Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: News Updates on Hiatus

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Note: The news is going on hiatus. I will be starting a new job shortly through an International Affairs Fellowship opportunity from the Council on Foreign Relations, and have yet to determine whether I will be able to continue producing these daily news updates while taking on the new position. Updates will resume if and when possible, but this newsletter will sunset at least for now. Thanks very much for reading, and apologies for the interruption in service.

Topline

  • The Pakistani government officially declared a national emergency on Thursday in response to record high rains and flooding in Balochistan, Sindh, and other parts of the country; the death toll since June has risen to 937 people. Communications and transit links to Quetta have been cut off by floodwaters as of Thursday. The World Bank, World Food Program, Asian Development Bank, and UK government have collectively pledged $500 million in assistance in response.
  • Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that the Taliban were still investigating the US strike that killed Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul earlier this month and that “his death report is not finalized”, suggesting that the Taliban had not definitively identified his body in the aftermath of the strike.
  • Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari spoke by phone with his Saudi counterpart on Thursday, who conveyed intentions to invest $1 billion in Pakistan. Contrary to earlier reports, Qatar has not agreed to make a $2 billion deposit with the State Bank of Pakistan and is instead considering investment purchases of two LNG power plants.

Pakistan — Security

  • Military Commanders Meet: Chief of Army Staff Bajwa chaired a meeting of army corps commanders on Thursday; the Pakistani military quoted him directing formations “to maintain operational readiness and efforts to counter terrorism particularly in Khyber Paktunkhwa and Balochistan must continue”.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Crackdown on PTI: PTI leader Shahbaz Gill’s brother Yaseen Gill filed a complaint with the Islamabad High Court on Thursday against the lower court judge, Zeba Chaudhry, who had previously approved his transfer to police custody, where Gill and other PTI leaders allege he was tortured. On Friday, the IHC dismissed a contempt of court petition against several government leaders brought by the PTI to mirror charges against Imran Khan. Separately, Gujrat police officials opened counter-charges against interior minister Rana Sanaullah, accusing him of threatening the police and judiciary. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Legal Proceedings: The Election Commission has sought a response from PML-N leader Abid Sher Ali on charges that he violated electoral code of conduct restrictions ahead of the NA-108 Faisalabad by-election. [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: In a statement on Thursday, Nawaz Sharif denied reports of intra-party tensions between him and his brother, PM Shehbaz. Separately, PML-N leader Abid Sher Ali criticized finance minister Miftah Ismail’s actions to raise electricity tariffs.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Demonstrations Continue in Bajaur [Dawn]
  • Protests in Karachi Over Electricity Tariff Rate Increases [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Zawahiri Strike Aftermath: Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that the Taliban were still investigating the US strike that killed Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul earlier this month and that “his death report is not finalized”, suggesting that the Taliban had not definitively identified his body in the aftermath of the strike. Mujahid also repeated that “the Islamic Emirate is obliged to provide security all over Afghanistan, to protect itself and its people, and to prevent Afghanistan from being a place from which any country would feel threatened. This is our national responsibility, and we are paying more attention to this”. [Khaama Press]
  • ISIS in Afghanistan: RFE/RL notes recent Islamic State attacks on rival Hanafi religious leaders in response to the Taliban’s own crackdown against Salafist clerics.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Refugees and Repatriation: In a statement on Thursday, the UN High Commission for Refugees expressed concern over reports of forced repatriation from Tajikistan to Afghanistan. Reuters profiles an Afghan family resettled in South Korea.
  • Taliban Takeover Retrospectives: PBS interviews former Pres. Ghani.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Flooding: At least 182 people have been killed in flooding across Afghanistan over the past month, Taliban officials confirmed on Thursday; at Thursday’s press conference, spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid appealed for additional international aid for relief efforts. [AP] [Ariana News]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghanistan and Uzbekistan to Establish ‘Joint Trade Zone’ in Balkh [Ariana News]
  • Ministry of Mines Tendering Bids for Eight Mine Projects [TOLO]
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Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Imran Khan Gets Bail in Two Cases; Former District Police Chief Killed in Balkh

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Topline

  • Imran Khan made a court appearance in Islamabad on Thursday, where he was granted bail on charges related to threats against a judge and leading a rally last Saturday in violation against restrictions on public gatherings.
  • The former police chief of the Khulm district in Balkh was killed after being arrested in Mazar-e-Sharif and Tuesday and released from Taliban custody on Wednesday; the National Resistance Front accused the Taliban of torturing and killing him. The Taliban are reportedly conducting house-to-house searches in Mazar-e-Sharif, after an unclaimed explosion in the city on Wednesday morning.
  • In a statement on Wednesday, the Qatar Investment Authority confirmed its intentions to invest $3 billion in Pakistan, of which $2 billion of which is expected to take the form of deposits with the central bank.
  • The death toll from floods in Pakistan since mid-June has risen to 903, the National Disaster Management Authority reported on Wednesday. The Election Commission has postponed local elections in Karachi due to the flooding.

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: In a statement on Wednesday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry rejected an Indian investigation into the errant missile launch that struck Pakistan earlier in March, reiterating demands for a joint investigation into the incident. [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Crackdown on PTI: Imran Khan made a court appearance in Islamabad on Thursday, where he was granted bail on charges related to threats against a judge and leading a rally last Saturday in violation against restrictions on public gatherings. Hearings on a separate contempt of court charge will resume next week. Speaking after the hearing, Imran said that Pakistan is “being mocked all over the world” as a result of the charges against him and that the those responsible “are afraid of the PTI’s power and the victories of the party in by-elections”. Imran led a rally in Haripur earlier on Wednesday. Separately, an Islamabad court granted bail to six other local PTI leaders on charges related to the ban on public gatherings. PTI leader Shahbaz Gill petitioned for bail on Thursday. JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman issued a statement on Wednesday complaining that state institutions were delaying punitive action against Imran due to “tremendous international pressure”. [WAPO] [Reuters] [AP] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The News] [Dawn]
  • Legal Proceedings: A petition was filed in the Peshawar High Court on Wednesday challenging the provincial government’s registration of hate speech cases against the leaders of the government coalition. The Election Commission summoned a group of PTI leaders as part of an inquiry into alleged poll rigging in the February 2021 Daska by-elections. [Dawn]
  • External Relations: The Nation overviews potential candidates to replace outgoing foreign secretary Sohail Mehmood, who is scheduled to retire at the end of September.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Qatar Pledges Investment: In a statement on Wednesday, the Qatar Investment Authority confirmed its intentions to invest $3 billion in Pakistan, of which $2 billion of which is expected to take the form of deposits with the central bank. PM Shehbaz concluded a visit to the country on Thursday after meetings with Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and business leaders. [Dawn]
  • Flooding: Government ministers Sherry Rehman and Ahsan Iqbal appealed for international assistance to support Pakistan’s flood relief operations; on Wednesday, China announced a donation of $300,000 to the Pakistan Red Crescent and the provision of tents and supplies. The death toll from floods since mid-June has risen to 903, the National Disaster Management Authority reported on Wednesday. PM Shehbaz cancelled plans to travel to London and returned from Qatar on Thursday. On Wednesday, the Election Commission postponed local elections in Karachi due to the flooding. [ET] [Dawn]
  • IMF Negotiations: The IMF projects Pakistan’s GDP growth will slow to around 3.5% and average inflation will peak at nearly 20% by the end of the current fiscal year; the IMF board is scheduled to meet on August 29 to consider the release of a new loan tranche and the revival of Pakistan’s lending program with the Fund. The government is reportedly planning to further increase sales taxes on petroleum products and withdraw exemptions on those taxes for the agricultural sector. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan Seeks Increase in US Scholarships [The News]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Balkh Attacks: The former police chief of the Khulm district in Balkh was killed after being arrested in Mazar-e-Sharif and Tuesday and released from Taliban custody on Wednesday; the National Resistance Front accused the Taliban of torturing and killing him. The Taliban are reportedly conducting house-to-house searches in Mazar-e-Sharif, after an unclaimed explosion in the city on Wednesday morning. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: The National Resistance Front claims to have killed three Taliban fighters in an attack on their checkpost in Kapisa over Tuesday night. [AMU]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Takeover Retrospectives: The Washington Post interviews Marines who provided security at the Kabul airport perimeter during the evacuation of US forces last August. The AP interviews Afghans who remain stuck in the country.
  • Women’s Rights: Reuters reports that a group of Afghan women activists have opened a new library facility in Kabul. The Guardian profiles a group of former female parliamentarians, journalists, and NGO leaders now living in exile abroad.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Flooding: The ministry of state disaster management reports that 182 people have died and more than 250 have been injured in flash flooding across the country over the past month.

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PM Shehbaz Appeals for Flood Aid; Afghans in Limbo at UAE Facility Seek Resettlement

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Topline

  • In remarks on Tuesday, PM Shehbaz appealed for donations to support flood relief efforts and payments to affected families. At least 830 people have been killed in flooding so far this year. The EU pledged Rs 76 million in aid on Tuesday.
  • On Tuesday, the ECP postponed planned local government elections that were scheduled to take place on August 28 in Hyderabad, citing floods and rains; elections in Karachi are also expected to be delayed.
  • Islamabad police have filed another charge against Imran Khan and other PTI party leaders for violating restrictions on public gatherings for their rally in Islamabad on Saturday. Elsewhere, the ECP dismissed a petition from a group of government lawmakers seeking Imran’s disqualification in connection to allegations that he had retained gifts received while in office; the ECP has given the PTI two week’s time to respond to a separate hearing in response to findings on its funding sources.
  • A group of hundreds of Afghan refugees who have been living at a facility in Abu Dhabi for nearly a year awaiting resettlement to the United States held protests on Tuesday, demanding further action on their cases.
  • Six people were injured in a blast in Mazar-e-Sharif on Wednesday morning; no claim of responsibility was reported.

Pakistan — Security

  • India Fires Three Air Force Officers Over Errant Pakistan Missile Launch: On Tuesday, the Indian air force announced that it had fired three air force officers following an inquiry into an incident in March in which an Indian cruise missile was errantly fired into Pakistan; no casualties occurred. [AP]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Crackdown on PTI: Islamabad police have filed another charge against Imran Khan and other PTI party leaders for violating restrictions on public gatherings for their rally in Islamabad on Saturday. PTI sources tell The News that Imran will skip court hearings scheduled for Thursday on charges of threatening court and police officials; in an interview on Tuesday, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah dismissed PTI threats of mass protest if Imran is arrested. Imran is scheduled to headline a PTI rally in Haripur on Wednesday. The PTI has petitioned the Lahore High Court and Sindh High Court against the ban on live coverage of Imran’s speeches. An Islamabad district court rejected a police petition on Wednesday to extend the custody of PTI leader Shahbaz Gill; separately, Islamabad police were granted custody of YouTube broadcaster Jameel Farooqui for a two-day period. Elsewhere, the Election Commission dismissed a petition from a group of government lawmakers seeking Imran’s disqualification in connection to allegations that he had retained gifts received while in office; the ECP has given the PTI two week’s time to respond to a separate hearing in response to findings on its funding sources. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Legal Proceedings: The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a PTI petition seeking to preserve absentee voting rights for Pakistani expatriates. The Lahore High Court has cleared Imran Khan to contest the NA-108 and NA-118 by-elections, overturning a lower election officer decision.
  • Sindh Local Elections: On Tuesday, the Election Commission postponed planned local government elections that were scheduled to take place on August 28 in Hyderabad, citing heavy flooding and rains; while not yet announced, The News reports that elections in Karachi will also be postponed. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • PM Shehbaz Waives Fuel Price Surcharges for 17M Power Consumers [Dawn] [ET]
  • Public Accounts Committee Summons Former Chief Justice Saqib Nisar Over Dam Fund Collections [Dawn] [ET]
  • Supreme Court Approves Bail for Christian Man Accused of Blasphemy [ET] [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: Six people were injured in a blast in Mazar-e-Sharif on Wednesday morning; no claim of responsibility was reported, and at least one of the casualties was reported to be the person carrying the explosives. Amu TV reports sweep arrests and the deployment of additional Taliban soldiers in Panjshir. [8AM]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Refugees and Repatriation: A group of hundreds of Afghan refugees who have been living at a facility in Abu Dhabi for nearly a year awaiting resettlement to the United States held protests on Tuesday, demanding further action on their cases. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Kabul Municipality Moves to Retake Government Land [TOLO]
  • Commentary: I Wrote NATO’s Lessons from Afghanistan; Now I Wonder: What Have We Learned? – “First, the Alliance fought in a strategically irrelevant place against the wrong enemy. Second, although driven by good intentions, allies expanded the scale and scope of the mission well beyond the strategic level of interest. Third, NATO sought to build security forces that were badly out of step with Afghan culture and technological capacity. Finally, the allies fooled themselves and their publics about the conditions on the ground.” [John Manza, Atlantic Council]
  • Commentary: The Afghan Women Left Behind – “After the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, a U.S. organization shut down the country’s largest network of women’s shelters. Its founders think that it made a huge mistake.” [Rozina Ali, New Yorker]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PM Shehbaz Travels to Qatar; UNSC Still Deadlocked on Travel Waivers

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Topline

  • In a hearing on Tuesday, the Islamabad High Court ordered Imran Khan to respond to contempt charges for remarks he made at rallies over the weekend criticizing a lower court judge and Islamabad police for the arrest and alleged torture of PTI leader Shahbaz Gill; Imran also faces separate terrorism charges for threatening a judge in those remarks. On Monday, an Islamabad court extended police custody of Gill for another two days. On Monday, a Bol TV news anchor and YouTube broadcaster, Jameel Farooqui, was arrested in Karachi on charges of falsely accusing Islamabad police of abusing Gill.
  • PM Shehbaz traveled to Qatar on Tuesday, his first trip there since taking office; speaking prior to his departure, State Bank of Pakistan officials said they anticipated a $2 billion loan and additional $1 billion in oil import financing from Qatar. On Monday, approved an agreement for the Pakistani army to provide security at the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
  • The UN Security Council remained deadlocked on Monday on competing proposals to extend the waiver on travel restrictions for a group of Taliban leaders.
  • Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Taliban ministry of virtue and vice officials said they had dismissed roughly 900 Taliban members on disciplinary charges, and were working to form a department for female employees.
  • Taliban and Uzbekistan border guards reportedly clashed at the Shortepa district border in Balkh on Monday; details are limited, with an undetermined number of casualties reported.
  • At least 777 people have been killed in flooding and monsoon rains across Pakistan over the past two months, the country’s National Disaster Management Authority reported on Monday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Counterterrorism Operations: Khyber Paktunkhwa police announced on Monday that they had killed an Islamic State-affiliated commander in an operation in the Lower Dir district. [The Nation]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Crackdown on PTI: In a hearing on Tuesday, the Islamabad High Court ordered Imran Khan to respond to contempt charges for remarks he made at rallies over the weekend criticizing a lower court judge and Islamabad police for the arrest and alleged torture of PTI leader Shahbaz Gill; Imran also faces separate terrorism charges for threatening a judge in those remarks. On Monday, an Islamabad court extended police custody of Gill for another two days; the IHC ordered another investigation into the torture allegations but rejected a plea for Gill’s release from police custody. Islamabad police raided Gill’s residence on Monday, seizing a pistol and phones. The PTI government in Khyber Paktunkhwa has announced intentions to file counter-charges against government coalition members, and the Punjab government filed additional charges against a group of PML-N lawmakers there. On Monday, a Bol TV news anchor and YouTube broadcaster, Jameel Farooqui, was arrested in Karachi on charges of falsely accusing Islamabad police of abusing Gill; he was transferred to Islamabad on Tuesday. The Nation reports that the ruling coalition is divided over whether to attempt to arrest Imran, with the PPP leadership and Nawaz Sharif opposed. In a statement on Tuesday, former Pres. Zardari said that Imran’s “lust for power is driving him mad with each passing day” and the judiciary must determine “whether this person is above the law”. The NYT reviews the crackdown against the PTI and Imran’s ouster from power. [Reuters] [AP] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The News] [The Nation]
  • Qatar Visit: PM Shehbaz traveled to Qatar on Tuesday, his first trip there since taking office; speaking prior to his departure, State Bank of Pakistan officials said they anticipated a $2 billion loan and additional $1 billion in oil import financing from Qatar. On Monday, the federal cabinet approved a plan to sign an agreement for the Pakistani army to provide security at the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Qatar, taking place in November. [Reuters]
  • Legal Proceedings: On Monday, the Election Commission rejected an MQM petition to delay the second phase of local government elections scheduled to take place in Karachi and Hyderabad on Aug 28. Separately, a Karachi court granted bail to PTI opposition leader Haleem Adil Sheikh in a land case. [ET] [The News] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: In remarks on Monday, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry criticized the PML-Q government in Punjab and PTI government in Khyber Paktunkhwa for failing to mobilize in support of Imran Khan and Shahbaz Gill.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Punjab Police Reshuffles Continue [The Nation]
  • Riot in Hyderabad Following Alleged Desecration of Quran [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Travel Restrictions: The UN Security Council reportedly remained deadlocked on Monday on competing proposals to extend the waiver on travel restrictions for a group of Taliban leaders. [AMU]
  • Social Restrictions: Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Taliban ministry of virtue and vice officials said that they had ordered Kabul shopkeepers to attend mosque prayers, and to restrict the use of music in public ceremonies. The ministry also said that it had dismissed roughly 900 Taliban members on disciplinary charges, and was working to form a department for female employees.
  • Refugees and Repatriation: A Taliban ministry of refugees and repatriation delegation traveled to Turkey to discuss the status of Afghan migrants living there. Japan has granted asylum to a group of 98 former embassy staff members who fled Afghanistan in the past year.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Humanitarian Assistance: The Taliban state ministry for disaster management has appealed for international assistance to respond to flooding in Logar province this week. Flooding in the Qarabagh district in Ghazni province has reportedly cut off the Kabul-Kandahar highway. UNCHR began construction on a $14 million project to build 2,300 earthquake-resilient homes in Paktika and Khost provinces. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Herat Customs Officials Say They Have Cracked Down on ‘Low-Quality’ Oil Imports [Ariana News]
  • DABS Boosts Electricity to Industrial Parks [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: New Charges Filed Against Imran Khan; Taliban Travel Waiver Lapses as UNSC Deadlocked

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Topline

  • Imran Khan led rallies in Islamabad and Rawalpindi on Saturday and Sunday, where he indirectly accused the military establishment of directing the torture of PTI leader Shahbaz Gill and earlier police crackdowns on PTI demonstrators in May. Islamabad police filed charges against Khan under the country’s anti-terrorism law, accusing him of threatening court and police officials. PTI activists gathered outside Khan’s residence on Sunday evening, seeking to block his arrest; the Islamabad High Court granted Khan pre-arrest bail on Monday. On Saturday, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority imposed a ban on the live broadcast of any of Khan’s speeches, and YouTube services were blocked in the country for the duration of his speech on Sunday.
  • A UN Security Council waiver on travel bans for 13 Taliban officials lapsed on Friday evening as the council remained deadlocked over its extension; in a statement on Sunday, the Taliban foreign ministry called on the UNSC “not to use sanctions as a means of pressure” and for all travel restrictions to be lifted.
  • On Sunday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid announced the appointment of Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir, the Taliban deputy minister of defense, as “special military commander” for Panjshir province and the Andarab district in Baghlan province, the main locus of National Resistance Front forces’ attacks on Taliban forces.
  • Reuters reports that despite the presence of Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul and “foot-dragging” by Taliban negotiators, US diplomats are continuing talks with the Taliban on a proposal to transfer frozen Afghan central bank assets to a Swiss-managed trust fund.
  • An American journalist and Afghan producer were arrested last week while filming near the site of the US drone strike that killed Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul earlier this month.
  • Preliminary results from the NA-245 by-elections held in Karachi on Sunday show the PTI candidate winning by a large margin over the MQM candidate in second place; turnout was reportedly low. Speaking at a press conference on Friday, MQM leaders warned that they would “review the decision to participate” in upcoming local government elections scheduled to take place in Karachi on August 28, reiterating objections to 2017 census figures used to determine constituency boundaries.

Pakistan — Security

  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Attacks and Operations: Pakistani military forces killed two Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan suspects in an operation in North Waziristan on Saturday, the military announced, one of whom was linked to an earlier attack on security forces last week. Earlier on Friday, two police officers were killed in a roadside bombing in the Bajaur district; no claim of responsibility was reported. The JUI-F launched a protest in Bajaur on Friday, protesting an attack on a local council chairman earlier on the week. [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Crackdown on PTI: Imran Khan led a rally in Islamabad on Saturday evening to protest the alleged torture of PTI leader Shahbaz Gill in Punjab police custody last week; in his remarks, Imran reiterated calls for the military establishment to “stand with the nation, justice and Pakistan and not these thieves” in the government. Speaking at a rally in Rawalpindi on Sunday, Khan accused the military of ordering police to use violence against PTI demonstrators at the party’s march in May. Earlier on Friday, Khan alleged that Gill had been sexually abused while in police custody and indirectly blamed the military for the abuse. Gill was discharged from the hospital on Monday; a lower district court and the Islamabad High Court have pending rulings on the extension of his custody. At the rally on Saturday, Khan announced plans to file charges against Islamabad police and city administration officials. Islamabad police have opened their own investigations into the claims, and issued a statement on Saturday warning that “anyone making threats and allegations will be dealt with according to the law”. On Saturday, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority imposed a ban on the live broadcast of Imran Khan’s speeches, accusing him of “leveling baseless allegations and spreading hate speech”; access to YouTube was also blocked countrywide during his speech on Sunday. The PTI said it would challenge the restrictions. The Election Commission of Pakistan also issued an earlier contempt notice against Khan on Friday for his criticisms of the Chief Election Commissioner. Charges were filed against Khan on Sunday for threatening police and court officials during his remarks at Saturday’s rally; on Monday, the Islamabad High Court granted Khan pre-arrest bail on those charges. PTI supporters gathered outside Khan’s residence in Bangiala on Sunday evening, vowing to block his arrest; former minister Ali Amin Gandapur threatened to “take over Islamabad” if Khan was arrested. Khan met with Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi on Monday. At a press conference on Sunday, federal interior minister Rana Sanaullah rejected the allegations of torture against Gill; information minister Marriyum Aurangzeb also disputed the claims in earlier remarks on Saturday. [NYT] [Guardian] [AP] [Reuters] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]  [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The News]
  • External Relations: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari was scheduled to visit Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway from August 22-26, but has delayed that trip due to ongoing flooding. PM Shehbaz will travel to Qatar on Aug 23-24 to discuss a potential LNG import agreement.
  • Elections: Preliminary results from the NA-245 by-elections held in Karachi on Sunday show the PTI candidate winning by a large margin over the MQM candidate in second place; turnout was reportedly low. The seat was previously held by the late dissident PTI lawmaker and television personality Aamir Liaquat Hussain. Speaking at a press conference on Friday, MQM leaders warned that they would “review the decision to participate” in local government elections scheduled to take place in Karachi on August 28, reiterating objections to 2017 census figures used to determine constituency boundaries. Sindh provincial cabinet ministers Saeed Ghani and Syeda Shehlaz Raza resigned from the cabinet to lead campaign activity for the local elections. Imran Khan has challenged the disqualification of his candidacy for the NA-108 by-election, and faces challenges to his candidacy for the NA-22, NA-118 and NA-246 constituencies. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The News]
  • Legal Proceedings: Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, PML-N leader Ataullah Tarar denounced arrest warrants issued on Friday against a group of a dozen party lawmakers in response to disruptions in the Punjab chief minister’s election in mid-April; the Islamabad High Court granted protective bail to the group on Monday. At least 30 police officers have been dismissed by the new Punjab government for their role in suppressing the PTI’s May 25 protest march. On Saturday, former PTI minister Firdous Ashiq Awan was blocked from traveling on a government passport.  [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: In remarks on Sunday, Azad Jammu and Kashmir Prime Minister Sardar Tanveer Ilyas accused the federal government of restricting funding to the territory. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Flood Relief: Chief of Army Staff Bajwa spoke with Quetta Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Asif Ghafoor on Friday to discuss ongoing flood relief operations in Balochistan; on Sunday, Bajwa and National Disaster Management Authority chief Lt. Gen. Akhtar Nawar briefed PM Shehbaz on the operations. On Friday, PM Shehbaz approved Rs 37.2 billion in cash assistance for affected families. Heavy rains continued in Balochistan on Sunday. [The News]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Nine Soldiers Killed in Vehicle Accident in Azad Jammu and Kashmir [Reuters] [Dawn]
  • Local PTI Leader Killed in Quetta [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Imran Khan Says Remarks on Salman Rushdie Attack ‘Taken Out of Context’ [Dawn]
  • Retired Lt. Gen. Hamood uz Zaman Khan Appointed Federal Secretary for Defense Production [The Nation]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Resistance Reports: On Sunday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid announced the appointment of Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir, the Taliban deputy minister of defense, as “special military commander” for Panjshir province and the Andarab district in Baghlan province, the main locus of National Resistance Front forces’ attacks on Taliban forces. Mullah Mohammad Tayyab Haqqani was also appointed provincial police chief. The NRF claimed to have killed seven Taliban members in a roadside bombing in Panjshir on Sunday, and six fighters in separate attacks in Takhar province on Friday. [8AM]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Travel Restrictions: A UN Security Council waiver on travel bans for 13 Taliban officials lapsed on Friday evening as the council remained deadlocked over its extension; the US and other western nations have sought to reduce the number of exempted travelers to six individuals and for those exemptions to only apply to travel to Qatar. Russia and China have countered with a proposal to extend the waivers for all 13 individuals for a 90 day period and for their travel to be limited to Russia, China, Qatar, and “regional countries”; on Friday afternoon, the US reportedly revised its proposal to allow for unlimited travel by six individuals and restrictions on the remaining seven, which Russia and China are now reviewing. In a statement on Sunday, the Taliban foreign ministry called on the UNSC “not to use sanctions as a means of pressure” and for all travel restrictions to be lifted.
  • Reporters Detained: An American journalist and Afghan producer were arrested by Taliban officials in Kabul last week while filming near the site of the US drone strike that killed Ayman al-Zawahiri earlier this month; the Committee to Protect Journalists called for their release.
  • Independence Day Commemorated: Afghanistan marked its 103rd Independence Day anniversary from the control of the UK on Friday, with some Taliban officials attending a ceremony in Kabul; in remarks, defense minister Mullah Mohammad Yaqub warned against efforts to divide Afghanistan, and said that “we do not accept any orders or wishes against the national beliefs and interests”. Hasht-e-Subh / 8AM reports that the Taliban arrested five men for raising the former government flag in the Zabul provincial capital on Friday.
  • Government Appointments: On Sunday, the Taliban announced the appointment of former deputy defense minister Ataullah Omari as the new minister for agriculture; the former minister, Abdul Rahman Rashid, was appointed deputy minister for refugees and repatriation. The Taliban also switched their appointments of governors for Paktia and Uruzgan.
  • External Relations: In an interview on Sunday, the deputy head of the EU delegation to Afghanistan said that “the issue of girls’ schools in Afghanistan is a vital and necessary issue in the current situation” and “logic dictates that we cannot continue our aid unless girls’ schools are opened.”

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Asset Dispute: Reuters reports that despite the presence of Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul and “foot-dragging” by Taliban negotiators, US diplomats are continuing talks with the Taliban on a proposal to transfer frozen Afghan central bank assets to a Swiss-managed trust fund; US Special Representative Tom West had previously stated that the US “does not see recapitalization of the [Afghan central bank] as a near-term option”.
  • Tariff Revenue: The Taliban ministry of finance announced an increase in customs duties on raw minerals from five to 25%.
  • Humanitarian Assistance: At least twenty people were killed in flash flooding in Logar province following heavy rains on Saturday. Separately, India delivered a shipment of medical aid to Afghanistan on Sunday. [Reuters] [AP] [Ariana News]
  • Infrastructure Projects: Reuters reports that World Bank funding has been suspended for the CASA-1000 power line project to link Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ministry of Higher Education Touts Opening of Islamic Law Departments at Universities [TOLO]
  • Commentary: How the Taliban Used IEDs to Win the War, Despite the Misgivings of Some – “Like the foreign forces, which eventually realised that civilian casualties were hurting their war effort, the Taleban political leadership also pondered the use of IEDs and attempted, albeit half-heartedly, to stop their use.” [Sabawoon Samim, AAN]
  • Commentary: What the Taliban Really Fear – “Thanks to the Taliban’s implacable extremism, the NRF believes that armed resistance is the only reasonable approach and strategy to liberate Afghanistan and to counter international terrorism.” [Ali Maisam Nazary, Foreign Affairs]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: CENTCOM Chief Visits Rawalpindi; UNSC Reportedly Deadlocked on Taliban Travel Ban

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Topline

  • US CENTCOM chief Gen. Michael Kurilla visited the Pakistani army headquarters in Rawalpindi on Thursday, where he met with Chief of Army Staff Bajwa; it is the first visit by an American general in the past 18 months.
  • In a statement on Thursday, the TTP criticized “liberal, secular, and nationalist groups” that it said were “trying to create an impression from different platforms that Taliban are being brought to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa” in order to disrupt peace talks between the TTP and the government.
  • The UN Security Council has reportedly deadlocked in votes over the renewal of waivers on travel bans for a group of senior Taliban leaders, which would result in the reinstatement of the bans if no agreement is reached by Friday.
  • Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhunzada addressed a gathering of around 2,500 participants in Kandahar on Thursday; media coverage of his remarks was limited, but TOLO reports that he told the gathering that he would “not let anyone interfere with the current government but he is ready to engage with the international community within a sharia framework”.
  • On Friday, the Pakistani government announced the appointment of Jameel Ahmad as governor for the State Bank of Pakistan. Earlier on Thursday, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail announced that the government would lift its ban on the import of non-essential and luxury items, and impose tariffs instead.

Pakistan — Security

  • CENTCOM Chief Visits: US Central Command chief Gen. Michael Kurilla visited the Pakistani army headquarters in Rawalpindi on Thursday, where he met with Chief of Army Staff Bajwa; it is Kurilla’s first trip to the country since his appointment in April, and the first visit by an American general in the past 18 months. No details of the meetings were disclosed.
  • TTP Negotiations: In a statement on Thursday, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan criticized “liberal, secular, and nationalist groups” that it said were “trying to create an impression from different platforms that Taliban are being brought to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa” in order to disrupt peace talks between the TTP and the government. The statement also proclaimed the TTP’s desire for “real peace” in the country.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Crackdown on Military Criticism: On Thursday, the Islamabad High Court ordered that PTI leader Shahbaz Gill be allowed to meet with his lawyers, and ordered a report from the Islamabad police chief on allegations that Gill had been tortured while in earlier Punjab police custody. On Friday, a lower Islamabad court ordered additional medical examinations of Gill, after he was cleared by a medical board on Thursday. Speaking at an event on Thursday, Imran Khan called on the military establishment to “review their policies” of cooperating with his political rivals, saying that “the nation will blame you for imposing the government of thieves upon us”. In remarks on Thursday, PPP senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokar denounced the PML-N government as “complicit or spineless to prevent” the alleged torture. The Washington Post overviews the background to Gill’s arrest and the shutdown of ARY News. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Legal Proceedings: The Islamabad High Court has set hearings for Aug 24 on a PTI petition seeking to overturn the Election Commission ruling on the party’s funding. The Federal Investigation Agency plans to continue to seek responses from Imran Khan for its own investigation into the funding issue, which Khan and other PTI leaders have so far rebuffed; Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb called for Khan’s arrest. [ET] [ET] [The News] [The News] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • External Relations: PM Shehbaz met with Australia’s new ambassador to Pakistan on Thursday, where he was quoted expressing a desire for “peaceful ties with India, based on the principles of equity, justice, and mutual respect”. [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: The PTI announced a schedule of protest rallies across the country, starting with a rally led by Imran Khan in Rawalpindi on August 21; a rally in Karachi previously scheduled for Aug 19 was postponed until the 26th. The federal government has so far blocked a request by the new PML-Q-led government in Punjab to replace the provincial chief secretary. The ECP has sought the deployment of the army and paramilitary Rangers for elections in Karachi scheduled for August 21st and 28th. [The Nation] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Economic Reforms: On Friday, the government announced the appointment of Jameel Ahmad as governor for the State Bank of Pakistan; he had been serving as a deputy governor at the bank, whose top leadership spot has been vacant since May. Earlier on Thursday, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail announced that the government would lift its ban on the import of non-essential and luxury items, which he said was a requirement of the IMF; the government will instead impose new tariffs to slow imports. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • PCTL Internet Provider Experiences Outages After Fiber Network Damaged by Flooding [Reuters] [Dawn]
  • Flooding Cuts Off Land Links to Balochistan [Dawn]
  • PM Shehbaz Meets Turkish Business Delegation [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Dissident Taliban Commander Killed: The NYT profiles Mawalawi Mahdi Mujahid, the dissident former Taliban commander whose forces clashed with the rest of the movement in the Balkhab district in Sar-e-Pul earlier this summer, and who was killed by Taliban forces at the Herat-Iran border earlier this week.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Gathering in Kandahar: Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhunzada addressed a gathering of around 2,500 participants in Kandahar on Thursday; media coverage of his remarks was limited, but TOLO reports that he told the gathering that he would “not let anyone interfere with the current government but he is ready to engage with the international community within a sharia framework”. [Ariana News]
  • Travel Ban: The UN Security Council has reportedly deadlocked in votes over the renewal of waivers on travel bans for a group of senior Taliban leaders, which would result in the reinstatement of the bans if no agreement is reached by Friday.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Humanitarian Assistance: Pakistan donated a shipment of 25 tons of food to Afghanistan at the Chaman border crossing on Thursday. The NYT interviews survivors of recent flash flooding in Parwan province, the latest in a series of blows to the country’s economy; the Taliban ministry of national disaster management reports that 1,511 people were killed in national disasters in the past year. [Ariana News]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Distant Volunteers Help Afghans Who Assisted US During 20-Year War [WAPO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Taliban Assemble Gathering in Kandahar; PTI Leader Gill Hospitalized for Evaluation

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Topline

  • The Taliban have convened a large gathering of “religious scholars, politicians, and different sections of the society” in Kandahar on Thursday to “assess the current situation in Afghanistan”.
  • PTI leader Shahbaz Gill was transferred to Islamabad police custody on Wednesday after a court order; Imran Khan expressed concern for Gill’s “fragile state of mental and physical health”, reiterating allegations that he had been tortured in police custody. Gill was transferred to a hospital facility by Islamabad police on Wednesday night for evaluation.
  • At least 21 people were killed in a bombing at a mosque in northern Kabul on Wednesday evening, with dozens more injured; no claim of responsibility has been reported.
  • PM Shehbaz has reportedly given approval to a plan to abolish the CPEC Authority and return CPEC management and oversight functions to the planning ministry, contingent on approval by the Chinese side.
  • Imran Khan rebuffed a Federal Investigation Agency notice seeking details on PTI financial records, disputing its jurisdiction on the basis of the prior Election Commission investigation into the issue.

Pakistan — Security

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Crackdown on Military Criticism: PTI leader Shahbaz Gill was transferred to Islamabad police custody on Wednesday after a court order; Imran Khan expressed concern for Gill’s “fragile state of mental and physical health”, reiterating allegations that he had been tortured in police custody. Gill was transferred to a hospital facility by Islamabad police on Wednesday night for evaluation; on Thursday, the PTI filed a new petition in the Islamabad High Court, alleging torture. The IHC has sought responses from jail officials. In remarks at a press conference on Wednesday, Defense Minister Khawaja Asif accused the PTI of leading a social media campaign against the military following the helicopter crash in Balochistan earlier this month, which he said was a “joint project” with India. [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The News] [ET]
  • Foreign Relations: On Wednesday, UK Home Secretary Priti Patel announced an agreement between the UK and Pakistan to repatriate convicted criminals and immigration offenders from the UK to Pakistan. Dawn notes that the agreement is not a full extradition treaty. Separately, PM Shehbaz approved the appointment of new ambassadors for ten countries, including France, the UAE, Turkey, and Japan, among others. On Wednesday, the US pledged $1 million in disaster relief assistance to Pakistan following recent floods.
  • Legal Proceedings: Imran Khan rebuffed a Federal Investigation Agency notice seeking details on PTI financial records, disputing its jurisdiction on the basis of the prior Election Commission investigation into the issue. The ECP held initial hearings on Thursday on a petition to disqualify Imran on the basis of its funding decision, and on allegations that Imran improperly retained state gifts. PTI Sindh assembly opposition leader Haleem Adil Sheikh was arrested on land theft charges after his bail was withdrawn at a court appearance on Thursday. [ET] [ET] [The News] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: The second phase of local government elections in Sindh will be held on August 28 following the Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday dismissing challenges to the delimitation of local government constituencies. ECP officers for the NA-108 Faisalabad constituency rejected nomination papers for Imran Khan, citing a lack of details on his assets; his candidacy was approved in eight other constituencies. Dawn reports that the rival Qureshi and Gillani families are seeking to transfer local bureaucrats in Multan ahead of the NA-157 by-election there. Despite recent statements by PML-N leaders, party sources tell the Express Tribune there has been no final decision for Nawaz Sharif’s return to Pakistan. [ET] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • CPEC Project: PM Shehbaz has reportedly given approval to a plan to abolish the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Authority and return CPEC management and oversight functions to the planning ministry, although Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal tells the Express Tribune that Pakistan is first seeking consent from China before moving ahead.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Finance Minister Says No Plans for New Taxes [The Nation]
  • Gujrat Division Formed in Punjab [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kabul Mosque Bombing: At least 21 people were killed in a bombing at a mosque in northern Kabul on Wednesday evening, with dozens more injured; the Washington Post reports that one of the victims was the prayer leader, Amir Mohammad Kabuli, who sources say was unaffiliated with any major group. No claim of responsibility has been reported. The Taliban vowed to punish those responsible. [AP] [WSJ]
  • Military Assets: The Taliban defense ministry conducted a test flight over Kabul of at least three helicopter aircraft on Wednesday, Reuters reports; the defense ministry said that its engineers had recently repaired 35 tanks left behind by the former Afghan National Army. A DOD Inspector General report issued this week estimates that the U.S. military left behind the equivalent of $7.12 billion in military equipment last year.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Kandahar Gathering: The Taliban have convened a large gathering of “religious scholars, politicians, and different sections of the society” in Kandahar on Thursday to “assess the current situation in Afghanistan”. Hasht-e-Subh reports expressions of concern by participating business leaders on the investment environment.
  • International Engagement: Speaking at a press conference in Kabul on Wednesday, China’s ambassador to Afghanistan Wang Yu accused the US of “adopting double standards” in its counterterrorism operations, which he said “should not be conducted at the cost of other countries’ sovereignty”. He also pledged to expand bilateral cooperation with Afghanistan “in all areas”.
  • Refugees and Repatriation: Axios reports that the Biden administration is planning for the establishment of a portal to facilitate the reunification of Afghans resettled in the United States with those remaining in Afghanistan. Iran has reportedly deported roughly 3,000 Afghan migrants to Nimroz province over the past week.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Russian Trade Talks: Taliban minister of trade and industry Nuriddin Azizi told Russian media on Wednesday that his delegation was seeking to negotiate an agreement for the import of a million barrels of Russian oil through barter payment.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Commentary: ‘This Was the Albatross Around His Neck All Year’ – “For President Joe Biden, the anniversary [of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan] also marks the moment his presidency started to spiral out of control — a spiral from which he still hasn’t completely recovered.”  [Elise Labott, Politico]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Dissident Taliban Commander Killed in Herat; KPK Govt Reviews Swat Security

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Topline

  • On Wednesday, the Taliban ministry of defense announced that they had killed dissident commander Mawlawi Mehdi Mujahid as he attempted to cross over the border from Herat to Iran.
  • The Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial cabinet met on Tuesday to review security concerns in the Swat district after reports that the TTP had established checkposts in parts of the district; in remarks afterwards, government spokesmen downplayed those concerns.
  • Speaking to reporters after a visit to the Adiala Jail facility in Rawalpindi on Tuesday, Punjab Home Minister Hashim Muhammad Dogar, a member of the PTI, denied claims made by Imran Khan and other party leaders that PTI leader Shahbaz Gill was being tortured in prison. Later, however, the ministry ordered the removal of two senior jail officials.
  • A group of approximately 80 families of victims of the 9/11 attacks has written an open letter to Pres. Biden calling on him to reverse the freeze on Afghan central bank assets, instituted in part in response to legal action brought by a different group of families seeking access to those funds.
  • Chief of Army Staff Bajwa visited the UAE on Wednesday, where he was awarded a medal and held talks on bilateral security cooperation.
  • In a statement on Tuesday, the PPP expressed concern over the government’s decision to increase the price of petroleum products, saying “there must be consultation when it comes to such decisions”.

Pakistan — Security

  • Swat Security Concerns: The Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial cabinet met on Tuesday to review security concerns in the Swat district after reports that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan had established checkposts in parts of the district; a spokesman for the government said that “the provincial government will maintain its writ in the province at all costs” and said that the ceasefire agreement with the TTP remained intact. [The News]
  • Missing Persons: The Balochistan provincial government has formed a parliamentary commission to investigate reports of extrajudicial detentions. A lawyer was found dead in the Pishin district in Balochistan after being abducted earlier this week. Separately, a coalition of opposition party leaders in Khyber Paktunkhwa called on the government there to address the issue.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Crackdown on Military Criticism: Speaking to reporters after a visit to the Adiala Jail facility in Rawalpindi on Tuesday, Punjab Home Minister Hashim Muhammad Dogar, a member of the PTI, denied claims made by Imran Khan and other party leaders that PTI leader Shahbaz Gill was being tortured in prison. Later, however, the ministry ordered the removal of two senior jail officials. Gill was reportedly transferred to a jail hospital facility on Tuesday. On Wednesday, an Islamabad district court approved the transfer of Gill back to the custody of Islamabad police for a 48-hour period; the Islamabad High Court is also holding hearings regarding Gill’s custody. Meanwhile, the Express Tribune reports that the federal government is planning broad arrests in response to criticism made against the military establishment on social media. [The Nation] [The News] [The News] [ET]
  • Legal Proceedings: The Islamabad High Court has expanded the bench hearing complaints related to the Election Commission’s ruling on PTI funding sources. The Federal Investigation Agency is reportedly expanding its inquiry into PTI overseas funding. The federal cabinet approved a travel ban for two aides of Imran Khan, Mirza Shahzad Akbar and Ziaul Mustafa Naseem, who are both reported to be currently in the UK. In a ruling on Wednesday, the Supreme Court dismissed an MQM petition against the delimitation of local government constituencies in Sindh, ordering that elections be held as scheduled. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [ET]
  • External Relations: Chief of Army Staff Bajwa visited the UAE on Wednesday, where he was awarded a medal and held talks on bilateral security cooperation. US Ambassador Blome met with Pakistan’s Chief of Air Staff Marshal Zaheer Ahmed Baber Sidhu on Tuesday. The Express Tribune notes that PM Shehbaz has yet to visit China since taking office, and reports that he may hold a bilateral meeting with Pres. Xi on the sidelines of the SCO summit scheduled for mid-September in Uzbekistan. [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: Speaking to the Pakistani expatriate community in Jeddah on Tuesday, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said that Nawaz Sharif would return to the country to lead the party’s campaign in the next general elections. Candidates for the nine national assembly constituencies where by-elections will take place on Sept 25 are reportedly planning to file challenges against Imran Khan’s nomination to contest all of those seats.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Price Hikes: In a statement on Tuesday, the PPP expressed concern over the government’s decision to increase the price of petroleum products, saying “there must be consultation when it comes to such decisions”. A federal cabinet meeting on Tuesday rejected a proposal to raise the prices for a group of 35 medicines.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan Floods Kill 580 and Bring Misery to Millions Since July [Guardian] [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Resistance Reports: On Wednesday, the Taliban ministry of defense announced that they had killed dissident commander Mawlawi Mehdi Mujahid as he attempted to cross over the border from Herat to Iran; Mujahid had clashed with Taliban forces in Sar-e-Pul earlier this spring after splitting with the group. Hasht-e-Subh / 8AM and Amu TV report widespread arrests in Panjshir and adjoining districts; a spokesman for the provincial governor in Panjshir denied reports that the National Resistance Front had detained a group of Taliban fighters. The Taliban have reportedly deployed additional forces to the Ishkashim district in Takhar after recent clashes with the NRF there. The NRF claimed to have killed five Taliban soldiers in an attack on a checkpost in the Banawi Andarab district in Baghlan on Tuesday. [8AM]
  • Air Assets: In remarks to the Russian media on Tuesday, Russian special representative Zamir Kabulov expressed concern that approximately a hundred former Afghan Air Force helicopters and jets that were flown out of the country last August to Tajikistan and Uzebkistan not be transferred to Ukraine.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Curriculum Changes: Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Taliban minister of higher education Abdul Baqi Haqqani said that new changes had been made to university curriculum requirements across the country; he noted increased requirements for religious study, but other specifics are not reported. A spokesman for the ministry of education reiterated that the Taliban restrictions on girls’ access to secondary schooling was “temporary”. [Ariana News]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Asset Dispute: A group of approximately 80 families of victims of the 9/11 attacks has written an open letter to Pres. Biden calling on him to reverse the freeze on Afghan central bank assets, instituted in part in response to legal action brought by a different group of families seeking access to those funds.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Survey Work Completed for Uzbekistan-Pakistan Rail Link [Ariana News]
  • Commentary: One Year’s Hindsight on Afghanistan: A Good Decision, Horribly Executed – “A year after the fall of Kabul, the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan looks better as a pragmatic decision to end a costly war. But haunting images remain from an unnecessarily chaotic exit that reflected a chain of policy misjudgments.” [David Ignatius, WAPO]
  • Commentary: Can the Taliban Be Contained? – “By nurturing and encouraging moderating tendencies in Afghanistan and by allowing more pragmatic leaders to form new domestic alliances, the West can help empower the realist elements of the Taliban.” [Saad Mohseni, Foreign Affairs]
  • Commentary: America Can’t Change the Taliban – “While eager to receive international legitimacy and foreign assistance, the Taliban regime has stubbornly refused to yield to external demands they perceive as asking them to surrender their monopoly of power and compromise on Islamic beliefs.” [Marvin Weinbaum, The National Interest]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: US Halts Plans to Recapitalize Afghan Central Bank; PML-N Divided After Petrol Price Hike

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Topline

  • In a statement on Monday, US Special Representative Tom West said that the US now “does not see recapitalization of the [Afghan central bank] as a near-term option” and “we do not have confidence that that institution has the safeguards and monitoring in place to manage assets responsibly”, noting Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul and the “deep concerns we have regarding diversion of funds to terrorist groups”.
  • Two policemen providing security escorts to a polio vaccination team were killed in a shooting in the Tank district in Khyber Paktunkhwa on Tuesday; the vaccinators were unhurt.
  • Dawn reports that Chief of Army Staff Bajwa will visit Washington DC in late August or early September.
  • On Monday, the Pakistani ministry of finance announced an increase for petroleum product prices for the coming two weeks, reversing price reductions at the beginning of the month. PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz issued a statement saying that her father “strongly opposed” the measure.

Pakistan — Security

  • Polio Vaccination Team Attacked: Two policemen providing security escorts to a polio vaccination team were killed in a shooting in the Tank district in Khyber Paktunkhwa on Tuesday; the vaccinators were unhurt. No claim of responsibility has been reported for the attack. [AP] [The News]
  • Other Attacks: A local JUI-F leader and tehsil chairman was wounded along with two other associates in a roadside bombing in the Bajaur district on Monday. In the Harnai district in Balochistan, ANP members held protests against what they described as the killing of a local party activist killed by security personnel; the Pakistani military had previously reported that it had repelled an attack on a military checkpost on Saturday. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Crackdown on Military Criticism: The Islamabad High Court held hearings on Monday and Tuesday on a government petition seeking further custody of PTI leader Shahbaz Gill, and a competing petition from Gill’s lawyers challenging his detention. A delegation of PTI leaders was blocked from meeting Gill in jail on Monday. In remarks on Monday, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry insisted that “the PTI stands behind” Gill; in a separate interview on Monday, Imran Khan said that Gill “shouldn’t have said it because it falls under instigating the army” but also accused the government of “torturing and trying to mentally break him”. In Sindh High Court hearings on Monday, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority denied that it had ordered the suspension of ARY News. [ET] [ET]
  • External Relations: Dawn reports that Chief of Army Staff Bajwa will visit Washington DC in late August or early September. In a Newsweek interview on Monday, PM Shehbaz warned against “another era of Cold War or bloc politics” between the US and China.
  • Legal Proceedings: The Islamabad High Court has expanded the bench hearing a PTI petition appealing against the Election Commission’s ruling on the party’s acceptance of “prohibited funding”. The Supreme Court held hearings on Monday on a MQM challenge against the delimitation of local government constituencies in Sindh. The ECP held hearings on Tuesday on PML-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain’s petition to block intra-party elections sought by the rival faction of the party seeking to remove him as party president. [ET] [The News] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: In remarks on Monday, PML-N leader Javed Latif claimed that Nawaz Sharif would return to the country in September. On Monday, the Punjab government ordered the removal of additional security for the Sharif family residences. Chief Minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi reshuffled the provincial cabinet portfolios on Monday. The PML-N is reportedly planning to nominate Hamza Shehbaz as provincial assembly opposition leader. Imran Khan filed an asset statement on Tuesday as part of his nomination filings for upcoming by-elections, declaring Rs 342 million in assets. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [The News]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • FATF Delegation Expected to Visit in September [ET]
  • Lahore Police Kill Former Officer [Dawn]
  • Seven Pakistan Air Force Officers Promoted to Air Vice Marshal [ET]
  • Government Seeks to Sell Stakes in PIA to Qatar [ET] [The Nation]
  • Commentary: Who Will Be the Next Army Chief? – “A senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader — a member of the federal cabinet — hinted in background discussions that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif could initiate discussions on the appointment by the end of August, and pos­s­ibly take a decision by mid-September.” [Baqi Sajjad Syed, Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • International Engagement: Speaking at a ceremony on Monday marking the anniversary of the Taliban takeover, foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi called on the international community to “cooperate with Afghanistan” and reiterated pledges that “Afghan soil wouldn’t be used against anyone”. In a separate statement, the EU reiterated calls for the “fulfillment of human rights and fundamental freedoms” and the formation of an inclusive political process. Hasht-e-Subh / 8AM reports that the World Bank plans to reopen its offices in Kabul “in the coming weeks”.
  • Taliban Takeover Retrospectives: In an Axios interview on Monday, former Amb. Khalilzad said that he had argued during his tenure with the Biden administration to retain forces in Afghanistan until the government and the Taliban agreed to intra-Afghan talks. [Ariana News]
  • Refugees and Repatriation: The NYT and WAPO note that several family members of an Afghan aid worker killed in an errant US drone strike in Kabul last year remain stuck in Afghanistan, with fewer than a dozen resettled in the United States. A Taliban delegation is reportedly planning to visit Turkey to discuss the situation for Afghan migrants in the country and Turkey’s deportation of Afghan refugees. [Guardian] [Ariana News]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Asset Freeze: In a statement on Monday, US Special Representative Tom West said that the US now “does not see recapitalization of the [Afghan central bank] as a near-term option” and “we do not have confidence that that institution has the safeguards and monitoring in place to manage assets responsibly”, noting Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul and the “deep concerns we have regarding diversion of funds to terrorist groups”. A spokesman for the State Department said that the U.S. was “looking at mechanisms that could be put in place to see to it that these $3.5 billion in preserved assets make their way efficiently and effectively to the people of Afghanistan”. [NYT] [CNN]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Taliban Fire Female Employees in Jawzjan [8AM]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: US Intel Says Al Qaeda ‘Not Reconstituted’ in Afghanistan; ARY News License Revoked

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Topline

  • The NYT reports that a US intelligence community assessment, prepared after the strike that killed Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul last month, concludes that Al Qaeda “has not reconstituted its presence” in Afghanistan, and that “only a handful” of members of the group remain in the country.
  • On Thursday, the Pakistani interior ministry withdrew a permit for ARY Communications, the parent company of the television network ARY News, to operate in Pakistan; the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority revoked the channel’s operating license on Friday evening. On Saturday, the Sindh High Court ordered the suspension of both orders while it hears challenges to the action.
  • The Taliban designated August 15 as a public holiday to commemorate their takeover of Kabul and the rest of Afghanistan last year. In a CNN interview on Sunday, former Pres. Ghani defended his flight from the capital, and expressed hope to return to Afghanistan “soon”. The GOP minority on the House Foreign Affairs Committee is reportedly preparing a report criticizing the Biden administration’s management of last year’s evacuation.
  • TTP forces have reportedly established a checkpost in parts of the Matta tehsil in the Swat district; demonstrations were held in Swat on Friday against the TTP’s presence. In a statement on Saturday, the Pakistani military said that a “small number of armed men on few mountain-tops between Swat and Dir has been observed” but disputed reports of a large TTP presence.
  • A group of women protestors held a public demonstration in Kabul on Saturday before being forcibly dispersed by Taliban soldiers; the Taliban reportedly detained at least ten journalists covering the event.
  • The IMF has sent Pakistan a letter of intent for the revival of its lending program, subject to final IMF Board approval at a meeting on August 29. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia reportedly plans to renew its $3 billion deposit with the State Bank of Pakistan and to provide additional oil purchase support; PM Shehbaz spoke by phone with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman on Monday.
  • On Friday, USAID announced $150 million in assistance for programs in Afghanistan, to be split between the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, UN Women, and UNICEF.
  • Pakistan commemorated its 75th independence anniversary on Sunday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Attacks: Two Pakistani soldiers were killed in a roadside bombing in the Dir district in Khyber Paktunkhwa on Sunday. The Nation reports that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan have established a checkpost in parts of the Matta tehsil in the Swat district; demonstrations were held in Swat on Friday against the TTP’s presence. In a statement on Saturday, the Pakistani military said that a “small number of armed men on few mountain-tops between Swat and Dir has been observed” but disputed reports of a large TTP presence as “grossly exaggerated and misleading”. Police filed defamation charges against some of the Swat protestors on Saturday. [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Balochistan Attacks: Two Pakistani soldiers were killed in a cross-border attack on their checkpost in the Harnai district in Balochistan over Saturday night; a third soldier was injured. No claim of responsibility was reported. [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Crackdown on Military Criticism: On Thursday, the Pakistani interior ministry withdrew a permit for ARY Communications, the parent company of the television network ARY News, to operate in Pakistan; the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority revoked the channel’s operating license on Friday evening. Imran Khan denounced the “unprecedented crackdown campaign by the imported government and state machinery against media houses and journalists who are carrying PTI and my narrative to the public”. The network has been under pressure since it broadcast remarks by PTI leader Shahbaz Gill suggesting that junior military officers should refuse orders from senior commanders and back the PTI. On Saturday, the Sindh High Court ordered the suspension of the interior ministry and PEMRA orders while it hears challenges to the action. The federal government has sought custody of Gill, who faces sedition charges. In remarks before a court on Friday, Gill alleged that he had been tortured and “compelled to testify against” Imran Khan. In a statement on Friday, Pres. Alvi said that the Pakistani military “should not be made controversial”, and professed a desire to mediate talks between the government and PTI. [AP] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The News] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Marks 75th Independence Day: Pakistan commemorated its 75th independence anniversary on Sunday; the NYT profiles a Pakistani man working to facilitate reunions between separated family members. Pres. Alvi bestowed civil awards for 253 people and military awards to 425 servicemembers, as well as sentence remissions for elderly prisoners. In a national address on Saturday evening, PM Shehbaz renewed calls for a “charter of economy” to increase the nation’s self-reliance and economic independence. [The News] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Legal Proceedings: A Federal Investigation Agency team investigating PTI party fundraising has written to Imran Khan and Asad Umar to seek party financial records. Lahore police raided the home of PML-N leader Attar Tarar on Saturday; he was not presence at the time of the action. Dawn reports that several PML-N leaders have relocated from Lahore to Islamabad or locations abroad as the new PTI-PML-Q government in Punjab seeks to take action against their rivals. The Islamabad High Court granted Tarar protective bail in the case on Monday. On Saturday, an anti-corruption court in Dera Ghazi Khan acquitted former chief minister Usman Buzdar in a land case. The Express Tribune notes the continued vacancies on the Supreme Court. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: Imran Khan led a rally in Lahore on Saturday, where he announced plans to hold further rallies across the country in the coming weeks; Imran vowed never to “strike any deal” and alleged that “several conspiracies” were under way to disqualify him from political office. In earlier remarks on Friday, Imran professed willingness to hold talks with the government “after they announce the date for the fresh elections”. On Saturday, the PTI filed nomination papers for Imran to contest nine constituencies scheduled for by-elections on September 25; the PML-N, PPP, JUI-F, and ANP have reportedly reached an agreement to field single candidates for each constituency, with the apparent exception of the NA-239 Korangi constituency, where both the PPP and MQM appear set to field candidates. The Election Commission announced plans to hold local elections in Azad Jammu and Kashmir on September 28. On Monday, Pres. Alvi approved the appointment of Syed Mehdi Shah as governor for Gilgit-Baltistan. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • IMF Negotiations: The IMF has sent Pakistan a letter of intent for the revival of its lending program, subject to final IMF Board approval at a meeting on August 29, which will clear the release of a $1.18 billion loan tranche. New finance ministry data indicates that Pakistan’s federal budget deficit reached the equivalent of 8.2% of GDP in the prior fiscal year. Meanwhile, Bloomberg and the Financial Times report that Saudi Arabia plans to renew its $3 billion deposit with the State Bank of Pakistan and to provide additional oil purchase support; PM Shehbaz spoke by phone with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman on Monday to discuss bilateral cooperation. [ET] [The News]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan to Participate in SCO Counter-Terrorism Exercises in India in October [ET]
  • Ahmadi Man Killed in Chiniot District [Reuters] [Dawn]
  • Punjab Police Reshuffle Continues [Dawn]
  • MQM Activists Arrested After Karachi Protests [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Bureau of Statistics Confirms Delayed Census Timeline [ET]
  • Heavy Flooding Continues from Monsoon Rains [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Pakistan and Turkey Sign Preferential Trade Agreement [ET] [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • US Intel Assesses Al Qaeda ‘Has Not Reconstituted’: The NYT reports that a US intelligence community assessment, prepared after the strike that killed Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul last month, concludes that Al Qaeda “has not reconstituted its presence” in Afghanistan, and that “only a handful” of members of the group remain in the country.
  • TTP Commander Reportedly Killed: Hasht-e-Subh / 8AM reports claims that a Pakistani drone killed an unidentified Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan commander in a strike in the Watapur district in Kunar province last Thursday.
  • Attacks and Operations: At least four people, including two Taliban soldiers, were wounded in a bombing in western Kabul on Saturday; no claim of responsibility was reported. The National Resistance Front claimed to have killed four Taliban fighters in an attack in Baghlan province on Saturday, and to have taken control of several villages in Panjshir. Two Taliban fighters were reportedly killed in a clash in Kandahar city on Sunday morning. [AMU] [8AM] [8AM]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Takeover Retrospectives: The Taliban have designated August 15 as a public holiday to commemorate their takeover of Kabul and the rest of Afghanistan last year; the AP reports small celebrations in Kabul on Monday. In a statement on Sunday, the National Resistance Front renewed calls for resistance against the Taliban. In a CNN interview on Sunday, former Pres. Ghani defended his flight from the capital, and expressed hope to return to Afghanistan “soon”. The NYT interviews former US officials, servicemembers, and diplomats on their experience in last year’s evacuation, as well as former Afghan employees of the paper, and women refugees. The GOP minority on the House Foreign Affairs Committee is reportedly preparing a report criticizing the Biden administration’s management of the evacuation. Another NYT feature focuses on the changes for Afghan women since the Taliban takeover. The Washington Post reports on the comparative peace that followed the Taliban takeover in Helmand, but also the disruptions to education, health, and other sectors. The AP interviews former minister for women’s affairs Sima Samar; India Today interviews former Pres. Karzai. A group of Afghan journalists living in Pakistan marked the anniversary as the “death of freedom of speech” at an event on Saturday. [NYT] [WAPO] [Reuters] [Guardian] [Vox] [8AM]
  • Women’s Rights: A group of women protestors held a public demonstration in Kabul on Saturday before being forcibly dispersed by Taliban soldiers; the Taliban reportedly detained at least ten journalists covering the event. UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Richard Bennett condemned the “use of excessive force” in response to the protest. Elsewhere on Friday, Qatari’s foreign minister called on the Taliban to reverse restrictions on girls’ secondary education. The Guardian reports on secret schools for girls.  [TOLO]
  • Sirajuddin Haqqani Makes Public Appearance: Taliban interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani made a public appearance in Kabul on Saturday, his first since the US drone strike that killed Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawhiri in late July. Haqqani attended a ceremony inaugurating a new mosque at the ministry building on Saturday, and was accompanied by Timothy Weeks, an Australian national kidnapped by the Taliban in 2016 and freed in 2019. [TOLO]
  • International Engagement: Iranian deputy foreign minister Alireza Bigdeli arrived in Kabul on Sunday for talks with Taliban officials on border disputes. In remarks on Friday, Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said that India would send diplomats back to its embassy in Kabul to “address a lot of issues, humanitarian assistance, the medical assistance, the vaccine, the development projects, etc”; Jaishankar said that India would not send an ambassador, however. In remarks on Friday, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry called for the unfreezing of Afghan central bank assets.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Humanitarian Assistance: On Friday, USAID announced $150 million in assistance for programs in Afghanistan, to be split between the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, UN Women, and UNICEF. [Ariana News]
  • Regional Trade: A Taliban delegation traveled to Moscow on Sunday to hold trade talks. At an event on Sunday, Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan touted growing bilateral trade over the past year, and also suggested that additional visa facilities may be added in the coming weeks. [TOLO]
  • Flooding: At least 31 people were killed and dozens more are reported missing in flash flooding from heavy rains in Parwan province on Sunday. [8AM] [Ariana News]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Why the US Never Caught Mullah Omar [WSJ]
  • Funeral Services Held for Rahimullah Haqqani [TOLO]
  • Baradar Forms Committee to Support Beggars [TOLO]
  • Report: Afghanistan’s Security Challenges Under the Taliban – “The emerging picture of Afghanistan’s security landscape under Taliban rule reveals a country significantly more peaceful than a year ago, but with pockets of violence that threaten greater insecurity if not effectively managed.” [ICG]
  • Commentary: Talk to the Taliban – But Don’t Trust Them – “It is precisely because the outside world does not feel confident about the Taliban providing security for Afghans and shielding other countries from the spillover effects of instability in Afghanistan that a greater degree of attention is warranted.” [Graeme Smith and Ibraheem Bahiss, Foreign Affairs]