Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Ghani Opens Loya Jirga Meeting; Pakistan Drops Most Remaining COVID Restrictions

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Topline

  • Pres. Ghani addressed the opening of the government’s Loya Jirga meeting in Kabul on Friday. In statements on Thursday and Friday, Sec. Pompeo and Amb. Khalilzad welcomed the jirga as an opportunity to “consolidate national support for peace”; Pompeo acknowledged that the release of the prisoners would be “unpopular” but said that “this difficult action will lead to an important result long sought by Afghans and Afghanistan’s friends: reduction of violence and direct talks resulting in a peace agreement and an end to the war.”
  • On Thursday, Pakistan’s National Coordination Committee approved the removal of most remaining restrictions on the restaurant, transportation, and tourism sectors; international and domestic flight operations are resuming this weekend, and schools will be allowed to reopen on September 15. As of Friday, Pakistan reports 282,628 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 2.079 million tests, with at least 6,052 associated deaths.
  • On Thursday, a joint session of Pakistan’s parliament passed legislation on mutual legal assistance with other countries, as part of a package of FATF-related reforms.
  • As of Friday, Afghanistan reports 37,015 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 92,585 tests, with at least 1,307 associated deaths.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: The Pakistani foreign ministry defended remarks by Foreign Minister Qureshi in which he expressed frustration with “foot-dragging” by the Organization of the Islamic Conference on the Kashmir issue and suggested that Pakistan could convene a “meeting of the Islamic countries that are ready to stand with us” instead. The PML-N criticized Qureshi’s remarks as “irresponsible”. A joint session of parliament on Thursday passed a resolution rejecting India’s change in status for Indian Kashmir. The Islamabad High Court has formed a bench to hear an appeal by the government on behalf of accused Indian spy Kulbhushan Jhadav against his death sentence. [The Nation] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • FATF Legislation: On Thursday, a joint session of parliament passed a third piece of recent legislation aimed at showing compliance with Financial Action Task Force anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing criteria; the bill covers mutual legal assistance and information exchange between Pakistan and other countries. [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: On Thursday, the Lahore High Court formally removed former district judge Arshad Malik from his position; Malik had convicted Nawaz Sharif in an accountability court and was later alleged to have reported having been coerced to issue the verdict, a position he publicly recanted. The PTI rebuffed requests for additional financial details in an Election Commission hearing on Thursday on its overseas fundraising. On Friday, an Islamabad accountability court dismissed a petition from former Pres. Zardari challenging the National Accountability Bureau’s jurisdiction in a corruption case against him. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Supreme Court Holds Hearing on Journalist’s Abduction [Dawn] [ET]
  • JI Activist Succumbs to Injuries from Karachi Grenade Attack [Dawn]
  • Japanese Defense Minister Holds Talks with Chief of Army Staff [The Nation]
  • Karachi Hit With New Flooding [ET]
  • Pakistan Faces Gas Shortages in Winter [ET]
  • Commentary: The Pandemic Deals a Blow to Pakistan’s Democracy – “Amid the pandemic this summer, Pakistan’s usual civilian-military games continue, with an empowered military and opposition parties all too willing to play the game to help weaken the ruling party.” [Madiha Afzal, Brookings]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: A NYT tally for the week of July 31 – August 6 reports at least 42 government security personnel and 41 civilians were killed.
  • Border Tensions with Pakistan: Protestors demonstrated in Spin Boldak on Thursday to protest last week’s clash at the border crossing and subsequent cross-border shelling by Pakistani forces. Separately, the Afghan foreign ministry denied a Pakistani account that Afghan forces had fired across the border the day prior, killing a Frontier Corps soldier in the Dir district.

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Loya Jirga Gathering: Pres. Ghani addressed the opening of the government’s Loya Jirga meeting in Kabul on Friday, professing a lack of authority to release approximately 400 Taliban prisoners convicted of serious crimes and seeking support from the gathering. In statements on Thursday and Friday, Sec. Pompeo and Amb. Khalilzad welcomed the jirga as an opportunity to “consolidate national support for peace”; Pompeo acknowledged that the release of the prisoners would be “unpopular” but said that “this difficult action will lead to an important result long sought by Afghans and Afghanistan’s friends: reduction of violence and direct talks resulting in a peace agreement and an end to the war.” Speaking separately at an event on Wednesday moderated by former US National Security Advisor HR McMaster, Foreign Minister Atmar said that “peace without human rights, democracy will not be acceptable to the Afghan people regardless of how many agreements can be signed between world powers and the Taliban.” [AP] [Ariana News] [Ariana News] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Murder Case Against Son of Ghani Advisor Stalled [TOLO]
  • Government Says It’s Recovered $400M in Kabul Bank Losses [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: UN Security Council Holds Closed-Door Kashmir Session; Government Jirga to Convene Tomorrow

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  • The UN Security Council held a closed-door discussion on the situation in Kashmir on Wednesday at Pakistan’s request, but did not issue a statement afterwards; Foreign Minister Qureshi touted, and Indian diplomats dismissed, the significance of the meeting.
  • At a press conference on Wednesday, Masoom Stanekzai said that the government’s jirga on Friday would not have the authority to pardon Taliban prisoners but would provide “suggestions” on the issue. The Taliban have dismissed the gathering.
  • At least 39 people were wounded in a grenade attack at a Jamaat-e-Islami rally in Karachi on Wednesday evening; most injuries were reported to be minor. No claim of responsibility was reported.
  • On Thursday, Shehbaz Sharif and his son Hamza Shehbaz were indicted in a corruption case on charges of misusing public funds to support the family’s sugar mill business. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was indicted on Wednesday on charges of making illegal appointments in Pakistan State Oil during his tenure as petroleum minister.
  • As of Thursday, Pakistan reports 281,861 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 2.058 million tests, with at least 6,035 associated deaths.
  • As of Thursday, Afghanistan reports 36,937 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 90,575 tests, with at least 1,298 associated deaths.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: PM Khan addressed the Azad Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly on Wednesday, denouncing India’s move a year prior to alter the constitutional status of Indian Kashmir, and vowing that “Kashmir will be freed”. Other political leaders in the government and opposition also marked the occasion with speeches and rallies. The UN Security Council held a closed-door discussion on the situation in Kashmir on Wednesday at Pakistan’s request, but did not issue a statement afterwards; Foreign Minister Qureshi touted, and Indian diplomats dismissed, the significance of the meeting. Additionally, Pakistan condemned the construction of a new Hindu temple at the site of the former Babri Masjid mosque in the Indian city of Ayodhya, which PM Modi visited on Wednesday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET]
  • JI Rally Attacked: At least 39 people were wounded in a grenade attack at a Jamaat-e-Islami rally in Karachi on Wednesday evening; most injuries were reported to be minor. JI leader Sirajul Haq accused “Indian agents” of carrying out the attack. No claim of responsibility has been reported. [ET]
  • Afghan Border Tensions: A Frontier Corps soldier was killed and two injured in a cross-border mortar attack from Afghanistan in the Dir district on Wednesday; Pakistani officials also accused the Afghan border forces of carrying out cross-border firing. [ET]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: On Thursday, Shehbaz Sharif and his son Hamza Shehbaz were indicted in a corruption case on charges of misusing public funds to support the family’s sugar mill business. New arrest warrants were issued against Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday in connection to the land case against him and Jang group CEO Mir Shakilur Rehman. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was indicted on Wednesday on charges of making illegal appointments in Pakistan State Oil during his tenure as petroleum minister. On Thursday, the National Accountability Bureau summoned Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar for questioning as part of an investigation into the alleged illegal provision of liquor licenses. On Wednesday, an Islamabad court dismissed American disinformation publicist Cynthia Ritchie’s allegations of rape against Senator Rehman Malik. [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: PML-Q leaders met with Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar on Wednesday to raise concerns over proposed reshuffling of civil service and police appointees in the Gujrat and Mandi Bahauddin districts. [ET]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Daniel Pearl Convicts Seek Release on Sindh High Court Acquittal Orders [ET] [Dawn]
  • Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri Appointed New Foreign Ministry Spokesman [Dawn] [ET]
  • National Economic Council Gives Final Approval to Mainline-1 Rail Project [ET] [ET]
  • Pakistan Repays $1 Billion Saudi Loan [ET]
  • South Korean Firm Set to Win New LNG Supply Contract [ET]
  • PM Khan Approves New Civil Service Rotation Policy [ET]
  • PIA to Resume Flights to UK on August 14 [Dawn] [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: At least 12 people, including relatives and bodyguards of a former Baghlan provincial council member, were killed in a roadside bombing in the province on Wednesday morning. Another attack on a fuel convoy traveling on the Baghlan-Samangan highway seized seven fuel tankers and destroyed two; no claim of responsibility was reported for either attack. Seven civilians were reportedly killed in a roadside bombing in the Khash Rod district in Nimroz on Wednesday. Taliban fighters attacked a military convoy in the Gilan district in Ghazni on Wednesday. A former police officer who had defected to the Taliban and killed three former comrades in an insider attack in the Almar district in Faryab earlier this year was arrested in Ghor province on Thursday. [Khaama Press] [Khabarnama]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Loya Jirga Plans: Masoom Stanekzai, the former NDS chief and government negotiating team head, is heading the organizing committee for the Loya Jirga planned for tomorrow; at a press conference on Wednesday, he said that the jirga would not have the authority to pardon Taliban prisoners but would provide “suggestions” on the issue. The Taliban have dismissed the gathering, saying that “convening such a Jirga before reaching comprehensive peace and political settlement can in no way be representative of the people or hold any legal status because the [government] itself is illegitimate”. Ministry of finance documents indicate that the budget for the jirga is Afs 330 million (approx. $4.3 million). Vice Pres. Saleh dismissed criticism of the cost, saying that the government spends Afs 4.2 billion on security and protection for senior officials, “some of whom spend more than half of their time weakening the system in order to achieve their personal desires and aspirations to feed their greed”. [Khabarnama] [Khabarnama] [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Iran Signs MOU with Afghanistan to Facilitate Goods Transit From Chabahar [Khabarnama]
  • Commentary: Still Preoccupied by ‘Who Gets What’: 100 Days of the New Government, But No Full Cabinet – “The list of cabinet nominees remains incomplete and parliament, which has to vote to confirm or reject nominees, has given up waiting and gone into recess for the summer.” [Ali Yawar Adili, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistan Protests Article 370 Anniversary; Wolesi Jirga Speaker Rejects Loya Jirga Plans

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  • A Pakistani civilian was killed in an exchange of fire along the Line of Control border in Kashmir on Wednesday. Pakistani officials are marking the anniversary of the change in constitutional status for Indian Kashmir with protests, speeches, and other activities denouncing India’s actions. At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, PM Khan announced a new official map of Pakistan that makes claims to the entirety of Kashmir, as well as portions of the Indian state of Gujrat.
  • Pres. Ghani met with Wolesi Jirga speaker Mir Rahman Rahmani on Tuesday to discuss Ghani’s planned Loya Jirga to discuss the release of Taliban prisoners and the peace process; in a statement afterwards, Rahmani rejected plans for the jirga, saying the issue should instead be put to parliament.
  • Two Indian engineers taken hostage in Baghlan province in May 2018 were freed this week; the Indian external affairs ministry did not provide details on the circumstances of their release.
  • The Pakistani government is preparing to repeal and overhaul two acts governing overseas investments; foreign investors will be restricted from some sectors of the economy, including media and armaments, and foreign ownership shares are capped in the banking, engineering, and agriculture sectors.
  • As of Wednesday, Afghanistan reports 36,829 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 89,822 tests, with at least 1,294 associated deaths. The ministry of public health estimates that as many as ten million Afghans have likely been infected with the virus based on current surveys, or around 31.5% of the population.
  • As of Wednesday, Pakistan reports 281,135 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 2.043 million tests, with at least 6,014 associated deaths.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: A Pakistani civilian was killed in an exchange of fire along the Line of Control border in Kashmir on Wednesday. Pakistani officials are marking the anniversary of the change in constitutional status in Indian Kashmir with protests, speeches, and other activities denouncing India’s actions; at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, PM Khan announced a new official map of Pakistan that makes claims to the entirety of Kashmir, as well as portions of the Indian state of Gujrat. Foreign Minister Qureshi said that Pakistan supported Kashmiri rights to self-determination, however. India’s foreign ministry rejected the map, which Pakistan’s foreign ministry in turn rebuffed. Foreign Minister Qureshi has formally requested a meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the Indian actions in Kashmir. PM Khan will address the Azad Jammu and Kashmir assembly on Wednesday, and the senate will convene for a special session focused on Kashmir. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Iranian Nationals Freed: Balochistan Levies officials announced that four Iranian nationals had been freed in an operation on Monday in the Chagai district, after having been kidnapped 12 days prior. No further details on the kidnappings were reported.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: The Sindh Bar Council has challenged the appointment of three Lahore High Court judges to the Supreme Court despite a lack of seniority. The National Accountability Bureau has formed a new investigation team to investigate allegations of sugar profiteering. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Poor and Desperate, Pakistani Hindus Accept Islam to Get By [NYT]
  • PTI Social Media Chief Appointed to Information Ministry Position [Dawn]
  • Wheat and Sugar Prices Spike [ET] [The Nation]
  • Sindh Chief Minister Seeks Support For Karachi Sanitation Infrastructure Projects [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Exports Rebound in July After Four Months of Decline [Dawn] [ET]
  • Civil Service Reforms Abolish More Than 71,000 Vacant Posts [Dawn]
  • New Authority to Be Formed to Manage Mainline-1 Rail Project [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Loya Jirga Plans: Pres. Ghani met with Wolesi Jirga speaker Mir Rahman Rahmani on Tuesday to discuss Ghani’s planned Loya Jirga to discuss the release of Taliban prisoners and the peace process; in a statement afterwards, Rahmani rejected plans for the jirga, saying the issue should instead be put to parliament. [TOLO]
  • Salary Suspensions: On Tuesday, the head of the Asset Registration and Verification Office announced that the government would suspend salary and allowance payments to 172 members of the Wolesi Jirga, 12 members of the senate, four governors, two ministers, and six deputies for failing to submit asset registration statements.

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Delegation Completes Investigation of Spin Boldak Clash [TOLO]
  • Former Kabul Bank CEO Claims to Have Repaid $17 Million to Government [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Trump Claims Further Troop Reductions By November; Faisal Sultan Appointed Health Assistant

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  • In an Axios interview that aired on Monday, Pres. Trump suggested that U.S. force levels in Afghanistan would be “be down in a very short period of time to 8,000, then we’re going to be down to 4,000”, and that force levels would be “anywhere from four to five thousand” by November.
  • Sec. Pompeo spoke by videoconference with Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar on Monday to discuss intra-Afghan talks and Taliban prisoner releases; Pres. Ghani also held separate phone calls with Prime Ministers Khan and Modi on Monday and Tuesday.
  • PM Khan appointed Dr. Faisal Sultan as special assistant on national health services on Monday; Sultan previously served as chief executive of a charity hospital founded by PM Khan. As of Tuesday, Pakistan reports 280,459 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 2.031 million tests, with at least 5,999 associated deaths.
  • After nearly 24 hours of fighting, Afghan security forces announced that they had killed ten attackers at the Jalalabad prison and retaken control of the facility. At least 29 people were killed and 50 wounded; the defense ministry said that it had recaptured 1,025 prisoners.
  • On Tuesday, the Supreme Court of Pakistan upheld the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s power to suspend cell phone services, overturning a 2018 Islamabad High Court ruling.
  • As of Tuesday, the Afghanistan reports 36,782 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 89,547 tests, with at least 1,288 associated deaths.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: Foreign Minister Qureshi, Defense Minister Khattak, and other officials visited the Line of Control in Azad Jammu and Kashmir on Monday, denouncing the Indian government’s change in constitutional status for Indian Kashmir last year, the anniversary of which is Wednesday. On Tuesday, Qureshi chaired a conference of political party leaders in Islamabad on the Kashmir issue.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Gulf Diplomacy: In an Al Jazeera interview, PM Khan claimed that Pakistani diplomatic mediation between Saudi Arabia and Iran was still ongoing and “we are making progress, but slowly”.
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: On Tuesday, the Supreme Court upheld the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s power to suspend cell phone services, overturning a 2018 Islamabad High Court ruling. The government has reportedly written to the UK seeking the extradition of Nawaz Sharif’s son Salman Shahbaz and son-in-law Ali Imran. [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif spoke by phone on Monday to discuss plans for an opposition party conference; the JUI-F has reportedly refrained from committing to participate after complaints that its leadership had not been consulted prior to the announcement of plans for a gathering. Anonymous sources tell The Nation that the PML-Q leadership is prepared to “reconsider its alliance with the PTI government if the latter fails to adhere to the power-sharing deal” between the two parties. On Monday, Pres. Alvi convened a joint session of parliament on Thursday to consider up to a dozen pieces of legislation related to Pakistan’s commitments to the Financial Action Task Force and other issues. [ET] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: On Monday, PM Khan appointed Dr. Faisal Sultan as special assistant on national health services, replacing Dr. Zafar Mirza, who resigned last week. Sultan previously served as chief executive of the Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital, a charity hospital founded by PM Khan. The Punjab government withdrew special lockdown restrictions on gatherings and market operations during Eid earlier on Sunday; a general lockdown will continue through August 17. As of Tuesday, Pakistan reports 280,459 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 2.031 million tests, with at least 5,999 associated deaths. [ET] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Supreme Court Seeks Government Response on Army Public School Attack Investigation Report [Dawn] [ET]
  • Chief of Army Staff Meets Lahore Corps Commander [ET]
  • Sindh Chief Minister Rejects Federal Role in Karachi Administration [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • New Polio Case Reported in Punjab [The Nation]
  • Five More PIA Pilots Fired [ET]
  • Inflation Rises to 9.3% in July [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • US Force Levels: In an Axios interview that aired on Monday, Pres. Trump suggested that U.S. force levels in Afghanistan would be “be down in a very short period of time to 8,000, then we’re going to be down to 4,000”, and that force levels would be “anywhere from four to five thousand” by November.
  • Attacks and Operations: After nearly 24 hours of fighting, Afghan security forces announced that they had killed ten attackers at the Jalalabad prison and retaken control of the facility. At least 29 people were killed and 50 wounded; the defense ministry said that it had recaptured 1,025 prisoners. Interior Minister Massoud Andarabi accused the Haqqani network and Taliban of responsibility for the attack, which was claimed by the Islamic State; Andarabi alleged that ISIS leader Shahab al-Muhajir was a member of the Haqqani network. In a statement on Monday, the ministry of interior accused the Taliban of 38 ceasefire violations during the Eid period, killing 20 civilians and wounding 40 others. A roadside bombing in the Shegal district in Kunar killed two civilians and wounded three others on Tuesday. [Khabarnama] [Khabarnama] [Ariana News] [Ariana News] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: Sec. Pompeo spoke by videoconference with Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar on Monday to discuss intra-Afghan talks and Taliban prisoner releases. Pres. Ghani held separate phone calls with Prime Ministers Khan and Modi on Monday and Tuesday, respectively; the leaders were quoted as having exchanged Eid greetings and discussing regional security concerns and the peace process. The Afghan government plans to convene a Loya Jirga gathering in Kabul on Friday to discuss the release of approximately 400 disputed Taliban prisoners; the ministry of foreign affairs said Tuesday that the government is also planning to convene additional conferences of regional diplomats on the peace process. [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khabarnama] [Khabarnama]

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Chaman Border Crossing Reopened After Deadly Clash [ET]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: ISIS Fighters Attack Jalalabad Prison; Eid Celebrated

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Topline

  • Islamic State fighters attacked a prison facility in Jalalabad on Sunday; fighting is still ongoing as of Monday, with at least 21 people dead and 43 injured. Scores of prisoners escaped, but Afghan security officials claimed to have re-captured as many as a thousand. Earlier on Saturday, the NDS has announced that it had killed Assadullah Orakzai, who it identified as the head of intelligence of the Islamic State’s local affiliate, in a raid in Jalalabad.
  • The Afghan National Security Council announced on Sunday that 317 additional Taliban prisoners had been released over the weekend, bringing the total number of prisoners released since February to 4,917. Pres. Ghani’s office announced plans on Sunday to hold a Loya Jirga gathering in Kabul on August 7 to hold “peace consultations” and discuss the release of Taliban prisoners convicted of serious crimes.
  • Pres. Erdogan of Turkey spoke by phone with Pres. Alvi and PM Khan on Saturday, exchanging Eid greetings and discussing the coronavirus response.
  • In their Eid messages on Saturday, PM Khan and Pres. Alvi both reiterated calls for the public to follow health protocols during the holiday. As of Monday, Pakistan reports 280,027 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 2.021 million tests, with at least 5,984 associated deaths.
  • As of Monday, Afghanistan reports 36,710 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 89,255 tests, with at least 1,283 associated deaths.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: In remarks on Saturday, Foreign Minister Qureshi called on opposition parties to join the government in protesting the anniversary of India’s change in status for Jammu and Kashmir on August 5. Separately, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa visited troops deployed along the Line of Control on Saturday; Qureshi also visited the Line of Control on Monday. [ET]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Erdogan Call: Pres. Erdogan of Turkey spoke by phone with Pres. Alvi and PM Khan on Saturday, exchanging Eid greetings and discussing the coronavirus response; Khan’s office quoted him assuring continued support for Pakistan’s position on Kashmir. [ET]
  • FATF Legislation: The PTI government is preparing to call a joint session of parliament this week to push through legislation on Financial Action Task Force-mandated reforms; in a Dawn interview, PML-N senator Pervaiz Rashid defended the opposition’s support for the passage of two FATF-related bills last week.
  • Corruption Investigation and Other Legal Battles: Dawn reports that the government is preparing to issue legal notices after Eid against several sugar mill owners accused of profiteering in an earlier government investigation, including PTI leader Jahangir Tareen and opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari.

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: In their Eid messages on Saturday, PM Khan and Pres. Alvi both reiterated calls for the public to follow health protocols during the holiday. The WSJ notes that despite earlier concerns, Pakistan’s number of new coronavirus cases has dropped significantly from a peak earlier this spring. As of Monday, Pakistan reports 280,027 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 2.021 million tests, with at least 5,984 associated deaths. Dawn reports that testing in Punjab has fallen to 30-40% of capacity, with around 5,300 tests conducted per day as of August 1. On Monday, the Balochistan government extended its ‘smart lockdown’ restrictions through August 17. The Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial government is preparing to reopen some tourist areas after Eid. [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Karachi Cleanup: Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah met with the head of the National Disaster Management Authority, the Karachi Corps Commander, and other officials on Friday and agreed to task the military-owned Frontier Works Organization with the cleaning of three stormwater drains after flooding last week. The government is also seeking additional support from the World Bank for the city’s waste management. [ET] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Gunmen Celebrated After Murder of Pakistani-American Man Accused of Blasphemy [WAPO]
  • MQM-P and PSP On a Tight Leash [Dawn]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Amends Law to Regularize Proxy Khasadar Staff [Dawn] [ET]
  • Government Hikes Petroleum Product Prices [Dawn] [ET]
  • Chinese Defense Attache Visits ISPR to Commemorate PLA Anniversary [ET]
  • Commentary: Abductions, Censorship, and Layoffs: Pakistan Critics Are Under Siege – “Two years into Mr. Khan’s term, censorship is on the rise, journalists and activists say, leaving the country’s heavy-handed military and security forces unchecked as they intimidate the news media to a degree unseen since the country’s era of army juntas.” [Maria Abi-Habib, NYT]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Jalalabad Prison Attack: A group of militants attacked a prison facility in Jalalabad on Sunday with a car bomb and multiple gunmen, leading to the escape of scores of inmates from the prison, which holds around 1,500. The Taliban denied responsibility, and the attack was claimed by the Islamic State. Fighting was reported to still be ongoing as of Monday, with at least 21 people dead and 43 injured. Afghan security forces claim to have re-captured as many as a thousand prisoners who had escaped during the attack, but have not provided details. [AP] [TOLO]
  • Border Clashes with Pakistan: In a statement on Friday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry denied responsibility for instigating a border clash the day prior, claiming that Pakistani forces had responded to firing by Afghan border forces “in self-defense only”, and accusing the Afghan forces of targeting civilians; as many as 15 people were reportedly killed. On Sunday, Afghanistan’s National Security Council announced that it had dispatched a delegation to Kandahar to investigate the incident. [WAPO] [ET] [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Attacks and Operations: On Saturday, the NDS announced that it had killed Assadullah Orakzai, who it identified as the head of intelligence of the Islamic State’s local affiliate, in a raid in Jalalabad. Prior to Sunday’s attack in Jalalabad, a spokesman for the ministry of defense said that “several clashes had been reported” during the Eid ceasefire period, but did not provide specifics. [AP] [TOLO] [Ariana News]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: The Afghan National Security Council announced on Sunday that 317 additional Taliban prisoners had been released over the weekend, bringing the total number of prisoners released since February to 4,917. Reuters reports that the U.S. has proposed the transfer of some Taliban prisoners to a “supervised facility” as part of efforts to reach agreement between the Taliban and government on a group of approximately 200 prisoners convicted of serious crimes who the government has refused to release. On Sunday, VP Danesh spoke with US Deputy Chief of Mission Karen Decker, discussing plans to convene a Loya Jirga for “peace consultations”; Pres. Ghani’s office subsequently announced plans to hold the gathering in Kabul on August 7. [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Government Collects More Than Afs 2.2 Billion Through Telecom Tax Since January [Ariana News]
  • Afghan Exports Down 65% in Past Three Months Due to COVID-19 [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Ghani Offers Substitution of Prisoners for Release; PTI Preparing Joint Session on FATF Bills

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Topline

  • Pres. Ghani said Friday that the government would release an additional 500 Taliban prisoners within four days, but that he “does not have the authority to decide on the release of 400 Taliban prisoners whose names are on the list provided by the Taliban” and who the government has refused to release due to the severity of their crimes. Ghani suggested that he would convene a Loya Jirga to consider their release. The Taliban have previously rejected any substitutions of prisoners; in a statement on Thursday, the Taliban said they had now released a total of 1,000 government prisoners since the end of February.
  • The PTI government is preparing to call a joint session of parliament on August 6 to push through additional FATF-related legislation, in time for an implementation report deadline from the FATF on the same day.
  • At least 18 people were killed and dozens more wounded in a car bombing attack in Logar, just hours before a three-day ceasefire was set to begin during Eid; the Taliban denied responsibility for the attack.
  • At least 15 Afghan civilians were reportedly killed by Pakistani artillery fire and dozens more wounded in Kandahar’s Spin Boldak district. The firing followed earlier clashes at the Chaman border crossing, where at least three people were reportedly killed after Frontier Corps personnel opened fire on the crowd there.
  • Tahir Ahmad Naseem, the man killed in a Peshawar courtroom shooting as he faced charges of blasphemy on Thursday, was an American citizen, prompting a statement by the U.S. State Department urging Pakistan to “take immediate action and pursue reforms that will prevent such a shameful tragedy from happening again.”
  • As of Friday, Pakistan reports 278,304 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 1.973 million tests, with at least 5,951 associated deaths.
  • As of Friday, Afghanistan reports 36,675 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 89,066 tests, with at least 1,272 associated deaths.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Blasphemy Suspect Killing: Additional reporting confirms that Tahir Ahmad Naseem, the man killed in a Peshawar courtroom shooting as he faced charges of blasphemy on Thursday, was an American citizen, prompting a statement by the U.S. State Department urging Pakistan to “take immediate action and pursue reforms that will prevent such a shameful tragedy from happening again.” Naseem was a former member of the Ahmadi minority sect who had made claims to be the messiah and prophet; he returned to Pakistan in 2018 and was charged with blasphemy. [Dawn]
  • Rajanpur Raid: Five militant suspects were killed in a police and ISI raid in the town of Rajanpur in Punjab, who police identified as members of the Baluch Republican Army. [AP]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Ordinance Legislation: JUI-F senators objected to the PPP and PML-N’s support for the passage in the senate on Thursday of two bills amending the Anti-Terrorism Act and authorizing sanctions against individuals sanctioned by the UN Security Council. Speaking to PTI lawmakers at a meeting on Thursday, PM Khan insisted that he would not accept opposition amendments to the National Accountability Bureau law and accused the opposition of blocking passage of Financial Action Task Force-mandated reforms in an attempt to extract concessions. PPP leaders Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Sherry Rehman countered that the party’s objections were to parts of the FATF legislation, as well as the NAB law. The government is reportedly preparing to call a joint session of parliament on August 6 to push through additional FATF-related legislation, in time for an implementation report deadline from the FATF on the same day. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: The Islamabad High Court will hear a government petition on behalf of accused Indian spy Kulbhushan Jhadav on August 3. The IHC dismissed a petition on Thursday that had challenged the appointment of advisors to the prime minister holding dual nationality, and to the number of such advisors and assistants appointed. Judge Qazi Faez Isa’s wife, Sarina Isa, accused Federal Board of Revenue officials of “acting on instructions” in their investigation of the family’s assets. The Federal Investigation Agency has formed a team to continue investigations into sugar mill owners accused of profiteering. [Dawn] [ET] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan Army to Assist in Karachi Flood Cleanup [Dawn] [ET]
  • Government to Mark Anniversary of Indian Change in Kashmir Status [The Nation]
  • Provinces Asked to Contain Expenditures [Dawn]
  • FBR Exceeds Tax Collection Target for July [ET]
  • CPEC Brings Rise in Coal-Fired Power Generation in Pakistan [Bloomberg]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Government Seeks to Import 300,000 Tons of Wheat [Dawn]
  • New Polio Case Reported in Peshawar [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: At least 18 people were killed and dozens more wounded in a car bombing attack in the Logar provincial capital of Pul-e-Alam on Thursday, just hours before a three-day ceasefire was set to begin during Eid; the Taliban’s spokesman denied responsibility for the attack. The NYT reports that an Afghan army Black Hawk helicopter was shot down by an anti-tank guided missile as it was preparing for a landing near the Kajaki Dam in Helmand province earlier this week on Monday, wounding two crew members; US and Afghan officials allege that the weapon was supplied by Iran, but provided no supporting details. [AP] [Pajhwok] [Ariana News] [Khabarnama]
  • Pakistan Border Clashes: Afghan officials report at least 15 civilians were killed by Pakistani artillery fire and dozens more wounded in Kandahar’s Spin Boldak district on Thursday. The firing followed earlier clashes at the Chaman border crossing, after Pakistani officials refused to open the border gates during Eid; at least three people were killed after Frontier Corps personnel opened fire on the crowd there, and some border facilities were destroyed in the protests. [Reuters] [TOLO] [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: In a statement on Thursday, the Taliban said they had released an additional 80 prisoners, and had now released a total of 1,000 government prisoners since the end of February. In remarks on Friday at an Eid ceremony, Pres. Ghani said that the government would release an additional 500 Taliban prisoners within four days; he said that he “does not have the authority to decide on the release of 400 Taliban prisoners whose names are on the list provided by the Taliban” and who the government has refused to release due to the severity of their crimes, but suggested that he would convene a Loya Jirga to consider their release. The Taliban have previously rejected any substitutions of prisoners for release. [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khabarnama]

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Pompeo Says He Discussed Russian Bounty Threat with Counterpart [WAPO]
  • One Year On, No Prosecution of ANP Food Contractor Accused of Embezzlement [TOLO]
  • Report: SIGAR Quarterly Report to Congress, July 2020 – “Peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government have yet to begin, Taliban attacks on Afghan security forces have surged, and the COVID-19 pandemic has cast a huge shadow over Afghan daily life.” [SIGAR (pdf)]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Khalilzad Arrives in Kabul; Two FATF Amendments Pass Parliament

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Topline

  • Amb. Khalilzad arrived in Kabul and met with Pres. Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah on Wednesday evening. In a statement on Wednesday, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said that the Taliban would release its remaining government prisoners, and reiterated that “the other side must also complete the process of releasing the pledged 5,000 detainees in accordance with the Doha Agreement, and the list, in order to facilitate the start of intra-Afghan talks after Eid”.
  • The PTI government succeeded in passing two pieces of legislation in the national assembly and senate that will allow the government to take action to implement UN Security Council resolution sanctions, part of a set of reforms aimed at showing FATF compliance. Proposed amendments to the National Accountability Bureau law are still pending.
  • As of Thursday, Pakistan reports 277,401 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 1.952 million tests, with at least 5,924 associated deaths. WHO sources tell Dawn they are concerned over the level of testing in Pakistan, and high test positivity rates in Khyber Paktunkhwa.
  • As of Thursday, Afghanistan reports 36,542 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 88,524 tests, with at least 1,271 associated deaths.
  • A Pakistani man who was arrested on charges of blasphemy in 2018 was killed during a court appearance in Peshawar on Wednesday.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Blasphemy Suspect Killed: A Pakistani man who was arrested on charges of blasphemy in 2018 was killed during a court appearance in Peshawar on Wednesday; the gunman surrendered to police after the shooting. [Guardian]
  • Tensions with India: Three Pakistani civilians were wounded in cross-border firing along the Line of Control in Kashmir on Wednesday, the Pakistani military reported. In a weekly press briefing on Thursday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry expressed concerns over a “massive Indian arms buildup” following the recent acquisition of new Rafale jets by the Indian Air Force.
  • Police Killed: Two police officers were killed in the Charsadda district in Khyber Paktunkhwa in a shooting on Wednesday, after intervening in a land dispute.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Ordinance Legislation: On Wednesday, the PTI government succeeded in passing two pieces of legislation in the national assembly that will allow the government to take action to implement UN Security Council resolution sanctions, part of a set of reforms aimed at showing compliance with Financial Action Task Force counter-terrorism financing and anti-money laundering criteria. On Thursday, the senate also approved the bills. Opposition lawmakers criticized the government’s use of executive ordinances in lieu of legislation, and remain opposed to the government’s currently proposed amendments to the National Accountability Bureau law, which is still pending. Foreign Minister Qureshi insisted that the PTI government would “not compromise over our core values” but was open to negotiations. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: The Lahore High Court and Islamabad High Court are both hearing cases regarding the government’s appointment of special advisors and assistants to the prime minister, including the appointment of some individuals holding dual citizenship. Two former banking officials are now cooperating with investigations against former Pres. Zardari, NAB officials told an accountability court on Wednesday. [ET] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of Thursday, Pakistan reports 277,401 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 1.952 million tests, with at least 5,924 associated deaths. WHO sources tell Dawn they are concerned over the level of testing in Pakistan, and high test positivity rates in Khyber Paktunkhwa. Shopkeepers in Faisalabad staged a protest against lockdown restrictions ahead of Eid. A new survey by the Aga Khan University and Chinese University of Hong Kong notes that only 41% of Pakistanis perceive COVID-19 symptoms as being “very severe” or “severe”, as compared to 97% of Hong Kong residents. [Dawn]
  • Karachi Flooding: On Wednesday, PM Khan met with Sindh governor Imran Ismail; afterwards, he ordered the National Disaster Management Authority to undertake cleanup operations in Karachi following recent flooding, and also called on the Pakistani army to assist in the cleanup. [ET] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Aviation Division Suspends Five CAA Officials Over Pilot License Investigations [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Ten Killed in Clash Between Groups at Funeral Procession in Lower Dir [ET]
  • Prosecution Witness Alleges Police Threats in Case Against Two Jaish-e-Mohammad Members [Dawn]
  • Privatization Commission Defers Decision Again on Roosevelt Hotel [ET]
  • ECC Oks Additional Petroleum Taxes [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: At least three people were killed in a magnetic bomb attack on a police vehicle in Herat city over Wednesday night. The brother of the Kapisa provincial education director was killed in a shooting in the provincial capital on Wednesday. Taliban fighters attacked security checkposts in the Khawaj Omari district in Ghazni and Dawlat Abad district in Faryab on Thursday. [TOLO] [Khabarnama] [Khabarnama]
  • Russian Bounties: In an Axios interview on Wednesday, Pres. Trump said that he had not discussed reports of Russian military intelligence offering bounties to the Taliban to attack US forces in Afghanistan during a recent phone call with Pres. Putin.

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: Amb. Khalilzad arrived in Kabul and met with Pres. Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah to discuss the “extension of the ceasefire and a reduction in violence, the start of direct talks, and also the prisoner exchange”, according to a statement by Ghani’s office. In a statement on Wednesday, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said that the Taliban would release its remaining government prisoners, and reiterated that “the other side must also complete the process of releasing the pledged 5,000 detainees in accordance with the Doha Agreement, and the list, in order to facilitate the start of intra-Afghan talks after Eid”. Shaheen said that the Taliban released another 25 government security personnel on Wednesday. Foreign Minister Atmar met with the EU head of delegation on Wednesday, who called for an extension of the Eid ceasefire. [Khabarnama] [Ariana News]

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ghani Calls on Abdullah to Allow the Arrest of Former Football Federation Chief [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Dawi Oil Chief, Facing Tax Evasion Charges, Visits Central Bank [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Taliban Announce Eid Ceasefire; Opposition and Govt Deadlock Over NAB Amendments

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Topline

  • On Tuesday, the Taliban announced a three-day ceasefire during Eid, beginning this Friday; the Afghan government welcomed the move and said it would reciprocate. In separate remarks, Pres. Ghani said that the government would reach the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners “soon”, and that “with this action, we look forward to the start of direct negotiations with the Taliban in a week’s time”.
  • Pakistani government and opposition lawmakers deadlocked over amendments to the National Accountability Bureau law and FATF-related counter-terrorism financing and anti-money laundering legislation on Tuesday. Pakistan must submit an implementation report to the FATF by August 6, and Foreign Minister Qureshi called on the opposition to de-link the two sets of legislation.
  • Health advisor Zafar Mirza and digital advisor Tania Aidrus announced their resignations on Wednesday, as the PTI government faces scrutiny and criticism over the nationalities and assets of several assistants and advisors to the prime minister.
  • In remarks at a donors meeting in Kabul on Tuesday, Pres. Ghani said that 3,560 Afghan security personnel had been killed, 6,781 wounded, and another 367 kidnapped or gone missing in the period between February 29 and July 21; he also said that 775 civilians had been killed, 1,609 wounded, and 689 kidnapped during the same period.
  • A Pakistani soldier was killed in a cross-border attack by militants from Afghanistan on Wednesday in Bajaur, the Pakistani military announced.
  • As of Wednesday, Pakistan reports 276,271 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 1.931 million tests, with at least 5,892 associated deaths.
  • As of Wednesday, Afghanistan reports 36,471 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 88,1999 tests, with at least 1,271 associated deaths.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Afghan Border Tensions: On Wednesday, the Pakistani military reported that a soldier was killed in Bajaur in a cross-border attack by militants from Afghanistan; no further details were released.
  • Indian Border Tensions: Three Pakistani civilians were wounded in cross-border firing at the Line of Control in Kashmir on Tuesday, prompting a formal protest by Pakistan’s foreign ministry on Wednesday.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Ordinance Legislation: Opposition and government lawmakers failed to reach an agreement on Tuesday on legislation related to Financial Action Task Force criteria on money laundering and a proposal to amend the National Accountability Bureau law; both sides blamed the other for the dispute, which appears to be based on opposition amendment demands related to the NAB. Pakistan must submit an implementation report to the FATF by August 6; Foreign Minister Qureshi, who chairs the special committee considering the legislative package, called on opposition leaders not to link the two sets of legislation. PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari met separately with PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif and JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman in Lahore on Tuesday, saying afterwards that “all opposition parties are on one page” in advance of their conference planned for after Eid; Bilawal also rejected the government’s proposed amendments to the NAB law. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Advisors Resign: Special assistants to the prime minister Tania Aidrus and Zafar Mirza — who hold digital and health portfolios, respectively — announced their resignations separately on Wednesday; both have come under scrutiny and criticism from the opposition, and Aidrus was among four advisors recently confirmed to hold dual citizenship. [ET]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: On Tuesday, the NAB approved the opening of additional corruption cases against PML-N leaders Shehbaz Sharif and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. The indictment of former Pres. Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur was again postponed at a hearing on Wednesday. Lawyers for Nawaz Sharif submitted a medical report to the Lahore High Court on Wednesday. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: On Tuesday, the prime minister’s office announced that PM Khan had directed the attorney general to appeal to the Supreme Court for a hearing related to Article 140-A of the constitution, which requires the provinces to establish a local government system, and quoted him saying that “the long-standing problems of Karachi cannot be solved unless the elected local government representatives become financially, politically and administratively independent”. Sindh and Karachi officials continue to trade blame over maintenance of the city’s sewer and drainage system in the wake of flooding following recent heavy rains. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Army Inaugurates New Battle Tank [ET] [Dawn]
  • PTI Activist Killed by Former Khyber Paktunkhwa Provincial Minister in Shooting [Dawn]
  • Aviation Division Forms New Committee to Investigate Pilot Licenses [Dawn]
  • Government Shortlists Nominees for OGRA Chairman [ET]
  • Power Privatization Stalls as IPP Talks Drag [Dawn] [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: In remarks at a donors meeting in Kabul on Tuesday, Pres. Ghani said that 3,560 Afghan security personnel had been killed, 6,781 wounded, and another 367 kidnapped or gone missing in the period between February 29 and July 21; he also said that 775 civilians had been killed, 1,609 wounded, and 689 kidnapped during the same period. Three policemen were killed in a roadside bombing in the Uruzgan provincial capital of Tirin Kot on Wednesday. Military officials in Faryab claim to have killed 17 Taliban fighters in air and ground operations in the Dawlat Abad and Almar districts.

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Announce Eid Ceasefire: On Tuesday, the Taliban announced that its forces would halt offensive operations during the three day Eid holiday beginning this Friday; the Afghan government welcomed the move and said it would reciprocate. In his remarks in Kabul on Tuesday, Pres. Ghani said that the government would reach the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners “soon”, without specifying whether the Taliban had offered alternative names for release or if the government had revised its position on the release of some prisoners convicted of serious crimes. “With this action, we look forward to the start of direct negotiations with the Taliban in a week’s time,” Ghani added. U.S. and NATO officials also welcomed the announcement. Amb. Khalilzad, who is currently on travel to the region, has postponed a visit to Pakistan that was planned to take place on Tuesday. [NYT] [WAPO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of Wednesday, Afghanistan reports 36,471 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 88,1999 tests, with at least 1,271 associated deaths. On Wednesday, ministry of public health officials reiterated appeals to the public to comply with health guidelines during Eid. The Washington Post looks at efforts by Afghans unable to access the health system to treat the virus with home remedies. [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Dostum Yet to Return to Kabul [TOLO]
  • Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Announces Resignation [Khabarnama]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PTI Seeks to Push Through Legislative Package; Taliban Release Eid Message

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Topline

  • The PTI government has begun introducing legislation making amendments to Pakistan’s counter-terrorism financing and anti-money laundering laws, as part of its efforts to show compliance with FATF criteria, as well as legislation allowing consular access for accused Indian spy Kulbhushan Jhadav; negotiations with opposition lawmakers are also ongoing over amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance.
  • In an Eid-ul-Azha message attributed to Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhunzada on Tuesday, the Taliban said they had “fulfilled [their] obligations regarding signing an agreement with the United States in Doha and efforts towards launching intra-Afghan negotiations. It is now up to the other parties to determine how they utilize this opportunity at hand.” Amb. Khalilzad met with Norway’s foreign minister to discuss the Afghan peace process on Monday.
  • PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif and JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman met in Lahore on Monday to discuss plans for an opposition party conference after Eid; speaking afterwards, Rehman said that “all opposition parties have agreed that no more time would be given to the PTI government”.
  • Five police officers were killed in a raid in the Diamer district in Gilgit-Baltistan on Tuesday.
  • As of Tuesday, Pakistan reports 275,225 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 1.909 million tests, with at least 5,865 associated deaths.
  • As of Tuesday, Afghanistan reports 36,368 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 87,794 tests, with at least 1,270 associated deaths.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Police Killed in Diamer: Five police officers were killed in a raid in the Diamer district in Gilgit-Baltistan on Tuesday morning; two civilians were also reported to have been killed in the crossfire. The identities or affiliations of the target of the raid have not been disclosed. [ET]
  • Military Courts: Supreme Court Judge Yahya Afridi recused himself from hearing appeals against the Peshawar High Court order ordering the release of 196 men convicted under the military court system.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Ordinance Legislation: On Monday, the federal government introduced several pieces of draft legislation in the national assembly that had previously been issued as executive ordinances, including a bill allowing consular access to accused Indian spy Kulbhushan Jhadav, and several amendments to Pakistan’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws. A special committee including government and opposition lawmakers met on Monday to discuss passage of the legislation, as well as proposed amendments to the National Accountability Bureau law. The committee is scheduled to meet again on Tuesday. [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Press Freedom: The Pakistan Federation of Journalists protested the intrusion of the Sindh Rangers at the Karachi Press Club on Monday; no arrests were made.
  • Education Controls: Khyber Paktunkhwa advisor on higher education Khaleequr Rehman told the provincial assembly on Monday that the provincial government was preparing to take steps to restrict the autonomy of public sector universities in the province, saying they had “abused” their autonomy and were now in financial crisis.
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: On Monday, a Karachi anti-terrorism court indicted former Lyari gang leader Uzair Baloch on attempted murder charges dating to a police operation in 2012. On Monday, the Supreme Court overturned an Islamabad High Court ruling allowing the reappointment of a telecom manager previously convicted on corruption charges. The NAB is preparing to challenge the Supreme Court’s bail order for PML-N leaders Khawaja Saad Rafique and Khawaja Salman Rafique. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif and JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman met in Lahore on Monday to discuss plans for an opposition party conference after Eid; speaking afterwards, Rehman said that “all opposition parties have agreed that no more time would be given to the PTI government”. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: Traders groups in Rawalpindi warned of protests against the government’s restrictions on market activities in the run-up to Eid. In an address to the nation on Monday, PM Khan reiterated calls for the public to limit gatherings and follow health protocols during Eid and Muharram, suggesting that businesses could reopen after the holiday if cases remained low. As of Tuesday, Pakistan reports 275,225 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 1.909 million tests, with at least 5,865 associated deaths. Pakistan’s finance ministry has projected positive growth in July and a restart of economic activities.

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Karachi Hit with Flooding [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • A Third of Islamabad Police Face Retirement Under New Civil Servants Rules [Dawn]
  • Minister for Power Blames Predecessors for Electricity Tariff Hike; Sindh Assembly Seeks Forensic Audit of K-Electric [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Bill to Criminalize Domestic Violence Moved in Senate [ET]
  • State Bank Receives $505.5M Disbursal from World Bank [The Nation]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: The NYT provides additional reporting on the capture and murder of a female police officer and prison guard in Ghazni, who was found dead on Monday. One person was killed and two injured in a magnetic bomb attack targeting a police vehicle in Kabul on Tuesday; there was no claim of responsibility. Badakhshan provincial police officials claimed to have cleared the Kuran Wa Munjan district of Taliban forces on Tuesday after clashes last week at the site of a lapis lazuli mine. Two civilian teenagers were killed in a mortar strike on a football field in the Dasht-e-Archi district in Kunduz on Monday night. [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Eid Message: In an Eid-ul-Azha message attributed to Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhunzada on Tuesday, Haibatullah said that the group was “on the threshold of establishing a pure Islamic government”. The statement also said that the Taliban “has fulfilled its obligations regarding signing an agreement with the United States in Doha and efforts towards launching intra-Afghan negotiations. It is now up to the other parties to determine how they utilize this opportunity at hand.” Separately, Reuters reports that the Taliban are ordering private companies and aid organizations to register with the group. [Eid Message]
  • Peace Talks: In a statement on Tuesday, the U.S. Embassy in Norway said that Amb. Khalilzad had held talks with Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide to discuss the “current impediments to the start of intra-Afghan negotiations and how all sides are working to resolve them”. In a video message on Monday in response to the new midyear UN civilian casualties report, US commander Gen. Austin Miller said that violence “needs to come down so we have an opportunity for a sustainable peace pathway”. [Khabarnama] [WSJ]
  • Regional Diplomacy: China hosted a virtual conference of the foreign ministers of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nepal on Monday to discuss their coronavirus response and regional trade and transit cooperation. [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of Tuesday, Afghanistan reports 36,368 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 87,794 tests, with at least 1,270 associated deaths. [Khabarnama]
  • Donor Meetings: Pres. Ghani will participate in a meeting of senior officials on Tuesday, which is being held in advance of a donors conference in Finland later this fall.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Victims of Green Trend Bombing Remembered on Anniversary [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Afghanistan’s Gen Z is Fighting Back – “Younger Afghans are on a mission to change how their country talks about life, death, and freedom.” [Ruchi Kumar, FP]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: UN Reports Decline in Civilian Casualties; PTI Prepares Bills on FATF, NAB, and Jhadav

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Topline

  • On Monday, UNAMA released its midyear report on civilian casualties for 2020, reporting 1,282 civilians killed and 2,176 wounded across the country since January. This represents an overall 13% decline over the same period last year, but the report attributed the drop to a decline in attacks by the Islamic State, saying that “there has been no reduction in civilian casualties caused by the Taliban and Afghan national security forces”. 58% of all casualties reported by the UN were attributed to anti-government elements, and 23% to government forces; both the government and Taliban disputed those figures.
  • Amb. Khalilzad departed Washington for another round of regional meetings, including stops in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Qatar, Norway, and Bulgaria. In an interview, Taliban negotiator Mullah Baradar said that the outcome of the US-Taliban agreement had been “positive so far” but warned that “if the foreign forces do not leave Afghanistan on schedule, the Islamic Emirate will make the necessary decisions”. In a statement on Sunday, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen accused the NDS of re-arresting freed Taliban prisoners, who he claimed had strictly followed direction not to reengage in fighting after their release. Foreign Minister Atmar reiterated that the government would not release Taliban prisoners convicted of serious crimes, and called on the Taliban to provide a different list of prisoners to release.
  • The PTI government is preparing to introduce legislation aimed at showing compliance with Financial Action Task Force money laundering and counter-terrorism financing controls, as well as amendments to the National Accountability Bureau’s law, and on an ordinance allowing an appeal against accused Indian spy Kulbhushan Jhadav’s sentence. Opposition leaders and bar associations have called for the resignation of the NAB chairman, citing a recent Supreme Court judgment that had criticized the NAB for delays in corruption cases.
  • Tajikistan is cutting electricity supply to Afghanistan from 450 to 40 megawatts beginning Monday, citing a reduction in water supply to power its hydroelectric generation.
  • On Monday, the Punjab provincial government announced “smart lockdown” restrictions during Eid, including overnight market closures. As of Monday, Pakistan reports 274,286 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 1.89 million tests, with at least 5,842 associated deaths
  • As of Monday, Afghanistan reports 36,263 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 87,378 tests, with at least 1,269 associated deaths.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: In remarks in the national assembly on Friday, Law Minister Farogh Naseem defended the government’s ordinance allowing a review petition against the death sentence for accused Indian spy Kulbhushan Jhadav, saying that Pakistan was obliged to due to do so under the International Court of Justice’s rulings in the case. The government is preparing to introduce legislation on the ordinance on Monday; PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari continued criticism of the government’s actions in remarks on Saturday. The Pakistani military announced on Sunday that it had shot down an Indian quadcopter drone that crossed the Line of Control border in Kashmir. [ET]
  • Balochistan Attacks: A Pakistani soldier was killed and three others injured in an attack in the Kech district in Balochistan on Saturday; no claim of responsibility was reported. Separately, the Pakistani military announced that it had killed a Balochistan Liberation Army militant during a separate raid in the district, seizing a weapons cache in the process. [ET]
  • Journalism Under Threat: The family members of Anwar Jan Khetran, a Balochistan journalist and social media activist who was killed on Thursday, accuse provincial food minister Abdul Rehman Khetran of ordering his murder in retaliation for Jan’s reporting; the Balochistan Levies registered a case against the minister on Sunday. Separately, PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari met with recently released Islamabad journalist Matiullah Jan on Friday.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • FATF Legislation: The PTI government is preparing to introduce eight pieces of legislation in the national assembly on Monday aimed at showing compliance with Financial Action Task Force criteria on money laundering and counter-terrorism financing. The government is also preparing legislation to limit the National Accountability Bureau’s ability to investigate businessmen, among other changes. [Dawn]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: In a filing with the Lahore High Court on Saturday, the National Accountability Bureau accused PML-Q leaders Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi of corruption and money-laundering, seeking the reopening of cases against them; Moonis Elahi, Chaudhry Pervaiz’s son, tells Dawn that the party “won’t lodge any complaint with the PTI or the prime minister” over the issue, although a party spokesman said that “these cases are being repeatedly closed and reopened occasionally for political engineering”. In a resolution on Saturday, the high court bar associations called for the NAB chairman’s resignation, citing a recent Supreme Court judgment that had criticized the NAB for delays in corruption cases; the PPP also echoed that call in a statement on Sunday. In a statement to the court on Saturday, the NAB attributed delays and backlogs and to a shortage of accountability courts capable of deciding cases. Separately on Monday, the government ordered a “comprehensive investigation” against beneficiaries of sugar profiteering, based on an earlier commission report. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: Opposition party leaders plan to meet after Eid to discuss challenges to the PTI government. The Sindh provincial government has appointed Ziaur Rehman, the younger brother of JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman, as the deputy commissioner for the Karachi Central district, drawing criticism from PTI and MQM leaders; the younger Rehman is a member of the Khyber Paktunkhwa civil service. On Monday, the federal government ordered Rehman’s return to service in Khyber Paktunkhwa. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari met with BNP-M leader Sardar Akhtar Mengal on Saturday. The PTI and opposition lawmakers marked the second anniversary of the 2018 general elections on Saturday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, health advisor Zafar Mirza reiterated warnings over a potential spike in coronavirus cases after Eid; in an earlier statement on Saturday, Planning Minister Umar repeated calls for the public to “avoid going to public places and ensure social distancing during prayers and gatherings”. On Monday, the Punjab provincial government announced “smart lockdown” restrictions during Eid, including overnight market closures. As of Monday, Pakistan reports 274,286 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 1.89 million tests, with at least 5,842 associated deaths; Mirza noted on Monday that this was the lowest number of new daily deaths from the virus reported in the past three months. At least ten Chinese nationals working on a power project in Bahawalpur were hospitalized with the coronavirus on Friday. The Islamabad High Court declined a petition on Monday from private school owners seeking to open, deferring the decision to the government. [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • UN General Assembly President Skips Pakistan Visit [Dawn] [ET]
  • Foreign Minister Qureshi Speaks with Saudi Counterpart [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Seeks Wheat Imports Amidst Flour Shortage [Dawn]
  • Aviation Minister Says PIA Will Be ‘Restructured’, Not Privatized; Civil Aviation Authority to Be Split [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • CPEC Authority Chairman Touts Balochistan Road Projects [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Punjab to Require Teaching Licenses [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Received $13 Billion in Foreign Loans in Outgoing Fiscal Year [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Civilian Casualties: On Monday, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan released its midyear report on civilian casualties for 2020, reporting 1,282 civilians killed and 2,176 wounded across the country since January. This represents an overall 13% decline over the same period last year, but the report attributed the drop to a decline in attacks by the Islamic State, saying that “there has been no reduction in civilian casualties caused by the Taliban and Afghan national security forces”. 58% of all casualties reported by the UN were attributed to anti-government elements, and 23% to government forces; both the government and Taliban disputed those figures. In a statement on Saturday, the Afghan National Security Council said that the Taliban had killed 46 civilians and wounded 93 in attacks around the country over the preceding week. [Ariana News]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: An Afghan army helicopter crash landed in the Kajaki district in Helmand on Monday; some accounts indicate it was shot down. Four militiamen were killed in an insider attack in the Uruzgan provincial capital of Tirin Kot on Sunday. Two Afghan soldiers were reportedly killed in a double car bombing in the Nahr-e-Siraj district in Helmand over Saturday night. The body of an Afghan policewoman who had reportedly been kidnapped by the Taliban was recovered in the Andar district in Ghazni on Saturday. Three Afghan commandos were reportedly killed in an attack on their checkpost near the Ghor provincial capital of Feroz Koh over Friday night. Two Afghan Local Police soldiers were killed in a bombing near a recruiting center in the Laghman provincial capital of Mehtar Lam on Friday; more attacks were reported on Sunday. Four civilians were killed in a roadside bombing in the Baghlan provincial capital of Pul-e-Kumri on Friday. [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khabarnama] [Khabarnama] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: Amb. Khalilzad departed Washington on Friday for another round of regional meetings, including stops in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Qatar, Norway, and Bulgaria. In an interview with Iran’s Tasnim news agency, Taliban negotiator Mullah Baradar said that the outcome of the US-Taliban agreement had been “positive so far” but warned that “if the foreign forces do not leave Afghanistan on schedule, the Islamic Emirate will make the necessary decisions”. In a statement on Sunday, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen accused the NDS of re-arresting freed Taliban prisoners, who he claimed had strictly followed direction not to reengage in fighting after their release. In an interview on Saturday, Foreign Minister Atmar said that the government would not release Taliban prisoners convicted of serious crimes, and called on the Taliban to provide a different list of prisoners to release. Speaking during a visit to Nimroz on Sunday, Pres. Ghani vowed that he would “not compromise on the republic” in talks. In a press conference on Saturday, former NDS chief Rahmatullah Nabil alleged that Afghanistan had “been victims of a proxy war. Now it’s proxy peace — we are paying the price, but we have no say in the peace”. [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khabarnama] [Khabarnama] [Khabarnama] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of Monday, the ministry of public health reports 36,263 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 87,378 tests, with at least 1,269 associated deaths. On Saturday, the Inspector General’s Office of Afghanistan criticized the ministry of public health’s management of the coronavirus response and reported misuse of funds allocated for the response, warning that it would be making prosecution recommendations against an unspecified number of officials. Despite a parliamentary vote rejecting the government’s food distribution plan, Vice Pres. Saleh’s office is continuing to advocate for the plan, pledging “full transparency” of its operations. [Khabarnama] [TOLO]
  • Energy Imports: Tajikistan is cutting electricity supply to Afghanistan from 450 to 40 megawatts beginning Monday, citing a reduction in water supply to power its hydroelectric generation.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ministry of Finance Preparing for Finnish Donors Conference [TOLO]
  • Former Deputy Minister of Hajj Sentence to Prison [Khabarnama]
  • More Than 2,000 Private Media Companies Reportedly Have Lapsed Licenses [Khabarnama]
  • Saudi Arabia Pledges Funds for 600 Schools [Khabarnama]
  • Report: Twenty-Sixth Report of the UN Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team – “The Monitoring Team estimates the current ISIL-K membership in Afghanistan at 2,200. The leader is sheikh Matiullah Kamahwal, previously the head of ISIL-K in Kunar. … According to Member States, Al-Qaida is covertly active in 12 Afghan provinces and Aiman al-Zawahiri remains based in the country. The Monitoring Team estimates the total number of Al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan at between 400 and 600. … Al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) operates under the Taliban umbrella from Nimruz, Helmand and Kandahar Provinces. The group reportedly has between 150 and 200 members from Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and Pakistan.” [UN]