Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Imran Khan Takes Office as PM; Ghani Announces New Conditional Ceasefire

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Topline

  • Imran Khan was elected prime minister in the national assembly on Friday and sworn into office on Saturday. His new cabinet – which includes many former ministers from the Musharraf government – was sworn in on Monday. In an address to the nation on Sunday, Imran emphasized a program of austerity, anti-corruption, tax reforms, and poverty reduction. The PTI also announced the nomination of Sardar Usman Buzdar as Punjab chief minister; he was elected in a vote on Sunday.
  • Pres. Ghani announced a new conditional ceasefire with the Taliban on Sunday, which he said could be extended through November provided the Taliban reciprocates. Taliban leaders have not yet responded, and on Monday Ghani directed Afghan security forces to continue their operations “until a positive response has been received”. In an Eid message released Saturday, Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhunzada reiterated calls for direct talks with the United States on the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, which he said was a requirement for peace.
  • The PTI will nominate Arif Alvi for the indirect elections for the presidency of Pakistan on September 4; the PPP has announced its intention to nominate Aitzaz Ahsan. PPP legislators abstained from supporting the PML-N candidates in the vote for the prime minister and Punjab chief minister; the PML-N in turn has nominated its own candidate for senate opposition leader.
  • Speaking on Monday, new Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi expressed a desire for dialogue with India and Pakistan; US Secretary of State Pompeo is also reportedly planning a visit to Pakistan during the first week of September.
  • Aid workers regained access to Ghazni on Sunday and began resupplying hospitals; UN officials have warned of threats against aid workers, and called on the Taliban and other parties to the conflict not to target them.
  • NBC reports that Pres. Trump has expressed “renewed interest” in a plan from former Blackwater founder Erik Prince to replace US forces in Afghanistan with private security contractors, although a NSC spokesman denied that the proposal was under consideration.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: A Pakistani man was killed and at least two others injured in an exchange of fire across the Line of Control on Saturday; Pakistan’s foreign ministry formally protested the incident. Newly sworn in foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told reporters on Monday that Indian PM Modi had sent a letter to Imran Khan expressing interest in renewed talks between the two countries; Qureshi also said that he planned to “visit Kabul with a positive message”. Indian and Pakistani forces are taking part in a joint Shanghai Cooperation Organization military exercise in Russia this week. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Attorney General Khalid Javed Khan Resigns [ET]
  • Caretaker Finance Minister Meets FATF Delegation [ET]
  • IHC Judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui Challenges Supreme Judicial Council Inquiry into Speech [ET]
  • Peshawar High Court Dismisses Five Lower Court Judges on Misconduct Charges [ET] [ET]
  • Rao Anwar Permitted to Travel Outside Karachi for Eid; Investigating Officer Skips Trial [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Musharraf Demands High Security as Condition for Appearing in Treason Trial [Dawn] [ET]
  • PPP Activist Killed in Tharparkar; Two PTI Activists Killed in Larkana [ET] [The Nation]
  • PIA Chief Operations Officer Fired [Dawn] [ET]
  • Army Chief Meets with Christian Community Leaders [Dawn] [ET]
  • Commentary: Pakistan Economic Turmoil Threatens China’s Ambitions – “CPEC’s excesses—including its opaque terms, its reliance on sovereign guarantees, and the long-term debt burden these projects could impose on Pakistan—actually put the whole Chinese project at risk.” [James Schwemlein, Foreign Policy]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • UN Warns of Threats Against Aid Workers, Civilians: In remarks on Saturday during a visit to a hospital in Kabul, UN humanitarian coordinator Toby Lanzer called on the Taliban and other parties to the conflict in Afghanistan to “respect the work of aid agencies”. Aid agencies began delivering assistance to Ghazni city on Saturday after last week’s fighting. UN officials separately confirmed that 40 civilians had been killed, most of them young men and women, in Wednesday’s attack on a school in western Kabul, and another 67 wounded. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
  • US Strategy: NBC reports that Pres. Trump has shown “renewed interest” in proposals from Blackwater founder Erik Prince to replace most US forces in Afghanistan with private military contractors; a spokesperson for the National Security Council denied that Prince’s proposal was under consideration.
  • Tensions with Pakistan: In a statement on Friday, Pakistan’s army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa disputed Afghan reports that Pakistan had provided medical care to Taliban fighters taking part in the fighting in Ghazni, and “expresse[d] deep concern on recent surge in violence inside Afghanistan and loss of precious innocent lives”. The Pakistani foreign ministry also rejected those allegations. [ET] [ET] [Khaama Press]
  • Attacks and Operations: On Friday, Pres. Ghani promoted the Ghazni police chief, Farid Ahmad Mashal, to the rank of brigadier general. Taliban fighters seized control of the Bulcheragh district in Faryab on Saturday evening, at least forty Afghan soldiers have reportedly surrendered to the Taliban. As many as 170 people were reportedly taken hostage after their buses were stopped on the Takhar-Kunduz highway on Monday morning; the ministry of interior subsequently reported that all but 21 had been released. A police officer was wounded in a magnetic bombing planted on his vehicle in western Kabul on Sunday. The Taliban shadow district governor for Parwan’s Sayed Khel was reportedly killed in a clash in the Shinwari district on Friday evening. [Reuters] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Ghani Announces Provisional Ceasefire: Pres. Ghani met with representatives of the High Peace Council, Ulema Council, and other political leaders on Saturday and said that he would push for a nationwide “bilateral” ceasefire with the Taliban. On Sunday, Ghani announced that he would institute another ceasefire, effective from Monday, and that it would continue through the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday in late November, “provided that the Taliban reciprocate”. In a separate statement on Sunday, Chief Executive Abdullah emphasized that the ceasefire would require Taliban cooperation and would not be “unilateral”. The Taliban have not officially responded as of this writing; anonymous Taliban sources had previously told Ariana News that the Taliban might announce a ceasefire on Monday. After a security review on Monday, Ghani ordered Afghan security forces to continue operations against the Taliban “until a positive response has been received”. on Monday, In an Eid-ul Adha message released on Saturday, Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhunzada reiterated demands that foreign military forces withdraw from Afghanistan, and proposed talks with the United States “rather than using force”. In a statement on Sunday, US Sec. Pompeo welcomed the ceasefire announcement and said that “this plan responds to the clear and continued call of the Afghan people for peace.” Pakistan also endorsed the government’s ceasefire offer. Ghani spoke by phone earlier on Saturday with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz and with King Salman. Earlier on Friday, the Taliban announced that a delegation from the group’s Qatar office had held talks with senior officials in Indonesia earlier in the week, following similar meetings in Uzbekistan earlier in the month. [AP] [NYT] [WSJ] [Reuters] [WAPO] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [TOLO] [WAPO]
  • Independence Day Celebration: Pres. Ghani marked Afghanistan’s 99th independence anniversary from Britain on Sunday at a ceremony in Kabul attended by many other leading politicians. [Khaama Press] [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • TAPI Project: Officials working on the TAPI gas pipeline project tell TOLO approximately 45% of the land acquisition necessary for the project has been completed, but say that land disputes have delayed further purchases.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Who’s Winning the War in Afghanistan? Depends on Which One [NYT]
  • Customs Dispute Blocks Trade in Animals with Pakistan Ahead of Eid [Dawn]
  • Afghanistan Cuts Tariffs on Indian Exports [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Hitting Gardez: A Vicious Attack on Paktia’s Shias – “Sectarian attacks are on the rise in Afghanistan, with Shia Muslim mosques, gatherings and neighbourhoods being targeted.” [Fabrizio Foschini, AAN]
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Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Voting Underway for New PM; Ghani Visits Ghazni After Past Week’s Fighting

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  • Voting is underway as of this writing for the election of Pakistan’s new prime minister. The PPP announced Thursday they would not support Shehbaz Sharif’s candidacy for the position, which Imran Khan is expected to win. At least 12 PML-N provincial assembly legislators defected during Thursday’s vote for the Punjab provincial assembly speaker; the party reportedly plans to enforce anti-defection rules and seek the disqualification of any party member who does not support Shehbaz in the vote for prime minister.
  • Pres. Ghani visited Ghazni on Friday to review the security situation after the past week of fighting; he has reportedly directed the NDS to conduct an investigation into the Taliban attacks on the city. Afghan Chamber of Commerce officials estimated that the fighting inflicted at least $50 million in losses and damages; the full death toll from the fighting is still being assessed.
  • On Friday, a Karachi banking court issued new arrest warrants against former Pres. Zardari in the money laundering case against him; a lawyer for Zardari disputed that those warrants had in fact been issued, however.
  • The ECP has announced that by-elections for vacant national and provincial assembly seats will be held on October 14, with candidate nominations due by August 30.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Prime Minister Elections: Voting is underway as of this writing in the national assembly for the new prime minister’s position, with Imran Khan facing off against Shehbaz Sharif; on Thursday, the PPP indicated they would not support Shehbaz’s bid for the position, which PML-N leaders attributed to mounting legal pressures against former Pres. Zardari. The PTI coalition’s numerical superiority should ensure Imran’s election, the Express Tribune reports that the PML-N intends to seek the disqualification of any party member who fails to back Shehbaz’s candidacy under anti-defection laws. The Nation reports that Imran will likely retain the interior ministry portfolio in the new cabinet; the MQM-Pakistan is reportedly seeking at least one federal ministry. PTI leader Arif Alvi is also reportedly a leading contender for the presidency when elections are held next month. [WSJ] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Provincial Assembly Elections: At least 12 PML-N provincial assembly legislators did not vote for the party’s nominee for Punjab assembly speaker during Thursday’s election. PML-N leader Hamza Shehbaz denounced the elections as having been rigged. PML-Q leader Chaudhry Pervez Elahi was elected to the speakership in a 201-147 vote; in Balochistan, Mir Abdul Quddos Bizenjo of the BAP was elected speaker. Elections for the Punjab chief minister’s position will be held Sunday. The PTI has nominated former information minister Shah Farman to become the new Khyber Paktunkhwa governor. New KPK chief minister Mahmood Khan took the oath of office on Friday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: On Friday, a Karachi banking court issued non-bailable arrest warrants against former Pres. Zardari and other associates implicated in a money laundering scam; a lawyer for Zardari denied that the warrants had been issued, however. Separately, the Islamabad High Court fined National Accountability Bureau prosecutors for “wasting the court’s time” with adjournment motions in the petition from the Sharif family challenging their convictions. Nawaz Sharif was allowed to meet with visitors on Thursday. [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Other Elections and Political Activity: On Friday, the ECP announced that by-elections for vacant national and provincial assembly seats would be held October 14; nominations are due by August 30, and a final list of candidates to be published September 15. In a ruling on Friday, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar ordered that overseas Pakistani nationals be allowed to vote in the by-elections as part of a pilot project. [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Army Chief Approves Death Sentences for 15 Convicted in Military Courts [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Chief Justice Threatens to Bar Jang Group from Court Coverage [ET] [Dawn]
  • Foreign Ministry Confirms Suspension of US Military Education Program [AP] [ET]
  • Pakistani and Indian Directors General for Military Operations Speak by Hotline on Independence Day [ET] [Dawn]
  • IMF Delays Appointment of Pakistan’s Senior Advisor [ET]
  • Commentary: Can Imran Khan Save Pakistan? – “If the incoming prime minister can persuade the military to enable him to improve relations with the United States, Afghanistan and India, he will pull off a feat none of his predecessors has managed.” [Mosharraf Zaidi, NYT]

 

Afghanistan — Security

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Commentary: Negotiations with the Taliban Won’t Give Afghanistan What it Needs – “Any U.S. South Asia strategy should be about strengthening the Afghan state’s position, rather than trying to influence Taliban behavior.” [Ioannis Koskinas, War on the Rocks]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Dozens Killed in Kabul School Bombing; More Assembly Leadership Positions Elected

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Topline

  • The Islamic State claimed responsibility for a suicide attack a private high school in Kabul on Wednesday, which killed at least 34 people, mostly students, many of whom were members of the Shia Hazara minority community. As of this writing, an attack is also ongoing on a training center in Kabul used by the Afghan security services.
  • In votes on Thursday, PML-Q leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi was elected Punjab assembly speaker, Murad Ali Shah the Sindh chief minister, and Mehmood Khan chief minister for Khyber Paktunkhwa. Voting for the prime minister will take place on Friday; the PPP has refused to back Shehbaz Sharif’s candidacy for the position.
  • A FATF delegation to Pakistan this week pressed Pakistan to strengthen the legal framework to respond to requests from other countries to freeze assets or respond to extradition requests linked to terrorism financing and money laundering.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • FATF Sanctions: The Express Tribune reports the visiting Financial Action Task Force delegation to Pakistan this week urged Pakistan to strengthen the legal framework against money laundering and allow for local officials to cooperate with requests from other countries to freeze illegal assets and extradition requests related to terrorism financing.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan Telecommunications Authority Warns Twitter May Face Ban [Dawn]
  • Indian National Arrested in Kurram [ET]
  • Thirty Charged with Attack on PTI Provincial Assembly Members in Karachi [ET]
  • PTI MPA Faces Disciplinary Action Over Slapping Video [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Government Assessing Future Impact of Renewed Sanctions on Iran [Dawn]
  • Debts and Liabilities Rise to 87% of GDP or Nearly Rs 30 Trillion [ET]
  • Eid Holidays Set for Next Week [ET] [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • UN Officials Pay Tribute to Afghan War Victims [TOLO]
  • Supporters of Disqualified Candidate Syed Jafar Naderi Close Provincial Election Office in Baghlan [Khaama Press]
  • Commentary: Good News and Bad News About District Numbers – “Afghan authorities have solved one of the most long-standing and consequential problems in the country‘s complex election system: the number of districts. It is 387.” [Thomas Ruttig, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: New Assembly Speakers Elected; Fighting Wanes in Ghazni

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Topline

  • PTI nominee Asad Qaiser was elected national assembly speaker in Pakistan in a vote on Wednesday; speakers were also elected in the Khyber Paktunkhwa and Sindh assemblies, and new provincial assembly members sworn in in Punjab.
  • The security situation in Ghazni appears to have stabilized and fighting has waned; US military spokesmen said that no enemy activity was observed on Tuesday. UN officials warned that more than a hundred civilians had been killed in the fighting.
  • In a statement on Tuesday, the Taliban said they would no longer provide protection to the Red Cross, accusing it of neglecting Taliban prisoners in Kabul.
  • Anonymous Taliban sources tell Reuters that the group’s leadership is considering a ceasefire announcement during Eid-ul Adha next week; Sec. Pompeo spoke by phone with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman on Tuesday on the ceasefire initiative.
  • A visiting Financial Action Task Force delegation will conclude a review of Pakistani compliance with counter-terrorism financing and anti-money laundering regulations on Thursday, Pakistani finance ministry officials report.
  • Anwar Majeed, an associate of former Pres. Zardari, was arrested by the Federal Investigation Agency on Wednesday as part of a growing investigation into money laundering allegations.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • FATF Sanctions: A visiting delegation from the Financial Action Task Force’s Asia Pacific Group will conclude a review of Pakistani compliance with its agreed action plan against terrorism financing and money laundering on Thursday, Pakistani finance ministry sources tell Dawn.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Assembly Elections: Former Khyber Paktunkhwa assembly speaker Asad Qaiser of the PTI was elected national assembly speaker in a 176-146 vote on Wednesday. Dawn reports that the PPP and PML-N are at odds over Shehbaz Sharif’s nomination as the opposition candidate to be prime minister. Votes were also held on Wednesday for the Khyber Paktunkhwa and Sindh provincial assemblies, which were won by the PTI’s Mushtaq Ahmed Ghani and PPP’s Agha Siraj Durrani, respectively. Punjab governor Malik Mohammad Rafique Rajwana announced his resignation on Wednesday; new Punjab provincial assembly members were also sworn in on Wednesday. Shortly after taking the oath, PTI legislator Mohsin Leghari submitted a resolution calling for the formation of a new South Punjab province. [AP] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Regional Diplomacy: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman spoke by phone with Imran Khan on Tuesday, expressing interest in further investments in Pakistan and congratulating the PTI on its electoral victory; Imran was quoted praising Saudi anti-corruption drives.
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: On Wednesday, Anwar Majeed, an associate of former Pres. Zardari and chairman of the Omni Group, was arrested along with his son by Federal Investigation Agency officials as part of the ongoing investigation into alleged money laundering and fake bank accounts. Majeed had skipped a court summons on Monday. During separate Supreme Court hearings on Wednesday, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar pushed for the implementation of previous court verdicts in the Asghar Khan case, including military court trials for former army officers. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: During independence day remarks on Tuesday, Pres. Hussain said that it was the “sole responsibility of the election commission” to address complaints over the fairness of the recent elections. JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman has reportedly decided not to contest the vacant NA-35 Bannu seat in upcoming by-elections. A PTI provincial assembly member from Multan, Ghulam Abbas Khaaki, passed away from a heart attack on Tuesday evening. [ET] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pompeo Express Hope for Revived Diplomatic Ties in Independence Day Message [Dawn]
  • Alleged Terrorist Suspect Killed in Swabi Raid, Prompting Protests [Dawn] [ET]
  • PTI Lawmaker Apologizes After Beating Man [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • China Transfers Control of Satellite to Pakistan [The Nation]

 

Afghanistan — Security

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: Anonymous Taliban sources tell Reuters that the insurgent leadership “is considering” a ceasefire announcement to coincide with next week’s Eid holidays, apparently in response to pressure from external allies. Separately, a US State Department readout of a phone conversation between Sec. Pompeo and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman on Tuesday included discussions of Saudi support for a new ceasefire. [Ariana News]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Whatever Happened to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan? [Politico]
  • American University Reiterates Appeals for Release of Hostages [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Battle for Ghazni Continues; Pakistan Celebrates Independence Day

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Topline

  • Afghan and US military officials continue to maintain that they are in control of Ghazni city and that Taliban attacks are limited and sporadic. Around a thousand Afghan soldiers were deployed to the area as reinforcements on Monday, and details of the fighting remain sketchy. UN officials expressed concerns over deteriorating conditions at the city’s main hospital on Monday, and many outlying districts in the province remain under Taliban control.
  • Pakistan celebrates its independence day today. Votes for the new national assembly leadership positions are expected to take place tomorrow, as well as the swearing-in of new Punjab assembly legislators. The PML-N has nominated Hamza Shehbaz as its choice for Punjab assembly opposition leader; the PTI has yet to name a choice for chief minister.
  • The US-Turkey diplomatic standoff could potentially jeopardize the sale of 30 Turkish attack helicopters to Pakistan, which must receive US export licensing approval.
  • A US special forces sergeant was killed in a roadside bombing in Helmand on Sunday, the Pentagon announced Monday. Elsewhere, Taliban fighters seized control of an Afghan army base in Faryab province’s Ghormach district, killing several soldiers and taking others hostage.
  • In a joint statement on Monday, the EU and Norwegian ambassadors to Afghanistan said that they expected “the law to follow its course” and for VP Dostum to face the abuse charges against him, saying that “nobody should be above the law”.
  • The IEC released a final list of Afghan parliamentary candidates on Monday.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Turkish Helicopter Sale: Turkish officials tell Defense News that the retaliatory sanctions and growing diplomatic standoff between the US and Turkey have threatened the prospective sale of 30 Turkish attack helicopters to Pakistan, which would require US export licensing of some key engine components. In a tweet on Tuesday, Imran Khan voiced support for Pres. Erdogan, saying that “we are praying for their success in dealing with the severe economic challenges confronting them, as they have always succeeded against adversities in their glorious history”.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Independence Day Celebrated: Pakistani officials and citizens celebrated the country’s 72nd independence day with flag-raising ceremonies on Tuesday. In his remarks Pres. Hussain said that independence was an expression of the “people’s will” and said that Pakistan’s future “will be made through the vote”; in a statement, Imran Khan said that “despite our grave economic crises, due to corruption and cronyism, I know if we are united in our resolve, we will rise to the challenge and Pakistan will become the great nation envisaged by our Quaid and Iqbal”. [AP] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Government Formation: Caretaker prime minister Nasir-ul Mulk chaired a final cabinet meeting on Monday. PTI leader Asad Qaiser filed his nomination papers to become national assembly speaker on Monday; the PTI has also nominated Qasim Khan Suri as deputy speaker. PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi expressed concerns that opposition parties were offering bribes to sway votes for the assembly leadership positions. In Khyber Paktunkhwa, the PTI has nominated Mushtaq Ahmed Ghani as provincial assembly speaker. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Opposition Politics: Following a meeting of senior PML-N leaders on Monday, the PML-N nominated Hamza Shehbaz as their candidate for both Punjab chief minister and opposition leader. The PTI has yet to name a candidate for the chief minister’s position; new legislators will be sworn in on Wednesday. Jamaat-e-Islami leader Siraj-ul Haq told reporters on Monday that “we may be with the opposition but we will not become a part of any dictation” from the PML-N or PPP, saying “we will follow our own policies”. [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Election Results: Nine national assembly and ten provincial assembly seats were vacated by candidates who won in more than one constituency. ECP officials tell Dawn that by-elections to fill the vacancies, as well as those constituencies where polls were delayed, will be held within the next two months. The ECP announced Monday that it would pilot absentee voting over the internet for overseas Pakistani nationals in some constituency areas during the by-elections, although its preliminary study of the issue noted extensive concerns.
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: In remarks on Monday while holding hearings on the Federal Investigation Agency’s probe of alleged money laundering carried out by former Pres. Zardari and other associates, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar appeared to rule out the participation of military intelligence officers in a Joint Investigation Team, saying that “maybe the members of the ISI and MI were included in the Panama Papers leaks case to spice up the probe”, without elaborating. The Islamabad High Court has ordered defense and prosecution lawyers to conclude their arguments by Friday in a petition from Nawaz Sharif to suspend his conviction while appeals against the court verdict are pending. [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Chinese Assistance: PTI sources tell the Financial Times that China has pledged to offer Pakistan further loans in order to help the country avoid a balance of payments crisis, although Chinese officials have reportedly not specified the amount of the prospective loans.

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Eleven Injured in Nushki Grenade Attack [ET]
  • Chinese Police Chief Meets Chief of Army Staff Bajwa [Dawn]
  • Imran Khan Accepts Saudi Invitation to Visit [The Nation] [ET]
  • Sui Southern Gas Loses Case in International Arbitration Court [ET]
  • Trade Deficit Flattens to $3.19 Billion for July [ET] [Dawn]
  • Commentary: Washington Should See Imran Khan as a Partner, Not an Adversary – “If we focus on tangible areas of convergence and Khan succeeds in pushing forward much of his reform agenda, we may find five years from now a Pakistan on a steady path toward peace, prosperity and regional integration.” [Arif Rafiq, The National Interest]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Battle for Ghazni: Around a thousand Afghan soldiers and US special forces units deployed to Ghazni on Monday in an attempt to regain control over the city after days of fighting; Afghan and US military officials have insisted that they control the majority of the city, and in a press conference on Monday Defense Minister Tariq Shah Bahrami and Interior Minister Wais Barmak portrayed many of the Taliban fighters as foreigners. Local sources tell TOLO that the Taliban withdrew from some areas of the city beginning Tuesday, and most fighting is now taking place on the outskirts of the city. The NYT reports that the Taliban have already seized effective control over many of the outlying districts in the province, with only two out of eighteen districts currently in full government control; Defense Minister Bahrami denied accounts that as many as a hundred Afghan army commandos had gone missing in the Ajristan district over the weekend. Details of the situation on the ground remain sketchy, with several hundred casualties on both sides reported; UN officials warned of deteriorating conditions at the city’s main hospital. [WSJ] [Reuters] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: On Monday, the Pentagon announced the death of a US Army special forces sergeant in a roadside bombing in Helmand’s Sangin district on Sunday. Taliban fighters took control of an Afghan army base in Faryab province’s Ghormach district on Monday night, killing at least 17 soldiers and reportedly taking 40 or more captive. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Dostum Charges: In a joint statement on Monday, the ambassadors for the EU and Norway said that they expected “the law to follow its course” and for the abuse cases against Vice President Dostum to be concluded through legal channels, adding that “nobody should be above the law”. [TOLO]
  • Election Preparations: On Monday evening, the Independent Election Commission released a final candidate list for the upcoming parliamentary elections, following the removal of 35 candidates disqualified by the Electoral Complaints Commission. [Khaama Press]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: New Pakistani Legislators Take Oath of Office; Afghan Forces Battle for Control of Ghazni

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Topline

  • New legislators took the oath of office in the national, Balochistan, Khyber Paktunkhwa, and Sindh assemblies on Monday; the Punjab assembly will meet on Wednesday for swearing-in ceremonies. PTI officials said that Imran Khan’s election as prime minister would take place August 18.
  • Heavy fighting continue in Ghazni city for the fourth straight day on Monday, with the US carrying out airstrikes and Pres. Ghani ordering additional reinforcements for Afghan forces. Reporting is fragmentary after the Taliban destroyed a communications tower near the city and cut highway links, but some accounts suggest more than a hundred killed on each side.
  • The head of the Taliban’s Qatar political office, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, visited Uzbekistan last week for meetings with Uzbek officials on the police process. Anonymous Taliban sources tell the Guardian that US and Taliban representatives will hold direct talks in Qatar again next month.
  • The PTI has yet to announce its choice for Punjab provincial chief minister. The PPP and PML-N are reportedly divided over the Punjab opposition leader; the PML-N reportedly plans to nominate Hamza Shehbaz for the position. Nawaz and Shehbaz Sharif are also reported to be internally divided over their opposition strategy and confrontation with the military and judiciary over the election results.
  • The Trump administration has cut support for Pakistani military officers participating in the IMET military education program, Reuters reports, apparently over the objections of Sec. Mattis.
  • A US military investigation into an airstrike in Kunduz last month found no evidence of civilian casualties, contrary to the Afghan government’s finding and claims from local officials that as many as fourteen had been killed.
  • Three Chinese and three Pakistani engineers were wounded in a suicide attack on their bus while traveling from a mine project in Dalbandin, Balochistan, on Saturday; the Balochistan Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the attack, its first apparent use of suicide attacks.
  • Afghan opposition party leaders reiterated their demands for changes to the voter registration and electoral system for Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections on Friday, setting a two-week deadline for the government.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • US Cuts Military Training Program: Reuters reports that the Trump administration has halted support for Pakistani military officers studying at US military schools under the International Military Education and Training program, which State Department officials confirmed would affect the placement of 66 officers this year. Anonymous sources suggest that Sec. Mattis argued against the cuts; the Pentagon declined to comment. [Dawn]
  • Chinese Engineers Targeted in Balochistan: Three Chinese nationals and three Pakistanis working at the Saindak Mine project in Dalbandin, Balochistan, were wounded in a suicide car bombing attack on their bus on Saturday, which had been traveling under Frontier Corps escort. The Balochistan Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the attack, which appears to be the first known incident in which the BLA made use of suicide bomber tactics. [Reuters] [AP] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Gilgit Attack Kills Three Policemen: Three police officers were killed in an attack on their checkpost near Gilgit early Saturday morning; at least two other officers were also wounded in the attack. Police identified one of the attackers as “Commander Khalil”, and linked him to the 2013 murder of nine foreign tourists in Nanga Parbat; he was reported to have been killed. A separate Express Tribune report quotes police sources who say that Khalilur Rehman, identified as the commander of the Jaish-e-Mohammad splinter group Jamiat-ul Ahrar, was killed in a police operation in Gilgit, although it is unclear if the two reports are related. No claim of responsibility has been reported for the checkpost attack. [ET] [The Nation]
  • Chaman Bombing: One person was killed and ten more injured in a roadside bombing that targeted a Frontier Corps convoy in the border town of Chaman, Balochistan on Sunday; no claim of responsibility was reported. [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Government Formation: New legislators took the oath of office at the inaugural session of the new national assembly on Monday, as well as the Balochistan, Khyber Paktunkhwa and Sindh assemblies; Punjab’s assembly will meet on August 15. The national assembly will reconvene on the 15th, after Pakistan’s independence day on Tuesday, to elect a new speaker and deputy speaker of the assembly. A spokesman for the PTI said Friday that Imran Khan would take the oath of office as prime minister on August 18. A PTI delegation met with assembly speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq on Sunday and extended an invitation to PML-N party leaders to attend the oath-taking ceremony; Asad Qaiser, the PTI nominee to succeed Sadiq, told reporters afterwards that the PTI wanted to establish “a working relationship with other parties”. PTI leader Jahangir Tareen met with PML-Q leaders on Sunday and pledged to delegate more powers to local government bodies in Punjab; the party has yet to announce a choice for Punjab chief minister. PTI sources tell Dawn they expect Punjab governor-designate Chaudhry Sarwar to take an activist role in the position. At a PPP party meeting on Saturday, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari nominated Murad Ali Shah and Agha Siraj Durrani to resume their respective positions as chief minister and Sindh assembly speaker in the new assembly session. The PTI has nominated Imran Ismail, a former commerce minister and provincial assembly member-elect, to be Sindh governor; he tells the Express Tribune he will be “an active governor”. The PTI also named Haleem Adil Sheikh as its choice for assembly opposition leader. The Nation reports on Khyber Paktunkhwa chief minister-designate Mehmood Khan’s planned cabinet. [AP] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Opposition Divided: Anonymous PML-N sources tell the Express Tribune that Shehbaz Sharif and other members of his faction of the party are pushing to marginalize Nawaz Sharif and end “hostility with state institutions”, which supporters of Nawaz have objected to, saying “retreat is not an option”. PPP and PML-N leaders met in Lahore on Saturday to discuss the opposition strategy during the assembly session to elect the prime minister; Dawn reports the two parties remain split over a joint strategy for leadership positions in the Punjab assembly, with the PML-N reportedly planning to nominate Hamza Shehbaz as opposition leader. PPP provincial assembly member-elect Hasan Murtaza tells the Express Tribune that “there will not be an undue support for the government or for the opposition”. Mohammad Safdar, Nawaz’s son-in-law, remains hospitalized after suffering stomach ailments on Thursday; on Friday, PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi was also hospitalized at the Adiala jail after chest pains and breathing problems. [AFP] [The Nation]
  • Recounts and Election Results: On Saturday, the Election Commission distributed reserved seats for women and minorities based on party performance in the direct elections last month; the PTI gained 33 of the 70 reserved seats, the PML-N eighteen, and the PPP eleven. Dawn profiles some of the reserved candidates. Separately, the ECP directed candidates who won in more than one constituency to cede all but one seat. A spokesman for the PTI said that Imran Khan, who won all five of his races, would hold the NA-95 Mianwali seat. Former Khyber Paktunkhwa chief minister Pervaiz Khattak gave up his provincial assembly seat to sit in the national assembly, and PML-N leader Hamza Shehbaz gave up his national assembly seat to sit in the Punjab assembly. BNP-Mengal leader Akhtar Mengal will sit in the national assembly. The Express Tribune notes that nine of the thirteen independent national assembly legislators have opted to join the PTI. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Election Complaints: The ECP has reportedly sought the appointment by the judiciary of active rather than retired high court judges for special election dispute tribunals; nine Lahore High Court judges were appointed to a tribunal for Punjab complaints on Saturday. Anonymous sources tell the Express Tribune that the ECP has completed an internal investigation into the apparent breakdown of the results transmission system on election day, although details are limited. Discarded ballot papers were found in Islamabad on Sunday. TLP leader Khadim Rizvi told supporters at a rally on Sunday that he would not accept by-elections or future local government elections conducted by the current ECP leadership. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: Hearings in the corruption cases against Nawaz Sharif were postponed until Wednesday. On Saturday, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar summoned responses from the Nawaz Sharif, former army chief Aslam Beg, former ISI chief Asad Durrani, the attorney general, and the director general of the Federal Investigation Agency as part of the Asghar Khan case. The Federal Board of Revenue has initiated court-ordered investigations into the release by customs officials of US and Chinese currency seized in 2009. The Sindh High Court sought a response from the ECP in response to allegations that PTI national assembly member-elect Faisal Vawda holds dual US citizenship. [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Regional Diplomacy: Imran Khan met with India’s ambassador to Pakistan, Ajay Bisaria, on Friday, calling for the resumption of dialogue between the two countries and expressing “grave concerns on the human rights violations in the occupied Kashmir”. Separately, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan met with Chief of Army Staff Bajwa on Friday for discussions on regional peace initiatives. Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz and crown prince Muhammad bin Salman sent congratulatory messages to Imran Khan on Sunday. [The Nation] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • IMF Bailout: The Express Tribune quotes IMF Resident Representative Teresa Daban Sanchez telling a Karachi finance audience on Friday said that the Fund is “ready to enter into discussion” with Pakistan about a possible loan package; he acknowledged that “the US may, however, influence the conditions on which loan may be given and the two sides [Pakistan and the IMF] may disagree on the conditions”. A bipartisan group of sixteen US senators sent a letter to US Secretary of State Pompeo last week expressing concerns over an IMF bailout for “countries who have accepted predatory Chinese infrastructure financing”. In a Dawn interview, PTI leader Asad Umar described the IMF loan as a “fallback option”, saying “our preferred choice is to boost exports and offer overseas Pakistanis profitable bonds”. [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Sindh Police Arrest Suspects Linked to Mastung Attack [Dawn]
  • PTI Seeks to Replicate KPK Police Reforms in Punjab [The Nation]
  • PTM Leader Vows to Continue Struggle for Pashtun Rights [Dawn]
  • PPP Leader Protests Withdrawal of Security from Former PM Gilani [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Chinese Nationals Detained Over Firearms Possession at Sahiwal Power Project [AP]
  • TLP Activists Arrested in Islamabad [Dawn]
  • Pakistan to Release 30 Indian Prisoners on Independence Day [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Raza Rabbani Proposes Amendments to Exit Control Law [ET]
  • Ministries Directed to Regularize Contract Employees [Dawn]
  • Four Gilgit Police Officers Suspended for Negligence After School Arson Attacks [Dawn]
  • New Karachi Police Chief Launches Drive Against Street Crimes [Dawn]
  • APML Chairman Resigns [Dawn] [The Nation]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Ghazni Fighting Continues: Fighting continued in and around Ghazni city for the fourth day as of Monday, despite efforts by combined Afghan and US military forces to repel a major Taliban offensive that began Friday morning. Afghan Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mohammad Sharif Yaftali told reporters in a Kabul press conference on Sunday that the government held all “strategic and key areas” of the city. A US military spokesman told the Washington Post that US forces had carried out five airstrikes on Saturday and ten on Sunday. Casualty reports are fragmentary, ranging from 25 to near a hundred security personnel killed, with direct communication to the city largely cut off after the Taliban destroyed a telecommunications tower outside the city. Afghan military officials claim to have killed more than 130 insurgents. Local officials told Reuters on Sunday that the Taliban had encircled the main government buildings and were on the verge of taking them; election commission officials tell TOLO the local Independent Election Commission offices have been destroyed, and the highway linking Kabul and Kandahar has been cut by the attack. Pres. Ghani chaired a meeting on the attacks on Friday, and ordered additional reinforcements to the city Sunday evening; a military convoy from Paktia was attacked in Wardak’s Sayad Abad district on earlier on Sunday. TOLO reports unconfirmed accounts that as many as a hundred army commandos “have gone missing” in the adjoining Ajristan district over Sunday night. In a statement on Saturday, Second Deputy to the Chief Executive Mohammad Mohaqiq denounced the government’s response, as did former NDS chief Assadullah Khalid.  [WSJ] [Reuters] [Reuters] [AP] [AP] [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Civilian Casualties: In a statement on Thursday, US military officials said their investigation into an airstrike in Kunduz last month found no evidence of civilian casualties, contradicting Afghan government findings that as many as 14, mostly police officers and militiamen, had been killed. [Reuters]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: At least one person was killed and one wounded in a suicide bombing outside the offices of the Independent Election Commission in Kabul on Monday. Seventeen or more Afghan soldiers were killed in Taliban attacks in Faryab province’s Ghormach district on Sunday; a military base in the district has reportedly been besieged by the Taliban forces. A US airstrike in Nangarhar’s Nazian district on Saturday reportedly killed two ISIS fighters. Separately US airstrikes in Helmand’s Nahr Siraj district on Saturday reportedly killed as many as 19 Taliban fighters, and two militant suspects in Farah’s Posht Rod district on Sunday. [Reuters] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Delegation Visits Uzbekistan: The head of the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, held talks with officials in Uzbekistan over four days last week, concluding on Friday, the Taliban announced in a statement. The Uzbek ministry of foreign affairs confirmed that “the sides exchanged views on prospects of the peace process in Afghanistan”. On Sunday, a spokesman for the Afghan High Peace Council said that the “Afghan government welcomes any effort regarding the Afghan peace process, especially those attempts which can lead us to an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process”. Meanwhile, National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar met with Russia’s ambassador to Afghanistan on Sunday. In a Guardian interview, an anonymous Taliban source says that another round of talks with the United States will be held in Qatar in September, which “will be more specific and focused on key issues”; the report also suggests that the Taliban have taken steps to more closely integrate the political office with its field command. [Reuters] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Election Complaints: Khaama Press reports that at least ten of the 35 parliamentary candidates disqualified from participating in the upcoming elections by the Electoral Complaints Commission were removed without having formal complaints filed against them. Appeals against the ECC decisions remain underway. On Friday, opposition party leaders met again and reiterated their demands for stronger biometric voter registration criteria and changes to the electoral system, setting a two week deadline for a response. In a statement on Sunday, the presidential palace said that it was “committed to on time, transparent, and fair elections”. [Reuters] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Indian Assistance: Officials from Afghanistan and India met in Kabul on Friday as part of the India-Afghanistan Joint Working Group on Development Cooperation, at which Afghan officials proposed a range of new development projects. [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ghani Orders Action Against Customs Revenue Embezzlement [Khaama Press]
  • Ghani Approves Gold and Copper Mine Contracts [Khaama Press]
  • Omani Investors Group Visits Kabul [TOLO]
  • New Defense Ministry Spokesman Appointed [Khaama Press]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PTI Chooses Assembly Speaker Ahead of First Session; Taliban Assault on Ghazni Repelled

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Topline

  • The first session of the new national assembly has been called for August 13, where new legislators will be sworn in. On Friday, the PTI announced that it would nominate Asad Qaiser as the party’s choice for national assembly speaker, as well as Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar as Punjab governor.
  • Taliban fighters stormed Ghazni city early Friday morning, attacking government buildings and cutting off highway access, but as of this writing have reportedly been expelled through a combination of Afghan forces and US airpower.
  • The departure of the US Army Security Force Assistance Brigade at the end of its rotation in November will leave a several month gap until its successor unit completes training and arrives in country, the Army Times notes.
  • Polling officials in Balochistan’s Washuk district told the ECP on Thursday that they had been abducted by members of the Pakistani security services and forced to falsify results in the PB-41 and NA-270 constituencies.
  • Shehbaz Sharif met with his brother Nawaz in jail on Thursday, who was reported to have pushed Shehbaz to take a more active role in opposition protests over the elections; speaking to reporters on Thursday, Shehbaz denied that he was seeking any “National Reconciliation Ordinance-type deal”.
  • Saudi Arabia is reportedly preparing to loan Pakistan $4 billion through the Islamic Development Bank, the Financial Times reports.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Election Security: On Thursday, police in Bannu announced the arrest of two men accused of planning a mid-July attack on former chief minister Akram Khan Durrani, which killed four people; they were identified as members of the “Tehreek-e-Taliban Akhtar Group”.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Government Formation: On Thursday, Pres. Hussain called the next session of the national assembly for August 13, at which new legislators will be sworn in; elections for the position of assembly speaker are expected to follow the day after. The new Khyber Paktunkhwa assembly has also been called for the 13th. On Friday, PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi announced that the party would nominate Asad Qaiser as the party’s choice for speaker, and senator Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar as governor of Punjab. Leaders of the Sindh-based “Grand Democratic Alliance” met with PTI leaders in Karachi on Thursday and affirmed their support for the PTI coalition; party spokesmen say they have formed a 180-seat coalition at last count. Speaking at a press conference following his nomination as Khyber Paktunkhwa chief minister, Mahmood Khan denied allegations of corruption during his previous tenure as sports minister and pledged continuity with the previous PTI government’s policies. Members of the Balochistan Awami Party-led coalition government in Balochistan met on Friday and agreed to the nomination of the BAP’s Jam Kamal as provincial chief minister. [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Election Rigging Complaints: Two polling officials in Balochistan’s Washuk district testified on Thursday before the ECP that they had been abducted by members of Pakistan’s security services on election day and were forced to submit falsified polling station results in the PB-41 and NA-270 constituencies; the ECP has scheduled follow-up hearings on August 28.
  • Opposition Protests: Speaking to reporters on Thursday after a meeting with Nawaz Sharif in jail, Shehbaz Sharif denied that his party was neither “seeking nor offered” a “National Reconciliation Ordinance-type deal”. The Express Tribune reports that Nawaz expressed displeasure with Shehbaz’s absence from the joint opposition protests on Wednesday and pressed hin to take a more active role. PPP leaders met on Thursday to discuss their plans for protests at the first assembly session next week. JUI-F and ANP activists held protests outside ECP offices in Karachi on Thursday. Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, National Party leader Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo warned against any changes to the 18th Amendment. [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: Mohammad Safdar, Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law, was hospitalized on Thursday after reports of abdominal pains and an intestinal infection. Separately on Friday, the Supreme Court issued a contempt of court notice against PTI candidate and televangelist Aamir Liaquat, who Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar suggested “should not be in parliament”. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Election Results and Recounts: On Thursday, the ECP issued notifications for the winners of three national and two provincial assembly constituencies that had been delayed by recounts or legal challenges, including Imran Khan’s NA-131 Lahore seat. The ECP accepted a formal apology from Imran for his violation of ballot secrecy in Islamabad and allowed for the notification of his victory in NA-53. The PML-N candidate won in PPP-123 after a recount on Thursday, flipping the seat. On Friday, the ECP ordered a re-election in PK-23 due to low female voter turnout. [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Saudi Loan: The Financial Times reports that the Islamic Development Bank is preparing to lend Pakistan $4 billion once the new government takes office.

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Foreign Ministry Says Pakistan Will Seek Ties with US and Iran Despite Sanctions; Backs Saudi Arabia in Dispute with Canada [ET] [The Nation]
  • Russian Ambassador Meets Imran Khan [Dawn]
  • Husain Haqqani Extradition Not Possible, Supreme Court Told [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Protests After Two Students Killed in Faisalabad [Dawn]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Advocate General Resigns [ET]
  • Ministry of Finance Blocked PML-N Move to Create $5B Wealth Fund [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Taliban Attack Ghazni: Taliban fighters stormed the Ghazni provincial capital early Friday morning and cut off the main highway linking it to Kabul, but were repelled by a combination of Afghan forces and US airpower, including attack helicopters and armed drones. Details are still sketchy but US and Afghan security officials say they have retaken control over the city; there are no firm casualty reports as of this writing, although provincial health officials said at least 16 people had been killed. Officials denied Taliban claims to have shot down helicopters but acknowledged that two had crash landed during the fighting. [WSJ] [Reuters] [AP] [AFP] [Guardian] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: Two children were killed and ten other civilians wounded in a suicide bombing in Herat city near a military base on Thursday. Rocket attacks in the Mohammad Agha district in Logar province on Thursday killed at least three civilians and wounded three more. Former interior ministry general Zalmay Wardak was killed by unidentified attackers in Kabul on Thursday evening; he was reportedly killed by stabbing, and his driver has been arrested. [AP]
  • Advising Mission: The Army Times notes that the departure of the First Security Force Assistance Brigade in November will leave a gap of several months before its successor unit arrives in early 2019; some of the new unit’s teams may deploy early.

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: A Chinese delegation will visit Afghanistan in the “near future” to endorse the Afghan government’s peace efforts, a spokesman for National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar tells TOLO.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • In Kandahar, US Troops Remain, Even if Salsa Night is Gone [WSJ]
  • Ghani Discusses Poverty, Economic Growth at NPA Conference [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Electoral Reform and the Preparations for the 2018 Elections – “Multiple, serious problems are emerging ahead of October’s planned elections, to do with, among other things, insecurity, voter registration, controversies over the two institutions charged with overseeing the vote and, less than three months before the poll, a call by some major political parties to change the election system.” [Ali Yawar Adili, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PTI Chooses KPK Chief Minister; Votel Says No Major Changes to Afghanistan Strategy

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Topline

  • Caretaker prime minister Nasir-ul Mulk has called for a session of the national assembly to swear in new legislators for August 13. On Wednesday, the PTI signed a coalition agreement with the BNP-Mengal, and announced the choice of former provincial sports minister Mahmood Khan as Khyber Paktunkhwa chief minister. The party has yet to settle on a choice for Punjab chief minister.
  • Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph Votel said he did not foresee a major realignment of US strategy in Afghanistan once Gen. Scott Miller assumes the new command there, but acknowledged that US efforts to disrupt Taliban revenue from the opium trade had “fallen short of expectations”. Votel also said that the US views the Islamic State as “irreconcilable” and suggested that the group of ISIS defectors in Jawzjan should be treated “as war prisoners”.
  • Shehbaz Sharif skipped opposition protests in Islamabad held on Wednesday, with party spokesmen citing poor weather as the reason for his absence.
  • Imran Khan met with acting US ambassador to Pakistan John Hoover on Wednesday, and also spoke with Iranian Pres. Rouhani.
  • The accountability court hearing corruption charges against Nawaz Sharif ordered him to be produced from jail for hearings on August 13; the Islamabad High Court will also hear appeals against his previous conviction on the same day.
  • A spokesman for Pres. Ghani said the Afghan government would seek a waiver from new US sanctions against Iran in order to continue use of the joint Iran-India-Afghanistan Chabahar port project.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Border Security: Bloomberg reports that the Pakistani military has recruited around 24,000 out of 60,000 soldiers planned for additional deployments along the border with Afghanistan, and that around 13% of the planned fencing of the entire 1,456 mile border has been completed; the overall project is expected to take another two years.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Government Formation: Caretaker prime minister Nasir-ul Mulk has formally requested Pres. Hussain to summon a session of the national assembly on August 13 to swear in new legislators, to be followed by the election of the prime minister. As of Thursday, at least 28 independent candidates have notified the ECP of their intention to join the PTI prior to taking their seats. The PTI and BNP-Mengal signed a coalition agreement on Wednesday. On Wednesday, the PTI announced the nomination of former provincial sports minister Mahmood Khan as chief minister for Khyber Paktunkhwa province; although former chief minister Pervaiz Khattak denied any factionalism within the party in remarks to reporters on Thursday, reports suggest that Khan was chosen as a compromise candidate after disputes between Khattak and another contender, Atif Khan. Imran Khan did not announce a choice for Punjab chief minister but told the PTI’s Punjab delegation he would appoint a “young, clean, and honest” nominee; the Express Tribune reports as many as a dozen candidates are seeking the position. [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Opposition Protests: Shehbaz Sharif skipped the combined opposition protests in Islamabad held on Wednesday against election rigging allegations; party spokesmen attributed his absence to weather delays. The Nation reports that PML-Q leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi is holding talks with PML-N legislators and seeking to split the party in Punjab. The JUI-F also led protests in Peshwar and across Khyber Paktunkhwa. MQM leaders in Hyderabad also held protests on Wednesday. Senate interior committee members called for an investigation into election rigging complaints on Wednesday and announced their intentions to form a special committee on the issue. [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Imran Meets US Ambassador: Imran Khan met with acting US ambassador to Pakistan John Hoover on Wednesday, and was quoted saying that “our government will engage with the US to make this relationship more balanced and trustworthy”. He also spoke separately by phone with Iranian Pres. Rouhani, and accepted an invitation to visit Iran at an unspecified future date. [ET] [Reuters]
  • Election Results and Recounts: On Thursday, the ECP dropped charges against Imran Khan, Fazlur Rehman, Ayaz Sadiq, and Pervaiz Khattak for using “indecent language” during their election campaigns, after each submitted formal apologies. Imran faces separate charges of violating the secrecy of his ballot on election day. The Lahore High Court dismissed a petition from PML-N leader Abid Sher Ali for a recount in NA-108. Separately, the Supreme Court has ordered a report from the ECP on plans to allow overseas Pakistani nationals to vote in by-elections, which ECP officials indicated would be held between October 15-20. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: On Thursday, the accountability court hearing charges against Nawaz Sharif ordered him to be produced from jail for hearings on August 13; National Accountability Bureau officials had cited security concerns. The Islamabad High Court will hold hearings on the same day on petitions from Nawaz and family challenging their convictions. The NAB opened additional investigations against a number of politicians on Wednesday, and summoned PTI leader Aleem Khan to testify as part of an investigation into his assets on Friday. The NAB is also seeking financial records for former Lahore Development Authority chairman Ahad Cheema’s extended family. Testifying in Supreme Court hearings on Wednesday, NAB officials said that they could not reopen Swiss money laundering cases against former Pres. Zardari due to the Swiss statute of limitations. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Supreme Court Restores Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2018 [Dawn]
  • GB Police Say ‘Afghan-Trained Militant Commander’ Responsible for School Arson Attacks [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Amir Shaikh Named New Karachi Police Chief [ET]
  • Petition Seeks Revocation of Rao Anwar Bail [ET]
  • Government Debt Rises to Rs 24.2 Trillion [ET]
  • Pakistan Defends Economic Partnership with China [AFP]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • US Strategy: Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph Votel said that he did not expect any major changes to US strategy in Afghanistan, although incoming commander Gen. Scott Miller will undertake his own assessment once he takes command. Votel suggested that the U.S. did have concerns about the overreliance on Afghan special forces and the persistence of static checkpoint deployments. Votel said that the U.S. did not view Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan as reconcilable, and said that the Afghan government had assured the US that a group of ISIS fighters in Jawzjan who defected last week “will be treated as war prisoners”. Votel also acknowledged that US efforts to cripple the Taliban drug trade through sustained strikes on production sites in southern in Afghanistan over the past nine months have fallen short of expectations; the US estimates that the strikes have cut out around $46 million in Taliban revenue, which represents only about a quarter of the money estimated to be collected from the drug trade. [Reuters]
  • Attacks and Operations: At least one person was killed and five injured in a clash between protestors and police in the Laghman provincial capital of Mehtarlam on Thursday. Uruzgan officials report that as many as 40 Afghan security personnel have been found dead after an attack in the Chinartu district last Friday; a spokesman for the ministry of the defense said 27 had been killed. Officials in Badakhshan report that a Taliban shadow district governor for the Shohada district was killed in a clash with security forces on Wednesday night. Another Taliban commander was killed in a car bombing in Ghazni city on Wednesday. [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Chabahar Port: A spokesman for Pres. Ghani tells TOLO that the Afghan, Indian, and Iranian governments have held talks and plan to seek a waiver from US sanctions for the continued use of the Chabahar port section shared by the three countries.
  • TAPI Project: Officials with Pakistan’s Inter State Gas Systems tell Reuters that Chinese officials have expressed interest in joining the TAPI gas pipeline project, as an alternative to a Turkmenistan-China pipeline through Central Asia.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Junbesh Says ‘Consensus Reached’ on Elections, Peace Talks, But Provides No Details [Khaama Press]
  • Afghanistan Assumes Full Control of Airspace [Khaama Press]
  • Bodies of Czech Soldiers Killed in Afghanistan Returned to Prague [Reuters]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: ECP Releases Polling Station-Level Results; HPC Proposes Taliban Offices in Kabul

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Topline

  • The ECP released detailed polling station-level results on Wednesday. The Supreme Court overturned a Lahore High Court ruling suspending Imran Khan’s election victory in NA-131 pending a recount, expressing concerns over the delayed results notifications in at least 28 constituencies due to ongoing legal challenges.
  • Imran Khan met with PTI legislators in Khyber Paktunkhwa on Tuesday, warning that he would replace provincial leaders in six months if they failed to deliver; he did not announce a choice for provincial chief minister. Opposition parties held protests in Islamabad on Wednesday to protest alleged election rigging.
  • Afghan High Peace Council officials say that negotiations are ongoing in several provinces to secure a ceasefire agreement with the Taliban for Eid-ul Adha, and that they are considering offering to create offices for the Taliban in Kabul as part of an agreement. Meeting with civil society representatives on Wednesday, Pres. Ghani said that any deal “would be finalized in broad day light and in front of everyone”.
  • Ghani held talks with several Afghan political leaders, and on Tuesday issued an executive order barring any interference in the elections by government officials or military personnel, in addition to ordering additional security for polling stations.
  • On Tuesday, the Islamabad High Court approved a PML-N petition seeking the transfer of two remaining corruption cases against Nawaz Sharif to a new court bench after Nawaz’s earlier conviction last month.
  • A dozen or more Afghan security personnel were reportedly killed in an errant US airstrike during operations in Logar province on Monday, local officials report; the US military said it was investigating.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Russian Defense Ties: Russian deputy minister for defense Alexander Fomin visited Pakistan on Tuesday leading a delegation that held talks with Pakistani counterparts as part of the “Russia-Pakistan Joint Military Consultative Committee”, in addition to holding separate meetings with Chief of Army Staff Bajwa and the other two service chiefs.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • IMF Talks: Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, PTI leader Asad Umar reiterated that the government would make a decision on a new IMF loan program within the next month; he indicated that the government planned to issue new investment bonds for overseas Pakistani nationals and would also consider other formers of borrowing, saying that “the situation is such that we don’t have the luxury of choosing one option, but will have to plan all options in parallel”. [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • 230 Killed in Month Prior to Election [ET]
  • Three Killed in Dera Ismail Khan Shootings [ET]
  • MQM Leader Amir Khan Charged with ‘Providing Shelter to Terrorists’ [Dawn]
  • Provinces Agree on Law Reforms ‘Roadmap’ [Dawn]
  • Dam Construction to Start Next Year, Supreme Court Told [ET] [The Nation]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: An errant US airstrike killed at least a dozen Afghan security personnel during fighting in the Azra district in Logar province on Monday, local officials tell the NYT; a spokesman for the US command said it was investigating the incident. US forces in Afghanistan have dropped nearly 3,000 bombs during the first half of the year, nearly double the rate as last year. Eight civilians were killed in a roadside bombing in Balkh’s Sholgara district on Wednesday. Security personnel in Faryab province’s Shirin Tagab district tell Ariana News they are besieged by Taliban forces and need reinforcements. Helmand provincial officials announced Wednesday that ten people were freed from a Taliban prison in the Musa Qala district. [AP]
  • Special Forces Review: A meeting of the National Security Council on Tuesday evening reviewed the use of Afghan special forces in conventional air and ground operations; no further details were disclosed.

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: Speaking during a visit to Kapisa on Wednesday, Pres. Ghani reiterated that the government was seeking “long-lasting, sustainable peace”; in a separate meeting with civil society activists in Kabul, Ghani said that he was “not authorized to determine the cost for the peace” and that any deal “would be finalized in broad day light and in front of everyone”. A spokesman for the High Peace Council said that talks were ongoing in several provinces to reach a ceasefire agreement in time for Eid-ul Adha, and an HPC source tells TOLO that the government is prepared to offer the Taliban offices in Kabul. Ariana News reports on a purported letter from Taliban shadow chief justice Mawlawi Abdul Hakim, who urges the Taliban leadership to engage in “conditional or unconditional” peace talks. [TOLO]
  • Ghani Meets with Opponents on Elections: Pres. Ghani held a series of meetings with prominent Afghan political leaders, including Vice Pres. Dostum, former Pres. Karzai, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Abdul Rasool Sayyaf, and others, which a spokesman for Ghani said were to “consult on elections, peace and ceasefire because they need a political consensus and they are national issues”. A spokesman for the Independent Election Commission said Wednesday that those talks had not produced any breakthroughs in response to opposition complaints regarding the authenticity of the voter registration process. On Tuesday, Ghani issued a decree barring “interference in the elections” by any government official or security personnel, and ordered strengthened security at polling stations. [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Dostum Victory Lap Stuns His Rival [NYT]
  • Atta Meets with Russian Ambassador [Khaama Press]
  • China Pledges Food Aid for Drought Victims [TOLO]
  • Ghani Inaugurates Power Substantion in Kapisa [Khaama Press]
  • Commentary: War Without End – “On one matter there can be no argument: The policies that sent these men and women abroad, with their emphasis on military action and their visions of reordering nations and cultures, have not succeeded.” [CJ Chivers, NYT]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: ECP Notifies Winners of Most Races; Ghani Confirms Govt Seeking New Eid Ceasefire

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Topline

  • The ECP has formally notified the results of the national and provincial assembly elections, although as many as 30 seat results are being withheld pending ongoing legal challenges in a variety of court forums.
  • Opposition parties met on Monday and agreed to nominate Shehbaz Sharif as their candidate against Imran Khan for the position of prime minister. Protests are planned around the country for August 9.
  • Pres. Ghani met with political party leaders on Monday and confirmed that the government was seeking to replicate its Eid ceasefire during the upcoming Eid-ul Adha period, but denied that the government was withdrawing security forces from some areas in order to facilitate Taliban “safe zones”.
  • The Islamabad High Court is expected to issue a ruling later today on a petition from lawyers for Nawaz Sharif for the remainder of the corruption cases against him to be transferred to a new court after his earlier conviction on the first charge.
  • Former chief of army staff Raheel Sharif did not receive cabinet-level approval for his taking a command position with the Saudi military alliance last year, the attorney general of Pakistan told a Supreme Court hearing on Tuesday.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Former Army Chief Did Not Receive Approval for Saudi Command: During Supreme Court hearings on Tuesday, attorney general Khalid Jawed Khan said that former chief of army staff Raheel Sharif had not received formal approval from the federal cabinet to take a position last spring as command of the Saudi “Islamic Military Counterterrorism Coalition”, only from the defense ministry and army headquarters. [ET]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Army Chief Warns Youth ‘Prime Target in Hybrid War’ [ET]
  • PTI Plans to Replicate Khyber Paktunkhwa Health Reforms in Punjab [Dawn]
  • FBR to Take Action Over Assets Hidden in UK [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Talks: Speaking to a group of political party leaders on Monday, Pres. Ghani confirmed that the government was seeking to replicate its earlier Eid ceasefire during Eid-ul-Adha. Ghani also denied that Afghan security forces were retreating from areas of the country and said that a “safe zone policy is not on the government’s agenda”. [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Iran Trade Grows: Excluding oil exports, Iranian exports to Afghanistan grew to $1.1 billion for the first four months of Iran’s fiscal year, a nearly 30% increase in value over the preceding year.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • National Procurement Commission Approves Afs 2.1 Billion in New Contracts [Khaama Press]
  • Kazakh Entrepreneurs Seek Expanded Bilateral Trade [Khaama Press]
  • Commentary: Failure to Hold the First Ever District Council Elections? – “The Independent Election Commission (IEC) has proposed a delay in the district council elections, citing a lack of candidates. According to a report from the body, only a tenth of the country’s districts have enough male and female candidates to compete.” [Ali Yawar Adili, AAN]