Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Prime Minister Sharif to Undergo Heart Surgery; Family of Mansour Driver File Case Against US

Topline

  • Prime Minister Sharif will undergo heart surgery in London on Tuesday, but is expected to preside remotely over a cabinet meeting before that to approve the federal budget, which will be presented by Finance Minister Dar on June 3. The family members of a tax driver who was killed along with Mullah Akhtar Mansour in last week’s drone strike in Balochistan have filed a legal case against U.S. officials at the local police station, insisting that he was innocent and had no connections to militant groups. Two more officials were arrested in connection with Mansour’s apparent possession of a Pakistani national ID card; Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has set a six-month deadline for the re-verification of all national IDs. A spokesman for the splinter Taliban faction led my Mullah Mohammad Rasool reportedly told supporters that he would be willing to engage in negotiations with the Afghan government; the Taliban dismissed the faction as a “puppet of Afghan intelligence”. Pakistan commemorated the anniversary of the 1998 nuclear tests on Saturday. The deadline for Pakistan to sign off on the terms of sale for the purchase of eight F-16 fighter jets passed without an agreement on May 24, diplomatic sources tell Dawn. Fighting continues in Baghlan’s Baghlan-e-Markazi distrct, where a force of local police was reportedly rescued from Taliban encirclement in an operation on Saturday. The Peshawar Corps commander may head a new FATA Development Committee with authority over a Rs 200 billion fund to repatriate displaced residents and reconstruct damaged infrastructure in the area, the Express Tribune reports. Following a meeting of Jamiat-e-Islami leaders on Saturday, Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani criticized the national unity government for failing to meet its commitments under the unity government agreement, and also blamed Junbesh for recent clashes in Faryab. Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial police officials are opposing plans to cut 12,500 reserve members from the force. Afghanistan’s ministry of refugees is seeking an extension of Pakistani permissions for registered Afghan refugees to remain in the country until 2020.

Pakistan — Security

  • Nuclear Anniversary Commemorated: In remarks issued on the 18th anniversary of Pakistan’s 1998 nuclear tests, Prime Minister Sharif touted the country’s nuclear program, describing it as a “guarantee for peace in South Asia” that “created balance of power, which was necessary to make this region safe”. Separately, asked to comment on Pakistan’s application to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a State Department spokesman said that “we’ll consider [it] based on a consensus decision.” [APP] [ET] [ET]
  • F-16 Sale: The terms of sale for a deal in which Pakistan would purchase eight F-16 fighter jets expired without an agreement on May 24, Pakistani diplomatic sources tell Dawn, after Pakistan failed to sign a letter of acceptance that would require it to pay the full unsubsidized cost of the planes; Ambassador to the U.S. Jalil Abbas Jillani told the paper that “a dead-end has not been reached as yet”, however.
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Policing: In a Dawn interview, Khyber Paktunkhwa Inspector General of Police Nasir Khan Durrani expresses concerns over government plans to cut 10,000 reserve police officers and 2,500 former army servicemembers from the provincial police force, arguing “the security situation has not normalised and a state of war still exists in the province, [and that] the threat level has also increased with the construction of CPEC”. Meanwhile, paramilitary khasadar personnel in South Waziristan tell the Express Tribune they have not been paid salaries for the past two months. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Karachi Crackdown: On Saturday, Karachi police announced that they had killed two Lashkar-e-Jhangvi militants linked to the murder of MQM lawmaker Manzar Imam as well as over twenty members of the Shia community, in a raid in the Manghopir neighborhood. Three more accused Al Qaeda members were killed in a raid on Sunday. On Monday, three people were wounded when a bomb targeted a Chinese engineer in Karachi’s Gulshan-e-Hadeed neighborhood; Dawn reports claims of responsibility by the “Sindhudesh Revolutionary Party”. Separately, the Sindh Rangers announced the arrest of three “hardcore terrorists,” all linked to the MQM, who they accused of carrying out attacks on paramilitary checkposts earlier this spring; the arrests themselves are reported to have taken place in April. On Friday, MQM and Majlis Wahdat-i-Muslimeen leaders held protests and condemned the shooting of two Shia party activists in Karachi the day prior. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Balochistan Conflict: Two Frontier Corps personnel were killed and three injured in a roadside bombing in Balochistan’s Awaran district on Saturday; the Balochistan Liberation Front claimed responsibility for the attack. Tthe bodies of two government employees who had been kidnapped two weeks prior were found in the Kech district on Saturday; on Sunday, a tribal policeman and one other man were killed in a driveby shooting in the district. Two people were killed and six injured in a hand grenade attack near the Chaman border crossing; no further details have been reported on the victims’ identities.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Sharif to Undergo Heart Surgery: Prime Minister Sharif will undergo open-heart surgery in London on Tuesday, his daughter and government officials announced on Friday; he previously underwent the procedure in 2011. Sharif previously traveled to London for medical examinations in April. Defense Minister Khawaja Asif said that the prime minister would return to Pakistan after one week’s recuperation, doctors permitting. A spokesman for Sharif’s office said that he was continuing to oversee government operations from London, and has tasked Finance Minister Dar to lead the federal cabinet in his absence. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif are reported to have met with Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif on Saturday; a meeting of the cabinet defense committee is planned after Sharif’s return from London. Shahbaz departed for London on Monday. Former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry argued on Saturday that an interim prime minister must be elected in Sharif’s absence, particularly to approve the forthcoming federal budget, and that Dar was ineligible to serve the role given his position in the upper house of parliament; other legal experts suggested there were no such restrictions on Sharif’s powers to delegate authority to his ministers, and Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid hit back that Chaudhry was “ignorant of the Constitution”. Imran Khan criticized the prime minister for appointing Dar and running the government “like a kingdom”. Prime Minister Modi and Pres. Ghani both issued statements wishing Sharif a quick recovery. [Reuters] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Military to Head FATA Development Committee: The Express Tribune reports that the National Economic Council is considering a proposal to create a new FATA Development Committee, headed by the Peshawar Corps Commander, with authority over a Rs 200 billion fund earmarked to repatriate displaced FATA residents, and powers to approve projects of up to Rs 1.5 billion, bypassing the Central Development Working Party and the National Economic Council.
  • Judicial Policy: A meeting of all Supreme Court justices endorsed a range of perks for members of the judiciary, including subsidized medical, technology, and guest house expenses, the Express Tribune reports. Speaking to a group of lawyers in Larkana on Saturday, Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali said that successive generations of political leaders had “failed miserably in materialising the dreams of our ancestors” and said that a “lot of legislation in our country has been done to fulfil vested interests”.
  • Other Political Activity: PTI spokesmen argued on Saturday that the parliamentary committee on investigations into the Panama Papers should complete its work by June 10. In a statement on Sunday, former Pres. Zardari denied that he had “reached some understanding on the issue of Panama leaks with the prime minister”. Former Karachi mayor Mustafa Kamal opened an office of his new Pakistan Sarzameen Party in Quetta on Saturday. Supporters of Tahir-ul Qadri are planning a demonstration in Lahore on June 17 to commemorate Pakistan Awami Tehreek party workers killed in a clash with Punjab police in 2014; Qadri remains outside the country. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Planning: Prime Minister Sharif will preside remotely over back-to-back meetings of the National Economic Council and federal cabinet on Monday to approve the federal public sector development program and the national budget; the budget will be announced on June 3. Total outlays are reportedly roughly Rs 4.4 trillion, including Rs 1.25 trillion in interest payments, Rs 860 billion in defense expenditures, and Rs 800 billion for the PDSP. Dawn reports the federal government has dropped all 45 of the Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial government’s proposals for PDSP projects. The budget also reportedly plans new sales taxes on five previously exempted export-oriented sectors, and higher capital gains tax rates for those who do not file income tax returns; import tariffs on some raw materials will be dropped, while rates for finished and semi-finished goods may be raised, as the government moves to phase out the 5% customs slab. [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Path to Peace a ‘Two-Way Street’, Modi Says [Dawn]
  • World Bank to Support Sindh Disaster Management [Dawn]
  • Chief of Army Staff Visits Naval War College in Lahore [ET]
  • Sindh Chief Minister Visits Tharparkar, Rejecting Drought Reports [Dawn] [ET]
  • Baldia Factory Fire Case in Limbo [ET]
  • Environmental Polio Samples Test Negative for First Time [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • AJK Electric Department Cuts Power to Defaulting Government Offices [Dawn]
  • Michelle Obama Visits Pakistan Embassy [Dawn] [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Assembly Plans ‘Training Tour’ in UK for Legislators [Dawn]
  • PEMRA Enacts, Withdraws Ban on Contraceptive Advertisements [Dawn] [Reuters] [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Mansour Strike Aftermath: The family of the taxi driver who was killed alongside Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a U.S. military drone strike last week filed a criminal case against U.S. officials at the Naushki district police station on Sunday, insisting that Mohammad Azam had no links to militant groups and had been unaware of Mansoor’s identity. RFE/RL interviews a man who identifies himself as an eyewitness to the strike on Mansour, and who says that he recovered Mansour’s passport documents after a portion of his kameez tore off while he attempted to free the inhabitants of the car, which he later handed over to local authorities. Taliban sources tell the Express Tribune that Mansour traveled icognito through Iran on a regular basis, and say “we do not blame any neighbouring country” for his identification and targeting by the United States. Special assistant Tariq Fatemi told a Dawn interviewer on Friday that Pakistan’s military leadership “was unaware” of the planned strike on Mansour. On Saturday, Pakistani interior ministry officials announced the arrest of two more officials believed to have approved Mansour’s application for a Pakistani national ID card, one of them a member of the Balochistan Levies; speaking to reporters on Friday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan set a six-month deadline for the re-verification by the National Database and Registration Authority of all identity cards. Jamaat-ud-Dawa held funeral services for Mansour in Peshawar and several other cities on Friday; the Afghan government released an Afghan political analyst who was arrested after he described Mansour as a “martyr”. [WSJ] [AP] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [AP] [AP]
  • Border Tensions with Pakistan: Nuristan provincial police officials accuse Pakistani border security forces of encroaching across the border into Afghanistan by approximately 500 meters.
  • Attacks and Operations: Baghlan provincial police and army sources reported heavy fighting between Taliban and police forces in the province on Friday; the provincial police chief told Pajhwok on Saturday that a group of 100 police and ALP members were rescued from a Taliban siege in the Baghlan-e-Markazi district. The Ministry of Defense claimed to have killed a group of “at least ten Taliban commanders” in an airstrike in the district on Sunday. At least seven policemen were wounded in fighting in Helmand’s Nad Ali and Nah-e-Saraj districts on Saturday evening; at least 11 were killed in attacks overnight Sunday in the Gereshk district. In Uruzgan, ANA officials reported that they had killed the Taliban’s shadow governor, identified as Mawlavi Jan Agha. The administrative director of the Kunduz provincial police was kidnapped on Saturday. Eleven civilians, including several children, were wounded in a roadside bombing in the Logar provincial capital of Pul-e-Alam on Saturday. A drone strike in Nangarhar’s Haska Mina district killed six suspected ISIS-affiliated militants on Sunday; airstrikes in Baghlan and Kandahar on Monday killed 29 militants, according to the Ministry of Defense. [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: A spokesman for the Taliban tells the Express Tribune that “we have the same stance about peace negotiations as we had in the past” and would not hold talks with the Afghan government. Mullah Abdul Manan Niazi, the deputy leader and prominent spokesman of the Taliban splinter faction officially led by Mullah Mohammad Rasool, reportedly told his supporters that he would be willing to hold talks with the government, although he “had no faith in [it]”; the Taliban dismiss the faction as a “puppet of Afghan intelligence”. Niazi has in turn rejected Haibatullah Akhunzada’s elevation as the successor to Mullah Akhtar Mansour. Afghan ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal met with foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz on Monday to discuss the status of peace talks.
  • Jamiat Leaders Criticize National Unity Government: Leaders of the Jamiat-e-Islami party met in Kabul on Saturday for a convention; speaking at a press conference afterwards, party leader Salahuddin Rabbani, who is also foreign minister in the current government, criticized the government for failing to carry out “some of its duties which were defined in the political agreement”, including electoral reforms that he said were a requirement for a free and fair election. Rabbani also denounced recent clashes between forces affiliated with Vice President Dostum’s Junbesh-e-Milli party and Jamiat; a Junbesh spokesman rebuffed the criticism. Separately, Abdul Rasool Sayyaf warned the government against “isolating the mujahadeen”. [TOLO]
  • Modi to Visit: Prime Minister Modi will stop in Afghanistan on June 4 to inaugurate the Salma Dam project in Herat, the Indian press indicates.
  • Refugee Repatriation: Dawn reports that Afghanistan’s minister for refugees and repatriation, Sayed Hussain Alemi Balkhi, has proposed extending the say of registered Afghan refugees living in Pakistan through 2020; Pakistani officials are reported to be considering a stay through 2017; the formal permissions for the refugees continued presence expired at the end of 2015, but has been temporarily extended through June 30 of this year, with another temporary extension expected as the government debates its decision. Separately, the ministry of refugees and repatriation reports that 900 Afghan refugees have been repatriated from Europe so far this year; only 47.6% of those who sought asylum in Germany were formally approved in 2015. [ET]
  • Anti-Corruption Efforts: On Saturday, Attorney General Mohammad Farid Hamidi reshuffled at least 40 positions in Kabul and at the provincial headquarters level, a move spokesmen for attorney general’s office said was intended to “boost transparency and develop the legal expertise in the attorney general’s office and to highlight our gains and demonstrate our commitment to the faithful people of Afghanistan”. Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, his first since taking office, Hamidi pledge to combat corruption, and said that “no one will be above the law from now on”. Separately, the Kabul deputy mayor for finance and administration and the head of the municipality’s human resources department were arrested on corruption charges on Sunday. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Rights Group Calls for Hekmatyar to Be Tried for War Crimes [TOLO]
  • ‘Enlightening Movement’ Threatens Renewed Protests Over TUTAP Route [TOLO]
  • Local BBC Reporter Arrested in Nangarhar [Khaama Press]
  • Ghani to Inaugurate Dar-ul-Aman Palace Reconstruction [Khaama Press]
  • Hopes and Fears for Jobs as Cement Factory Reopens [Reuters]
  • Report: Enhancing Access to Education: Challenges and Opportunities in Afghanistan – “This study examines Taliban positions toward girls’ education. In particularly it looks at the trends and changes in Taliban positions.” [Barnett Rubin and Clancy Rudeforth, NYU CIC]
  • Commentary: When the Political Agreement Runs Out: On the Future of Afghanistan’s National Unity Government – “While Secretary Kerry’s remarks were widely seen as a de facto extension of the National Unity Government’s term, the de jure arrangement after the two-year timeframe mentioned in the agreement remains a matter of contention.” [Martine van Bijlert and Ali Yawar Adili, AAN]
  • Commentary: A Good Taliban, Bad Taliban Strategy for the US and Afghanistan? – “With the wreckage of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour’s taxi only just beginning to cool in southern Pakistan, the Wall Street Journal revealed on Sunday that Afghan and U.S. intelligence were providing financial and military support to a “breakaway” Taliban faction in southwestern Afghanistan led by veteran insurgent commander Mullah Mohammed Rasool.” [Casey Garret Johnson, The Diplomat]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Accused Afghan Spies Arrested in Balochistan and Peshawar; Mansour Strike Dashes Peace Talk Hopes

Topline

  • Balochistan’s home minister announced the arrest on Thursday of six accused Afghan spies, who he said had been carrying out terrorist attacks in the province and were supported by the NDS and RAW intelligence agencies. Khyber Paktunkhwa police announced the arrest of two more accused Afghan spies in Peshawar on Friday. The parliamentary committee negotiating the terms of an investigation into the Panama Papers has reportedly agreed to drop explicit references to Prime Minister Sharif as the main target of inquiry; discussions are still ongoing as to how broad the inquiry will go beyond what is detailed in the Panama Papers leak. Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz complained on Thursday that the strike targeting Mullah Akhtar Mansour had “undermined the Afghan peace process” and would “further destabilize Afghanistan”; Pres. Obama told reporters in Japan that he was “doubtful” serious reconciliation talks would be held soon. A Taliban source tells the AFP that “peace talks at any level will remain suspended till the new decision by the leadership council”. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar accused Iran of providing information to the U.S. that led to the strike on Mansour; Foreign Policy, meanwhile, reports that Iran has been providing funds and weapons to Taliban commanders in western Afghanistan, seeking to bolster them against the Islamic State. The Sindh High Court has delayed a verdict on reserve local government body seats, further delaying elections for local council chairmen and mayors.

Pakistan — Security

  • Accused Afghan Spies Arrested: On Thursday, Balochistan Home Minister Sarfarz Bugti announced the arrest of six Afghan nationals who he accused of being spies and “terrorists”, operating in the province with the support of India’s RAW intelligence agency. He did not provide details on the timing of those arrests, but broadcast confessional video statements by at least two of the group. Bugti accused three Afghan NDS generals of running the spy network, and warned that “we have had enough. Either the Afghan refugees can return voluntarily with respect and dignity, or the people of Balochistan can humiliate them and throw them out of the country”. On Friday, the Khyber Paktunkhwa Counter-Terrorism Department announced the arrest of two Afghan nationals accused of spying for an unspecified “foreign intelligence agency”. At least three other arrests of accused Afghan security or intelligence personnel in Balochistan have been announced since March.
  • FATA Operations: Three unidentified militants were killed and four others injured in a clash with security forces in the Shawal Valley in North Waziristan on Thursday. A jirga of tribal elders meeting in the Kurram Agency on Thursday at the Frontier Corps headquarters affirmed their support for the government.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Negotiations Over Panama Papers Investigation: The Express Tribune reports that opposition members of the committee formed to negotiated the terms of reference for an investigation into the Panama Papers leaks has conceded the government’s position that the investigation should be “issue-specific rather than person-specific”, dropping an explicit reference to Prime Minister Sharif as a target for investigation. Opposition sources say they affirmed their position that investigation of the Panama Papers leaks should be the investigating commission’s first priority, before broader investigations of loan write-offs or other forms of money laundering; Dawn reports the two sides are still “poles apart” on that issue, however. PPP senator Aitzaz Ahsan insisted that the prime minister would still face investigation, as his children were named in the Panama Papers documents. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Elections and Other Political Activity: The Sindh High Court has postponed its verdict on petitions challenging the calculations for reserved seats on local councils until May 31, further delaying the election of council chairmen and mayors. Abdul Hakeem Baloch, the PML-N’s only elected national assembly member from Sindh, announced his resignation on Thursday, complaining his position as state minister for communications was “toothless”; he had also resigned last year, before withdrawing that action. [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Planning: Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal has reportedly complained to Finance Minister Dar that his ministry is being bypassed in decision-making for the next fiscal year budget; the Annual Plan Coordination Committee’s targets for GDP growth and the investment-to-GDP ratio are reportedly lower than the finance ministry’s own, in light of lower projected growth in the agricultural sector. A separate Express Tribune report indicates the Planning Commission has only allocated Rs 124 billion for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects next year, most for National Highway Administration work, which amounts to approximately a third of those projects’ total requirements.
  • Pakistan Welcomes Chabahar: Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz said that Pakistan “welcomes projects of regional connectivity which have the potential to generate economic activity,” and suggested that the Iranian-Indian Chabahar port project could become a “sister port” to the Chinese-Pakistani Gwadar facility. Iran’s ambassador to Pakistan told an Islamabad audience on Friday that Chabahar “is not a rival to Gwadar”, and suggested that Pakistani or Chinese cooperation on the port would be welcomed.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Punjab Counterterrorism Department Arrests Suspects in Planned Bahawalnagar Shrine Attack [Dawn]
  • Punjab Law Minister Brushes Off Council on Islamic Ideology Recommendations on Women’s Protection Law [Dawn]
  • PTI Rejects Proposed Hike in Lawmakers’ Salaries [ET]
  • Public Accounts Committee Seeks Reclamation of Bahria Enclave Land [Dawn]
  • Senate Finance Committee Questions Election Commission Salaries [Dawn]
  • Electricity Tariffs Cut for April [ET]
  • ILO to Review Baldia Factory Fire Compensation Agreement [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Mansour Strike Aftermath: Speaking to Afghan press outlets on Wednesday, Pres. Ghani warned that “we want close relations with neighboring countries, but not in exporting terrorism, but if they send us terrorists, we will kill them and eliminate them”. As noted yesterday, Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz told reporters on Thursday that the strike on Mullah Akhtar Mansour last weekend “has also undermined the Afghan peace process”, adding that “in our view there is no military solution of the conflict in Afghanistan”. Aziz also cautioned that “this approach will further destabilise Afghanistan, which will have negative implications for the region, especially due to the presence of a large number of terrorist groups in Afghanistan”. Speaking at a press conference in Japan on Thursday, Pres. Obama said that “my hope, although not my expectation, is that there comes a point at which the Taliban recognizes that they are not going to simply be able to overrun the country and that what they need to be doing is to enter into serious reconciliation talks that are led by Afghans… but I am doubtful that that will be happening any time soon.” An anonymous Taliban source tells the AFP that “the drone strike against [Mansour] has proved that the US is not sincere in bringing peace in Afghanistan, so peace talks at any level will remain suspended till the new decision by the leadership council.” [WSJ] [Reuters] [AFP] [ET] [Dawn] [TOLO]
  • Tensions with Iran: Hezb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar accused Iranian intelligence agencies of providing information that led to Mansour’s targeting in Balochistan, accusing Iran of having always “stabbed the Muslim Ummah in the back since its birth and has acted as inimical to the interests of the Islamic nations.” Separately, Foreign Policy reports that Iran has been providing money and “low-grade weaponry” to Taliban commanders in order to “set up a buffer zone along its border with Afghanistan to keep out the Islamic State”. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Karzai Calls for Peace Talks, Execution Halt: In a statement on Friday, former Pres. Karzai called on the new Taliban leader Haibtaullah Akhunzada to join a peace process with the Afghan government, and urged the government to halt the execution of prisoners convicted under terror charges.

Afghanistan – Remainders

  • Despite Government Pledges, Child Soldier Recruitment Continues to Rise [Guardian]
  • Afghan Air Force Conducting 50-180 Missions Daily [Khaama Press]
  • Commentary: Taliban in Transition: How Mansour’s Death and Haibatullah’s Ascension May Affect the War (and Peace) – “The absence in Haibatullah of the liabilities that plagued Mansur’s leadership, plus his reputation as a scholarly person who taught many Taleban members in the ranks and files greatly reduces the chances of the aggressive opposition which Mansur faced upon assuming the leadership.” [Borhan Osman, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Rasool Faction Rejects Haibatullah Akhunzada; Chaudhry Nisar Orders CNIC Re-Verification

Topline

  • There are more reports and profiles of Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhunzada, the newly-announced Taliban leader and religious scholar. A spokesman for the splinter faction led by Mullah Mohammad Rasool rejected Haibatullah’s appointment. Spokesmen for the Afghan government reiterated warnings to Taliban commanders that they would “will face the same fate as their leaders” if they did not negotiate with the government. Speaking during a visit to Japan on Thursday, Pres. Obama expressed doubts that an Afghan peace process would resume “any time soon”; separately, Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz said that “Pakistan believes that politically negotiated settlement remains the most viable option for bringing lasting peace to Afghanistan“. Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has ordered planning to begin for the re-verification of all roughly 180 million computerized national ID cards after reports that Mullah Akhtar Mansour had possessed one himself; an arrest was reportedly made on Wednesday of a former Chaman deputy commissioner who signed off on the issuance of Mansour’s ID. The parliamentary committee negotiating terms of reference for an investigation into the Panama Papers leaks held its first meeting on Wednesday, deciding that it would not elect a chairman and would make decisions by consensus. The U.S. sanctioned two militant groups on Wednesday, including the TTP faction that claimed responsibility for the attacks on the Army Public School in Peshawar and Bacha Khan University. Pakistan’s Council of Islamic Ideology proposed draft women’s protection legislation, which includes bans on mixed-gender schools and offices, and allows for domestic abuse by husbands.

Pakistan — Security

  • Interior Minister Orders CNIC Re-Verification: Following reports that the late Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour had been traveling with a Pakistani computerized national ID card, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan ordered the National Database and Registration Authority to prepare a plan before the end of the week to re-verify the accuracy of all of the roughly 180 million CNICs nationwide. Separately, the Federal Investigation Agency arrested a former deputy commissioner in the town Chaman, charging him with approving Mansour’s fake CNIC in 2005. [APP]
  • U.S. Sanctions Militant Groups: On Wednesday, the United States State Department formally designated the Tariq Gidar Group, a Pakistani Taliban faction linked to the December 2014 attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar and the January 2016 attack on Bacha Khan University in Charsadda, as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” group. The U.S. also sanctioned Jamaat ul Dawa al-Qu’ran, identified as a Peshawar-based group linked to Al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba which participated in the 2010 kidnapping of British aid worker Linda Norgrave in Afghanistan. [State Department Announcement]
  • Helicopter Deal: Pakistan’s ambassador to Italy signed an agreement with the Italian helicopter manufacturer Leonardo-Finmeccanica on Thursday, contracting for the purchase of an unspecified number of AgustaWestland AW139 intermediate twin engine helicopters, for use in search and rescue operations. No details were disclosed as to the total cost of the contract; delivery is expected in 2017. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Parliamentary Committee Holds First Meeting: The parliamentary committee tasked with negotiating terms of reference for an investigation into the overseas business holdings detailed in the Panama Papers held its first meeting on Wednesday; committee members agreed not to elect a chairperson, and to finalize their decision by consensus rather than majority vote. The Jamaat-e-Islami launched a “train march” against corruption in Peshawar on Wednesday. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Council of Islamic Ideology Proposes Women’s Protection Legislation: After rejecting legislation passed by the Punjab assembly and proposed in Khyber Paktunkhwa as “un-Islamic”, the advisory Council on Islamic Ideology has drafted ‘model’ legislation for the protection of women, which prohibits gender mixing in schools and offices, and allows a husband to “lightly” beat his wife, among other provisions. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Planning: Speaking to the Karachi Chamber of Commerce earlier this week, Sindh provincial finance minister Murad Ali Shah blamed the federal government for neglecting the province’s needs during the outgoing fiscal year; the Express Tribune notes the provincial government spent less than half of its annual development plan budget this year. Another report indicates the government’s new budget may double taxes on gains made from the sale of real estate properties held for less than five years. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Chief of Army Staff Visits Quetta, Injured Soldiers [ET] [Dawn]
  • Judge Questions Registration of Imran Farooq Murder Case [ET]
  • Two MQM Activists Charged for 1990s Attacks on Sindh Secretariat [ET]
  • Pakistani Transgender Activist Succumbs to Injuries After Being Denied Treatment [WAPO]
  • U.S. Signs Agreement for $48.6 Million in Law Enforcement and Counter-Narcotics Support [APP]
  • Supreme Court to Consider Nominees for Sindh High Court Vacancies [ET]
  • Ahmadi Man Killed in Karachi [Dawn]
  • Hunza By-Elections Postponed [ET]
  • More Corruption References Filed Against Modaraba Scam Suspect Dawn [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • More Reports on New Taliban Leader: There is more reporting on yesterday’s announcement by the Taliban confirming the death of Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a U.S. drone strike this weekend and naming Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhunzada as his successor. A Reuters source suggests that Sirajuddin Haqqani was the “first choice” of a majority of shura attendees, but “withdrew his candidacy” in response to concerns that his election would bring greater U.S. targeting of the group; the Express Tribune suggests that Haqqani will retain control of military operations and retain the “real power” within the leadership. Originally from Kandahar’s Panjwai district, Haibatullah is a religious scholar and Taliban jurist who previously directed seminaries in Pakistan before being named Mansour’s deputy last year. The NYT notes that he shares a tribal affiliation with the breakaway Taliban faction led by Mullah Mohammad Rasool, and had previously been tasked with mediating that split; a spokesman for that faction rejected Haibatullah’s appointment, however, saying they had not been consulted. On Thursday, a spokesman for National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar warned that Taliban who did not join the peace process “will face the same fate as their leaders”, saying that Taliban “weakness will increase more in their leadership and on the battle field,” a claim echoed by spokesmen for the defense and interior ministries. Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz confirmed that Mullah Mansour was killed in Saturday’s drone strike, although he suggested that his body had not yet been transferred for burial, contradicting other reports. Aziz reiterated that “Pakistan believes that politically negotiated settlement remains the most viable option for bringing lasting peace to Afghanistan,” and said that the Quadrilateral Coordination Group’s agreement in this regard “has not been respected”. Speaking to reporters during a visit to Japan on Thursday, Pres. Obama said that he was doubtful peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government would take place “any time soon”, adding that “our goal right now is to make sure [Afghanistan’s] constitution and democratic process is upheld [and] maintain the counter-terrorism platforms that we need in the region so that al Qaeda and now ISIL are not able to take root and use it as a base to attack us in the United States”. [WSJ] [AJE] [BBC] [Reuters] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Protest Movement Rejects TUTAP Commission Report: A member of the ‘Enlightening Movement’ that led protests earlier this month against the re-routing of the TUTAP electricity distribution line tells TOLO that the presidential commission’s reaffirmation of a route through the Salang Pass instead of Bamiyan “is not acceptable to us”.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • As Many as 45 Militants Dead in Balkh Clashes [TOLO]
  • No Work, No Trade on Empty Silk Road in Northern Afghanistan [AFP]
  • Journalists Discuss Code of Ethics [TOLO]
  • Human Rights Watch Calls for End to ‘Moral Crimes’ Punishments for Women [Reuters]
  • Report: Examining the Islamic State’s Threat to Afghanistan – “The first signs of the Islamic State in Afghanistan appeared in 2014, but after initial gains their capabilities and territorial claims have waned significantly.” [Lauren McNally, Marvin Weinbaum, Antoun Issa and Alex Amiral, MEI]
  • Commentary: The Hits and Misses of Targeting the Taliban – “The notion that the United States can drone-strike its way through the leadership of the Afghan Taliban until it finds an acceptable interlocutor seems optimistic, at best.” [Vanda Felbab-Brown, NYT]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Taliban Name Haibatullah Akhunzada as New Leader; Fazlur Rehman Urges PPP to Back Nawaz

Topline

  • The Taliban confirmed on Wednesday the death of movement leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour, announcing that former deputy Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada, a former leader of the Taliban’s judiciary who was named one of Mansour’s deputies last year, would succeed him as leader. An earlier NYT report suggests that a Taliban faction closed to Mansour, who played a dominant role in controlling the insurgency’s finances, had opposed the elevation of Sirajuddin Haqqani or Mullah Yaqoob, Mullah Omar’s son, as the next leader. The WSJ has more details on the strike that tracked and killed Mansour. Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif met with the U.S. ambassador on Wednesday, reiterating Pakistani concerns that the action “was a violation of sovereignty, was detrimental to Pak-US ties and regional stability and damaged peace efforts”. The Taliban carried out a suicide bombing in western Kabul on Wednesday, killing at least eleven people working for an appeals court. JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman met with former Pres. Zardari in London, urging him to meet with Prime Minister Sharif while both are in the city and to back the PML-N as it seeks to respond to the Panama Papers leaks. The Senate Armed Services Committee passed its markup of the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which cuts the topline amount for Coalition Support Fund assistance to Pakistan and conditions the disbursal of $300 million on Pentagon certification that it is taking actions against the Haqqani network; the legislation separates CSF reimbursements from support for coalition actions in Afghanistan, however. The commission tasked by Pres. Ghani with reviewing the TUTAP electricity transmission line has backed a route through the Salang pass, but also endorsed a line connecting Bamiyan.

Pakistan — Security

  • U.S. Assistance: The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee passed its version of the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which conditions $300 million in Coalition Support Fund assistance to Pakistan, out of $800 million total on certification that Pakistan is taking military action against the Haqqani network; the House version of the bill had set the figure at $450 million of $900 million total. The Senate version does not directly link the reimbursement for Pakistani security expense to coalition operations in Afghanistan, however. [ET] [S. 2943 Full Text (pdf)]
  • Quetta Bombing: At least two police officers were killed and seven people wounded in a roadside bombing in Quetta on Tuesday evening; no claim of responsibility has been reported. [Dawn]
  • Peshawar Shooting: Three Frontier Corps soldiers were killed in a driveby shooting in Peshawar on Wednesday morning; the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Leaders Meet in London: JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman met with former Pres. Zardari in London on Tuesday, encouraging him to meet with Prime Minister Sharif, who is also in the city, and to support the PML-N in its response to allegations in the Panama Papers. The Express Tribune reports that Zardari pledged that “the PPP would neither become a part of any anti-democracy movement nor support anyone trying to come to power through shortcuts.” Senior PPP aides are reportedly to be advising Zardari not to meet with Sharif.
  • Corruption Arrests: The National Accountability Bureau arrested former Balochistan finance advisor Khalid Langove on Wednesday after his bail application was rejected by the Balochistan High Court; Langove earlier resigned following the arrest of finance secretary Mushtaq Ahmed Raisani, but had skipped court summons. [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Planning: Speaking at a conference on Tuesday, Finance Minister Dar pledged that “the government will meet the defence needs of the country in the new budget”, which will be announced on June 3. Military and defense ministry officials have sought an increase in the defense budget to Rs 920 billion, against an initial finance ministry target of Rs 860 billion; Dar did not offer specific figures. Khyber Paktunkhwa will present its budget on June 6. [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan to Be Included in Administration Report on Those Killed in Counterterorrism Operations [WAPO]
  • Military Court Trial Planned for Safoora Goth Plotters After Transfer Appeal Rejected [Dawn]
  • Opposition Renews Call for Full-Time Foreign Minister [Dawn]
  • Sindh Police Scrutinize Madrassah Funding [Dawn]
  • Tariff Panel Rejects Pakistan Steel Mills Dumping Complaint Regarding Chinese Imports [ET]
  • Independent MNA Jamshed Dasti Forms Party [Dawn] [ET]
  • National Commission for Human Rights Urges Afghan Refugee Repatriation [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Taliban Confirm Mansour Death, Announce Successor: The NYT has a detailed report on the debates within the Taliban over Mullah Akhtar Mansour’s successor; members of Mansour’s Ishaqzai tribe, many of whom are in influential positions managing the Taliban’s tax-gathering efforts and income from the narcotics trade, are reported to have been opposed to Sirajuddin Haqqani or Mullah Yaqoob. Taliban sources tell the Express Tribune that they are seeking “broad-based consensus” within the movement so as to avoid the tensions that emerged after Mansour officially succeeded movement leader Mullah Mohammad Omar last year, and some Taliban sources tell the AP that Mansour’s death may help strengthen Taliban unity. On Wednesday, the Taliban’s spokesman officially confirmed Mansour’s death, and announced that Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada, the former head of the Taliban’s judiciary who was named as one of Mansour’s two deputies last year, would assume the new leadership position and title of “Emir-ul-Momineen”, or “commander of the faithful”. Haibatullah, a Panjwai native from the Noorzai tribe, previously headed the group’s Ulema Council. Sirajuddin Haqqani will remain a deputy, and Mullah Yaqoob has been elevated to a deputy position. A spokesman for Chief Executive Abdullah said that “we invite Mullah Haibatullah to peace… political settlement is the only option for Taliban or new leadership will face the fate of Mansour.” [Reuters] [AFP] [BBC] [AJE] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • More Details on Mansour Strike: The WSJ has a detailed account of the operation to track and kill Mansour, reporting that “intercepted communications and other types of intelligence” allowed U.S. forces to track his movement into Balochistan from Iran; the piece also notes Pakistani “frustration” with Mansour after he rejected meetings with the Afghan government in February, but does not offer evidence to suggest Pakistani security services were involved in his targeting. The BBC traces images of Mansour’s purported passport, showing repeated travel to Dubai and Iran, to “the WhatsApp account of a law enforcement agency based in Balochistan”; BBC reporters also visited Mansour’s listed address in Karachi, but do not appear to have corroborated reports that six TTP militants were arrested in a raid there earlier this week. On Wednesday, Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif met with U.S. Ambassador David Hale; Gen. Sharif is quoted as saying that the strike against Mansour “was a violation of sovereignty, was detrimental to Pak-US ties and regional stability and damaged peace efforts”. At a press conference earlier on Tuesday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that the strike was “totally illegal, not acceptable and against the sovereignty and integrity of the country”; he also said that DNA tests were still being done on the body recovered from the strike scene to confirm its identity, and that investigations were ongoing into the validity of the purported passport. A State Department spokesman insisted Tuesday that “this was a strike directed against this individual, Mansour, in the Afghan-Pakistan border region” and that “we certainly do respect Pakistan’s territorial integrity”. [AP] [AFP] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Kabul Bombing: At least eleven people were killed and ten injured in a suicide bombing targeting a bus carrying a group of appeals court staff in western Kabul’s Paghman district on Wednesday. The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying the attack was in retaliation against the government’s recent executions of Taliban prisoners, and vowed to “continue on this path”. [TOLO] [AP]
  • Border Tensions with Pakistan: Afghan border security forces have closed the Angor Adda crossing facility between Paktika and South Waziristan, which was transferred to their custody by the Pakistani military last week, Dawn reports; Afghan diplomatic sources say the order to do so “has come from Kabul” but provide no more details on the rationale.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Hezb-e-Islami Talks: There is “no specific timeline” for the conclusion of a peace agreement with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e-Islami, a presidential spokesman told reporters on Tuesday. Hekmatyar issued a statement of condolence for Mullah Mansour and his family on Wednesday, and called on the Taliban to join in peace talks.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • TUTAP Commission Recommends Salang Route: A commission tasked by Pres. Ghani with reviewing the route of an electricity transmission line linking Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan has delivered final recommendations, endorsing a route that goes through the Salang pass rather than Bamiyan, as demanded by a protest movement this past month. The commission recommends instead the creation of a circuit station capable of feeding Bamiyan; Pres. Ghani issued a decree endorsing the recommendations and ordering construction to begin in June.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • India to Discuss Provision of More Helicopters to AAF [TOLO]
  • Baghlan Commanders Accuse Government of Neglect [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Killing the Emir: What We Know About the Strike That Killed Mansour and What It Says About Pakistan and the Taliban – “Even if the evidence of those who favor leadership targeting is compelling, there are reasons to think organizational fragmentation and degradation can be a lengthy, contentious, and violent process, especially in the case of Afghanistan where civil war has historically been driven as much as intra-group competition as inter-group battles.” [Sameer Lalwani, War on the Rocks]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: More Details on Mansour Strike as Taliban Debate Successor; Committee on Panama Papers Formed

Topline

  • The Taliban have not confirmed leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour’s death, but are reportedly meeting to determine a successor; Pakistani news sources suggest that Mullah Yaqub, son of movement founder Mullah Omar, may be the most acceptable to all factions. Leaked copies of a passport and national identity card reportedly held by the man killed in a drone strike in Balochistan on Saturday who is believed to have been Mansour suggest that he traveled frequently between Karachi, Iran, and Dubai. Pakistan summon the U.S. ambassador on Monday to formally protest the strike; while multiple accounts indicate that the U.S. carried out the strike unilaterally, the NYT reports that Pakistan was informed “several weeks ago” that Mansour “was a target”. The AP cites western diplomats who suggest that Mansour had sought to strengthen connections with Iran and Russia in order to operate more independently from Pakistani control; the NYT reports Pakistan provided “general information on his location and activities”. Meanwhile, the WSJ reports that U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan are seeking greater authority to conduct airstrikes against Taliban forces in Afghanistan, and to retain the presence of roughly 10,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan at least through the end of the year. On Tuesday, National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq approved the formation of a joint committee to negotiate the terms of an investigation into the Panama Papers; meanwhile, the Election Commisson of Pakistan has sought a response from Prime Minister Sharif’s son-in-law in response to PTI petitions seeking his disqualification on the grounds that he withheld details on his wife’s overseas assets. A Pakistan navy tribunal has sentenced five service members to death in connection to the September 2014 attack on the Karachi Naval Dockyard, family members report. On Monday, Pres. Ghani, Prime Minister Modi, and Pres. Rouhani signed a trilateral transit agreement linking Afghanistan to Iran’s Chabahar port. The director general of Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency was reportedly sacked on Monday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Sentences in Karachi Dockyard Attack: Citing a family member of one of the suspects, Dawn reports that a Navy tribunal has sentenced five people to death in connection to the September 2014 attack on the Karachi Naval Dockyard; the trial was held in secret, and family members were not notified in advance of the sentencing. The five were reportedly charged with having affiliations with the Islamic State, although the attack was at the time reported to have been planned by Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Committee on Panama Papers Formed: National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq approved the formation of a twelve-member parliamentary committee on Tuesday, after the nomination of six government members to the committee, led by Finance Minister Dar. The committee is tasked with considering “options for inquiring into issues raised by the Panama Papers including offshore companies, transfer from Pakistan of funds originating from corruption, commission or kickbacks, and written-off bank loans”; the opposition has pushed for investigations to focus solely on the prime minister and his family. The PTI announced on Monday that it would also file petitions seeking Prime Minister Sharif’s disqualification by the Election Commission; the ECP has sought an explanation from the prime minister’s son-in-law, Mohammad Safdar, on earlier PTI charges that he omitted his wife Maryam Nawaz’s overseas assets in his filing statements. Separately, the former chief finance officer of the Punjab Energy Department, Ikram Naveed, told a Punjab anti-corruption court on Monday that Ali Imran, the son-in-law of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, had embezzled as much as Rs 230 million from the PED, The Nation reports; Naveed is himself under investigation on embezzlement charges. Imran Khan led a rally in Bagh in Azad Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday, reiterating charges of corruption against the prime minister and accusing him of neglecting human rights violations in Indian Kashmir due to his personal business interests. [ET] [Dawn]
  • FIA Director Removed: Federal Investigation Agency Director General Mohammad Amlish was removed from his position on Monday, Dawn reports, after a meeting in which Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had threatened an inquiry against him regard leaked reports to the media. Amlish was appointed to his position in March; no replacement has been announced.
  • Other Political Activity: Local nazims from opposition political parties announced plans to protest against the provincial government and PTI leader Imran Khan beginning on June 3, charging the government with diverting funds for local government bodies to provincial assembly members, cutting funds for local councilors, and distributing funds equally between rural and urban districts without considering varying needs. [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Jamaat-e-Islami Petitions for ‘Obscenity’ Ban Online [Dawn]
  • Government Plans to Begin Marketing PIA Stake in June [ET]
  • Dividend Income Tax Rate Hike Planned [ET]
  • PSX Stock Exchange to Sell 40% Stake [Reuters]
  • Commentary: A Numbers Game: Is Census Delayed Justice Denied? – “In Balochistan, the proposed census is not a neutral and bureaucratic exercise at counting people. In fact, it may end up solidifying and exacerbating divisions and tensions between the province’s Baloch and Pakhtun populations.” [Maqbool Ahmed, Ghulam Dastageer, Sher Ali Khan, and Mahvish Ahmad, Herald]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Mansour Strike Aftermath: There are multiple reports in the Pakistani press detailing a passport and computerized national identity card found on the body of a man believed to have been Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour, targeted in a U.S. military drone strike on Saturday in Balochistan. The travel documents, whose sourcing and integrity has not been explained in these accounts, show that Mansour traveled frequently between Karachi, Iran, and Dubai. Iran’s foreign ministry denied on Monday that Mansour had visited the country. Dawn reports that the body remains unclaimed at Quetta’s Combined Military Hospital, contradicting earlier AFP reports that plainclothes intelligence officers had taken custody of it. On Monday, intelligence services reportedly conducted a raid on the house listed as Mansour’s address in Karachi, arresting six men identified as members of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan; sources suggest that Mansour only stayed there briefly with his family before renting it out. At a press conference on Monday, a State Department spokesman said that he did not have “any more clarity” on the precise location of the strike that is believed to have killed Mansour, saying it was only “in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region”. A Pentagon spokesman reiterated on Monday that the strike was “defensive” and justified under current rules of engagement in Afghanistan. On Monday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry summoned U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale to formally protest the strike as a “violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and a breach of the United Nation’s Charter that guarantees the inviolability of the territorial integrity of its member states”; the Punjab Assembly passed a resolution on Monday condemning the strike. Anonymous Pakistani officials tell the Express Tribune that they are “frustrated” that Mansour was targeted “at a time when efforts were under way to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table”, with some sources speaking of “betrayal” by the United States. The White House issued a statement on Monday saying that “we will continue taking action against extremist networks that target the United States” and that “we will work on shared objectives with Pakistan, where terrorists that threaten all our nations must be denied safe haven.” The WSJ and Post highlight that Pakistani leaders were bypassed in the U.S. decision-making on the strike and were not warned in advance. The NYT, while also noting tensions in the relationship over the apparently unilateral U.S. action, reports that “the United States told Pakistani authorities several weeks ago that Mullah Mansour was a target” and that “the Pakistanis provided general information on his location and activities”; the report also suggests that tensions had grown between Mansour and Pakistan, and that Mansour had been seeking medical care in Iran to avoid ISI-monitored hospitals inside Pakistan. One U.S. defense official suggests that Pakistan may have provided “some limited help” out of a desire to elevate Sirajuddin Haqqani within the Taliban’s leadership. The AP cites an anonymous “western diplomat in Kabul” who reports that Mansour was reaching out to Iran and Russia and “trying to move away from Pakistan because he didn’t want to be pressured by Islamabad”. [Reuters] [Dawn] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Dawn]
  • Taliban Leadership Succession: The Taliban have not officially confirmed Mansour’s death, but senior insurgent leaders have reportedly convened to decide on his successor; the Express Tribune reports a decision could come as soon as today, and Dawn suggests that Mullah Yaqoob, son of movement founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, is emerging as a leading contender acceptable to all major factions, despite his youth. WSJ analysis suggests the movement may fragment further in response to the succession issue. [TOLO]
  • U.S. Military Seeks Greater Targeting Leeway: The WSJ reports that U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan are seeking authorization to conduct more direct strikes on Taliban forces in Afghanistan this summer; Gen. John Nicholson is reported to be seeking greater authority to carry out strikes in support of Afghan national security forces, and to retain the presence of roughly 10,000 U.S. forces in the country at least through the end of the year. Pres. Obama is cited as telling aides that he is “not inclined” to restart U.S. combat operations against the Taliban, a point he made in his public comments on the strike targeting Mullah Mansour on Monday, but officials say he “remain[s] open to recommendations from his military commanders”.
  • Other Attacks and Operations: Helmand provincial police officials reported Tuesday that Mullah Manan, identified as the Taliban’s shadow governor for Helmand province, had succumbed to injuries from an airstrike in Marjah on Sunday evening. At least four civilians were killed and five injured in a roadside bombing in Kandahar on Tuesday. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [AP] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Abdullah Attends World Humanitarian Summit [TOLO]
  • Kandahar Information Ministry Office Bans Broadcast of Female Singers [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: US Military Strike in Balochistan Targets Mullah Mansour; Pakistan Applies for NSG Membership

Topline

  • A U.S. military drone strike inside Balochistan on Saturday reportedly killed Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour; the Taliban have not confirmed his death, although some sources suggest the group’s leadership council is meeting to determine a successor. Pres. Obama is reported to have directly authorized the action. Pakistan protested the strike as a violation of its sovereignty; U.S. officials justified Mansour’s targeting on the basis of Taliban attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and said that Mansour had been an “obstacle to peace”. Prime Minister Sharif and Imran Khan continue to headline infrastructure inauguration ceremonies and protest rallies; the PPP is reportedly planning to seek the prime minister’s disqualification based on Articles 62 and 63 of the constitution. The WSJ reports that Afghanistan’s intelligence agency is providing arms and funding to the Mullah Mohammad Rasool-led Taliban splinter group. Pakistan formally applied for membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group last week. The deadline for Pakistan to commit to the purchase of unsubsidized F-16 fighter jets is May 24, Dawn reports. NATO ministers backed the continuation of the Resolute Support training mission following a meeting on Friday; timelines and funding commitments were not specified. Pakistan transferred control of a border crossing facility in Angor Adda to Afghanistan’s military forces on Saturday; the Pakistani interior ministry has protested the move, saying it was not consulted. Mayoral and council chairman elections have been suspended in Sindh as the Sindh High Court considers a challenge by independent councilors to the indirect elections for reserved council seats. Six Afghan police officers and a Nepalese guard were killed in separate insider attacks in Uruzgan and Kabul. Pres. Ghani and Prime Minister Modi arrived in Tehran on Monday for the signing of an agreement on the construction and use of the Chabahar port facility in Iran. The Sindh Rangers dispersed protestors in Karachi on Friday, as spiking temperatures compounded electricity shortfalls.

Pakistan — Security

  • Pakistan Seeks Nuclear Suppliers Group Membership: On Friday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said that its ambassador to Vienna had formally written to the Nuclear Suppliers Group with an application for membership, arguing that Pakistan “has taken legal, regulatory and administrative measures to bring nuclear safety and security at par with international standards”. Separately, Pakistan’s National Command Authority, which oversees the country’s nuclear and space research and development, has sought exemption from statutory employment rules, arguing that “all information pertaining to the conduct of its employees was secret information”. [Dawn]
  • U.S. Assistance: Dawn reports that, following a Congressional block on the use of foreign military finance to subsidize the sale of eight F-16 fighter jets, Pakistan must issue a letter of acceptance expressing its commitment to purchasing the jets with its own funds by May 24, or else lose out on the opportunity; manufacturer Lockheed Martin is also reported to be planning to close down production on the aircraft by the end of next year. On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2017, which includes new certification requirements and restrictions on the provision of Coalition Support Funds to Pakistan; a final conference with the Senate bill, which does not contain matching provisions, has yet to take place.
  • FATA Operations: In a briefing for reporters on Friday, Pakistani military officials said that they had “cleared the Shawal valley completely of militants” and that repatriation of displaced North Waziristan residents would begin soon, and would be completed by the end of December. Dawn reports that the military is constructing “urban hubs” in both North and South Waziristan as part of its reconstruction operations, along with other road and fortification infrastructure projects. [ET]
  • Angor Adda Border Facility Transferred: On Saturday, Pakistan’s military announced that it was transferring control of a border crossing facility at town of Angor Adda, on the border between Paktika and South Waziristan; the military’s chief spokesman said that the move “will act as a catalyst and is envisioned to bring momentum for establishing peace and stability along Pak-Afghan border”. The Express Tribune reports that Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has protested the move, saying it was ignored in the decision-making process for the transfer. [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Criminal Penalties Increased: On Friday, the national assembly passed legislation that increases the penalties for a variety of crimes, including hate speech, forced conversion, lynching, and the provision of false information, among others.
  • Balochistan Minister’s Son Kidnapped: The son of Balochistan’s local government minister, Sardar Mustafa Khan Tareen, was kidnapped by unidentified armed men in the Pishin district on Saturday; no claim of responsibility has been reported.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Corruption Campaigning: Speaking at a rally in Mingora on Friday, Prime Minister Sharif brushed off his critics, saying that “some build roads, others take to them”, adding that “the dilapidated roads, hospitals and schools expose the PTI’s performance and its slogan of change.” During his visit Sharif announced two new grid stations, a women’s university, and highway construction plans, among other projects. Imran Khan led rallies in Faisalabad on Friday and Swat on Sunday, pledging to hold the prime minister accountable for alleged corruption, saying that his party would “go alone against corruption” if necessary. Prime Minister Sharif met with former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and his son Ali Haider Gilani on Saturday; an Express Tribune sources quotes the elder Gilani pledging that “the PPP wouldn’t let the democratic process derail and keep supporting democracy”. However, a PPP legal team is reportedly planning to file additional petitions with the Election Commission seeking the disqualification of Prime Minister Sharif and several top aides based on articles 62 and 63 of the constitution. The membership of the parliamentary committee tasked with negotiating terms of reference for a commission to investigate the Panama Papers leaks is expected to be finalized by midweek. Separately, Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali told a judicial conference in Muzaffarabad on Saturday that “corruption is the main obstacle in the way of prosperity. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Elections and Other Political Activity: The Sindh High Court has suspended an Election Commission notice that had set a June 8 date for mayoral and council chairmen elections for local government bodies in Sindh, until after it issues a ruling on a petition brought by independent councilors who have challenged their exclusion from nominating candidates to reserved seats. On Saturday, former Khyber Paktunkhwa governor Iftikhar Hussain, who also previously served in the military as deputy director general of the ISI, announced that he had joined the PTI. At least three people, including two local PPP leaders and a Sindhi nationalist leader, were killed in a brawl in the Sujawal district on Friday. [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Crisis: Spiking temperatures and power outages prompted a large demonstration in Karachi’s Baloch Colony neighborhood on Friday that shut down the Shaheed-e-Millat expressway; a Karachi Electric office was also attacked in Liaquatabad. Protestors were eventually dispersed by the paramilitary Rangers. Power shortfalls reportedly total 6000 megawatts nationwide, although the Ministry of Water and Power says the deficit is under 4000 megawatts.
  • Growth Target Missed: The agricultural sector shrunk by .19% in the outgoing fiscal year, the National Accounts Committee determined at a meeting on Friday, led by drops in cotton output; overall GDP growth is estimated at 4.7% for the year, missing a 5.5% target. Critics suggest that the finance ministry has inflated growth figures and that actual growth for the year is under 3.5%.
  • Polio Crisis: The World Health Organization issued a three-month extension on polio-related travel restrictions for Pakistani travelers, and requested that all countries with embassies in Pakistan or Afghanistan require vaccination certificates from any visa seekers.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • ECP Cannot Remove Minority Candidate Suspected of Rival’s Murder from Nomination List [ET]
  • NAB Seizes More Funds in Ongoing Balochistan Finance Investigation [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Delays Amendments to Anti-Corruption Body [Dawn] [ET]
  • Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Linked to Traffic Police Killing in Karachi [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • TTP Claim Attack on Swat Militia Leader [ET]
  • Five Killed in Balochistan Shooting in Kech District [Dawn]
  • Balochistan Plans Madrassa Registration [Dawn] [ET]
  • Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Military Court Sentence Appeal [ET]
  • MWM Announces Hunger Strike Over Sectarian Violence [Dawn]
  • FBR Proposes Penalties for Those Failing to File Income Tax [ET]
  • Pakistan Steel Mills Plans to Slash Employees [ET]
  • Governor Not Bound to Consult Chief Minister While Acting as University Chancellor, Supreme Court Rules [ET]
  • Sindh Police Acquire Surveillance Drones; Peshawar Police Establish Informant Network [Dawn] [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Taliban Leader Akhtar Mansour Reportedly Killed in US Strike: On Saturday, Pentagon spokesmen announced that U.S. military forces had carried out an airstrike targeting Mullah Akhtar Mansour, the Taliban leader who officially succeeded Mullah Mohammad Omar as leader of the insurgency last summer; U.S. officials said they were assessing the strike to confirm whether Mansour had been killed. Another man was reportedly killed alongside him; Pentagon officials said there were no other casualties from the strike. On Sunday, Balochistan security officials reported the discovery of the bodies of two men and a destroyed vehicle in the Naushki district; one was identified as a taxi driver, Muhammad Azam, while the other man was holding identification identifying him as Wali Muhammad, believed to be an alias of Mansour’s. The Pakistani foreign ministry later issued a statement echoing those details. The AFP reports that the man believed to be Mansour had been returning from travel to Iran, and that his body was later taken from the Quetta Civil Hospital by a man identifying himself as a relative, along with “some plainclothes intelligence officials”. On Monday, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman denied that Mansour had been in the country. Afghan intelligence officials on Sunday said that they had confirmed Mansour’s death; the U.S. coalition in Afghanistan has not issued a definitive confirmation, and the WSJ notes that Mansour has been erroneously declared dead in the past. The Taliban’s official spokesman has not responded to the reports, and Taliban sources offer conflicting accounts as to whether or not they believed Mansour to be dead; some confirmed that he was unreachable by phone. Taliban sources tell Reuters that the group’s leadership council met on Sunday to begin the consideration of a successor; the Express Tribune reviews potential contenders. Reports indicate that the strike was carried out by multiple armed drones operated by U.S. Special Operations Forces and that it took place in Balochistan, southwest of Quetta near the town of Ahmad Wal. It is the first such strike reported to have taken place inside Balochistan, the first publicly-disclosed operation by U.S. military forces inside Pakistan since the 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, and is believed to be the first time the U.S. has directly targeted senior Afghan Taliban leaders inside Pakistan. Pres. Obama is reported to have directly authorized the strike, and U.S. sources indicated that both Afghan and Pakistani leaders were only notified of the strike after it was carried out, although some analysts have speculated whether Pakistani security services had provided intelligence leading to Mansour’s targeting. Pakistan’s foreign ministry issued a statement on Sunday protesting the strike as a “violation of its sovereignty, an issue which has been raised with the United States in the past as well,” and reiterated its position that “a politically negotiated settlement was the only viable option for lasting peace in Afghanistan”. Anonymous Pakistani security sources express anger at the strike in comments to the Express Tribune, and complain that the U.S. “should have been more patient” with the stalled reconciliation process. Speaking at an event in Islamabad on Friday prior to the strike, Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz had said that that “there is a need for more unified and coherent messaging from Kabul in favour of peace and reconciliation with Taliban”, and had rebuffed suggestions that “Pakistan actually controls the Taliban”. In their description of the incident Pentagon officials cited Mansour’s active involvement in directing Taliban attacks against “civilians and security forces, [U.S.] personnel, and coalition partners”, and his “prohibiting Taliban leaders from participating in peace talks with the Afghan government”, as rationales for the strike. In remarks on Sunday, Sec. Kerry echoed those points and said that Mansour was a threat to peace efforts and that “this action sends a clear message to the world that we will continue to stand with our Afghan partners”. A statement by the Afghan presidential palace on Sunday said that “with confirmation of Mullah Mansour’s death, there would be new opportunities for those Taliban groups who want to renounce war and return to the country from foreign countries and join the peace process led by Afghanistan”; Chief Executive Abdullah welcomed reports that Mansour’s death had been confirmed and said that Mansour had been “the main figure preventing the Taliban joining the peace process”. Speaking while on travel to Vietnam on Monday, Pres. Obama said that the U.S. was “not re-entering the day-to-day combat operations that are currently being conducted by Afghanistan forces” but that Mansour’s death “removed the leader of an organization that has continued to plot against and unleash attacks on American and coalition forces.” The AP, AFP, and Guardian, among others, offer separate profiles and obituaries of Mansour and his leadership tenure. [NYT] [WSJ] [CNN] [BBC] [Guardian] [Reuters] [AJE] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • NATO Ministers Back Training Mission: Friday’s meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels concluded with a commitment to extend the Resolute Support training and assistance mission in Afghanistan beyond 2016; no specific timelines or funding pledges were announced. NATO heads of state will meet in Warsaw in July to approve the continued support. [TOLO]
  • Taliban Divisions: The WSJ reports that the Afghan National Directorate of Security has been providing funding and weapons to the dissident Taliban faction led by Mullah Mohammad Rasool; spokesmen for the president, and the Rasool group, denied the report. Afghan Special Forces are reported to have carried out an operation to rescue a Rasool-linked commander, Nangialai Khan, in Herat in March.
  • Insider Attacks: An Afghan security guard killed a Nepalese guard and wounded a UN staff member at a construction site within the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan compound on Friday; officials say they are still investigating whether the attack was premeditated, although reports do not confirm the fate of the shooter. On Saturday, at least six police officers were killed by three colleagues at a checkpost in Uruzgan’s Charchino district. [AP]
  • Civilian Casualties: A UNICEF report released on Friday found that 163 schools and 38 healthcare centers were attacked by militant or government forces in 2014; overall, more than 500 schools in southern Afghan provinces have been closed due to insecurity.
  • Other Attacks and Operations: Afghan military officials claim to have retaken control of most areas of Helmand’s Marjah district after new operations began there on Thursday; airstrikes in the district are reported to have killed four Taliban commanders on Sunday, and officials report freeing as many as 30 Afghan soldiers from Taliban captivity. At least one person was killed and seven injured when rockets were launched at the Herat provincial governor’s office on Sunday. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Hezb-e-Islami Peace Agreement: Speaking at a cabinet meeting on Sunday, Chief Executive Abdullah said that the government was “close” to concluding a peace agreement with the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin. During senate debate on Sunday, senators sought additional details on the agreement, expressing concern over whether the group would give up its arms as part of the deal. [TOLO]
  • Ghani Visits Qatar: Pres. Ghani departed for a two-day visit to Qatar on Saturday; he met with Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on Sunday for talks. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Chabahar Port Agreement: Pres. Ghani and Prime Minister Modi both arrived in Tehran on Monday for the signing of an agreement on the Chabahar port facility; India plans to invest at least $200 million in the facility, which will connect by land to western Afghanistan. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ghani Pledges Continued Role for Women in Political System [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Pajhwok]
  • Guantanamo Review Board Approves Release of Afghan National [AP]
  • Norway Doubles Assistance to Afghanistan to $24M [AP]
  • China to Begin Construction of Housing for Afghan Government Employees [Khaama Press]
  • Commentary: Almost Signed? The Peace Agreement with Hezb-e-Islami – “One of the major consequences of a possible return of Hekmatyar to Afghanistan will be the possible merging of the different, currently quarrelling factions of Hezb that are politically active in the country and of HIG under a united leadership.” [Thomas Ruttig and Martine van Bijlert, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Senate Oks Committee on Panama Papers; Pakistan Says Afghan Forces Must Block Taliban Gains

Topline

  • On Friday, the Pakistani senate approved the formation of a joint committee to negotiate terms of reference for an investigation into the Panama Papers leaks, despite earlier debates over the inclusion of the MQM on the committee; national assembly opposition leader Khurshid Shah told reporters that Aftab Ahmed Sherpao of the QWP would be replaced with an MQM representative. In a Reuters interview, Pakistani foreign secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry said that Afghan national security forces would need to put military pressure on the Taliban to force them to negotiate, insisting that Pakistan was “doing whatever we can” to persuade Taliban and Haqqani network leadership to take part in talks. At least six accused Al Qaeda operatives were killed in a raid in Dera Ghazi Khan on Thursday, following an earlier operation in Multan that killed eight and arrested six; one of the dead was indentified as the head of Al Qaeda operations in Pakistan, Tayyab Nawaz. An Afghan National Army brigade commander, Gen. Abdul Basir Sharwan, was killed in a roadside bombing in Kandahar on Thursday. Fighting continues in Baghlan, where provincial council members report two army bases remain under siege by Taliban fighters. NATO members are meeting in Brussels today to discuss ongoing assistance to Afghanistan.

Pakistan — Security

  • Al Qaeda Operatives Killed: A police operation in Dera Ghazi Khan on Thursday killed six accused Al Qaeda operatives who had fled an earlier raid in Multan which killed eight and arrested in Multan. Dawn identifies one of the men killed, Tayyab Nawaz aka Hafiz Abdul Mateen, as the head of Al Qaeda’s operations in Pakistan, and reports that three of those killed were members of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s Jamaat-ul-Ahrar faction. The Express Tribune reports that the group was plotting an attack on the Bahauddin Zakariya University.
  • U.S. Relations: On the sidelines of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group meetings earlier this week, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Olson held separate bilateral meetings with Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif, and Finance Minister Dar. Chaudhry Nisar was quoted as reiterating Pakistani concerns regarding the Congressional block on subsidies for the sale of eight F-16 fighter jets; anonymous sources suggest to Dawn that the Obama administration may be successful in pushing Congress to lift that block by July.
  • Tensions with India: Speaking in the senate on Thursday, foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz said that Pakistan would push for a UN resolution declaring the Indian Ocean a “nuclear-free zone”, citing “serious concerns” over recent Indian nuclear tests of submarine-based nuclear-capable missiles and anti-ballistic missile interceptors. [Dawn]
  • Murder Suspect Extradited: Mohammad Zubair, a Pakistani man suspected in the 2011 murder of two Afghan nationals in Bradford, was extradited to the UK this week, the first such transfer in more than a decade, which proceeded despite the absence of an extradition treaty between the UK and Pakistan. Zubair has been held in Pakistani custody since November 2013. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Leaks Committee Approved by Senate: On Friday, Senators unanimously approved the motion to form a joint parliamentary committee to negotiate terms of reference for an investigation into the Panama Papers, although Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani walked out in protest to what he said were procedural irregularities when government representatives introduced the motion during the session without first consulting him. The MQM will be represented on the committee in place of Aftab Ahmed Sherpao, national assembly opposition leader Khurshid Shah told reporters Friday, following earlier debates about increasing the size of the committee to add their representatives. [Dawn] [ET]
  • Elections and Other Political Activity: Imran Khan led a rally in Bhimber in Azad Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday, reiterating allegations of corruption against Prime Minister Sharif. The PTI and MQM have nominated candidates for two Sindh Assembly seats vacated when their former officeholders quit the MQM to joint the Pakistan Sarzameen Party; elections will beheld June 2. The News reports that the Awami National Party is slowly rebuilding its organization in Karachi following paramilitary crackdowns that have broken the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s network in the city, which had earlier targeted the ANP leadership in multiple attacks. [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Parliament Votes Raises: A national assembly committee unanimously voted to increase members’ monthly salary and expense allowance to Rs 470,000, up from Rs 80,000 currently; the measure still faces review by the House Business Committee and the ministry of finance.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Interior Ministry Plans to Issue Biometric Passports Beginning in 2017 [Reuters]
  • Mirza Supporters Demonstrate Over Alleged Kidnapping of Badin Councilor [Dawn]
  • Three Killed in Premature Bombing in Peshawar [Dawn] [AFP]
  • Former Gujranwala Electric Power Company Officials Arrested [Dawn]
  • ADB Plans $300M Loan to Support Pakistan Railways ‘Restructuring’ [ET]
  • 60,000 Acres of Government Land in Karachi is Illegally Occupied, Officials Estimate [ET]
  • Prime Minister to Inaugurate Swat Hospital [ET]
  • Commentary: Fallout in Pakistan from the Panama Papers – “Should widespread agitation occur, the army could be expected to intervene to overcome an impasse, but it might also use the occasion to fashion an outcome that formalizes its power.” [Marvin Weinbaum and Nasir Naveed, MEI]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: General Abdul Basir Sharwan, the commander of the 1st Brigade of the 205th Atal Corps, was killed in a bombing in Kandahar’s Shahwali Kot district on Thursday; the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. Baghlan provincial council members tell TOLO that as many as a hundred soldiers remain under siege by Taliban fighters at two bases in the Baghlan-e-Markzai district. Eleven civilians were killed in a roadside bombing in the district on Thursday evening. Several rockets struck the Kabul home of Abdul Rasool Sayyaf on Friday morning; no injuries were reported. [TOLO]
  • NATO Ministers Meet: Sec. Kerry told reporters on Thursday that NATO ministers meeting today in Brussels would “review the progress of the Resolute Support mission and the need to continue our financial assistance for Afghan Security Forces and the imperative of planning for a new, flexible, regional presence beyond 2016”. Kerry affirmed a U.S. commitment to keep 9,800 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan through “most of this year” and 5,500 thereafter. [TOLO]
  • Russian Assistance: In comments to the Russian press on Thursday, the CEO of the firm Russian Helicopters, said that it was prepared to establish a service center in Afghanistan and provide other technical services to the Afghan Air Force.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: In a Reuters interview, Pakistan’s foreign secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry said that “effective action by Afghan national security forces to ensure that there are no military gains by the Taliban” was necessary to push the Taliban to the negotiating table, insisting that Pakistan was “doing whatever we can to persuade the Taliban and the Haqqani leadership, whoever we can contact” and adding that “we believe the Afghan government should also make … a similar kind of effort.” At a press briefing on Thursday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman welcomed the Afghan government’s negotiation of a peace agreement with Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin, as did NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in a separate press conference in Brussels. Spokesmen for the Jamiat-e-Islami and Junbesh-e-Milli parties also issued separate statements on Thursday welcoming the HiG talks. [TOLO]
  • Jamiat-Junbesh Clashes: Faryab provincial governor Sayed Anwar Sadat, a Junbesh-e-Milli member, rebuked Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor’s recent online statement describing a clash between supporters of Noor and Vice President Dostum, saying he had worked to mediate the dispute and putting onus Jamiat-aligned forces for instigating the conflict.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • NDS Operative Critically Wounded in Clash with Herat Provincial Council Chairman’s Guard [TOLO]
  • Commentary: What an Afghan Warlord-Turned Vice President Tells Us About Military Intervention and State Building – “Dostum’s survival throughout the past three decades is the acknowledgement that state building in a classical Weberian model, which consists of monopolizing means of violence and building centralized bureaucratic institutions, has not worked in places like Afghanistan.” [Romain Malejacq, Political Violence at a Glance]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: No Breakthroughs Following Quadrilateral Talks; Committee Formed on Panama Investigation

Topline

  • The Quadrilateral Coordination Group met in Islamabad on Wednesday, but does not appear to have achieved any breakthrough in talks, with anonymous Pakistani officials blaming the Afghan government for the breakdown and insisting they will not take military action against the Afghan Taliban, as demanded by the Kabul government; no follow-up meeting has been scheduled. A peace agreement with the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin is in the “endorsement and verification phases”, according to a spokesman for Pres. Ghani, but has not yet been signed off on by both sides. The PML-N and opposition parties reached an agreement on Wednesday to form a twelve-member parliamentary committee to negotiate terms of reference for an investigation into the Panama Papers leaks. U.S. and NATO military commander Gen. John Nicholson briefed senior U.S. and NATO military commanders on his assessment of the Afghanistan conflict at a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday. Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor reported that several people had been killed in a clash earlier this week between forces loyal to Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum and his own Jamiat-e-Islami party. On Thursday, Pakistan’s national assembly passed the 22nd Constitutional Amendment, modifying the criteria for Election Commission nominations to allow for the appointment of civil servants as commissioners. Elections for mayoral and council chairmen positions will be held in Sindh on June 8, the ECP has announced. Prime Minister Sharif attended the groundbreaking for a fiber-optic cable project in Gilgit on Thursday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: In an interview on Wednesday, Indian ambassador to Pakistan Gautam Bambawale said that India was “ready and will go ahead with talks” with Pakistan on “all issues”, including Kashmir. No date has been set for foreign secretary-level talks, however. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Army Public School Investigations: In joint comments to the Peshawar High Court, the Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial government and police said that they had warned all schools in the province of a potential terrorist attack on school facilities prior to the December 2014 attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar. The PHC is hearing a petition from families of the victims of the APS attack, who are seeking to force the government to disclose all information regarding the incident. [ET]
  • Gilani Kidnaping: Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Ali Haider Gilani said that he had been kidnapped by Al Qaeda in an effort to force the release of the family members of Rahim Al-Zawahiri. He said that he was held in North Waziristan and was only transferred to Afghanistan in February 2016, where he was transferred to the Afghan Taliban’s custody; he was rescued in a joint U.S.-Afghan special forces raid prior to his transfer back to Pakistan.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Committee Formed on Panama Papers Investigation: Following a meeting on Wednesday, the government and opposition leaders agreed to form a twelve-member parliamentary committee, with six representatives on each side, to negotiate an agreement over the terms of reference for a commission to investigate the Panama Papers leaks. PPP parliamentary opposition leader Khurshid Shah told reporters that Aitzaz Ahsan of the PPP, Shah Mehmood Qureshi of the PTI, Aftab Sherpao of the QWP, Sahibzada Tariqullah of Jamaat-e-Islami, Ghulam Ahmed Bilour of the ANP, and Tariq Basheer Cheema of the PML-Q would be the opposition members of the committee; the MQM has dropped out of the opposition coalition. [ET] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Elections and Other Political Activity: On Thursday, the National Assembly passed the 22nd Constitutional Amendment, which modifies the criteria for Election Commission appointments to allow for the nomination of senior civil servants. The changes also reportedly include staggering the terms of commissioners to allow for overlap. Separately, Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial election commissioner Talib Hussain died of natural causes on Wednesday. On Wednesday, the Sindh High Court suspended the ECP’s calculation of the seat shares for parties on reserved seats for local government bodies in Sindh, pending its judgement on a petition brought by independent councilors who say they were barred from voting in the indirect elections for those seats. Elections for mayoral and council chairmen positions will be held in Sindh on June 8, the ECP announced on Wednesday, with nominations due by May 24. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Gilgit Groundbreaking: Prime Minister Sharif attended a groundbreaking ceremony in Gilgit on Thursday for a planned $44 million, 820-kilometer long fiber optic cable project that will link Rawalpindi and Khunjerab. Sharif also inaugurated a police headquarters in Gilgit-Baltistan dedicated to patrolling China-Pakistan Economic Corridor infrastructure. [Dawn]
  • Budget Planning: Finance Minister Dar will unveil the government’s budget for the upcoming July-June fiscal year on June 3, finance ministry officials say, although Dar’s time is reported to be largely consumed with responding to the Panama Papers political controversy. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • White House Urges Reconsideration of House Provision Fencing CSF Over Haqqani Action [Dawn]
  • Eight Alleged Al Qaeda Militants Killed by Multan Police [Dawn]
  • Policeman Killed in Quetta Bombing [Dawn]
  • Protest Against Karachi Power Blackouts Causes Petrol Shortage [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Government Plans ‘Billion Tree Tsunami’ Reforestation Campaign [WAPO]
  • Punjab Plans Three Special Economic Zones [ET]
  • Supreme Court Hears Challenge to Prime Minister’s Agricultural Assistance Plan [Dawn]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Teachers Strike [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • NATO Commanders Meet: U.S. and NATO military commander Gen. John Nicholson met with senior military officers from NATO partner nations in Brussels on Wednesday, presenting a private briefing on his assessment of the Afghanistan conflict. U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Curtis Scaparrotti also attended. Nicholson did not attend a press conference afterwards, but Scaparrotti said that he was in favor of limiting the removal of additional forces, and described the plan as “a means to realize our objective of a stable and secure Afghanistan that is not a haven for terrorists any longer”. NATO ministers will meet on Friday to discuss future support from Afghanistan, ahead of the Warsaw summit on the subject scheduled for July.
  • Junbesh and Jamiat Fighters Clash: In a Facebook message on Wednesday, Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor claimed that several people had been killed in a clash earlier this week in the Almar district between a Junbesh commander linked with Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum and a Jamiat-e-Islami commander, General Farooq Qateh. Junbesh supporters accuse Fateh’s forces of attacking their own, after they tried to resettle areas they previously inhabited.
  • Attacks and Operations: TOLO reports that the Taliban’s nine-day encirclement of Afghan security forces in Baghlan’s Shorkh Kotal area was broken by Afghan army reinforcements on Wednesday, contradicting earlier reports that the Afghan forces had withdrawn from the area. On Thursday, a police officer in Zabul killed at least eight colleagues in an apparent insider attack that took place on the outskirts of the provincial capital of Qalat; the Taliban claimed responsibility. Taliban and Islamic State-affiliated fighters reportedly clashed in Nangarhar’s Achin and Khogyani districts on Thursday, leaving as many as 27 dead according to local officials. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Quadrilateral Coordination Group Meets: Wednesday’s meeting of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group in Islamabad concluded with a joint declaration agreeing that “peace negotiations are the only option” for a political settlement to the Afghanistan conflict. No date for the next meeting was set, and no breakthroughs were apparent; Dawn quotes Afghan ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal as noting during the meeting that “we must show real progress on our intended aims and deliver on our commitments” in order for the QCG to remain relevant. Anonymous Pakistani officials put the blame on the Afghan government and have rebuffed Afghan government demands for military action against the Taliban. [ET] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [AP] [Joint Statement]
  • Peace Deal with Hezb-e-Islami: Pajhwok reports that High Peace Council officials concluded their negotiations with the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin on Wednesday, and that the draft had been passed over to HiG to secure the approval of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. A spokesman for Pres. Ghani told the BBC that the agreement was at the “endorsement and verification phases” but had not yet been signed by the president or HiG representatives.
  • Modi Visit Expected: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to visit Afghanistan in June to inaugurate the Salma Dam project, and to meet with Iranian and Afghan officials to discuss the Chabahar port project.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Seven Killed in Azerbaijani Cargo Aircraft Crash in Afghanistan [Reuters]
  • Lawmakers Accuse Colleagues of Delaying Electoral Reforms Through Absences [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Deciding to Leave Afghanistan: What Happens After Arrival in Europe – “In a way, travel to Europe has always been a ‘high-end’ addition to the regular diversification and coping strategies that many Afghan families employ.” [Martine Van Bijlert, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Signing of Deal with Hekmatyar Reportedly Imminent; Quadrilateral Coordination Group Meets

Topline

  • Deputy Chief Executive Mohammad Khan told reporters on Wednesday that the government and Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin were near the signing of a peace agreement, in which he said that the HiG’s only conditions were the delisting of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar from the international sanctions blacklist. The Quadrilateral Coordination Group is meeting in Islamabad today for the first time since February; Afghanistan did not send a delegation, tasking Ambassador Omar Zakhilwal to represent the government instead. Zakhilwal told the Express Tribune that Afghanistan would push the QCG to declare the Taliban to be “irreconcilable”, and would urge Pakistan to take military action against the insurgency. PPP and PTI opposition leaders gave speeches in parliament on Wednesday, reiterating allegations against Prime Minister Sharif; the opposition has issued a new seventy-question list for the prime minister to respond to. The MQM has dropped out of the combined opposition, with legislators telling reporters that the party would “come up with its own strategy”. The U.S. and Pakistan held talks in Islamabad on Tuesday on nuclear security and proliferation issues; Pakistan reiterated its objections to the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, and its desire to become a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Air and ground operations continue in Baghlan; reports on Wednesday suggest that embattled Afghan forces have withdrawn from the Surkh Kotal area after days of fighting.

Pakistan — Security

  • Nuclear Talks: A U.S. delegation led by Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller met with Pakistani foreign secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry in Islamabad on Tuesday as part of the Pakistan-US Working Group on Security, Strategic Stability and Nonproliferation; a joint statement afterwards aid that both sides had expressed concerns over “nuclear and missile developments” in the region. Pakistan refused to drop its objections to the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, but pledged that it would not be the first nation to resume nuclear testing. The foreign ministry said separately that Pakistan had also “expressed confidence in its credentials to become full member of the export control regimes, particularly Nuclear Suppliers Group”.
  • Peshawar Bombings: Two remotely-detonated bombs killed at least one police officer and injured 19 people in Peshawar on Wednesday, the second timed to explode as rescuers and investigators arrived at the site of the initial blast. No claim of responsibility has been reported as of this writing. [Dawn] [AP]
  • Interpol Notice for Masood Azhar Arrest: Following a request from India’s National Investigation Agency, Interpol issued a “red corner notice” for the arrest of Jaish-e-Mohammad leader Masood Azhar, his brother Abdul Rauf, and two suspected JeM handlers for their alleged involvement in planning the January attack on the Pathankot Airbase. In a BBC Urdu interview on Tuesday, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah suggested that legal action against JeM was not possible since “state itself has remained a part of this”, without elaborating. [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Responds to PM’s Speech: Opposition leaders Khurshid Shah and Imran Khan gave separate addresses in parliament on Wednesday, reiterating allegations that Prime Minister Sharif and his family had not properly disclosed their overseas business holdings and accusing him of avoiding taxes. The combined opposition issued a new seventy-question document on Tuesday related to the charges against Sharif. The MQM dropped out of opposition talks, telling reporters that it would “come up with its own strategy”. Dawn notes that tax forms released by Sharif on Monday indicate that the prime minister has not paid wealth taxes on his properties since 2007, and did not pay taxes on agricultural income until 2009. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Other Corruption Investigations: On Wednesday, the Islamabad High Court issued protective bail to Balochistan provincial assembly member Mir Khalid Humayun Langau, a former finance advisor to the previous coalition government, in connection to ongoing corruption investigations centered around finance secretary Mushtaq Ahmed Raisani. In Rawalpindi, the National Accountability Bureau arrested a ministry of foreign affairs director, Shafqat Ali Cheema; in Karachi, a NAB officer was arrested on charges of accepting bribes related to an ongoing investigation. [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Chinese Investments: The China Machinery Enginee­ring Corporation has dropped out of planned $590 million, 330 Megawatt coal power plant planned for construction in Punjab, Dawn reports, citing lower tariffs set by the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority. On Tuesday, China’s Exim Bank released a $331.08 million tranche of financing for the Lahore Orange Line Metro project.
  • FBR Proposes Taxing Non-profits: The Federal Board of Revenue has proposed removing exemptions for the business income of non-profits and trusts and the income of service, pension, and regimental funds, setting income tax rates at half the normal rate in order to generate approximately Rs 5 billion in additional revenue.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Peshawar High Court Hears Military Court Convict’s Appeal [ET]
  • Jirga Agrees to Ceasefire Over Kohistan Land Dispute [Dawn]
  • JUI-F Proposes its Own Women’s Protection Bill [ET]
  • Hearings Delayed in Imran Farooq Murder Case [ET]
  • Pakistan and Tajikistan to Hold Talks on Fiber Optic Link [ET]
  • Commentary: How I Survived Four and a Half Years in Captivity – “My abductors could make my life intolerable, but as long as I held on to my sanity, I was liberated.” [Shahbaz Taseer, NYT]
  • Commentary: Drone Blowback in Pakistan is a Myth – “Drone warfare in the FATA has many problems. But as my interview data clearly suggest, blowback is not one of them. In fact, the data show the opposite: Most respondents support drone strikes.” [Aqil Shah, WAPO]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: Air and ground operations continue in Baghlan following Taliban attacks in the Surkh Kotal and Baghlan Markazi areas last week; Ministry of Defense officials said Tuesday that they had killed at least 31 fighters in operations on Tuesday. A Chechen militant commander was reportedly among those killed. On Wednesday, however, local security officials told Khaama Press that Afghan forces had retreated from the Surkh Kotal area after being surrounded and engaged in fighting for days. In Zabul, a U.S. drone strike in the Shah Joy district reportedly killed Mullah Mohammad Ali, identified as a senior Al Qaeda commander. Elsewhere, army officials in Helmand say that Afghan Special Forces operations cleared portions of the Gereshk district on Tuesday. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
  • Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy
  • Peace Agreement with Hekmatyar Near Signature: Khaama Press reports that Deputy Chief Executive Mohammad Khan told reporters on Wednesday that the government had signed a peace agreement with the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin, and that the draft was awaiting HiG leaders’ signature. TOLO’s reporting suggests that Khan had said the agreement was “very close to signing” and that High Peace Council and HiG leaders would sign it together at an unspecified future date. Reuters reports the signing by both sides will take place later today. Khan denied that Gulbuddin Hekmatyar had sought priveleges or posts in the government as part of the agreement, saying that his only demand was his removal from the UN sanctions blacklist. In a press briefing on Tuesday, State Department spokesmen welcomed talks with Hekmatyar; a State Department source told Voice of America that “the United States does not have any pre-conditions for supporting an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned reconciliation process.” [Khaama Press]
  • Quadrilateral Coordination Group Meets: Representatives from Afghanistan, the U.S., China, and Pakistan are meeting in Islamabad today in the first session of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group since February. Afghanistan did not send a delegation from Kabul, tasking ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal with attending instead; a spokesman for Pres. Ghani said that “Pakistan’s government promised during QCG meetings that it will act against terrorist groups which continue war and reject the peace process. Now is the time for Pakistan to take action.” Ambassador Zakhilwal met with U.S. Special Representative Richard Olson separately on Wednesday before talks began; he told the Express Tribune that Afghanistan wanted the QCG members to declare the Taliban to be “irreconcilable” and to use military force against them. [Pajhwok] [AP]
  • Protesters Reject Government TUTAP Commission: The ‘public council’ of one of the activist organizations that led protests against the government’s plans for the TUTAP electricity distribution line said that it would not accept a government commission set up to assess the route for the project, insisting that the government should cancel outright the plan first.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Propose Regional Counternarcotics Plan [TOLO]
  • NATO Foreign Ministers to Meet May 20 to Discuss Resolute Support Mission [Khaama Press]
  • Commentary: Deciding to Leave Afghanistan: The Routes and the Risks – “Although the interviewees knew only a fraction of what their family members had endured during their journeys and were thus unable to provide detailed accounts of their relatives’ travels through some parts of Europe (especially through the Western Balkans), it is clear that all the migrants used this relatively new and shorter migration route (when compared to the route via Libya to Italy).” [Jelena Bjelica, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Sharif Pushes Back At Critics in Parliamentary Address; Donors Suspend APRP Support

Topline

  • Prime Minister Sharif addressed parliament on Monday, pushing back at critics who he said were only seeking his own accountability, and reiterating that investigations into offshore business holdings detailed in the Panama Papers leaks should be “across the board”. Opposition legislators walked out after Sharif’s address, and later said that he was “wasting the nation’s time”. Sharif visited Khyber Paktunkhwa on Tuesday to inaugurate new infrastructure projects. Pres. Ghani thanked protestors for demonstrating peacefully in Kabul on Monday, reiterating his government’s commitment to “equal development”. The Post confirms that donors have suspended funding for the High Peace Council-managed Afghan Peace and Reintegration Program, with roughly 11,000 militants taking part over the course of its six-year lifetime. Rival Taliban factions clashed in Badghis and Ghor on Monday, although details are limited. Afghan Border Police have reportedly been redeployed to central Helmand to fill in the ranks of missing “ghost soldiers”. Salman Taseer gave his first interviews since being freed from four years’ captivity, saying that he had been held by Uzbek militants and was freed by the Afghan Taliban. Both Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif and Chief Executive Abdullah are in Beijing, where they held separate meetings with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. The Quadrilateral Coordination Group will meet in Islamabad on Wednesday in an effort to renew talks about negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Pakistan — Security

  • Taseer Speaks of Kidnapping: In interviews with the BBC Urdu service and CNN, Shahbaz Taseer, the son of the late governor Salman Taseer, described his four years of captivity following his kidnapping in August 2011. Taseer told interviewers that he had been tortured while being held by Uzbek militants in North Waziristan, and that his freedom came after the group holding him clashed with Afghan Taliban fighters, who later took custody of him and arranged for Taseer’s release. [BBC]
  • F-16 Sale: Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Defense Minister Khawaja Asif reiterated that Pakistan “would explore other options” if an agreement for the subsidized sale of eight F-16 fighter jets from the U.S. fell through. In a separate statement, former Pres. Zardari urged the U.S. to “look beyond its checklist of requirements for cooperation on our security needs and instead think strategically about how it can support a democratic nation under pressure from the same terror groups that threaten regional security”. [ET]
  • FATA Development Authority Workers Freed: Seven FATA Development Authority employees were freed on Monday after being kidnapped in South Waziristan in March; Reuters credits the government’s detention of 22 tribesmen arrested under the collective responsibility provisions of the Frontier Crime Regulation, although officials did not confirm whether a ransom had been paid or which group had been holding the workers hostage.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Prime Minister Addresses Parliament: Speaking before parliament on Monday, Prime Minister Sharif pushed back at critics of his government, saying said that the opposition “only want[s] accountability for me” and said that he had “faced selective justice in the past”. Sharif called for the formation of a committee in the national assembly to finalize “comprehensive” terms of reference for a commission to investigate the Panama Papers leaks, reiterating that there should be “across the board” investigations. Opposition legislators did not disrupt the Sharif, but walked out afterwards, holding a press conference in which they accused Sharif of ignoring their list of seven questions for him to address and “wasting the nation’s time”. Opposition leaders will meet again on Tuesday evening to plan a response. Former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry filed a petition with the Election Commission on Monday seeking a report on the prime minister’s declared assets; Chaudhry’s lawyer said that he will seek Sharif’s disqualification after those details are received. Sharif submitted his tax details to the National Assembly secretariat for release on Tuesday, totaling Rs 35.9 million over a 23-year period, including seven years in exile. On Tuesday morning, Sharif visited Dera Ismail Khan to inaugurate a new motorway section and gas supply project alongside JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman, saying that “those who are destined to stage sit-ins will keep protesting but we will keep working”, and warning the PTI that Khyber Paktunkhwa was “slipping away” from its control. [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Chief of Army Staff Visits China: Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif continued his two-day trip in Beijing, meeting on Monday with Premier Li Keqiang and his counterpart Gen. Li Zoucheng for talks that reportedly centered on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Project.
  • Elections and Other Political Activity: On Monday, Sindh Assembly speaker Agha Siraj Durrani accepted the resignations of two former MQM lawmakers who left the part to join the Pak Sarzameen Party. Separately, former Sindh Home Minister Zulfikar Mirza accused the PPP-led provincial government of coercing his allies into voting for other candidates in the local town committee elections. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Planning Minister Tells Parliament ‘All Hurdles Removed’ in Gwadar Development [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Expresses Concern Over Indian ‘Maps Bill’ [Dawn]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa NAB Director General Charged with Torture [Dawn]
  • Two NADRA Officers Arrested on Charges of Providing CNICs to Afghan Nationals [ET]
  • Joint Economic Commission with Iran to Meet After Ramazan [ET]
  • PPP Senator Proposes Women’s Quota for Judicial Appointments [Dawn]
  • Health Officials Express Optimism Over Polio Vaccination Campaigns [BBC]
  • Sindh Seeks to Recruit 4000 Rural Doctors [ET]
  • Commentary: What’s Behind Russia’s Rapprochement with Pakistan? – “By engaging with Pakistan, Russia leaves New Delhi with a hard choice: to honor its strategic commitment to Russia and make concessions or to observe Russian-Pakistani rapprochement, which could potentially erode India’s military advantage.” [Dmitriy Frolovskiy, The Diplomat]

Afghanistan — Security

  • APRP Suspended: The Post reports that international donors have suspended support for the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Program, a six-year effort to provide small financial stipends to insurgent fighters who pledge to lay down their arms and reconcile; only 11,077 militants have entered into the program since its inception, and High Peace Council officials charged with its oversight say they cannot track whether participants have rejoined fighting.
  • Taliban Divisions: The dissident Taliban faction led by Mullah Mohammd Rassoul reportedly clashed with the pro-Mullah Akhtar Mansour faction in several districts Badghis and Ghor on Monday; TOLO reports “massive fatalities” but provides no further details.
  • Displacement: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs officials reported on Monday that roughly a thousand Afghans have fled their homes each day since the start of the year in response to fighting, and that 118,000 have been displaced during the first four months of the year. [AJE]
  • Attacks and Operations: The Guardian reports that Afghan Border Police forces have been redeployed to central Helmand to fill in on the front lines for “ghost soldiers” missing from the army’s ranks. Overnight operations in Baghlan reportedly drove Taliban fighters away from the Karkar coal mine on the outskirts of the provincial capital of Pul-e-Khumri. Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor, in military uniform, oversaw operations in the Koshindeh district that provincial officials claim killed at least 38 militants; Noor vowed to turn the province “into graveyard of Taliban militants and loyalists of ISIS terrorist group.” At least twenty were also arrested. Afghan security guards shot a would-be suicide car bomber seeking to attack the Ministry of Interior headquarters in Kabul on Tuesday. Officials in Kunduz claim that at least 20 Taliban fighters were killed in a drone strike in the Dasht-e-Archi district on Tuesday that targeted two vehicles. [Khaama Press] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Ghani Thanks Protestors: In a message on Monday evening to demonstrators who rallied in opposition to the TUTAP electricity distribution line’s re-routing away from Bamiyan province, Pres. Ghani praised the work of the security services and thanked protestors for remaining peaceful, saying he appreciated “all those who engaged in the discussions and offered their views, analysis, and recommendations in a compassionate way and without having a spirit for chaos and riots.” Ghani added that the government “strongly believes in equal development and equal implementation of projects”. Some reporters and cameramen were wounded in clashes with protestors earlier in the day. [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Abdullah in China: Chief Executive Abdullah met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on Monday; a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry said afterwards that Abdullah had voiced support for China’s position in the disputed South China Sea. Speaking at a Chinese university, Abdullah emphasized the shared threat posed to China and Afghanistan of regional terrorism. On Tuesday, Abdullah signed six cooperation agreements, focusing on economic ties.
  • Quadrilateral Coordination Group to Meet: Representatives from Afghanistan, China, the United States and Pakistan will meet again in Islamabad on Wednesday in an attempt to restart talks over negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government, a spokesman for the Pakistani foreign ministry confirmed.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Attacks in Kabul Keep Wall Builders Busy, Turning City Into Labyrinth [NYT]
  • Commentary: Doctors With Enemies: Did Afghan Forces Target the MSF Hospital? – “A question hangs over the Kunduz bombing, even as the military has moved to declare the matter settled: Did Afghan forces, out of longstanding mistrust of M.S.F., draw the United States into a terrible tragedy?” [Matthieu Aikins, NYT]