Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Afghan and Pakistani Forces Clash at Border; Death Sentences Overturned in Farkhunda Lynching

Topline

  • Tuesday’s border clash killed at least one Afghan border police officer and injured two Pakistani soldiers, officials indicate; the cause of the conflict appears to have been Pakistani construction of an outpost facility on their side of the disputed Durand Line border. The Punjab home minister claimed that a police raid in Sheikupura on Monday killed the head of Al Qaeda operations in Pakistan. The Sindh Rangers arrested sixteen MQM party members on Thursday, charging them with coercively collecting religious tithes. A closed-door court hearing has reportedly reversed the death penalty sentences issued in May in connection to the lynching of an Afghan woman outside a Kabul mosque, sentencing four men to 20- or 10-year prison terms instead.

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: A spokesman for the U.S. State Department said Wednesday that he was unaware that any evidence had been shared so far by Pakistan with U.S. officials about alleged Indian support for militant or terrorist activities within the country, which Pakistani officials have made increasing public charges of over the past several months. Spokesman John Kirby stressed that “we want tensions between India and Pakistan to be reduced. We want them to work together bilaterally to resolve some of these differences.” Meanwhile, Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman said that Prime Ministers Modi and Sharif might meet on the sidelines of an upcoming Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Russia, but that no formal plans for discussions had been made. Modi is visiting Central Asia this month, where he is expected to hold talks pushing for a start to the TAPI gas pipeline. India and Pakistan exchanged lists of prisoners as part of a bi-annual confidence-building exercise on Wednesday; India has detained 278 Pakistani nationals and Pakistan 403 Indians.
  • Al Qaeda Leader Reportedly Killed in Raid: Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanzada told reporters yesterday that the leader of the team of four militants killed in a police raid in the Sheikhupura district on Monday, identified as “Abdali,” was the head of Al Qaeda operations in Pakistan, and that the group had been planning an attack on the provincial Intelligence Bureau headquarters.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Karachi Tensions: In a statement on Wednesday, the MQM expressed disappointment with Prime Minister Sharif’s visit to Karachi, saying that he had shown a “lack of interest in solving the basic problems of the city”. On Thursday, the Rangers announced the arrest of sixteen members of the MQM, on charges of coercively collecting religious tithes; the MQM denied the charges, despite evidence that the party had issued receipts to those it had collected from. Meanwhile, the National Accountability Bureau is expanding its investigations into corruption in different departments of the Sindh provincial government, opening new cases against officials on the Workers’ Welfare Board and the revenue department of Karachi’s Gadap town district. Elsewhere, Ali Hassan Zardari, a cousin to the former president, was freed on bail in a case involving the alleged misuse of vehicles originally donated to serve as ambulances. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Election Complaints: On Thursday, PTI leader Arif Alvi backed away from the party’s charges that Punjab caretaker chief minister Najam Sethi had facilitated rigging during the 2013 general elections, a stance that was immediately discounted by PTI leader Jahangir Tarin. Alvi’s remarks apparently followed a Geo TV interview in which Imran Khan suggested that the charges were “political talk”. Meanwhile, the PPP has called on the special judicial commission investigating election rigging to order the opening of election ballot bags in other disputed constituencies around the country, saying that the large number of missing polling station results “calls into the question of the entire election”. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Other Political News: Former minister Sumsam Bokhari of the PPP joined the PTI on Wednesday. Several hundred PTI party activists protested against Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s leadership in demonstrations in Multan on Wednesday. Two nephews of Imran Khan, Azeem and Abdullah, were arrested in Lahore on traffic violation charges and threats of violence against the arresting officer. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Polio Crisis: A new polio case was registered in Quetta on Thursday, the 26th so far this year; the child’s father had reportedly refused eight previous efforts to conduct vaccination treatment. Meanwhile, federal health officials say they are seeking assistance from the U.S. Center for Disease Control to conduct routine immunization for other diseases and polio eradication. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Clinton Emails Show Advisors Pushed for Targeted Sanctions of Pakistani Military Officials [Reuters]
  • Suspects in Sabeen Mahmud Murder, Ismaili Attack, “Inspired by ISIS” [Dawn] [ET]
  • Three Killed in Quetta Shooting [Dawn]
  • ANP Party Leader in Attack on Charsadda Office [ET]
  • Senate Committee Rejects Amendment Withdrawing Constitutional Immunity for President [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Criticizes Lack of Government Data on NGO Operations [Dawn]
  • Railways Losses Increase to Rs 32.5 Billion [Dawn]
  • Inflation Halves in FY2015 to 4.53 Percent [Dawn]
  • Report: Pakistan’s Economic Disarray and How to Fix It – “Although Pakistan’s economic freedom has advanced modestly in recent years, led by upticks in investment freedom, monetary freedom, and trade freedom, these gains have been largely counterbalanced by deteriorations in labor freedom and business freedom.” [James Roberts and Huma Sattar, Heritage Foundation]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Border Clash: At least one Afghan border police officer has been confirmed killed and two Pakistani soldiers injured in cross-border firing along the border between Paktika and South Waziristan on Tuesday. The WSJ reports that the clash was sparked by Pakistani construction of a new outpost along the disputed Durand Line border, in what Afghan officials say is a violation of the terms of an agreement between the two countries not to initiate new construction; while there is no independent confirmation on which side started the firing, Afghan Ministry of Interior statements suggest that Afghan forces may have intervened first. Pakistani officials maintain that the facility is being constructed on their side of the border; Afghanistan formally summoned Pakistan’s ambassador to Kabul on Thursday to protest the incident. [Khaama Press] [Dawn]
  • Foreign Fighters: A spokesman for the National Directorate of Security said Wednesday that the NDS had formed a “special force” to directly target fighters loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile, Badakhshan provincial officials blame Tajik and Chechen militants for the influx of fighters into the Warduj district.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Death Penalty Reversed in Farkhunda Case: A “secret trial” concluded on Wednesday reportedly reversed death sentences issued by the Kabul Primary Court in May in connection to the mob lynching of an Afghan woman outside a Kabul mosque, sentencing three men to 20-year prison sentences and one to a ten-year sentence instead. The caretaker of shrine, accused of inciting the riot, is now reported to have been acquitted. [AJE]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghanistan Leans on ‘Abusive’ Local Police as Taliban Advance [AFP]
  • Taliban Supply Commander Arrested in Faryab [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • New Ghor Governor Takes Office, Pledging to Improve Security and Empower Women [Pajhwok]
  • Breshna Utility Disputes SIGAR Report that Tara Khel Thermal Power Station Unused [TOLO]
  • Ministry of Haj Claims $10M in Savings [TOLO]
  • Commentary: What I Saw in Afghanistan – “The intervention in Afghanistan was a counter-terrorist intervention. That, not analytical errors or bureaucratic politics, is why some U.S. policies proved to be obstacles to peace and stability.” [Barnett Rubin, New Yorker]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: UK Police Cast Doubt on Purported MQM Confession of Indian Aid; UN-Run LOTFA Program Extended

Topline

  • UK police spokesmen raised doubts as to the validity of documents leaked to the Pakistani press earlier this week that purport to show confessions by senior MQM leaders acknowledging support from India. A U.S. soldier was wounded following yesterday’s suicide attack in Kabul, in what the NYT reports appears to have been clashes with protesting crowds as U.S. and Afghan forces sought to secure the bomb site. Afghan and Pakistani border forces exchanged fire on Wednesday, leaving at least six injured; details are limited. The Afghan Ministry of Interior confirmed the 18-month extension of the UN-managed Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan policy salary program, which Pres. Ghani had sought to transfer to Afghan government control. Several senior northern leaders, including Chief Executive Abdullah, met on Tuesday to discuss the U.S. special forces raid on a weapons depot controlled by commander Jan Ahmad in Parwan. Pakistan’s Federal Board of Revenue missed its revised tax collection target for the outgoing fiscal year, preliminary figures indicate; on Tuesday, Pres. Mamnoon Hussain extended the National Finance Commission revenue-sharing formula between the federal and provincial governments for another year. Four presidential nominees, including the head of the Central Bank and acting defense minister Masoom Stanekzai, were presented to the Afghan parliament for confirmation on Wednesday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Cross-Border Clash: Afghan and Pakistani border security forces exchanged fire at a checkpost near the Angoor Adda area of South Waziristan on Wednesday, injuring at least six Pakistani personnel injured, Dawn reports; details of the incident are otherwise limited.
  • Displacements: The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports 218,887 families remain displaced by conflict in North and South Waziristan and the Khyber Agency, most of them from North Waziristan; repatriation has largely been halted during Ramazan, although the repatriation of around 100 families to North Waziristan is scheduled to begin today. Separately, the Khyber Paktunkhwa government reportedly plans to expel around 7,000 Afghan refugees living near the Peshawar airport.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • ‘Confession’ Document Not Official Document, UK Police Say: On Tuesday, a spokesman for the London Police told the BBC Urdu news service that documents leaked to the Pakistani press earlier this week that purport to show confessions by a senior MQM leader, Tariq Mir, confirming Indian assistance to the MQM, “were not official documents of record”. On Tuesday, the government formed a three-member Joint Investigation Team to investigate the 2010 murder of former MQM leader Imran Farooq; a UK police team is in Islamabad interviewing three suspects arrested by Pakistan earlier this summer. [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Election Complaints: During continued arguments on Tuesday before the special judicial commission on electoral rigging, PTI lawyers laid blame on the Election Commission for “planned and systemic rigging” in the 2013 general elections. Imran Khan reiterated the charge in a press conference on Tuesday, accusing the ECP and the National Database and Registration Authority of a “collective cover-up”. [ET] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Tax Revenues: Provisional figures indicate that the Federal Board of Revenue missed the tax revenue collection target for the outgoing fiscal year, which had been revised downward from initial budget targets three times, coming in Rs 25 billion short of the Rs 2.065 trillion target. Collections nonetheless increased by over 14% as compared to the previous fiscal year. Separately on Tuesday, President Mamnoon Hussain formally approved the extension of the current National Finance Commission revenue-sharing formula for another year.
  • Prime Minister Visits Karachi: Prime Minister Sharif visited Karachi on Wednesday, where he met with Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah; although previous reports had suggested that Sharif’s trip was primarily focused on political issues regarding the MQM and PPP, initial reports suggest that Sharif and Shah’s discussions focused primarily on the Green Line Rapid Transit System and a water supply project for the city.
  • Pakistan on FATF Watchlist: At a meeting of the international Financial Action Task Force, Indian officials sought increased scrutiny of Pakistan, citing the continued fundraising activities of Jamaat-ud-Dawa and its charitable wing, the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation. Pakistan was removed from the FATF’s “grey list” of terrorist financiers in February, but was placed under monitoring following the most recent session.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Commentator Zaid Hamid Reportedly Sentenced to Eight Years and 1,000 Lashes in Saudi Arabia [ET]
  • Family Members of Baloch Liberation Front Leader Among Those Killed in Awaran [ET]
  • Death Sentences for Three Linked to April 2010 NATO Tanker Attack [ET]
  • Prime Minister Rejects Petroleum Price Hike [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Sindh Sacks 1841 ‘Ghost Teachers’ [Dawn] [ET]
  • BISP Spending Falls 5% Short of Allocations [ET]
  • State Bank Transfers Foreign Exchange Transfer Rules for Students and Patients [Dawn]
  • Air Indus Suspended for Safety Violations [Dawn] [ET]
  • Peshawar Bans Meat Exports to Afghanistan [Dawn]
  • Asian Development Bank Approves $220M in Infrastructure Rebuilding [ET]
  • Report: Pakistan’s Interminable Energy Crisis: Is There Any Way Out? – “Pakistan is convulsed by power shortages that at times have approached 50 percent of national demand. And yet the country’s energy problems are arguably rooted more in shortages of governance than of pure supply.” [Michael Kugelman, Woodrow Wilson Center]

Afghanistan — Security

  • LOTFA Program Extended: On Tuesday, the Ministry of Interior announced that the UN-run Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan, which pays for Afghan National Police salaries, would be extended for another 18 months, to allow for time to transition control over the program to the Ministry of Interior. Pres. Ghani had in December set a six-month deadline for transfer over the policy salary program to the Afghan government.
  • Kabul Bombing Aftermath: At least one American soldier was wounded in the wake of yesterday’s suicide bombing targeting a NATO convoy near the Kabul Airport, whose victims were all Afghan civilians. The NYT reports that the blast sparked a crowd of angry demonstrators, and that the wounded soldier was stabbed while setting up a cordon; American and Afghan security forces on the scene reportedly dispersed the crowd with aerial firing, although other accounts claim that civilians were killed in the clash, and that the stabbing was carried out in revenge. U.S. officials say the incident is under investigation.
  • Attacks and Operations: Military operations continue in Takhar’s Khawaja Gar district, where the district governor says only two villages now remain under Taliban control. On Wednesday, the former district governor of Nangarhar’s Ghanikhil district was killed by unidentified gunmen; no claim of responsibility has been reported. U.S. drone strikes targeting two “insurgent hideouts” in Nangarhar’s Lalpur district reportedly killed 14 Taliban fighters. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Northern Leaders Meet: Chief Executive Abdullah, Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor, former NDS leader Amrullah Saleh, and other veteran anti-Soviet mujahedeen from the north met on Tuesday to discuss the recent U.S. raid on a weapons depot owned by commander Jan Ahmad in Parwan, demanding a “serious investigation” of the incident.
  • Appointment Confirmations: On Wednesday, Second Vice President Mohammad Sarwar Danish formally introduced four presidential nominees for parliamentary confirmation – Masoom Stanekzai as minister of defense, Khalilullah Sediq as head of the Central Bank, and Anisa Rassouli and Sayed Yousaf Halim as members of the Supreme Court. [Khaama Press]
  • Parliamentary Status: During debate on Wednesday, some members of the senate called for the government to specify a date for Wolesi Jirga elections, warning that they would not accept Pres. Ghani’s extension of the lower house’s term or the Wolesi Jirga’s authority until the election schedule is specified.
  • Kabul Bank Dues: A spokesman for the Attorney General’s office warned on Tuesday that the government would seize property and pursue individuals who continue to default on their debts to Kabul Bank; officials say they have recovered $268 million out of over $900 million in missing funds.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Baghlan General Charged with Drug Trafficking [Reuters] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Former Afghan Soldier Who Fled Training Exercise Granted Asylum [Reuters]
  • Afghan Air Force Pilot Reported Suspended Over Complaints on Social Media [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Multiple Bombings Strike Kabul; MQM Leader Warns Against His Ouster

Topline

  • At least one civilian has been killed and nineteen wounded in a suicide car bombing near the U.S. embassy and Kabul airport that struck a NATO convoy; the blasts followed two other bombings earlier in the day on Tuesday. Elsewhere, a suicide car bomber struck the Helmand provincial police headquarters in Lashkar Gah; at least two civilians were killed and more than fifty wounded. Speaking to supporters of Monday, MQM leader Altaf Hussain warned against efforts to remove him from the party leadership, and told party workers to “prepare themselves for sit-ins”. Prime Minister Sharif and Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif met on Tuesday to discuss “Indian involvement in funding terrorism in Pakistan”; the prime minister is expected to visit Karachi tomorrow. U.S. special forces raided and destroyed a munitions depot belonging to a veteran Parwan commander, Jan Ahmad, prompting protests from his supporters and Chief Executive Abdullah. Reuters reports on the activities of fighters proclaiming loyalty to Daesh in at least six Nangarhar districts; a spokesman for the breakaway Fidayee Mahaz tells the Express Tribune that the group is reaching out to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. Returning to Pakistan after seven months abroad, Tahirul Qadri called on the army to bring justice to the victims of last June’s clash between his supporters and Lahore police. The federal and provincial governments and Karachi Electric continue to trade blame for electricity outages in the city amidst last week’s major heatwave.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • MQM Under Scrutiny: Addressing supporters by phone on Monday, MQM leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain warned that attempts to remove him from the party’s leadership would result in “war which no one will be able to stop”, telling party workers to “prepare themselves for sit-ins”. Hussain reiterated denials that his party had any connection to Indian intelligence, saying that MQM party workers were “ready to sacrifice their lives in the fight against RAW”. On Tuesday, Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif met with Prime Minister Sharif to discuss “Indian involvement in funding terrorism in Pakistan”; the prime minister is due to visit Karachi on Wednesday, where sources suggest he will back further pressure on the MQM and the PPP. Earlier on Monday the Rangers raided MQM offices in the Mehmoodabad area and arrested the local sector in-charge, Zubair Gadi, who they charged with involvement in extortion, kidnapping, murder, and other acts of terrorism; he is alleged to have confessed to the murder of at least 13 people. [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Qadri Returns: Tahirul Qadri held a brief press conference upon his return to Lahore on Monday, calling on the army to bring justice to the victims of last June’s clash between Pakistan Awami Tehreek supporters and the Punjab police, saying that “those who are purging Karachi of terrorists should tell (the people) when operation will start in Punjab…for blood is also being spilt here and oppression is touching its peak”. Qadri refused to accept the findings of a joint investigation team report, which cleared Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif of involvement in the incident.
  • Election Complaints: The PTI’s main counsel before the special judicial commission investigating charges of rigging in the 2013 general elections gave his main arguments on Monday, charging that the results of the poll “did not reflect the true will of the people” and that the Election Commission had not cooperated with the inquiry by providing polling station data. Election Commission officials testifying the day prior rebutted the charges, as did the PML-N in separate filings. [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Local Elections: Despite the continued absence of guiding legislation, the PTI on Monday issued the code of conduct for the upcoming Islamabad local government elections, which it has scheduled for July 25. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Blame Game Continues Over Heatwave Outages: During Supreme Court hearings on Monday, federal government lawyers charged that Karachi Electric was under-utilizing its own power plants, and that government subsidies to the distributor had not been used to improve electricity supply in the city. The proceedings were the result of K-Electric petitions against the federal government seeking payment for Rs 28.7 billion in unpaid electricity bills on the part of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board. In a preliminary report released on Monday into the recent power outages and heatwave deaths, the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority also laid blame on K-Electric, saying it had failed to improve its transmission and distribution networks. A K-Electric spokesmen charged the provincial government with shifting blame to hide its own failures, and said that the KANUPP nuclear power plant was experiencing a “technical fault”, shutting off its power supply to the city. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Quami Watan Party Chief Sherpao Reportedly Negotiating Return to Khyber Paktunkhwa Government [Dawn] [ET]
  • 13 Militant Suspects Killed in Awaran; Dera Bugti Clashes Between Rival Baloch Groups Kill 20 [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Ambassador to UN in Islamabad for Consultations [Dawn]
  • Government Claims Lower Cost of Tax Exemptions [ET]
  • Pakistan Signs Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank Agreement [ET]
  • Pakistan Steel Mills Says Gas Supply Shut-Off Cutting Into Production [ET]
  • Petrol Prices Expected to Rise in July [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kabul Bombings: At least three separate bombs hit Kabul on Tuesday, beginning with two smaller bombings, the second of which — a magnetic mine planted on a military vehicle — injured two children. Later that afternoon, a suicide car bomber struck a convoy of foreign forces on the road between Kabul Airport and the U.S. Embassy, which the Taliban claimed responsibility for. No NATO casualties have been reported, but initial reports from the Afghan Interior Ministry indicate that at least one civilian was killed and 19 civilians wounded. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [WAPO] [Reuters]
  • Other Attacks: A suicide car bomber struck near the provincial police headquarters in the Helmand capital of Lashkar Gah on Tuesday, killing at least two civilians and wounding as many as 51 people, all reported to have been civilians. No Taliban claim of responsibility has been reported as of this writing. In Takhar province, officials report heavy clashes between Taliban insurgents and Afghan security forces in the Khawaja Ghar district, where the insurgents are reported to have seized control of several villages; provincial police spokesmen claim to have killed the Taliban shadow governor for the nearby Darqand district in fighting on Monday. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
  • Raid Against Parwan Strongman Sparks Protests: U.S. special forces conducted a raid on a large weapons depot controlled by Jan Ahmad, a local commander based near the Bagram Airbase in Parwan province. The depot was destroyed afterwards, although Ahmad does not appear to have been detained. U.S. officials described the operation as a “force protection” measure; Afghan special forces previous targeted another leader of a small armed group associated with Ahmad in March. Protestors in the provincial capital of Charikar demonstrated in support of Ahmad, a veteran of the anti-Soviet jihad era; Chief Executive Abdullah, who Ahmad backed in the presidential election, has called for more information and has pledged “not [to] allow anyone to plot against the mujahedeen”.  [Reuters] [RFE/RL]
  • Daesh in Afghanistan: Nangarhar sources tell Reuters that “hundreds” of fighters have pledged loyalty to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and have pushed out Taliban fighters and seized territory in parts of at least six districts in the province. The Daesh group is reported to have burnt poppy fields and to have distributed money from uncertain sources; the Taliban’s main spokesman dismissed the group as “thieves and thugs” and said they would be expelled from the area. Afghan security forces are reported to have avoided confrontation with the group. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the “Fidayee Mahaz”, a breakaway Taliban faction associated with the late Mullah Dadullah Akhund, tells the Express Tribune that the group is reaching out to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi to “assure him that his people can continue their Jihad in Afghanistan”.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghanistan Will Not Collapse, Ghani Assures [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Religious Scholars Call for Ceasefire and End to War [TOLO]
  • MPs Reject Proposed Change to Anti-Money Laundering Law [TOLO]
  • Chief Executive Abdullah Says ‘Negligence’ Delaying National ID Card Project [Pajhwok] [TOLO]
  • Report: Ashraf Ghani’s Pakistan Outreach: Fighting Against the Odds – “Without meaningful actions soon from Pakistan and robust support from the international community, especially China, the initiative is likely to collapse, with devastating results for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the broader region.” [Moeed Yusuf and Scott Smith, USIP]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Leaked Accounts Purport to Show MQM Confession of Indian Ties; ANA Retakes Nuristan District

Topline

  • The Pakistani press reported on purported testimony by MQM leader Tariq Mir to UK police, in which Mir is alleged to have confessed that Altaf Hussain received funds from Indian officials as far back as 1994; the MQM maintains that the testimony is a fabrication. Afghan forces retook control of the Waygal district in Nuristan, but attacks continue around the country, including an ambush in Herat on Sunday that killed 11 soldiers. Saudi diplomatic cables leaked by Wikileaks last week show that Haqqani network leaders met with the Saudi ambassador to Pakistan in 2012, seeking medical treatment for Jalaluddin Haqqani. Tahirul Qadri returned to Pakistan on Monday after a six-month absence. Afghan Interior Minister Noor-ul Haq Uloomi has cancelled a planned visit to Pakistan this week, citing Afghanistan’s internal security situation. The Balochistan provincial apex committee announced an amnesty plan for militants who give up their arms and renounce violence. Pres. Ghani has appointed Seema Jowenda as the governor of Ghor province, although the NYT notes that Ghani’s first female governor appointment, Masooma Muradi of Daikundi, has been barred from taking office by local opposition. Deaths from the heatwave in southern Pakistan have slowed, but officials continue to trade blame for the responsibility. Prime Minister Sharf has formally sought the extension of the National Finance Commission revenue-sharing formula, as negotiations between the federal government and provinces continue past the end of the fiscal year on June 30. The IMF board approved the release of the latest $506 million loan tranche for Pakistan on Friday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Baloch Amnesty Program: On Friday, a meeting of the Balochistan provincial apex committee agreed to offer a “general amnesty” for “all home-based Baloch militants who are willing to renounce violence and lay down their arms”. The plan, which includes offers of financial compensation of up to Rs 1.5 million for top commanders, is apparently intended to target younger fighters, and is not open to “those who are hiding abroad”. Meanwhile, Dawn reports that the exiled Khan of Kalat, Mir Suleman Dawood Jan, is in talks with a Balochistan government delegation to consider a return to the province. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • FATA Operations: At least twenty-seven militant suspects were killed in airstrikes in the Shawal Valley region of North Waziristan on Sunday and in the Khyber Agency, Pakistani military sources report. Militants attacked an army checkpost in the Shawal on Sunday evening, killing one soldier. Army sources tell the AFP that the military is preparing for a “final push” into the valley area, and is positioning troops around the area; local elders report that “up to two dozen militants are leaving the area every day and around 200 militants recently moved into part of Afghan territory.”
  • Militant Bans: The Express Tribune reports that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Interior submitted separate lists of banned militant organizations to the Supreme Court last week, which it provides copies of. The lists total 212 groups in all; only ten appear to overlap between both ministries, however, including Lashkar-e-Taiba, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. None have been added since the December 2014 Peshawar school attack.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • MQM Under Scrutiny: On Friday, Interior Ministry officials formally requested information from UK authorities in connection to alleged Indian assistance to the MQM, which was disclosed in a BBC report last week. The MQM is meanwhile reportedly preparing legal defamation charges against the BBC. The Punjab Assembly passed a resolution on Friday calling for a treason trial against MQM leader Altaf Hussain if the allegations in the BBC report are found to be true. On Saturday, the Express Tribune reported on a leaked document showing testimony from MQM leader Tariq Mir to the UK police, in which he claimed that Hussain had been directly receiving Indian funds as far back as 1994. The source of the purported testimony, which MQM party spokesmen said was a fabrication, is described as being a “senior journalist”. On Saturday, a team of UK investigators reportedly arrived in Islamabad to conduct interviews of three men Pakistan has arrested in connection to the 2010 murder of former MQM leader Imran Farooq, who the reported Mir testimony suggests was aware of the alleged Indian fund transfers. An Interior Ministry statement on Monday said that a two-member investigating team had only arrived today, however. Elsewhere, a Karachi anti-terrorism court hearing charges against MQM leader Amir Khan granted his bail application. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Qadri Returns: Pakistan Awami Tehreek leader Tahirul Qadri returned to Pakistan after a six-month absence, arriving in Lahore on Monday, where he was met by supporters. [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Heatwave Slows: The pace of heatwave-related deaths has slowed but continues, totaling 1,276 dead over the past eight days as of Sunday; 1,186 of those deaths have occurred in Karachi. Roughly 300 of the bodies have been unclaimed as of Sunday, most of whom have been buried; mass funeral services were held by the Edhi Foundation on Friday for 50 unclaimed victims. Opposition parties in Punjab carried out protest rallies against the PML-N government’s failure to provide energy supply. PPP party co-chairman Bilalwal Bhutto Zardari, returning from Dubai, met with Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah on Saturday to discuss the issue; Sindh provincial officials continue to lay blame on the federal government for the crisis. On Saturday, the PTI filed manslaughter and murder charges against Shah for “criminal negligence” in connection to the heatwave deaths. The senate committee on water and power plans to call Karachi Electric officials for hearings on power cuts in the city. The Pakistani Taliban’s main spokesman also issued a statement on Friday, warning K-Electric against “ruthless power loadshedding”, expressing “solidarity with the people of Karachi over the human tragedy”. [AJE] [NYT] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • National Finance Commission Extension: The prime minister has formally sought the extension of the National Finance Commission revenue-sharing formula “for another year or till conclusion of the next award, whichever is earlier”, finance ministry sources report. A presidential order approving the request is expected before the end of the current fiscal year on June 30. Sindh representatives had earlier sought only a three-month extension to the formula, which sets the federal-provincial split in tax revenues; provincial governments have sought greater allocations in the current round of negotiation.
  • IMF Loans: On Friday, the IMF Board formally approved the release of a $506 million loan tranche for Pakistan, following the seventh quarterly review.
  • Energy Infrastructure: Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif met with a Chinese delegation on Saturday, who are reported to have agreed to expedite work on the Bahawalpur Solar Power Park, which is due to begin generating 300 megawatts of power by the end of this year, and to generate three times that amount by the end of 2016. On Sunday, Prime Minister Sharif approved the transfer of unused Public Sector Development Program funds, due to expire at the end of the fiscal year on June 30, to revive operations at three furnace oil power plants in Lahore, Multan, and Faisalabad, which are to be converted to gas turbines. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistani Prisoner Transferred from Indian Kashmir After Death; Family Says Body Shows Torture Signs [Dawn] [AFP]
  • ASWJ Leader Surives Islamabad Attack [Dawn]
  • Federal Investigation Agency Granted Detention Powers [ET]
  • Four Militants Killed in Lahore Police Raid [AFP]
  • FATA Members of Parliament Agree on Some Reforms [ET]
  • Swat Militia Member’s Son Killed [ET]
  • PPP Punjab Seeking Opposition Alliance Ahead of Local Government Polls [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Rejects Petition Against Government Perks [Dawn]
  • NEPRA Imposes Gas Infrastructure Development Cess to Recover Circular Debts [Dawn]
  • NEPRA Reduces Wind Power Tariff By 20% [Dawn]
  • Balochistan Officials Aim to Improve Immunization Programs [Dawn]
  • Legendary Chitral Schoolmaster in Clash with Successor to Retake Control [Guardian]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Saudi Diplomats Met with Haqqani Representatives: Dawn notes that the collection of Saudi diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks last week includes a report of a meeting between the former Saudi ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Aziz Ibrahim Saleh Al Ghadeer, and Nasiruddin Haqqani, a son of Jalaluddin Haqqani and financier for the network. During the meeting in February 2012, Nasiruddin sought medical care for his father in Saudi Arabia; the account does not confirm whether the visit was ever actually taken, although the elder Haqqani was reportedly in possession of a Saudi passport dating to his time as a combatant in the anti-Soviet jihad, which was handed over to the Saudi ambassador. [WSJ]
  • Attacks and Operations: Minister of Interior Noor-ul Haq Uloomi and National Directorate of Security head Rahmatullah Nabil briefed members of parliament on Saturday; Uloomi attributed the rise in violence in northern Afghanistan to insurgent fighters being pushed across the border by Pakistani operations in North Waziristan. Nabil warned that the security situation in Afghanistan would deteriorate further in coming months, but said that the Afghan national security forces were prepared to “deal with any eventuality”. On Friday evening, Afghan National Army forces retook control of the Waygal district in Nuristan province, which had been stormed by Taliban fighters the day prior; the provincial governor reported that 18 policemen had been killed in the fighting, while the Taliban acknowledged seven casualties. The district governor of the Shibar district in Bamiyan province survived a Taliban ambush on Saturday. On Sunday, TOLO reported that a force of ANA soldiers was surrounded by Taliban fighters at a base in the Baghlan-e-Markazi district in Baghlan province; no reinforcements have yet been dispatched.  On Sunday evening, Taliban fighters ambushed an Afghan army patrol in Herat’s Karokh district, killing 11 soldiers. [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Helo Crash: Reports on Monday indicate that an Afghan National Army helicopter crashed in Kandahar on Sunday, near the Ghorak and Maiwand districts; Khaama Press reports that three soldiers were killed in the crash, but a spokesman for the provincial governor only confirmed an emergency landing of the aircraft. The Taliban have claimed responsibility, saying they shot down the helicopter.
  • Faryab Legislator Detained on Charges of Taliban Support: On Friday, Faryab police arrested Angar Tokhi, a former provincial council member, charging him with involvement in multiple murders in the Almar district and with supplying arms to the insurgency. His family allege “a political conspiracy” against him.
  • Daesh in Afghanistan: Elsewhere on Sunday, the NDS announced the arrest of six Taliban fighters in the Dur Baba district in Nangarhar; one was identified as the Taliban shadow governor for the district, although the group was also reportedly found with Daesh flags. On Saturday, Afghan Army Chief Maj. Gen. Qadam Shah visited Nangarhar to review operations, where he suggested that Daesh’s presence was limited to former Taliban fighters operating under a new flag. Ministry of Defense sources report that Taliban and Daesh fighters clashed in Nangarhar’s Khogyani district on Saturday, leaving twelve dead.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Tensions with Pakistan: The Afghan Interior Ministry issued a statement on Sunday indicating that minister Noor-ul Haq Uloomi had postponed a planned visit to Pakistan during the coming week “because of internal security issues”. Meanwhile, Indian press accounts indicate that Indian officials are reaching out to the Afghan NDS to gather additional information on the attack on Afghanistan’s parliament last week, “to drive home the point that nexus between Pakistan’s ‘state actors’ and terror outfits poses a threat not only to India, but for the entire region”. Pakistan has denied Afghan allegations that an ISI officer was involved in planning the attack. [Khaama Press]
  • Government Appointments: On Sunday, the Independent Directorate of Local Governance announced the appointment of Seema Jowenda, a former member of parliament, as governor of Ghor province. The NYT notes that Masooma Muradi, the Ghani administration’s first female governor appointee, has been unable to take office as protestors linked to a local rival have demonstrated against her.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Pentagon Repatriates Two Tunisians Held for More Than a Decade in Afghanistan [WAPO]
  • Electoral Reform Commission Remains Stalled [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • At Press Conference During Russia Visit, Karzai Advises U.S. to Seek Russian and Chinese Help in Afghanistan [TOLO]
  • Years After Invasion, the US Leaves a Cultural Imprint on Afghanistan [WAPO]
  • Afghanistan ‘Growing More Receptive’ to Women’s Rights, UK Ambassador Says [Guardian]
  • AIHRC Alleges Millions Embezzled Through Ghor Province Ghost Schools [TOLO]
  • More Time Needed in Ministry of Urban Development Corruption Investigation, Attorney General’s Office Says [TOLO]
  • Presidential Official Touts Savings in Civilian Aviation Agency Contract [Khaama Press]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistan Seeks More Details from UK on MQM; NATO Defense Ministers Discuss ANSF Support

Topline

  • Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told reporters on Thursday that Pakistan would formally seek additional details from UK authorities into BBC reports that the MQM had received funding and weapons from Indian sources; the MQM continues to deny the charges. NATO defense ministers debated continued support to Afghanistan after the end of this year on Thursday, and agreed to continue discussions about extended support following the end of the summer fighting season; acting Afghan defense minister Masoom Stanekzai is seeking financial commitments through 2020. Taliban fighters seized control of the Waygal district in Nuristan province on Friday. More than a hundred people died from heat-related maladies in southern Pakistan on Thursday, a decline from previous days. Italian police have arrested a Pakistani man linked to a 2009 Peshawar marketplace bombing. The Election Commission of Pakistan has set a date of July 5 for re-polling in more than 250 constituencies that saw high levels of voting irregularities during the May 30 Khyber Paktunkhwa local elections.

Pakistan — Security

  • Italy Arrests Suspect in 2009 Peshawar Bombing: Italian police said Friday that they had arrested a Pakistani man, who has not been identified, in connection to the 2009 bombing of a major Peshawar marketplace, which killed as many as 134 people. He was apparently living in Italy and was arrested after returning from a visit to Pakistan.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • MQM Under Scrutiny: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told reporters on Thursday that the BBC report earlier this week alleging that the MQM had received funding and arms from India “confirmed Pakistan’s suspicions about India’s involvement [in Pakistan]”. Chaudhry Nisar met with the UK ambassador to Pakistan to discuss the issue, and said afterwards that he would seek access to the details allegedly discovered by UK investigators. At the same time, Chaudhry Nisar said that “there are plenty of respectable senior politicians and patriotic individuals in MQM who have done a lot for Pakistan. I request all of you not to link these allegations to MQM’s voters or supporters.” The PTI, meanwhile, has introduced a resolution in the Punjab provincial assembly calling for treason charges against any party leaders found responsible for the linkages. In remarks to his supporters on Thursday, MQM leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain vowed “not to surrender” and reiterated that the article was part of a “media trial” against the party. Meanwhile, senior party leader Amir Khan petitioned to be released on bail after being charged with harboring criminals following his arrest by the Rangers at MQM headquarters in Karachi in March; the anti-terrorism court extended the detention of another MQM activist, Umair Siddiqui, who is charged with involvement in as many as 64 cases of targeted killings. The Rangers also announced the arrest of a suspect in the death of senior party member Waqas Shah, who died during the Rangers’ raid on MQM party offices; the suspect, Asif Ali, is also an MQM party member. The MQM disputes the charges and maintains that Shah was killed by Rangers personnel. [BBC] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • PPP Under Pressure: PML-N sources tell The Nation that despite dissatisfaction with the PPP’s governing in Sindh, Prime Minister Sharif will not attempt to impose governor’s rule in the province; the same sources suggest that the PML-N may support an expansion of the powers of the joint civil-military provincial apex committee, however. Dawn notes that former Pres. Zardari’s pushback against paramilitary investigations into the PPP’s activities in Sindh has distracted from planned party reorganization efforts. At a meeting on June 17, former prime ministers Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and Yousuf Raza Gillani both reportedly offered their resignations, apparently out of deference to calls from Bilalwal Bhutto Zardari for a rehaul of the party’s leadership structures. [The Nation]
  • Constitutional Amendments: On Friday, the Supreme Court concluded hearings on a group of petitions that separately challenged the 18th and 21st amendments to the Pakistani constitution, reserving a verdict for an unspecified later date. [Dawn]
  • Local Elections: On Thursday, the Election Commission issued notices for fresh elections at more than 250 polling stations that saw large-scale irregularities during the May 30 local government polls, which will be held on July 5. JUI-F leaders have called for the PTI provincial government to resign, and for the judiciary to manage the province while polling is held. Meanwhile, following the announcement of official results on Wednesday, independents elected in the earlier polling have three days to indicate any affiliation with a political party. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Election Complaints: On Thursday, the PTI filed its arguments with the special judicial commission investigating charges of election rigging in the 2013 polls, arguing that the PML-N had “usurped the popular mandate”, charging it with “coopting and colluding with the Election Commission” to accomplish its goal.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Heatwave Deaths Continue to Rise: More than a hundred people succumbed to heatstroke on Thursday, a decline from previous days that nonetheless brought the total death toll in southern Pakistan to 1,116 people since Saturday. The overwhelming majority of the reported deaths remain concentrated in Karachi. [NYT] [WSJ] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pundit Zaid Hamid Arrested in Saudi Arabia [ET]
  • Gilgit-Baltistan Speaker and Deputy Speaker Elected Unopposed [ET]
  • Sindh Passes Budget During Opposition Walkout [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • State Bank of Pakistan Seeks Report on Bank Loan Bias [Dawn]
  • Foreign Exchange Reserves Near Record High [Dawn]
  • Government Refuses to Pay Capacity Charges for Rental Power Plants [ET]
  • Report: Country Report on Human Rights Practice for 2014 – “The most serious human rights problems were extrajudicial and targeted killings, disappearances, torture, lack of rule of law (including lack of due process, poor implementation and enforcement of laws, and frequent mob violence and vigilante justice), and sectarian violence.” [US State Department]

Afghanistan — Security

  • NATO Support: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday that the alliance had agreed to continue discussions on drawing down support for the Afghan national security forces after assessing their performance during the current summer fighting season, saying that no final decision had been made on when regional training hubs in four provinces and Kabul would be closed. Acting Afghan defense minister Masoom Stanekzai reportedly sought “flexibility” from NATO and pledges of continued financial assistance through 2020, as well as additional support for the Afghan Air Force. U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter stressed that the United States was committed to continuing support for Afghan forces after 2016. [Pajhwok] [AP]
  • Nuristan District Attacked: The Nuristan provincial police reported Friday that Taliban fighters had seized control of the Waygal district; “heavy clashes” were reported, but no details on casualties have been disclosed. The district governor claims that Afghan security forces “tactically stepped back” for lack of reinforcements; the acting provincial governor reports that as man as 1,500 Taliban fighters were involved in the assault.
  • Taliban Leader Sanctioned: On Wednesday, the U.S. Treasury Department formally sanctioned Maulawi Abdul Rashid Baluch as a “specially designated global terrorist,” freezing any U.S. assets he may hold and forbidding Americans to engage in transactions with him. Baluch was identified as the former shadow governor Nimroz province and a liason with Al Qaeda officials, and was arrested by Afghan authorities in July of last year.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Electoral Reform: The deputy UN Special Envoy to Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto, met with Chief Executive Abdullah on Thursday for conversations focused on the elections and electoral reform process; TOLO reporting indicates that he reaffirmed that international electoral assistance would be dependent on the electoral reform process.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Additional Reporting on Dostum-Atta Alliance [WSJ]
  • Laghman Police Commander’s Family Repel Taliban Attack on Home [TOLO]
  • Kajaki Dam Security Threats Stall Turbine Work [TOLO]
  • Ghani Considers Phased Roll-Out of National ID Card [TOLO]
  • Report: Country Report on Human Rights Practice for 2014 – “The most significant human rights problems were widespread violence, predominantly indiscriminate attacks on civilians, and armed insurgent groups’ killings of persons affiliated with the government; torture and abuse of detainees; and targeted violence of and endemic societal discrimination against women and girls.” [U.S. State Department]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: BBC Report Claims MQM Received Indian Funds ; NDS Claims ISI-Haqqani Link to Parliament Attack

Topline

  • A BBC report, citing “an authoritative Pakistani source,” alleges the MQM received Indian funds and weapons training; Indian authorities and MQM party leaders have rejected the account. Deaths from the heatwave in southern Pakistan have surpassed 1,000 people; temperatures cooled on Wednesday, but renewed heat is forecast for next week. Officials at the federal and provincial level continue to trade allegations of blame for responsibility for the crisis. The Afghan National Directorate of Security said Wednesday that last week’s attack on parliament was carried out by the Haqqani network, with support from a Peshawar-based ISI officer; Pakistan rejected the accusation. NATO ministers are meeting in Brussels to review the Resolute Support training and support mission in Afghanistan. The Election Commission of Pakistan has formally notified the results of the May 30 local government elections in Khyber Paktunkhwa, although in doing so it did not disclose the winner’s party affiliations or vote totals. The US will continue managing Afghan airspace through mid-September, to allow Afghanistan to finalize a contract with an international company to take over responsibility, Civil Aviation Authority officials report.

Pakistan — Security

  • NGO Crackdown: The Economic Affairs Division secretary told a senate committee hearing on Wednesday that nine applications for registration by international NGOs had been rejected so far, nineteen approved, 27 given interim permission to operate, and the remainder of 150 applications in total were still in processing. The specific organizations that had been barred from operating were not disclosed. On Wednesday, the charity Save the Children confirmed that its Islamabad offices had been unsealed, but said that “it will take some time to completely resume our operations across the country”. [ET]
  • Terror Financing: On Wednesday, a meeting of the Sindh provincial apex committee approved the formation of a special task for to investigate and gather evidence on financing for terrorist organizations, to be headed by retired judge Ghulam Sarwar Korai.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • MQM Alleged to Have Received Indian Funding: A BBC report on Wednesday, citing “an authoritative Pakistani source”, said that UK authorities investigating the MQM on money laundering charges had been told, by MQM party officials, that the group had received Indian government funding and training. Indian authorities and MQM party officials issued separate denials of the report’s charges, which echo allegations of linkages made by a senior Karachi police officer in April. In remarks to party supporters on Thursday, party leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain vowed “not to give up his struggle at any cost”. Defense minister Khawaja Asif told reporters that the MQM “must clarify its position” and information minister Pervaiz Rashid said that the federal government was “thoroughly examining” the report. Separately, a task force established by Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah to review a report by the paramilitary Rangers into organized crime and extortion in Karachi met for the first time on Wednesday and has requested “further information and evidence” on the issue. [ET] [The Nation]
  • Local Elections: On Wednesday, the Election Commission of Pakistan formally notified the results of the May 30 local government elections in Khyber Paktunkhwa, although in doing so it omitted party affiliation details for candidates, which as of this writing have not been corroborated to provide a full picture of the new government bodies’ makeup. Vote totals for winning candidates and runners-up were also not disclosed in the notification. A schedule for special elections for vacant seats is due to be announced within the next week, with polling expected to take place after Eid.
  • Election Complaints: The PTI missed the filing deadline for arguments summarizing their case before the special judicial commission investigating charges of election rigging during the May 2013 general elections, but said they would submit a report by Thursday; in their filings, the MQM and PML-N rejected charges of systematic fraud.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Leaked Documents Indicate British Intelligence Had Surveillance Capability on Most Pakistani Internet Users [Dawn]
  • Peshawar Police Officer Killed, Two Wounded in Shooting [Dawn]
  • Balochistan Assembly Approves Budget [ET]
  • 84% of Balochistan Children Not Immunized [Dawn]
  • Privatization Commission Head Confirms Heavy Electric Complex Sale Cancelled [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Machine Tool Factory to be Transferred to Pakistan Ordinance Factory Control [ET]
  • Former Pres. Zardari Departs for Dubai [Dawn]
  • Pres. Hussain Meets with Saudi Crown Prince [ET]
  • Axact CEO’s Case Transferred to Islamabad [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security
ISI Blamed for Parliament Attack: A spokesman for the National Directorate of Security said Wednesday that an ISI officer, identified as “Bilal”, had worked with Haqqani network militants to organize last week’s attack on the Afghan parliament. NDS officials estimated that the attack cost Rs 7.5 million to plan and carry out, and suggested that two previous planned attacks on the parliament had been disrupted. A spokesman for the Pakistani foreign office rejected the allegations. [AP] [Khaama Press] [Pajhwok]
NATO Ministers Confirm Afghan Support: At a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels, the alliance began discussions on Thursday on long term support for Afghanistan and the continuation of the Resolute Support mission; U.S. permanent representative to NATO Douglas Lute told reporters yesterday that “whether or not the U.S. adjusts its timeline is a decision to be made in Washington after this fighting season,” and that “we are still working with our Afghan government colleagues to define exactly what tasks will be done, and then we add the numbers after the tasks.  But I think it’s safe to say the U.S. will be a major contributor.” Afghan defense minister-designate Masoom Stanekzai is also attending the conference. [Khaama Press]
Islamic State in Afghanistan: Khaama Press reports that fighters proclaiming affiliation with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria operating in parts of Nangarhar province have warned local elders against forming jirgas and have directed residents to instead work with a Daesh judiciary.  Daesh fighters have also reportedly warned against public movements by women.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development
US to Continue Managing Airspace: The U.S. will continue to manage Afghan airspace traffic for another two and a half months, through mid-September, to allow Afghanistan to transfer control to a “well-experienced international company,” Civil Aviation Authority officials tell the AP. A two-year contract with the company, which has not been identified, is reportedly in the process of being finalized.

Afghanistan — Remainders
Former Pres. Karzai Meets with Russian President Putin [Khaama Press]
Drug-Resistant Bacteria Lurk in Crowded Afghan War Clinic [Reuters]
Over 2,000 Illegal Mining Sites in Afghanistan, Watchdog Group Estimates [TOLO]
Parliamentarians Allege Land Plots for Teachers Seized by ‘Powerful People’ [TOLO]
Commentary: Taliban Remarks at Oslo Conference – “The reason for not holding direct talks with the Kabul administration is their lack of authority in solving strategic issues as the essential element of the present Afghan dilemma and various other issues is America and her foreign allies.” [Jihadology]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Heatwave Death Toll Passes 800; Taliban Rebuff Pakistani Reports of Talks

Topline

  • The death toll from the ongoing heatwave in southern Pakistan has surpassed 800 people as of Wednesday, although reports indicate that temperatures are cooling in Karachi, potentially bringing some respite. Political leaders at the provincial and federal level traded blame for the crisis, with most preferring to lay responsibility on the privately-held Karachi Electric distribution company, charging it with failing to provide a regular power supply. The Afghan Taliban issued a statement on Wednesday disputing accounts by Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz that the insurgency would meet with Afghan government representatives within the next week, and also denied official sanction to a Pakistani-brokered meeting that reportedly took place in Urumqi. Afghan security forces continued operations around Kunduz in a between to retake control of the Dasht-e-Archi district. The Sindh Rangers charged eleven members of the Sunni Tehreek and former MQM leader Amir Khan on Tuesday; additionally, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan indicated that UK investigators would be granted interview access to three suspects in the murder of former MQM leader Imran Farooq within the week. Islamabad local elections have been set for July 25, despite legislation on local bodies still pending with parliament. Afghan prosecutors announced the arrest of two directors at the New Kabul Bank, charging them with accepting bribes from debtors from the old bank.

Pakistan — Security

  • NGOs Under Scrutiny: On Tuesday, a Supreme Court bench hearing a bail petition for a man charged with investment fraud directed the federal and provincial governments to provide “complete details” about the funding sources for NGOs operating in Pakistan, their activities, and existing monitoring mechanisms. [Dawn]
  • China Blocks Indian Inititiave at UN on Lakvhi Release: Chinese representatives at the UN Sanctions Committee reportedly blocked an Indian initiative on Tuesday to impose sanctions on Pakistan for allowing the release of Lashkar-e-Taiba operative Zakiur Rehman Lakvhi earlier this March. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Karachi Crackdown: At anti-terrorism court proceedings on Tuesday, the Sindh Rangers confirmed the arrest of eleven members of the Sunni Tehreek party, including two central leaders, following raids on party headquarters on Monday. At least eight of the men have been charged with murder, and the other with extortion and other crimes; all have been detained for a 90-day period. Additionally, the Rangers filed charges against MQM leader Amir Khan, who has been held in detention since a raid on MQM headquarters in March, charging him with “instigating terrorism and harboring criminals”. Speaking to the press on Tuesday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that UK investigators would be granted interview access in the coming week to two suspects arrested in connection to the 2010 murder of former MQM leader Imran Farooq, and that the suspects would be transferred to Islamabad for that purpose. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Islamabad Local Elections: On Tuesday, the Election Commission of Pakistan announced that local body elections would be held in the Islamabad Capital Territory on July 25, despite the fact that legislation is still pending to specify procedures for delimiting constituencies. [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Supreme Court Hears Continued Arguments Against Military Courts System [Dawn] [ET]
  • Local TTP Commander Surrenders in Ziarat [ET]
  • Punjab Home Minister Accuses Indian Intelligence of Threatening Zimbabwe Cricket Match [Dawn]
  • Tahirul Qadri Launches Anti-ISIS Curriculum in UK [Reuters]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Police Register Over 1,500 Cases Against Fake ID Card Holders [Dawn]
  • Prime Minister Briefed on Nuclear Programs [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: Following operations by the Afghan National Security Forces to retake control of the Chahar Dara district in Kunduz — which military officials claim killed nearly 100 Taliban fighters —local officials report that clashes are ongoing between the Taliban and military forces in the Dasht-e-Archi district, which the insurgents seized control of at the outset of the week. Kunduz governor Mohammad Umar Safi tells Pajhwok that the Taliban’s shadow governor for the province, identified as Rahmatullah, was killed in the Chahar Dara operation. Meanwhile, fighting continues in the Mangal district of Baghlan province. On Wednesday, the district governor of Badakhshan’s Kisham district was reportedly wounded in a bombing, although accounts conflict as to whether it was a roadside bombing or suicide attack.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Talks: In a statement on Wednesday, Taliban spokesmen denied knowledge of any planned talks between the Afghan government and insurgent representatives, as Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz had told Pakistani parliamentarians would be happening within a week. The Taliban also denied any association with a Pakistani-brokered meeting in Urumqi, which Aziz had also confirmed, saying that their political office in Qatar was responsible for “handling all the internal and external political activities related to the Islamic Emirate… no one else has been granted permission to meet and discuss political affairs with anyone as a representative of Islamic Emirate without receiving prior authorisation by either the leader of Islamic Emirate or the political office itself”.
  • Kabul Bank Arrests: Prosecutors announced on Tuesday that the National Directorate of Security had arrested the director and deputy director of the New Kabul Bank clearance department, charging them with accepting bribes from a debtor of the former Kabul Bank.
  • NGOs Under Scrutiny: On Tuesday, Minister of Economy Abdul Satar Murad told a conference of non-governmental organizations that the ministry “believes in continuous and close oversight” and would require regular annual reports from all NGOs on their projects and funding sources. There are currently 1,947 registered NGOs in Afghanistan, of which 273 are foreign and the remainder domestic.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Fourth C-130 Joins Afghan Air Force [Khaama Press]
  • High Office of Anti-Corruption Pledges Action Against Ministry of Urban Development [TOLO]
  • Interview: Balkh Governor Atta Mohammad Noor on His Plans to Restore Security in Northern Afghanistan – “If needed, the national forces can recruit old forces like the mujahedin, which can be absorbed lawfully into the security institutions. They can be used effectively. But I’m not supportive of other structures not controlled by the government.” [RFE/RL]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Hundreds Death in Southern Pakistan Heatwave; ANSF Retake Kunduz District

Topline

  • A major heatwave in southern Pakistan has claimed more than 500 lives since Saturday, most concentrated in Karachi; Prime Minister Sharif and provincial authorities have announced emergency disaster relief measures in an effort to provide relief, but opposition parties have denounced the government for failing to ensure regular electricity supply during the Ramazan fasting period. Afghan security forces claimed to have retaken control of one district adjoining the Kunduz provincial capital in operations on Tuesday, although clearing operations are said to still be ongoing. Meanwhile, former rivals Abdul Rashid Dostum and Atta Mohammad Noor have reportedly formed an alliance to focus on the “deteriorating security situation in the northern regions”. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan confirmed that Save the Children would be allowed to resume operations in Pakistan but reiterated that all NGOs must under go registration under a new policy within the next six months, and indicated htat NGOs would not be allowed to operate in “sensitive areas” of the country. During a parliamentary briefing on Monday, Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz suggested that the Afghan government and the Taliban would hold direct walks within the next week, although he provided few details.

Pakistan — Security

  • NGO Crackdown: Speaking to reporters on Monday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that the government would “introduce a policy to regulate the NGO sector because the current laws are vague”, and reaffirmed that all NGOs operating in Pakistan would be obliged to register within six months. Chaudhry Nisar said that NGOs would not be allowed to operate in “sensitive areas” of the country, including FATA, but indicated that Save the Children had been allowed to resume activities in other parts of the country. Both the NYT and WSJ note quiet US and UK donor pressure on Pakistan to reverse the sudden expulsion order against Save the Children earlier this month; a spokesman for the group said that it was “still waiting for the official government communication, but we welcome the government’s kind gesture”.
  • FATA Operations: Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif and Prime Minister Sharif met on Tuesday to review operations in FATA and other parts of the country, which the prime minister praised as a “phenomenal success”.
  • Farooq Sattar Investigation: The wife of Khalid Shamim, a suspect in the 2010 murder of former MQM leader Imran Farooq in London, has petitioned the Sindh High Court to block Shamim’s extradition to the UK. He and a fellow suspect, Mohsin Ali, have been missing since 2011 and are believed to have been in ISI custody until last week, when their arrest in Balochistan by the paramilitary Frontier Corps was announced.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PPP Under Pressure: During Sindh Assembly debate on Monday, Information Minister Sharjeel Memon of the PPP dismissed a “media trial” against the party over corruption allegations and investigations. National Assembly opposition leader Khurshid Shah told reporters on Monday that the PPP “does not want confrontation with anyone and continues with its policy of reconciliation”. In a separate statement, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani warned against past attempts to “sabotage democracy” and stressed that “all political forces need to be on the same page. Pakistan’s survival lies in implementation of the 1973 Constitution and continuation of democracy in the country.” [Dawn] [ET]
  • Election Complaints: Having concluded the recording of evidence last week, the special judicial commission investigating charges of election rigging during the 2013 general elections has asked the participating parties to submit written arguments on rigging by June 24, with legal debate set to commence June 29. [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Hundreds Dead in Heat Wave: The death toll from a searing heatwave in southern Pakistan has spiked to nearly 450 people between Saturday and Monday, with temperatures reaching up to 45 degrees Celsius (113 F) over the weekend, and continuing around 43 degrees Celsius (109 F) for the past two days. Most of the deaths have been concentrated in Karachi, where hospitals are overcrowded with victims and heatstroke patients. Speaking in the Sindh Assembly on Tuesday, Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah confirmed that more than 500 people had died, and ordered the closure of schools, colleges, and government offices. Yesterday, Shah ordered free water distribution in the city during Ramazan. Prime Minister Sharif has ordered the National Disaster Management Authority to take action in response to the crisis, and the paramilitary Rangers have established ten cooling centers. During debate on Monday, Sindh Assembly members laid blame on Karachi Electric for allowing continued power outages during Ramazan. In the National Assembly, the PPP laid blame on the federal government for failing to guarantee electricity supply, and called for a day of mourning on Friday. Elsewhere, Khyber Paktunkhwa Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak threatened to “besiege” the headquarters of the Peshawar Electric Supply Company and “burn the PESCO chief alive, the way he let people burn in the heat,” if unscheduled power outages continued past the next week. The PTI opposition also lead a walkout against electricity outages in the Punjab Assembly on Monday. [NYT] [AJE] [BBC] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • President Rejects Mercy Pleas for 65 Death Row Prisoners [Dawn]
  • Foreign Affairs Committee Highlights Concerns Over Execution of Pakistanis Abroad [Dawn]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Passes Budget With Few Amendments [ET] [APP]
  • Sindh Police Establish ‘Chinese Desk’ at Foreign Security Cell [Dawn]
  • Malala Urges World Bank and UN Focus on Education [AFP]
  • Commentary: Rule Without Taking Over – “When politicians don’t own up to the political order they represent and instead dismiss it disdainfully, the resultant vacuum is filled by traditional forces with old claims.” [Talat Hussain, The News]

Afghanistan — Security
Kunduz Operations: The district governor of Kunduz’s Chahar Dara district reported on Tuesday that Afghan national security forces have launched an operation to retake control of the area, which adjoins the provincial capital, following a Taliban assault over the weekend. The deputy chief of staff of the Afghan National Army claimed that Afghan forces had retaken control of the district as of early Tuesday morning, but that clearing operations were still ongoing; the provincial police chief confirmed that account in a Reuters interview. The Dasht-e-Archi district, which the Taliban seized Monday, appears to remain under Taliban control. [TOLO] [WAPO]
Dostum and Atta Noor Form Alliance: A spokesman for the Jamiat-e-Islami party, Zabi Fitrat, announced on Monday that former rivals Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum and Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor had “pledged to put their differences aside and work together to tackle common issues”, particularly the “deteriorating security situation in the northern regions”. Both figures are reported to have met in Faryab province last week and their representatives in the Jamiat and Jumbesh parties are continuing to meet in Mazar-e-Sharif to “discuss ways to fight insurgency in the north”. Fitrat stressed that the two leaders “are determined to continue backing the security forces”, although both have been reported to have taken steps to reactivate militia networks in the north over the past several months.
Aid Worker Kidnapped: The country director for a Swiss aid agency, Anja de Beer, a Dutch national, was reportedly kidnapped in Kabul on Monday by unidentified gunmen. No claim of responsibility has been reported, and investigations are ongoing.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy
Taliban Talks: At a briefing for the Pakistani National Assembly committee on foreign affairs on Monday, Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz indicated that Afghan government and Taliban negotiators would meet within a week’s time, and suggested that a “major breakthrough” could come within the next three months. He did not provide further details. Aziz publicly acknowledge that Pakistan had facilitated a meeting in China between defense minister-designate Masoom Stanekzai and some Taliban representatives last month. He also suggested that the controversial memorandum of understanding between the NDS and ISI had been initiated by the Afghan government, disputed criticisms from Afghan opposition leaders. Meanwhile, Muhammad Mohaqiq, the second deputy to Chief Executive Abdullah and a participant at a Norway conference last week that was also attended by the Taliban, tells TOLO that “there was no discussion or exchange of words” and that “there wasn’t a major difference since the past, and I didn’t feel a great development in the peace process.”
Electoral Reforms: A spokesman for Chief Executive Abdullah said Monday that disputes between Pres. Ghani and Abdullah had been resolved and that the electoral reform commission should begin work soon; TOLO suggests that a presidential ordinance is first needed for the commission to officially sanction the commission’s discussions. [Pajhwok]

Afghanistan — Remainders
Praise for ANSF Response to Parliament Attack [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
UN Special Representative Briefs UN Security Council on Afghanistan [TOLO]
Interior Ministry Questioned on Delays in National ID Card Program [TOLO]
Report: Afghanistan’s New Generation of Islamic Activists – “These Islamic activist organisations, to varying degrees and in different ways, seek to change the country’s political system, its legislation and the scope of its (current) civil liberties in order to make the state and its laws more compatible with Islam.” [Afghan Analysts Network]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Taliban Attack Parliament Building in Kabul; PPP Seeks to Deescalate Conflict with Military

Topline

  • The PPP’s standoff with the military establishment continues, with travel bans reportedly placed on hundreds of former and current government officials and investigations continuing into allegations of corruption and land theft. At an Iftar meeting on Friday, fellow political leaders reportedly advised former Pres. Zardari against a confrontational course, and the PPP publicly praised the current army leadership in statements on Saturday. The Sindh government has also agreed to a long-pending transfer of 9,000 acres of forest land to the Pakistani Army. The Taliban staged a complex attack on the Afghan parliament on Monday, coinciding with parliamentary debate on the nomination of defense minister Masoom Stanekzai; all attackers were killed within a few hours, and while as many as thirty civilians were injured, no other deaths were reported. On Friday, Pres. Ghani issued an executive order extending parliament’s term until new elections are held, and said that a decision on the election schedule would be made within the next month. Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan announced Monday that regulation of NGO activity in Pakistan would be transferred to the interior ministry. Taliban fighters took control of two districts outside Kunduz city over the weekend; Afghan defense officials claim to have retaken Yamgan district in Badakhshan province, which they had already previously claim to have ousted the Taliban from. Power outages during the first days of Ramazan prompted protests, some violent, around Pakistan; Prime Minister Sharif has ordered action to reduce the outages, which come amidst a major heatwave that has killed as many as 200 people in Sindh.

Pakistan — Security

  • FATA Operations: Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif visited the Khyber Agency on Friday, the first day of Ramazan, where he met with soldiers and local tribal elders and received briefings on ongoing military operations from the 11 Corps commander, Lt. Gen. Hidayatur Rehman. Military spokesman said that Gen. Sharif vowed that “terrorists will not be allowed to reestablish themselves”. On Sunday, protestors at a camp for displaced Waziristan residents in Bannu clashed with troops stationed as guards, who reportedly opened fire, killing at least one and injuring at least six. [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation] [RFE/RL]
  • NGO Crackdown: NGO representatives at a meeting organized by the Pakistan Civil Society Forum in Islamabad on Friday denounced critical remarks made last week by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan regarding the activities of NGO organizations in Pakistan, saying that Chaudhry Nisar’s comments “amount to hate speech as they may incite violence against NGOs and can put at risk the lives of hundreds of thousands of NGO workers active in various parts of Pakistan”. On Friday, a lawyer representing the Watan Party filed a petition with the Supreme Court seeking a ban on unregistered NGOs operating in the country. On Monday, Chaudhry Nisar announced that NGO activity in Pakistan would now be regulated by the Interior Ministry rather than the Economic Affairs Division of the Finance Ministry. [ET]
  • Sentence in Connection to 2009 Lahore Attack: On Friday, Reaz Qadir Khan, a naturalized US citizen of Pakistani origin, was sentenced to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to the transfer of funds to Ali Jalil, a lead organizer of the May 2009 suicide bombing attack on ISI headquarters in Lahore.  [AFP]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Civil-Military Tensions in Karachi: During a post-budget debate session on Friday, representatives from the Sindh opposition parties, with the exception of the MQM, praised action by the Rangers and National Accountability Bureau to crack down on corruption in the province. A meeting of the Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Association on Sunday also voiced support for the Rangers’ action. The News reports that the government has placed exit controls on hundreds of former assembly members and Sindh government officers who are under scrutiny for corruption. PPP leader Owais Muzaffar was briefly detained at the Karachi airport on Friday but was allowed to travel onwards; Sindh Secretary for Education Fazlullah Pechacho, a brother-in-law to former Pres. Zardari, was barred from leaving the country. Representatives from the PML-Q, MQM, JUI-F, ANP, and BNP-Awami all attended an iftar meeting with Zardari on Friday, during which they reportedly “advised caution” rather than escalated confrontation between the PPP and the security establishment. In a statement on Saturday, Zardari offered public praise for the armed forces, and PPP vice president Sherry Rehman stressed that the PPP “holds General Raheel Sharif in high esteem… we are talking about former military dictators who’ve assumed power and are trying to return to the political front”. Zardari pledged not to withdraw from investigations against former Pres. Musharraf in connection to the death of the late Benazir Bhutto, whose birthday the party marked on Sunday, however. At an earlier meeting on Friday chaired by Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, the Sindh government decided “in principle” to transfer 9,000 acres of forest land to the Pakistani Army, which has sought control for the past 14 years of around 35,000 acres “to distribute among the heirs of martyred soldiers and wounded military personnel”, apparently for agricultural use. Some environmental groups have protested the proposed transfer. Meanwhile, on Sunday evening, the two senior leaders of the Sunni Tehreek party were reportedly detained by the Rangers, following a raid on Sunni Tehreek offices earlier in the day.  [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Election Complaints: The special judicial commission hearing charges of election rigging in the May 2013 polls concluded its cross-examination of polling station staff on Friday, and has requested a copy of the original memorandum of understanding between the PML-N and PTI that led to the commission’s formation; the Express Tribune suggests that the commission may conclude its proceedings during the first week of July. Meanwhile, 26 cases are still pending with election tribunals, who were originally mandated to conclude all rulings within four months. The tribunal hearing the PTI’s challenge to the NA-122 Lahore constituency results has set final arguments for June 22. [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Crisis: Power shortages on the first day of Ramazan prompted protests around the country on Friday, some of which involved minor violence; outages were reported in several major cities, including Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Multan, and Faisalabad. Prime Minister Sharif chaired a meeting to focus on the issue on Saturday, where he was reportedly told that outages could only be controlled through reduced demand or forced loadshedding; Sharif had earlier ordered that the power supply continue uninterrupted during the sehri and iftar feasting hours. Total demand reportedly exceeded 21,000 megawatts on Thursday evening, high above normal peak demand; Pakistan is currently undergoing a major heatwave, and as many as 200 people are reported to have died in Sindh over the past three days. Meanwhile, the Express Tribune reports that the World Bank has delayed signature on the second $500 million tranche of a energy sector reform support loan; a $500 million loan to support privatization and tax mobilization was approved, however. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Saudi Arabia Reportedly Pressuring Pakistan Again to Join Yemen Coalition [The Nation]
  • PAT Leaders Say Tahirul Qadri Will Return to Lahore June 29 [ET]
  • UK Officials Briefed on Imran Farooq Suspect Arrests [ET]
  • Foreign Policy Briefing for Parliamentary Committees Planned [Dawn] [ET]
  • Islamabad Police Pickets Unmanned During Iftar [Dawn]
  • Five Killed in Lyari Shootout [Dawn] [ET]
  • PML-Q Candidate, Backed by PTI, Wins PP-97 Gujranwala Special Election [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Budget Debate Wrapping Up as Fiscal Year Nears End [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Government to Roll Over Rs 8.4 Trillion in Domestic Debt [ET]
  • Government Plans Surcharges on LNG Import [ET] [Dawn]
  • India Releases Pakistani Fishermen in Goodwill Gesture [Dawn]
  • Report: Country Reports on Terrorism 2014: South and Central Asia Overview – “Pakistan remains a critical counterterrorism partner that is plagued with numerous violent extremist groups, many of which target Pakistani government or members of other religious sects.” [US State Department]
  • Commentary: The Zardari Myth – “Are the boys going after the PPP now because the pillaging and incompetence is out of control or are the boys going after them because they can now?” [Cyril Almeida, Dawn]
  • Commentary: Sindh Circa 2015 – “Zardari’s outburst has laid bare a predicament that holds this country — and Sindh in particular — in its jaws: who will hold to account the rapacious elected elite within a broken system?” [Fahd Hussain, Express Tribune]

Afghanistan — Security

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Ghani Extends Parliament Term: On Friday, Pres. Ghani issued an executive decree extending the Wolesi Jirga lower house of parliament’s tenure indefinitely until elections are held; although Ghani indicated that a date for elections would be announced within a month, it has yet to be specified. Ghani met with UN officials to discuss electoral reform issues on Monday. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah remain deadlocked on the workings of the special electoral reform commission that is meant to propose overhauls to the electoral process, the NYT notes, although both agree that such reforms must be put in place before elections are held. The Wolesi Jirga’s tenure had been set to expire at the end of June 21; some lawmakers protested that Ghani lacked the authority to extend the term unilaterally, and suggested that they would pass an extension themselves. [Pajhwok] [Khaama Press] [Reuters]
  • Taliban Talks: The NYT assesses the past few months of informal talks between Taliban representatives and other groups of Afghan leaders, noting despite the increased outreach, the Taliban have maintained their position that the government itself is illegitimate and refusing to engage in direct talks.
  • Refugee Registration: Pakistani authorities, working in conjunction with the Afghanistan ministry of refugees and repatriations, will begin efforts in late July to register around one million undocumented Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, an exercise that officials estimate will cost Rs 500 million and which they aim to complete by January 2016. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Taliban Offer ‘Hotline’ for Government Defectors [AFP]
  • An Afghan Jihadist’s Life and Death in Iraq [WAPO]
  • Senators Express Alarm at Reported Daesh Presence in Nangarhar [TOLO]
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs Offers 100-Day Plan [TOLO]
  • Ministry of Labor Accused of Corruption [TOLO]
  • State Bank to Offer $200M in Loans for Industrialists [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Rangers Investigations Continue as PPP Hits Back; Wolesi Jirga Tenure Extension Awaited

Topline

  • PPP parliamentarians continue to hit out at what they suggest is undue focus on alleged corruption in Sindh, where the Rangers continue to make investigations and arrests into land theft and other charges. Former Pres. Zardari reached out to MQM leader Altaf Hussain on Thursday, who is also under scrutiny; on Thursday, the Balochistan Frontier Corps announced the arrest of two suspects in the 2010 murder of former MQM leader Imran Farooq, both of whom were previously reported to have been under detention by the Pakistani security services. Afghan parliamentary sources say that Pres. Ghani has told them that he will extend parliament’s tenure and authority past its expiration on Sunday; Ghani has yet to make any public announcements on the subject. Finance Minister Dar announced some changes to the government’s draft budget following parliamentary debate over the past week, including a modification of withholding taxes on bank withdrawals by individuals not filing tax returns; Dar also suggested that the government would support quasi-provincial status for the FATA, Gilgit-Baltistan, and Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Members of the Afghan Ulema Council objected to the nomination of Anisa Rassouli, a woman, to the Supreme Court, during meetings with Pres. Ghani last week.

Pakistan — Security

  • FATA Operations: Military spokesmen announced Friday that twenty militant suspects were killed in airstrikes in the Khyber Agency, and another 18 wounded; no further details were provided. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PPP-Military Tensions and Karachi Crackdown: During parliamentary debate on Thursday, PPP national assembly members called for a “comprehensive investigation” into organized crime funding across the country, suggesting that Dubai real estate and Punjab militant groups should be the priority for scrutiny before Sindh, where former Pres. Zardari initiated an unusually public pushback against military intervention and investigations into land theft and other forms of corruption earlier this week. Prime Minister Sharif spoke by phone with Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif, currently traveling in Russia, on Thursday, during which the prime minister is reported to have assured that “the government will not brook any criticism or tolerate any statement or remarks against the military”. PPP spokesman Qamar Zaman Kaira insisted on Thursday that the party has “always stood by the army”, saying that “political leaders have misconstrued Zardari’s statement to make it more anti-establishment”. PPP sources claim to Dawn that Zardari’s remarks were in part intended to position the party as a more active opposition force. On Thursday, Zardari spoke by phone with MQM leader Altaf Hussain, who has also come under military pressure, and has offered invites to all senior party leaders for a Friday Iftar dinner. Meanwhile, the Director General of the Sindh Rangers Maj. Gen. Bilal Akbar briefed Karachi Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Naveed Mukhtar on Thursday on the status of operations in the city. On Thursday, the Rangers announced the arrest of the vice chairman of a fisherman’s union, Sultan Qamar Siddiqui, charging him with involvement in extortion, kidnappings, and targeted killings; at his arraignment, a Rangers lawyer claimed that Siddiqui had both confessed to funneling as much as 70% of his proceeds to the PPP’s Karachi headquarters, and that his brother had been involved in last month’s attack on the Ismaili community in Safoora. Elsewhere, the Balochistan Frontier Corps announced the arrest at the Chaman border crossing of Mohsin Ali Syed and Khalid Shamim, two men previously reported to have been held by Pakistani security services in connection to the 2010 murder of MQM leader Imran Farooq in London. The MQM denies association with either suspect. [Dawn] [ET] [Reuters] [ET]
  • Election Complaints: On Friday, the Supreme Court ordered a re-election in the NA-19 Haripur national assembly constituency, upholding the order of an election tribunal. The seat had been won by Raja Amin Zaman of the PTI, whose win was challenged by the PML-N’s Omar Ayub Khan. Elsewhere, three polling staff officers called to testify before the special judicial commission investigating charges of election rigging during the May 2013 polls said that none of the extra ballot papers delivered to their polling sites were actually used. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Debate: On Thursday, Finance Minister Dar said that the government had fully accepted 20 out of 92 non-binding recommendations made earlier this week by the senate, and “partially accepted” another 15. He did not specify which proposal would be incorporated into the budget, however. Dar did indicate that the government would modify its withholding tax proposal on bank withdrawals by individuals who do not file tax returns, exempting transactions under Rs 50,000, and would create a new subsidy fund for fertilizer. Dar also suggested that the government would support “quasi-provincial status” for the FATA, Gilgit-Baltistan, and Azad Jammu and Kashmir, allowing them to receive allocations through the National Financial Commission directly rather than through federal grant. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • President and Prime Minister Extend Ramazan Greetings [APP]
  • Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Army Act Amendments [Dawn]
  • Al Qaeda Branch Posts Images of Captive Warren Weinstein Following His Death [NYT]
  • Pakistan Frees Indian Fishermen [APP] [ET] [ET]
  • Violent Protests in Khyber Paktunkhwa Over Power Outages [Dawn]
  • Unsafe Levels of Contaminants Found in Pakistan Bottled Water [Dawn]
  • Committee to Consider Privatization of Nheelum-Jhelum Dam Project [ET]
  • Arrest Warrant Issued for Musharraf in Lal Masjid Murder Case [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Child Soldiers: A TOLO report suggests that “groups of Afghan children” in “a number of southern provinces” have joined youth militias to combat the Taliban; few details about the scope of their participation are offered, and a Ministry of Interior spokesman denies directly supporting their armament.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Parliamentary Will Be Extended, Ghani Suggests: The chairman of the parliament’s legal and judiciary committee tells TOLO that Pres. Ghani told lawmakers in meetings on Thursday that he would extend the Wolesi Jirga’s term limit, and its accompanying authorities, past its expiration on Sunday. A presidential spokesman says that Ghani will announce his course of action “within a few days”.
  • Ulema Council Protests Female Supreme Court Nominee: During meetings with Pres. Ghani last Friday, the Afghan Ulema Council objected to the nomination of Anisa Rassouli to join the Supreme Court, a member of the council tells Reuters.
  • Ismail Khan Complains of Being Sidelined: In an AFP interview, Herat power broker Ismail Khan reiterates complaints that “the jihadi leaders are not in the government and it (has) created distrust among the people and led to insecurity in Afghanistan”, and also expresses doubts over Pres. Ghani’s outreach to Pakistan.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • SIGAR Warns of Inflated Education Statistics: In a letter to USAID officials released on Thursday, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction highlighted concerns over inflated student enrollment statistics, which USAID relies on the Afghan Ministry of Education to provide but appears to be unable to directly verify itself. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghanistan ‘Will Respond to War with War,’ Ghani Says, But Calls for Peace in Ramazan Message [TOLO]
  • In Interview, Iranian Ambassador Reiterates No Direct Support for Taliban [WSJ]
  • After Daughter’s Mob Killing, Afghan Family Lives in Fear [AP]
  • US Judge Hears Case of Russian Who Joined Taliban [Reuters]