Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistani Leaders Huddle Again On China Corridor Project; Ghani Cancels Qatar Trip

Topline

  • During meetings presided over by Prime Minister Sharif on Thursday, senior party leaders reportedly reached a renewed consensus on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, and will reportedly prioritize projects along the westernmost route first. Pres. Ghani has cancelled a planned trip to Qatar for talks on the Afghan peace process. Maulvi Sayed Maqbool, a former Kabul-area commander during the anti-Soviet jihad, was assassinated in Kabul on Thursday by unidentified gunmen. Khyber Paktunkhwa police are short of personnel to staff polling stations for the upcoming local body elections, and are drawing on VIP security details and female health workers to supplement their numbers, Dawn reports. Former Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah was reinstated to his old portfolio on Friday, after he was cleared of involvement in the June 2014 Model Town clash in a joint investigation team report last week. Pres. Ghani suspended at least six officials in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development on Thursday on corruption charges, and the acting president and vice president of the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency.

Pakistan — Security

  • Counterterrorism Response: In briefings before the national assembly on Thursday, Interior Secretary Shahid Khan acknowledged that the implementation to date of the National Action Plan on counterterrorism was “unsatisfactory”, saying it was a “difficult and multifaceted task”. In a separate speech at a Frontier Corps graduation ceremony, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that “those fighting in the name of Islam are foreign-funded puppets” and vowed to carry out the NAP.
  • FATA Attacks: Two members of the paramilitary Touchi Scouts were killed and one injured in an attack on a checkpost in the Ghulam Khan area of North Waziristan on Friday; military officials claim to have killed 15 militants in retaliation. On Thursday, North Waziristan tribal elders in Peshawar called for the military not to demolish market areas in Miram Shah and Mir Ali, and reiterated calls for displaced North Waziristan residents to be allowed to return. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Elections: Khyber Paktunkhwa police officials tell Dawn that they are currently only able to deploy around 50% of the necessary manpower to provide security at polling stations for the upcoming local government elections, and will pull VIP security details and female health workers to supplement their numbers. In Gilgit-Baltistan, at least 6,000 army personnel will be deployed to provide security for polling scheduled for June 8. Meanwhile, Sindh provincial election commissioner Tanveer Zaki tells the Express Tribune that constituency delimitation will be finalized by the end of the month, and announced within ten days for a period of complaints and appeals. [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Former Punjab Law Minister Reinstated: Following his clearance by a joint investigation team into the June 2014 clash between Lahore police and Pakistan Awami Tehreek activists, former Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah was reinstated in his former portfolio today. Additionally, Ayesha Ghous Pasha was sworn in as provincial finance minister. [Dawn]
  • Karachi Tensions: An anonymous cabinet member source tells The Nation that the government has decided to “go soft” on the MQM and has “asked the people involved in the [Karachi] operation to stop bashing MQM in every case and treat terrorists as terrorists, not as activists of any party”. The source also suggests that the government will not seek MQM leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain’s extradition from the UK. Meanwhile, Karachi Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Naveed Mukhtar met with members of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Thursday, where he vowed to fix law and order in the city and heard complaints over infrastructure and service delivery in the city.
  • Bol Broadcast Blocked: At the request of the federal information ministry, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority has blocked Bol TV from beginning its broadcast — previously scheduled for the beginning of Ramazan — while investigations continue into its parent company, Axact, and CEO Shoaib Ahmed Shaikh. [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Leaders Meet Again on China Corridor: Prime Minister Sharif chaired a meeting of senior party leaders in Islamabad on Thursday and reportedly reached a consensus agreement with opposition dissidents who had protested what they said was the disproportionate infrastructure benefits accorded to Punjab in the plans for the proposed China-Pakistan economic corridor project. Although details are limited, the meeting appears to have reached agreement to prioritize the development of the “western route” through Balochistan and Khyber Paktunkhwa, one of three north-south road corridors that the government has announced as part of the project. The gathering agreed to the creation of a national assembly committee to oversee all projects falling under the corridor — the senate has already formed such a committee — and the creation of a task force with provincial representation to select possible sites for Chinese-funded industrial zones. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Electricity Surcharge: The Express Tribune reported Thursday that the government had agreed to impose a 7.5% withholding tax on electricity bills for those paying more than Rs 50,000 per month, as part of the budget for the next fiscal year. On Friday, the Lahore High Court voided multiple surcharges that had been previously imposed by the government on electricity tariffs, saying that they were in violation of the constitution.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Prime Minister Sharif Hosts Visiting Belarus President [Dawn] [ET] [APP]
  • Sindh High Court Orders Chief Minister to Punish Police for Failing to Detain Zulfikar Mirza [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Continues to Hear Arguments Over Constitutional Amendments [Dawn]
  • NADRA Scrutiny Bars As Many as 100,000 From National IDs Due to ‘Suspect Alien’ Status [Dawn]
  • India Frees Three Pakistani Prisoners [APP]
  • Sharif Brothers Acquitted in Ittefaq Foundries Case [Dawn] [ET]
  • National Accountability Bureau to File Another Reference Against Pervez Ashraf [Dawn]
  • FBR Denies Customs Waiver for LNG Import Tugs [ET]
  • Council on Islamic Ideology Calls for ‘Uniform System of Education’ Including Religious Teachings [ET] [ET]
  • Commentary: Sectarian Violence and Intolerance in Pakistan – “Violent sectarian groups are expanding their geographical influence in the country and have largely been able to carry out large-scale attacks with insufficient state reprisals. As their power and influence increases at the local level, they become attractive partners for political parties seeking electoral success.” [Niloufer Siddiqui, MEI]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Ghani Cancels Qatar Trip: Pres. Ghani has reportedly cancelled a planned trip to Qatar, during which he and High Peace Council advisors were to have held talks on the status of the Taliban political office there and “the role of the Qatari government in supporting the peace process”. Although some analysts attribute his decision not to go to the continuing furore over the NDS-ISI cooperation agreement, a presidential spokesman claimed the visit was delayed due to Ghani’s ongoing review of action plans being presented by cabinet ministers for their first 100 days in office, saying that “the president’s focus is on domestic issues”.
  • Former Jihadi Leader Killed in Kabul: Maulvi Sayed Maqbool, a former commander with the Harkat-i-Islami party during the anti-Soviet jihad period from the Kabul area, was killed by unidentified gunmen in Kabul on Thursday evening. No claim of responsibility has been reported. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Officials Suspended: On Thursday, Pres. Ghani suspended six officials in the Ministry of Urban Development Affairs and Housing, on charges of millions of dollars worth of corruption. Separately, Ghani also suspended the acting president and vice president of the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency, again on corruption charges; the move comes a day after a brawl between three new deputies to the agency by the Commerce Ministry. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Parliamentary Criticisms Continue Over Appointment Delays [TOLO]
  • Zabul Hostages Reunited With Families, Demand Release of Those Still Captive [TOLO]
  • Baghlan Schools Closed Over Insecurity [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Stanakzai Goes From Peace to War – “It is clear that the appointment has been held up not by a shortage of suitable candidates, but by the political ‘tug of war’ over appointments at the heart of the national unity government.” [Kate Clark, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: National Action Plan Reviewed; Ghani Meets with Some MPs on NDS-ISI Agreement

Topline

  • A Wolesi Jirga session was cancelled on Wednesday as Pres. Ghani moved to brief senior parliamentary officials privately on the controversial cooperation agreement between the National Directorate of Security and the Pakistani ISI. Wednesday’s meeting of senior military and civilian officials to review Pakistan’s internal security measures noted “several weak areas” in the implementation of the National Action Plan against counterterrorism, Dawn reports. Two more members of the Quetta Hazara community were killed in a shooting on Wednesday. Imran Khan led a rally in Peshawar on Wednesday, despite bans on public gatherings, ahead of local government elections scheduled for the end of the week. Uruzgan officials report that as many as 50 security checkposts have been taken over by Taliban fighters and 37 ANSF personnel have defected to the Taliban in the Khas Uruzgan district.

Pakistan — Security

  • Counterterrorism Response: During Wednesday’s review by senior military and civilian officials of the implementation of the National Action Plan against terrorism, military officials pointed to “several weak areas” of the plan’s implementation, Dawn reports, including efforts to crack down on foreign funding of seminaries and terrorist groups, bans on hate speech, madrassah reforms, and a crackdown on banned militant and sectarian organizations. The Sindh provincial government was also cited for “not fully cooperating” with the military-civilian provincial apex committees set up to oversee the plan.
  • Attack on Quetta Hazaras: Two members of the Hazara community in Quetta were killed in an attack by multiple gunmen at their shop on Wednesday evening; another person was injured in the incident and is in serious condition. No claim of responsibility has been reported for the attack, the latest in a string of targeted killings over the past week. Speaking at a late-night press conference, Balochistan home minister Sarfaraz Bugti vowed to “bring the killers to book”. Meanwhile, the Balochistan government extended the policing powers of the paramilitary Frontier Corps for another three month period. [ET]
  • Tensions with India: On Tuesday, the Senate defense committee passed a resolution condemning what it said was an “open confession” by India’s defense minister in remarks last week of supporting terrorism against Pakistan. Speaking at Thursday’s weekly press briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qazi Khalilullah said that Defense Minister Parrikar’s remarks “have confirmed Pakistan’s apprehensions regarding India’s involvement in terrorist activities in the country”, and said that Pakistan was “well aware of India’s alleged plans to sabotage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project and its campaign against the corridor”. [ET]
  • FATA Attacks and Operations: Two separate roadside bombings in Mohmand Agency’s Safai tehsil on Wednesday injured nine security personnel. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Elections: Despite a ban on public gatherings in the city, Imran Khan led a PTI rally in Peshawar on Wednesday, vowing that upcoming local body elections would bring “real change”. The provincial government plans to devolve at least 30% of its annual development plan funds to local government bodies. Khan also campaigned earlier in the day in the Mardan and Nowshera districts. The Express Tribune notes that 5% of all seats at the village and neighborhood council level have been reserved for youth under the age of 25. Meanwhile, a jirga is reportedly organizing to bar women from voting in parts of the Swat district; the Election Commission issued a statement on Thursday warning against any such restrictions.
  • Election Complaints: The judicial commission investigating charges of rigging in the 2013 general elections ordered district judges across the country to open sealed ballot bags and make copies of the data forms tallying the usage or voiding of ballots at each polling station. On Wednesday, the Peshawar High Court threw out a petition brought by a group of women voters who claim they were similarly disenfranchised in the PK-95 special election earlier this month, concluding they lacked proof. [ET]
  • Axact CEO Arrest: Following his arrest on Tuesday evening, Axact CEO Shoaib Ahmed Shaikh was placed on physical remand with police until June 7, and charged with fraud, money laundering, and illegal money transfers, among other charges. [ET]
  • PTI Reshuffle: On Wednesday, Imran Khan announced a new interim leadership set-up for central party offices, which Dawn notes effectively reinstated all existing officers in re-titled versions of their previous offices. The announcement does subdivide responsibility for provincial-level organization in Punjab between Shah Mehmood Qureshi (in southern districts) and Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar (in north Punjab), however. [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Polio Crisis: A new polio case was registered in North Waziristan on Wednesday, bringing the national total to 24.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • US and Pakistan to Hold Nuclear Talks in Washington Next Week [Dawn]
  • Tahirul Qadri Announces Plan to Return to Pakistan in June [ET]
  • Sartaj Aziz Meets With Saudi Foreign Minister, Pledging ‘Unequivocal Support’ [Dawn]
  • Sindh Chief Minister Cancels More Than 595,000 Unverified Arms Licenses [Dawn]
  • Punjab Lawyers Continue Court Boycotts [ET] [Dawn]
  • Pakistani Diplomat Surrenders to Investigators in Case of Myanmar National’s Extradition [ET]
  • Twitter Suspends Jamaat ud Dawa Charity Account [ET]
  • Prime Minister Marks Anniversary of Pakistan’s Nuclear Test [Dawn]
  • Three Death Row Inmates Executed Over 1998 Hijacking [Dawn]
  • Samples Show Inadequate Chlorination in Karachi Water Supply [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • NDI-ISI Agreement: The Wolesi Jirga lower house of parliament cancelled a session on Wednesday in which they had planned to summon National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar to testify on the controversial cooperation agreement between the NDS intelligence agency and Pakistani ISI. Pres. Ghani instead reportedly invited some senior committee members and parliamentary leaders to a private briefing at the presidential palace on Wednesday night. Meanwhile, Pres. Ghani announced the appointment on Wednesday of Ajmal Obaid, his spokesman and a former top election advisor, as deputy head of the NDS for policy. [Pajhwok]
  • Urzugan Attacks: In comments to TOLO, the district governor of the Khas Uruzgan district in Uruzgan reported on Thursday that as many as 37 Afghan police and soldiers have defected to join the Taliban, although he suggested that some had subsequently been killed by the Taliban. Senator Mohammad Hanif Hanafi, meanwhile, claims that as many as 50 security checkposts have been captured by the Taliban over a week of fighting.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Minister of Commerce Submits 100 Day Plan [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Ghani Praises Security Response to Kabul Guesthouse Attack [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Herat’s Salma Dam to Begin Operations Tests [TOLO]
  • Report: Addressing Land Conflict in Afghanistan – “Land disputes are a primary driver of conflict in Afghanistan. Population pressures, rapid urbanization, displacement and resettlement, and rising land value have increased competition for land since 2002.” [Erica Gaston and Lillian Dang, USIP]
  • Commentary: Blood and Hope in Afghanistan: A June 2015 Update – “Whenever talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban actually get under way, they are likely to last for years, well beyond 2016 when most foreign troops are supposed to have left Afghanistan and only a small NATO and U.S. military presence is to remain.” [Vanda Felbab-Brown, Brookings]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Taliban Attack on Kabul Guesthouse Repelled; Axact CEO Arrested

Topline

  • Taliban gunmen attacked a Kabul guesthouse on Tuesday evening but were unable to breach the facility, and all four attackers were killed in an hours-long engagement with police commandos and local guards by Wednesday morning. The CEO of the fake diploma company Axact and the TV network Bol, Shoaib Ahmad Shaikh, was arrested late Tuesday evening and is expected to be charged today in the wake of last week’s NYT reporting on its activities. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan rejoined a government security review meeting for the first time in three months on Wednesday. The Planning Ministry set a 5.5% GDP growth target and Rs 1.418 trillion national development budget in meetings on Tuesday, but provincial officials have objected to the latter plans.

Pakistan — Security

  • Security Review: On Wednesday, Prime Minister Sharif chaired another meeting of senior military and civilian officials to review military operations in the FATA and the implementation of the National Action Plan on counterterrorism; the Express Tribune notes that Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan attended the meeting for the first time in three months. Prime Minister Sharif and Chaudhry Nisar also reportedly met separately prior to the larger gathering for a “reconciliatory meeting”, during which the prime minister reportedly agreed to an expansion of the cabinet to bring in more ministers allied with Chaudhry Nisar.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Axact CEO Arrested: On late Tuesday evening, Federal Investigation Agency and police officers arrested Shoaib Ahmad Shaikh, the CEO of the fake diploma and software company Axact, as well as the yet-to-be-launched TV network Bol. The arrests comes as reports indicate investigators found large numbers of diploma templates during their earlier raid on Axact offices, in the wake of a NYT expose on the company’s fraudulent practices. Six other directors of the company were also reportedly arrested; they are expected to be formally charged in court today. [Dawn] [BBC]
  • Elections: The Express Tribune notes that 6,729 polling stations out of 11,154 polling stations in Khyber Paktunkhwa have been designated as either “sensitive” or “most sensitive”, with all but 11 polling stations in Peshawar falling into those categories. With elections slated for later this week, the provincial government is still finalizing the rules of business for local government bodies. [ET] [ET]
  • Election Complaints: The special judicial commission hearing charges of election rigging in the 2013 general elections will meet today to determine whether or not to order the reopening of polling station ballot bags across the country to retrieve consolidate results forms that have not been filed with the Election Commission. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Planning: During yesterday’s cabinet budget strategy meeting, Prime Minister Sharif stressed the need for “achievable targets” for the coming fiscal year, Dawn sources report. On Tuesday, the Annual Plan Coordination Committee set a GDP growth target of 5.5% for the coming fiscal year, led by projected increases in growth in the industrial sector. The committee also set a target of boosting private sector investment, bringing overall investments up 2.6% of GDP to 17.7% of GDP. The committee approved a Rs 1.418 trillion national development budget (covering federal and provincial programs), a 20% increase over the current year; foreign lending will provide 20% of that financing, primarily for Chinese economic corridor infrastructure projects. Provincial officials objected to the committee’s budget plans, however. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Supreme Court Hears Challenges to Judicial Appointments Under 18th Amendment [Dawn]
  • Electricity Tariff Surcharges to be Implemented, Over NEPRA Objections [ET]
  • Punjab Lawyers Continue Demonstrations After Killing in Sialkot [ET] [ET]
  • Three Karachi Police Officers Killed in Shooting [Dawn]
  • Jamaat-e-Islami Leader Meets with FATA Elders, Calls for Repatriation Before Ramazan [Dawn]
  • Government to Appeal PEMRA Chief’s Reinstatement [Dawn]
  • 11 More Inmates Executed [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kabul Guesthouse Attacked: A team of Taliban gunmen attacked the Heetal Plaza Hotel — which the AP reports now goes by the name Rabbani Guesthouse — in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood in Kabul on Tuesday night, but were unable to penetrate the hotel’s second layer of security and were subsequently engaged in a multi-hour firefight with police commandos and hotel guards. All of the attackers were killed by Wednesday morning, and no casualties were reported amongst security personnel or civilian occupants. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which follows a similar strike on a guesthouse in Kabul on May 14, which killed more than two dozen people. [WAPO] [AJE] [BBC] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: Unidentified gunmen killed a prosecutor in the Ashmakash district in Takhar province on Wednesday; his son was also killed. A rocket attack in Baghlan’s Pul-e-Khumri district on Tuesday wounded six civilians.
  • Militia Support: In remarks on Tuesday, the Ministry of Interior’s spokesman denied that the government was arming what it described as “civilian uprisings”, and suggested that it was working through existing local police units to support such activities.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Tensions with Pakistan: In a TOLO interview, a spokesman for Chief Executive Abdullah said that the prospective NDS-ISI cooperation agreement “is being reconsidered and corrected, and those who wanted to make a secret deal have been prevented because people are aware of it and the presence of the media will not allow issues related to the nation’s future to be dealt with this way”. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s foreign secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry and Afghan deputy foreign minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai met in Islamabad on Tuesday on the sidelines of the ‘Heart of Asia’ regional diplomatic summit; a joint statement suggested that “mutual trust and confidence between the two countries was leading towards better coordinated measures to root out the menace of terrorism”. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Customs Revenue: Kandahar customs director Syed Jamal Hashmi tells Pajhwok that the province collected nearly 1.495 billion Afghanis in customs revenue over the past five months, against a full target for the fiscal year of Afs 2.7 billion.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ministers to Publicly Present Policy Plans for First 100 Days, Ghani Announces [TOLO]
  • Election Aid Suspended Until Reforms Agreed, UK Ambassador Confirms [TOLO]
  • Afghani Bank Notes Reportedly Deteriorating As Quickly as Six Months [TOLO]
  • Interview: Afghanistan’s First Lady Rula Ghani Breaks Taboos [AP]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Lawyers’ Deaths Spark Punjab Protests; Afghan Neighbors Meet in Islamabad

Topline

  • The death of two lawyers in Sialkot on Monday during a clash with police has sparked lawyers’ protests across Punjab on Tuesday, some involving further violent clashes with police. Regional diplomats gathered in Islamabad on Monday as part of the “Heart of Asia” diplomatic process, ahead of a ministerial-level meeting later this year. Prime Minister Sharif and Chief of Army Staff Sharif met on Monday to review internal and external security issues, most reportedly focused on alleged RAW support for Pakistani militant groups. The Afghan Taliban carried out multiple attacks across Afghanistan on Tuesday, including an attack on Helmand’s Nawzad district that has as as 26 police and soldiers and cut off road access to the district. Pakistan’s cabinet approved a budget strategy paper in a meeting on Tuesday; the government is reportedly considering an income tax surcharge on higher income brackets for the next fiscal year.

Pakistan — Security

  • Security Review: Prime Minister Sharif and Chief of Army Staff Sharif met on Monday to discuss “matters relating to internal and external security”; the Express Tribune reports that the prime minister approved the launch of ground operations into the Shawal Valley region of North Waziristan, targeting what one source described as both Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and Indian intelligence sanctuaries there. A separate report suggests that discussions focused on concerns over RAW support for terrorist groups in Karachi and Balochistan.
  • Karachi Operations: A suicide bomber detonated during a raid by the paramilitary Rangers on a house in Karachi’s Orangi Town neighborhood on Monday, killing as many as seven militants reported to be members of the TTP and destroying the building. [ET]
  • Quetta Attacks: Three members of the Quetta Hazara community were killed and nine people injured in multiple shooting incidents on Monday; another bystander was also reportedly killed. The Sunni sectarian terror group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility. Members of the Hazara community demonstrated against police negligence in the wake of the attacks. [Dawn]
  • FATA Attacks: Former FATA senator Malik Abdul Wahid survived an attack on his convoy in the Mohmand Agency on Monday; two separate roadside bombings targeted members of a pro-government militia, injuring at least three people.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Protests Following Lawyers’ Death: Lawyers organizations demonstrated across Punjab on Tuesday following the death of two lawyers in the Daska district of Sialkot on Monday. Violent clashes are reported with police in Daska, where the city police station was reportedly burnt down, and in other cities around the province. In Lahore, demonstrators attempted to breach the gate of the Punjab Assembly. [ET] [The Nation]
  • PTI Shakeup: A day after he was named to lead the reorganization of PTI party offices in Khyber Paktunkhwa, Yousuf Ayub Khan declined the position, citing personal reasons. Khan had previously been disqualified from holding elected office.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Planning: A cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Sharif approved a budget strategy paper for the 2015-16 fiscal year on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Planning Ministry will consider an annual development spending bill of Rs 1.46 trillion (combined federal and provincial spending) during meetings on Tuesday. The Express Tribune reports the government will likely impose an income tax surcharge of as much as 5-10% on the taxes already owed by higher income brackets, which officials suggest is needed due to higher military operations costs. [ET] [ET]
  • LNG Import: During national assembly committee testimony on Monday, Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi laid blame on WAPDA and the power sector for failing to provide letters of credit to finalize a long-term contract for the import of Qatari liquefied natural gas. Meanwhile, the Express Tribune reports that the winning bidder for a second LNG import terminal has been found to have falsified its creditworthiness certificate, among other problems. [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Arrests Reported in Attack on President’s Son [Dawn] [ET]
  • More Bail Orders, Court Hearings for Zulfikar Mirza [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Axact Chief’s Protective Bail Petition Rejected [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Judicial Commission Seeks ECP Response on Polling Data [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • PPP and MQM Meet on Karachi Water Crisis [Dawn] [ET]
  • Balochistan Assembly Members Call for Doubling of Federal Education Budget [ET]
  • Second Phase on Quetta Vaccination Campaign Suspended [Dawn]
  • Seven Death Row Convicts Hanged [Dawn] [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: At least nineteen Afghan policemen and seven soldiers were killed in a Taliban attack on the Nawzad district in Helmand on Tuesday; Taliban fighters have reportedly surrounded a district police compound and have cut off road access to the district. The district police chief tells the AP that they need “immediate response from the government” to reinforce their position. Elsewhere, eight police officers were killed in attacks in a Taliban ambush in Paktika, and at least two suicide bombers targeted a court building in the Wardak provincial capital of Maidan Shah, killing two police officers and wounding three civilians. The AP interviews Kunduz governor Mohammad Omar Shafi, who reports continued attacks surrounding the provincial capital; on Monday, the Ministry of Interior denied that it was arming militia groups in Kunduz and other areas. [AJE] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Regional Diplomacy: Pakistan hosted a meeting of senior officials in Islamabad as part of the ‘Heart of Asia’ diplomatic process, bringing together regional neighbors of Afghanistan; a ministerial-level conference is scheduled for later this year. Pakistani Foreign Advisor Sartaj Aziz reiterated support for peace and security in Afghanistan; Afghan deputy foreign minister Hekmat Karzai said that “growing insecurity in the region” would require collective response. [Pajhwok]
  • Government Criticism: Ahmad Wali Massoud, brother to the late commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, told an audience on Monday that the national unity government had “done little for the people” and said that an emergency loya jirga must be called to form a “real national unity government”.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Additional Reporting on Reported Xinjiang Talks [NYT]
  • Parliamentarians Call for Rejection of NDS-ISI Agreement [TOLO]
  • Minister of Mines Seeks to Clarify Hajigak Mine Controversy [TOLO]
  • Afghan Musicologist Survives Attacks to Continue Mission of Musical Education [Guardian]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: NDS-ISI Cooperation Agreement to be Reviewed; Investigation Clears Senior Punjab Officials

Topline

  • Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security announced Sunday that a “committee of experts” would review the NDS-ISI cooperation agreement signed earlier this month, whose disclosure has prompted widespread backlash; officials now describe the agreement as having been in draft only. In remarks on Friday, India’s defense minister suggested that “we have to neutralize terrorists through terrorists”, prompting criticism from Pakistani officials. Afghan officials are reviving militia groups in Kunduz and other northern Afghan provinces in a bid to counter recent Taliban offensives. The Joint Investigation Team investigating the clash between Pakistan Awami Tehreek activists and Lahore police last June has cleared senior Punjab government officials of involvement. Pres. Mamnoon Hussain’s son, Salman Mamnoon, survived a roadside bombing in Hub on Sunday. Several journalists have resigned from Bol News, before the channel’s launch, as Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan announced expanded investigations into the fake diploma company Axact, whose CEO also heads Bol. The WSJ reports that acting defense minister Masoom Stanekzai met with former Taliban officials in Xinjiang last week, but the Taliban denied taking part in talks and other sources suggest that the Taliban contacts were not authorized by the group’s leadership. Imran Khan appointed new provincial coordinators for the PTI in a party shakeup on Saturday, saying that new caretakers would be appointed ahead of intra-party office elections. A large truck bomb in the Zabul capital of Qalat killed at least four people and wounded dozens on Monday. India’s ambassador to Afghanistan denied that the consortium of Indian mining companies was preparing to pull out of its investment in the Hajigak iron mine, but said operations were under review.

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: In remarks to the Indian press on Friday, Indian defense minister Manohar Parrikar said that India would take “proactive steps to prevent a [Mumbai]-type attack”, including Pakistan, and “anyone trying to infiltrate [India] will be neutralized”; Parrikar also stated that the army was carrying out “targeted kills” against terrorist targets in Jammu and Kashmir. He also reportedly that “we have to neutralize terrorists through terrorists only”, without elaborating. Parrikar later suggested that these comments were meant to suggest exploiting differences between existing terrorist groups, not undertaking operations “by our own people”. In reaction, Pakistan’s foreign advisor, Sartaj Aziz, expressed alarm in a statement issued Saturday; Pakistan’s defense minister, Khawaja Asif, said that Parrikar’s remarks were “open and blatant admission and declaration of sponsoring terrorism”. The comments follow recent public statements by Pakistani military and civilian officials warning of an increase in activity by Indian intelligence within Pakistan; an Express Tribune account from Friday suggests that Chinese officials have warned of increased RAW efforts to sabotage the China-Pakistan economic corridor project by supporting Balochistan militants. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Attacks on Senior Officials’ Families: On Sunday, Salman Mamnoon, the son of president Mamnoon Hussain, survived a bombing near his convoy in the town of Hub, Balochistan; three people were killed in the blast and at least thirteen injured. No claim of responsibility has been reported. Separately, former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani confirmed on Sunday that he had been able to speak with his son, Ali Haider Gilani, by phone earlier in the day; the younger Gilani was kidnapped in May 2013 and remains hostage, and the elder Gilani reports that his captors have sought the release of Al Qaeda militants in exchange for his freedom. [Dawn]
  • Other Attacks: At least four security personnel were killed in a roadside bombing in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan on Friday evening or early Saturday morning; initial reports suggest that the blast hit their vehicle, while a subsequently Express Tribune report suggests that they were engaged in mine clearance. Dawn reports that military counteroffensives in the area killed seven militant suspects. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Officials Cleared in Model Town Shooting: A joint investigation team formed last November to investigate clashes in June between Pakistan Awami Tehreek activists and Lahore police, in which 14 people were killed, has absolved Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and former law minister Rana Sanaullah of involvement in the attack, dismissing charges brought by the PAT. Blame appears to have been placed on lower-level officers present at the time of the shooting; the full investigation has not been released. PAT officials, and the PTI, have denounced the findings. [ET]
  • Axact Investigations: On Saturday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan announced that Pakistani investigators would seek assistance from the FBI, the UK, and Interpol to conduct further investigations of the fake diplomacy mill Axact, saying that the information gathered so far suggested “substantive evidence” of illegal operations. The NYT, which first broke the news of the company’s prolific network of fake online universities and high schools, quotes two former sales associates confirming previous reports of fraud, and identifies additional layers of offshore companies established to hide the scope of Axact’s activities. Axact’s banking accounts have been frozen and are under audit by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency. Following Chaudhry Nisar’s announcement, several top journalists and executives at the Bol network, a new media company also owned by Axact’s CEO, Shoaib Ahmed Shaikh, announced their resignations. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • PTI Shakeup: At a press conference on Saturday, Imran Khan announced plans to reorganize the party’s leadership, citing poor performance in cantonment local government polling, and indicated that former Punjab governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar would be responsible for organizing party activities in Punjab, Arif Alvi in Sindh, Yousaf Ayub in Khyber Paktunkhwa and Humayun Jogezai in Balochistan. A new “care-taker setup” will be announced at a later date, Khan indicated, after dates for intra-party office elections are set. [ET]
  • Karachi Tensions: Karachi Corps Commander Lt. Gen Naveed Mukhtar met with Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah on Friday, where they reviewed the ongoing paramilitary and police operations in Karachi and agreed to “further strengthen” coordination. Karachi police reportedly arrested the brother of one of the four suspects linked to attacks on the Ismaili community earlier this month in a raid on Friday. Meanwhile, the MQM launched protests around the city and in Hyderabad beginning Friday against water shortages they blamed on the provincial government. [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Elections: Section 144 restrictions on mass gatherings have been put in place in Peshawar ahead of local government elections scheduled to take place May 30, and will be in place through June 23; on Sunday, police arrested over 100 people in sweeps through several parts of the city, including at least 25 Afghan nationals. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Balochistan Assembly Speaker Resigns: Jan Muhammad Jamali, the Balochistan assembly speaker who clashed with PML-N leadership and split with the party following senate elections, issued a resignation letter from Saudi Arabia on Friday; a no-confidence vote against him was reportedly in the works last week.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Crisis: On Friday, Pres. Hussain signed into law the Gas Infrastructure Development Cess on Friday, following passage by parliament last week. Separately, Dawn reports that the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority may allow private housing developments and sugar mills to produce their own electricity. [ET] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Bail Extended Again for Former Sindh Home Minister [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Blasphemy Accused in Lahore Detained by Police, Spared Mob Lynching [ET] [Dawn]
  • Police and Lawyers Clash in Sialkot [Dawn]
  • National Assembly Committee Agrees to Reexamine Cybercrimes Legislation [Dawn] [ET]
  • Auditor General Removed [Dawn] [ET]
  • PEMRA Chairman Reinstated [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Air Force Training Craft Crashes in Swabi [Dawn]
  • Balochistan Home Minister Touts Frontier Corps Operations [ET] [Dawn]
  • Another Death Row Prisoner Challenges Sentence on Grounds of Age [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • ANP Rallies Against China-Pakistan Corridor Route [Dawn]
  • World Polio Watchdog Concerned Over Challenges to Eradicate Virus [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Government May Miss Fiscal Deficit Target with IMF [ET]
  • State Bank Cuts Interest Rate to 42-Year Low of 7% [Dawn] [ET]
  • Prime Minister Orders Investigation into Diamer-Bhasha Dam Purchase [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • NDS-ISI Cooperation Backlash: In a statement on Sunday, the National Directorate of Security intelligence agency said that the cooperation agreement with Pakistan’s ISI service previously reported to have been signed earlier this month “has yet to be finalized”, and would be reviewed by a  “panel of experts” from the NDS, foreign ministry, chief executive’s office, and office of the national security advisor, who will report to the president on the agreement. Pres. Ghani met with a gathering of tribal elders, members of parliament, and civil society activists on Thursday to discuss the agreement, which has faced widespread backlash since its disclosure last week. On Saturday, members of parliament sought copies of the text, which has not been made public, and warned that they would invalidate the agreement if their conditions were not met. NDS chief Rahmatullah Nabeel, who reportedly opposed signing the deal, appeared before a closed door session of parliament on Sunday; national security advisor Hanif Atmar did not attend. Kandahar commander Abdul Raziq criticized the agreement in remarks on Sunday, saying that “the actions of the national unity government will have negative impacts on the morale of security forces”. Elsewhere, India’s national security advisor, Ajit Doval, told a press conference that the ISI-NDS agreement was based on “faulty assumptions” that India was seeking to use “Afghan soil or Afghan nationals for security purposes”. In remarks on Sunday at the nomination of Masoom Stanekzai as acting defense minister, Pres. Ghani reportedly took a more hawkish tone, saying that Pakistan was engaged in “undeclared war with Afghanistan”. [Pajhwok] [Pajhwok] [Khaama Press] [ET]
  • Militia Support: The NYT and Reuters report that the Kabul government is renewing support for local militias in an attempt to counter Taliban offensives in Kunduz and other northern provinces, drawing on former mujadeen combat groups, including Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum and Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor. A spokesman for Pres. Ghani described the group as “selective voluntary citizens’ participation in the defense of the country against terrorists” and denied that the government was rearming previous militia networks, which Ghani had previously sought to dismantle. Pajhwok quotes Kunduz governor Mohammad Umar Safi, saying that 1,000 men will be recruited to join the Afghan Local Police. The WSJ meanwhile profiles a militia commander in Faryab, who complains of a lack of government support. [TOLO]
  • Force Planning: NATO and US forces commander Gen. John Campbell told reporters on Saturday that that talks are still underway to determine the level of any military component of a post-2016 NATO support mission in Afghanistan, which NATO foreign ministers agreed to in mid-May talks but stressed would be led by civilians. Roughly 1,000 U.S. soldiers and contractors are also expected to support U.S. embassy operations in the country after the end of the year. [AP] [TOLO]
  • Attacks and Operations: A large truck bomb detonated near several government offices in the Zabul capital of Qalat on Monday, killing at least four people and wounding as many as seventy, most reportedly civilians. The Taliban confirmed responsibility for the attack. Also on Monday, four policemen “in touch with militants” killed three of their colleagues in an insider attack and fled their checkpost in Kandahar’s Maiwand district. The governor of Uruzgan’s Shaheed Asas district was killed in roadside bombing on Saturday. Also on Saturday, four civilians were killed in a roadside bombing in Ghazni’s Gailan district; elsewhere in Ghazni in the Qara Bagh district, a police commander was killed in a Taliban attack on a checkpost. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [AFP] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Talks: The WSJ reports that Masoom Stanekzai, the new defense minister-designate, participated in two days of meetings with former Taliban officials in Urumqi, China, where they held “talks about talks”. Chinese officials and Pakistani intelligence representatives are reported to have facilitated and attended the meeting. Mohammad Asem, an associate of Chief Executive Abdullah, also reportedly attended. The Taliban representatives are identified as Mullah Abdul Jalil, Mullah Mohammad Hassan Rahmani and Mullah Abdul Razaq, all described as being based in Pakistan and “close to” the Taliban leadership council. A Taliban spokesman denied on Sunday that the talks took place, however, and other sources suggest that they do not have a mandate from the Taliban leadership to engage in talks. Separately, the Express Tribune reports that Pakistan has given the Taliban a “stern warning” to halt its ongoing spring offensive and engage in talks with the government, or face “serious consequences”. Pakistan will host a regional conference of the ‘Heart of Asia’ diplomatic track on Monday.
  • Government Formation: On Saturday, the Wolesi Jirga passed a measure that bars all government officials — not just those subject to parliamentary confirmation, as was previously the case — from serving in an acting capacity for more than two months. The government will be required to submit new nominees within ten days in the event that parliament rejects an appointee subject to confirmation.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Indian Consortium Considering Withdrawal from Hajigak: India’s ambassador to Afghanistan denied on Sunday that the Indian consortium of mining companies was preparing to scrap its multi-billion dollar Hajigak iron ore mining project, as reported earlier in the weekend; the AP quotes Ambassador Amar Sinha saying that a government committee did meet last week to “discuss challenges and circumstances” surrounding the mine, however. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Whereabouts of 12 Remaining Zabul Hostages Still Unknown [TOLO]
  • First Lady Ghani Joins NATO Mission Advisory Committee [Khaama Press]
  • Kabul Continues to Face Internet Outages [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: NDS-ISI Agreement Backlash Continues; More Details on Militants Linked to Karachi Attacks

Topline

  • Chief Executive Abdullah was not consulted on the final terms of the NDS-ISI cooperation agreement, sources tell RFE/RL; spokesmen for the National Security Council now suggest that the agreement was not finalized and that Pres. Ghani will lead further consultations before it is signed. Limited additional details have been reported on four militant suspects arrested in connection to the attack on Karachi’s Ismaili community, activist Sabeen Mahmud, and other high-profile Karachi targets; one Karachi police source suggests that the group is linked to the Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent branch. Initial charges against the four were limited, however. The PML-N’s Rana Mahmood Hassan won a special election in Multan on Thursday, edging out the PTI by roughly 10,000 votes. Police raided the Karachi residence of former Sindh Home Minister Zulfikar Mirza on Friday, arresting as many as ten supporters. Finance Minister Dar approved new surcharges on electricity tariff rates, keeping prices unchanged despite drops in production costs, in order to reduce the Pakistani government’s power subsidy burden by roughly Rs 100 billion.

Pakistan — Security

  • Karachi Attack Aftermath: Four militant suspects arrested and linked to the recent attack on the Karachi Ismaili community as well as several other high-profile incidents were remanded to police custody for two weeks after being arraigned before an anti-terrorism court; the initial charges against them do not appear to be specifically linked to any of those high profile attacks. Police investigators suggest that the men were involved in the assassination of activist Sabeen Mahmud, who they say was targeted for her campaign against the Lal Masjid. Former friends of one of the men, Saad Aziz, recount his radicalization; Karachi South district Deputy Inspector General Jamil Ahmed tells the Express Tribune that the group was a branch of the Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent organization, which other officials have yet to publicly confirm. Separately, at a meeting of provincial police chiefs on Thursday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan ordered a “security audit” for protections for minority communities and the preparation of special security plans and surveillance of their places of worship. [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Counterterrorism Response: During Supreme Court hearings on Thursday, Judge Asif Saeed Khosa expressed concern over the need for a separate military court system, as introduced in the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, which government lawyers argued was necessary to effectively prosecute terrorism cases. Elsewhere, Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif addressed the Quetta Command and Staff College on Thursday, declaring that a “war against terrorism and extremism is being fought for future generations”. [ET] [Dawn]
  • FATA Operations: Airstrikes in the Shawal Valley region of North Waziristan on Thursday killed at least fifteen militant suspects, military officials report.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Elections: The PML-N’s Rana Mahmood Hassan won Thursday’s special election for the PP-196 Multan provincial assembly seat, beating the PTI’s candidate by a margin of roughly 10,000 votes according to unofficial results. The PTI conceded defeat, but alleged that the PML-N had made use of government resources in its campaign. Meanwhile, preparations are ongoing for the upcoming local government elections in Khyber Paktunkhwa. Separately, the PPP has nominated former information minister Sherry Rehman for a newly vacant senate seat. [Dawn]
  • Police Raid Mirza Residence: On Friday, police raided the Karachi home of former Sindh home minister Zulfikar Mirza, arresting as many as ten of his supporters. Details are limited as of this writing; Mirza faces a slew of pending cases in connection to clashes with police in Badin earlier this month. [ET]
  • Balochistan Leadership Split: The Balochistan government, headed by Chief Minister Abdul Qadir Malik, has reportedly decided to bring a no-confidence motion against dissident assembly speaker Jan Muhammad Jamali, who split with the PML-N in the wake of senate elections earlier this year. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Crisis: At a meeting of the economic coordination committee of the cabinet led by Finance Minister Dar, officials approved additional surcharges on electricity tariffs, keeping prices at their current level despite a drop in power generation costs, in an effort to reduce the government’s subsidy burden by at least Rs 100 bllion. [Dawn]
  • Polio Crisis: Speaking at the World Health Assembly in Geneva on Thursday, Pakistani health officials stressed that the country was taking action to combat the polio virus, and said that accessibility to at risk affected had been “effectively addressed through decisive action” despite security threats. A polio drive in Quetta was delayed again on Thursday for lack of security personnel.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Lahore High Court Dismisses 26-Year Old Money Laundering Charge Against Prime Minister [Dawn] [ET]
  • Court Hears PPP Fight Over Party Name [Dawn] [ET]
  • Strike Held Over Balochistan Military Operations [Dawn]
  • One Killed, Four Wounded in Attack on Frontier Corps Vehicle Near Quetta [Dawn]
  • Two Charged with Murdering Former PTI Karachi Leader [ET]
  • Fingerprint Quality Not Sufficient to Invalidate Votes, NADRA Chief Testifies [Dawn]
  • Islamabad High Court Rejects Teen Convict Shafqat Hussain’s Intra-Court Appeal [ET]
  • Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan Sign Two Agreements [Dawn]
  • Public Hearing on Cybercrime Law Today [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • NDS-ISI Cooperation: Anonymous government officials tell RFE/RL that Chief Executive Abdullah has objected to the signature of the cooperation agreement between the National Directorate of Security and the ISI, and was not consulted on the final draft of the document. A National Security Council spokesman suggested on Thursday that the agreement, which has not been publicly disclosed, was in fact only in draft form, and that Pres. Ghani would consult with parliamentary and civil society leaders before proceeding with any cooperation. Former Karzai spokesman Aimal Faizi and former U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad join former Pres. Karzai and many legislators in parliament in criticizing the agreement.
  • Security Concerns: Speaking to the International Contact Group on Thursday, Pres. Ghani downplayed recent Taliban offensives in northern Afghanistan, saying that it would be “impossible” for the country’s major cities or government structure to collapse.
  • Attacks and Operations: At least ten army posts have been taken over by Taliban fighters in the Khas Uruzgan district of Uruzgan over the course of a week of fighting, police sources tell TOLO; there are no confirmed reports of casualties. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Elections: In his remarks to the International Contact Group on Thursday, Pres. Ghani said that holding parliamentary elections “was a serious challenge”, but said that “we can be fairly certain the 2019 presidential elections would meet all the critical requirements on transparency and accountability”.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Nangarhar Residents Claim Daesh Taking Control of Province [TOLO]
  • Report: The Politics of Disarmament and Rearmament in Afghanistan – “Demilitarization, this report makes clear, is only part of a wider political process, both with Taliban leaders and between pro-government factions. Until prospects for such a process exist, no demilitarization effort is likely to contribute to peace in Afghanistan.” [Deedee Derksen, USIP]
  • Commentary: Police Treated with Kid Gloves: The Many Flaws of the Farkhunda Trial – “As to those police who stood by and watched the murder, the Afghan legal system has again shown itself unable or unwilling to properly hold public servants to account.” [Kate Clark and Ehsan Qaane, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Gas Infrastructure Tax Passes Senate; Stanekzai Appointed to Defense Ministry

Topline

  • Despite heavy opposition, the Pakistani senate approved legislation instituting a special gas infrastructure development cess in a vote on Wednesday, during which the PPP again joined with the PML-N to ensure passage. Pres. Ghani announced the nomination of High Peace Council secretary Masoom Stanekzai as minister of defense on Thursday; he still faces parliamentary confirmation. Meanwhile, Chief Executive Abdullah has publicly objected to four provincial governor’s appointments announced earlier this week. More details have been released about the identities of four men arrested in Karachi on Wednesday, who have been linked to multiple recent high-profile attack; their organizational affiliation, if any, has not been disclosed, however. Prime Minister Sharif continued his visits to Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan, where he is focused on boosting economic ties.

Pakistan — Security

  • Karachi Arrests: At a press conference on Wednesday, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah announced the arrests of four suspects that he linked to both the recent attack on the Ismaili community and previous attacks on activist Sabeen Mahmud, academic Debra Lobo, and police and Rangers personnel. Qaim suggested that it was too soon to determine the group’s affiliation. The suspects were identified as Tahir Hussain Minhas, Saad Aziz, Mohammad Azfar Ishrat, and Haafiz Nasir; all but Minhas were noted to have graduated from Karachi universities. [Dawn] [ET]
  • Indictments in Lynching Case: A Lahore anti-terrorism case has indicted 106 people in connection to last year’s attack on a Christian couple in Kot Radha Kishan, including several religious figures and the owner of the brick kiln where they were beaten to death. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Elections: The special election to fill the PP-196 Multan provincial assembly seat will be held today; six companies of Rangers and more than 3,500 policemen will provide security for the polling. In Khyber Paktunkhwa, the government has yet to officially finalize and issue rules on the workings of local government bodies, which will be elected May 30. Elsewhere, the Election Commission told a parliamentary panel on Wednesday that it would be unlikely to introduce electronic voting machines in time for the 2018 general elections, citing “technical issues”. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Axact Investigations: At a press conference on Wednesday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan criticized what he suggested was sensationalist media coverage of the ongoing investigations into the Axact company, which was earlier reported by the NYT to be engaged in large scale diploma fraud. Nisar suggested that investigations and forensic audits of company servers could take up to a month. The Federal Board of Revenue is investigating Axact’s assets and tax payments, and has reportedly found evidence of as much as Rs 420 million in tax evasion between 2009 and 2013; the Securities and Exchange Commission is also investigating. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Central Asia Visit: During meetings in Turkmenistan on Wednesday, Prime Minister Sharif urged the rapid implementation of the TAPI natural gas pipeline, and pledged continued cooperation and strengthened economic ties. Sharif subsequently traveled to Kyrgyzstan, where he is scheduled to hold further talks on economic cooperation.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Gas Cess Passes Senate: A day after passing through the lower house of parliament, legislation instituting a special gas infrastructure development cess was approved by the upper house of parliament, despite heavy criticism from opponents, who accused the government of forcing the smaller provinces to bear additional tax burden for the benefit of Punjab. The PPP, which initially proposed the cess in 2011, and which supported the legislations passage in the National Assembly, joined the PML-N in backing the bill. Speaking at a separate press conference, PTI leader Imran Khan denounced the tax, and the PPP’s cooperation with the PML-N. [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Despite Sanctions, Pakistan’s ‘Terrorists’ Thrive [AJE]
  • Owners Accuse Khyber Paktunkhwa Chief Minister’s Family of Seizing Mines [ET]
  • National Party Objects to Military Operations in Kalat [Dawn]
  • Sindh High Court Hears Zulfikar Mirza Case [ET] [Dawn] [ET]
  • MQM Plans Water Protests in Karachi [ET] [Dawn]
  • Islamabad High Court Reserves Verdict on Teenage Convict’s Age [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa ‘Rehabilitated’ Over 1,900 Inmates Between 2013-14 [ET]
  • Sindh Challenges Federal Zakat Tax Collection [ET]
  • QESCO Cuts Power Supply to Defaulters [Dawn]
  • US EXIM Bank Offers $55M to Support PIA Engine Refurbishment [Dawn]
  • Zardari Exempted From Appearing Before Court in Asset Case [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: New attacks on military checkposts were reported in Herat’s Shindand district on Thursday, and fighting is reportedly ongoing as of this writing near the district bazaar. Police sources tell Pajhwok that nine militants were killed in the attack, while provincial officials put the insurgent death toll at 23; no ANSF casualties were reported. [TOLO] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Stanekzai Nominated for Defense Minister: In a speech on Thursday, Pres. Ghani announced the nomination of Masoom Stanekzai, currently the secretary for the High Peace Council and previously minister of communications, as minister of defense. Ghani also suggested that he would name new Supreme Court judges soon, and pledged further action and reform of the government’s responsibilities. [Khaama Press]
  • Abdullah Opposes Governor Appointments: A spokesman for Chief Executive Abdullah said Wednesday that he was opposed to four of the eight recent provincial governor appointments announced earlier this week by the Independent Directorate of Local Governance, objecting to the nominees for Bamiyan, Helmand, Paktika, and Nimruz provinces. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Iran Denies Reports of Meeting with Taliban Delegation [TOLO]
  • Ghani Meets Russian Special Envoy [Pajhwok]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Taliban Target Kabul Ministry of Justice; Karachi Police Link Arrests to Attack on Ismailis

Topline

  • A suicide car bomb struck near the Afghan ministry of justice in Kabul on Tuesday, killing at least five and wounding more than 50; the Taliban vowed to continue attacks on prosecutors and justice ministry personnel. Karachi police announced the arrest of four militant suspects linked to last week’s attack on the Ismaili community and several other high-profile attacks in the city in recent months, although details of their identities are limited. The backlash continues against the reported cooperation agreement between the ISI and NDS; former Pres. Karzai issued a statement on Wednesday calling for the agreement’s immediate cancellation. Pres. Ghani appointed eight new provincial governors on Tuesday; the national unity government has reportedly reached agreement on the appointment of Masoom Stanekzai as the next defense minister and Gen. Qadam Shah as chief of army staff, but Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor has publicly rejected Stanekzai’s candidacy. The Election Commission of Pakistan withdrew a notice against Imran Khan for violating the electoral code of conduct ahead of local government elections scheduled for the end of the month in Khyber Paktunkhwa, after the PTI cancelled its planned rallies in the province. The Pakistani lower house of parliament approved a special cess tax to fund natural gas infrastructure development in a vote on Tuesday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Karachi Attack Arrests: Karachi police announced on Tuesday the arrest of four militant suspects linked to last week’s attack on the Ismaili community, including a man identified as the “mastermind” of the attack. Police also linked the group, which they did not identify but said was “inspired by Al Qaeda”, to recent attacks on activist Sabeen Mahmud, academic Debra Lobo, and an attack on a Rangers officer in January. Few other details have been released. [Dawn] [ET]
  • FATA Operations: Military airstrikes in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan killed at least thirteen militant suspects, spokesmen reported Wednesday. [Dawn]
  • Peshawar Police Official Killed: Deputy Superintendent of Police Bahadur Khan, a member of the counterterrorism department, was shot and killed in Peshawar’s Gulbahar neighborhood on Wednesday; the Tehreek-e-Talban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack. [ET]
  • Hate Speech Sentence: On Tuesday, a Lahore anti-terrorism court sentenced Qari Abubakar, a Kasur prayer leader, to a five-year prison sentence on charges of delivering hate speech against the Shia sect at a public gathering in February. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • ECP Withdraws Notice Against Imran Khan: On Tuesday, the PTI announced the cancellation of a series of scheduled rallies across Khyber Paktunkhwa, a day after the Election Commission notified party chief Imran Khan that he had violated the code of conduct for the upcoming local body elections. The PTI had also challenged the ECP’s restrictions on campaigning; following the announcement that the PTI had cancelled its planned rallies, the notice against Khan was withdrawn without explanation. Meanwhile, Pres. Zardari spoke to PPP supporters in Peshwar on Tuesday, criticizing the PTI government and touting past party accomplishments.
  • Turkmenistan Visit: Prime Minister Sharif arrived in Turkmenistan on Wednesday for a two-day visit focused on trade and economic ties; he will travel to Kyrgyzstan tomorrow.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Investigations Continue Into Axact Operations [ET] [ET] [NYT]
  • SRAP Feldman Visits Pakistan For Bilateral Talks [Dawn] [ET]
  • Zulfikar Mirza’s Bail Extended Again [ET] [Dawn]
  • Arrest Consider in Vaccine Spoilage Case [ET]
  • Karachi Lawyers Protest Rejection of Two Judges Nomination by Judicial Commission [Dawn]
  • BNP-Mengal Rallies Against Extra-Judicial Killings [Dawn]
  • Dissident PTI Member Under NAB Scrutiny Over Land Leasing [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kabul Bombing: At least five people were killed and more than 50 injured in a massive car bombing at the Afghan justice ministry headquarters in Kabul on Tuesday, the most recent in a string of attacks in the capital, several of which have targeted prosecutors and office of the attorney general staff. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack and said that it was in reprisal for their treatment in Afghan and American prisons, saying that “prosecutors, judges and employees of the Ministry of Justice will be targeted by us so long as their oppression continues.” [NYT] [WAPO] [AFP] [Reuters] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: Afghan Border Police officials report that they have repelled a Taliban attack in the Bala Murghab district of Badghis province near the Afghan-Turkmenistan border; at least two Afghan soldiers were killed in the operation. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Tensions with Pakistan: The Indian Express reports that, as part of the broader attempts at rapprochement with Pakistan by his government, Pres. Ghani has ordered the National Directorate of Security to halt “retaliatory covert action” against the ISI, which reports have in the past indicated included support for elements of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. Afghan senate chairman Fazl Hadi Muslimyar denounced the previously reported memorandum of understanding between the NDS and ISI, describing Pakistan as “an enemy to Afghanistan [that] will never develop friendship with us”. Former Pres. Karzai issued a statement on Wednesday expressing “deep concern” with the agreement, and calling for its immediate cancellation. [Pajhwok]
  • Government Appointments: On Tuesday, the Independent Directorate of Local Governance announced the appointment of eight provincial governors: Mohammad Halim Fedai in Logar province, Salim Khan Kundozi in Nangarhar,  Mohammad Samiullah in Nimroz, Nasrat Arsala in Paktia, Tahir Zahir in Bamyan, Mohammad Mirza Rahimi in Helmand and Aminullah Shariq in Paktika province. Twenty-four other governors await formal appointment. Government sources tell Pajhwok that the national unity government has reached an agreement on the appointment of High Peace Council secretary Masoom Stanekzai as minister of defense and Army 111 Corps commander Gen. Qadam Shah as chief of army staff; no official announcement has been made, but Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor criticized Stanekzai’s potential appointment on Wednesday, suggesting that he might have been involved in the assassination of former president and High Peace Council chairman Barhanuddin Rabbani.
  • Taliban Talks: A Taliban spokesman confirmed that the group had sent a delegation from their office in Qatar to Tehran for talks, which the Taliban said were focused on “political and regional issues as well as the plight of the Afghan refugees in Iran”. Meanwhile, the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied reports that the government had agreed to issue political passports for Taliban representatives, saying that “no passport would be issued to any Taliban leader.” [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Pentagon Legal Advisor Accused of Stalling SIGAR Investigation [ABC]
  • Election Observer Groups Call for Action on Reforms [TOLO]
  • Secretary Carter Reaffirms Long-Term Support for Afghanistan [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: NDS and ISI Sign Cooperation Agreement; Fake Degree Company Axact Under Investigation

Topline

  • The NDS has confirmed that it signed a memorandum of understanding with the ISI on intelligence cooperation, but denies that the agreement involves the training of Afghan intelligence officers. A Kabul court sentenced 11 police officers for one-year jail terms on charges of negligence in the lynching of an Afghan woman in Kabul in March; eight others were freed. Following a NYT expose into the provision of fake educational degrees by the Axact corporation, the Interior Ministry has ordered investigations, and the company’s offices have been searched by the Federal Investigation Agency. A Predator drone strike in the Shawal Valley killed as many as six militant suspects on Monday. Chief of Army Staff Sharif and Prime Minister Sharif met on Monday to discuss the security situation in Karachi. A Taliban delegation visited Tehran on Monday for talks with Iranian security officials. The head of the Afghan Independent Election Commission faced heavy criticism from parliamentarians when he appeared on Monday. Taliban attacks continue across multiple provinces. A polio vaccination drive was stalled in parts of Balochistan due to security concerns and payment delays for vaccination workers; a vaccination team was attacked in Mardan, Khyber Paktunkhwa, on Tuesday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Predator Strike: As many as six militant suspects were killed in a Predator drone strike on a house and vehicle in the Shawal Valley area of North Waziristan on Monday evening, which follows a similar strike on Saturday. Details on the targets are limited. [Dawn] [Reuters]
  • Security Meeting: Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif met with Prime Minister Sharif on Monday to discuss the security situation in Karachi, but details of their conversation are minimal at this point. Karachi police report a decline by as much as 50% in the number of targeted killings, kidnappings and extortion attempts in the city since the start of the crackdown operation against criminal and militant groups. [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Fake Degree Company Under Investigation: Following an extensive NYT expose over the weekend into the software and media company Axact, which revealed its extensive activities as a provider of fake educational degrees, the Federal Investigation Agency raided the company’s offices in Islamabad and Karachi and seized computers and other records. The company has not responded directly to the allegations in the report, but has denied them, and has reportedly filed legal notices threatening to sue bloggers commenting on the NYT report. Quartz also notes that  founder Shoaib Ahmed Shaikh, who also heads a new media venture Bol, paid only 26 rupees in taxes in 2014. [Dawn]
  • Election Complaints: The Election Commission has served Imran Khan with a notice for violating electoral code of conduct restrictions on campaigning by national assembly members for candidates in any other elections. Elsewhere, women voters in lower Dir are protesting their disenfranchisement in the PK-95 provincial assembly special election held earlier this month, and have filed a Peshawar High Court petition calling for the results to be voided. Meanwhile, the PTI withdrew three of its 14 witnesses for hearings before the special judicial commission investigating charges of rigging in the May 2013 general elections. [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Polio Crisis: A polio vaccination campaign that began in seven districts of Balochistan on Monday was postponed in Quetta after vaccinators complained that their payments were being delayed by the provincial health minister. Security concerns also stalled activities in the Zhob district. On Tuesday, a police constable providing security to a vaccination team was wounded and a gunman who attacked the team was killed in an exchange of gunfire in the Mardan district of Khyber Paktunkhwa. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Government Attempts Damage Control Over Information Minister’s Remarks [Dawn] [ET]
  • No Change of Sindh Chief Minister, Zardari Says [Dawn]
  • Kidnapped German National Believed to Have Been Transferred to Afghan Taliban [Dawn]
  • Frontier Works Organization Begins Work on Torkham-Jalalabad Road [Dawn] [ET]
  • Opposition ‘Still Confused’ Over China Corridor Route [Dawn]
  • Government Counsel Defends Constitutional Amendments [Dawn]
  • Hearings and Bail Orders Continue on Cases Against Zulfikar Mirza [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Indonesian Ambassador Succumbs to Injuries in Gilgit Helicopter Crash [Dawn]
  • Hafeez Saeed Addresses Karachi Bar Association [Dawn]
  • Rs 257 Million Spent on Prime Minister’s Trips [ET]
  • Current Account Deficit Shrinks in July-April Period; FDI Falls [ET] [ET]
  • ADB Promises $65M for Kotli Hydroelectric Project [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Intelligence Cooperation: National Directorate of Security spokesmen denied that the memorandum of understanding signed with the Pakistani ISI last week includes provisions for the training of Afghan intelligence officers by Pakistan, and defended the agreement. The Guardian notes the backlash against cooperation with Pakistan, and the criticism facing the Ghani government over its outreach; the head of the NDS, Rahmatullah Nabil, refused to sign the agreement. Pakistan’s military spokesman, who had not previously disclosed the agreement, confirmed Pakistan’s participation following initial reports in the Afghan press. [Khaama Press] [ET] [Reuters]
  • Taliban Offensive Continues: A spokesman for the ministry of defense downplayed recent Taliban attacks around the country, and suggested that such actions were intended to seize leverage in future peace talks with the government. On Monday, a suicide bomber killed two border police and injured five civilians in Kandahar. The district administrative head of Helmand’s Nawa district was killed in Ghazni province’s Maqur district on Monday, while traveling from Kabul to Helmand. Multiple bombings in Zabul and Uruzgan killed four people and wounded eight on Tuesday. Four policemen were killed in checkpost attacks in Paktika overnight. In Badghis, security officials report a large massed offensive against border police posts in the Bala Murghab district. [Pajhwok] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Sentences for 11 Police in Farkhunda Case: On Tuesday, an Afghan court hearing the case of a woman lynched at a Kabul mosque in mid-March issued one-year jail terms for 11 police officers charged with negligence in the case, setting eight other officers free. The defendants retain the right of appeal; representatives of the family, who were not present at the time of the verdict, have indicated they will challenge the verdict. [Khaama Press] [Pajhwok] [AJE] [BBC]
  • Taliban Visit Iran: Iranian news outlets report that a Taliban delegation headed by Qatar office head Tayyeb Agha visited Tehran on Monday for talks with Iranian security officials; details are minimal.
  • IEC Chief Summoned: Independent Election Commission head Ahmad Yousaf Nuristani appeared before parliament on Monday, where legislators lashed out, accusing him of “treason” and expressing alarm at the lack of a concrete schedule or budget to conduct parliamentary elections. Nuristani said that the IEC had proposed holding those polls on October 3 but said he had received no response from the government, and acknowledged the lack of funding to hold the elections.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Governors to Be Appointed ‘Soon’, Chief Executive Spokesman Says [TOLO]
  • UAE Maintains Only Illegal Workers Expelled [TOLO]
  • Briton Killed in EUPOL Convoy Attack Identified [Guardian]
  • Report: Pakistan’s Relations with Afghanistan and Implications for Regional Politics – “In the absence of dramatically improved relations with India, Pakistan is likely to prefer an unstable Afghanistan to a strong Afghanistan closely aligned with India.” [Vanda Felbab-Brown, Brookings]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Multiple Taliban Attacks Hit Kabul and Provinces; Officials Pledge Action on Karachi Security

Topline

  • Three people were killed in a suicide bombing attack on a European Union police advisory mission vehicle in Kabul on Sunday; a bombing on Saturday on the Kabul University campus wounded two lecturers. Attacks continue around the country, with the Taliban reported striking multiple police checkposts in Badghis, Uruzgan, and Kandahar. Sindh opposition lawmakers called for Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah’s resignation on Friday in the wake of last week’s attack on the Ismaili community; at a conference on Saturday, Karachi Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Naveed Mukhtar called for an end to “parallel governments and centers of power” and suggested that violence in the city was attributable to “vested interests [and] political expediences”. Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif visited ISI headquarters on Friday as Pakistani complaints of Indian spying activities in the country increase; meetings are reportedly scheduled for later this week to focus on allegations of RAW interference. The Afghan press reported over the weekend that the ISI and the NDS had signed a cooperation agreement during last week’s visit by senior Pakistani officials to Kabul; members of parliament demanded explanations from the government, and the head of the NDS is reported to have opposed signing the agreement, which reportedly provides for ISI training of NDS officers. The Afghan government is reported to be planning to issue as many as 210 political passports for Taliban representatives as part of efforts to renew talks in Qatar. Balochistan assembly opposition leader Maulana Abdul Wasey of the JUI-F survived an attack on his vehicle in Pishin on Friday evening. A Predator drone strike killed as many as six militant suspects in North Waziristan on Saturday. The Awami National Party organized a conference in Quetta to protest what participants said were changes to the planned China-Pakistan economic corridor route. The PTI rallied in Multan ahead of special elections scheduled for May 21. The Afghan electoral reform commission’s work remains stalled.

Pakistan — Security

  • Spying Tensions: Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif visited ISI headquarters on Friday for briefings on the security situation in Karachi, Balochistan, and elsewhere; a military statement issued afterwards said that Sharif had “emphasised the need for more proactive and coordinated role of intelligence agencies for an effective counterterrorism campaign and to counter hostile agencies’ moves to destabilise Pakistan”. Sharif’s meetings come as Pakistani officials have made increasingly public accusations of Indian intelligence interference in Pakistan and Afghanistan; BBC Urdu reports that Prime Minister Sharif will chair a meeting of senior military and civilian officials later this week to assess options to counter RAW activities. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • JUI-F Leader Targeted: Maulana Abdul Wasey, a JUI-F legislators and leader of the Balochistan assembly opposition, survived a roadside bombing attack in Balochistan’s Pishin district on Friday evening; two vehicles were damaged but no injuries were reported. No claim of responsibility has been reported. [Dawn]
  • Predator Strike: As many as six suspected militants were killed in a U.S. Predator drone strike in the Shawal Valley region of North Waziristan on Saturday, who anonymous sources tell Dawn were Uzbek nationals; the Express Tribune reports that some were Arabs. A foreign ministry spokesman condemned the strike, which follows Pakistani military airstrikes in the same region last week. [Reuters] [AP]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Karachi Security: In the wake of last week’s attack on a bus carrying members of the Ismaili minority community, Sindh assembly opposition lawmakers from the MQM and PML-F called for Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah’s resignation during an assembly session on Friday, which Shah did not attend. PPP members rejected the call; the assembly passed a unanimous resolution condemning the attack. On Sunday, Shah reiterated claims that Indian intelligence services were involved in the attack. Police had yet to formally register a case for the incident as of Saturday; anonymous police sources tell The News that as many as 13 gunmen may have been involved in the attack, and that the Sunni sectarian terror group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi may have been involved. Speaking at a National Defense University conference in Karachi on Saturday, Karachi Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Naveed Mukhtar pledged to “eliminate all forms of terrorism” and reiterated that operations in Karachi were “completely apolitical”; he attributed violence in the city to “vested interests, political expediencies, sponsored militancy, [and] patronage of vested groups,” and said that “the authorities responsible for governance and administration have failed to provide necessary infrastructure and services to most of the areas”, adding that “parallel governments and centres of power must come to an end.” On Sunday, the Rangers announced that they had arrested 24 people in raids across the city, although details of their identities are limited; on Saturday, the Rangers killed four men, allegedly linked to the Baloch Liberation Army. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan reviewed the security situation in the city on Monday. [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Elections: Imran Khan led a PTI rally in Multan on Friday, where a special election will be held on May 21 for the PP-196 Punjab assembly seat, which PML-N legislator Waheed Arain was disqualified from after he was found to hold two national identity cards. The JUI-F is backing the PPP candidate in the election. In Bannu, the ANP has split from a planned alliance with the PPP and JUI-F for upcoming local government elections in Khyber Paktunkhwa, scheduled at the end of the month; the Express Tribune reports widespread violations of the Election Commission’s code of conduct ahead of the polls. A Dawn report notes complaints that several candidates previously affiliated with other parties have received PTI tickets to contest the local elections, bypassing “ideological workers”. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Election Complaints: At hearings on Friday, Chief Justice Nasir-ul Mulk affirmed his intention to complete the work of the special judicial commission hearing allegations of election rigging during the 2013 polls within the 45 day time period initially specified in the commission’s mandate, which would be May 23. Recent hearings continue to focus on allegations of ballot overprinting. The Express Tribune reports that the PPP has decided to moderate its stance at the commission. [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Pakistan-China Economic Corridor: The Awami National Party organized a conference in Quetta on Saturday — which was attended by all major political parties except the ruling PML-N — to protest what participants said was the re-routing of the planned Pakistan-China economic corridor between Gwadar and Xinjiang, accusing the PML-N of bypassing the country’s marginalized districts in favor of central Punjab. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Budget Planning: Finance ministry officials tell the Express Tribune that they plan to raise civil service salaries by between 6-10%, but will stop short of fully revising the pay scale, which has been repeatedly amended in the past several years’ budgets. During meetings with UK DFID officials on Saturday, Finance Minister Dar indicated that allocations for the Benazir Income Support Program would be increased, with the goal of expanding access to cover 5.5 million families. Speaking in Multan on Friday, Imran Khan said that following the completion of local government elections in Khyber Paktunkhwa, the provincial government would negotiate a provincial finance award to transfer revenues to the district level. [ET] [ET]
  • Energy Crisis: Pakistan State Oil has cut diesel supplies to several small power generators in Balochistan, after the provincial government and WAPDA failed to pay outstanding dues, leaving several areas of the province without power. Parliament has been convened for a Monday session to push through legislation approving the levy of a special gas infrastructure development cess, which was imposed through presidential ordinance last September after several years of legal battles. Meanwhile, Dawn reports on the legal complications for liquefied natural gas import. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistani Company Axact Reaps Millions Through Provision of Fake Degrees [NYT]
  • Police and Religious Activists Clash in Islamabad Over Banners Protesting Information Minister [Dawn]
  • Repatriated FATA Residents Angered Over ‘Code of Conduct’ Agreement [AFP]
  • German Spy Agency Reportedly Contributed to Bin Laden Operation [Dawn]
  • More Charges for Former Sindh Home Minister Mirza [Dawn] [ET]
  • 27.5 Million Unverified SIM Cards Blocked [APP]
  • Ulema Council Condemn Suicide Attacks [Dawn]
  • Two Arrested for Distributing Islamic State Materials in Peshawar [Dawn]
  • Balochistan Assembly Calls for Abolition of Border Checkposts [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Rejects Court Martial Death Penalty Appeal [ET]
  • Ten Nominees Under Consideration for Lahore High Court [ET]
  • Free Water Distribution Ordered in Karachi [ET] [Dawn]
  • Prime Minister Inaugurates Karachi-Islamabad Train Service [Dawn] [ET]
  • Islamabad Airport Upgrade Inaugurated [Dawn] [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kabul Bombings: A suicide car bomber struck a European Union policing advisory mission (EUPOL) vehicle near the Kabul airport on Sunday, killing at least three people — two Afghan girls and one British national, a security contractor. As many as 22 other people were wounded in the bombing, for which the Taliban claimed responsibility. Afghan, EU, and UK officials condemned the attack. On Saturday, a bomb exploded on the campus of Kabul University, wounding two lecturers; no claim of responsibility has been reported. Investigations are still ongoing in connection to last week’s attack on the Park Palace Hotel in Kabul; TOLO reports an eyewitness claim that the gunman had already checked in at the hotel as a guest, although there is no corroboration. In follow-on statements on Friday, the Taliban discounted the fact that those killed in the attack were civilians, saying that “every foreigner from an invading country, especially NATO, is considered an invader”. Vice identifies and profiles some of the Afghan victims of the attack. [WSJ] [BBC] [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Paktia Kidnappings: The Taliban kidnapped and detained at least 27 people in the Sayed Karim district of Paktia on Saturday; officials later suggested that all but six were freed in police operations, although Taliban spokesmen claimed that the others had been released after having been found not to have any government connections. Separately, Pres. Ghani visited a Kabul hospital where the 19 Hazara men freed in a prisoner exchange in Zabul were recovering on Friday; another 12 people remain hostage. [Khaama Press] [AP]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: The Post overviews what analysts describe as “the worst fighting season in a decade” in Afghanistan; a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition reports that Afghan soldiers have faced a 70% increase in casualties during the period from January to present, compared to the same period a year prior. Lawmakers in parliament express alarm at the increase in fighting in parts of northern Afghanistan, and the continued absence of a defense minister; at a press conference on Sunday, Interior Minister Noor-ul Haq Uloomi suggested that these fighters had been displaced from southern Afghanistan. Officials in Ghor claim to have retaken the Charsada district after six days of fighting, although are reports of continued clashes. Members of parliament from Ghazni reported that the Nawa district had fallen to Taliban control again on Saturday. A suicide bomber attacked a police checkpoint in Kandahar on Saturday, and provincial officials claim that five militants were killed in a subsequent exchange of gunfire. On Monday, Taliban fighters attacked multiple security checkposts in Uruzgan and Badghis; fighting is ongoing as of this writing, but at least seven police officers and local government officials are reported to have been killed in an attack on the Khas Uruzugan district headquarters. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Cooperation Agreement Between NDS and ISI: TOLO reports that the Afghan and Pakistani intelligence services signed a memorandum of understanding during the visit by senior Pakistani officials to Kabul last week in which both agencies agreed to cooperate on counterterrorism investigations on both sides of the border, and the ISI agreed to provide training for NDS officers. A presidential spokesman downplayed the significance of the agreement, which was not previously announced. Other sources report that NDS chief Rahmatullah Nabil opposed signing the agreement, which was signed by the deputy chief of the NDS. Following the reports, the Afghan parliament have demanded explanations from government officials. [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Other Regional Relations: Interior Minister Noor-ul Haq Uloomi signed a bilateral cooperation agreement on counterterrorism and counternarcotics during a visit to China last week, he announced at a press conference on Sunday. As part of the agreement, China will provide scanners for border crossing and de-mining. Iran’s ambassador to Afghanistan said Saturday that Iran would be willing to provide assistance to counter the Islamic State’s activities in Afghanistan.
  • Taliban Talks: Afghan press sources report that the government has begun issuing political passports to as many as 210 Taliban representatives as part of an effort to kick-start negotiations with the government.
  • Electoral Reform: In a statement on Saturday, first deputy to the chief executive Mohammad Khan called for action on the stalled electoral reform process. Members of the electoral reform commission report that it has yet to begin work, with the Ghani and Abdullah camps divided over its chair. [Pajhwok]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Old Rivals Attempting Uneasy Cooperation in Northern Afghanistan [RFE/RL]
  • Delays Persist in Verdict for Police Officers in Farkhunda Case [TOLO]
  • Foreign Minister Pledges Action for Afghan Investors Expelled from UAE [Khaama Press]
  • Daesh and Taliban Fighters Clash in Nangarhar [Khaama Press]
  • EU Expected to End Ban on Afghan Airlines [TOLO]
  • Report: Money as a Weapons System – “With a thriving insurgency, rampant corruption, increasing illegal trade and other ills still plaguing Afghanistan, critics have questioned whether CERP really bought anything grander than the projects themselves.” [ProPublica]