Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claims Quetta Bombing; IEC Announces July 2018 Parliamentary Election Date

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Topline

  • A suicide bombing near the offices of the Balochistan provincial police chief in Quetta killed at least 13 people on Friday morning; the TTP Jamaat ul Ahrar has claimed responsibility.
  • Pakistan’s military press wing released a new video of accused Indian spy Kulbhushan Jhadav on Thursday, in which he appeals for clemency and reiterates confessional statements that he had supported terrorist activities in Balochistan.
  • Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission announced Thursday that parliamentary and district council elections would be held July 7, 2018, approximately three years after parliament’s term ended.
  • An Eid address attributed to Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada was released Friday, in which he reiterated demands that the United States withdraw its forces from Afghanistan and dismissed the current government as illegitimate.
  • In a progress report to the Supreme Court on Thursday, the Joint Investigation Team in the Panama Papers case reported that government agencies, particularly the Federal Bureau of Revenue, were still not providing requested records to investigators.
  • Pakistan’s interior ministry said that it had rejected the registration applications of 23 international NGOs, with 73 applications approved and another 20 cases still pending.

Pakistan — Security

  • Quetta Bombing: An apparent suicide bombing near the offices of the Balochistan provincial police chief in Quetta on Friday morning killed at least 13 people, including five police officers; at least 19 were wounded. A spokesman for the provincial government blamed India for the attack; the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaat-ul-Ahrar splinter group claimed responsibility.
  • Accused Indian Spy Makes Mercy Plea: On Thursday, the Pakistani military’s press wing issued a video in which accused Indian spy Kulbhushan Jhadav appeals to Chief of Army Staff Bajwa for clemency from the death sentence issued against him; Jhadav again confessed to support Baloch militants and supporting attacks inside Pakistan, including those targeted at the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. India’s foreign ministry renewed demands for consular access to Jhadav and dismissed the statement as intended to influence International Court of Justice proceedings. Separately, Pakistani military officials said two civilians were wounded in an exchange of fire across the Line of Control in the Kotli district on Thursday. [Dawn] [AP] [AJE] [The Nation]
  • NGO Crackdown: In a statement on Thursday, the Interior Ministry said that it had rejected the registration applications of 23 international NGOs “in view of their past performance and projects or due to certain activities falling outside their domain and stated purpose of their organization”. 73 have been registered, and another 20 cases are pending. [The Nation]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Investigation: The Panama Papers Joint Investigation Team submitted its third interim progress report to the Supreme Court on Thursday, in which the JIT reported a continued lack of cooperation from government agencies over record searches, particularly the Federal Board of Revenue. Separately, the court will indict former PML-N senator Nehal Hashmi over his remarks against the investigation; Hashmi did not appear in the court on Friday. [The Nation] [ET]
  • Gulf Diplomacy: Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Pakistan denied that Pakistan had been mediating between the Saudis and Qatar. [ET]
  • U.S. Relations: Speaking at Thursday’s press briefing in response to questions regarding reports that the Trump administration may be considering a harder-line approach towards Pakistan, a spokesman for the foreign ministry said that Pakistan “firmly believe that continued close cooperation between our two countries is critical for promoting peace and security in the region and beyond”. [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: The Election Commission of Pakistan has set a new July 10 deadline for the PTI to submit financial documents regarding charges that it had improperly accepted funding from overseas. A separate petition has been filed challenging the PTI’s intra-party leadership elections. PPP senator Babar Awan is reportedly set to defect to join the PTI. [ET] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Trade Deficit Rises: Pakistan’s current account deficit rose to almost $9 billion during the first 11 months of the fiscal year, up 177% from $3.2 billion last year, State Bank of Pakistan figures released Thursday indicate. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Christian Man in Lahore Arrested on Blasphemy Charges [Dawn]
  • Chief of Army Staff Meets Turkish Prime Minister [Dawn] [ET]
  • Karachi Police Planning to Transfer 227 Trials to Military Courts [Dawn]
  • Sindh High Court Gives Rangers August Deadline to Recover Missing Persons [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kabul Security: Gen. Afzal Aman has been appointed acting commander of the Kabul army garrison and Gen. Mohammad Salim Ehsas has been appointed acting police chief for the capital, Khaama Press reports. Kabul mayor Abdullah Habibzai announced Thursday that the city would begin removing barricades and reopening roads starting Friday, after the dispersal of protestors earlier this week; some key roads will remain closed, however. [TOLO]
  • Attacks and Operations: Afghan National Army officials reported Thursday that they had killed a senior member of the Taliban’s military commission, identified as Mawlavi Shukoor, during operations in Takhar province on Thursday. The death toll from Thursday’s bombing in Lashkar Gah has reportedly risen to 34, with at least 60 wounded. [NYT] [WSJ]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • IEC Announces Parliamentary Election Date: On Thursday, the Afghan Independent Election Commission announced that it would hold parliamentary and district council elections on July 7, 2018, nearly three years after parliament’s term expired. The district council elections, if held, would be the first elections of those bodies since Afghanistan’s 2004 constitution was formed. UNAMA special representative Tadamichi Yamamoto welcomed the announcement. [Khaama Press] [AP]
  • Eid Message: The Taliban released an annual Eid-ul-Fitr message on behalf of the group’s leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada, in which he demanded “complete independence of the country and establishment of an Islamic system” and said that “the occupation is the main obstacle in the way of peace”. The message said that the Taliban would “not allow anyone else to intervene in Afghanistan” and promised “constructive and good relations with you and the world” if U.S. forces were withdrawn, but dismissed the current government as illegitimate. [AP] [Khaama Press] [Taliban Message on JustPaste.it]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ghani Participates in ‘Responsible Citizen’ Debate [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: FIA Investigating JIT Allegations of Record Tampering; Taliban Release Hostage Video

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Topline

  • Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency has formed a four-member team to investigate allegations that Securities and Exchange Commission officials had tampered with records sought by the Joint Investigation Team in the Panama Papers case.
  • The Taliban released video of two American and Australian professors kidnapped from the American University of Afghanistan last year, in which they again appeal for their release in exchange for the release of Taliban prisoners.
  • A suicide bombing at a branch of the New Kabul Bank in Lashkar Gah has killed at least 29 people and wounded dozens more; no immediate claim of responsibility has been reported.
  • Anti-terrorism courts in Lahore and Karachi separately acquitted two men linked to the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team, and the 2013 murder of activist Perween Rehman.
  • Pakistan’s interior ministry has approved tighter restrictions on the issuance of business and work visas to Chinese nationals.
  • At a briefing for the UN Security Council on Wednesday, UNAMA special representative Tadamichi Yamamoto warned of increasing political polarization and ethnic tensions following attacks in Kabul earlier this month.
  • Following meetings with the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday, the Election Commission of Pakistan has determined that it will not re-draw electoral constituencies prior to the next general elections.
  • Pres. Ghani appointed eight new members of the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission on Wednesday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Court Acquittals: A Lahore anti-terrorism court acquitted two men accused of providing arms and training to the militants who carried out the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore; their case is reported to have previously been referred back from a military court. In Karachi, another anti-terrorism court acquitted the main suspect in the 2013 murder of Orangi Pilot Project leader Perween Rehman.
  • Interior Ministry Reviews Visas for Chinese Nationals: At a meeting on Wednesday, the interior ministry approved a plan to tighten restrictions on the issuance of business or work visas to Chinese nationals visiting Pakistan, following reports that a pair who were kidnapped and killed by the Islamic State in Quetta last month had been missionaries. [Dawn]
  • Border Tensions: Speaking at a weekly press briefing on Thursday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman warned that U.S. drone strikes were a violation of Pakistani sovereignty and “unacceptable”. The Nation reports that two American helicopters briefly violated Pakistani airspace near the Torkham border crossing on Wednesday. Speaking during debate on Wednesday, Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN Maleeha Lodhi countered charges of Pakistani support for Afghan insurgents, saying that militant safe havens were inside, not outside, the country.
  • FATA Operations: On Wednesday, Pakistani military spokesmen announced the seizure of a large arms cache in separate operations in North and South Waziristan. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Investigation: Following a court order, the Federal Investigation Agency has formed a four-member team tasked with investigating complaints from the Panama Papers Joint Investigation Team that Securities and Exchange Commission officials had tampered with records during the course of the JIT’s investigation. At hearings on Thursday, JIT officials accused the Federal Board of Revenue of not providing full records of Sharif family assets. Following a meeting of party leaders on Wednesday, PTI chief Imran Khan accused the government and it allies of seeking to malign the judiciary and impede the investigation, vowing to counter such actions. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Tensions with India: In an interview with The Hindu on Wednesday, Pakistan’s ambassador to India Abdul Basit called for the continuation of cricket ties between the two countries, and for comprehensive dialogue talks to resume “without preconditions”. [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: At a meeting on Wednesday following meetings with Pakistan Bureau of Statistics officials, Election Commission officials decided not to redraw constituency boundaries prior to the next general elections; final census results are scheduled to be released in April, with the ECP estimating it would take as long as seven months to redraw constituencies once that data was available. The PPP commemorated the late Benazir Bhutto’s birthday on Wednesday, with her son and party leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari vowing to “fulfill her aspirations for Pakistan”. [Khaama Press]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Debates: The Balochistan assembly approved the government’s budget on Wednesday; opposition party members did not seek to challenge the budget.
  • FDI Rises in May: The State Bank of Pakistan reported that Pakistan received $295 million in foreign direct investment in May, bringing cumulative July-May totals to $2.03 billion, compared to $1.65 billion in the same period last year. 44% of total FDI comes from China. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Chief of Army Staff Meets Turkish President [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Foreign Ministry Confirms Iranian Drone Shot Down [Dawn] [AP]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Planning to Relocate Afghan Refugee Camps [Dawn]
  • Police Kill Three Lyari Gang Leaders [The Nation]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Voucher Program Targets Out-of-School Children [ET]
  • Pakistani Citizens Gasp for Clean Air [AFP]
  • Baldia Factory Fire Victims Reject Installment Compensation Payments [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Taliban Release Hostage Video: On Wednesday, the Taliban released a video of two former professors at the American University of Afghanistan, American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks; in the video, apparently recorded last week, the pair appeal for the government to negotiate a prisoner exchange for their release. The Taliban last released a video of the men in January. A spokesman for Pres. Ghani said that “all options are on the table” but vowed that the government “would not compromise” on the status of Taliban prisoners. [AP] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • U.S. Assistance: National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar held talks on “the framework of the new bilateral security cooperation” between Afghanistan and the United States with his U.S. counterpart H.R. McMaster by videoconference on Wednesday.
  • Attacks and Operations: At least 29 people were killed when a suicide car bomber struck a crowd of Afghan soldiers and government employees queuing outside a New Kabul Bank branch in the Helmand provincial capital of Lashkar Gah on Thursday; 60 people or more were wounded. No immediate claim of responsibility has been reported. On Wednesday evening, unidentified gunmen attacked a mosque in Logar province’s Surkhabad area, killing a former Hezb-e-Islami commander and at least one other man. [Guardian] [WAPO] [Reuters] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Guardian] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • UN Review: Speaking before the UN Security Council on Wednesday, UNAMA special representative Tadamichi Yamamoto expressed concern that “political fault-lines that emerged” after attacks in Kabul earlier this month “are increasingly along an ethnic basis”, and warned that “without changes in governance practices we are likely to face future crises that might be more difficult to contain”. [UN Quarterly Briefing Report (pdf)]
  • New Civil Service Appointees: On Wednesday, Pres. Ghani announced the appointment of eight new members of the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission, warning against any interference in the commission’s work.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghan Military Uniform Choice Unnecessarily Cost U.S. $28 Million, SIGAR Reports [WAPO] [SIGAR (pdf)]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistani Military Begins Border Fencing in FATA; Refugees Minister Warns Against Repatriations

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Topline

  • Pakistan’s military announced Tuesday that it had begun fencing portions of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in the Bajaur, Mohamand, and Khyber Agencies, in order to curtail cross-border militant infiltration. The Afghan interior ministry protested the move.
  • Speaking on World Refugee Day on Tuesday, Afghan Minister of Refugees and Repatriation Sayed Hussain Alimi Balkhi said that around 194,000 Afghan refugees had returned to the country in the past three months, but that “the current situations in Afghanistan are not suitable for the expulsion of Afghan refugees”. Chief Executive Abdullah also called on host nations not to furce refugees’ return.
  • Pakistan has reportedly shot down an Iranian surveillance drone in the Panjgur district of Balochistan; details are otherwise limited.
  • Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz insisted that Pakistan would remain neutral in the Gulf crisis, but said that former Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif had taken command of the Saudi military alliance in his “personal capacity” and so could not be recalled.
  • Speaking on Tuesday, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford reiterated that the Pentagon had not made a final decision on U.S. troop deployments in Afghanistan and that the administration’s strategy review would be completed by mid-July.
  • The NYT notes that the U.S. has reduced the use of Afghan guards at the Bagram military base following a suicide attack there last November; a group of eight guards, who were commuting home unarmed, were killed on Monday evening.
  • Pres. Ghani met with religious scholars on Tuesday evening, pledging that Afghanistan would not be split along sectarian lines despite attacks by groups like the Islamic State on the Shia minority.

Pakistan — Security

  • Border Fencing with Afghanistan: Pakistan’s military spokesman announced Tuesday that the army had begun fencing portions of the Afghan-Pakistan border in the Bajaur, Mohmand, and Khyber Agencies, focusing in “infiltration-prone” areas; ultimately, the army said it intends to fence the entirety of the border, as well as construct additional border posts. A spokesman for the Afghan interior ministry protested the move, saying Pakistan “has no right to fence or construct any building along the border with Afghanistan”, and warned of retaliatory action. The ambassadors of Pakistan and Afghanistan shared the stage at an event in Washington on Tuesday, at which Pakistan’s Ambassador Aizaz Chaudhry decried the “blame game” over insecurity in Afghanistan, and Afghanistan’s Ambassador Hamdullah Mohib was pointed in his criticism of Pakistani claims of cooperation. The Nation reports that Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi is set to visit Islamabad and Kabul beginning June 24th, with the goal of reducing bilateral tensions between the two countries. [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Iranian Drone Shot Down: Pakistan Air Force jets shot down an Iranian surveillance drone in Balochistan’s Panjgur district on Monday, officials report; details are limited. [ET]
  • Saudi Alliance: Speaking before the senate committee on foreign affairs on Wednesday, advisor Sartaj Aziz said that former chief of army staff Raheel Sharif had taken command of the Saudi military alliance “in his personal capacity” and thus could not be asked to return to Pakistan. Aziz nonetheless said that Pakistan would maintain a neutral position in the Gulf crisis. [The Nation]
  • Army Chief Visits Turkey: Chief of Army Staff Bajwa visited Ankara on Tuesday, where he met with his counterparts Gen. Salih Zeki Çolak and Gen. Hulusi Akar and discussed regional security issues and defense cooperation; Bajwa was subsequently awarded the Turkish Legion of Merit. [ET] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Investigation: During hearings on Tuesday, Supreme Court judges holding hearings on the investigation into the Panama Papers complained of leaks of court and investigation proceedings, criticizing the government for seeking to influence public opinion rather than argue its case before the court. [The Nation]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • CPEC Project: In an announcement of China’s “Vision for Maritime Cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative” on Tuesday, Chinese officials voiced support for linking the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project to the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor and the China-Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor. The document did not provide details; India has objected to CPEC, which passes through disputed territory in Kashmir.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Two Militant Suspects Killed in Tank District [Dawn] [ET]
  • Interior Ministry Seeks to Ban Public Sale of Military Uniforms [The Nation]
  • Four Workers Critically Injured at Lahore Orange Line Metro Project [Dawn] [ET]
  • NEPRA Orders Refunds for Karachi, Hyderabad, and Sukkur Customers [Dawn] [ET]
  • Commentary: Pakistan’s Anxieties Are Incurable, So Stop Trying to Cure Them – “Not only can the United States not address Pakistani anxieties, but U.S. efforts to do so have undermined vital U.S. interests in the region.” [Christine Fair, War on the Rocks]

Afghanistan — Security

  • U.S. Force Levels: Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford reiterated that the Pentagon had not made a final decision on troop numbers for additional U.S. forces to be deployed to Afghanistan, and that the administration’s broader regional strategy review would be completed by mid-July. [TOLO]
  • Bagram Base Attack: The NYT notes that the victims of an attack on Afghan guards serving at Bagram on Monday night were unarmed and had been commuting home from the base following recent restrictions on the use of Afghan guards at the facility after a suicide bombing attack at Bagram last November. The number of Afghan workers at the base has declined from 3,000 to 1,500 since then, with economic impact on the surrounding area.
  • Attacks and Operations: The commander of the Afghan National Army’s 201st Corps told reporters on Wednesday that 44 ISIS fighters had been killed and 22 wounded during operations to retake control of the area around Tora Bora in Nangarhar, which defense officials announced they had recaptured over the weekend. Officials in the Darzab district in Jawzjan claim to have killed 20 ISIS fighters after attacks on checkposts over the past two days; provincial police officials say six Afghan soldiers were killed. An explosion was reported in Jalalabad on Wednesday, following a bombing the day prior that killed a local judge; no casualties were reported in the latest incident. One person was wounded in a separate bombing in Kabul on Wednesday; the bomb was reportedly planted on a vehicle, but details are limited. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Refugee Repatriation: Speaking on World Refugee Day on Tuesday, Chief Executive Abdullah called on nations hosting Afghan refugees not to force their return; Minister of Refugees and Repatriation Sayed Hussain Alimi Balkhi said that around 194,000 Afghans had been repatriated in the past three months, but that “the current situations in Afghanistan are not suitable for the expulsion of Afghan refugees”. The UNHCR estimates that around two million Afghan refugees remain in Pakistan.
  • Ghani Meets Religious Scholars: Pres. Ghani met with a gathering of religious scholars on Tuesday evening, telling them that “there is a need that our scholars use their strong voice against ignorance, seduction and misguidance” and vowing that insurgent groups would fail to provoke a sectarian split in Afghan society through attacks on Shia mosques.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Former Ministry of Urban Development Officials Sentenced and Fined in Corruption Case [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • ID Card Fraud Widespread in Herat [Pajhwok]
  • Report: Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan – “The ANDSF are at a critical point in the fight against the insurgency. The plan to modify the force structure and develop into a more agile and lethal force is underway, but 2017 is a year of setting conditions to build momentum.” [US Department of Defense (pdf)]
  • Commentary: New Alignments, Old Battlefield: Revisiting India’s Role in Afghanistan – “The only solution to the Afghan conflict is a political one. An open-minded approach by India vis-à-vis regional cooperation can help secure the gains of the previous fifteen years, and inch closer to an end to the Afghan conflict.” [Avinash Paliwal, Carnegie India]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Trump Admin Considering ‘Hardened’ Approach to Pakistan; Police Clear Kabul Protest Camp by Force

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Topline

  • Reuters reports the Trump administration is considering measures to “harden its approach” to Pakistan, including an expansion of drone strikes, cuts to U.S. assistance, and the removal of major non-NATO ally status. No final decisions have been made.
  • Afghan security forces cleared out the last major protest camp in Kabul over Monday night, clashing with demonstrators; at least one protestor has been killed, and several arrested. Chief Executive Abdullah professed shock over the action on Tuesday and called for an investigation.
  • The Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered an investigation by the Federal Investigation Agency into allegations by the Joint Investigation Team in the Panama Papers case that officials with the Securities and Exchange Commission had altered records sought in their investigation into money laundering charges against the Sharif family.
  • The NYT confirms that the Afghan government and intelligence services are supporting the breakaway Taliban faction affiliated with Mullah Mohammad Rasool, providing financing and arms in Helmand’s Gereshk district and Herat’s Shindand district.
  • Eight Afghan guards working at the U.S. base in Bagram were killed in a Taliban attack on Monday night while en route to work at the base.
  • Two Pakistan Navy sailors were killed and three wounded in an attack in the Gwadar district on Monday; the Balochistan Liberation Army claimed responsibility.
  • Pres. Ghani inaugurated a new air cargo service linking Afghanistan and India in Kabul on Monday; a second flight is scheduled to depart from Kandahar next week.

Pakistan — Security

  • Trump Administration Review: Anonymous U.S. officials tell Reuters that the Trump administration is considering options to “harden its approach” to Pakistan, including expanded drone strikes, reductions in assistance, or downgrading Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally; other sources are more skeptical, and no final decision has been made.
  • Navy Sailors Killed: Two Pakistan Navy sailors were killed and three wounded in a driveby shooting in the town of Jiwani in Balochistan’s Gwadar district on Monday; the Balochistan Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the attack. [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Mashal Khan Lynching: Anti-terrorism court hearings began on Monday for 57 suspects charged in connection to the lynching of Abdul Wali Khan University student Mashal Khan in April; hearings are expected to be transferred to another district in response to Khan’s father’s petition to shift the case out of concerns for his family’s security. [The Nation]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Investigation: At hearings on Monday, the Supreme Court ordered the Federal Investigation Agency to investigate allegations by the Panama Papers Joint Investigation Team that records had been tampered with by the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan and the Intelligence Bureau. The court also warned the government against using the Intelligence Bureau to harass members of the JIT. On Tuesday, the court dismissed a petition from Hussain Nawaz to bar the use of video recordings during JIT investigations. Separately, former PML-N senator Nehal Hashmi submitted a reply to court hearings on contempt charges against him for remarks made against the JIT, arguing he was taken out of context. [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Dawn Leaks: Former information secretary Rao Tehsin, who was removed from his position following an inquiry into the leak of accounts of disputes between military and civilian officials to Dawn News, has petitioned the Islamabad High Court for a copy of the investigation report, which has not been made public. [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: Imran Khan failed to file a response with the Election Commission on Monday in a contempt of court case against him dating back to allegations made in January that the ECP was biased in favor of the government; the ECP set a July 4 deadline for a response. Speaking at a Karachi press conference on Monday, Khan vowed to defeat both the PML-N and PPP in the next general elections. Speaking at the inauguration of a highway section in Karachi on Monday, PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that Khan’s promises of change had been “limited to social media”, and touted the PPP government’s development work. On Tuesday, the ECP disqualified Punjab assembly member Raja Shauakat Aziz Bhatti of the PML-N for holding a fake educational degree; Bhatti has been facing charges over the issue since 2008. The JUI-F will convene a general council on July 7 to discuss the party’s political strategy. [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Officials Report 832 Deaths from Kashmir Ceasefire Violations [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Islamabad High Court Refuses to Suspend Inquiry Against Judge Who Acquitted Axact CEO [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • WAPDA Officials Say China Offering Financing for Diamer-Bhasha Dam Through CPEC [ET]
  • Senate Forms Panel to Investigate Quetta Land Occupation by Military [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Begins Revising Textbooks [ET]
  • IMF Overstates Pakistan’s Foreign Currency Reserves [ET]
  • Prime Minister Sharif Performs Umrah [The Nation]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Taliban Divisions: The NYT reports that the Helmand provincial government and the NDS intelligence agency have been providing support to the breakaway Taliban faction affiliated with Mullah Mohammad Rasool in the Gereshk district who have battled with the main Taliban force for the past week, leaving at least 21 dead on both sides. The government is also reported to be backing the Rasool faction in the Herat district of Shindand.
  • Bagram Guards Killed: Taliban gunmen attacked a group of security guards traveling to work at the U.S. airbase in Bagram late Monday night, killing at least eight and wounding two, provincial officials reported. [TOLO]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: As many as six policemen were killed in a roadside bombing on the Lashkar Gah – Kandahar highway in Helmand on Tuesday. A Jalalabad anti-corruption court judge was killed when a bomb was planted on his vehicle on Tuesday; three other civilians were also wounded. No claim of responsibility has been reported. Taliban fighters attacked Afghan forces in the Khawaja Ghar district in Takhar on Monday; officials say six insurgents were killed. [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Police Forces Clash with Protestors: Afghan security forces moved to clear the main Kabul protest camp over Monday night and into Tuesday morning, clashing with demonstrators; at least one protestor has reportedly been killed. Protest leaders tell Khaama Press two were killed and 27 injured, and that at least 11 protestors had been arrested; the Post reports that leaders have called for renewed demonstrations, but that the camp has currently been dismantled. Chief Executive Abdullah said that the incident had “shocked us all” and called for an investigation into the move. Meanwhile, the Attorney General’s Office continues to investigate clashes between police and protestors earlier this month; a spokesman suggested that investigation would be “finalized soon”. [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [AP]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Indian ‘Air Corridor’ Inaugurated: Pres. Ghani officially inaugurated the first flight of a new air cargo service linking Afghanistan and India on Monday, with a shipment of 60 tons of Afghan medicinal plants bound for India valued at about $5 million. Another flight from Kandahar is scheduled to depart next week. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Opium Use Booms in Afghanistan, Creating a ‘Silent Tsunami’ of Addicted Women [WAPO]
  • Three Former Ministry of Housing and Urban Development Officials to Be Tried in Anti-Corruption Justice Center Appeal Court [Khaama Press]
  • Russian Envoy Says Moscow a ‘Key Partner’ to Kabul [TOLO] [Ariana News]
  • National Procurement Commission Approves Ten New Contracts [Khaama Press]
  • Afghan De-Miners Cling to Hard But Much Needed Jobs [AP]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Shehbaz Sharif Appears Before Panama Papers JIT; Eight Wounded in Balkh Insider Attack

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Topline

  • Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif appeared before the Joint Investigation Team in the Panama Papers case on Saturday, emphasizing his family’s cooperation with investigations in contrast to other leaders. The Supreme Court will hold hearings on Monday on allegations of interference in the JIT’s investigations; a spokesman for the prime minister’s office alleged that the JIT was tapping the phones of witnesses.
  • Seven Americans and one Afghan soldier were wounded in an insider attack at a joint base in Mazar-e-Sharif on Saturday; the gunman, an Afghan special forces commando, was killed.
  • Two Pakistani diplomats working in the Jalalabad consulate have gone missing since departing to travel by road to Pakistan on Friday, the Pakistani foreign office said in a statement on Sunday; investigations into their whereabouts are ongoing. Separately, a foreign national — some reports identify him as an American and others as a Kenyan — working on a World Bank project with the ministry of agriculture was reportedly kidnapped in Kabul on Sunday.
  • Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has set a July 31 deadline to complete the review of 36 pending registration applications from international NGOs; 66 have been registered and ten rejected thus far.
  • Afghan security forces announced that they had retaken control of the Tora Bora area in Nangarhar from the Islamic State, which had taken control of the area from the Taliban last week. The Taliban carried out a complex attack on an Afghan police base in Paktia on Sunday, which killed at least six people.
  • Prime Minister Sharif and President Hussain traveled separately to Saudi Arabia on Sunday to perform Umrah and meet with Saudi officials; Sharif will reportedly travel on to London afterwards for a medical checkup.
  • Pres. Ghani met with members of parliament and civil society representatives on Saturday and Sunday, during which he called for protestors to end their sit-ins in Kabul. Protestors say they have withdraw all sit-ins except one main camp, and reiterated their demands for the removal of security officials in response to multiple high-profile attacks over the past month.
  • In remarks at the National Defense University on Saturday, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa called for a “trust based coordinated response” to terrorism, chiding unnamed countries in the region “closing eyes to one’s own responsibility and resorting to throwing blame outside”.

Pakistan — Security

  • NGO Crackdown: At a briefing for Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Friday, interior ministry officials reported that 66 international NGOs had been registered with the government, and the applications of ten rejected. Decisions are still pending on 36 applications; Chaudhry Nisar set a deadline of July 31 to complete the registration process.
  • Border Tensions with Afghanistan: In remarks at the National Defense University of Pakistan on Saturday, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa warned that “terrorism cannot be defeated by closing eyes to one’s own responsibilities and resorting to throwing blame outside as being done by a few players in the region”, calling instead for “a trust based coordinated response rather than a blame game or unwarranted skirmishes”. Paramilitary Frontier Corps forces repelled two cross-border attacks by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan militants in the Kurram and Mohmand Agencies on Friday and Saturday, the Express Tribune reports. On Saturday, police in Chaman reported the arrest of an Afghan man accused of plotting multiple bomb attacks in Balochistan. [The Nation] [ET]
  • Border Tensions with Iran: Officials in Balochistan’s Panjgur district reported Sunday that Iranian forces had fired several mortars across the border near the town of Prom; no casualties were reported.
  • Rocket Strikes BNP Leader’s Home: A rocket struck the gate of the home of Balochistan National Party leader Sardar Akhtar Mengal in the town of Wadh on Sunday; he was not present at the time of the attack, and no casualties or claim of responsibility were reported.
  • Karachi Attack Disrupted: Four Lashkar-e-Jhangvi militants were arrested in Karachi by the Sindh Rangers on Saturday; the group was reportedly planning to carry out attacks on the Shia community’s Youm-e-Ali processions. [The Nation] [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Investigation: Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif spoke before the Joint Investigation Team in the Panama Papers case on Saturday; speaking to reporters afterwards, he said “we have proven that our family has respect for the law, unlike the military rulers who usurped power at gunpoint”, and reiterated that the family had committed no wrongdoing. The Supreme Court is due to hold hearings on Monday on reports from the JIT that its investigation was being interfered with. In a separate response to the Supreme Court on Saturday, the head of the Intelligence Bureau acknowledged “collecting information” on members of the JIT, but maintained that this was routine and denied that they had hacked their social media accounts. Earlier on Friday, spokesmen for the prime minister’s office accused the JIT of wiretapping the phones of witnesses. Imran Khan accused Prime Minister Sharif of threatening the JIT in remarks on Friday, pledging to rally in the streets if the government did not accept a verdict from the judiciary; on Saturday, Khan said that both Sharif brothers would soon be jailed. He also announced that the party would henceforth boycott the Jang-Geo media group, accusing it of “biased, one-sided coverage of the ongoing investigations into Panamagate case”. Meanwhile, The Nation reports that the National Accountability Bureau representative on the JIT, Irfan Mangi, is under investigation by the NAB for an improper appointment. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Gulf Diplomacy: Prime Minister Sharif and President Hussain traveled separately to Saudi Arabia on Sunday; Sharif’s visit, his second to the kingdom in the past two weeks, will include Umrah in Mecca and will reportedly be followed by a trip to London for medical checkups. Hussain met with King Salman bin Abdulaziz, as well as Yemeni and Kuwaiti leaders. [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • US Relations: Speaking during a Congressional hearing on Thursday in response to call from Representatives Rohrabacher and Poe — two leading critics of U.S. assistance to Pakistan — Secretary of State Tillerson said that the administration was “beginning an interagency policy review towards Pakistan” and that no decisions would be made until it was completed. He provided no further details.
  • Other Political Activity: Speaking at a party gathering in Khyber Paktunkhwa on Friday, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari ruled out an electoral alliance with any other parties in the next general elections, predicting that the party would sweep to victory in the province. Former PPP minister Imtiaz Safdar Warraich quit the party to join the PTI on Friday; he is the fourth major PPP leader to flip in the Gujranwala division in the last month. Jamaat-e-Islami leader Liaqat Baloch told journalists on Saturday that discussions on an opposition alliance would begin after Eid. The Pakistan Awami Tehreek did not organize a large protest on Saturday, the anniversary of a 2014 clash with Punjab police that left 14 party activists dead, but opted instead for a prayer ceremony at which party leader Tahir-ul Qadri vowed to take revenge. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • IMF Review: In a statement on Friday following the conclusion of talks with Pakistani finance officials, the IMF said that the outlook for Pakistan’s economy was “favorable”, projecting medium-term growth GDP rates of around 6%. The IMF noted concerns over the fiscal and current account deficits, however.
  • Budget Debates: On Friday, the Sindh provincial assembly approved the government’s budget for the forthcoming fiscal year, over the objections of the MQM-led opposition.
  • Energy Crisis: Dawn notes that increases in power generation capacity as projects currently under development are completed may bring surplus generation to as much as 3,000 megawatts, which would nonetheless require capacity payments from the government. Currently, however, three natural gas-fired power plants are unable to operate at capacity due to the lack of available pipeline volume; pipeline construction delays have in turn pushed back development of a new LNG import terminal. On Friday, the Asian Development Bank and French Development Agency pledged $623 million in loans to support energy sector reforms and banking access. Sindh has added roughly 477 megawatts of wind power to its grid so far this financial year. [The Nation]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Visa Revoked for Korean Teacher Linked to Kidnapped Chinese Teachers [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Reuters]
  • Journalists in Pakistan Under Fire from Many Sides [AP]
  • One Killed, Six Injured in Washuk Bombing [ET]
  • Punjab Rangers Arrest Three Suspected Terrorists; Two Killed in Lahore [ET] [The Nation]
  • CPEC Pushes US Aside in Pakistan [WSJ] [ET]
  • Interpol Seeks Details on MQM Leader’s Status in UK After Pakistani Request [ET]
  • Sindh Police Recommend Steps to Improve Criminal Justice System [Dawn]
  • Senate Panel Considers Army Proposal to Relocate Headquarters to Islamabad [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Ulema Council Remains Split Between Ahsrafi and Qasmi [ET]
  • Pakistan Hindu Council Seeks Supreme Court Action on Forced Conversions [ET]
  • Shahid Mehmood Appointed New Federal Finance Secretary [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • US Strategy: The NYT overviews the Trump administration’s delegation of decision-making authority to the Pentagon on any increase troop levels in Afghanistan, a decision which Pentagon officials say has not yet been made. A broader strategy review, which includes aspects of the U.S. relationship with Pakistan and the region, remains underway.
  • Insider Attacks: Seven Americans and one Afghan soldier were wounded when an Afghan soldier opened fire at a joint base in Mazar-e-Sharif on Saturday, the same site as an attack that killed hundres of Afghan soldiers earlier in April. The attacker, a member of a commando unit, was killed. Al Jazeera reports the attack came after a training exercise and that the attacker used a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. It is the second insider attack targeting U.S. forces in Afghanistan within the past week; in the most recent incident, the Taliban praised the attacker but did not explicitly claim responsibility for instigating the attack. [Reuters] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Kidnappings: Pakistan’s foreign ministry issued a statement on Sunday saying that two Pakistani diplomats based in the Jalalabad consulate had gone missing on Friday while traveling by road to Pakistan; the statement said that Afghan officials were cooperating in an investigation into their disappearance. Separately, the AP quotes Kabul police officials who say that a Kenyan national working as an assistant to the ministry of agriculture had been kidnapped on Sunday; earlier accounts in the Afghan press identified the man as an American national working on a World Bank contract for the ministry. [ET] [Reuters] [AP] [Khaama Press]
  • Security Forces Retake Tora Bora: Acting Afghan Defense Minister Tariq Shah Bahrami announced at a press conference on Saturday that Afghan forces had retaken control of the Tora Bora area in Nangarhar’s Pacher Agam in Nangarhar from the Islamic State, after ISIS forces seized control of the area from the Taliban last week. Bahrami claimed that 22 ISIS fighters had been killed in the operations, and that more than 2,500 had been killed in operations in Nangarhar since the start of the year. On Friday, the U.S. military command in Afghanistan reported that Jawad Khan, identified as a senior ISIS media official and link to the group’s leadership in Syria, had been killed in an airstrike that took place in the Achin district on June 3. [TOLO] [AP] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: At least six Afghan police officers were killed and more than a dozen were injured when the Taliban carried out a complex attack on a major police headquarters in the Paktia capital city of Gardez on Sunday; Afghan security forces battled with six gunmen throughout the day after an initial suicide attack breached the gates. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. On Sunday, Ministry of Interior officials reported that two senior Haqqani network commanders had been killed in an airstrike in the Orgun district in Paktia. On Monday, unidentified gunmen killed the district governor of Nimroz’s Chighansor district in a driveby shooting; no claim of responsibility has been reported. In Helmand, provincial government officials claim to have killed 75 Taliban fighters in operations in in the Marjah district over the past week; U.S. airstrikes in the district on Friday were reported to have killed as many as twent insurgents. The head of a police anti-crime unit in Logar was killed on Saturday; no claim of responsibility was reported. Four civilians were killed in a roadside bombing in Laghman province’s Alingar district on Friday. [NYT] [WSJ] [WAPO] [WAPO] [AP] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Government Seeks to Contain Protests: Pres. Ghani met with a delegation of Afghan lawmakers on Sunday, and was quoted calling for protestors to end their sit-in camps, citing obstructions to city traffic and commercial activity. Ghani met with civil society representatives on Monday and pledged to reopen the roads. Protestors tell TOLO they have removed all but one camp, but will continue until their demands for the removal of security officials are met; the parliamentarians also met with leaders of the Jamiat-e-Islami on Saturday. Mohammad Mohaqiq, the second deputy to Chief Executive Abdullah, criticized the government for failing to stop attacks like the one on a Shia mosque in Kabul last Thursday after meeting with the families of victims on Saturday. On Sunday, top security officials appeared before the Meshrano Jirga to testify on recent attacks in Kabul and around the country; National Directorate of Security chief Masoom Stanekzai denied charges that insiders within the government were supporting those attacks, warning that “inappropriate remarks and spread of rumors could take the country towards a crisis.” [TOLO]
  • Gulf Diplomacy: The ambassador of Egypt and charges d’affaires of Saudi Arabia met with former Pres. Karzai on Sunday to seek his support for sanctions on Qatar; his office said in a statement that he had “called on unity among the Muslim nations but declared his support against any nation supporting or having links with the terrorism”.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Dozens of Draft Bills Await Presidential Approval [TOLO]
  • Ulema Council Vows Unity Following Attack on Shia Mosque [TOLO]
  • Hundreds of Development Projects Remain in Limbo [TOLO]
  • Afghanistan-India Air Freight Service Begins Monday [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Contract Signed for Design of New Dar-ul-Aman Administrative Complex [Khaama Press]
  • Commentary: For Peace in Afghanistan, Talk to Pakistan – “‘Sticks’ are unlikely to change Pakistan’s behavior, because its existential concerns are tied to broader regional priorities. To get Pakistan to alter its approach in Afghanistan, the United States must understand and address Pakistan’s strategic anxieties.” [Stephen Hadley and Moeed Yusuf, NYT]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: DOD Reportedly Planning Deployment of 4000 US Troops; Govt Agencies Deny Interference in JIT

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Topline

  • The AP reports that the Pentagon plans to announce the deployment of around 4,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan to join the advisory missions there, potentially as soon as next week; a Pentagon spokesman said that no decision had been made, however.
  • A suicide bomber attacked a Shia mosque in Kabul on Thursday evening, killing as many as six people; the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.
  • In a response to the Supreme Court on Friday, the government agencies accused of interfering in the Joint Investigation Team’s investigation into the Panama Papers denied those accusations. A two-member JIT delegation is reportedly seeking to visit Qatar to interview prince Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani in connection to the Sharif family’s purchase of London real estate.
  • The NDS announced the findings of its investigation into the January attack on the Kandahar governor’s guesthouse, which killed the UAE ambassador and wounded the governor; the report blames the guesthouse chef for carrying out the attack on the Taliban, and suggests the ambassador was deliberately targeted. The Taliban issued a statement on Friday denying any involvement in the attack.
  • Chinese political advisor Yu Zhengsheng called for greater Sino-Pakistani military-to-military cooperation during a visit by Joint Chiefs Chairman Zubair Mahmood Hayat.
  • Pakistan’s attorney general told reporters on Thursday that the International Court of Justice had rejected an Indian petition to delay proceedings in the case of Kulbhushan Jhadav until December.

Pakistan — Security

  • Chinese Military Cooperation: During a meeting with visiting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Zubair Mahmood Hayat, Chinese political advisor Yu Zhengsheng called for greater military-to-military cooperation between China and Pakistan.
  • Peshawar Police Killed: Three police officers were killed in a driveby shooting in Peshawar on Thursday evening; no claim of responsibility has been reported. [ET]
  • Social Media Crackdown: The Federal Investigation Agency has arrested two sons of the head of the PPP’s Sialkot chapter on charges of distributing “hate content” on social media, The Nation reports.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Investigation: Speaking after his appearance before the Panama Papers Joint Investigation Team on Saturday, Prime Minister Sharif insisted that he had “accounted for every penny”, adding that “these conspiracies and spectacles have cost this country a lot. It’s time for the truth to be upheld.” Imran Khan dismissed Sharif’s appearance before the JIT, saying he had not provided any new exculpatory evidence. The prime minister’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz, and federal minister of state for information Marriyum Aurangezb both touted Sharif’s appearance as having “set an example for all institutions” by cooperating with the investigation. In a response to the Supreme Court on Friday, attorney general Ashtar Ausaf Ali said that all departments accused by the JIT of interfering in the investigation had “vehemently denied” those accusations. A two-person JIT delegation is reportedly seeking to visit Qatar to interview prince Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani regarding his previous letters documenting financial ties to the Sharif family. [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Tensions with India: Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Pakistan’s attorney general Ashtar Ausuf Ali said that the International Court of Justice had rejected an Indian request to delay hearings in the case of accused Indian spy Kulbhushan Jhadav until December. Speaking at a ceremony in Beijing on Thursday welcoming India and Pakistan as members in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Chinese assistant foreign minister Kong Xuanyou said he believed “both the countries will abide by the charter of the organisation” and avoid tensions. [The Nation]
  • Asset Report: The Election Commission released its report of parliamentarian asset declarations for 2016; both Prime Minister Sharif and Imran Khan, who are the assembly’s two richest members, reported declines in their assets.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Punjab Rangers Disrupt ‘Major Terrorist Activity’ in DG Khan [ET]
  • 12 Karachi Central Jail Staffers Arrested After LeJ Jailbreak [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Parliamentary Committee on National Security Warns Against Taking Sides in Gulf Conflict [The Nation]
  • Peshawar High Court Seeks Replies on Transfer of Mashal Khan Case [ET]
  • Judge Behind Axact Officials’ Acquittal Faces Inquiry [Dawn]
  • International Monitoring Board Praises Pakistani Polio Efforts [ET]
  • State Bank of Pakistan Foreign Currency Reserves Drop to $15.3 Billion [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Pentagon Reportedly Planning to Send 4000 US Troops: The AP reports that the Pentagon plans to send roughly 4,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, with an announcement potentially to be made as soon as next week; a Pentagon spokesman tells Reuters, however, that “no decisions have been made”. Decision-making authority was transferred from the White House to the Pentagon earlier this week. Previous reports have indicated that DOD proposals have been considering between 3,000-5,000 U.S. troops to supplement the training and assistance mission. Testifying before the House Defense Appropriations committee on Thursday, Sec. Mattis said that “we’re not looking at a purely military strategy” and that “our job is to end [the war] as quickly as possible without losing the very mission that we’ve recognized, through several administrations, that was worth putting those young Americans on the line for.” Speaking after a briefing session with Vice President Pence and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, Senators McCain and Graham praised the administration’s as yet-unannounced broader strategy. [Bloomberg]
  • Kabul Mosque Attacked: As many as six people were killed in a suicide bombing attack on Shia ceremonies at the al-Zahra mosque in Kabul on Thursday evening; the attack coincided with the 21st day of Ramadan, an important holiday for Shia to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Ali. A prominent local businessman was among the dead, as well as at least one policeman. The Islamic State claimed responsibility through its Amaq News outlet; Pres. Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah, and others have condemned the attack. [Khaama Press] [WSJ] [Guardian] [Reuters] [TOLO]
  • Investigation into Kandahar Governors Compound Attack: On Thursday, the National Directorate of Security announced the findings of its investigation into the bombing at a Kandahar guesthouse, which wounded the governor and killed the UAE ambassador, among others. NDS officials laid blame on Sayed Mahboob Agha, the chef at the guesthouse, for carrying out the attack on behalf of the Taliban, and said that the ambassador had been deliberately targeted in the blast. NDS chief Masoom Stanekzai said that Afghanistan had demanded that Pakistan hand over three suspects believed to have organized the attack from Quetta. In a statement on Friday, the Taliban rejected the report, saying they had no role in the attack. [Khaama Press] [Pajhwok]
  • ISIS in Afghanistan: Nangarhar NDS chief Gen. Abdul Saboor Sabit accused “Pakistani militias” of fighting alongside the Islamic State in the province, calling on local residents to defend the districts from encroachment. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Commentary: Dereliction of Duty in Afghanistan – “Trump turning over the highest duty of his office – to protect the American people and determine matters of war and peace – to the military will only further hamper U.S. efforts in Afghanistan.” [Michael Fuchs and Hardin Lang, US News and World Report]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Sharif Appears Before Panama Papers JIT; ISIS Take Control of Tora Bora from Taliban

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Topline

  • Prime Minister Sharif appeared before the Panama Papers Joint Investigation Team on Thursday, reiterating his innocence in remarks to reporters afterwards and cautioning his rivals that “there will also be a larger JIT next year comprising 200 million people and they will decide who has worked for the betterment of the country”. Officials with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Federal Board of Revenue, and Law Ministry denied charges that they had interfered in the JIT’s investigation.
  • Islamic State fighters appear to have taken control of the area around the Tora Bora cave complex in Nangarhar’s Pachir Agam district from the Taliban; on Thursday, the provincial government announced new operations against ISIS in the area.
  • The Pentagon confirmed earlier reports that Pres. Trump has delegating decision-making authority on U.S. troop deployments in Afghanistan to Secretary Mattis, who pledged that a new strategy would ensure Afghanistan would not “become a launching point for attacks on our homeland or our allies”.
  • A spokesman for the Afghan ministry of defense said that seven soldiers had been charged with facilitating an attack on the 209th Corps army base in Balkh in April; 34 personnel were sentenced earlier this week on negligence charges.
  • Chief of Army Staff Bajwa visited the Peshawar Corps commander on Wednesday, issuing a statement warning that drone strikes were “counterproductive”.

Pakistan — Security

  • Army Chief Says Drone Strikes ‘Counterproductive’: In a statement on Wednesday during a visit to the Peshawar Corps command, and following reports that a U.S. drone strike had targeted a Haqqani network commander in the Hangu district on Monday, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa said that drone strikes were “counterproductive and against [the] spirit of ongoing cooperation and intelligence sharing being diligently undertaken by Pakistan”. Bajwa also voiced support for “mainstreaming FATA through reforms”. [The Nation]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Sharif Appears Before JIT: Prime Minister Sharif made an appearance before the Joint Investigation Team investigating the Panama Papers case on Thursday; following nearly two hours of questioning, he told reporters that he had submitted all financial documents and reiterated that he and his family were innocent of any corruption charges. Sharif added that “people should not forget that there will also be a larger JIT next year comprising 200 million people and they will decide who has worked for the betterment of the country”, saying “we will not let our opponents turn back the wheel of progress”. The prime minister and party supporters emphasized his cooperation with the investigation, with Sharif suggesting no other political family in Pakistan had undergone comparable scrutiny. Reuters cites an anonymous PML-N who says that the party does not intended to call early elections in the event that Sharif is ousted following the investigation. At Supreme Court hearings on Wednesday, judges ordered a response from the attorney general into charges by JIT members that government agencies were interfering in their investigation; the Securities and Exchange Commission, one of the agencies accused of doing so, denied any wrongdoing and accused the JIT of coercing witnesses; the Ministry of Law and Federal Board of Revenue also rejected allegations against them. Speaking the national assembly on Wednesday, Finance Minister Dar said that the JIT’s complaints were made “out of some frustration to make the process suspicious”, denying any interference by the government. The Lahore High Court Bar Association reiterated calls for Sharif’s resignation before appearing before the JIT and plans to hold a protest today. [AP] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: Dawn reports that the PTI has yet to sign on to an opposition party alliance against the PML-N in Punjab. The PML-F has agreed to back the PTI’s candidate in the PS-114 by-elections in Sindh. [The Nation] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Debates: The Azad Jammu and Kashmir government presented its draft budget on Thursday for the next fiscal year, totaling Rs 94.41 billion in outlays, including Rs 23.38 billion in development spending. The Gilgit-Baltistan legislative assembly presented its budget on Wednesday, totaling Rs 54 billion, including Rs 18.3 billion for development projects. The Express Tribune notes that the government has amended its definition of public debt, reducing the official tally by Rs 2 trillion. [ET]
  • Energy Investments: The Shanghai Electric Power Company has reaffirmed its intentions to acquire K-Electric, utility officials said Wednesday, despite reduction of tariff rates by the National Electric Regulatory Authority. Dawn reports the government has delayed four LNG cargo shipments until October as construction of a second port terminal to receive them has been delayed. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Two Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Militants Escape from Karachi Jail [Dawn] [ET]
  • Aitzaz Hasan’s Family Seeks Government Security After Taliban Threats [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Welcomes Russian Mediation with India [ET]
  • Russian Helicopter for Balochistan Government to Be Delivered Next Week [Dawn]
  • Chief of Naval Staff Meets with Sri Lankan Leaders [APP]

Afghanistan — Security

  • U.S. Strategy: In a statement on Wednesday, the Pentagon confirmed earlier reports that Pres. Trump had delegated decision-making authority on troop deployments to Afghanistan to Sec. Mattis; in the statement, Mattis said that “this administration will not repeat the mistakes of the past” and “cannot allow Afghanistan to once again become a launching point for attacks on our homeland or our allies”. No decision on troop levels has been announced, and the statement suggested that a “broader strategy we are developing that addresses our role in Afghanistan and beyond” would be presented “in the coming weeks”. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Islamic State Takes Tora Bora: Local government officials reported Wednesday that Islamic State forces had taken control of the Tora Bora cave complex in Nangarhar’s Pachir Agam district from the Taliban, who had previously held the area; local commander and parliamentarian Hazrat Ali tells the NYT that roughly a thousand ISIS fighters had gathered in the area. Some accounts conflict as to whether the caves themselves, at one point used by Osama bin Laden as he fled Afghanistan following the U.S. intervention, were under the Islamic State’s control; the Taliban denied that the area had been taken by ISIS, and accused the U.S. of carrying out airstrikes in support of the group. On Thursday, a spokesman for the provincial governor said that a special operation targeting ISIS forces had been launched in Pachir Agam and the Chaparhar district. [Reuters] [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Balkh Army Base Attack: A spokesman for the ministry of defense said Thursday that seven Afghan army personnel had been arrested on charges of facilitating the attack on the 209th Army Corp’s base in Mazar-e-Sharif in April; 34 personnel received prison sentences earlier this week on negligence charges.
  • American University in Kabul Faces Threats: The Washington Post notes continued threats against the reopened American University of Afghanistan in Kabul; following the Afghan government’s blame of the Haqqani network for the bombing in the capital earlier this month, in which one of the school’s adjunct professors was a victim, the Taliban issued a threat alluding to the two former AUA professors being held hostage since last August.
  • Other Attacks and Operations: The ministry of interior claimed Wednesday that as many as 43 Taliban fighters had been killed in an airstrike in the Marjah district in Helmand province. Badakhshan police officials say they have cleared the Tagab district of Taliban fighters after a weeklong operation, and that the insurgents have now fled to the Warduj district. Explosives planted inside two motorcycles killed at least four people and wounded seven in Paktika’s Jani Khel district on Wednesday; the target was reported to have been a local Afghan Local Police commander. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • UN Chief Visits: Speaking at a press conference in Kabul on Wednesday, visiting UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres offered to mediate tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan, adding that “my message to any country that supports terrorism anywhere in the world is that this is the wrong thing to do”.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Presidency Seeks Rationale for Saleh Resignation [TOLO]
  • Kabul Metro Bus Project to Begin Work [Khaama Press]
  • Report: NGO Presence and Activity in Afghanistan 2002-14: A Provincial-Level Dataset – “This article introduces a new provincial-level dataset on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Afghanistan.” [Stability Journal]
  • Report: Processing Peace in Afghanistan – “Linking all the themes is the recurring concern that contextual understanding should be central to designing an appropriate peace architecture for Afghanistan.” [Anna Larson, Accord]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Trump Delegates Afghan Troop Decision to Mattis; JIT Alleges Interference in Investigation

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Topline

  • Pres. Trump has reportedly decided to hand off decision-making about U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan to Secretary of Defense Mattis; testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, Mattis said that he expected to brief lawmakers on an Afghanistan strategy by mid-July; the NYT reports that Mattis has not decided on a timeline or numbers for any additional U.S. troop deployments.
  • Dawn reports on a leaked report from the Panama Papers Joint Investigation Team to the Supreme Court alleging interference in its investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Intelligence Bureau, and National Accountability Bureau. Imran Khan filed a Supreme Court petition on Wednesday seeking action against what he described as a campaign by PML-N leaders to target the JIT and the judiciary.
  • Former NDS chief and state minister for security reforms Amrullah Saleh announced his resignation from the Afghan government on Tuesday, without providing an explanation. His resignation follows demands from Jamiat-e-Islami and other protestors for the removal of top security officials; Pres. Ghani met with the attorney general and NDS chief of Wednesday to review investigations into attacks in Kabul earlier this month. TOLO reports that demonstrators have scaled back some of their protest camps around the city.
  • UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres visited Kabul on Wednesday, where he met with Afghan refugees and with government officials, saying that “there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict”.
  • A Taliban suicide bomber targeted members of the breakaway faction led by Mullah Mohammad Rasool in Helmand’s Gereshk district on Wednesday; the Rasool struck back with a retaliatory suicide attack shortly afterwards.
  • Pakistan’s national assembly passed the government’s budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year on Tuesday, after opposition members continued their walkout protests.
  • Pakistan has reportedly shelved a $2 billion Gwadar-Nawabshah gas pipeline project that would have been used for Iranian and Qatar gas imports.

Pakistan — Security

  • Hangu Drone Strike: Other outlets confirm RFE/RL reports yesterday that Haqqani network commander Abubakar and one or two other aides were killed in a U.S. drone strike on Monday night in Khyber Paktunkhwa’s Hangu district; the Express Tribune notes that officials in Hangu and the Orakzai Agency argue that the village in which the strike took place falls under the other’s jurisdiction. Government officials have not commented on the strike; in a comment on Twitter, Imran Khan condemned it, asking if the government “consented” to such strikes.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Investigation: Dawn reports on the leaked contents of the Panama Papers Joint Investigation Team’s report to the Supreme Court earlier this week, in which the JIT blamed the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan of “a criminal act” through his closure last year of an investigation into a money laundering case against a sugar mill owned by the Sharif family, and accused the Intelligence Bureau and National Accountability Bureau of harassment of JIT members. On Wednesday, Imran Khan petitioned the Supreme Court to take action against a “contemptuous and derogatory campaign” that he said was being carried out by PML-N members on behalf of the government to target the JIT and the judiciary. The JIT has summoned Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif to appear before it on June 17; Prime Minister Sharif has reportedly ordered party members not to rally outside the JIT offices ahead of his appearance on Thursday. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • PTI Legal Battles: On Wednesday, PTI lawyers submitted documents from Imran Khan’s ex-wife Jemima Khan documenting the transfer of money used to purchase his estate in Bani Gala. Lawyers for the PML-N claimed that the PTI had received as much as $3.5 million in donations from multinational corporations and “ghost donors”, who they suggested may include Indian donors, between 2010 and 2017. Representatives of the Election Commission said the PTI had yet to file any records on its foreign funding.
  • Other Political Activity: Turnout for the PTI’s intra-party leadership elections was around 10.4% of registered party members, the Express Tribune reports; Imran Khan and other existing leaders were re-elected easily. Following the polls, the Election Commission restored the PTI’s election symbol. The Nation reports that former PPP Punjab president Imtiaz Safdar Warraich will quit and join the PTI. [The Nation] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • National Assembly Passes Budget: Following an opposition walkout on Tuesday, government lawmakers voted to pass the FY2017-18 fiscal year budget; speaking during the concluding session, Finance Minister Dar said that 75 recommendations from the senate had been incorporated into the revised budget. The Express Tribune notes that the government will borrow Rs 15 trillion for debt servicing in the coming fiscal year, a record high and 44% increase over the outgoing fiscal year. [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Energy Projects: The Express Tribune reports that Pakistan has shelved a prospective $2 billion gas pipeline project that would have linked Gwadar and Nawabshah as an alternative to the stalled Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline and been used for the import of Iranian and Qatari natural gas; Pakistan and China had signed a framework agreement in 2015 for the pipeline’s construction.
  • CPEC Project: In a Reuters interview, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal says that Chinese-funded construction of the Diamer-Bhasha dam project will begin next year, with total costs estimated at $12-14 billion over ten years, and output expected to be around 4,500 megawatts. Another Reuters report notes that Chinese firms regularly receive favorable lending and selection over other companies in contracting for development projects, with more than $28 billion in contracts awarded to Chinese companies thus far as part of CPEC. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistani and Afghan Border Officials Meet in Spin Boldak [Dawn]
  • Beijing to Investigate if Kidnapped Couple Were Missionaries [Reuters]
  • Balochistan Home Minister Denies ISIS Presence in Province [The Nation]
  • ASWJ Organizing in Rural Sindh Under New Alias [The News]
  • Opposition Seeks Briefing from Prime Minister on Saudi Alliance, Gulf Crisis [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Government Seeks to Curtail Opening of New Oil Marketing Companies [Dawn]
  • Non-Performing Loans Decline in First Quarter of 2017 [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Pentagon to Decide on Troop Levels: Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, Secretary Mattis said that “we are not winning in Afghanistan” but “we will correct this as soon as possible”. Pressed by chairman Sen. John McCain for clarity on administration strategy, Mattis said that he expected to brief lawmakers on the strategy by mid-July. Mattis and Joints Chief Chairman Joseph Dunford indicated that a top priority would be to increase U.S. fire and air support for Afghan ground forces, although most forces will remain focused on training, advising, and assisting the Afghan national security forces. Reports on Tuesday evening indicate that Pres. Trump has delegated decision-making on troop levels in Afghanistan to Mattis, an authority that the White House has previously granted in Iraq and Syria; although Pentagon officials have been reviewing plans to increase U.S. forces in Afghanistan by 3-5,000 for several months, officials tell the NYT that Mattis has not decided on exactly how many or when they would be deployed. A broader interagency strategy review has yet to be completed, and officials have given no timeline for its conclusion. [Reuters] [CNN] [AP] [TOLO]
  • Saleh Resigns: On Tuesday, former NDS chief Amrullah Saleh resigned from his position as state minister for security reforms; he provided no explanation for the move, which follows calls from Jamiat-e-Islami party leaders and protestors for the removal of top security officials after attacks in Kabul earlier this month. Pres. Ghani met with the attorney general and NDS chief on Wednesday to review investigations into those attacks. [TOLO]
  • Taliban Infighting: A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for a suicide attack in Helmand’s Gereshk district on Wednesday in which as many as 26 members of the breakaway Taliban faction led by Mullah Mohammad Rasool were killed; provincial government officials report that between five to nine had been killed. Later in the same day, a bomber affiliated with the Rasool faction reportedly targeted the Taliban in a retaliatory attack, killing four. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: A bomb planted on a vehicle exploded in Kabul on Wednesday; no casualties were reported. In Kapisa, provincial police officials claim that 22 Taliban fighters were killed when they attacked a pro-government militia in the Tagab district. In an Ariana News interview, Wardak provincial police chief Fahim Qayem blames “ghost ALP” for the collapse of checkposts in the Jalrez district.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • UN Secretary General Visits: UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres visited Kabul on Wednesday, where he met with Afghan refugees and with government officials. Gutteres was quoted saying that “there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan” and “peace is the solution for the problem”. UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Kubis also arrived earlier this week for meetings with the Afghan government and international diplomats. [TOLO] [Pajhwok]
  • Protests Scale Back: TOLO reports that protestors with the “Uprising for Change Movement” have removed six tents, but have retained their original camp near the site of the truck bombing earlier this month and two others near the offices of the president and chief executive, where they vowed to continue demonstrations. A spokesman for the interior ministry said that roadblocks would be removed after the completion of a security assessment.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • World Bank Assistance: On Tuesday, the World Bank announced a package of $520 million in grants assistance aimed at supporting service delivery in five cities, boosting the economy, and providing support for Afghan refugees who had returned from Pakistan.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Development Budgets Unspent at At Least 23 Government Departments [TOLO]
  • CEO Warns of Action Against Absent Ministers [TOLO]
  • Commentary: The Aftermath of an Exodus: Afghans Stuck in Serbia Still Trying to ‘Hit the Game’ – “Though psychologically still ‘in transit’ and on their way to Western Europe, some were slowly starting to consider alternatives – none of which were very attractive or offered much hope of success.” [Jelena Bjelica and Martine van Bijlert, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Chinese Foreign Minister to Visit Kabul; Sharif and Bajwa Return from Jeddah

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Topline

  • A spokesman for Pres. Ghani said that Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi would be visiting Afghanistan to discuss mediation between Pakistan and Afghanistan; the spokesman added that “Pakistan must support Afghanistan’s strategy over fighting insurgency” at future meetings of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group.
  • Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on Monday, Secretary Mattis said that he planned to submit recommendations to Pres. Trump on Afghanistan strategy “very soon”, and suggested that the policy would incorporate a “regional approach”; CNN reports that the administration is still several weeks away from making a decision.
  • RFE/RL reports that a drone strike in the Hangu district targeted a Haqqani network commander over Monday night; other outlets have yet to confirm the report.
  • Prime Minister Sharif, Chief of Staff Bajwa, and other top aides met with Saudi King Salman and other Saudi officials during a visit to Jeddah on Monday; in a statement upon his return on Tuesday, Sharif expressed hope that current tensions in the Gulf could be resolved soon.
  • The Joint Investigation Team in the Panama Papers told the Supreme Court of Pakistan on Monday that it had identified and removed an unnamed staffer who leaked an image of Hussain Nawaz’s appearance before the JIT. Imran Khan reiterated demands for Prime Minister Sharif to resign from office before appearing before the JIT on Thursday.
  • Chief Executive Abdullah pledged to take legal action against security officials found to be negligent in connection to the attacks in Kabul earlier this month; in a statement on Monday, a Jamiat-e-Islami spokesman says that the party is “confident that [Abdullah] will not keep silent” regarding its demands for top security officials to be sacked. Khaama Press notes several meetings between Jamiat leaders and Batur Dostum, son of Vice President Dostum and leader of the Junbesh-e-Milli party.
  • The Afghan Ministry of Defense announced Monday that 34 Afghan army officers, including the commander of the 209th Corps, had received court martial sentences for negligence in connection to the attack on the corps base in Balkh in April.
  • Pakistan’s trade deficit hit a record high of $30 billion during the first eleven months of the current fiscal year, driven by slumping exports and continued high imports.

Pakistan — Security

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Gulf Diplomacy: Prime Minister Sharif and Chief of Army Staff Bajwa met with Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz during a visit to Jeddah on Monday; no details of their discussions, which focused on tensions between Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Qatar, have been released. Sharif returned to Pakistan on Tuesday; a statement from his office said that he hoped the “current impasse in the Gulf will be resolved soon”. [AJE] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Panama Papers Investigation: The Nation reports that the Joint Investigation Team investigating the Panama Papers submitted a report to the Supreme Court during hearings on Monday in which the JIT said it had identified and removed an unidentified staff member who had leaked an image of Hussain Nawaz’s appearance before the team earlier this month. Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Imran Khan reiterated demands that Nawaz Sharif resign from office before appearing before the JIT on Thursday, accusing the government of interfering in its investigations. [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: The PTI announced Tuesday that Imran Khan and his leadership slate were re-elected to their positions by a large margin in intra-party elections. At a Supreme Court hearing on Tuesday, the court ordered the PTI to respond with information on its sources of funding and an audit of its finances, and upheld the Election Commission’s authority to investigate the issue. Despite being expelled from the PML-N on Monday, senator Nehal Hashmi will continue to hold his seat in the senate. [The Nation] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Trade Deficit Grows: Pakistan’s trade deficit reached a record high of $30 billion during the first 11 months of the fiscal year, a 42% year-on-year increase, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics data released Monday indicates. [ET]
  • Budget Debate: PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi announced on Monday that the opposition parties had decided to “completely disassociate” themselves from the current budget debate, staging another walkout afterwards. The Balochistan provincial government will present its budget on June 15.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Senate Committee Criticizes Lack of Government Support for Victims of Terrorism [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Islamabad Police Arrest Terror Suspects [The Nation]
  • Peshawar Corps Commander Visits Forward Posts in Kurram and Khyber [ET] [The Nation]

Afghanistan — Security

  • U.S. Strategy: CNN reports that Pres. Trump is still “several weeks” away from making any decision on modifications to U.S. strategy in Afghanistan; a source says that the strategy will “go beyond recommendations on the US fight in Afghanistan to include US policy toward neighboring India and Pakistan”. Speaking before the House Armed Services Committee on Monday, Secretary Mattis said that he would present options to the president on Afghanistan “very soon”, and that “we’re taking a regional approach to this”.
  • Court Martials for Balkh Base Attack: On Monday, the Ministry of Defense announced that 34 Afghan National Army personnel, including the commander and chief of staff of the 209th Military Corps, had received sentences between one and three years after court martial hearings into charges of negligence relating to an attack on the corps base in Balkh in late April. [Khaama Press]
  • Kabul Attack Investigation: On Monday, the German embassy in Afghanistan announced that a team of German experts will visit Kabul in the near future as part of an investigation into the truck bombing attack earlier this month that took place outside the embassy building, killing scores, including two Afghan guards for the embassy; the statement said that the attack would be “investigated rapidly, urgently and diligently, using rule‑of‑law means”. Separately, Kabul police officials say they discovered and defused an explosive device planted on a government vehicle belonging to the ministry of transportation.
  • Other Attacks and Operations: The Pentagon released the identities of the three U.S. soldiers killed in an insider attack in Nangarhar over the weekend, all members of the army’s 101st Airborne Division. Afghan army officials say that clashes between Taliban and ISIS fighters in the Chaparhar district in Nangarhar, and an airstrike targeting a group of Taliban, had left as many as 27 ISIS and 11 Taliban fighters dead. Unidentified gunmen killed the chief prosecutor in Wardak’s Nerk district on Monday; no claim of responsibility has been reported. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • China to Mediate with Pakistan: In a statement on Monday, Pres. Ghani’s office said that Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi would be visiting Afghanistan soon to discuss ways to improve relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan. A spokesman for Ghani said that the next meeting of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group, which Ghani and Prime Minister Sharif committed to reviving during a meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit last week, “would be different compared to past meetings. At this meeting, Pakistan must support Afghanistan’s policy over fighting insurgency”. No date has been announced for new QCG talks.
  • Tensions with Jamiat: A spokesman for the Jamiat-e-Islami said Monday that the party was “confident that [Chief Executive Abdullah] will not keep silent” on the party’s demands that top security officials be sacked over the attacks in Kabul earlier this month. In remarks on Monday, Abdullah pledged that “legal action will be taken against any official on any level who was either involved or committed negligence which led to casualties”. Khaama Press reports that Batur Dostum, son of Vice President Dostum and leader of the Junbesh-e-Milli party, met with Balkh governor and Jamiat leader Atta Mohammad Noor to discuss “boosting political ties” as well as the current security situation.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • MPs Reject Sale of Government Land to Alokozay Group [TOLO]
  • Afghanistan Receives $180 Million in World Bank Incentive Payments for Anti-Corruption Efforts [Khaama Press]
  • Rise in Child Labor Raises Concerns [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Ghani and Sharif Agree to Restart Quadrilateral Coordination Group; Sharif to Testify for JIT

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Topline

  • At their meeting at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit last week, Pres. Ghani and Prime Minister Sharif agreed to seek the restart of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group for talks on an Afghan peace, as well as “bilateral channels to undertake specific actions against terror groups and evolve a mechanism to monitor and verify such actions”.
  • Prime Minister Sharif has been summoned to testify before the Joint Investigation Team investigating the Panama Papers case for Thursday; a spokesman confirmed he would participate. Imran Khan and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari warned against government criticism or interference in the JIT’s proceedings; Tahir-ul Qadri, who returned to Pakistan on Sunday, claimed that the PML-N was making complaints about the JIT in order to give it a guise of neutrality.
  • Pres. Ghani met with Afghan parliamentarians on Sunday, who have established two commissions to seek to negotiate with protestors who continue to call for the removal of top security officials. On Monday, the Afghan attorney general’s office announced the suspension of the Kabul police chief and head of the Kabul military garrison. In a rare audio statement released Sunday, Taliban deputy chief Sirajuddin Haqqani denied that his group had played any role in attacks in Kabul and Herat earlier this month.
  • Three U.S. soldiers were killed in Nangarhar’s Achin district when an Afghan commando opened fire on Saturday; their identities have not yet been released. On Monday, three civilians were reportedly killed in another Nangarhar district when a U.S. convoy opened fire after being struck by a roadside bomb. In Helmand, at least three Afghan border police were reportedly killed in an errant U.S. airstrike during an operation in the Nad-e-Ali district over Friday night. All three incidents remain under investigation.
  • At least three Pakistani civilians were killed in exchanges of fire with India across the Line of Control on Saturday and Monday.
  • Prime Minister Sharif, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa, and other top aides departed for Saudi Arabia on Monday as part of an effort to mediate disputes between the Gulf states.
  • A Shia man accused of “hate speech” and blasphemous remarks on Facebook was sentenced to death by a Bahawalpur anti-terrorism court on Saturday, the first such conviction reportedly made for remarks on social media.

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: Police in the Poonch district of Azada Jammu and Kashmir reported that a Pakistani man was killed by cross-border fire from Indian soldiers on Saturday. Chief of Army Staff Bajwa visited Muzaffarabad earlier in the day, where he received security briefings from local commanders, who were quoted assuring him that “no Indian misadventure shall go without a befitting response”. On Monday, two Pakistani teenagers were reportedly killed and three injured in cross-Line of Control shelling; Pakistan’s foreign ministry formally protested both incidents. [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [ET]
  • Blasphemy Conviction: On Saturday, a Bahawalpur anti-terrorism court issued a death sentence for Taimoor Raza, a college professor and member of the Shia minority community, on blasphemy charges related to comments he made on Facebook. He had been arrested on the charges last year; it appears to be the first instance of a blasphemy conviction for comments made on social media. Reuters reporting indicates Raza was also charged with “hate speech” against the Deobandi sect. His lawyer tells the AFP he will seek to appeal his conviction. Elsewhere, Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Akbar Chitrali told a press conference on Saturday that he had received assurances from Khyber Paktunkhwa Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak that a group of twenty men arrested in April for an attempted mob lynching of a mentally ill man accused of blasphemy would be released. [AP] [RFE/RL]
  • CPEC Security: Provincial police officials tell Reuters they are tightening security and the monitoring of Chinese nationals living in Pakistan, after the kidnapping and apparent execution of two Chinese hostages from Quetta by the Islamic State last week. The Pakistan army has also established a special division tasked with CPEC security.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Investigation: Prime Minister Sharif has been summoned to testify before the Joint Investigation Team investigating the Panama Papers case on Thursday; Minister of State for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb confirmed he would participate in the hearing. Finance Minister Dar has reportedly also received a summons, but no date has been set for his appearance; former interior minister Rehman Malik has also been summoned, but his spokesman said he had sought a delay in hearings as he was traveling abroad. At a Supreme Court hearing on Monday, JIT officials said that unspecified government departments had tampered with records being sought for the investigation. Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Imran Khan warned that the PTI would hold street protests if the PML-N interfered in the JIT’s work, which he said was an extension of the Supreme Court and could not be criticized; PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari echoed that argument on Sunday. Khan also called on the Supreme Court to push Prime Minister Sharif to resign. Pakistan Awami Tehreek leader Tahir-ul Qadri returned to Pakistan on Sunday, denouncing the JIT as “an election cell” for the PML-N, suggesting that Hussain Nawaz’s public allegations of bias on the part of the JIT were intended to give it the appearance of neutrality. Hussain appeared for the fifth time before the JIT on Friday, and told reporters afterwards that he did not expect to be called back again. On Saturday, National Bank of Pakistan president Saeed Ahmed wrote to the Supreme Court registrar, echoing Hussain’s complaints that the JIT had subjected him to “undue pressure” in its questioning. On Friday, senator Nehal Hashmi appeared before a PML-N disciplinary board, telling reporters afterwards that his remarks on the JIT had been “taken out of context”; on Monday, Prime Minister Sharif signed an order approving his expulsion from the party. [Reuters] [AP] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Gulf Diplomacy: In a statement on Sunday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry denied Turkish media reports that Pakistan was deploying troops to Qatar amidst the emirate’s split with other Gulf States, but said the tensions were “a matter of concern”. Prime Minister Sharif, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa, and other top aides departed on Monday for Saudi Arabia in an attempt to mediate the regional dispute between the Gulf states. [ET]
  • FATA Reforms: The Express Tribune reports that the group of six independent national assembly members from the FATA has split, with a faction of four legislators aligning under the leadership of MNA Nasir Khan, who opposes the government’s planned merger of the FATA with Khyber Paktunkhwa province.
  • Other Political Activity: PTI party members began voting on Saturday in intra-party elections for party leadership positions; Imran Khan and other top leaders are expected to easily retain their positions against a relatively unknown slate of challengers. The Nation reports that former Pres. Zardari may not return to Pakistan until after Eid or later, with sources attributing the decision to health concerns; PPP leaders are meeting Tuesday to discuss whether Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will contest by-elections and enter the current parliament, as previously planned. Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah reiterated complaints that the federal government was neglecting the province’s electricity and water needs during remarks on Saturday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Crisis: The Ministry of Finance released Rs 7.5 billion to the Central Power Purchasing Authority for clear some intra-sectoral circular debts; the Express Tribune notes concerns within Pakistan State Oil that it will not receive any of those funds. Farmers protested in the Khuzdar district over electricity outages on Sunday, blocking the highway between Quetta and Karachi. [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Budget Debates: Karachi mayor Wasim Akhtar led opposition party protests on Friday over the draft Sindh provincial budget, which did not include development projects proposed by the city; the MQM and other opposition parties also boycotted the provincial assembly session. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Three Quetta Policemen Killed [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation] [AP]
  • IED Wounds Three Security Officials in Kalat [Dawn]
  • FIA Again Seeks Interpol ‘Red Warrant’ for Altaf Husssain [Dawn] [ET]
  • MQM Provincial Assembly Member Survives Drive-by Shooting [ET]
  • Sukkur Police Officers Arrested on Charges of Maintaining ‘Torture Cell’ [Dawn]
  • Mashal Khan’s Father Petitions Peshawar High Court to Transfer Lynching Case [Dawn]
  • PPP Senator Calls for Investigation into Musharraf-Era Nuclear Proliferation [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Three Chinese Naval Ships Visit Karachi [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Sirajuddin Haqqani Denies Role in Kabul Attack: In a rare audio message released on Sunday, Taliban deputy leader and Haqqani network chief Sirajuddin Haqqani denied responsibility for the truck bombing attack earlier this month in Kabul, as well as the bombing of a funeral that followed and an attack on a mosque in Herat. On Sunday, the attorney general’s office announced the suspension of Kabul police chief Hassan Shah Frogh and Kabul garrison chief Gul Nabi Ahmadzai, a move confirmed by the presidential palace. [AFP] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Insider Attack Kills Three U.S. Soldiers: An Afghan army commando opened fire on a group of U.S. soldiers in Nangarhar’s Achin district on Saturday, killing three and wounding a fourth; details of the incident remain limited and the victims have not been identified, but U.S. special forces have been active in joint operations targeting the Islamic State in the area for the past several months. The gunman was killed in the exchange of fire; the Taliban issued a statement claiming responsibility for having instigated the attack. [NYT] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Civilians Killed After U.S. Convoy Attacked: Afghan officials in Nangarhar reported Monday that three civilians had been killed after U.S. forces traveling in a convoy in the Ghani Khel district opened fire after their vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb late Sunday. The U.S. military said it was investigating the incident. [NYT] [TOLO]
  • Friendly Fire Kills Afghan Police in Helmand: At least three Afghan border policemen were killed and two injured in a friendly fire incident during an overnight joint Afghan-U.S. operation on Friday in Helmand’s Nad-e-Ali district; the U.S. military command said it was investigating the incident, in which a U.S. aircraft “returned fire” at forces on the ground. [AFP] [Khaama Press]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: Gunmen attacked a mosque in the Paktia capital of Gardez on Friday night, killing at least three civilians and wounding nine others, the Ministry of Interior reported; no claim of responsibility was made for the attack. A spokesman for the Afghan army special forces said Saturday that they had cleared Kunduz’s Imam Sahib district of Taliban fighters over the course of a three-day operation, claiming to have killed 77 Taliban fighters and several senior commanders. Wahidullah Begzad, the former administrative deputy chief of police, was rescued in the operations, after almost a year in captivity. Kabul police arrested a would-be suicide car bomber on Saturday, and the NDS announced the arrest of a would-be suicide bomber in Lashkar Gah the same day; on Monday, the Ministry of Interior announced the arrest of a man in Wardak accused of masterminding multiple suicide attacks in Kabul. Helmand provincial officials reported that an airstrike in the Nahr-e-Saraj district destroyed a Taliban IED factory, killing eight militants; another airstrike in the Nad-e-Ali district late Sunday evening reportedly killed Mullah Abdul Bari, identified as the head of the Taliban’s military commission in Helmand. Afghan forces announced the arrest of the Taliban shadow district governor for Baghlan’s Khost Farang district on Monday. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Ghani and Sharif Call for Relaunching of Quadrilateral Coordination Group: In statements on Saturday, the Afghan presidency and Pakistani foreign ministry said that Pres. Ghani and Prime Minister Sharif had agreed to revive the Quadrilateral Coordination Group and establish “bilateral channels to undertake specific actions against terror groups and evolve a mechanism to monitor and verify such actions”. Sharif also “stressed the importance of reconciliation and a politically negotiated settlement as the best solution to the Afghan conflict”, but Dawn suggests there is disagreement between the two sides on whether disputes over counter-terrorism action should be managed through the QCG or bilaterally. A spokesman for Pres. Ghani said Friday that Pres. Xi Jinping had agreed to host a trilateral meeting between Afghanistan and Pakistan during his meeting with Pres. Ghani, adding that “our demand is clear; Pakistan should honestly cooperate in fighting against terrorism”. [ET] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Ariana News]
  • Protests Continue Over Security: Pres. Ghani declared Saturday a national day of mourning, in honor of attacks last week in Kabul, Khost, and Herat. Protestors continue to demonstrate at sit-in camps around the capital, with several roads closed, although a TOLO report on Sunday suggests attendance is light at the camps. Ghani met with a delegation of lawmakers led by Wolesi Jirga Speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi on Sunday; Khaama Press reports that Ibrahimi has formed two commissions, comprised of one lawmaker each from each of Afghanistan’s provinces, in order to negotiate with the protestors. Ghani is quoted saying that the government is “committed to respond to the legal and justified demands of the people”, and reiterating calls for national unity. One member of parliament tells TOLO that Ghani “behaved inappropriately” with the delegation, however, and said that decisions on the removal of security officials were not under his control. Jihadi veteran and leader of the “Supreme Council of Jihadi and National Parties” Sibghatullah Mujaddidi called on protestors to call off their sit-ins and said that it would not be appropriate to fire security officials, but warned of action if the government did not commit to reforms. [Ariana News] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Execution: During a parliamentary hearing on Saturday, Finance Minister Eklil Hakimi acknowledged that the government had spent only 15.5% of its development budget during the first six months of the current fiscal year.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Not a Random Attack: New Details Emerge from Investigation of Slain NPR Journalists [NPR]
  • NATO and Afghan Officials Review Ministry of Interior Strategic Plan, Noting Concerns Over Corruption [TOLO]
  • National Procurement Commission Approves 11 Contracts [Khaama Press]
  • Commentary: We Foreigners in Kabul Marvel at Afghan ‘Resilience’; But They Have No Other Choice – “If there was a silver lining last week, it was in the rare displays of international sympathy with victims of a war so never-ending that foreign observers have grown numb to it.” [Sune Engel Rasmussen, The Guardian]