Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Military Prepares for Election Day Deployment; Rumors Suggest Imminent Dostum Return

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Topline

  • Vice President Dostum may return to Afghanistan after more than a year in exile this weekend, TOLO reports; an Afghan government delegation recently met with Dostum in Turkey for the second time in as many weeks.
  • Chief of Army Staff Bajwa visited the military’s election support center in Rawalpindi on Thursday to review plans for the deployment of around 371,000 soldiers at polling stations around the country.
  • Speaking to reporters on Thursday, CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph Votel said that he did not expect significant changes to US strategy in Afghanistan as a result of an ongoing administration review.
  • The Supreme Court has suspended hearings on a number of candidacy challenges until after the elections are held. After censuring Imran Khan on Thursday, ECP issued notices against three more politicians for their use of “derogatory language”.
  • Five people were wounded in a bombing at the Chaman border crossing on Friday, which appears to have targeted security personnel.
  • The State Bank of Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves dropped to $9.06 billion during the week of July 13, a four-year low; the current account deficit for FY2017-18 grew by more than 40% year-on-year, reaching $18 billion.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Election Security: PM Mulk chaired a meeting on Thursday to review security for the elections. Chief of Army Staff Bajwa visited the army’s “election support center” in Rawalpindi on Thursday, where he was quoted saying that the military “would assist the ECP strictly within the bounds of the given mandate”. Around 371,000 army soldiers will be deployed inside and outside polling stations around the country to provide security on election day. On Thursday, Balochistan police announced that they had identified the suicide bomber who carried out last week’s attack in Mastung; no arrests have been made, but police said that the attacker was a member of Lashar-e-Jhangvi. Elsewhere, Khyber Paktunkhwa police officials told a senate committee that they had arrested the “prime suspect” behind an attack on ANP leader Haroon Bilour earlier this month. Bilour’s widow rejected a government compensation payment on Thursday. [AP] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Activist Freed: Raza Mahmood Khan, a peace activists who had promoted India-Pakistan exchanges and who disappeared in December 2017, was recently released to his home in Lahore; the circumstances of his return were not reported. [ET]
  • Chaman Bombing: At least five people have been injured in a roadside bombing targeting a passing convoy of security vehicles in the border town of Chaman, Balochistan on Friday. No claim of responsibility has been reported. [ET] [The Nation] [AP]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Administration: On Thursday, the ECP issued notices against three more politicians, warning them against the use of “derogatory language” towards their opponents. The ECP has also ordered the National Database and Registration Authority to issue duplicate Computerized National ID Cards to those missing their original cards, which are required to vote. On Friday, members of the Ahmadi community announced that they would boycott the elections, citing the separate voting list established for them as a means of discrimination. [Reuters] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Election Campaigning: Shehbaz Sharif campaigned in Attock on Thursday, where he denounced Imran Khan and criticized the PTI’s administration of Khyber Paktunkhwa province. Imran met with business leaders in Lahore on Thursday. Dawn reports that splits within the PTI were a factor in low attendance at a recent rally in Jhelum; The Nation reports that the PTI is also divided in Sialkot. Tehreek-e-Labbak Ya Rasool Allah faction leader Ashraf Asif Jalali announced endorsements for several other religious candidates in a number of constituencies around the country. Dawn profiles the race between the BAP, PKMAP, and JUI-F in Balochistan’s Qilla Abdullah district, and the Express Tribune looks at NA-249 and NA-250 in Karachi. [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [ET]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: On Thursday, the Supreme Court halted hearings on challenges against the candidacies of several politicians contesting the upcoming elections, postponing those until after the elections are held. On Thursday, a Lahore High Court bench referred a petition challenging Nawaz Sharif’s conviction to the LHC chief justice for consideration. On Friday, the Islamabad High Court issued certified copies of the Sharif family’s appeals to their lawyers.  The National Accountability Bureau has opened new corruption investigations against Karachi mayor Washim Akhtar and former Sindh assembly speaker Agha Siraj Durrani, among others. [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Balance of Payments Crisis: State Bank of Pakistan data as of July 13 indicate that Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves fell 4.39% week-on-week, to $9.06 billion, a four-year low. SBP data also indicates that the current account deficit for the FY2017-18 fiscal year that ended in June reached $18 billion, a 42.5% increase year-on-year. Speaking to Reuters, PTI leader Asad Umar said that “any and every option will be looked at, including IMF” as a means of stabilizing the economy; former finance minister Miftah Ismail said that the “people of Pakistan don’t want us to go [to the IMF] …and we can possibly avoid it”. External borrowing totaled $11.4 billion during FY18, of which around 40% was from Chinese sources. GDP for the fiscal year reached $304.97 billion, a 5.8% growth rate, although the Express Tribune notes that the weakening rupee means that the economy has shrunk in dollar terms. [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Rao Anwar Granted Bail [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Abid Boxer Granted Bail, Vows to ‘Blow the Lid Off Secrets’ [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Government Readjusts Administrative Divisions After FATA Merger [ET]
  • IHC Judge Donates to Dam Fund [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • US Strategy: Speaking to reporters on Thursday, CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph Votel said that he was reviewing current U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan as part of a larger administration-wide review, but that he does not believe that “that would likely lead to a major change in the overall strategy, which I believe is showing progress”. [AP]
  • Attacks and Operations: Afghan military officials say they are investigating reports that at least 14 civilians were killed in a joint US-Afghan military operation in the Chahar Dara district in Kunduz province on Thursday; a NATO spokesman confirmed that the US carried out airstrikes in the area, but said that “on-the-ground assessment of those strikes reveals no indications they caused civilian casualties”. At least two Afghan border police were killed in clashes near Spin Boldak, Kandahar, on Wednesday evening. [TOLO] [AP] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Dostum Return Rumors: TOLO reports that VP Dostum may return as soon as this Sunday, ending more than a year in exile; a government delegation reportedly met with Dostum in Turkey this week, following another meeting last week led by Second Vice President Sarwar Danish.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ghani Inaugurates National Archives [Khaama Press]
  • Iran Accused of Curtailing Electricity Exports to Afghanistan Due to Shortfalls [Pajhwok]
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Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Lawyers Blocked from Meeting Nawaz; Taliban Suggest New Restrictions on Suicide Attacks

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Topline

  • Lawyers for Nawaz Sharif were barred from meeting with him by Adiala Jail administration officials on Wednesday and Thursday. Maryam Nawaz will reportedly be shifted to another facility due to unspecified security concerns. The PML-N petitioned the Lahore High Court on Thursday, seeking a complete record of police charges against party activists who participated in protests marking Nawaz’s return to Pakistan, which they say police have withheld.
  • In comments to the NYT, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said that the insurgent leadership had directed fighters not to conduct suicide attacks in Kabul and other major cities since the end of the Eid ceasefires, in order to avoid civilian casualties; he subsequently disavowed those comments, however.
  • In a ruling on Wednesday in a missing persons case, Islamabad High Court judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui criticized the Pakistani security services for “establishing a state over the state of Pakistan” and warned against the manipulation of the courts.
  • Pres. Ghani appointed Ahmad Shah Zamanzai as the new chief of secretariat for the Independent Election Commission on Thursday.
  • Junbesh-e-Milli activists shut down the Hairatan port in Balkh and closed several government offices in the Faryab capital of Maimana as part of ongoing protests against the arrest of former district police chief Nizamuddin Qaisari.
  • Imran Khan cancelled his remaining planned rallies in Khyber Paktunkhwa, citing security concerns, and the PTI has shifted his planned final rally before election day from Islamabad to Lahore.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • IHC Judge Criticizes Intelligence Services: In a ruling on Wednesday on a missing persons case, Islamabad High Court judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui criticized police and the military for “establishing a state over the state of Pakistan”, and directed senior leaders to “stop the invasion by [the] personnel of [a] particular institution and intelligence agencies”, saying it was “a matter of shame that allegedly person(s) from the ISI are involved in the corrupt practices including providing aid in the commission of offences and receiving their share from crime money”. He also warned against manipulations of the courts; Dawn notes that Siddiqui was not assigned to the appeals bench for the Nawaz Sharif cases, despite having seniority on the court. [AFP] [The Nation]
  • Election Security: Sindh Counter-Terrorism Department police reported Wednesday that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and Ansar-ul Sharia Pakistan militant groups had formed an alliance to carry out attacks and sabotage the elections in Karachi. Separately on Wednesday, the Sindh Rangers arrested two MQM men affiliated with the party’s London faction accused of plotting attacks on rival candidates. Khyber Paktunkhwa police sources tell Dawn they have received less than half of the Rs 369 million they have sought for election security-related expenses. Speaking before a senate committee on Thursday, the Pakistani military’s chief spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor insisted that the military did not have a “direct role” in the elections and was only assisting the Election Commission. On Thursday, the military warned against fake security alerts being circulated on social media. Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, activist and independent candidate Jibran Nasir said that his gatherings had been threatened by “extremist elements” accusing him of blasphemy. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Government Plans to Exempt FATA and PATA from Sales and Income Taxes [The Nation]
  • Amid FATF Concerns, Pakistan Faces Challenge of Mobile Wallet Accounts [ET]
  • Peshawar High Court Orders NAB Investigation into Peshawar Bus Project [Dawn]
  • Three Men Acquitted in Sibi Bus Attack Case [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Taliban Reportedly Curtailing Attacks on Civilian Targets: Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid tells the NYT that since the Eid ceasefire the Taliban’s senior leadership has ordered fighters not to carry out suicide attacks in Kabul or other major cities so as to avoid civilian casualties; a spokesman for Pres. Ghani acknowledged the decline. However, Mujahid subsequently disavowed those comments in a statement on Thursday, saying that “attacks would be carried out in the cities once the targets have been fully ascertained”.
  • Attacks and Operations: Pres. Ghani chaired a meeting on Wednesday to review security in Kabul. A group of a dozen Afghan mine-clearing workers were abducted by Islamic State forces in the Dara-e-Pech district in Kunar province on Wednesday evening, local officials reported. Separately, military officials in Kunar say at least 24 militants were killed or injured in airstrikes in the Imam Sahib and Dasht-e Archi districts on Thursday. In Paktia, military officials claim to have killed 27 Taliban fighters in operations in the Zurmat district. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Ariana News]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Preparations: On Thursday, the government appointed Ahmad Shah Zamanzai as the new chief of secretariat for the Independent Election Commission. At a press conference on Wednesday, a spokesman for the IEC rebuffed criticism from Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and other opposition political leaders regarding the voter registration process.
  • Qaisari Protests: Demonstrators supporting VP Dostum and Faryab district police chief Nizamuddin Qaisari closed the Hairatan port in Balkh province and closed government offices in the Faryab capital of Maimana on Wednesday. [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Russia and Tajikistan Conduct Joint Military Exercises Near Afghan Border [Khaama Press]
  • Australia Pledges $3.6M in Drought Aid [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Enemy Number One: How the Taliban Deal with the ALP and Uprising Groups – “The Taleban’s reaction to community defence forces – observed locally and borne out by available statistics – suggests that the framers of the ALP did get at least one thing right – community-supported, pro-government forces can present a significant threat to the Taleban.” [Kate Clark and Borhan Osman, AAN]
  • Report: Building on Afghanistan’s Fleeting Ceasefire – “The end-of-Ramadan truce in Afghanistan was brief but encouraging, demonstrating that both Afghan government soldiers and the Taliban rank and file will respect ceasefire orders from above. Both sides, alongside the U.S., should now seize the opportunity to edge closer to meaningful talks about peace.” [ICG]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Nawaz Appeal Delayed Until End-July; Abdullah Spokesman Asserts Afghan Leadership on Taliban Talks

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Topline

  • The Islamabad High Court adjourned hearings on appeals from Nawaz Sharif and family challenging their conviction until July 30; on Wednesday, the caretaker government ordered Nawaz’s trial to be held in open court rather than the Adiala Jail where he is being held. Reuters reports that nearly 17,000 cases have been filed against PML-N leaders and activists who participated in protests coinciding with Nawaz’s return to the country, and 270 arrested.
  • As of Tuesday the Election Commission had not finalized ballot printing in 85 constituencies due to pending legal challenges, although ECP officials say the higher courts are accelerating their review of those challenges and that they will be able to finalize the printing and distribution of ballots by July 24, a day before the polls.
  • In a statement on Tuesday, a spokesman for Chief Executive Abdullah said that peace talks with the Taliban “will only be held under the leadership and ownership of the Afghan government,” but that the US “can have a facilitator role in this regard”.
  • PTI candidate Asad Umar received the endorsement of Harakat-ul Mujadeen leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil on Tuesday; elsewhere, the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat endorsed former PM Abbasi in his race in Islamabad.
  • Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Hezb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar alleged that as many as five million voters registered by the Independent Election Commission for the upcoming parliamentary elections were fake.
  • Islamic State fighters attacked the home of a Taliban commander in Sar-e-Pul’s Sayyad district, reportedly killing at least 15 people.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Election Security: Unidentified men attacked the offices of a JUI-F candidate in Karak on Tuesday, brawling with his supporters; no major injuries were reported. Gunmen fired shots at the home of Balochistan Awami Party candidate Abdul Ghafoor Hoat on Tuesday; he was unhurt. Police in Multan arrested four alleged Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan militants on Tuesday accused of plotting attacks on the elections. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Submits Reply in Jadhav Case: Lawyers for Pakistan submitted another response to the International Court of Justice panel hearing disputes between India and Pakistan over consular access to accused spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, the foreign ministry confirmed on Tuesday.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Nawaz Case Delayed Until After Election: On Tuesday, the Islamabad High Court adjourned hearings until July 30 on appeals by Nawaz Sharif and his children challenging their conviction in the Avenfield property case. At a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, the caretaker government reversed a decision to have the two remaining cases against Nawaz tried inside the Adiala jail where he is being held. PML-N supporters were denied access to Nawaz on Tuesday. Police continue to file charges against PML-N leaders and activists who participated in rallies coinciding with Nawaz’s return to the country; according to a Punjab police statement, nearly 17,000 cases have been filed against members of the party in the past four days, and 270 people have been arrested. A Norwegian-Pakistani journalist arrested during protests in Gujrat last week was freed on bail on Monday. [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Other Corruption Investigations and Legal Battles: The Nation reports that former Pres. Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur have now been removed from the Exit Control List by the interior ministry after a Supreme Court order. Imran Khan has sought to delay a National Accountability Bureau summons related to the use of Khyber Paktunkhwa government helicopter until after the elections. The State Bank of Pakistan has ordered banks to submit details on PTI funding sources to the Election Commission. [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Election Administration: Dawn reports that as of Tuesday pending court cases had delayed the finalization of ballot paper printing in 85 constituencies, but that high courts in Punjab and Sindh have moved to accelerate their processing of those cases, and ECP sources say that they will be able to deliver finalized ballot papers to all polling stations by July 24. On Tuesday, the Lahore High Court cleared a PTI candidate for the PP-53 constituency who had used pictures of the chief justice and army chief on his campaign advertisements, in violation of the code of conduct. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Militant Election Activity: On Tuesday, PTI leader Asad Umar received the endorsement of Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, the founder of the Kashmiri militant group Harakat-ul Mujahadeen and its political front the Ansar-ul Ummah; Khalil was sanctioned by the US in 2014. Meanwhile, the Islamabad chapter of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat announced its support for former PM Abbasi in the NA-53 constituency. The ASWJ, which is contesting as the Pakistan Rah-i-Haq Party, announced that it had received backing from the PML-N and PTI in the NA-238 Karachi race. [ET]
  • Other Election Campaigning: Speaking at a press conference in Islamabad on Tuesday, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari called for the formation of a new “charter of democracy”, criticizing the PML-N for its commitment to the past agreement. On Wednesday, Bilawal alleged that Imran Khan was the beneficiary of a “conspiracy” and criticized “a non-level playing field to other political parties”. Imran Khan campaigned in Jacobabad on Tuesday, denouncing the PPP’s tenure in Sindh. The Balochistan Awami Party announced its campaign manifesto on Tuesday. Former PPP candidate Makhdoom Ghaur Bukhari quit the party and joined the PML-N on Tuesday; separately, Chaudhry Zaheer Ahmed, the PPP candidate for the NA-124 constituency, quit and joined the PTI. Elsewhere, the PML-N candidate for the PP-256 constituency quit to join the PPP. Dawn profiles former Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement leader Mohsin Dawar’s campaign in North Waziristan, the NA-61 Rawalpindi constituency, and the NA-254 Karachi constituency; the Express Tribune profiles the NA-242 and NA-244 constituencies in Karachi. [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Lahore High Court Orders Authorities to Produce Abid Boxer in Court [Dawn] [ET]
  • Chief Justice Visits Gilgit Baltistan [Dawn]
  • Securities and Exchange Commission Chief’s Appointment Challenged [ET]
  • Despite Heavy Inflow from China, FDI Flat in 2018 Fiscal Year [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: In a statement on Tuesday, a spokesman for Chief Executive Abdullah said that “peace negotiations [with the Taliban] will only be held under the leadership and ownership of the Afghan government, but the United States of America can have a facilitator role in this regard”.
  • Election Reforms: Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Hezb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar challenged the accuracy of Independent Election Commission voter registration figures, claiming that as many as five million of the 8.6 million registered voters were fake. [Khaama Press]
  • Finance Minister Appointed: At a ceremony on Wednesday, Pres. Ghani introduced Humayoun Qayoumi as acting finance minister.
  • Qaisari Protests: Junbesh-e-Milli party protestors continued demonstrations in northern Afghanistan on Tuesday, blocking highways in parts of Takhar province. [Pajhwok]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Former Minister of Urban Development Resigned to Preserve Mining Contracts, Acting Minister Says [TOLO]
  • US and UK Pledge $105M for Girls Education [TOLO]
  • Probe Uncovers Irregularities in Fuel Sector [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Afghan Govt Planning Another Eid Ceasefire; HRCP Protests ‘Blatant Manipulation’ of Elections

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Topline

  • The Afghan government is planning to announce another ceasefire during the Eid-ul-Adha holiday period in late August; a Taliban spokesman declined to say whether the insurgents would follow suit. In remarks on Monday, NATO and US commander Gen. John Nicholson referenced remarks by Sec. Pompeo and said that the U.S. was “ready to talk to the Taliban and discuss the role of international forces”; in a statement on Tuesday, however, the Resolute Support mission said that Nicholson’s comments had been mischaracterized and “the United States is not a substitute for the Afghan people or the Afghan government” in talks with the Taliban.
  • In a statement on Monday, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan objected to “blatant, aggressive, and unabashed” intervention to manipulate the results of the upcoming elections.
  • The Islamabad accountability court judge who sentenced Nawaz Sharif and his family in the Avenfield corruption case has recused himself from hearing the two remaining cases; Nawaz’s lawyers had sought the transfer of the cases to another court.
  • A PML-N candidate in Attock, Sheikh Aftab Ahmed, survived a driveby shooting on Monday evening.
  • Pres. Ghani is reportedly planning to appoint an advisor, Humayoun Qayoumi, to serve as caretaker finance minister.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Election Security: Sheikh Aftab Ahmed, a former federal minister and PML-N candidate in Attock, survived a driveby shooting unhurt on Monday evening; no claim of responsibility was reported. Speaking to reporters on Monday, ANP leader Ghulam Ahmed Bilour criticized the court-ordered withdrawal of security for his nephew Haroon Bilour and other politicians. During a visit to Quetta to meet with the family of Siraj Raisani on Monday, PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that “by allowing candidates of banned organisations to take part in the election, extremists have been given space”. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Border Security: Afghan Pres. Ashraf Ghani spoke by phone with caretaker PM Mulk and Chief of Army Staff Bajwa on Monday, offering his condolences over the recent attack in Mastung and pledging to provide “enhanced border security measures” in advance of the elections, according to a Pakistani military readout of the call. [The Nation] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Rigging Complaints: In a statement on Monday, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan denounced what it described as “blatant, aggressive, and unabashed” intervention to manipulate the results of the upcoming elections. The HRCP also expressed concern over the deployment of military personnel inside polling stations; in a separate press conference, ANP leader Ilyas Ahmed Bilour also objected to the deployment plans. Separately, the PML-N announced the formation of an “anti-rigging system”, vowing to take legal action “against individuals found involved in rigging in any form, including officials who violate their oath”. [Dawn] [HRCP Statement]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: Judge Mohammad Bashir, who presided over the conviction of Nawaz Sharif and his family members in an Islamabad accountability court, recused himself from two remaining cases; Nawaz’s lawyers had petitioned the Islamabad High Court for the transfer of the case to another court. On Monday, Shehbaz Sharif appealed to the Punjab caretaker government for upgraded jail facilities for his brother; several PML-N politicians were blocked from visiting Nawaz on Monday. Some PML-N leaders have received pre-arrest bail on terrorism charges brought after their participation in Lahore demonstrations last Friday. [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Election Administration: The Nation reports concerns that a lack of nationwide cellular service or the availability of smartphones may hamper the implementation of the Election Commission’s results management system for reporting election day results. On Monday, the ECP announced that it would take disciplinary action against Mohammad Sajjad, PML-N leader Mohammad Safdar’s younger brother and replacement after his arrest, for using the PML-N election symbol instead of contesting as an independent. [Dawn]
  • Election Campaigning: The NYT profiles ASWJ leader Aurangzeb Farooqui, who along with other members of the nominally banned militant group is contesting in the elections. Junaid Safdar, one of Maryam Nawaz’s sons, arrived in Pakistan on Monday and is expected to participate in PML-N campaign activities. Muhammad Ajmal, the chairman of former Pres. Musharraf’s All Pakistan Muslim League, withdrew his candidacy in two Islamabad constituencies, endorsing the PTI candidates there instead. Former PML-N leader Humayun Akhtar, who recently defected to join the PTI, also withdrew his candidacy in the NA-131 Lahore constituency where Imran Khan is contesting. Dawn profiles the MMA campaign in Karachi, and the Express Tribune profiles the NA-240 and NA-241 constituencies. [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Four Militant Suspects Killed in Awaran [Dawn] [ET]
  • Naqeebullah Mehsud’s Father Seeks Transfer of Case [Dawn] [ET]
  • Caretaker Government Appoints New Additional Attorney General [ET]
  • Justice Tahira Safdar Likely to Become First Woman Chief Justice of Balochistan High Court [Dawn]
  • IHC Dismisses Petition Against SBP Governor’s Appointment [ET]
  • FBR Gets Details of Pakistani Assets in UK [ET]
  • Donations Continue for Supreme Court-Backed Dam Fund [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Commentary: Where Democracy is a Terrifying Business – “Elections might change the federal and state governments, but the feudal and punitive power structures in the countryside don’t change.” [Ali Akbar Natiq, NYT]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: At least 54 people were freed in a raid on a Taliban prison facility in the Musa Qala district in Helmand province over Monday night, provincial officials announced. Afghan and US airstrikes in several Helmand districts reportedly killed as many as sixteen Taliban fighters; in Kandahar, police claim that twelve Taliban fighters were killed in a US airstrike. As many as 25 Taliban fighters were also reportedly killed in clashes in the Arghistan district in Kandahar, and sixteen Afghan security personnel either killed or wounded. Kunduz provincial council officials tell Pajhwok that nine Afghan security personnel have been killed and several checkposts seized in Taliban attacks in the Imam Sahib district; a police spokesman said that only one police officer had been killed. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: The WSJ reports that the Afghan government plans to announce another ceasefire during Eid ul-Adha in late August; the Taliban declined to comment on whether they would follow suit, but the report suggests that “facilitators” have held talks with Taliban representatives in Qatar “in a bid to lay out a framework for talks that would be acceptable to all three parties”. Anonymous U.S. officials speaking to the Washington Post confirm earlier NYT reports that the White House has authorized direct negotiations with the Taliban, but say that there is “no clear negotiating strategy [and] no personnel to carry out real talks”. In remarks on Monday, US and NATO commander Gen. John Nicholson cited recent remarks by Secretary of State Pompeo and said that the U.S. was “ready to talk to the Taliban and discuss the role of international forces”; in a statement on Tuesday, however, the Resolute Support mission said that Nicholson’s remarks had been mischaracterized and “the United States is not a substitute for the Afghan people or the Afghan government”. A spokesman for Pres. Ghani said that “this remains an Afghan-led process … the Taliban must engage with the sovereign government of ­Afghanistan.” In a RFE/RL interview, Ghani did not directly address the U.S. shift, but suggested that the Taliban had not “fully rejected” peace talks. A spokesman for the High Peace Council said that “we welcome any move which is in cooperation with the peace process efforts and which could speed up the process of peace talks under the leadership of the Afghans inside and outside the country”. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Caretaker Finance Minister Appointed: Khaama Press reports that Pres. Ghani will appoint Humayoun Qayoumi, a senior presidential advisor on infrastructure, as a caretaker finance minister to replace former minister Eklil Hakimi.
  • Qaisari Protests: Supporters of Faryab district police chief Nizamuddin Qaisari and VP Dostum continue to demonstrate across several northern provinces, and shut down several government offices in Takhar on Monday. [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Nicholson Reviews Security with Atmar [Khaama Press]
  • Drought Sharpens Water Dispute with Iran [Reuters]
  • India to Aid in Construction of Shahtoot Dam in Kabul [TOLO]
  • National Procurement Commission Approves 11 Projects [Khaama Press]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Mastung Attack Overshadows Nawaz’s Arrest Upon Return; US Seeking Direct Taliban Talks

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Topline

  • Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz were arrested upon their return to Lahore on Friday evening, and have been transferred to prison facilities in Rawalpindi; in an audio message to supporters released Monday, Nawaz called on them to “come out and defeat those who insult your votes”. Punjab police and government officials have filed charges against dozens of PML-N leaders and activists who participated in rallies coinciding with the family’s return. Lawyers for the Sharifs filed appeals against their sentencing and jailing on Monday.
  • White House officials have authorized the State Department to seek to engage in direct negotiations with the Taliban, the NYT reports, although negotiations are not yet reported to have taken place; Afghan officials have not commented on the move.
  • Nawaz Sharif’s return was overshadowed by a suicide bombing targeting a rally for Balochistan Awami Party candidate Nawabzada Siraj Raisani, who was killed along with 148 other people in Mastung on Friday. The Islamic State and a TTP affiliate claimed responsibility for the attack. At least two other shooting incidents and another bombing targeted candidates around the country over the weekend.
  • Pres. Ghani has ordered an investigation after new video emerged of Afghan special forces beating bodyguards for Farah district police chief Nizamuddin Qaisari following his arrest earlier this month; the Ministry of Defense denied that its commandos were involved. Several of Qaisari’s guards have been freed, but protests by the Junbesh-e-Milli continue to demand his release and the return of Vice President Dostum. Speaking on Sunday, Ghani suggested that Dostum could return, but deferred the issue to the attorney general’s office. On Monday, Kabul police killed a would-be suicide bomber who was apparently seeking to attack a Junbesh rally in Kabul.
  • The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan released its midyear report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan, finding an increase in civilian deaths to a record high, but an overall drop in the number of civilians wounded.
  • Political party leaders from Jamiat-e-Islami, Hezb-e-Islami, Junbesh-e-Milli, and other groups met in Kabul on Saturday and demanded a halt to the voter registration process and the start of a new biometric system, threatening to block the elections if their reform demands were not met. Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, Pres. Ghani rejected the demands.
  • PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari charged that he was blocked from campaigning in Khyber Paktunkhwa over the weekend.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Scores Killed in Mastung Bombing: At least 149 people were killed and 186 or more wounded in a suicide bombing targeting a political rally for Nawabzada Siraj Raisani, a Balochistan Awami Party candidate for the PB-38 constituency. Raisani was among those killed. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack through its Amaq News service; Dawn reports that a group identifying itself as the “Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Ghazi Force Lal Masjid Wing” also claimed responsibility. PM Mulk visited Quetta on Sunday to meet with Raisani’s family members, as did Chief of Army Staff Bajwa, Imran Khan, Shehbaz Sharif, and others; PM Mulk also chaired a meeting of civilian and military officials on Sunday to review the security situation in the wake of the attack, and designated Sunday as a day of national mourning. Raisani’s brother, former chief minister Nawabzada Lashkari Raisani, called for the formation of a “truth commission” to investigate his death on Saturday, and accused the military of failing to “go after all militant groups”; Shehbaz Sharif endorsed that proposal. Balochistan chief minister Allauddin Marri has pledged financial assistance for the survivors of the attack. [WSJ] [WAPO] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Other Election Violence: The attack in Mastung followed a bombing earlier in the week that killed ANP candidate Haroon Bilour, and another attack on Friday in Bannu targeting former Khyber Paktunkhwa chief minister Akram Durrani of the JUI-F. The Election Commission sought a briefing from National Counter Terrorism Authority officials on Saturday, who reported broad threats against many senior political leaders. Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial officials have ordered the formation of new “Joint Crisis Management Units” at the district level to coordinate campaign security and have ordered the deployment of police security for candidates in Peshawar. Meanwhile, an independent candidate in Lakki Marwat, Riazullah Khan, survived a driveby shooting on Saturday, and Jamaat-e-Islami leaders accused ANP rivals of throwing stones at the passing convoy of party leader Siraj-ul Haq in Timergara on Friday. On Monday, former ANP senator Dawood Achakzai was wounded in a shooting incident in the Killa Abdullah district in Balochistan. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Nawaz and Maryam Arrested Upon Return: Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz arrived in Lahore on Friday evening and were arrested prior to deplaning. Speaking to Reuters while en route, Nawaz said that his arrest would be “a very small price to pay for the great mission to save the sanctity of the vote in Pakistan” and that “democracy, and a democratic government has to be respected”. Nawaz and Maryam were transferred by charter flight to Islamabad and admitted to Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi. The accountability court that sentenced them accepted National Accountability Bureau pleas that allowed for their jailing without first appearing before the court. Lawyers for the family filed appeals against their sentencing and jailing in on Monday; his family was allowed to visit Nawaz on Saturday evening. Heavy police and paramilitary security shut down much of Lahore prior to the Sharifs’ arrival. Shehbaz Sharif led a rally of supporters despite the restrictions, warning that “if this is not stopped we will not accept the results” of the elections; the Express Tribune notes intra-party strains, with some PML-N leaders criticizing Shehbaz for failing to push his rally up to the airport and expressing concerns over low turnout. Police clashed with PML-N activists, and had reportedly arrested as many as a thousand, after having arrested several hundred in the days prior to Nawaz’s return; on Saturday, Lahore High Court Chief Justice Muhammad Anwaarul Haq ordered the release of 237 PML-N activists. On Sunday, the Punjab government and police filed multiple charges against Shehbaz and dozens of other party leaders, accusing them of inciting riots; caretaker home minister Shaukat Javed confirmed the charges but told Reuters that candidates would not be arrested prior to election day. Former Pres. Zardari criticized those charges in a statement on Sunday. Dawn notes a small counter-protest by Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan activists. Prior to Nawaz’s arrival, anonymous PML-N sources told the Express Tribune that Nawaz has “sent a clear message to all PML-N leaders that they should only pay attention to their election campaigns” and “not to go for a long term agitation strategy”. In an audio message released on Monday, Nawaz called on supporters to “come out and defeat those who insult your votes in a way that they will never raise their heads again”. [NYT] [WAPO] [Guardian] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • PPP Campaigning: PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was blocked from flying from Lahore to Peshawar on Friday, party officials said, accusing the caretaker administration of bias in favor of the PTI. Bilawal arrived later on Friday and met with the family of Haroon Bilour. On Saturday, he temporarily suspended campaign activities following the attack in Mastung; Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial officials had reportedly blocked the party from carrying out public rallies. Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, Bilawal said that “questions would be raised on results if each party is not given the equal opportunity of running their elections campaigns accordingly”, and endorsed his father former Pres. Zardari as a candidate for prime minister. Despite the nominal suspension, he held a campaign press event in Malakand on Sunday, at which he alleged that the PPP’s campaign was being supressed. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Other Election Campaigning: Speaking at a rally in Swabi on Saturday, Imran Khan claimed that Shehbaz Sharif had “betrayed” his brother and was not supporting his return to the country; in a rally in Jhang on Monday, he accused Pakistan’s press of biased coverage in favor of Nawaz Sharif. Speaking during his visit to Quetta on Sunday, Imran again said that his party would not form a government “with those who had been involved in corruption and money laundering”. MQM-Pakistan leader Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui released his party’s campaign manifesto on Saturday, promising further devolution of power and proposing the creation of multiple new provinces. JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman led campaign rallies in Rawalpindi on Saturday, and in Karachi on Sunday . Facebook has reportedly blocked the pages for the Jamaat-ud-Dawa affiliate the Milli Muslim League and many of its candidates. The PML-F-led “Grand Democratic Alliance” held a rally in Nawabshah on Sunday; in Khairpur, the MMA has agreed to withdraw its candidates in favor of the GDA. The Nation notes the MQM’s limited slate of candidates in Punjab, and in another analysis suggests that the PTI has fielded a weak field of candidates against some independent candidates in south Punjab. Dawn profiles the NA-57 Muree constituency where former PM Abbasi is contesting, former Sindh home minister Zulfiqar Mirza’s campaign in Badin, and notes that at least three sets of brothers are competing against each other in races in Balochistan. [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Election Administration: The Express Tribune notes that ECP officials have requested the deployment of additional civil service appointees from a variety of provincial government departments and state-owned companies, including banks, power distribution companies, and government schools to staff polling stations. Dawn overviews the vote counting process. The district returning officer for Islamabad cited Imran Khan for code of conduct violations on Friday. On Friday, the ECP set an August 29 deadline for parties to file annual financial statements. In an interview, PTI spokesman Fawad Chaudhry said that his party was “fully satisfied” with the ECP’s administration of the elections, saying that “for the first time in the country’s history, fair elections are going to be held”. [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Other Corruption Investigations and Legal Battles: A Karachi judge remanded banker and Zardari associate Hussain Lawai to judicial custody for a 14-day period at hearings on Saturday. Interior ministry officials told a Supreme Court bench on Saturday that they were waiting for a response from Interpol on “red warrants” issued against former finance minister Ishaq Dar. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • IMF Talks: Speaking to reporters on Saturday, caretaker finance minister Shamshad Akhtar said that the “groundwork is being launched” for new negotiations with the IMF, but said that the decision would be left to the next government. Separately, the State Bank of Pakistan raised its policy interest rate to 7.5% on Saturday, citing inflationary pressures and the growing current account deficit. [Dawn]
  • PSO Under Investigations: On Saturday, the Supreme Court ordered a three-year audit of Pakistan State Oil’s bidding and purchases; separately, the National Accountability Bureau announced the arrest of five officials from PSO and two private oil companies. [ET]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Iranian Army Chief Visits [The Nation] [ET]
  • Police Officials Say Dera Ismail Khan Police Force Divided Along Sectarian Lines [ET]
  • Shehbaz Sharif Summoned Again in Saaf Pani Case [The Nation]
  • Two MQM Activists Arrested Over Supporter for Altaf Hussain [ET]
  • PM Mulk Inaugurates Pakistan-China Fiberoptic Cable Project [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Caretaker Government Considering Rs 709 Billion in Development Projects [ET]
  • Chief Justice Tells Govt to Generate Dam Construction Funds from Water Pricing [Dawn]
  • Shaheen Air Operations Suspended Over Unpaid Dues [ET]
  • Third LNG Power Plant Completed [ET]
  •  

Afghanistan — Security

  • Civilian Casualties: On Sunday, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan released its mid-year report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan, finding a one percent increase in civilian deaths over the same period last year. 1,692 civilians were reportedly killed during the six-month period, a record high, and 3,430 wounded; overall, aggregate casualties are down three percent from last year. The report noted the decline in violence during the June Eid ceasefires, and urged both sides of the conflict to “find a peaceful settlement”. Around half of all casualties from suicide attacks were attributed to the Islamic State. The Taliban issued a statement rejecting the UN report as biased against them. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [UNAMA Report (pdf)]
  • US Training Mission: US Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley told reporters on Friday that it was still too early to tell if training or deployment changes would be necessary in response to last week’s insider attack targeting members of the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade in Uruzgan.
  • Kabul Security: On Monday, Kabul police killed a would-be suicide bomber who was apparently targeting a gathering of supporters of Vice President Dostum; Dostum’s chief of staff Enayatullah Babar Farahman blamed unspecified “conspiracist circles” for the attack. At least seven people were killed and fifteen or more wounded in a suicide bombing attack outside the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development headquarters in Kabul on Sunday; the Islamic State claimed responsibility. The police chief for the 5th Police District in Kabul was wounded in a separate magnetic bombing on Sunday, which the Taliban claimed responsibility for. Villagers in the Khak-e-Jabar district outside Kabul city tell TOLO that Taliban fighters have remained in the area since the end of the government ceasefire. [AP] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: Farah provincial officials say 11 soldiers were killed in an attack on their checkpost in the Bala Balok district on Saturday; on Sunday, military officials claimed to have killed six Taliban fighters in the Sheb Koh district. Kunduz police officials say 36 Taliban fighters were killed in airstrikes in the Chardara district on Saturday. An Afghan policeman was killed and 11 wounded in a suicide car bombing attack in the Helmand provincial capital of Lashkar Gah on Saturday. U.S. forces carried out airstrikes in the Musa Kala district in Helmand on Friday. Syed Obaidullah Sadat, a former Ghazni provincial council member, was assassinated in Ghazni city on Saturday; his assailant was also reported killed. Heavy fighting was reported in the Zazai Maidan district in Khost on Sunday, which the provincial police chief attributed to Pakistani militias. Seven police officers were killed in an attack on their checkpost in Nangarhar’s Ghani Khel district on Sunday evening. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • US Reportedly Seeking Direct Talks with Taliban: The NYT reports that the White House has directed State Department officials to seek direct negotiations with the Taliban, and that recent visits to Pakistan and Afghanistan by Secretary Pompeo and Amb. Alice Wells were in part intended to lay the groundwork for those talks. Pompeo had in his visit said that there would be no preconditions for talks. The status of the potential negotiations is unclear from the report and no date appears to have been set for a direct meeting; Afghan government officials were not quoted responding to the shift in administration strategy.
  • Ghani Suggests Dostum Return as Govt Faces Abuse Allegations in Qaisari Arrest: New video emerged Friday of the arrest of former Qaisar district police chief Nizamuddin Qaisari earlier this month, showing members of the Afghan security forces beating and threatening members of Qaisari’s security detail, several of whom were killed in the clash that preceded his arrest. A spokesman for Pres. Ghani pledged an investigation into the incident; on Saturday, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense said that the video “clearly shows no commandos were present” during the alleged abuse. Seven of Qaisari’s guards were freed from detention on Friday, and Faryab governor Naqibullah Fayiq pledged that the others still being held would also be released. Supporters of Qaisari, an associate of VP Dostum, continue to demonstrate across several northern provinces, threatening to shut down highways and to “establish their own government”. Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, Pres. Ghani suggested that “the possibility of [Dostum’s] return has increased” but referred the issue to the attorney general’s office and did not elaborate further. Earlier on Saturday, Turkey’s ambassador to Afghanistan Oguzhan Ertugrul said that “talks are ongoing” over Dostum’s return; senate chairman Fazal Haidi Muslimyar called for Dostum’s return in senate debate on Monday. [WAPO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Political Leaders Call for Elections Changes: Leaders of Jamiat-e-Islami, Hezb-e-Islami, Junbesh-e-Milli, and other political parties met in Kabul on Saturday and demanded the invalidation of the voter registration process and introduction of a new biometric system, among other changes, threatening to block the elections if their demands were not met. Speaking at Sunday’s press conference, Pres. Ghani rejected those demands, challenging the legitimacy of the party leaders to speak on behalf of the country. [Khaama Press]
  • NATO Conference: Pres. Ghani addressed the Brussels NATO conference last week, but did not meet with Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg or Pres. Trump during his visit.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Australia and New Zealand, Under Media Pressure, Investigate War Crimes Allegations in Afghanistan [WAPO]
  • US Servicemember Killed on Thursday Identified [Reuters]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Nawaz Sharif En Route Back to Pakistan; NATO Extends Support for ANSF

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Topline

  • Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz departed London on Thursday and en route back to Pakistan to face arrest; as of this writing, they are waiting for a plane connection in Abu Dhabi. At least 300 PML-N activists have been arrested in a crackdown ahead of their return, and a heavy police and paramilitary security deployment has been put in place to block the PML-N from rallying upon Nawaz’s arrival. Media controls have also been ordered to block coverage of Nawaz’s public remarks.
  • In a joint statement on Thursday, NATO alliance members affirmed continued support for the Afghan government’s peace initiatives and for the Afghan national security forces, pledging to extend funding for the security services through 2024.
  • Seven people were killed in separate bombings targeting JUI-F and BAP candidates in the Bannu and Mastung districts on Friday; another bombing in Khuzdar on Thursday injured two people outside BAP offices.
  • A U.S. Special Operations soldier was killed along with an Afghan security service member in a raid in Paktia on Thursday, U.S. military officials reported; no further details have been released as of this writing.
  • The Election Commission of Pakistan has not completed ballot printing for more than a hundred constituencies as they await pending court cases challenging candidates’ eligibility to contest the polls; the ECP aims to complete the printing process by July 20.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Election Security: On Friday, four people were killed and dozens wounded in a bombing targeting JUI-F leader Akram Khan Durrani in the Bannu district; Durrani was reportedly unhurt. Three people were killed and at least thirty injured in a bombing in Mastung on Friday targeting Balochistan Awami Party candidate Nawabzada Siraj Raisani; he was among the injured. On Thursday evening, two people were injured in a bombing near BAP offices in Khuzdar. On Thursday, the ANP held a rally in Peshawar to protest the attack that killed leader Haroon Bilour earlier this week; his son Danyal led the gathering. Chief Election Commissioner Sardar Raza has sought additional personal security from the interior ministry, The Nation reports, citing an uptick in threats since the Peshawar bombing earlier this week. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Military Courts: The military announced Friday that Chief of Army Staff Bajwa had approved death sentences for twelve men convicted in the military court system. On Thursday, the Peshawar High Court agreed to hear an appeal from a man previously convicted by the military courts. [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Nawaz Returns to Pakistan: Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz departed London on Thursday evening; as of this writing, the family is in Abu Dhabi waiting for a connecting flight. In a message to supporters, Nawaz said that “I am aware that I have been sentenced to 10 years and I will be taken to a jail cell straight away — but I want the Pakistani nation to know that I am doing this for you”. Nawaz’s grandson Junaid Safdar was detained by London police on Thursday after brawling with PTI demonstrators outside the family’s London home. Punjab police sources confirm to Dawn they have arrested at least 300 PML-N activists as part of a crackdown ahead of the Sharif family’s anticipated return; at least 10,000 police officers are being deployed to contain any PML-N rallies in Lahore. Many of those detained are reported to be local government officials affiliated with the PML-N; the party has filed legal challenges against their arrests. The provincial government has imposed a ban on any public gatherings across the province, and Lahore city officials have warned that the PML-N lacks permission to conduct any rallies. National Accountability Bureau officials, backed by as many as 2000 paramilitary Rangers, are reportedly planning to arrest Nawaz upon arrival at the Lahore airport and seeking to block his participation in any public gathering. Shehbaz Sharif arrived in Lahore on Thursday to rally supporters; he told a press conference that the party was facing “naked pre-poll rigging”. Imran Khan denounced PML-N supporters seeking to welcome Nawaz in remarks at a rally in Narowal on Thursday. Pakistan Television has reportedly notified its staff that “no convicted person is to be shown or talked about on any PTV channel/programme, whether in paid advertisements, news or current affairs talk shows”; the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority also warned channels against the broadcast of any remarks by political leaders containing “defamatory and derogatory content targeting various state institutions specifically judiciary and armed forces of Pakistan”. [Reuters] [AP] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: Imran Khan has been summoned by the National Accountability Bureau to testify on July 18 as part of an investigation into the alleged misuse of an official government helicopter by Khyber Paktunkhwa Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak. During senate debate on Thursday, PPP senators joined the PML-N in criticizing the ECP’s management of the elections and questioning the neutrality of the NAB after the opening of recent money laundering investigations against former Pres. Zardari. In rulings on Thursday and Friday, the Supreme Court rejected challenges to the candidacies of former PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and former railways minister Saad Rafique. [ET] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Election Administration: In a press conference on Thursday, Election Commission secretary Babar Yaqoob said that “the army is not conducting the elections” and that security personnel posted at polls were not being granted powers beyond that which they had during previous elections. Dawn reports that ballot paper printing has been halted in more than a hundred constituencies where candidates still face pending legal challenges; the ECP plans to complete the ballot printing by July 20. [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Election Campaigning and Other Political Activity: Reuters interviews Imran Khan, who expresses confidence that the PTI will win the elections. Imran cancelled a planned visit to Parachinar on Friday. The ANP and Hazara Democratic Party agreed on a seat adjustment in several constituencies in Quetta. Dawn analyzes the challenges facing a divided MQM. [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Turkey Confirms Sale of 30 Attack Helicopters to Pakistan [AP]
  • State Bank of Pakistan Foreign Exchange Reserves Fall Below $9.5 Billion [ET]
  • LNG Prices Rise as Rupee Weakens [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • NATO Extends Support for Afghan Security Forces: In a joint statement on Thursday at the conclusion of the NATO heads of state meeting in Brussels, the alliance affirmed a “shared commitment to Afghanistan’s long-term security and stability” and pledged to continue funding for the Afghan national security forces through 2024. The statement also welcomed the Afghan government’s ceasefire initiative last month and pledged to “respect and support a negotiated and durable political settlement led by Afghans which ends violence, cuts ties to terrorism and protects the human rights of all Afghan citizens”. [Reuters] [Ariana News]
  • US Soldier Killed: A U.S. Special Operations soldier and a member of the Afghan security forces were killed in a joint raid in Paktia province on Thursday, U.S. military officials reported; no further details of the incident have been released as of this writing. It is the fourth U.S. combat fatality reported so far this year and the second this week. The exact location of the operation has not been reported; Paktia police officials claim that more than a hundred Taliban fighters were killed in operations backed by the Afghan Air Force in the Ahmad Abad and Zurmat districts, although it is unclear if those operations are related. [Reuters] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
  • Civilian Casualties: Nangarhar provincial government officials report that at least six and as many as ten civilians were killed during Afghan army air and ground operations in the Khogyani district on Thursday; the circumstances of the deaths are unclear, although a provincial council sources tells the AP they were caught in a crossfire. [Reuters] [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace March Activists Continue Sit-Ins: Helmand peace march activists demonstrating outside embassies in Kabul have moved on to hold a sit-in outside the Pakistani embassy on Thursday; earlier, they met with Russian diplomatic officials, who issued a statement pledging support for “constructive talks” and denying any support for proxy warfare in Afghanistan.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Australia to Support AAF Black Hawk Maintenance [Khaama Press] [Pajhwok]
  • National Disaster Management Authority Warns of Diminishing Kabul Water Reserves [TOLO]
  • Up to 600,000 Children Deprived of Education in Helmand [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PML-N Activists Arrested Ahead of Nawaz Return; Saudi Conference Calls for Ceasefire

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Topline

  • PML-N leaders say hundreds of their activists have been arrested in Punjab in advance of Nawaz Sharif’s anticipated return to the country tomorrow. Meanwhile, the PPP echoed PML-N allegations that its members were being coerced into defecting or not contesting the elections. On Thursday, the Supreme Court ordered that corruption investigations against former Pres. Zardari and his sister be delayed until after the election.
  • A conference of Islamic scholars meeting in Saudi Arabia this week called for a ceasefire between the Afghan government and Taliban and direct peace talks, while also stating that suicide attacks were prohibited under Islam; Pres. Ghani welcomed the declaration, which the Taliban have rebuffed.
  • Chief of Army Staff Bajwa and caretaker PM Mulk visited Peshawar on Thursday after the assassination of ANP leader Haroon Bilour; Mulk will chair a meeting of the provincial apex committee to review security for election candidates.
  • NATO alliance members meeting in Brussels are due to hold talks on the NATO mission in Afghanistan on Thursday, although complaints from Pres. Trump on burden- and cost-sharing have dominated the talks thus far.
  • A spokesman for Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service reported Tuesday that intelligence officials from Russia, China, Iran, and Pakistan met with Pakistan earlier this week to discuss “the dangers arising from a buildup of the Islamic State on the Afghan territory”.
  • Protests continue in several northern provinces calling for VP Dostum’s return and the release of Faryab district police chief Nizamuddin Qaisari.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Peshawar Attack Aftermath: PM Mulk and Chief of Army Staff Bajwa met with the family of ANP leader Haroon Bilour in Peshawar on Thursday, following funeral services on Wednesday. The ANP has vowed to continue to contest the elections. Mulk will chair a meeting of the provincial apex committee to review election security measures for candidates; members of parliament denounced earlier Supreme Court orders for the withdrawal of security details for political leaders. The caretaker government in Khyber Paktunkhwa has recommended the replacement of the provincial chief secretary, home secretary, and police chief in the aftermath of the bombing in Peshawar on Tuesday. Anonymous sources tell Dawn that their removal is in part related to disputes with caretaker chief minister Dost Mohammad Khan over other appointments. [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Regional Intel Chiefs Meet: A spokesman for the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service told the Russian press on Tuesday that Russian, Chinese, Iranian, and Pakistani intelligence leaders met in Pakistan earlier this week to discuss “the dangers arising from a buildup of the Islamic State on the Afghan territory”; the group reportedly “reached understanding of the importance of coordinated steps to prevent the trickling of IS terrorists from Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan”.
  • Karachi Officer Granted Bail: In a bail order on Wednesday, the Karachi anti-terrorism court hearing charges related to the murder of Naqibullah Mehsud earlier this year held that senior Karachi police officer Rao Anwar was not present at the time of Mehsud’s murder; Anwar still faces a parallel charge and has not yet been officially released.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PML-N Activists Arrested Ahead of Sharif Return: Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Nawaz Sharif reiterated his intentions to return to Pakistan on Friday, denouncing the corruption investigations against him and saying that democracy in Pakistan was being “strangulated”. Nawaz’s daughter Maryam Nawaz is reportedly seeking to mobilize more activists to meet the family upon their arrival. PML-N leaders say hundreds of their activists are being arrested in a crackdown in Punjab in advance of the party leader’s return, and have demanded their release. At a hearing on Thursday, the accountability court hearing corruption charges against Nawaz rejected a petition for the remainder of the cases against him to be transferred to another judge. [AP] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Other Corruption Investigations and Legal Battles: In an interview on Wednesday, former Pres. Zardari denied allegations of money laundering against him and condemned the arrest of banker and associate Hussain Lawai. The PPP issued a separate statement on Wednesday alleging that the opening of the case constituted “pre-poll rigging”. At a Supreme Court hearing on Thursday, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar denied that he had ordered Zardari be barred from travel outside the country, and ruled that he and his sister Faryal Talpur should not face questioning until after the elections, postponing further hearings until August 6. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Election Campaigning and Other Political Activity: Reuters looks at party-switching and ‘electable’ candidates now bandwagoning to join the PTI, and notes reports from some political families previously associated with the PML-N who say they were threatened with corruption cases by military officers if they did not defect. Imran Khan led a rally in Vehari on Wednesday, accusing the PML-N and PPP of corruption. Dawn profiles the anti-PPP opposition coalition in Sindh, the Grand Democratic Alliance; the Express Tribune looks at races in Karachi’s Central District. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • China Denies Report of Pakistan Seeking More Aid: In a press briefing on Wednesday, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry said that recent reports that Pakistan was seeking additional lending from China to shore up its foreign currency reserves were “totally false”.
  • Tax Revenues: The finance ministry reported Wednesday that more than 55,000 people have filed returns declaring Rs 577 billion in overseas assets and Rs 1.19 trillion in domestic assets as part of the government’s tax amnesty program, paying around Rs 97 billion in taxes. [ET]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • In Rare Verdict, Islamabad High Court Fines Retired General Over Missing Persons Case [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Lahore High Court to Hear Complaint Against Former Army Chief Kayani [ET]
  • Former Spokesman for FATA Assembly Member Killed in Peshawar [ET]
  • Balochistan Police Seek Additional Postings Ahead of Elections [The Nation]
  • Trade Deficit Sets Record High for FY18 [ET] [ET]
  • Supreme Court Orders Dam Donations to Be Made Tax-Free, Proposes Debt Retirement Campaign [ET] [Dawn]
  • Commentary: A Dirty War on Freedom of the Press in Pakistan – “We are now witnessing a new form of quasi-military censorship that is astonishingly aggressive in using both threats and coercion.” [Hameed Haroon, WAPO]
  • Commentary: Donating for Dams – “It’s time to grow up and face the facts: until we fix our water-pricing regime, there is no way out of this crisis.” [Khurram Husain, Dawn]

 

Afghanistan  — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: As many as thirty Afghan soldiers have reportedly been killed in a Taliban attack on the Dasht-i Archi district in Kunduz on Thursday; fighting is ongoing as of this writing. An Afghan Air Force airstrike in Ghazni’s Nawaz district targeted a meeting of Taliban leaders, reportedly wounding former Taliban information minister Amir Khan Muttaqi. Afghan army officials report that as many as 26 militants were killed in clashes between rival Taliban and Islamic State forces in Jawzjan province’s Darzab district. [AP] [WAPO] [NYT]
  • Pentagon Seeks ‘Civilian Surge’: Stars and Stripes reports that Department of Defense civilian postings in Afghanistan are less than 70% filled and that number is trending downward; Sec. Mattis has ordered the replacement of the current volunteer process with a system wherein DOD components each form a pool of deployable civilians by Oct 1.

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Saudi Conference Calls for Cease-Fire: A conference of Islamic scholars meeting in Saudi Arabia this week has called for a new ceasefire in Afghanistan and the opening of direct negotiations; the group also declared suicide attacks to be prohibited under Islam. Pres. Ghani welcomed the proposal, but the Taliban have rebuffed it, arguing that the target of their insurgency is the “invasion of infidels”. Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud met with the Afghan delegation on Wednesday, praising participants in the conference and urging “an approach of dialogue, reconciliation and tolerance on the lines of our religion of Islam”. [Khaama Press]
  • NATO Summit: The summit of NATO heads of government and state in Brussels is due to focus on Afghanistan on its second day of meetings on Thursday, although that has been largely overshadowed by disputes between Pres. Trump and other alliance leaders over burden- and cost-sharing. In a summit declaration released Wednesday, the allies pledged to “continue our assistance by extending our financial sustainment of the Afghan forces through 2024 and by pledging to fill staffing shortfalls, especially in priority areas”. Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah met with EU High Representative Federica Mogherini on Wednesday, who “confirmed the Union’s strong support for an Afghan-led and -owned peace process following President Ghani’s unprecedented peace offer to the Taliban earlier this year”. [Pajhwok]
  • Faryab Protests: Supporters of VP Dostum and Faryab district police chief Nizamuddin Qaisari continued protests on Thursday, blocking sections of highway in the north and closing the provincial Independent Election Commission offices in the Faryab provincial capital of Maimana and other government offices in Jawzjan. [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • US Soldier Killed in Afghanistan Was Part of ‘Guardian Angel’ Unit [NYT]
  • Afghan Deportee from Germany Commits Suicide [Reuters] [AFP] [TOLO]
  • Panjshir Landslides Destroy 300 Homes [Reuters]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: ANP Leader Haroon Bilour Killed in Peshawar; Afghanistan on the Agenda as NATO Leaders Meet

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Topline

  • Haroon Bilour, an ANP leader and candidate, was killed in a suicide bombing attack in Peshawar on Tuesday evening, which the TTP claimed responsibility for. The TTP also carried out a 2012 attack in which Bilour’s father was killed.
  • NATO leaders are meeting in Brussels this week, with Afghanistan among other items on the agenda; NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters Tuesday he expected an agreement to commit to funding the Afghan security forces past 2020. The UK has agreed to increase its troop deployment to Afghanistan by 440 soldiers, bringing the total deployment to around 1100.
  • Following a military press conference on Tuesday at which the army’s spokesman had insisted that the military was remaining neutral in the Pakistani elections, Nawaz Sharif accused by name an ISI major general of intervening to force PML-N candidates to switch their party loyalties. The PPP has also accused several military officers and the Federal Investigation Agency of intervening against its candidates; former Pres. Zardari and his sister skipped an FIA hearing on Wednesday in connection to a new FIA money laundering investigation.
  • Shehbaz Sharif will lead a PML-N rally in Lahore to welcome his brother back to Pakistan, PML-N officials announced Tuesday. Police charges were filed against several PML-N leaders and activists in Rawalpindi for their participation in a rally for Mohammad Safdar on Sunday prior to his surrender to the NAB.
  • Afghan security services have agreed to conduct an investigation into allegations of abuse during the arrest of Faryab district police chief Nizamuddin Qaisari last week; protests continue in several northern provinces, calling for his release and VP Dostum’s return to the country.
  • The ECP has ordered the suspension of all local government activities in Pakistan until the conclusion of the July 25 polls, citing the need to prevent any possible intervention by the local governments in the campaign period.

 

Pakistan — Security

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Rigging Allegations: Speaking to reporters on Tuesday following an earlier press conference by the military’s chief spokesman, Nawaz Sharif said that the PML-N would not accept the “engineering” of the elections; he also directly blamed Maj. Gen. Faiz Hameed of the ISI for forcing PML-N candidates to switch party loyalties, although press coverage of Nawaz’s remarks appears to have been curtailed. Hameed also played a notable role in mediating the conclusion of protests by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah last fall. Separately, the Election Commission issued a statement on Tuesday saying that the military would not be involved in the transmission of polling station results, but confirmed that they would have magisterial powers of arrest while deployed at the polls. [ET] [The Nation] [Reuters] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Nawaz Return Plans: Shehbaz Sharif will lead a rally in Lahore on Friday to receive his brother, PML-N spokeswoman Marriyum Aurangzeb announced Tuesday. National Accountability Bureau officials indicate they are aiming to arrest Nawaz immediately upon landing. Police charges were filed against at least 16 PML-N party leaders and several hundred activists in Rawalpindi on Tuesday for their participation in a rally in support of Nawaz’s son-in-law Mohammad Safdar on Sunday; most received bail on Wednesday. [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Other Corruption Investigations and Legal Battles: Former Pres. Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur skipped a Federal Investigation Agency hearing on Wednesday, with lawyers arguing on their behalf that they were too busy to participate in the money laundering investigation until after the July 25 elections. PPP leaders accused the FIA leadership of seeking to influence the election results, and also blamed three military intelligence officers of intervening. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Election Administration: On Tuesday, the ECP ordered the suspension of all local government functionaries across the country until the conclusion of the July 25 polls, to “prevent any action on the part of the local government institutions that amounts to influence the results of upcoming general elections”. [ET] [ET]
  • Govt to Challenge IHC Ruling on Declaration of Faith: Caretaker minister for information and law Syed Ali Zafar told a conference on Tuesday that the government would challenge an Islamabad High Court ruling that would make a declaration of faith mandatory for all civil service, military, and judicial employees, which Zafar said was “quite discriminatory in nature”. [Dawn]
  • Election Campaigning: Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan again denied that he was associated with other independent candidates contesting under the same jeep symbol. The opposition ‘Grand Democratic Alliance’ reached an agreement with the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal to support each other in opposition to the PPP in Sindh. Imran Khan led a rally in Sukkur on Monday evening and in Shangla and Buner on Tuesday, denouncing both the PML-N and PPP leadership for corruption. [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • US Ambassador Appointed to State Department Position: On Tuesday, the White House announced its intention to appoint U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale to the third-ranking position at the State Department, the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs. No replacement for Hale in Islamabad has been named.

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • National Party Leader Calls for Strike in Gwadar [ET] [Dawn]
  • Pledges Continue for Supreme Court Dam Fund [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Acquittee in Benazir Murder Case Disappears from Lahore Jail [ET]
  • Remittances Total $19.62 Billion for FY 18 [ET]
  • Caretaker Finance Minister Reviews CPEC Implementation, Notes SEZ Delays [ET]
  • Senate Chairman Meets Iranian Ambassador [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • NATO Meets: Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah are attending a meeting of NATO heads of state and government in Brussels this week; NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters on Tuesday that he expected an agreement among the allies on continued funding for the Afghan national security forces past 2020. Ahead of the summit, UK Prime Minister May pledged to deploy an additional 440 British troops to support the Resolute Support training mission, bringing the total UK deployment to around 1,100. Around half of the new contingent will deploy in August and the remainder in February. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the U.S. administration is considering a review of its Afghanistan strategy around the one-year mark this summer, although a U.S. National Security Council spokesperson said that “we are not planning an overarching review of our core strategy, like the one conducted last summer”. [Guardian] [Ariana News] [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Attacks and Operations: The Islamic State claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Jalalabad on Tuesday that killed at least twelve people; on Wednesday, gunmen attacked the Nangarhar education department building in Jalalabad, killing at least ten. No immediate claim of responsibility has been reported for that attack. [AP] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Faryab Protests: Several hundred demonstrators continued protests across multiple northern provinces on Tuesday, calling for the return of VP Dostum to the country and the release of Qaisar district police chief Nizamuddin Qaisari. In a statement on Wednesday, the Afghan security services pledged to conduct an investigation into possible “misbehavior” by Afghan commandos during Qaisari’s arrest. Dostum aides accuse the security forces of abusing Qaisari’s bodyguards; a spokesman for Dostum tells TOLO that “people in the north demand the trial of the president himself, who issued the order of such a heinous act”.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • US Deputy Assistant Secretary Wells Meets with Hekmatyar [Khaama Press]
  • Thousands of Undocumented Afghans Return from Iran [TOLO]
  • Procurement Commission Approves Afs 7.44 Billion in New Contracts [Khaama Press]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pompeo Makes Surprise Kabul Visit; Nawaz Plans Mass Rally Upon Return to Lahore

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  • Secretary of State Pompeo made a brief unannounced visit to Kabul on Monday, where he met with Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah. Pompeo said that the U.S. was “prepared to participate to help resolve differences” in intra-Afghan peace talks but “we can’t settle this from the outside”.
  • The Organization of the Islamic Conference opened a two-day conference in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday bringing together international Islamic scholars to discuss the Afghan peace process.
  • Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz will seek to “establish contact with the masses” upon their arrival in Pakistan on Friday, before surrendering to the National Accountability Bureau. The Supreme Court granted the accountability court hearing other cases against the Sharifs another six weeks extension on Tuesday.
  • Meanwhile, Pakistan’s attorney general confirmed that former Pres. Zardari and his sister had been added to the Exit Control List, barring them from leaving the country, as the Federal Investigation Agency expands its investigation into a new money laundering and kickbacks scandal.
  • Afghan Second VP Sarwar Danish met with VP Dostum in Turkey on Tuesday as protests continue in Faryab over the arrest of Dostum associate Nizamuddin Qaisari; a statement by Dostum’s office afterwards said that Danish had urged him to return to Afghanistan.
  • Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, the Pakistani military’s spokesman insisted that the army had “no direct role in the conduct of elections” and would remain “non-political and impartial”.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Election Security: Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, the military’s spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor said that Pakistan’s armed forces had “no direct role in the conduct of elections” and would remain “non-political and impartial”. The army will deploy more than 371,000 soldiers to provide security at polling stations. [Dawn] [The Nation] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Sharif Return Plans: On Tuesday, the Supreme Court granted the accountability court hearing corruption cases against Nawaz Sharif and his family another six weeks to conclude hearings on the remaining three cases against Nawaz; the court denied a petition from Nawaz’s lawyers that the judge hearing those remaining cases be switched. The National Accountability Bureau is reportedly considering the use of a helicopter to transport Nawaz and Maryam Nawaz to jail in Islamabad after their arrival in Lahore on Friday. PML-N sources tell the Express Tribune that Nawaz will seek to “establish contact with the masses” upon arrival, before surrendering to the NAB. Nawaz’s elderly mother reportedly plans to meet the family upon arrival. PTI activists confronted Nawaz at his London home on Monday. [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Other Corruption Investigations and Legal Battles: On Monday, attorney general Khalid Javed confirmed that the Supreme Court had ordered that former Pres. Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur be barred from traveling abroad as they face investigations related to money laundering and kickback charges. The Federal Investigation Agency is seeking details on the chief executive officers of thirteen firms linked to the investigation; on Tuesday, the FIA summoned Zardari and his sister for questioning. Separately, the Supreme Court gave former finance minister Ishaq Dar a three day deadline to return to Pakistan and face charges, or his passport would be cancelled. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Election Campaigning: On Tuesday, Jamshed Dasti of the Awami Raj Party announced that he was withdrawing from the NA-183 race to focus on his other campaign in NA-182, and would support independent candidate Mian Fiaz Chajra. The Guardian notes Imran Khan’s endorsement of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws at a gathering on Saturday. The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal plans to hold a rally in Karachi on July 15. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Election Complaints: On Monday, the PML-N announced that it was forming an “anti-rigging cell” to collect and refer complaints from party candidates to the Election Commission. On Monday, the ECP disqualified Nasir Cheema, the PTI candidate for the PP-53 Gujranwala constituency, for code of conduct violations related to the use of the army chief’s picture on his campaign materials. Former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was cleared to contest the elections after a Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday. On Monday, the ECP sought data from the State Bank of Pakistan on the PTI’s financial statements, after the party refused to respond to ECP summons. [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Dam Construction: On Monday, military spokesmen announced that the military would donate two day’s worth of officer pay and one day worth of enlisted soldier pay to support the special fund established by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar to support the construction of the Diamer Bhasha and Mohmand dams. Senate chairman Sadiq Sanjrani has also donated to the fund. [ET] [ET]

                                                              

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Karachi Court Grants Rao Anwar Bail in Naqeebullah Mehsud Murder Case [Dawn]
  • Lawyers for Musharraf Defend NRO [ET]
  • Federal Debt Jumped to Rs 23.8 Trillion Over Five Years [ET]
  • Punjab Health Workers Awaiting Payment as Polio Vaccination Drive Begins [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Pompeo Makes Brief Visit: Secretary of State Pompeo made a brief unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Monday, his first since assuming the office, where he met with U.S. officials and with Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah. Pompeo touted the administration’s strategy towards the region and said that “an element of the progress is the capacity that we now have to believe that there is hope that many of the Taliban now see that they can’t win on the ground militarily”. Pompeo also said that the U.S. was “prepared to participate to help resolve differences” in intra-Afghan peace talks but “we can’t settle this from the outside”. [WAPO] [WSJ] [AP] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Pompeo-Ghani Joint Press Conference Transcript]
  • Saudi Conference Opens: The Organization of the Islamic Conference in Saudi Arabia opened a two-day conference of international religious scholars on Tuesday to “discuss ways of contributing to the efforts of achieving peace and stability in Afghanistan.” [TOLO]
  • VPs Meet in Turkey: Deputy interior minister General Akhtar Ibrahimi, part of a security delegation sent to Faryab after protests that followed the arrest of Qaisar district police chief Nizamuddin Qaisari, told reporters on Monday that the government is committed to arresting groups of “illegal armed men” across the country. TOLO reports that Second VP Sarwar Danish is in Turkey leading a delegation to meet with VP Dostum to discuss the incident; in a statement afterwards, Dostum’s office said that Danish had called for Dostum to return to the country. [TOLO]

 

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Sharifs Vow to Return to Pakistan; US Soldier Killed in Insider Attack

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  • Nawaz Sharif and his family have vowed to return to Pakistan this coming Friday to face arrest and challenge the accountability court verdict last week sentencing them to prison. On Sunday, Nawaz’s son-in-law Mohammad Safdar led a rally of supporters in Rawalpindi before surrendering himself to the National Accountability Bureau.
  • The Supreme Court of Pakistan has imposed a travel ban on the heads of three banks following the arrest of Hussain Lawai, a banker and associate of former Pres. Zardari.
  • A US soldier providing security as part of the army’s 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade was killed in an insider attack at a base in Tirin Kot, Uruzgan, on Saturday; two other soldiers were wounded in the incident.
  • The opposition leaders of the ‘Coalition for the Salvation of Afghanistan’ denounced the arrest of Qaisar district police chief Nizamuddin Qaisari and called for his release, and the return of VP Dostum to the country.
  • Saudi Arabia will host a meeting of international Islamic scholars in Mecca and Jeddah on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.
  • Leaders of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement say they are abandoning talks with a government jirga that they say lacks negotiating authority, and plan to resume public protests.
  • The Pakistani finance ministry is pushing for the opening of negotiations with the IMF for a new loan program, but has not received approval to do so from the caretaker government; officials are reportedly concerned over requirements that they provide more transparency on the financing of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor under an IMF plan, and are said to be seeking more Chinese lending as an alternative.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Election Security: Seven people were wounded, including the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal candidate for the PK-89 constituency, Malik Shereen, in a bombing in Bannu on Saturday. There was no claim of responsibility but Shereen accused his PTI rival, Malik Shah Muhammad Khan, in a police report. [The Nation] [ET] [Dawn]
  • FATF Review: On Friday, the National Security Council met to review plans for the implementation of Pakistan’s “action plan” submitted to the Financial Action Task Force; caretaker Prime Minister Mulk’s office released a statement afterwards saying “participants reiterated a firm commitment to fulfilment of obligations regarding combating money-laundering and terror financing”. [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • IMF Talks: An IMF technical team completed a week-long visit to Pakistan last week, ministry of finance sources tell the Express Tribune, but the caretaker government is reportedly divided over whether to pursue negotiations with the IMF over a potential new loan program, as the finance ministry is seeking to do. The Financial Times reports that Pakistan is seeking more Chinese lending to shore up its deteriorating foreign exchange reserves, and that officials are reluctant to engage with the IMF due to the need to provide greater transparency on the financing terms for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. [AFP] [ET]
  • Caretaker Government Reverses Oil Price Hike: On Saturday, the caretaker government reversed earlier petroleum prices hikes in response to a Supreme Court order, lowering the general sales tax on petroleum products to reduce consumer prices. On Sunday, the Supreme Court ordered an audit of Pakistan State Oil bidding and pricing processes. [ET] [ET] [APP] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Seeks Tax Exemption for FATA; Kurram District Still Collecting Internal Tariffs [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Launches Two Satellites from China [APP] [ET] [Xinhua]
  • Supreme Court Upholds Appointment of Balochistan Chief Justice Isa, to Hold Open Hearings on Trial Against Islamabad High Court Judge Siddiqui [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Naqeebullah Mehsud’s Father Seeks Change of Prosecutor [ET]
  • MQM Founder Saleem Shahzad Dies in London [Dawn] [ET]
  • Pakistan Navy Inducts 32 ‘Religious Motivation Officers’ [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Air Force Officer Injured in Car Crash with Russian Diplomat [Dawn]
  • Army Chief Visits Swat Tunnel Project [The Nation]
  • Spending Under 2017-18 Public Sector Development Program Curtailed [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Protests Continue Over Police Chief’s Removal: Although he did not directly refer to former Qaisar district police chief Nizamuddin Qaisari, in remarks on Sunday, Pres. Ghani said that “irresponsible armed individuals must adopt a responsible approach or the government would act to restrict their activities”. On Sunday, opposition leaders Atta Mohammad Noor and Mohammad Mohaqiq denounced Qaisari’s arrest, saying that Ghani’s approach “has been very dictatorial, aggressive, unethical and repressive”. Atta also reiterated calls for the formation of a transitional government. Supporters of VP Dostum, with whom Qaisari is affiliated, have continued protests in Faryab and other northern provinces, calling for Qaisari’s release and Dostum’s return to the country. [Ariana News] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Peace Talks: High Peace Council officials announced Friday that the Saudi-hosted conference of international religious scholars on Afghanistan would take place this Tuesday and Wednesday in Mecca and Jeddah; a thirty-member Afghan delegation will attend, in addition to representatives from more than fifty countries. Meanwhile, Helmand peace march activists shifted their sit-in to the Russian embassy in Kabul on Friday; they tell TOLO that some activists will visit Taliban-controlled areas for talks with insurgent representatives. [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Counternarcotics Efforts: Politico profiles a proposal brought by Drug Enforcement Agency and Justice Department officials in 2013, ultimately rejected by other State Department officials, that would have sought to arrest and indict multiple high-level Taliban commanders linked to the drug trade.

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Drought Aid: UN officials are seeking $715 million in aid to provide food assistance and humanitarian relief in response to the ongoing drought in Afghanistan.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Three Black Hawks Delivered to Helmand Unit [Khaama Press]
  • Uzbekistan Delegation Visits Kabul [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • 85% of Women and Children Experience Harassment, AIHRC Reports [TOLO]
  • Energy Ministry Plans $450M Dam Project in Kandahar [TOLO]
  • Helmand Sikhs Plan to Emigrate Following Jalalabad Attack [TOLO]
  • Delays Hamper Work on Kabul Metrobus Project [TOLO]