join peace talks ahead of a Russian-hosted summit on Afghanistan planned for early April; the Taliban officials say they presented their own demands in return, but details of the meeting are otherwise limited. Speaking separately at an Atlantic Council event in Washington, acting foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani reiterated demands for Pakistan to take action against the Taliban leadership, saying that “Pakistan’s reluctance to end its support to terrorism undermines efforts to insure peace and security in the country”.
  • Electoral Reforms: A spokesman for Chief Executive Abdullah said Wednesday that the government was in talks with donors about the creation of an electronic voting system, a proposal which was endorsed by the chairman of the Electoral Complaints Commission.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • School Dropouts: Save the Children estimates that more than 440,000 children in Afghanistan will drop out of schooling this year due to conflict and forced returns from Pakistan. Almost a third of all school-age children in Afghanistan, or 3.7 million, are unable to attend school; over half of all returnee children are out of school. Speaking at a ceremony marking the start of the new academic year on Thursday, Second Vice President Mohammad Sarwar Danish noted that 64% of Afghans over the age of 15 remain illiterate.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Cross-Border Traders Complain of Continued Restrictions at Torkham Despite Reopening [Dawn]
  • Is It Safe for Britain to Send Refugees Back to Afghanistan? [Guardian]
  • Kabul Municipality Employees Complain of Poor Salaries [TOLO]
  • Commentary: How Much Do I Need to Pay? Changes to Afghanistan’s Tax Law Cause Chaos and Confusion – “It is inexplicable that so much uncertainty and opaqueness could have been introduced to this sector, at exactly the time that the government is trying to expand the tax base in a shrinking economy, attract investment, and tackle corruption, and hoping to develop and maintain a strong revenue stream.” [Chantal Grut, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: National Assembly Approves Military Courts Amendment; Rabbani Backs Nicholson Troop Request

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Topline

  • On Tuesday, Pakistan’s national assembly passed the 28th Amendment to the constitution, which revives the secret military court system for terrorism suspects. The senate took up the issue on Wednesday but does not appear to have completed a final vote as of this writing.
  • Speaking at an event at the Atlantic Council on Tuesday, acting foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani reiterated support for U.S. and NATO commander Gen. John Nicholson’s request for additional forces in Afghanistan.
  • Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan met with visiting UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd on Tuesday, noting in a joint press conference afterwards that investigations into MQM leader Altaf Hussain remained an “irritant” in the bilateral relationship.
  • India and Pakistan concluded Indus Water Treaty talks on Tuesday; India agreed to review the design of one hydroelectric project and allow for an inspection visit by Pakistan’s Indus Commission, but contrary to earlier reports, does not appear to have agreed to further talks on two disputed dam projects.
  • In a RFE/RL interview, Afghan ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal professed to be “cautiously optimistic” about a new “mechanism” agreed to by the two countries to verify action against terrorist groups on both sides of the border.
  • The Federal Investigation Agency has arrested at least one suspect in connection to “blasphemous” online content, it told the Islamabad High Court on Wednesday.
  • A World Bank tribunal ruled against Pakistan in an arbitration case brought by the Tethyan Copper Company over the cancellation of the Reko Diq mining lease in 2011.
  • Pres. Ghani chaired a meeting on Monday to review plans for the issuance of electronic national ID cards, which is reportedly slated to begin within 90 days.

Pakistan — Security

  • Military Courts Legislation Passes National Assembly: In a 255-4 vote on Tuesday, the National Assembly approved the 28th Constitutional Amendment bill, which reinstates secret military courts for terrorism suspects for a two-year period. An accompanying amendment to the Pakistan Army Act was also passed; the four no votes were independent Jamshed Dasti and four members of the Paktunkhwa Milli Awami Party. Prime Minister Sharif attended the session for the vote. JUI-F legislators abstained from the vote, saying they objected to the legislation’s use of the phrase “terrorism in the name of religion”. On Wednesday, the senate took up both bills, approving the Army Act amendment but postponed a vote on the constitutional amendment. [Reuters] [AP]
  • Orakzai Operation: On Wednesday, Pakistan’s military spokesman announced that five Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan militants, including a “high-value target”, were killed in an operation in the Orakzai Agency; two Frontier Corps soldiers, including a major, were killed in the clash. Elsewhere, one security official was killed and three injured in a roadside bombing in South Waziristan’s Angor Adda area near the border with Afghanistan. [ET]
  • Jamaat-ul-Ahrar Confirms Militant Death: On Wednesday, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaat-ul-Ahrar confirmed earlier reports of the death of Qari Muhammad Yasin, aka Ustad Aslam, in a U.S. drone strike in Paktika province on Sunday; Yasin was identified as a member of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and a leading trainer of suicide bombers who had helped plot several major attacks on targets in Pakistan. [Reuters]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Interior Minister Seeks Action Against Altaf Hussain: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan met with visiting UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd in Islamabad on Tuesday, telling a joint press conference afterwards that the “issue of the [MQM] founder” Altaf Hussain remained an “irritant” in Pakistan-UK relations. Rudd responded that “British laws have no exemption. I have assured the minister, action will be taken upon their requests of justice without any discrimination”. Dawn reports that London police are in the process of returning nearly a million pounds seized as part of a money laundering investigation against Hussain and other MQM leaders living in the UK, charges on which were ultimately dropped. [Dawn]
  • Water Talks: The Nation reports that, contrary to claims by Minister of Water and Power Khwaja Asif on Tuesday, India has not agreed to further World Bank-brokered talks in Washington in April on two disputed hydroelectric projects. Indus Water Commission talks concluded on Tuesday; India agreed to review the design of a smaller hydropower project in Miyar, and to allow for an inspection tour by Pakistan’s Indus Commission, but did not agree to halt any current construction. [Dawn] [ET]
  • Blasphemy Investigations: At Islamabad High Court hearings on Wednesday, the Federal Investigation Agency reported that it had made one arrest in connection to cases of “blasphemous” content posted online, although few details were disclosed. [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations: On Tuesday, the National Accountability Bureau initiated an investigation into corruption charges against Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial assembly speaker Asad Qaisar. Separately, the Federal Investigation Agency registered its own case against NAB deputy chairman Imtiaz Tajwar, in connection to his previous tenure as acting chairman of the National Database and Registration Authority.
  • Census Count: On Wednesday, the Peshawar High Court issued a ruling ordering the provincial statistics department to amend census forms to include members of the Sikh minority community in the count. Another petition on the issue has also been filed in the Sindh High Court. [Dawn] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: Prime Minister Sharif met with the PML-N parliamentary delegation on Tuesday, touting the government’s investment and infrastructure efforts and Pakistan’s economic growth. During debate in the national assembly on Wednesday, PPP opposition leader Khurshid Shah accused the government of “weakening the federation” and ignoring the needs of smaller provinces. [The Nation] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • World Bank Tribunal Rules Against Pakistan in Reko Diq Case: A World Bank arbitration tribunal ruled against Pakistan in a case brought by the Tethyan Copper Company over the cancellation of its mining lease for the Reko Diq copper mine in Balochistan in 2011. Hearings on damage payments will begin Wednesday, but are not expected to be finalized until next year. [The Nation]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • US Seeks to Strip Citizenship of Pakistani-Origin Man Convicted in Al Qaeda Plot [Guardian]
  • Lahore High Court Seeks Final Arguments on Hafiz Saeed Detention [Dawn] [ET]
  • Sartaj Aziz Blames PPP Government for Issuance of American Visas [Dawn]
  • Recovery of Pakistan Cash Stashed in Swiss Banks Unlikely [ET]
  • Sindh High Court Freezes Land Deed Registration [ET]
  • Petition Seeks Details on K-Electric Sale to Chinese Firm [ET]
  • Two Chinese Nationals Imprisoned Over ATM Fraud in Karachi [Dawn]
  • Pakistan and South Korea Sign Deal On Information Technology Park [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • U.S. Assistance: Speaking at an event at the Atlantic Council on Tuesday, acting foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani reiterated support for a request by U.S. and NATO commander Gen. John Nicholson for additional U.S. forces in Afghanistan, adding that “we stand confident that the new U.S. administration under President Trump will remain strategically engaged and continue its support”.
  • Attacks and Operations: The NYT reports that the death toll from Monday’s suicide car bombing attack on a NDS-linked militia force in Helmand’s Gereshk district may be as high as 14. On Wednesday, Qari Rohullah, the prayer leader of the central mosque in the Laghman provincial capital of Mehtar Lam, succumbed to injuries sustained in an attack by unidentified gunmen.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Tensions with Pakistan: In a RFE/RL interview, Afghan ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal suggests that Afghanistan is “cautiously optimistic” about an agreement with Pakistan to “verify” that both countries are taking action against terrorist groups on either side of the border. [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • National ID Card Rollout: Pres. Ghani chaired a meeting on Monday to plan for the launch of a national electronic ID card, which Khaama Press reports could begin within 90 days.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghanistan Housing Project Underlines Growing Chinese Role [Reuters]
  • Poverty Prevents Many from Celebrating Nowruz [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Voting Expected Today on Military Courts Revival; Atta Noor Signals Electoral Ambitions

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Topline

  • Voting is expected to take place today on a constitutional amendment to revive special military courts in Pakistan; Prime Minister Sharif will also meet with the PML-N parliamentary delegation as the party plans a “mass mobilization” of supporters ahead of an anticipated Supreme Court ruling on the Panama Papers.
  • Speaking at a Nowruz ceremony in Mazar-e-Sharif on Tuesday, Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor suggested he would resign and “consult with political allies in order to participate in the upcoming elections” at some unspecified point in the future.
  • India and Pakistan began talks under the Indus Water Treaty on disputed hydroelectric projects in Kashmir; the two sides will also meet in Washington DC in early April for further talks.
  • The NYT provides additional details on the clash between rival Junbesh and Jamiat police commanders in Faryab province on Saturday, which reportedly involved the death of one commander’s son.
  • Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told the Pakistani senate on Monday that the government was considering legislation to bar members of banned or sectarian organizations from taking part in elections.
  • Trucks began crossing the newly reopened Pakistan-Afghanistan border on Tuesday morning.
  • The Afghan Air Force received delivery of four new Af-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft in Kabul on Monday.
  • An anonymous U.S. diplomatic source tells Bloomberg News that Pakistan “should expect cuts” to assistance under the Trump administration’s forthcoming budget, which slashes international program spending generally.

Pakistan — Security

  • Military Courts: Law Minister Zahid Hamid introduced a constitutional amendment bill in the national assembly on Monday to renew the special military court system; voting on the measure is expected to take place today, although the Paktunkhwa Milli Awami Party and the JUI-F, both allies of the government, have signaled they would not vote for the amendment unconditionally. PTI and PPP representatives, despite backing the renewal of the courts, also criticized the government for failing to control terrorism. [ET]
  • Counter-Terrorism Crackdown: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told the senate on Monday that the government was considering a law to bar members of banned and sectarian organizations from participating in electoral contests. Chaudhry Nisar defended the government’s implementation of the National Action Plan against terrorism and denied that it was targeting members of the Pashtun minority in the current crackdown. He also reported that the interior ministry had blocked over 344,000 Computerized National Identity Cards as part of the re-verification process. On Monday, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority said that it had blocked access to ten websites of banned organizations under the NAP. [The Nation] [ET]
  • Balochistan Conflict: On Tuesday, Pakistan’s military spokesman announced the surrender of twenty militant commanders in Balochistan, all of whom were said to have confessed to having received support from Indian intelligence services. [The Nation]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Water Talks with India: Speaking to the press at the opening of Indus Water Treaty talks between India and Pakistan in Lahore on Monday, Water and Power Minister Khawaja Asif said that the two countries would also hold secretary-level talks in Washington in early April on two disputed Indian hydropower projects. The Nation reports that during Monday’s IWT talks a Pakistani request to visit three other hydroelectric sites in Kashmir was rebuffed, but that Indian officials agreed to share flood data.
  • Census Count: A police officer was injured in an attack on a census team in the Charasadda district on Tuesday; the attacker was arrested and the census has resumed in the area. Members of the Sikh community staged a protest in Peshawar on Monday, demanding to be counted as a distinct minority. [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: Prime Minister Sharif is considering visits to Quetta, Peshawar, and other cities around the country as part of a “mass mobilization” plan ahead of the Supreme Court’s Panama Papers ruling, the Express Tribune reports; the PML-N parliamentary delegation will meet Tuesday to discuss strategy and affirm support for the prime minister. Students affiliated with the Pashtun Students Federation and Islami Jamiat Talba clashed at Punjab University during a Pashtun cultural celebration on Tuesday, leaving at least seven injured. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • U.S. Considering Aid Cuts: An anonymous U.S. diplomatic source tells Bloomberg that Pakistan “should expect a reduction in aid” under the forthcoming Trump administration budget, which proposes an overall 28.5% cut in funding for international programs; Finance Minister Dar says that he may meet with Trump officials before the World Bank and IMF annual meetings in Washington in April.
  • Energy Infrastructure: On Monday, the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority set an average tariff rate for K-Electric in Karachi through 2024, while also mandating the use of “time-of-use metering” for all customers using more than five kilowatts by the end of the year, and requiring the utility to invest Rs 237.6 billion over the seven-year period. [The Nation]
  • NADRA Dues: On Monday, officials from the National Database and Registration Authority told a Supreme Court hearing that the federal government owed Rs 2.5 billion in arrears as part of a pledge it had made to assume a portion of the cost for the first-time issuance of national ID cards. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Lahore High Court Hears Challenge to Hafiz Saeed House Arrest Order [The Nation] [ET]
  • Rangers Seize Arms Cache Linked to MQM Leader [Dawn]
  • PEMRA Suspends Dawn News TV Program [Dawn] [ET]
  • Finance Minister Convenes Reviews Budget Proposals [The Nation]
  • Current Account Deficit Rises to $5.4 Billion in July-February Period [Dawn]
  • Prime Minister Releases Rs 553 Million in ‘Green Pakistan’ Funds [ET] [The Nation]
  • Punjab Government to Review HEC Decision on Two-Year BA and MA Programs [ET]
  • Draft Intellectual Property Rights Law Due by Year-End [ET]
  • FIA Investigating PIA CEO [The Nation]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Jamiat-Junbesh Clash: The NYT provides additional details on Saturday’s clash in the Faryab provincial capital of Maimana between rival police commanders affiliated with the Jamiat-e-Islami and Junbesh-e-Milli parties. The feud reportedly began after Ahmad Shah Malang, head of the provincial police counter-terrorism department and a member of the Jamiat, killed the son of Nizam Qaisari, the police chief of the neighboring Qaysar district and a member of Junbesh. A spokesman for the governor later said that Malang had been taken into custody by the Afghan National Army; a spokesman for the provincial police suggested that Qaisari’s son had been mistakenly killed while engaging in target practice at a park in Maimana.
  • Aircraft Delivered: Four new A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft were delivered to the Afghan Air Force in Kabul on Monday, bringing the AAF’s total fleet to twelve of the planes in-country and another seven for use in a training capacity at Moody Air Force Base in the U.S.
  • Attacks and Operations: Laghman provincial officials report that the Afghan Air Force bombed the compound of a Taliban leader in the Alingar district on Monday; casualty details are unconfirmed. On Monday night, a Taliban suicide car bomber struck a checkpoint in the Gereshk district in Helmand, killing six members of an NDS intelligence service unit.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Noor Signals Electoral Ambitions: Speaking at a Nowruz ceremony in Mazar-e-Sharif on Tuesday, Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor said that he would make a decision soon to resign from his position — to which he was formally reappointed by Pres. Ghani last month — and “consult with political allies in order to participate in the upcoming elections”. Second Vice President Sarwar Danish also attended the ceremony; the presidential palace has not commented on Noor’s remarks. [Khaama Press]
  • Border Reopens: Following Prime Minister Sharif’s order on Monday, hundreds of trucks began crossing the reopened Pakistan-Afghanistan border on Tuesday morning, after it had been closed for than a month. [TOLO]
  • Refugee Repatriation: The Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation estimates that a record 1.1 million Afghan refugees returned to the country from Pakistan and Iran in Solar Year 1395, which ended yesterday; another 10,000 refugees also returned from Europe.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Economic Indicators: On Monday, Afghanistan’s Central Statistics Organization reported that the Afghan economy grew by more than two percent during the first nine months of Solar Year 1395 (late March – November 2016); the CSO also reported an 8% increase in exports and a 19% drop in imports. [TOLO]

Afghanistan —Remainders

  • New Zealand Forces Accused of Civilian Casualties in August 2010 Baghlan Operation [The Guardian]
  • Kabul Police Investigating Firing by Wolesi Jirga Member [TOLO]
  • Kandahar Solar Power Project Approved [Khaama Press]
  • National Procurement Commission Approves Five Projects [Khaama Press]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Sharif Orders Reopening of Afghan Border; India and Pakistan Hold Indus Water Treaty Talks

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Topline

  • On Monday, Prime Minister Sharif ordered the reopening of Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, a month after it was first closed. The move followed UK-brokered talks last week, and protests by traders and merchants in Chaman on Sunday.
  • At least one woman was killed and three other civilians injured in cross-Line of Control firing incidents on Saturday and Sunday, prompting an official protest by Pakistani diplomats. Despite the tensions, an Indian delegation arrived in Lahore and began talks under the Indus Water Treaty on Monday, the first such meeting since May 2015.
  • Following talks in Moscow last week, Afghan national security advisor Hanif Atmar said that Russia was planning to host a twelve-nation conference on the Afghan conflict in early April; the United States has been invited to this meeting, but Atmar said the the Taliban would not be.
  • Three U.S. soldiers were wounded in a shooting incident at a base in Helmand on Sunday; the gunman, an Afghan special forces soldier, was subsequently killed. A spokesman for the Afghan National Army suggested that the gunman “had made a mistake” and opened fire inadvertently.
  • Voting on legislation for the renewal of Pakistan’s military courts system has been pushed back to Tuesday.
  • MQM leader Farooq Sattar was briefly arrested in Karachi on Friday. Former Sindh provincial information minister Sharjeel Memon returned from nearly two years living abroad to face corruption charges, and was briefly arrested upon his arrival.
  • During a visit to Beijing last week, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa discussed cooperation with China on the joint production of a range of missile technology and other weapons systems, the Global Times reports.
  • Speaking on Sunday prior to a trip to Washington DC this week, acting Afghan foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani endorsed calls for additional U.S. troop deployments to Afghanistan. On Saturday, the UN Security Council renewed the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan’s annual mandate.
  • The preliminary three-day ‘house count’ phase of the Pakistani census was extended in some areas to account for complaints, particularly by the MQM in Karachi, that enumerators had not had sufficient time or staff to identify all houses in their areas. The PPP petitioned the Supreme Court on Monday, seeking greater transparency on census data.
  • Rival Junbesh and Jamiat-e-Islami groups clashed in the Faryab provincial capital on Saturday, leaving at least fou

Pakistan — Security

  • Indian Border Tensions: Pakistani military officials reported Saturday that an elderly woman had been killed and a man injured in an “unprovoked ceasefire violation” across the Line of Control by Indian forces. Later Saturday evening, Pakistan’s foreign ministry reported that two children were injured in further firing in a separate area. Pakistan made a formal complaint to the Indian deputy high commissioner on Monday. In remarks at a conference in New Delhi on Saturday, Pakistani ambassador Abdul Basit said that the two countries needed to “sit across the table to discuss the difficult issues”, and “avoid the blame game”. Despite the tensions, an Indian delegation began talks with Pakistan under the Indus Water Treaty framework on Monday; it is the first meeting of the two sides under the IWT since May 2015. Two Pakistani farmers’ organizations announced plans to stage protests against “Indian water aggression” on Monday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [AP] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Military Courts: Speaking to reporters in Multan on Saturday, JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman said that his party was resigned to the renewal of the military courts system, as “sometimes you have to accept unwanted things due to unavoidable circumstances”. During senate debate on Friday, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani described the courts’ renewal as “unfortunate” and criticized the government for not instituting reforms that would preclude the courts’ continued necessity. Voting on a constitutional amendment to revive the courts was originally scheduled for Monday, but has now been pushed back to Tuesday due to concerns over PML-N member attendance. [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [ET]
  • Joint Chinese Military Production Discussed: During meetings in Beijing last week, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa discussed the possible joint production between China and Pakistan of ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, anti-aircraft missiles, and main battle tanks, among other items, former military official Song Zhongping tells China’s Global Times.
  • Counterterrorism Crackdown: At a meeting on Friday, acting Khyber Paktunkhwa police chief Akhtar Ali Shah directed the provincial police Counter-Terrorism Department to reorganize its “fourth schedule” suspect list in the province. Police and army personnel in Mirpur detained at least twenty people for violating restrictions on the use of window tinting in their vehicles. [Dawn]
  • Balochistan Conflict: A Frontier Corps soldier was wounded in an attack on his vehicle in Balochistan’s Nushki district on Saturday; no claim of responsibility was reported. Separately, Frontier Corps personnel seized a weapons cache in a raid in the Kohlu district, and arrested four people in Quetta.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • MQM Leader Briefly Detained: MQM-Pakistan leader Farooq Sattar was briefly detained by police on Friday evening; a Karachi anti-terrorism court had issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against Sattar in connection to more than a dozen cases, and the circumstances of his arrest and release are unclear. On Saturday, the court declared Sattar an absconder ordered him to be produced by police at hearings on Monday. On Sunday, Sattar accused the PPP and the MQM’s London faction of allying against him; the arrest preceded a planned party foundation day anniversary ceremony on Saturday, which The Nation’s reporting suggests was put off by the earlier arrest and a heavy deployment of paramilitary Rangers at the MQM’s Karachi headquarters. The PPP provincial government has denied involvement in the arrest, and described Sattar as having escaped from custody on Friday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Former Sindh Information Minister Returns: Former Sindh provincial information minister Sharjeel Memon returned to Islamabad on Saturday after nearly two years abroad, where he was arrested and released on bail. Memon faces corruption charges brought by the National Accountability Bureau; at a press conference on Sunday, Memon denied the charges against him and accused the NAB of “only targeting the lawmakers of Sindh”. Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah echoed Memon’s remarks, describing the NAB as the “Sindh Revenge Bureau” and saying that “if these institutions continue to play politics, the Sindh government will send them packing”. Memon appeared before the Islamabad High Court on Monday and received protective bail. [ET]
  • Blasphemy Charges: The AP interviews Ahmad Waqas Goraya, one of the five activists and bloggers who were extrajudicially detained and tortured in January and have subsequently faced charges of blasphemy. The lawyer bringing those accusations on behalf of leaders of Islamabad’s Lal Masjid tells the AP that “they should have been killed”; rulings in that case have prompted government officials to pledge a crackdown on “blasphemous” content on social media.
  • Census Count: Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics chief census commissioner Asif Bajwa said that census forms would be amended to comply with Supreme Court orders to include disabled and transgender individuals in the count. The initial three-day preliminary “house count” phase of the census was due to conclude Friday; Bajwa said that it would continue an extra day and that more staff would be deployed to accommodate complaints, particularly from the MQM in Karachi, that not all houses had been identified. On Friday, PPP senator Sherry Rehman criticized “dangerous shortfalls” in the current census exercise, complaining of a lack of carbon copies or counterfoils to allow for cross-verification; the PPP filed a Supreme Court petition on Monday seeking the disclosure of all data collected during the census count. [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: Prime Minister Sharif was scheduled to convene a meeting of the PML-N parliamentary delegation on Monday to review party performance and discuss strategy in anticipation of a ruling on the Panama Papers case; the meeting has been pushed to Tuesday. Sharif reportedly plans to visit Hyderabad in the coming week to build support for the party and announce new development projects; the move comes after several high-profile defections by former PML-N leaders in Sindh protesting a lack of support from the national leadership. Former Pres. Zardari will appear on a weekly talk show on BOL TV; former Pres. Musharraf also began hosting a show earlier this month. On Friday, Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial assembly speaker Asad Qaiser denied accusations of corruption against him. On Monday, the Supreme Court rejected a PTI petition seeking a review of PML-N leader Khawaja Asif’s 2013 election, upholding an earlier election tribunal ruling. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • President Hussain Approves Hindu Marriage Law [Dawn] [ET]
  • Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Seeks Constitutional Status [ET]
  • Tehmina Janjua Takes Office as Foreign Secretary [Dawn] [ET]
  • ‘Missing’ Indian Clerics Return Home [TOI] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • PPP Seeks Debate on FATA Reforms [The Nation]
  • Six Bodies Found in Mohmand Agency [Dawn]
  • Prime Minister Meets Visiting Qatari Officials [The Nation]
  • UK Blocks Imran Farooq Murder Suspect Extradition Request [Dawn]
  • Iran Repatriates 61 Pakistani Immigrants [ET]
  • Higher Education Commission Plans to Abolish Two-Year BA and MA Programs [Dawn]
  • Former Religious Affairs Minister Cleared in Haj Corruption Case [Dawn] [ET]
  • Religious Seminaries Outnumber Schools in Islamabad [Dawn]
  • Former Balochistan Finance Secretary Indicted in Corruption Case [The Nation]
  • Government Prepares to Auction Last 4G Spectrum Tranche [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • International Assistance: Speaking on Sunday, prior to departing for Washington DC to attend an international conference of ministers on the fight against the Islamic State, acting Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani said that the Afghan government was “hopeful about the increasing number of troops and we support Gen. Nicholson’s plan”. Speaking at a joint press conference with President Trump in Washington on Friday, Chancellor Merkel affirmed Germany’s intention to “step up its work” in Afghanistan, and welcomed the intention of the United States “to continue to commit to the Afghan mission as well”. On Saturday, the UN Security Council renewed the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan for another one-year period. [Khaama Press]
  • Three U.S. Soldiers Wounded in Insider Attack: Three U.S. soldiers were wounded when an Afghan special forces soldier opened fire on them at the Camp Shorab airbase in Helmand on Sunday; the gunman was subsequently killed. A spokesman for the Afghan National Army suggested that the soldier had “made a mistake” and had not fired deliberately. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Civilian Casualty Compensation: Reuters reviews U.S. compensation payments to the families and victims of civilian casualty incidents in Afghanistan, noting the lack of a standardized process or payment, which is determined by local commanders. Between 2013-2016, the U.S. military paid around $1.2 million for the deaths of 101 Afghans and injuries to 270 others.
  • Jamiat and Junbesh Gunmen Clash: Khaama Press reports that rival gunmen affiliated with the Jamiat-e-Islami and Junbesh-e-Milli parties clashed in the Faryab provincial capital of Maimana on Saturday, leaving at least four dead and ten injured, including some police officers. Details are otherwise limited; a spokesman for the provincial police confirmed the incident and said that was under investigation.
  • U.S. Drone Strikes: Dawn reported that two TTP commanders were killed by a U.S. drone strike in Paktika on Friday “along the border with South Waziristan”. On Monday, the Express Tribune identified one of the targets in that strike as Qari Yaseen, who was linked to the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team and several other attacks in Pakistan.
  • Other Attacks and Operations: Provincial police officials say that a Taliban attack on an Afghan National Army base located on the outskirts of the Uruzgan provincial capital on Sunday evening killed as many as ten soldiers; a spokesman for the provincial government said that only three had been killed. A suicide bomber killed Shahwali Haqqani, the brother of Maulana Abdul Zahir Haqqani, the direct of Haj and Religious Affairs for Nangarhar province, in an attack at his home in the Surkh Rod district on Friday. At least four people have been arrested in connection to the incident. Afghan army special forces reportedly killed at least sixteen Islamic State-affiliated fighters in operations in the Kot district in Nangarhar on Saturday; on Monday, the ANA claimed that 26 ISIS fighters had been killed in operations in the Kot district. A U.S. drone strike in the Achin district and Afghan Air Force strikes in Achin and Deh Bala on Sunday reportedly killed as many as 13 ISIS fighters. Nangarhar provincial police officials announced the arrest on Sunday of Taj Gul, identified as an ISIS “spy chief”. As many as nineteen Taliban fighters were reportedly killed in an Afghan Air Force airstrike in the Baghlan-e-Markazi district on Saturday; fighting in the district has reportedly destroyed many homes. Another ten Taliban fighters were reportedly killed in an airstrike in the Dandpatan district of Paktia province on Saturday. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Pakistan Reopens Border: Businesses were closed in Chaman on Sunday as shopkeepers and traders demanded the reopening of the Afghan border crossing. Afghanistan’s Chamber of Commerce and Industries estimates that the closure has cost Pakistan $3 billion in exports. The World Trade Organization is scheduled to hear the Afghan commerce ministry’s complaint over the border closure on April 6. On Monday, Prime Minister Sharif’s office issued an announcement ordering the immediate reopening of the border, adding that “we hope that the Afghanistan government will take all necessary actions to eliminate the reasons for which this step was taken.” [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation] [Khaama Press]
  • Russia to Host Afghanistan Conference: Following meetings in Moscow last week, National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar told reporters that Russia was planning to host a twelve-country summit on the conflict in Afghanistan on April 14, with the U.S. and the five Central Asian states among those invited to attend. Atmar said that the Taliban would not be invited to participate; after meetings with Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev on Friday, a spokesman for Atmar said that Russian officials had assured them that “our recent contacts with the armed opposition [Taliban] are aimed only at encouraging the group to join the Afghan government-led peace process”. Taliban sources tell the Express Tribune that “our response would be positive if we get a formal invitation”. [TOLO]
  • More Tensions with Pakistan: During senate debate on Saturday, first deputy speaker Hamayoun Hamayoun called for “all countries who have signed international treaties against terrorism to blacklist states which are sponsoring terrorism”. On Sunday, other senators alleged that the Pakistani intelligence service had infiltrated Afghanistan’s security services. Pakistan attended a ‘Heart of Asia’ senior officials meeting in Azerbaijan on Saturday, voicing support for “capacity building of the Afghan security forces” and “bilateral engagement for border management and counter-terrorism cooperation”. Anonymous Pakistani diplomatic sources tell The Nation that the foreign ministry has told its U.S. counterparts that “while Pakistan was supporting global efforts for peace in Afghanistan, the other side [Kabul] is showing little interest in stopping the terrorists who are continuously targeting Pakistani check-posts”. [ET] [The Nation]
  • Election Delays: On Friday, Independent Election Commission secretariat head Imam Mohammad Warimach said that “the IEC wants to hold elections in November, but if the discussions on digitizing the election process take any longer, it may create challenges” and delay polling into the next year. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Gunfire in Kabul? It’s Not the Taliban – It’s the Politicians [NYT]
  • Ahmad Zia Massoud Criticizes Government Mismanagement [TOLO]
  • Hezb-e-Islami Complains of Delays in Implementing Peace Agreement [Ariana News]
  • Kandahar Governor Resumes Duties [TOLO]
  • ‘Rampant’ Land Theft Reported in Helmand [TOLO]
  • Ghani Discusses Military Logistics with Kunar and Faryab Commanders [Khaama Press]
  • Chief Executive Pledges Support for Press Freedom [TOLO]
  • Lawyer Calls for Review of Farkhunda Case [TOLO]
  • Consumer Protection Act Approved [TOLO]
  • Former Presidential Administrative Office Head Criticizes Presidential Jobs Program [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Agreement Reached for Two-Year Renewal of Military Courts; Taliban Attack Khost Army Base

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Topline

  • The PPP and PML-N have reached agreement on legislation for the two-year renewal of military courts in Pakistan, with four of the PPP’s nine demands to be incorporated, including rights to counsel and the use of evidence standards.
  • The TTP Jamaat-ul-Ahrar attacked a Frontier Constabulary checkpost in the Khyber Agency and a training center in the Charsadda district on Friday, killing at least three paramilitary soldiers.
  • The Afghan Taliban attacked an Afghan Army base in Khost province on Friday, killing at least one soldier. Sar-e-Pul provincial officials report that three Shiite elders were killed in an attack they attribute to a local Islamic State affiliate in the Sayad district.
  • Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan denounced “those committing blasphemy” as “enemies of humanity” and vowed to take action to block such content on social media and if necessary extradite commenters from abroad. A Facebook delegation will reportedly meet with Pakistani officials to discuss content blocking.
  • Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan described trilateral talks in London earlier this week as “very positive”, and Pakistani press reports suggest that agreement was reached on an unspecified “mechanism” to resolve disputes over actions against terrorist groups on both sides of the border; Afghanistan’s national security advisor said only that agreement was reached to continue meetings.
  • India and Pakistan will hold their first talks under the Indus Water Treaty since May 2015 next week in Lahore.
  • Chief of Army Staff Bajwa is on a three-day visit to China.

Pakistan — Security

  • Agreement Reached on Renewal of Military Courts: On Thursday, the PPP and PML-N reached agreement on the “conditional extension” of legislation governing special military courts for terrorisms suspects; four of the PPP’s nine recommendations will be incorporated into the government’s draft legislation, including rights to counsel and the use of standard evidence laws. The PPP agreed to a two-year tenure for the courts, as sought by the government, and dropped demands for regular sessions judges to be included on court panels. National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq acknowledged continued concerns by the JUI-F and Jamaat-e-Islami regarding the term “terrorism in the name of religion”, which he pledged to address before legislation is introduced in the national assembly today, with passage expected next week. [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • FATA Attacks and Operations: On Thursday, the Pakistani military carried out airstrikes in the Rajgal Valley region of the Khyber Agency, which they described as targeting hideouts of the Lashkar-e-Islam; “several” terrorist suspects were said to have been killed. Two Frontier Constabulary personnel were killed in an attack on a checkpost in the Khyber Agency near the Afghan border on Friday; the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaat-ul-Ahrar faction claimed responsibility for the attack, in which the Pakistani military said six attackers were also killed. Elsewhere, one paramilitary soldier was killed and another two injured when two suicide bombers attacked a Frontier Constabulary training center in Shabqadar in the Charsadda district, which the JuA also claimed responsibility for. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [AP]
  • Chief of Army Staff Visits China: Chief of Army Staff Bajwa arrived in China on Thursday for a three-day visit with top Chinese military and political leaders. Pakistan’s military public relations wing touted Chinese support for “the positive role being played by Pakistan towards peace and stability in the region with special mention of Pakistan’s role in eliminating terrorist groups”. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • NGO Crackdown: A Balochistan government official, citing the National Action Plan against terrorism, tells Dawn that the provincial government has cancelled the registration of 3,250 non-governmental organizations who failed to submit registration documents; no details on the groups affected or their activities were disclosed.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Blasphemy Investigations: A spokesman for the interior ministry said Thursday that a delegation from Facebook would visit Pakistan to help resolve complaints over the blocking of “blasphemous” content on it and other social media websites; Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan suggested that the government would take a decision on blocking social media sites “within the next three to four days”. Chaudhry Nisar denounced “those committing blasphemy” as “the enemies of humanity” and vowed to take action, including the extradition of Pakistanis living abroad. On Friday, the Islamabad High Court ordered the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority to form a committee to monitor the content of television channels. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Indus Water Talks: India and Pakistan will resume talks under the Indus Water Treaty in Lahore on March 20-21; the last meeting under the treaty, scheduled for September, was postponed following attacks in Indian Kashmir, making this the first meeting since May 2015.
  • Other Political Activity: Speaking to reporters on Friday, former Sindh governor Ishrat-ul Ebad denounced the Pak Sarzameen Party and claimed that he had denied an offer from former Pres. Zardari to join the PPP. Imran Khan has cancelled a planned trip to China in anticipation of a ruling from the Supreme Court on the Panama Papers case, which The Nation reports may be issued soon. [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Crisis: The government and independent power producers have yet to reach an agreement on the payment of overdue payments owed to the producers; the IPPs, who are seeking immediate payment of at least Rs 35 billion out of Rs 245 billion owed, extended their deadline for invoking sovereign guarantees until March 26.
  • World Bank Loan: The World Bank has approved a $450 million package of loans to support financial inclusion and transparency, the expansion of the safety net, and the promotion of tourism in Punjab. [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Foreign Investment: Foreign direct investment in Pakistan dropped 21% year-on-year to $123 million in February; cumulative FDI for the first eight months of the fiscal year is up 6% to $1.285 billion, however.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Police Chief Steps Down [Dawn]
  • More Charges Planned Against MQM Leader, Interior Minister Says [Dawn]
  • Increase in Kidnapping Cases Reported in Rawalpindi [ET]
  • PIA CEO Barred from Leaving the Country in Corruption Investigation [Dawn] [ET]
  • Finance Minister Meets with FBR, Pushes to Meet Revenue Target [The Nation]
  • NAB Blames Water and Power and Law Ministries for Nandipur Power Project Delays [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: A spokesman for the Sar-e-Pul provincial governor said Thursday that three Shiite elders had been killed by a local Islamic State affiliate in the Sayad district the day prior. A team of at least four Taliban fighters and a suicide car bomber attacked an Afghan army base in Khost province’s Sabari district on Friday, killing at least one soldier before all gunmen were killed. Another Khost base was also attacked last week. Residents of a village in Kunduz’s Chardara district say that at least three civilians were killed and seven wounded in a night raid by Afghan security forces on Wednesday evening; a spokesman for the Afghan National Army’s 20th Pamir Division described the target of the raids as insurgents, and said that bomb-making materials had been seized. [RFE/RL] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Trilateral Talks: The Express Tribune reports that Afghanistan and Pakistan reached agreement during UK-brokered talks earlier this week on a “mechanism” to address concerns on both sides that the other is failing to take action against militant groups carrying out attacks on their respective territories. Few details were reported; Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan described the talks as “very positive”. Afghan reports of the talks were more muted, with the office of national security advisor Hanif Atmar issuing a statement that “there have been agreements that the meetings will continue in the future”. [TOLO]
  • CEO Dismisses Noor Comments: A spokesman for Chief Executive Abdullah declined to comment on remarks by Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor earlier this week in which Noor disavowed further support for Abdullah, saying only that Abdullah wished Noor “best of luck”. Separately, Abdullah’s spokesman criticized the reported appointment of Zabiullah Wagarai as head of the Independent Election Commission in Nangarhar; Wagarai, who previously served as provincial commissioner in Paktika, is accused of involvement in fraud during the 2014 elections.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Political Leaders and Jihadi Veterans Criticize Deadlock Over Peace Talks [TOLO]
  • Former Telecom Minister Complains of Being Marginalized by President [Ariana News]
  • Germany to Provide 20 Million Euros for Afghan Jobs Program [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Non-Pashtun Taliban of the North: Case Studies of Uzbek Taliban in Faryab and Sar-e-Pul – “The Taleban have spent many years ‘localising’ their fight in the north, recruiting local fighters and commanders and keying in to Afghan Uzbek madrassa networks in Pakistan and the north.” [Obaid Ali, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Security Officials Face Impeachment Hearings Over Hospital Attack; PPP Under Pressure on Visas

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Topline

  • The Wolesi Jirga reportedly plans impeachment hearings against the ministers of defense and interior and the head of the National Directorate of Security. Reports conflict as to whether the attack on the Kabul military hospital last week involved inside support or not, and some claims suggest a far higher death toll than has been confirmed to date.
  • Afghan national security advisor Hanif Atmar and Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz held talks in London on Wednesday; no details have been disclosed, but other Pakistani officials have suggested that the border may be reopened “soon”.
  • PML-N leaders are reportedly planning to push for an investigation into remarks by former ambassador Husain Haqqani describing the issuance of visas to U.S. intelligence officers during the PPP government’s last tenure; an Express Tribune report also describe the Dubai consulate as issuing visas to 230 American and Indian nationals “on the instruction of” former Pres. Zardari’s half-brother Awais Muzaffar Tappi.
  • PPP and PML-N leaders met again on Wednesday but reached no consensus on legislation for the renewal of military courts; they will reportedly meet again on Thursday.
  • The Punjab Rangers arrested at least 26 suspects, including 11 Afghan nationals, in raids across Punjab on Wednesday.
  • A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation on Wednesday to increase the number of Special Immigrant Visas available for Afghan interpreters who assisted the U.S. in Afghanistan. At least two Afghan families traveling on SIV have been detained by Customs and Border Patrol, but deportations of both have been suspended or overturned by the courts.
  • The Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial government issued an ordinance allowing itself to borrow money from a dedicated fund set aside for hyrdroelectric development projects; the government is facing a shortage of funds and has only collected around half of its revenue target for the year so far.
  • Prime Minister Sharif visited Gwadar on Wednesday, touting current and future investments in the port city.
  • Kandahar governor Humayun Aziz returned to the country on Wednesday after receiving treatment abroad for injuries suffered during the January attack at the Kandahar governor’s compound, which he attributed to “regional intelligence agencies”.

Pakistan — Security

  • Military Courts: PPP and PML-N parliamentary leaders met on Wednesday but failed to reach a consensus on legislation to renew special military courts for terrorism suspects; further talks are planned for Thursday.
  • Counterterrorism Crackdown: The Punjab Rangers arrested 26 suspects, including 11 Afghan nationals, in separate raids across Punjab on Wednesday, the military’s chief spokesman announced; weapons and suicide vests were reportedly seized, but details on the suspects’ identities were not disclosed. Speaking at the closing session of a Pakistan-UK conference at Pakistan’s National Defense University, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that “to win the war against terrorism, there has to be an international coalition, but this coalition should be based on mutual and greater understanding of regional dynamics and regional compulsions”, and warned against Islamaphobia. [The Nation] [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Visa Investigation: PML-N sources tell The Nation that the party plans to respond to PPP criticism “with full might”, including a push for an investigation into recent remarks from former ambassador Husain Haqqani about the issuance of visas to U.S. intelligence officers during the last PPP government’s tenure. Haqqani has said that he is ready to appear before a commission on the issue. The Express Tribune separately reports that Pakistan’s Dubai consulate issued 230 visas to American and Indian nationals in 2010, “on the instruction of Dubai-based PPP leader Awais Muzaffar Tappi,” former Pres. Zardari’s half-brother.
  • Census Count: On Thursday, the Supreme Court ordered the government to amend census forms to include persons with disabilities and transgender individuals in their count, which began on Wednesday; Pakistan Bureau of Statistics officials had sought to conduct a separate count of those populations. [The Nation] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: On Thursday, the Election Commission of Pakistan threw out disqualification petitions against PTI leaders Imran Khan and Jahangir Tareen; in response, PTI leaders called for the disqualification of National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, who had referred the petitions to the ECP. PML-N national assembly member Javed Latif offered an “unconditional apology” on Thursday for his remarks against PTI legislator Murad Saeed, following mediation by legislator Shah Jee Gul Afridi and others. [Dawn] [The Nation] [Dawn] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Borrows from Hydel Fund: On Wednesday, the Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial government issued an ordinance giving itself permission to borrow money from the provincial Hydroelectric Development Fund to finance current budget expenses, removing previous restrictions on the use of the money. The provincial government has only collected Rs 24 billion in revenues so far this fiscal year, against a target of Rs 49 billion, and is expected to borrow half of the Fund’s Rs 30 billion reserve.
  • CPEC Project: Prime Minister Sharif visited Gwadar on Wednesday, holding a rally and touting the development of the port city, announcing additional plans for a water desalinization plant, road construction, a hospital, and the expansion of dam projects. [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Supreme Court Freezes Grade 21 Civil Service Promotions [The Nation]
  • Washington Embassy Tasked with Outreach to Facebook on “Blasphemous” Content [The Nation]
  • National Assembly Speaker Meets Indian Parliamentary Delegation [The Nation] [ET]
  • Pakistan Navy Test-Fires Surface-to-Sea Missile [ET]
  • Circular Debt Spills Over Into Entire Fuel Supply Chain [Dawn]
  • Five Infants Die in Thar District [Dawn]
  • Judge Sajjad Ali Shah Joins Supreme Court [The Nation]
  • PEMRA Chief’s Appointment Challenged [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kabul Military Hospital Investigation: The NYT notes contradictory reporting and claims of a higher death toll in the attack last week on the Kabul Military Hospital, which defense ministry spokesmen put at 50 in a news conference yesterday. The LAT reports that most if not all of the two dozen people arrested in connection to the attack are army personnel, and quotes anonymous sources who question the assertion yesterday that there was no inside assistance to the attackers. On Wednesday, the Wolesi Jirga announced impeachment hearings against Defense Minister Abdullah Habibi, Interior Minister Taj Mohammad Jahed, and NDS chief Masoom Stanekzai, although a date for the hearings does not appear to have been announced; TOLO reports that a delegation from parliament met Pres. Ghani on Tuesday. [TOLO]
  • Kandahar Governor Returns: Kandahar governor Humayun Aziz returned to the country on Wednesday after receiving treatment for injuries sustained during a bombing at the governor’s compound in January. He pledged to continue the investigation into the incident, which he said “was plotted outside the Afghan borders and by regional intelligence agencies”.
  • Attacks and Operations: On Thursday, the ministry of defense claimed to have killed 36 Taliban fighters in multiple airstrikes in the Nad Ali district in Helmand. Another 31 Islamic State fighters were reported to have been killed in airstrikes in the Kot and Achin districts in Nangarhar. The Afghan National Army launched operations in Kandahar’s Nesh district on Wednesday, which they said killed 30 Taliban fighters. The ministry of interior announced the arrest of a Taliban commander and an explosives expert working for Jundullah in operations in Samangan on Thursday. [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Trilateral Talks: Afghan national security advisor Hanif Atmar and Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz met in London on Wednesday for UK-brokered talks; details of the discussions were limited, but they are said to have focused on the border closure and charges from each side that the other was failing to take action against terrorist groups. Separately, Pakistani commerce minister Khurram Dastgir Khan suggested that the border could be reopened soon, and Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman echoed that suggestion at a press briefing on Thursday.
  • Interpreter Visas: A group of four Republican and Democratic senators introduced legislation on Wednesday to provide an additional 2,500 Special Immigrant Visas to Afghans who have assisted U.S. forces as interpreters or in other support functions, after reports last week that the State Department had halted interviews and was running out of visas to issue under the existing quota. In a statement on Wednesday, the U.S. embassy in Kabul reiterated that Afghans with valid visas were not affected by the Trump administration’s travel ban, which does not cover Afghanistan and whose implementation was suspended by a court order on Wednesday. A federal court blocked the deportation of an Afghan man who was detained at Newark airport on Monday, despite holding a SIV; another Afghan family traveling on the visa was detained an eventually released without charge earlier this month. Customs and Border Patrol officials have not provided an explanation for the detentions.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • IEC Chairman Transfers Provincial Chairmen, Drawing Criticism [TOLO]
  • Afghan Banks Post Afs 930 Million Annual Loss [TOLO]
  • Ghani Calls for ‘Sovereign Rule of Law’ [TOLO]
  • Construction on 1,400 Chinese-Built Apartments in Kabul Planned [Khaama Press]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistan Begins Census Count; No Insiders Aided Hospital Attack, Defense Official Says

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Topline

  • On Wednesday, Pakistan officially began the first phase of its first national census since 1998. Around 84,000 census enumerators, and 40,000 military enumerators, are taking part in the count. The Balochistan High Court ruled Tuesday that Afghan refugees should not be included in the census.
  • Afghanistan’s deputy defense minister, who is leading investigations into last week’s attack on the Kabul military hospital, denied reports that insiders had aided in the attack, but said that as many as two dozen people had been arrested. The death toll from the attack is now reported to have risen to 50.
  • Three men convicted under the military court system were executed in Sahiwal on Wednesday. PPP and PML-N leaders are due to meet again today to discuss legislation renewing the courts.
  • An Australian aid worker was freed after being kidnapped in Kabul in November; no details of her release have been given.
  • Defense Minister Khawaja Asif denied reports that Pakistan had deployed an army brigade to southern Saudi Arabia.
  • The UK is hosting Afghan national security advisor Hanif Atmar and Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz for trilateral talks on Wednesday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Military Courts: On Wednesday, three men convicted under the military courts system were executed in a Sahiwal prison; two were identified as members of Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami, and the third a member of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. PPP and PML-N parliamentary leaders are due to meet again on Wednesday to discuss legislation for the renewal of the courts. [Dawn]
  • Counterterrorism Crackdown: During an address to a Pakistan-UK seminar at Pakistan’s National Defense University on Tuesday, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa touted Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad as a means of “solidifying the success of [past] military operation[s] to bring lasting peace, stability and normalcy to the country”. At least 33 suspects, including three Afghan nationals, were detained in Rangers raids across Punjab on Tuesday. [ET] [ET]
  • No Saudi Deployment, Minister Says: Speaking on Wednesday in response to questions in parliament, Defense Minister Khawaja Asif denied reports that Pakistan had deployed an army brigade to southern Saudi Arabia, saying that “no military personnel have been sent to Saudi Arabia in perspective of the Saudi Arabia-Yemen conflict” and “if any decision had to be taken, it will flow through the parliament.” [The Nation]
  • New Ambassador Proposes US Cooperation Against ISIS: In an Associated Press of Pakistan interview, new ambassador to the U.S. Aizaz Chaudhry expressed optimism that “President Trump and his administration will engage positively with Pakistan for the common benefit of our two countries”, and suggested that the United States and Pakistan should work together to destroy the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan.
  • Balochistan Kidnappings: Balochistan Higher Education Secretary Abdullah Jan was kidnapped by unidentified gunmen on Wednesday, police report; no claim of responsibility has been reported. Earlier on Tuesday, three government schoolteachers were abducted in the Awaran district as they were returning from a census training session. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Census Begins: Pakistan’s first national census in 19 years officially began on Wednesday. The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics plans to deploy around 84,000 enumerators, and the Pakistani army will deploy 200,000 troops, including 40,000 military enumerators doing a parallel count. The Express Tribune reports that army personnel have been given judicial powers to impose punishments on those who refuse to cooperate in the process or give false information. On Tuesday, the Balochistan High Court ruled that Afghan refugees should not be included in the census count. The first phase of the census will run through April 15, and the second from April 25-May 25. [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Pakistan Origin Cards for Spouses Banned: The Express Tribune reports that the interior ministry has barred the renewal or extension of Pakistan Origin Cards to foreign nationals married to Pakistans, impacting more than 3,500 people, who are now unable to sell property or operate a bank account.
  • Other Political Activity: PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari met with candidates for Lahore party posts on Tuesday. Imran Khan denounced comments from Minister of State for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb suggesting that the government would bring defamation charges against him under the cybercrime law. Prime Minister Sharif pledged support for Pakistan’s minorities during a visit to Karachi on Tuesday to celebrate Holi with the local Hindu community. [The Nation]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • CPEC Project: Unidentified militants bombed a power pylon supplying Gwadar port and surrounding areas on Tuesday morning, cutting power for around 20 hours until it was restored. The Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial government has identified nine projects for inclusion in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, and plans to send a delegation to China next month to discuss. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Defense Minister Calls for Investigation into Former Ambassador’s Issuance of Visas [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Musharraf Demands Army Security as Precondition for Returning to Face Trial [ET] [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Verdict May Derail Top Bureaucrats’ Promotions [Dawn]
  • Three MQM Activists Among Seven Arrested [ET]
  • Pakistan Hosts Conference on ‘Asian Parliament’ [Dawn]
  • In Pakistan, Carrying on a Legacy of Answering SOS Calls [NYT]
  • Punjab Officials Debate Mandatory Wearing of Hijab [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kabul Hospital Attack Investigation: Deputy Defense Minister Helaludin Helal told a press conference on Tuesday that as many as 24 people have been arrested in connection with last week’s attack on the Kabul military hospital; he said that there was “no evidence to prove that insiders were involved in the attack”, however. The death toll from the attack has now reportedly reached 50 people, including three senior generals. [Khaama Press]
  • Australian Aid Worker Freed: An unnamed Australian aid worker who was kidnapped in Kabul last November has been freed, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade announced on Wednesday; no details of her release have been given. [TOLO]
  • Attacks and Operations: Helmand officials say operations in Lashkar Gah’s third police district have reopened the road to Nad Ali district after nearly six months’ closure, and that forces are now working to establish control there and open the route to Marjah. On Wednesday, the ministry of interior announced that ten Haqqani network fighters were killed in an Afghan Air Force strike in Paktika’s Zirok district the previous evening. As many as 18 Islamic State-affiliated fighters have reportedly been killed in U.S. and Afghan airstrikes in the Achin district over Tuesday evening.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Trilateral Talks: Afghan National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar and Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz will meet in London for trilateral talks on Wednesday, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal announced on Tuesday. Afghanistan/Pakistan Joint Chamber of Commerce officials tell the AP that bilateral trade between Afghanistan and Pakistan has dropped by at least half a billion dollars due to ongoing border closures. [The Nation] [TOLO]
  • Refugee Repatriation: The International Organization on Migration estimates that more than a million Afghan asylum seekers may face repatriation from Europe, Pakistan, and Iran this year, TOLO reports.
  • Ulema Council Condemns Attacks: Mawlavi Qeyamuddin Kashaf, the head of Afghanistan’s Ulema Council, met with Chief Executive Abdullah on Wednesday, issuing a statement afterwards condemning recent attacks in Kabul and saying that it was impermissible to describe insurgent actions in Afghanistan as a “jihad”. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Security Threats Close More Than a Thousand Schools [TOLO]
  • Afghan Government Welcomes ‘Clarification’ By Russia on Contacts with Militant Groups [Khaama Press]
  • National Procurement Commission Approves 15 Contracts Worth Afs 10.7 Billion [Khaama Press]
  • Report: Afghanistan Humanitarian Response Plan 2016 End-of-Year Report – “The humanitarian situation in 2016 was defined by the increase in the geographical spread and intensity of the conflict, itself characterised by more intense ground confrontations between government forces and non-state armed groups in civilian populated areas as well as aerial operations supported by the international military.” [UNOCHA]
  • Commentary: The Case for a Larger Force in Afghanistan – “We need to help those that are in the toughest fights or in the most delicate stages of reform and rebuilding.” [John Allen and Michael O’Hanlon, Brookings]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Sharif Pledges Assistance to Yemen; One Killed in Kabul Minibus Bombing

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Topline

  • Prime Minister Sharif pledged $1 million in assistance to Yemen during a meeting with visiting Yemeni deputy prime minister Abdulmalik Aduljalil Al-Mekhlafi. There are unconfirmed reports that Pakistan has deployed a brigade to Saudi Arabia’s border with Yemen to provide security.
  • At least one person was killed and 19 injured when an explosion hit a minibus in Kabul carrying employees of a private telecommunications company; no claim of responsibility has been reported.
  • Investigations continue into the attack on the Kabul military hospital last week, with as many as twelve reportedly arrested, and more reports of alleged support for the attack from doctors working at the hospital.
  • Prime Minister Sharif chaired a meeting of top military and civilian aides to review military and counter-terrorism operations on Monday. The Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial apex committee also met on Monday to review security in the province.
  • In a speech on Tuesday, foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz pledged that Pakistan would act as a “responsible nuclear state” and would not provide nuclear weapons technology to non-state actors.
  • In remarks on Monday, Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor, announced that he and by extension the Jamiat-e-Islami party were cutting support for Chief Executive Abdullah, saying that Abdullah “cannot cope with the responsibilities of what the nation wants him to carry on his shoulders”.
  • Prime Minister Sharif and the national assembly followed the senate and Islamabad High Court in condemning “blasphemy” on social media and demanding action against those responsible.
  • Abdul Ghafar Dawi, a shareholder in Kabul bank and husband of former parliamentarian and ambassador to Norway Shukria Barakzai, was reportedly arrested in Kabul on Monday on charges of embezzlement.

Pakistan — Security

  • Security Review: Prime Minister Sharif chaired a meeting of top military and civilian officials in Islamabad on Monday, reviewing the implementation of Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad and the National Action Plan against terrorism; a statement afterwards said that it “was reiterated unanimously that elimination of extremism and terrorism are policy imperatives for Pakistan’s security” and that the NAP “should be expedited”. Separately, the Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial apex committee met in Peshawar on Monday for a review of security in the province. [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Drone Strikes: The WSJ reports that the Trump administration has given the CIA new authority to conduct drone strikes without the involvement of the U.S. military, reversing an Obama-era order and potentially giving the agency freer range.
  • Nuclear Security: In a speech at a conference in Islamabad on Tuesday, foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz pledged that Pakistan would act as a “responsible nuclear state” and “will continue to partner with the global community to prevent non-state actors from acquiring these weapons”. Aziz suggested that there was a need to “strike a balance between advancing the goals of non-proliferation and facilitating access of developing countries to the strategic and dual use of goods, materials and technologies for peaceful purposes” and reiterated Pakistan’s desire to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group. [AP] [APP]
  • Military Courts: A meeting of parliamentary party leaders in the national assembly on Monday failed to reach an agreement on the legislation governing the renewal of military courts, as PPP representatives sought additional time to consult on the issue; a date for the next meeting has not been set. PPP sources tell The Nation they are still working to cut the tenure of the courts down from two years.
  • FATA Repatriation: Around 25,000 displaced South Waziristan residents will begin repatriation on Tuesday; FATA secretariat officials say the process will run through mid-April. [Dawn]
  • PML-N Legislator Charged in PPP Leader’s Murder: The surviving brother of slain PPP leader Babar Sohail Butt accused PML-N national assembly leader Sohail Shaukat Butt for sponsoring the attack; police have filed a case against him but have not initiated an arrest and tell Dawn they are still investigating.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Yemen Support: Yemeni Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Abdulmalik Aduljalil Al-Mekhlafi visited Islamabad on Monday, meeting with Pres. Hussain and other officials. Foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz pledged that Pakistan would “extend all possible assistance for the restoration of peace and stability in Yemen”, and on Tuesday, Prime Minister Sharif pledged that Pakistan would donate $1 million in assistance to Yemen. A report in the Middle East Eye claims that the Pakistani army has deployed a brigade of soldiers to southern Saudi Arabia to provide security along the border with Yemen, but there have been no other confirmations of that account. [The National]
  • ‘Blasphemy’ Widely Condemned: Following the senate, the National Assembly passed a resolution introduced by Prime Minister Sharif’s son-in-law on Tuesday condemning “blasphemous” content on social media. The prime minister issued a separate statement describing blasphemy as an “unpardonable offense” and reiterating court orders that police should work to block and prosecute those responsible for such content. [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Census Planning: On Monday, Sindhi nationalist party leaders sought to mobilize supporters in Hyderabad to participate in the national census, set to begin tomorrow, and called for the exclusion of “non-Sindhis and illegal immigrants” from the population count. In senate debate, some members raised concerns over the “lack of transparency” around the census process.
  • Other Political Activity: Minister of State for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb told a press conference on Monday that the government would seek defamation charges against Imran Khan for his efforts to “damage the reputation of the prime minister by levelling false allegations against him”. Prime Minister Sharif arrived in Karachi on Tuesday, where he is expected to review the security situation in the city and meet with Karachi’s Hindu minority community to celebrate Holi. [Dawn] [The Nation] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Circular Debts: In a meeting with thirteen independent power producers on Monday, government officials sought an additional two days to resolve overdue payments to the producers; the thirteen producers have sought immediate payment of Rs 48 billion out of around Rs 242 billion in dues.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • PPP Leaders Disassociate Themselves from Former Ambassador’s Description of Cooperation with U.S. Intelligence [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Sindh Assembly Passes Right to Information Law [Dawn]
  • Karachi Police Submit Inquiry Report on Fake ‘Encounters’ [ET]
  • Arms Cache Seized in Quetta [Dawn]
  • Government Waives Income Tax on Foreign Loans [ET]
  • Federal Shariat Court to Take Up Prohibitions on Interest [ET]
  • Former Pres. Musharraf Seeks Dismissal of Cases [Dawn] [ET]
  • MQM Lawmaker Granted Bail [ET]
  • Asian Development Bank Agrees to Finance Karachi Red Line Bus Rapid Transit Project [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Steel Mill Salary Bills Cut Through Workforce Cuts [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kabul Bus Targeted: A bombing struck a minibus carrying employees of a private telecommunications company in Kabul on Monday, killing one person and wounding at least 19 people. Accounts variously attribute the explosion to a suicide car bomber, roadside bomber, or suicide bomber on foot. No immediate claim of responsibility has been reported for the attack; on Tuesday, Ministry of Interior officials said they had arrested three suspects, but provided no further details. [Reuters] [TOLO] [AP]
  • Kabul Hospital Attack: Kabul military hospital employees tell TOLO that between 10-12 people have been arrested in connection to the attack there last week. Ariana News reports that the “main facilitator” of the attack had been inducted as a new trainee five months prior, and that two doctors had aided in the attack, and that of the three all but one doctor had been arrested. In parliamentary hearings on Monday, members of parliament criticized the government and security services for their response to the attack.
  • Other Attacks and Operations: Three U.S. soldiers were wounded in a roadside bombing near Jalalabad on Monday, NATO officials announced. Unidentified gunmen killed two Kabul police officers during a search operation on Monday evening. A U.S. drone strike in the Zeruk district of Paktika province killed as many as twenty Taliban fighters on Tuesday, provincial government spokesmen claim. [Khaama Press] [AP] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Noor Cuts Support for Abdullah: In remarks in Mazar-e-Sharif on Monday, governor Atta Mohammad Noor apologized for his support for Abdullah Abdullah in the 2014 presidential elections, saying that Abdullah had been “separated from the decision making within the [Jamiat-e-Islami]” because he “cannot cope with the responsibilities of what the nation wants him to carry on his shoulders”. [Khaama Press]
  • Kabul Bank Shareholder Arrested: Abdul Ghafar Dawi, a shareholder in Kabul bank and husband of former parliamentarian and ambassador to Norway Shukria Barakzai, was reportedly arrested in Kabul on Monday on charges of embezzlement and barred from leaving the country.
  • Russia Talks: National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar will hold three days of talks with Russian officials in Moscow on counter-terrorism cooperation and bilateral relations beginning March 16, a spokesman for the national security council announced Monday.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Smuggling from Pakistan Jumps After Border Closure: Afghan Chamber of Commerce officials estimate that the smuggling of Pakistani goods to Afghanistan has tripled since the closure of the border last month.
  • Kabul Investment: Khaama Press reports that at a meeting of the national economic council on Monday, officials reviewed a proposal from an unnamed company to invest $1.3 billion in a variety of manufacturing projects in Kabul; the plan was said to have been approved “on the condition of the full clearance of the outstanding accounts the company has with the Kabul Bank.”

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • High Economic Council Plans Chamber of Commerce for Women [TOLO]
  • Taliban Dominate Paktia Chromite Mine [TOLO]
  • Avalanche Kills Eight in Badakhshan [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Why We Need More Forces to End the Stalemate in Afghanistan – “Our assessment, based on our conversations with commanders on the ground, is that a strategy for success will require additional U.S. and coalition forces and more flexible authorities.” [John McCain and Lindsey Graham, Washington Post]
  • Commentary: The Never-Ending War in Afghanistan – “In Washington, war has become tolerable, an enterprise to be managed rather than terminated as quickly as possible.” [Andrew Bacevich, NYT]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Debates Continue on Military Courts; Nadery and Saleh Appointed to New Positions

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Topline

  • PML-N sources say they expect the PPP to compromise on legislation to revive the military courts system after some “ceremonial opposition”.
  • On Saturday, Nader Nadery was formally appointed director of the Independent Administrative Reform Commission, a position to which he was nominated by Pres. Ghani several months ago; Chief Executive Abdullah attended his confirmation ceremony. Additionally, Pres. Ghani appointed former National Directorate of Security chief Amrullah Saleh as as state minister for security sector reform, giving him an oversight and advisory role on appointments and performance by top defense officials.
  • Afghan Defense Ministry officials confirmed that last week’s attack at the Kabul military hospital was aided by gunmen inside the building; TOLO identifies a doctor believed to have joined the attackers, while the AFP reports that two hospital interns are suspects.
  • Chief of Army Staff Bajwa visited the headquarters of the Special Security Division for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, and presided over an induction ceremony for a new Chinese-built air defense system.
  • Following a raid in the Achin district in Nangarhar on Saturday, the NDS announced the death of an Islamic State commander linked to last summer’s attack on the ‘Enlightenment Movement’ rally in Kabul, as well as other high-profile attacks.
  • Eight Afghan Local Police milita members were killed in an insider attack by two of their colleagues at a checkpost in the Shinkai district in Zabul province.
  • Two civilians were injured in cross-Line of Control firing on Sunday, the Pakistani military reported; officials in Balochistan also report mortar fire from across the border in Iran.
  • Babar Sohail Butt, a PPP leader and former provincial assembly candidate, was killed at his home in Lahore on Sunday, prompting party leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to cancelled planned organizing meetings in Lahore on Monday.
  • JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman held a jirga with party leaders from the FATA on Saturday, reiterating demands for a public referendum on the government’s plans to merge the FATA with Khyber Paktunkhwa province.
  • The Afghan government is seeking to secure the interest and support of the Trump administration by emphasizing the investment potential of its large natural resource endowment, Politico reports.
  • Finance Minister Dar has been given new authorities to issue supplementary budgets without the approval of the full cabinet and to appoint the heads of government institutions operating under the finance ministry, the Express Tribune reports.
  • Pakistan’s trade deficit widened during the first eight months of the fiscal year to a record $20.2 billion, driven principally by declining imports and rising machinery imports.

Pakistan — Security

  • Military Courts: PML-N sources tell the Express Tribune that they expect the PPP to compromise after “ceremonial opposition” on the proposed legislation, introduced in the national assembly on Friday, for the renewal of military courts. On Friday, PPP parliamentary opposition leader Khurshid Shah criticized the government for failing to consult with the opposition or implement the National Action Plan against terrorism. [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • CPEC Security: On Saturday, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa visited the headquarters of the Special Security Division for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, pledging full security for the CPEC project. On Sunday, a bomb partially destroyed a bridge on the Sur Bandar road in Gwadar; no casualties or claim of responsibility were reported. [ET] [The Nation]
  • New Air Defense System: On Sunday, Gen. Bajwa presided over an induction ceremony for a new Chinese-built LY-80 LOMADS mobile surface-to-air defense system. [Dawn]
  • Tensions with India: Pakistani military spokesmen reported on Sunday that two civilians were injured in “unprovoked firing” by Indian forces across the Line of Control in the Chirikot sector. On Friday, Pakistan formally protested the acquittal of Swami Aseemanand in connection to the 2007 attack on the Samjhota Express train. [ET]
  • Tensions with Iran: Balochistan security officials accuse Iranian border forces of cross-border mortar fire near the town of Saindak on Saturday; no casualties were reported. Separately, Iran repatriated 35 Pakistani illegal immigrants.
  • Military Delegation Visits: Dawn reports that a Pakistani military delegation completed a weeklong visit to the United States on Sunday, but provides no details on their talks.
  • PPP Leader Killed: Babar Sohail Butt, a former PPP candidate for the Punjab provincial assembly and member of the party’s People’s Youth Organization was killed in a shooting at his home in Lahore on Sunday evening. Details are limited, but Dawn suggests that his guard assisted the attacker. PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who had arrived in Lahore on Saturday and announced plans to revive his party’s four-point reform demands, suspended meetings that had been planned for Monday. [ET]
  • Counterterrorism Crackdown: Minister of State for Interior Balighur Rehman reported to the senate on Friday on implementation of the National Action Plan against terrorism, providing data on the number of cases registered against “hate speech” and the closure of seminaries, recruitment of counter-terrorism forces, and numbers of accused terrorists killed. The Punjab Rangers arrested 19 terrorism suspects in raids on Saturday, the military’s public relations arm announced; no further details were released. The Nation reports that the Punjab police have been directed to issue certificates to members of the “Afghan/Pashtoon community” to “avoid repeated botheration” by security agencies. During a visit to Swat on Saturday, Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial police chief Nasir Khan Durrani warned of continued threats in the province despite the closure of the border with Afghanistan. [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • FATA Reforms: JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman hosted a jirga of the party’s local leadership in Peshawar on Saturday, protesting the government’s plans for merging FATA with Khyber Paktunkhwa and reiterating demands for a public referendum on reforms. [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Senate Condemns “Blasphemy”: In a unanimous resolution on Friday, the senate condemned “blasphemous” content on social media and urged the government to take criminal action against those responsible for such messages. Federal Investigation Agency officials told the Islamabad High Court on Monday that they had sought details from Facebook on three pages accused of promoting blasphemous content. [Dawn]
  • PM Calls for Support of Religious Scholars Against Terrorism: Prime Minister Sharif visited the Jamia Naeemia seminary in Lahore on Saturday, urging religious scholars to “reject all those fatwas that incite violence” and counter “hate … being spread in the name of religion”. [ET] [AP]
  • Karachi Politics: Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Karachi mayor Waseem Akhtar reiterated his intentions to file a Supreme Court petition together with other municipal leaders, accusing provincial and federal officials of denying local governments meaningful authorities. Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah brushed off criticisms, saying that the mayor was “confused” and laying blame on the municipality for failing to accomplish Wasim’s 100-day city cleanliness drive. [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Sindh Public Service Exam Results Voided: On Monday, the Supreme Court voided the results of the 2013 Sindh Public Service Exam and ordered the appointment of a new Sindh Public Service Commission chairman. [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: PTI and PML-N parliamentarians continue to spar over a dispute outside the parliament building last week and remarks by national assembly member Javid Latif. Maulana Asmatullah, a JUI-F Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial assembly member, resigned and announced his intention to join the PTI, reportedly in exchange for an agreement to create a new district district headquarters in his home area. Imran Khan inaugurated a new hospital facility in Nowshera on Sunday, named after the former Jamaat-e-Islami leader Qazi Hussain Ahmed; but the apparent exclusion of JI representatives from the ceremony prompted criticism from the party. [The Nation] [Dawn] [The Nation] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Finance Minister Authorities: The Express Tribune reports that Finance Minister Dar has been authorized since February to appoint the heads of government institutions under the finance ministry, and to issue supplementary budgets without full cabinet approval, a move challenged by some constitutional scholars.
  • Trade Deficit Widens: The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics reported on Saturday that the trade deficit during the July-February period widened to $20.2 billion, a record gap that is near the finance ministry’s target for the overall year. Exports fell 3.9% year-on-year to $13.3 billion, while imports rose 16%, to $33.5 billion, driven primarily by a spike in machinery imports. Remittances declined year-on-year to $12.3 billion for the year thus far. [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Army-Backed Census Count to Begin Wednesday [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Two Killed in Clash Between Rival Kurram Tribes [Dawn] [ET]
  • Two Frontier Corps Personnel Wounded in Turbat Grenade Attack [Dawn]
  • Judge Ahmed Ali Sheikh Appointed Sindh High Court Chief Justice [ET]
  • Reforms Committee Proposes Overseas Voting Mechanism [ET]
  • NAB Considering Oversight Committees in Khyber Paktunkhwa Government [ET]
  • Former Hyderabad Official Arrested on Embezzlement Charges [Dawn] [ET]
  • Government Releases Rs 30 Billion to Independent Power Producers [The Nation]
  • Chinese Firm Closes on Karot Hydroelectric and Wind Power Project [ET]
  • Indian Farmers Seek to Sell Produce in Pakistan [ET]
  • Pakistan’s Affluent Women Bring Islam Into Their Lives and Lifestyles [NYT]
  • Commentary: U.S.-Pakistan Relations and the Big Stick – “The impulse to isolate, stigmatize and punish Pakistan won’t produce the outcomes that are best for Pakistan, India, and the United States.” [Michael Krepon, Arms Control Wonk]
  • Commentary: Yes, the Russian Ambassador Met Trump’s Team. So? That’s What We Diplomats Do – “Ambassadors do not make policy. They only facilitate understanding between countries that leads to policymaking in their respective capitals.” [Husain Haqqani, Washington Post]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kabul Military Hospital Attack: TOLO, citing unspecified “reliable sources”, identifies a doctor named Shakir as a collaborator with the gunmen who attacked the Kabul military hospital last week. Ministry of Defense spokesmen declined to confirm or deny the report, but confirmed to the AFP “the help of people inside”; the AFP reports that two hospital interns were involved in the attack, and raises questions as to whether the Islamic State was in fact responsible, as it has claimed. The Meshrano Jirga has summoned top security officials to testify on Monday on the investigations into the attack.
  • Insider Attacks: Eight Afghan Local Police militia members were killed by two colleagues in a shootout at their checkpost in the Shinkai district in Zabul province on Friday evening, local officials report. The Taliban claimed responsibility for sponsoring the attack; both gunmen reportedly fled, taking weapons with them. Elsewhere, six ALP members reportedly defected to join the Taliban in the Baghlan-e-Markazi district in Baghlan, stealing a police vehicle in the process. [Khaama Press] [RFE/RL] [AP]
  • NDS Reports Death of ISIS Commander Linked to Kabul Rally Attack: On Saturday, NDS officials announced the death of Maulvi Abdul Qayum, aka Shaheen Khorasani, in a raid in the Achin district in Nangarhar province. He was identified as a leading ISIS commander and linked to attacks by the group in Kabul against a rally by the ‘Enlightenment Movement’ in July and a Shia shrine in November. [TOLO]
  • Khost Base Attacked: A group of at least three gunmen attacked a military base in Khost province near the border with Pakistan on Saturday; details are limited. [RFE/RL]
  • Tensions with Pakistan: On Friday, Afghanistan’s ambassador to the UN complained to the Security Council that since January Pakistani forces had violated Afghanistan’s territory at least 62 times, including three airspace violations, and had carried out over 1,375 artillery shellings. Afghanistan formally protested continued shelling with Pakistan’s charges d’affaires in Kabul on Sunday. Afghan ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal met with JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman in Islamabad on Friday, focused on the reduction of bilateral tensions. [Khaama Press] [Pajhwok]
  • Security Policy Criticisms: Foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani attend a gathering in Parwan on Friday, at which he criticized the government for having an “unclear policy” and suggested that “some people are benefiting from the continuation of terror activities in the country”. At a separate event on Friday, former vice president Mohammad Karim Khalili called for a national strategy to break the “peace and war deadlock” in the country.
  • Other Attacks and Operations: Following operations in Kunduz’s Dasht-e-Archi district on Saturday, ANA officials reported the deaths of Qari Dost Mohammad and Mullah Niaz Mohammad, identified as leaders of the Taliban military commission and finance commission. Baghlan provincial council members complain of a lack of reinforcements for two Afghan National Army bases in the Baghlan-e-Markazi district. Taliban, ISIS, and Afghan forces clashed in the Ghani Khel and Khogyani districts of Nangarhar on Saturday, leaving at least 20 militants and four security personnel dead. Nangarhar provincial police claim that at least 16 ISIS fighters, including seven Pakistanis, were killed in airstrikes in the Nazian and Kot districts on Saturday. Fighting was reported in Helmand’s Nad Ali and Garmser districts on Saturday, leaving as many as 27 dead; local security officials carried out raids in Lashkar Gah on Sunday, which they said killed 11. On Monday, the defense ministry announced that 32 people had been freed from a Taliban prison facility in Nad Ali. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Saleh and Nadery Appointed: On Saturday, Chief Executive Abdullah presided over a ceremony for the appointment of Nader Nadery as director of the Independent Administrative Reform Commission, a position to which he was nominated five months prior by Pres. Ghani, but blocked from confirmation. In his remarks, Abdullah emphasized the need for the government to be “neutral, free, and independent”. Separately, Ghani appointed former NDS chief Amrullah Saleh as state minister for security sector reform, giving him an oversight and advisory role on appointments and performance by top defense officials. Saleh was earlier reportedly tapped to lead a commission on security appointments last November. [Ariana News] [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • ID Card Planning: At a meeting on Saturday, Pres. Ghani reportedly ordered a report within 10 days on plans to launch and distribute a national electronic ID card.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Mining Investments: Afghan ambassador to the U.S. Hamdullah Mohib tells Politico that the Trump administration has expressed interest in developing investments in Afghanistan’s natural resources; a Trump National Security staff source says that “as a dynamic results-oriented president from the business world, he’s going to look at everything with a fresh set of eyes”.
  • Money-Printing Project: Afghanistan and Germany will jointly invest 70 million Euros for the construction of a money-printing company at the Jangalak industrial township site in Kabul, the General Directorate of Enterprises and Government Companies announced on Sunday.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • EU Urges Anti-Corruption Action on Mining, Security, and Judicial Sectors [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Kabul Plagued by Kidnapping and Extortion of Locals [AFP]
  • Afghan Hindus and Sikhs Cancel Holi Festivals Due to Security Concerns [TOLO]
  • CASA-1000 Construction to Begin in 2018 [TOLO]
  • Afgha Khan Foundation Pledges to Build Kabul Hospital [Khaama Press]
  • Commentary: Afghanistan is Now Trump’s War – “Before the White House responds to the Pentagon’s latest request for a troop surge in Afghanistan to counter insurgent forces that now control substantial parts of the country, it would serve administration officials well to examine the long history of deluded thinking about what could be accomplished if the United States committed more troops to the effort.” [NYT]
  • Commentary: A Success Story Marred by Ghost Numbers: Afghanistan’s Inconsistent Education Statistics – “The Ministry of Education has now made it clear that its previous numbers were inaccurate, but appears still to be struggling to clean up its databases.” [Ali Yawar Adili, AAN]