Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Zardari and Rafique Paroled to Attend Assembly; UN Security Council Reviews Afghan Situation

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Note: The news will be on temporary hiatus from June 21 – June 25, and will return with a full summary of the intervening period on Wednesday, June 26. Apologies for the interruption in service, and thank you for reading.

 

Topline

  • On Wednesday, national assembly speaker Asad Qaiser agreed to issue production orders to allow the release on parole of former Pres. Zardari and PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique to attend national assembly sessions on the budget debate; two Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement-affiliated lawmakers remain under detention. The PML-Q, MQM, BAP, and GDA parties met on Wednesday and agreed to continue to support the PTI through the budget vote, “despite having reservations” on its cooperation with its coalition partners.
  • UN Special Representative Tadamichi Yamamoto briefed a UN Security Council session on Afghanistan on Wednesday, urging all countries “with direct contacts and with influence over the Taliban to intensify their efforts toward” the opening of formal negotiations between the government and the Taliban.
  • Afghan legislators in the Wolesi Jirga came to blows again on Wednesday as Mir Rahman Rahmani attempted to seat himself as speaker.
  • India’s foreign ministry confirmed Thursday that PM Modi and External Affairs Minister Jaishankar had responded to letters from PM Khan and Foreign Minister Qureshi, and that they had said it would be “important to build an environment of trust, free of terror, violence and hostility” in order for the normalization of relations.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: PM Modi and External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar have reportedly responded to letters from PM Khan and Foreign Minister Qureshi congratulating them on the recent Indian elections; a spokesman for India’s foreign ministry said that in the letters they had “highlighted that India seeks normal and cooperative relations with all neighbours, including Pakistan” and that for this “it is important to build an environment of trust, free of terror, violence and hostility”. [Dawn]
  • Balochistan Bombing: Two Frontier Corps soldiers were wounded in a bombing at a market in Panjgur in Balochistan on Wednesday; no claim of responsibility has been reported.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Politics: On Wednesday, national assembly speaker Asad Qaiser agreed to issue production orders to allow former Pres. Zardari and Khawaja Saad Rafique to attend the national assembly session; two Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement-affiliated lawmakers, whose parole the PPP had also previously called for, remain detained. Speaking to reporters on Thursday at the assembly, Zardari reaffirmed the opposition’s commitment to ousting the PTI government; speaking in the assembly, he warned of “civil strife” in response to the government’s budget and said that “this wave of arrests must end now… those powers who bring the government [into power] have to think”. Dawn reports that PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz may launch a “mass contact drive” in Sindh beginning next month, following an all-parties conference of opposition leaders; speaking to reporters at Rafique’s residence on Wednesday, she reiterated criticism of the government. [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: Leaders of the PML-Q, Grand Democratic Alliance, Balochistan Awami Party, and MQM met on Wednesday to discuss concerns over the PTI’s policy towards its coalition partners, agreeing to “firmly stand with the PTI government for approval of the budget despite having reservations”. PM Khan visited Ghotki on Wednesday to pay condolences to the family of late federal minister Sardar Ali Muhammad Khan Mahar. His visit comes ahead of a by-election schedule for July 18 to fill Mahar’s vacant seat; the PPP accused him of violating election code of conduct rules against campaigning by government officials, and the Election Commission issued a notice on Thursday seeking a response within a week. Separately on Wednesday, a parliamentary committee meeting reviewed possible nominees to fill two ECP vacancies, and will meet again on Monday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: On Wednesday, Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa announced plans for the formation of more than a thousand special courts focused on “gender-based violence” cases. He also touted the activities of “model courts” established to reduce the backlog of court cases, and said plans were underway to construct a database of past court verdicts to inform judicial decisionmaking. In an Islamabad High Court filing, lawyers for Nawaz Sharif sought permission for him to receive medical treatment outside Pakistan. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [ET] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Debate: Speaking in the national assembly on Wednesday, opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif suggested that the opposition was prepared to reach an agreement with the government on a “charter of the economy”, but vowed opposition to the current budget proposal. At a press conference on Wednesday, government spokeswoman Firdous Ashiq Awan denied reports suggesting that the PTI itself had mobilized to disrupt proceedings in the national assembly budget debate. The Balochistan provincial government unveiled its Rs 420 billion budget proposal on Wednesday. The budget debate in the Punjab assembly was disrupted on Wednesday by calls from a PTI legislator for an investigation into the Sharif family’s properties in Lahore. Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said that the federal government had yet to transfer Rs 126 billion in revenues to Sindh. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Chief of Army Staff Meets Visiting Iraq Defense Official, Offers Security Cooperation [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Two Navy Officers Promoted to Commodore Rank [The Nation]
  • Cabinet Committee Defers Decision on Wheat Export and Industry Power Rates [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • UN Briefing: Speaking at a UN Security Council meeting on Afghanistan on Wednesday, UN Special Representative Tadamichi Yamamoto called on all countries “with direct contacts and with influence over the Taliban to intensify their efforts toward” the opening of formal negotiations between the government and the Taliban. Yamamoto noted efforts by Germany and Qatar to broker intra-Afghan talks, but did not specify dates for future meetings. Yamamoto also said that it was he responsibility of all political actors, including presidential candidates, and of security and government agencies, to ensure that the [upcoming presidential] elections are contested on a level playing field”. [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [Ariana News] [Khabarnama] [UNAMA]
  • Parliamentary Standoff: The Wolesi Jirga remains deadlocked over the election of a speaker, with legislators brawling again on Wednesday after Mir Rahman Rahmani attempted to seat himself as speaker over the objections of his rival, Kamal Naser Osuli. Ariana News reports at least two lawmakers were injured in the clash. [TOLO]
  • Peace Talks: China’s foreign ministry confirmed on Thursday that it had hosted a Taliban delegation for talks, but did not provide details. [Ariana News]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Leaving the Country Is Not A Solution, Abdullah Says in World Refugee Day Remarks [TOLO]
  • Commentary: The 2020 Democratic Candidates on Troops in Afghanistan – “The war in Afghanistan could turn 20 years old during the next president’s first year in office. We wanted candidates to take a position on whether American troops still belong there. Every Democrat said they would pull back troops. Only some — like Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker — promised a full exit.” [NYT]
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Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Opposition Seeks to Block Budget Passage; Khalilzad Reiterates Peace Deal Must Be ‘Comprehensive’

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Topline

  • PPP and PML-N opposition leaders met again on Tuesday to agree on a joint strategy to oppose the passage of the PTI government’s budget. At least five government coalition lawmakers have signed onto a PPP petition seeking the release on parole of former Pres. Zardari and other arrested lawmakers to attend national assembly sessions. On Tuesday, BNP-M leader Sardar Akhtar Mengal met with JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman and again signaled that he was preparing to join the opposition’s all-parties conference later this month.
  •  On Wednesday, PM Khan reportedly agreed to grant an additional federal ministry to the MQM-P and to grant new spending programs in Karachi and Hyderabad, in an effort to shore up the government’s numbers in the assembly; PTI leader Naeem-ul Haq also met with PML-Q leaders to reaffirm their support. After several days of disruptions, the government and opposition reached an agreement to allow debate on the budget to proceed in the assembly on Wednesday.
  • In comments on Tuesday, a Taliban spokesman claimed that the U.S. had agreed in previous talks to a full withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan; Special Envoy Khalilzad responded by reiterating that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” and that the U.S. is seeking a “comprehensive peace agreement, not a withdrawal agreement”. A Taliban delegation headed by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is reportedly visiting Tehran, after an earlier trip to China. On Wednesday, Afghan National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib met with regional counterparts at a security conference in Russia to discuss the peace process.
  • On Tuesday, PM Khan approved the formation of a new “National Development Council”, whose members include top economic advisors and the chief of army staff. The government has also formed a new commission of inquiry to investigate its predecessors’ loan agreements, to be headed by the deputy chairman of the National Accountability Bureau, Hussain Asghar.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • NGO Regulation: The Express Tribune reports that the government plans to introduce new legislation at the federal and provincial level to register and monitor non-governmental and non-profit organizations, as part of efforts to show compliance with Financial Action Task Force criteria for the prevention of money laundering and terrorism financing.
  • New ISI Chief Meets PM: New ISI chief Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed met with PM Khan at his office on Tuesday; no details of their conversation were reported. [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Politics: Shehbaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari met on Tuesday and agreed on a joint strategy to oppose the passage of the PTI government’s budget. Speaking afterwards, Bilawal reiterated demands for national assembly speaker Asad Qaiser to issue production orders allowing for the release on parole of former Pres. Zardari and other arrested lawmakers. The Nation reports that at least five government coalition members from other smaller parties have signed on to an opposition petition demanding the issuance of the production orders. Meanwhile, BNP-M leader Sardar Akhtar Mengal met with JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman on Tuesday and said afterwards he would meet with party leaders to discuss attendance at the opposition all-parties conference planned for later this month. [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • New ‘National Development Council’ Formed: On Tuesday, PM Khan ordered the formation of a new “National Development Council”, which includes top economic advisors, the chief of army staff, and the provincial chief ministers as members. The body is tasked with “setting policies to accelerate economic growth and improve coordination among the provinces and the federation”. [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, PM Khan also approved the formation of an inquiry commission to investigate the history of predecessor governments’ loan agreements, to be headed by National Accountability Bureau deputy chairman Hussain Asghar. Speaking at a press conference afterwards, assistant to the prime minister Shahzad Akbar also claimed that the UK had agreed to extradite former finance minister Ishaq Dar. Separately, Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa has called a meeting of the national judicial policymaking committee for June 24. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [WAPO]
  • Other Political Activity: Following a meeting with Sindh governor Imran Ismail and MQM-Pakistan leaders on Tuesday, PM Khan has reportedly decided to announce new development spending packages for Karachi and Hyderabad and to grant the MQM another federal ministry position. Khan also met with senate chairman Sadiq Sajrani, who reportedly faces a brewing challenge to his position from the opposition PPP and PML-N. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Government Files Complaint over BBC Report on Pakistani Military Abuses [ET] [The Nation]
  • China Completes Construction of Outer Dome of Karachi Nuclear Reactor [Reuters]
  • Peshawar High Court Strikes Down Power Bill Taxes in Former FATA Districts [Dawn]
  • Pakistan and Japan Sign MOU on Defense Cooperation [Dawn]
  • Trade Deficit Contracts But Exports Flat Over First 11 Months of Fiscal Year; FDI Halved [ET] [ET]
  • Only 250 People Take Part in Tax Amnesty Program [ET] [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: A spokesman for the Taliban claimed on Tuesday that the U.S. had agreed to a full withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan in earlier talks; a NATO spokesman and Special Envoy Khalilzad contradicted that statement, reiterating that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” and that the U.S. is seeking a “comprehensive peace agreement, not a withdrawal agreement”. Taliban sources reported Tuesday that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was leading a Taliban delegation to Iran, following an earlier trip to China. Afghan National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib attended a meeting of regional national security advisors to discuss the Afghanistan peace process on the sidelines of a security conference in Russia on Wednesday, including representatives from India, Russia, China, Pakistan, and Iran. [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khabarnama]
  • Elections: Independent Election Commission officials announced Tuesday that they would allocate $30 million for the purchase of biometric identification devices, which IEC officials had previously indicated they would not use in the presidential elections. Speaking on Tuesday, rival presidential candidate Ibrahim Alokozay accused Pres. Ghani of “dictatorship, selfishness and egoism”.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • High Peace Council Chief Meets Indian Ambassador [Khabarnama]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PPP and PML-N Leaders Meet JUI-F Leader; UK Pledges More Afghan Aid

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Topline

  • PML-N and PPP leaders met separately on Monday with JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman and agreed to convene an “all-parties conference” later this month to discuss a joint opposition strategy against the government. Meanwhile, national assembly debate on the PTI government’s budget continues to be delayed by opposition and government lawmaker disruptions.
  • PM Khan may announce the head of the government’s planned commission to investigate loan agreements undertaken by its political rivals today; the PTI-led Punjab provincial government is also reportedly planning to form a commission to investigate infrastructure projects begun by the predecessor PML-N government.
  • UK Development Secretary Rory Stewart announced a new five-year $215-million commitment for humanitarian aid to Afghanistan following meetings by Pres. Ghani with PM May and other British officials.
  • A Taliban spokesman said that a date for the next US-Taliban negotiations meeting in Qatar would be announced Tuesday or Wednesday; the talks were originally reported to be taking place this week, and the US State Department initially announced that Special Envoy Khalilzad’s tour of the region would only be running through June 16.
  • Foreign Minister Qureshi met with UK Home Secretary Sajid Javad in London on Monday and also spoke by phone with Sec. Pompeo to discuss Pakistani compliance with money laundering and counter-terrorism financing controls, as well as the Afghan peace process.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • CPEC Security: Chief of Army Staff Bajwa met with Chinese People’s Liberation Army commander Gen. Han Weiguo at the Pakistani army headquarters on Monday, and was quoted pledging “unwavering support for CPEC security”. [The Nation] [ET]
  • ANP Leader Killed: A local Awami National Party was killed and several others wounded in a roadside bombing in the Bajaur district town of Khar on Monday; no claim of responsibility was reported.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Politics: Shehbaz Sharif met with JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman on Monday evening and agreed to convene an “all parties conference” of the opposition to discuss plans for a protest movement against the government. PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also met with Fazl earlier in the day and agreed to the conference, a date for which has not been announced. The PPP meanwhile is preparing to hold daily protests in Karachi beginning June 23. The Express Tribune reports that the PPP and PML-N have reached an agreement to oust current senate speaker Sadiq Sajrani, who was previously elected with the PPP’s support. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: The Punjab government reportedly plans to follow the federal government in forming a commission to investigate projects launched by the predecessor PML-N government. The Express Tribune reports that PM Khan will announce the head of the new commission on Tuesday. On Tuesday, the Islamabad High Court released its detailed verdict that had earlier denied bail for former Pres. Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur’s arrest. A National Accountability Bureau witness and alleged front man for the Sharif family made a confessional statement to a judicial magistrate on Tuesday, claiming to have laundered over Rs 600 million for Hamza Shehbaz and his brother Salman Shehbaz. On Tuesday, the Federal Investigation Agency arrested Waleed Butt, a PML-N youth leader, and charged him with “hateful content against state institutions” on social media. The Lahore High Court rejected bail pleas by PML-N leaders Khawaja Saad Rafique and Khawaja Salman Rafique on Tuesday. The NAB is preparing charges against former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and former finance minister Miftah Ismail in connecting to a Qatari LNG import agreement. Meanwhile, in remark on Monday Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa suggested that he would impose a new definition for “life sentence” punishments, which are currently defined as a 25-year period. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Qureshi Visits UK: Foreign Minister Qureshi met with UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid in London on Monday and agreed to cooperation “to curb money laundering practices and to build upon the justice and accountability partnership” between the two countries. Qureshi also spoke by phone with Sec. Pompeo on Monday, making the case for Pakistan’s compliance with money laundering and counter-terrorism financing controls sought by the Financial Action Task Force. [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: Nawaz Sharif’s personal physician has appealed to the Punjab government for daily access to Nawaz while he is in prison. [ET]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Curfew Lifted in North Waziristan [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Signs $918 M Loan Agreement with World Bank [Dawn] [ET]
  • Supreme Court Halts Execution of Mentally Ill Inmate [AP] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Judicial Commission on Army Public School Shooting Seeks Statement from Senior Military Officer [Dawn]
  • Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Poverty Alleviation Holds Talks with Gates [Dawn]
  • A Library Thrives, Quietly, in One of Pakistan’s Gun Markets [NYT]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Russia and China Take On Greater Regional Role: The WSJ looks at the increasing role of China and Russia in the Afghan peace process and Central Asia more broadly as the U.S. seeks to draw down its presence and negotiate a settlement to the conflict.
  • Attacks and Operations: Interior ministry officials reported Tuesday that a Taliban shadow district governor and three fighters were killed in an airstrike on their vehicle in the Bala Balok district in Farah. Airstrikes around Tirin Kot, Uruzgan on Tuesday also reportedly killed 14 Taliban fighters. Military officials in Ghor say they killed 15 Taliban fighters in operations in the Dolina district. A civilian girl was killed and a woman injured in a roadside bombing in Nangarhar’s Achin district on Monday, which officials attributed to ISIS. Kandahar police chief Gen. Tadeen Khan claimed Monday that at least 55 Taliban fighters had been killed over the past three days in operations across the province. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Ghani Visits UK: Pres. Ghani met with PM May and other British officials on Monday while visiting the UK to attend a Cricket World Cup match. Development Secretary Rory Stewart announced a new five-year, $215 million aid package for Afghanistan, focused on food, water and basic healthcare provision. [Khabarnama] [Ariana News]
  • Peace Talks: A spokesman for the Taliban said Tuesday that a date for the next round of U.S.-Taliban talks in Qatar would be announced today or tomorrow; that meeting was previously reported to be happening this week. Special Envoy Khalilzad’s current regional tour was initially announced to be running through June 16. [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Elections: In remarks in Kabul on Monday, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar accused foreigners of having “taken the elections hostage so that a powerful government is not created in Afghanistan” and that “transparent elections” were necessary for peace in the country. TOLO notes contradictory figures offered by Independent Election Commission officials on the number of new voters registered so far in the voter registration drive. [Ariana News] [Khabarnama]
  • Refugee Repatriation: Officials from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and the UN High Commission on Refugees met in Islamabad on Monday to discuss the program for the voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees. [The Nation]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghanistan Commercial Bank Goes Bankrupt [Khaama Press]
  • Deputy Foreign Minister Meets Turkish Ambassador [Khabarnama]
  • National Olympic Committee Chief Summoned on Abuse of Authority Charges [TOLO]
  • Report: UN Quarterly Report on Afghanistan – “Developments in the peace and electoral processes continued to dominate the political environment.” [UNAMA (pdf)]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: New ISI Chief Appointed; Pompeo Accuses Iran of Sponsoring Kabul Attack

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Topline

  • The Pakistani military announced the appointment on Sunday of Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed as the new chief of the ISI, replacing the outgoing head after only eight months in the position.
  • Sec. Pompeo has accused Iran of supporting a May 31 attack in Kabul that wounded four U.S. servicemembers and killed four Afghan civilians, which the Taliban had previously claimed responsibility for; he did not provide specific evidence to substantiate the claim, which comes amidst rising tensions between the Trump administration and Iran over the past week.
  • Another round of U.S.-Taliban talks is expected to take place in Doha this week; Taliban chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar reportedly led a Taliban delegation to Beijing over the weekend for talks with Chinese officials. The status of a planned intra-Afghan meeting in Norway is unclear as the Taliban are reported to have dropped their participation due to the attendance of Afghan government representatives. Ariana News reports that Pres. Ghani is planning for the creation of a new “ministry for peace and reconciliation”, potentially replacing the High Peace Council, to be headed by his current chief of staff Salam Rahimi.
  • Former Pres. Zardari’s sister Faryal Talpur was arrested and placed under house arrest on Friday as part of corruption investigations against Zardari and other associates. On Sunday, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Maryam Nawaz met at the latter’s residence to discuss joint opposition to the passage of the PTI’s budget and other cooperation against the government. Following meetings with PPP representatives, BNP-M leader Sardar Akhtar Mengal indicated he may quit the governing coalition and join the opposition, citing the government’s lack of action on his six-point reforms program for Balochistan.
  • Pres. Ghani is in the UK to attend a Cricket World Cup match and to meet with British officials.
  • Independent Election Commission officials have offered conflicting figures for the current number of new voters registered as part of the IEC voter registration drive. IEC commissioners said they had submitted a $150 million budget for the elections, which exceeds previous cost estimates for the combined presidential, provincial council, and Ghazni parliamentary elections.
  • The Punjab and Sindh provincial governments announced their budget plans for the forthcoming fiscal year on Friday; Khyber Paktunkhwa will announce its budget on Tuesday. Debate in the national assembly on the budget is scheduled to begin Monday after opposition disruptions delayed last Friday’s session.
  • The chairman of Afghanistan’s Central Bank, Khalil Sediq, resigned on Sunday, citing personal health issues.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • New ISI Chief Appointed: On Sunday, the government announced that Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed had been appointed as the new chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency, replacing Lt. Gen. Asim Muneer, who had only held the position since October 2018. Hameed previously played a role in brokering an end to the 2017 Faizabad protests by Tehreek-e-Labbaik activists. Muneer was transferred to become the Gujranwala Corps commander. Three other postings were also announced, for the quarter-master general for the Pakistani army, the adjutant general, and the engineer-in-chief. [Reuters] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Activist Killed: On Sunday, Muhammad Bilal Khan, a blogger and activist, was killed in an attack in Islamabad; a family member was also wounded in the attack. Khan was a public critic of the Pakistani military, most recently including the recent appointment of Lt. Gen. Hameed. [ET]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Arrests: On Friday, Faryal Talpur, former Pres. Zardari’s sister, was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau as part of money laundering investigations against her and Zardari; she was placed under house arrest, and on Saturday a court granted the NAB custody of Talpur for a nine-day period. Sindh assembly speaker Agha Siraj Durrani, who also faces corruption charges, has issued a production order to allow for Talpur to be released on parole to attend a session of the Sindh assembly. Speaking at a press conference after Talpur’s arrest, PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari accused the PTI government of “using blackmail and pressure to run institutions, of which NAB is only one example”, and said they had been arrested to divert attention from the government’s budget. Speaking to reporters on Friday during a court appearance, former Pres. Zardari called on PM Khan to “resign and go home”. The PPP’s Balochistan women’s chapter held protests in Quetta against Talpur’s arrest on Saturday. [Reuters] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Opposition Politics: PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz met at the latter’s residence in Lahore on Sunday to discuss joint opposition to the government’s new budget proposal; in a joint statement, they “agreed that the current non-representative government does not represent the people’s true mandate”. Maryam said prior to the meeting that it had received approval from PML-N leaders Nawaz and Shehbaz Sharif. PTI government spokeswoman Firdous Ashiq Awan said that “both the PML-N and the PPP have started the process of transferring politics and property to their next generations and this gathering is a step towards achievement of that goal”. Speaking at a press conference on Friday, BNP-M leader Sardar Akhtar Mengal said that his party was prepared to quit the PTI governing coalition and join the opposition if the latter agreed to support his party’s six-point demands for Balochistan, which he said the PTI had failed to implement; another meeting with opposition representatives is reportedly planned “in the next few days”. On Sunday, Jamaat-e-Islami leader Sirajul Haq said that the JI would hold protests around the country beginning June 23 to protest “IMF slavery”. [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Judicial Inquiry: No details were released on Friday’s from Supreme Judicial Council session reviewing charges against two senior judges have been released; the SJC has reportedly sought responses from the two judges to the charges against them. On Saturday, the SJC said that it was currently hearing 28 pending cases in total, including the two against the judges, which were brought by the government. [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Other Corruption Investigations and Legal Battles: Speaking to reporters on Friday, water minister Faisal Vawda suggested that PM Khan himself would chair the government’s planned commission to investigate its political rivals’ past loan agreements during their tenure in government; Khan chaired a meeting to review plans for the commission on Saturday. On Friday, Punjab Minister for Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries Sibtain Khan was arrested by the NAB on charges related to an illegal contract dating to 2007; he resigned from his position on Saturday. A judicial magistrate refused to accept testimony from a witness against Hamza Shehbaz in a money laundering case after NAB officials refused to vacate the courtroom during his testimony. The NAB filed its opposition to the suspension of Nawaz Sharif’s jail sentence in an Islamabad High Court hearing on Saturday. The NAB reportedly plans to bring charges against former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on charges related to the Qatar liquefied natural gas import agreement. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Debate: Debate in the national assembly over the government’s budget proposal was adjourned on Friday amidst disruptions by opposition members; debate is now scheduled to begin on Monday. Speaking at an event on Saturday, finance advisor Hafeez Shaikh defended the government’s ambitious revenue targets in the next year and the need for an IMF loan agreement. The Express Tribune reports that the government may withdraw its deposits from commercial banks in order to form a single treasury account with the Central Bank, as a condition for the IMF bailout program, although details of the timeline for that transfer are unclear. In comments on Saturday, Federal Minister for Planning Khusro Bhaktiar and finance advisor Shaikh indicated that Pakistan had received approval for a $3.4 billion Asia Development Bank budgetary support loan; in a statement on Sunday, however, the ADB said that the loan agreement had not yet been finalized. Meanwhile on Friday, the Punjab and Sindh provincial governments announced their budgets for the forthcoming fiscal year, the former totaling Rs 2.3 trillion in outlays and the latter Rs 1.2 trillion. Despite moves by the federal government to take over operations of three Karachi hospitals, the Sindh budget still allocates Rs 15 billion for their operation. The Balochistan provincial cabinet will meet on Monday to review their draft budget, and the Khyber Paktunkhwa government will announce its budget on Tuesday. On Friday, the KPK cabinet approved an increase in the retirement age for civil service bureaucrats, from 60 to 63, to reduce pension costs; the federal and Punjab governments are also considering similar proposals. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Polio Crisis: Two new polio cases were reported in Shangla and Bannu over the weekend, bringing the nationwide total so far this year to at least 24. Government officials have dropped plans to bring police cases against parents who refuse vaccinations for their children. [ET]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Foreign Ministry Sources Say Pakistan ‘Won’t Demand CSF Funds’ from US [The Nation]
  • Modi and Khan Have ‘Courtesy Interaction’ at SCO Summit [Dawn]
  • Foreign Minister Qureshi to Visit UK [The Nation]
  • Two Policemen Killed in Karachi [ET] [Dawn]
  • Five Militant Suspects Added to Fourth Schedule Watchlist [Dawn]
  • First Police Station Opened in Wana, South Waziristan [Dawn]
  • Parliamentary Committee on ECP Nominees to Meet Wednesday [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Former Ambassador Ali Jahangir Siddiqui Nominated as Ambassador-at-Large for Investment [Dawn]
  • Council on Common Interests Meeting Scheduled for June 17 [The Nation]
  • FBR Chief Says New Arrest Powers Won’t Be Used, Except ‘When Need Arises’ [ET]
  • Remittances Rise to $2B in May [ET]
  • NEPRA Recommends Power Tariff Hike [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: TOLO reports that another round of US-Taliban talks will take place in Qatar beginning next week. A follow-on meeting in Norway has also reportedly planned, but at least one source reports that the Taliban have declined to participate due to the presence of Pres. Ghani’s chief of staff Salam Rahimi and running mate Amrullah Saleh. Ariana News reports that Ghani is considering appointing Rahimi to head a new “ministry for peace and reconciliation”, potentially replacing the High Peace Council. Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar reportedly led a delegation of Taliban representatives to Beijing over the weekend for a meeting with Chinese officials. Speaking Thursday before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, US Deputy Assistant Secretary Alice Wells said that the U.S. was “working with other donors to develop a post-[peace] settlement economic plan” and “not losing focus on the need to strengthen democratic institutions, include women, and see credible presidential elections in September”. In a TOLO interview, Iran’s ambassador to Afghanistan said that “we agree on the participation of the Taliban in power, but we do not agree with a dominant role for them”. [Khabarnama] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
  • Regional Diplomacy: Pres. Ghani departed on Sunday to visit the UK to observe a Cricket World Cup match between Afghanistan and the UK on Tuesday, and to meet with British officials. Chief Executive Abdullah traveled to Tajikistan on Friday and Saturday to attend a meeting of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia. On Monday, National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib traveled to Russia for a conference of regional security officials. [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [Khabarnama]
  • Election Preparations: Speaking on Sunday, Independent Election Commission officials said that they had submitted a $150 million budget for the upcoming presidential elections, which includes the procurement of biometric voter verification devices that the IEC has previously stated it would not used. TOLO notes that the IEC had previously estimated a total budget for presidential, provincial council, and Ghazni parliamentary elections at $132 million; plans for the latter elections were dropped last month. Ariana News quotes the head of the IEC secretariat reporting that it had registered an additional 32,000 voters in the new voter registration drive, including approximately 1,800 in Ghazni province, where registration was not conducted prior to the parliamentary elections last fall. On Monday, however, IEC chairwoman Hawa Alam Nuristani said that 264,000 new male and 138,000 new female voters had been registered, including 2,059 from Ghazni. Opposition presidential candidates tell Ariana News they will launch a protest against the government’s continuation in office beginning this coming Thursday. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office said that cases against former IEC members related to fraud charges related to the parliamentary elections had been referred to the Supreme Court, which did not offer comment. [TOLO] [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Central Bank Chief Resigns: On Sunday, Afghanistan’s Central Bank governor, Khalil Sediq, resigned from his position, citing personal health issues.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Abdullah Express Concern Over Taliban Prisoner Releases [TOLO]
  • Rahmani Vows to Assume Position as Wolesi Jirga Speaker [TOLO] [Ariana News] [Ariana News]
  • Attorney General’s Office Vows ‘Open Investigation’ into Charges of Sexual Abuse by Govt Officials [Khaama Press]
  • Up to $5B Reportedly Smuggled from Afghanistan to Iran in 2018 [Khaama Press]
  • Turkmenistan Delegation Visits Herat to Discuss TAPI Implementation [TOLO]
  • Ancient Ghazni Fort Tower Collapses [Reuters]
  • Commentary: Slow Preparations for a High-Stakes Election – “With these decisions, the IEC has now officially forsaken its original plan to also hold provincial council elections across the country as well as the pending Wolesi Jirga elections in Ghazni.” [Ali Yawar Adili, AAN]

 

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PPP Plans Protests Against Govt; Ghani and Imran Attend SCO Summit

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  • The National Accountability Bureau issued arrest warrants against former Pres. Zardari’s sister on Friday; on Thursday, Zardari was transferred to a Rawalpindi hospital for what the NAB said was a “routine checkup”. Verbal clashes between government and opposition lawmakers in the national assembly on Friday over Zardari’s arrested disrupted the budget debate, forcing the postponement of the session. The PPP has announced plans to begin a protest movement against the government with a rally in Nawabshah next Friday.
  • Pres. Ghani and PM Khan both attended a Shanghai Cooperation Organzation summit in Kyrgyzstan on Thursday and Friday, holding separate meetings with Presidents Xi and Putin; Ghani also met with PM Modi.
  • In comments to the NYT, anonymous U.S. security officials reiterate concerns over the Islamic State’s presence in Afghanistan and suggest that a peace agreement between the U.S. and Taliban that involves a withdrawal of U.S. forces could allow the group to expand its presence and threaten attacks outside of Afghanistan.
  • Pakistan’s Supreme Judicial Council began hearings on Friday on corruption charges against two senior judges; lawyers groups staged protests outside the court, calling for the withdrawal of those charges.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • South Waziristan Bombing: A Frontier Corps soldier was killed in a roadside bombing in South Waziristan on Friday, the Express Tribune reports.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Arrests: On Friday, the National Accountability Bureau issued arrest warrants for former Pres. Zardari’s sister Faryal Talpur, after the further extension of her bail was denied in an Islambaad High Court ruling at the beginning of the week. Zardari was transferred from NAB custody to the Rawalpindi Institute of Cardiology on Thursday; the NAB said that the transfer was for a “routine checkup”. The PPP’s Sindh chapter announced plans on Thursday to launch a protest movement against the PTI government beginning with a rally in Nawabshah on June 21. Government spokeswoman Firdous Ashiq Awan said Thursday that the government would appoint a chairman within a week to head PM Khan’s proposed new commission to investigate predecessor government’s loan agreements, and said that the arrest of opposition leaders had “improved the country’s image abroad”, adding that “those who have plundered the country and its resources will spend their lives in jails and for them doors to the power corridors have been shut forever”. Former PML-N prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi countered on separate remarks on Thursday that “a high-powered commission should be formed to assess the mental health of the prime minister”. Dawn has more extended quotes from Nawaz Sharif criticizing PM Khan and the government’s investigations of its political opponents. [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Corruption Charges Against Judges: The Supreme Judicial Council began hearings on Friday on charges against two senior judges, Supreme Court Judge Qazi Faez Isa and Sindh High Court judge Karim Khan Agha; no details of the closed-door proceedings have been reported as of this writing. Members of the Pakistan Bar Council and Supreme Court Bar Association held protests outside the court. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Imran at SCO Summit: PM Khan gave an address at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit on Friday, urging investment in Pakistan. He also earlier met separately with Pres. Putin and Pres. Xi, as well as the president of Kyrgyzstan, which is hosting the summit. In an interview with the Russian press, Khan said that Pakistan “hope[s] to deepen our contacts” with Russia and strengthen defense cooperation. [ET] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Debate: Disruptions and verbal clashes between government and opposition lawmakers in the national assembly of Friday postponed debate on the government’s new budget bill. The PPP and other lawmakers protested the absence of former Pres. Zardari from the proceedings, staging a walkout. The PPP has formed a committee to hold talks with the BNP-M and to seek to win its support in opposition to the government’s budget. Meanwhile, the World Bank has approved a $518 million program to support tax revenue collection efforts. Also, the Punjab government will reportedly release its budget for the upcoming fiscal year on Friday, with a total outlay of approximately Rs 2.2 trillion. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Peshawar High Court Suspends Appointment of Three Advisors and Two Aides to Khyber Paktunkhwa Chief Minister [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Sindh Assembly Approves Changes in Police Law [ET]
  • New Polio Case Reported in Shangla [ET]
  • Government Considering Increase in Retirement Age [Dawn]
  • Government to Open Escrow Account in Karkey Rental Power Case [ET]
  • Public Debt Rises Rs 3.9 Trillion During First Ten Months of Fiscal Year [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • ISIS in Afghanistan: Anonymous U.S. officials express concern to the NYT that a US-Taliban peace agreement that involves a substantial withdrawal of U.S. forces could allow the Islamic State’s Afghanistan affiliate to expand its presence, and echo previous reports suggesting that the group is seeking to carry out attacks outside of Afghanistan. US commander Gen. Austin Miller has reportedly formed a Special Operations task force to target ISIS forces in conjunction with Afghan police special forces, which one U.S. defense official suggested “could be the foundation for a counterterrorism force left behind after any peace agreement with the Taliban is reached”.
  • Attacks and Operations: At least nine people were killed in a suicide bombing targeting a police vehicle in Jalalabad on Thursday; no immediate claim of responsibility was reported. NDS chief Masoom Stanekzai and Gen. Miller visited Jalalabad on Thursday to review security in Nangarhar province. Taliban fighters attacked security checkposts in the Bala Balok district in Farah on Thursday; military officials say seven Taliban fighters were killed. A NYT tally for the June 7 – 13 period estimates 70 government security forces and 17 civilians were killed in attacks around the country. [Khabarnama] [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Ghani at SCO Summit: Pres. Ghani met with PM Modi and Pres. Xi at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Kyrgyzstan on Thursday. In his address to the summit on Friday, Ghani said that “without a regional consensus on peace and addressing Taliban’s interdependencies with their supporters, breakthroughs will take time”, and that “although the Afghan war is multi-dimensional, reaching a peace agreement with the Taliban is a key component for the reduction of violence”.
  • Peace Talks: In an Ariana News interview on Thursday, Special Envoy Khalilzad cautioned that “if Iran wants to bring problems to Afghanistan or complicate our efforts for peace we will have a very negative reaction”, but noted support from China, Russia, and Pakistan for the current peace effort. US charges d’affaires Paul Jones met with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Islamabad on Thursday to discuss the Afghan peace process.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Former Football Federation Chief Yet to Be Arrested Despite Warrant [TOLO]
  • Kandahar’s First Solar Plant to be Inaugurated Soon [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Hamza Shehbaz Receives Parole to Attend Assembly Session; Germany to Host Intra-Afghan Talks

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  • Former Pres. Zardari may be released on parole to attend a session of the national assembly on Friday, PPP sources tell the Express Tribune; on Thursday, Punjab assembly speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi issued an order to allow for Hamza Shehbaz to attend the provincial assembly session. On Wednesday, PM Khan chaired a meeting to review plans for the creation of a new inquiry commission to investigate predecessor governments’ foreign loan agreements.
  • German Special Envoy Markus Potzel said Wednesday that Germany was working to facilitate an intra-Afghan meeting that would include representatives from the government and the Taliban, but did not specify a date. In a statement following further meetings with Special Envoy Khalilzad on Wednesday, Pres. Ghani’s office said that there was “regular and continuous information sharing process between” Afghanistan and the U.S. on the peace process.
  • A PTI delegation met with leaders of the BNP-Mengal on Wednesday in an effort to secure its support for the passage of the new budget bill.
  • India’s foreign ministry said Wednesday that PM Modi would bypass Pakistani airspace while traveling to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Kyrgyzstan on Thursday despite receiving overflight permission from Pakistan; Pakistani airspace otherwise remains closed to commercial transit from Indian airspace.
  • In remarks on to reporters on Wednesday, CENTCOM chief Gen. Frank McKenzie said that the Islamic State’s presence in Afghanistan was “very worrisome” and that the group had “aspirations” to attack the United States, but “as long as we maintain pressure on them it will be hard for them to do that.”

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: Despite receiving permission from Pakistan to transit its airspace, PM Modi will avoid traveling over Pakistan while en route to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Kyrgyzstan on Thursday, India’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday. Pakistani airspace remains closed to commercial flights transiting from Indian airspace. An anonymous Pakistani foreign ministry source expressed disappointment to The Nation that India would “ignore our goodwill gesture”; a spokesman for the ministry said that it was “up to India what route it decides to use”.
  • Army Commanders Meet: Chief of Army Staff Bajwa chaired a two-day meeting of the Annual Formation Commanders’ Conference, which concluded on Wednesday; he was quoted praising the military’s response during the February border crisis with India. [Dawn] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Arrests: PPP lawmakers in the national and Sindh assemblies continue to the release of former Pres. Zardari after his arrest earlier this week; anonymous PPP sources tell the Express Tribune that national assembly speaker Asad Qaiser has pledged to issue a production order on Friday to allow for Zardari’s release on parole to attend assembly sessions. On Thursday, Punjab assembly speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi issued a production order to allow for the release of PML-N opposition leader Hamza Shehbaz. Charges have been filed against PPP and PML-N activists following protests earlier this week against Zardari and Hamza’s arrests. Speaking at a rally in Narowal on Wednesday, PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz denounced PM Khan, suggesting there was “one law for rich and poor and [another] for the selected PM”. Nawaz Sharif met with supporters in jail on Thursday, and was quoted saying that Khan’s “incompetence has brought the country to the edge of destruction.” [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Altaf Released on Bail: London police released MQM leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain on bail on Wednesday; his residences were searched following his arrest on hate speech charges related to a 2016 speech. Dawn reports that police currently have “insufficient evidence to charge him with a crime” but that the investigation is ongoing. [ET]
  • Other Corruption Investigations and Legal Battles: PM Khan chaired a meeting on Wednesday to review his proposal for the creation of a new investigation commission to probe previous governments’ “misuse of loans” and the increase in Pakistan’s foreign debts. Shehbaz Sharif made a court appearance on Thursday in two corruption cases against him. A meeting of the Pakistan Bar Council on Wednesday reiterated calls for the Supreme Judicial Council to quash charges against two senior judges; former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry also wrote to the SJC to urge it to reject the charges. [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Debate: A PTI delegation led by defense minister Pervaiz Khattak met with leaders of the BNP-M on Wednesday in an effort to secure their support in the vote for the upcoming fiscal year budget. The Punjab and Sindh governments will announce their budget proposals in sessions on Friday. Dawn notes several proposed amendments to strengthen the Federal Board of Revenue’s powers to pursue tax evasion through offshore accounts. [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • PM Khan to Attend SCO Summit [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Chief of Naval Staff Meets with CENTCOM Navy Commander [The Nation]
  • FIA Seeks to Drop Asghar Khan Case Investigation [Dawn]
  • Parliamentary Committee Meets on ECP Members’ Appointment [ET] [The Nation]
  • TV Channel Fined Over Previous Broadcast of Purported Audio of NAB Chairman [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • ISIS in Afghanistan: In remarks to reporters on Wednesday, US CENTCOM chief Gen. Frank McKenzie said that the presence of the Islamic State in Afghanistan was “very worrisome” and that it “certainly has aspirations to attack the United States” but said that “it is our clear judgment that as long as we maintain pressure on them it will be hard for them to do that.”
  • Attacks and Operations: Six Afghan soldiers were killed in an apparent friendly fire clash with U.S. forces in Kunduz on Tuesday, the Washington Post reports; details of the incident remain limited. Herat provincial police claim to have killed 20 Taliban fighters in an operation in the Obe district on Thursday. Afghan special forces reportedly killed 19 Taliban fighters in an operation in the Khawaja Gar district in Takhar. Military officials in Kunar said that they had killed three Pakistani terrorists in artillery strikes targeting a Lashkar-e-Taiba compound in the Asmar district on Wednesday. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khabarnama]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: Speaking at a press conference in Kabul on Wednesday, German Special Envoy Markus Potzel said that Germany was “willing to facilitate intra-Afghan talks” and that a meeting including participants from both the Afghan government and the Taliban was being planned; he did not specify a date. Pres. Ghani met with Special Envoy Khalilzad and a group of Afghan politicians on Wednesday, issuing a statement afterwards saying that there was “regular and continuous information sharing process between” Afghanistan and the U.S. on the peace process and also noting Germany’s role as a facilitator. Khalilzad and U.S. Ambassador John Bass also met with presidential candidate Hanif Atmar on Wednesday. In remarks on Wednesday, Chief Executive Abdullah blamed Taliban opposition to engaging in talks with the government as the “main reason behind the continuation of violence in the country”. [Ariana News]
  • Prisoner Releases: A government spokesman said Thursday that at least 490 Taliban prisoners had been freed since Pres. Ghani issued orders commuting the sentences of 887 inmates on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr. Presidential candidate and former NDS chief Rahmatullah Nabil criticized the releases earlier this week. [Khabarnama]
  • Election Preparations: The Electoral Complaints Commission has begun registering complaints related to the current voter registration drive, which will continue through June 29. [Ariana News] [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ghani Departs to Attend SCO Summit [Khabarnama]
  • Farid Popalzai Appointed as Representative to Saudi-Backed Counter-Terrorism Coalition [Khabarnama]
  • Commentary: Delivering Public Services in Insurgency-Affected Andar District in Ghazni – “The Afghan government continues to provide education and health services despite the fact that all of Andar’s government offices have relocated to Ghazni city, while the Taleban supervise their work.” [Fazal Muzhary, AAN]

 

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Imran Vows to Pursue Anti-Corruption Investigations; Khalilzad Meets Range of Afghan Leaders

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  • In a late Tuesday night address, PM Khan announced his intention to form a “high-power enquiry commission” to investigate previous governments’ increases in the national debt; on Wednesday, Khan said it was “time for [the] nation to stop glorifying money launderers who have damaged our nation and impoverished our people”. The PPP and PML-N held protests on Tuesday following the arrests earlier this week of former Pres. Zardari and Hamza Shehbaz, and opposition leaders will reportedly meet in the last week of June to plan a joint strategy.
  • The PTI government unveiled its budget for the new fiscal year on Tuesday, which withdraws several tax exemptions in an effort to boost revenues; defense spending is flat in nominal terms, and debt servicing and repayment remains at around 40% of the total expenditure.
  • Special Envoy Khalilzad held meetings with Afghan women leaders, Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor, and High Peace Council secretariat chief Umer Daudzai as part of his current trip to Kabul. Pres. Ghani also met with German special envoy Markus Potzel on Tuesday.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Protests Arrests: In a late Tuesday night address to the nation, after the announcement of the government’s new budget plan, PM Khan reiterated his commitment to pursue corruption investigations against his political rivals, saying he would form a “a high-powered enquiry commission with a one-point agenda: how did they raise the debt to Rs24,000bn in 10 years?” On Wednesday, Khan said that it was “time for [the] nation to stop glorifying money launderers who have damaged our nation and impoverished our people and now seeking refuge behind ‘democracy’.” His remarks follow the earlier arrest of former Pres. Zardari, Hamza Shehbaz, and in the UK, MQM leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain. The PPP and PML-N held separate protests across Sindh and in Lahore on Tuesday; no major protests were reported in Karachi by the MQM. On Wednesday, an accountability court granted the National Accountability Bureau custody of Hamza Shehbaz for a 15-day period. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman said that the opposition parties would meet in a conference in the last week of June to discuss protest plans against the PTI government. [Reuters] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Elections: On Wednesday, the Election Commission approved the postponement of provincial assembly elections in the former FATA districts to July 20 instead of July 2, as sought by the provincial government.

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Lawyers Condemn Charges Against Supreme Court Judge [ET] [ET]
  • Special Court Rejects Musharraf Plea to Adjourn Treason Case [Dawn] [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: Special Envoy Khalilzad met with High Peace Council secretariat chief Umer Daudzai on Wednesday; Daudzai also met separately with EU Special Envoy Roland Kobia. Pres. Ghani also met with German special envoy Markus Potzel in Kabul on Tuesday. On Tuesday, Khalilzad visited Balkh and met with former governor Atta Mohammad Noor and second deputy chief executive Mohammad Mohaqiq; Khalilzad was quoted saying that if there was “a peace which creates an environment where there is no need for the US mission here and the assurance that threat will not be staged from Afghanistan against the US, and the Afghans will not want the US to stay here, in that case, the US is ready to leave Afghanistan”. Khalilzad met with Afghan women leaders earlier on Monday. Speaking at a ceremony in Herat on Monday, NATO Resolute Support deputy commander Lt. Gen. Salvatore Camporeale said that “the continuous combined military, diplomatic and social pressure on the Taliban is necessary for peace and reconciliation to become a reality in Afghanistan. There is no military solution and the only possible way is a political settlement”.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Iran and Afghanistan Sign MOU on Peace Nuclear Energy Cooperation [Khaama Press]
  • Afghan Senators Question Taliban Prisoner Releases [Khabarnama] [Khaama Press]
  • Habibullah Ahmadzai Summoned by Attorney General’s Office Over Abuse Charges [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Zardari, Hamza Shehbaz, and Altaf Hussain Arrested; Intel Officials Warn of ISIS Threat

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Topline

  • Former Pres. Zardari was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau on Monday after the Islamabad High Court rejected the extension of his bail; the PPP held protests in Sindh in response and has announced plans for further nationwide protests. On Tuesday, the NAB arrested PML-N leader Hamza Shehbaz after his bail extension was denied by the Lahore High Court.
  • Also on Tuesday, UK police arrested MQM leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain on hate speech charges dating to a 2016 speech.
  • Anonymous U.S. and Afghan intelligence officials tell the AP that the Islamic States’ presence in Afghanistan is expanding and that the group is planning on staging attacks on targets in Europe and the United States from Afghanistan.
  • At least 65 out 458 planned voter registration centers have been closed due to security threats, and registration materials have only been distributed to two districts in Ghazni, Independent Election Commission officials reported on Monday.
  • The Pakistani finance ministry released its annual survey of the economy on Monday, ahead of the announcement of the government’s budget for the forthcoming fiscal year, which is scheduled for later today.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Zardari Arrested: Former Pres. Zardari was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau on Monday after the Islamabad High Court rejected an extension of his bail; on Tuesday, an Islamabad accountability court approved an 11-day period for Zardari’s custody with the NAB. Some PPP activists held protest demonstrations in several Sindh districts and in Lahore shortly afterwards; a meeting of the party’s central leadership called for a nationwide protest, but did not specify a date. A province-wide protest is also planned in Sindh on Tuesday. Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari called for the resignation of the national assembly speaker and deputy speaker for blocking discussion over his father’s arrest in the assembly, and accused the PTI government of carrying out the arrest to distract from its “IMF-prepared anti-people budget”, which is due to be released on Tuesday. PML-N leaders Shehbaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz also criticized Zardari’s arrest; Foreign Minister Qureshi denied charges that the NAB’s actions were politically motivated or influenced by the government. [NYT] [WSJ] [AFP] [Reuters] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Hamza Shehbaz Arrested: On Tuesday, PML-N leader Hamza Shehabz was also arrested by the NAB after the Lahore High Court denied his bail plea, as part of investigations into his assets. [Dawn]
  • Altaf Hussain Arrested: London police arrested MQM leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain on Tuesday on hate speech charges dating to 2016, when a speech by Hussain had sparked a riot by MQM activists in Karachi and subsequent crackdown on the party. [ET] [The Nation]
  • Other Corruption Investigations and Legal Battles: On Monday, the NAB also arrested the former head of the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority, Syed Insaf Ahmed, on charges related to the misuse of authority and corruption dating to 2007. The Islamabad High Court will hear a petition from Nawaz Sharif for bail on medical grounds on Tuesday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Elections: Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial officials will meet with Election Commission officials on Wednesday to discuss their request to postpone provincial assembly elections in the former FATA districts. Several candidates in the Bajaur district condemned the proposed delay at a press conference on Monday. On Tuesday, Shehbaz Sharif reportedly sent a revised list to PM Khan of nominees to fill two ECP vacancies.

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Planning: The Pakistani finance ministry released its annual survey of the economy on Monday, ahead of the announcement of the budget for the new fiscal year, which is scheduled for later today. The government reported a 3.29% GDP growth rate for the outgoing 2018-19 fiscal year (compared to 5.8% growth in the year prior), flat tax revenue collection, and a contraction in the trade deficit as both imports and exports fell. Inflation averaged 7% over the July-April period, compared to 3.77% the preceding year. Remittances grew 8.45% and foreign direct investment fell by more than 50%, to $1.37 billion. Total public debt rose to Rs 28.6 trillion for the July – March period, driven in part by the depreciation of the rupee. PM Khan reviewed the provincial budgets for Punjab and Khyber Paktunkhwa at meetings on Monday; Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah accused the central government of a Rs 140 billion shortfall in revenue transfers for the outgoing fiscal year. [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan’s Tribal Areas are Still Waiting for Justice as Army Tightens Grip [NYT]
  • National Assembly Law Committee Approves Whistleblower Law [ET]
  • Lahore High Court to Hear Couple’s Appeal of Blasphemy Sentence [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • ISIS in Afghanistan: An anonymous U.S. intelligence official tells the AP that the Islamic State’s recent attacks in Kabul are “practice runs for even bigger attacks in Europe and the United States”; despite a years-long campaign against its affiliate in Nangarhar province, the group is reported to have expanded its presence to the provinces of Kunar, Nuristan, and Laghman.
  • Attacks and Operations: Defense Minister Asadullah Khalid and US and NATO commander Gen. Scott Miller visited Farah province on Monday to review security there; provincial police announced Tuesday that they had killed twelve Taliban fighters in operations on the outskirts of the provincial capital. Afghan security forces reportedly rescued 47 prisoners from two separate Taliban prison facilities in Baghlan’s Baghlan-e-Markzai district and the Aaqtash district in Kunduz over Monday night. Six civilians were killed in a roadside bombing in the Dand district in Kandahar on Tuesday morning. [AP] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khabarnama] [Ariana News] [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Elections: 65 voter registration centers out of 458 planned have been closed due to security threats, Independent Election Commission officials report; in Ghazni province, registration materials have reportedly only been sent to the Malistan and Jaghori districts. Opposition presidential candidates continue to threaten protests against the government over its continued tenure in office.
  • Prisoner Releases: At least 170 Taliban fighters were released from Pul-e-Charki prison on Monday and another 130 will reportedly be released on Tuesday as part of an amnesty announced by Pres. Ghani timed to the Eid holidays.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghan and Pakistani Officials Meet to Reset Ties [ET] [Dawn]
  • India Pledges 1000 More Scholarships for Afghan Students [Khaama Press]
  • Parliament Still Deadlocked Over Speaker’s Election [TOLO] [Ariana News]
  • Ministry of Interior Finalizes Food Service Contract Case [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Shehbaz Sharif Returns to Pakistan; Khalilzad Meets Ghani

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Topline

  • Shehbaz Sharif returned to Pakistan on Sunday after two months in London, and will lead a meeting of PML-N legislators on Monday to discuss the party’s strategy in response to the PTI government’s new budget for the forthcoming fiscal year, which PM Khan reviewed plans for on Sunday.
  • On Monday, the Islamabad High Court denied a petition for an extension of former Pres. Zardari’s bail, clearing the National Accountability Bureau to act on arrest warrants against him, which have not been carried out as of this writing.
  • Special Envoy Khalilzad arrived in Kabul on Sunday and held meetings with Pres. Ghani. In a TOLO interview prior to Khalilzad’s arrival, National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib defended his previous public criticisms of Khalilzad and said that the U.S. “can talk on a number of topics but they cannot talk on issues which [belong] to the Afghan government”.
  • Members of the Helmand People’s Peace March say that Taliban commanders they met with last week reiterated their opposition to a ceasefire agreement and “insisted that an intra-Afghan dialogue is impossible without a timetable for troop withdrawal”.
  • Three Pakistani army officers and a soldier were killed in a bombing in North Waziristan on Friday; on Monday, district officials imposed a ban on public gatherings in the district. The Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial government has formally requested a delay for provincial assembly elections in the former FATA districts until July 25, citing security disruptions.
  • The Afghan Independent Election Commission began a new voter registration drive on Saturday in advance of the presidential elections.
  • On Saturday, FIFA issued a lifetime ban from the sport against Keramuddin Keram, the former head of the Afghanistan Football Federation, in connection to allegations of abuse and sexual assault against members of the Afghan women’s soccer team, prompting the Afghan Attorney General’s Office to issue an arrest warrant against him.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • North Waziristan Attack: Three Pakistani army officers and a junior soldier were killed in a roadside bombing in North Waziristan on Friday, the Pakistani military announced; the attack came near the site of a clash with Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement activists last month, but no claim of responsibility was reported. On Monday, district officials imposed a ban on public gatherings in North Waziristan. [ET] [The Nation]
  • Balochistan Bombings: At least five Shiite tourists, three from Karachi and two from Quetta, were killed in separate bomb attacks in the Ziarat district in Balochistan on Friday evening; no claim of responsibility was reported. [AP] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Tensions with India: PM Khan has reportedly sent his counterpart PM Modi a letter renewing calls for a bilateral dialogue between the two countries. [ET]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Politics: Shehbaz Sharif returned to Pakistan on Sunday morning after two months abroad in London; the PML-N’s spokeswoman said that Shehbaz’s return meant that “the leeway given to Imran Khan ends and his time to worry now begins”. Shehbaz will chair a meeting of PML-N legislators to discuss the party’s strategy during the upcoming parliamentary budget session. On Saturday, Maryam Nawaz called for “round-the-clock monitoring” of Nawaz Sharif’s medical condition after being allowed to visit with him. PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will also chair a separate meeting of his party’s leadership on Monday. The ANP also launched protests in Khyber Paktunkhwa beginning Sunday; Jamaat-e-Islami leader Liaqat Baloch said his party would not join an opposition alliance but would hold its own protests against the government. At a press conference on Sunday, government spokeswoman Firdous Ashiq Awan warned that “the opposition parties will not be allowed to create chaos in the guise of protest.” [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • FATA Elections Delay: The Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial government has formally requested the postponement of provincial assembly elections in the former FATA districts, which are currently scheduled for July 2, until July 25; government officials cited concerns over “threats of [a] serious nature from across the border, and some developments within [the] newly merged districts [that] may sabotage the whole process of holding forthcoming elections.” [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: On Monday, the Islamabad High Court rejected a bail extension for former Pres. Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur in the money laundering case against them, allowing the National Accountability Bureau to act on arrest orders against them. Speaking during a trip to Cambridge University on Sunday, Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said that the Supreme Judicial Council would deal with charges against two senior judges “fairly”, and reasserted the SJC’s authority over any disciplinary actions against the judiciary. A meeting of the Pakistan Bar Council has endorsed a strike action for June 14, the day that the SJC is scheduled to hold hearings on the charges against judges Qazi Faez Isa and Karim Khan Agha; a separate group of lawyers split with the council to endorse the government’s actions. [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: Speaking to reporters on Friday, Foreign Minister Qureshi denied any interest in assuming the position of prime minister. Former PTI minister Aleem Khan will reportedly rejoin the Punjab cabinet with the planning ministry portfolio after being granted bail in a corruption case last month. A petition was filed with the Election Commission on Monday seeking the disqualification of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement leaders Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar.

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Planning: PM Khan chaired a meeting on Sunday to review preparations for the new fiscal year budget, which the government is planning to unveil on June 11. In comments on Saturday, Khan said that the government was “striving to cut maximum expenditures in the upcoming budget by adopting austerity measures”. Dawn reports that defense spending will be frozen for the new fiscal year, after earlier reports that the military had agreed to a “voluntary cut”. Talks between the government and textile exporters over the withdrawal of special tax exemptions reportedly broke down on Saturday. The Azad Jammu and Kashmi assembly passed its budget on Sunday. In a nationally televised speech on Monday, Khan reiterated calls for citizens to declare their assets through the tax amnesty program that runs through the end of the month, and warned of punitive measures afterwards; the Express Tribune reports that the government plans to hike rates and penalties for those who fail to file income taxes. [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Concerns Over New Plans to Monitor Online Traffic [Dawn]
  • Protests Outside Pakistani Embassy in Kabul Over Visas; Foreign Ministry Denies Disruptions [ET] [The Nation]
  • Police and Protestors Clash in Umerkot Village [Dawn]
  • Power Distribution Privatization Plans Shelved [ET] [ET]
  • Army Chief Visits Mecca [ET] [The Nation]
  • Former Senator Allama Abbas Kumaili Passes Away [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: Special Envoy Khalilzad arrived in Kabul on Sunday evening, and met with Pres. Ghani; he said in a tweet that “as Afghan peace process talks continue to progress, we agreed preparation for intra-Afghan negotiations now is essential”. In a TOLO interview, National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib defended his previous public criticism of Khalilzad, and said that the U.S. “can talk on a number of topics but they cannot talk on issues which [belong] to the Afghan government”; he also said that “the conflict in Afghanistan will not end unless we talk [with the] Taliban’s sponsor”. Members of the Helmand People’s Peace March report that the Taliban rebuffed their requests for a ceasefire agreement during meetings last week, and “insisted that an intra-Afghan dialogue is impossible without a timetable for troop withdrawal”; the NYT interviews some of the marchers on their conversations with the Taliban. In a letter to the State Department, several members of Congress urged Khalilzad to “protect Afghan women’s negotiation position and hard-won gains in all discussions with the Taliban”. [Khabarnama] [Ariana News]
  • Talks with Pakistan: Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Idrees Zaman visited Islamabad on Monday for talks with his Pakistani counterpart through the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity framework.
  • Election Preparations: On Saturday, the Independent Election Commission launched a new voter registration drive for the upcoming presidential elections. A commissioner acknowledged that the IEC has no current plans to spend $23 million allocated to raise public awareness about the elections. [TOLO] [Ariana News] [Ariana News]
  • Former Soccer Federation Chief Barred: On Saturday, FIFA issued a lifetime ban from the sport against Keramuddin Keram, the former head of the Afghanistan Football Federation, in connection to allegations of abuse and sexual assault against members of the Afghan women’s soccer team. US Ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass welcomed the move. On Sunday, the Afghan Attorney General’s office issued an arrest warrant against Keram. [WAPO]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Attorney General’s Office Issues Arrest Warrant Against Habibullah Ahmadzai [Khabarnama]
  • US Deputy Assistant Secretary Jackson Meets Defense Minister Khalid [Ariana News]
  • Interior Ministry Seeks More Time to Investigate Senate Speaker’s Former Aide [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Civilians at Greater Risk from Pro-Government Forces – “Pro-government forces are now responsible for more civilian harm than the Taleban and other non-state groups. The latest data may also point to fewer measures to protect civilians under the Trump administration.” [Rachel Reid and Jelena Bjelica, AAN]
  • Commentary: Talking to the Taliban with the Wrong Assumptions: The Conundrum of Afghan Peace – “Unless the United States corrects course to see the Taliban as they are rather than as what the United States prefers them to be, the peace process will either miserably fail or come at a staggering cost in an intensified and renewed conflict.” [Moh. Sayed Madadi, War on the Rocks]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Peace Marchers Say ‘Good Messages’ from Taliban Meeting; Soldiers Killed in Balochistan

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Topline

  • Members of the Helmand People’s Peace March were released after several days; a spokesman for the group said they had been in talks with Taliban representatives, not kidnapped as some previous reports had suggested, and had received “good messages”.
  • Two Frontier Corps soldiers were killed in an attack in Balochistan’s Harnai district on Thursday; no claim of responsibility was reported.
  • A spokesman for India’s foreign ministry said Thursday that PM Modi had no plans to meet with PM Khan on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Kyrgyzstan next week.
  • Afghanistan’s interior ministry announced that they had retaken control of the Khwaja Omari district in Ghazni on Friday, which the Taliban had held for much of the past year.
  • The news is limited as Pakistan and Afghanistan continue to celebrate Eid.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Balochistan Attack: Two Frontier Corps soldiers were killed in an attack in Balochistan’s Harnai district on Thursday, the Pakistani military announced; it did not provide further details on the incident, and no claim of responsibility has been reported. Dawn reports the attack was a roadside bombing, while the AP reports it was a shooting.
  • PTM Crackdown: Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement leader Mohsin Dawar was transferred to the Peshawar Central Prison on Friday after a Bannu anti-terrorism court rejected an appeal by the police Counter-Terrorism Department to extend his remand in their custody. [ET]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • No Meeting of Prime Ministers at SCO: On Thursday, India’s foreign ministry spokesman said that no meeting was planned between PM Modi and PM Khan at the upcoming Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Kyrgyzstan on June 13-14.
  • Other Political Activity: On Friday, PML-N spokeswoman Marriyum Aurangzeb denounced restrictions on the family of Nawaz Sharif being allowed to meet him in jail over the Eid period. Senior PPP leaders will meet in Islamabad on June 10 to discuss plans for protests against the government. On Friday, PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira said that the PPP “has no intention of toppling the government” and wants it to “correct itself” in response to opposition protests.

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Information Minister Criticizes Fawad Chaudhry’s Announcement of Eid-ul Azha Date [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: On Friday, the ministry of interior announced that Afghan security forces had retaken control of the Khwaja Omari district in Ghazni province, which the Taliban had held for much of the past year. A spokesman for the ministry also claimed that at least 35 planned attacks in Kabul had been disrupted over the Eid period, and another 70 around the country. On Thursday, Afghan special forces announced that they had freed a prisoner from another Taliban prison in Paktia’s Zurmat district. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: Members of the Helmand Peace March who had been detained by the Taliban earlier this week were released unharmed on Thursday; a spokesman for the group said that they had been engaged in talks and not kidnapped, and that they had “come back with some good messages and we will brief the media [on Friday] about all the details, including who we met and what we talked about”.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Opium Cultivation Remains Entrenched [Reuters]
  • FIFA Aware of Afghan Football Official Sexual Abuse Allegations Two Years Ago [Guardian]