Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Interior Minister Backs Social Media Crackdown; Trump Admin Still Divided on Afghan Strategy

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Topline

  • Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan affirmed the government’s intention to continue clamping down on social media users he accused of attacking “the Constitution, Pakistan, our institutions, and the values of our country”.
  • The NYT reports that Trump administration officials are still divided over their strategy towards Afghanistan and the question of increasing U.S. forces, ahead of a NATO conference taking place tomorrow.
  • Indian military officials said they struck Pakistani army posts along the Line of Control on Tuesday in order to curtail militant infiltration; Pakistan denies the strikes took place. Pakistan’s Air Force has reportedly mobilized its forward operating bases.
  • A Chinese couple was kidnapped in Quetta on Wednesday; no claim of responsibility was reported. Balochistan Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti announced the arrest of a man he said was connected to bombings at the Quetta General Hospital and Shah Noorani shrine last year; those attacks were claimed by the Islamic State at the time.
  • Afghanistan’s ministry of defense said that 16 out of 24 suspects arrested in connection to the March attack on the Kabul military hospital were presented before a close-door court hearing on Tuesday; details of the hearings or the suspects’ identities were not released.
  • Members of the prime minister’s family have begun complaining that the Joint Investigation Team investigating the Panama Papers are biased; separately, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a disqualification case against Imran Khan over the PTI’s overseas fundraising, which party lawyers maintain was legal and argue the court should not have jurisdiction over.
  • Chief Executive Abdullah and former NDS chief Amrullah Saleh are not among the members of an “interim leadership council” formed by the Jamiat-e-Islami yesterday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: Indian military officials announced Tuesday that they had carried out attacks on Pakistani army posts on the Line of Control in order to “control infiltration”; Pakistani military spokesmen denied the report. Chief of Army Staff Bajwa chaired a Formation Commanders meeting on Tuesday, warning that “any hostile action anywhere along our frontiers shall be responded to most befittingly.” Pakistan Air Force chief Sohail Aman told reporters on Wednesday that the PAF was “ready to face all kinds of challenges” and had “operationalized” all of its forward operating bases; he subsequently participated in a flight drill near the Siachen glacier region, although Indian Air Force officials said there were no airspace violations by the mission. Separately, Pakistan has asked for a date for the next International Court of Justice hearing on an Indian appeal against the death sentence for accused spy Kulbhushan Jhadav. [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Chinese Couple Kidnapped: Two Chinese nationals, a husband and wife couple, were kidnapped in Quetta on Wednesday, a spokesman for the Balochistan provincial government said; Dawn reports that a third woman escaped the kidnapping. No claim of responsibility has been reported.
  • Suspect Linked to Balochistan Attacks Arrested: Balochistan Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti announced the arrest on Tuesday of Saeed Ahmad Badani, alias Taqva, who he accused of involvement in bombings at the Quetta General Hospital last August and the Shah Noorani shrine last November, among other attacks. Bother attacks were claimed by the Islamic State at the time. Bugti claimed that Ahmad had confessed to receiving support from Afghan and Indian intelligence services; two other accomplices were also reportedly arrested. [Reuters]
  • Military Courts: Two men were executed on Wednesday after being convicted in the military court system, the military announced; one was accused of providing support to suicide bombers involved in the 2014 attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, and both were described as active members of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. [Dawn] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Social Media Crackdown: Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan affirmed the government’s ongoing investigation of social media users, saying that “the Constitution, Pakistan, our institutions and the values of our country are under attack by a section of social media” and saying that “a free-for-all system cannot be allowed”. Chaudhry Nisar simultaneously claimed that “there will be no restrictions on social media” but that “there will be red lines in accordance with the law and Constitution of the country”, and suggested that anonymous social media accounts be linked to identifiable phone numbers. The Islamabad High Court issued an order that journalist Taha Siddiqui, who said he had been summoned by the Federal Investigation Agency for his social media account, not be harassed. [WSJ] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Legal Battles: Tariq Shafi, a cousin to Prime Minister Sharif, filed a complaint with the Joint Investigation Team in the Panama Papers case on Tuesday, accusing members of the JIT of unspecified misbehavior during his questioning. Hussain Nawaz, the prime minister’s eldest son, is also reported to have expressed concern that two members of the JIT, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) officer Amer Aziz and Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan Executive Director Bilal Rasool, have affiliations with former Pres. Musharraf and former Punjab governor Mian Azhar. Separately, the Supreme Court heard continued arguments on Tuesday and Wednesday in a disqualification case against PTI leader Imran Khan; PTI lawyers continue to argue that the court should not have jurisdiction on the issue of the PTI’s fundraising accounts, and argued that their fundraising abroad was legal. [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • FATA Reforms: Tuesday’s meeting of Pakistan Army formation commanders also voiced support for reforms in FATA “in line with aspirations of the people”; the head of the JUI-F FATA chapter, Abdul Shakoor, told supporters on Tuesday that the party would continue to block reforms without a public referendum first being held.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • US Assistance: The Finance Ministry has projected the receipt of $1.5 billion in Coalition Support Funds from the US for the 2017-18 fiscal year, the Express Tribune reports, but “has not received positive signals from Washington”; so far, the US has disbursed $550 million this Pakistani fiscal year, against an expected commitment of $880 billion.
  • Energy Crisis: Circular debts within the energy sector now total Rs 402.14 billion, the Ministry of Water and Power reported on Monday. Separately, the Express Tribune reports that the government is considering deregulating petroleum product prices.
  • Budget Planning: On Tuesday, the PPP released a “shadow budget” proposal, including a 25% increase in pay and pensions for government employees and an increase in the minimum wage to Rs 18,000 per month. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Lahore High Court Gives Government ‘Last Chance’ to Respond to Hafiz Saeed House Arrest Case [ET]
  • Sindh Government Accuses Police Chief of ‘Colluding’ with Petitioners in Challenge Against His Removal [Dawn]
  • Polio Vaccinator Killed in Bannu [Dawn]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Assembly Seeks to Regulate Private Schools [The Nation]
  • PPP Leaders Nazar Mohammad Gondal and Noor Alam Khan Join PTI [The Nation] [The Nation]

Afghanistan — Security

  • US Strategy: Ahead of a NATO conference in Belgium on Thursday, the NYT reports that Trump administration officials remain divided over a proposed strategy, backed by the Pentagon and National Security Advisor McMaster, to increase U.S. troops in Afghanistan by up to 5,000 servicemembers. Chief strategist Steve Bannon and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner are said to be skeptical of the plan. Secretary Mattis told reporters last Friday that he had not made a formal troop recommendation to the White House. A NATO spokesman tells Pajhwok that Afghanistan is not a formal part of the NATO conference agenda, but would likely be discussed in the context of discussions on alliance burden-sharing and counter-terrorism missions. [Military Times]
  • Military Hospital Attack Investigation: On Tuesday, the Ministry of Defense said that it had initiated court hearings against sixteen out of 24 suspects arrested in connection to the attack on the Kabul military hospital in March; hearings were held behind closed doors, and no details of the proceedings or the suspects were released.
  • Attacks and Operations: Taliban fighters attacked security forces along the Baghlan-Mazar highway over Tuesday night, shutting down traffic on the highway; fighting is reportedly still ongoing. Nangarhar provincial officials say that ten Islamic State fighters were killed in operations in the Achin district on Wednesday. A former Afghan member of parliament, Najibullah Kabuli, was wounded when a magnetic bomb was planted on his vehicle on Tuesday night; no claim of responsibility has been reported. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Jamiat Announces Interim Leadership Council: Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor, former vice presidents Ahmad Zia Masooud and Yunus Qanooni, and other senior leaders are among those named as members of the Jamiat-e-Islami “interim leadership council” on Tuesday; Chief Executive Abdullah and former NDS chief Amrullah Saleh were not on the list. A spokesman for Jamiat suggested that Abdullah’s absence could be explained by his duties in the national unity government. [Ariana News]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Former Pres. Karzai Meets with Russian Ambassador [Khaama Press]
  • US Envoy Calls for More Afghan Female Prosecutors [TOLO] [Ariana News]
  • Germany Announces Arrest of Afghan Man Accused of Killing Police Officer for Taliban [Khaama Press]
  • Bamiyan-Bound Plane Diverted by Afghan Lawmakers [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Opposition Criticizes Sharif Trip to Saudi Arabia; US Plans to Train 17,000 Afghan Special Forces

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Topline

  • Pakistani officials privately complain that Pakistan was not mentioned as a victim of terrorism in remarks by Pres. Trump at a Saudi summit, where Prime Minister Sharif only met briefly with Trump; Imran Khan criticized Sharif’s trip to Saudi Arabia as ineffective and an “embarrassment”.
  • U.S. military planners tell the Post they aim to train another 17,000 Afghan special forces soldiers as part of the planned increase in U.S. forces in country, as well as focusing on issues of “corruption, incompetence, and poor coordination” amongst the Afghan security agencies.
  • The PTI protested arrests and investigations by the Federal Investigation Agency into social media accounts accused of “spreading negative material against the army and other institutions”; at least one journalist has confirmed that he is a target of investigations.
  • At least ten Afghan soldiers were killed in an attack on an army base in Kandahar’s Shah Wali Kot district over Monday night.
  • Pakistani defense ministry officials told the Senate interior committee that they were still questioning former TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan; some senators criticized his “glorification” through TV interviews.
  • Speaking at a conference in Kabul on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani and Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor vowed that the Jamiat-e-Islami would play a “major role” in the next presidential election.
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak signed an $11 billion agreement with the Frontier Works Organization for four large infrastructure projects, including the construction of a “CPEC city” near Swabi and a “Model Town” housing development in Peshawar.

Pakistan — Security

  • TTP Spokesman Still Being Questioned: Testifying before the Senate Standing Committee on Interior on Monday, additional defense secretary Faisal Lodhi said that former Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan was still being questioned by intelligence agencies; some committee members criticized his “glorification” and apparent freedom to grant media interviews, and called for his prosecution. FATA senator Saleh Shah also alleged that some splinter groups of the TTP had been allowed to establish offices in parts of Khyber Paktunkhwa.
  • ISIS Arrest: The Express Tribune reports that an unnamed Lahore university engineering professor and his niece were arrested in Karachi in connection to an alleged Islamic State plot to carry out attacks with surveillance drones fitted with explosives; Sindh police officials denied the report, however.
  • Tensions with India: A parliamentary briefing session by the attorney general is scheduled to be held Tuesday on the government’s plans in the Kulbushan Jhadav case. India is also seeking consular access to another Indian national, identified as Sheikh Nabi Ahmed, who was reportedly arrested in Islamabad on May 19 for failing to show valid travel documents. In a statement on Tuesday, Pakistan’s military spokesman denied Indian media reports that they had destroyed several Pakistani border posts that were aiding the infilitration of militants across the Line of Control.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Sharif in Saudi Arabia: Speaking to reporters during his visit to Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Sharif called for unity in the Muslim world against terrorism; he visited Madina on Monday, and returned home on Tuesday. Sharif described his brief meeting with Pres. Trump as a “good meeting”, although anonymous Pakistani diplomatic sources complain to The Nation that Trump made no mention of Pakistan as a victim of terrorism in his remarks. U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Hale met separately with Chief of Army Staff Bajwa in Rawalpindi on Monday, and was quoted expressing hope that “Pakistan would live up to its pledge of not allowing terrorists to use its soil against any other country”. Speaking to reporters in Islamabad on Monday, Imran Khan criticized Sharif’s trip as ineffective and an “embarrassment”. [APP] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [ET]
  • Social Media Crackdown: Federal Investigation Agency sources tell Reuters they are investigating as many as 200 social media accounts on charges of “spreading negative material against the army and other institutions”; journalist Taha Sididiqi has been identified as one target, and he filed an Islamabad High Court petition accusing the FIA of harassment. The PTI held protests across the country on Monday against the detention of several of their social media activists; in Peshawar, PTI offices were broken into and computers stolen, although FIA officials denied any connection to the incident. [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: Imran Khan submitted an affidavit to the Supreme Court on Tuesday on the money trail behind his purchase of his residence in Bani Gali; court hearings are set to resume tomorrow on a disqualification case against Khan. Also on Tuesday, the Election Commission denied a petition from Khan to dismiss parallel hearings on the PTI’s sources of funding. [Dawn] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Development: On Monday, Khyber Paktunkhwa Chief Minster Pervaiz Khattak signed an agreement with the Frontier Works Organization on four large infrastructure projects totaling $11 billion, including the construction of a “CPEC city” near Swabi at an estimated cost of $4.4 billion and a “Model Town” development in Peshawar costing $4.6 billion. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Sohail Anwar Siyal Reappointed Sindh Home Minister in Cabinet Shakeup [Dawn]
  • Sindh High Court Grants Bail to Farooq Sattar in 31 Cases [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • ADB Approves $20M Loan for Credit Access Program [APP] [The Nation]
  • Peshawar Students Protest Lack of Services [ET]
  • Commentary: The FATA Merger: Towards a Brave New World – “Will the government stop playing to its political gallery and take advantage of a historic opportunity for much-needed reforms in the badlands of the northwest?” [Ismail Khan, Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • U.S. Strategy: The Post echoes earlier reports that draft U.S. plans for an increased deployment in Afghanistan would involve training an additional 17,000 Afghan special forces, backed by hundreds of American Special Operations Forces trainers. U.S. military officials insist that American forces will not return to a combat mission and that no new bases are planned to expand the international military footprint. A reported focus of the new training mission would be to focus on “corruption, incompetence, and poor coordination” amongst Afghan security agencies, including new biometric enrollment processes to cut down on the number of ‘ghost soldiers’ on payrolls.
  • Guesthouse Attack: Kabul police chief Hassan Shah Frogh said on Monday that “it is possible” the Taliban were behind Saturday’s attack on the guesthouse of the Swedish charity Operation Mercy, suggesting they had taken a Finnish aid worker hostage in order to exchange her for the release of Taliban prisoners. The Taliban have not claimed the attack.
  • Attacks and Operations: At least ten Afghan soldiers were killed and nine wounded in an attack on an Afghan military base in the Shah Wali Kot district in Kandahar over Monday night, the Afghan defense ministry reported. A roadside bombing in the Maiwand district on Tuesday also reportedly killed three civilians; the Taliban are not reported to have claimed either attack yet, and Khaama Press described the victims of the latter bombing as Taliban fighters killed by their own explosives. Six police officers were killed in an attack on a checkpost in Helmand’s Sangin district; some accounts suggest the attack was carried out by a police insider. Continuing operations in Nangarhar’s Chaparhar district on Tuesday killed five Islamic State fighters. [AFP] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Jamiat Leaders Vow ‘Major Role’ in Next Presidential Election: Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani and Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor attended a conference of Jamiat-e-Islami leaders and supporters in Kabul on Tuesday, vowing that the party would play a “major role” in the next presidential election. Rabbani noted that the party’s temporary leadership council had expanded to sixty members, and insisted that the party was pluralistic and open to all.
  • Atmar Visits Moscow: National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar departed on Monday to attend the eighth annual Russia Security Conference in Moscow.
  • Refugee Repatriation: On Monday, officials with the ministries of foreign affairs, interior, and refugees and repatriation announced an agreement to begin issuing ID cards, passports, and birth certificates to Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, Iran, and the Gulf, beginning in Iran.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • ACJC Sentences Nangarhar Banker to 15 Years in Jail [TOLO]
  • Watchdog Accuses Government of Violating Access to Information Act [TOLO]
  • Report: U.S. Policy in Afghanistan: Changing Strategies, Preserving Gains – “Going forward, U.S. policy should aim to protect the integrity of the Afghan state and, toward that end, attempt to end the conflict in ways that mitigate the threats of terrorism, instability, and conflict in the region.” [Ashley Tellis and Jeff Eggers, CEIP]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Sharif and Ghani Among Saudi Summit Attendees; Dostum Returns to Exile in Turkey

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Topline

  • Prime Minister Sharif and Pres. Ghani both visited Saudi Arabia to attend the Arab-Islamic-United States summit; both are reported to have briefly met with Pres. Trump, but no major bilateral meetings appear to have been held.
  • Vice President Dostum left the country on Friday for Turkey, in what appears to be a return to exile in the face of a stalled investigation into charges of physical and sexual abuse against former Jawzjan governor Ahmad Eschi. Dostum aides insist he will return and say the trip was made for medical treatment.
  • The Panama Papers Joint Investigation Team presented an interim report to the Supreme Court on Monday; court officials warned that they would not grant extensions to the JIT’s 60-day investigation period.
  • An Afghan guard and German woman were killed and a Finnish woman kidnapped in an attack on the guesthouse of a Swedish charity in Kabul on Saturday; no claim of responsibility has been reported for the attack.
  • As many as 23 PTI activists, as well as journalists and at least one supporter of the PML-N, have reportedly been detained by the Federal Investigation Agency as part of a crackdown on social media criticism of Pakistan’s army; the PTI has announced plans to protest the arrests and file court petitions challenging the government’s use of “cybercrimes” law.
  • The Islamic State claimed an attack on Kabul Bank branch in Paktia’s capital of Gardez on Saturday; at least three people were killed.
  • Taliban fighters attacked the provincial capitals of Ghazni and Zabul over the weekend; as many as 20 Afghan police officers were killed in attacks on checkposts in the Zabul district of Shah Joy.
  • Government officials continue to defend Pakistan’s handling of the Kulbhushan Jhadav case in the International Court of Justice.
  • Finance Minister Dar will introduce the government’s draft budget for the new fiscal year in a national assembly speech on May 24.

Pakistan — Security

  • Jhadav Case: Speaking at an event for Frontier Constabulary recruits in Peshawar on Saturday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan defended the government’s handling of the Kulbhushan Jhadav spying case, stressing that “the whole nation is united on national security issues” and warning against “making this issue controversial”. Elsewhere, National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq also said that “it is time to be united” and said that the government and army would “jointly fight” the case. At an Islamabad press conference on Saturday, foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz also defended the government’s handling of the case, and insisted that the International Court of Justice could not invalidate Jhadav’s death sentence.  [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Policemen Attacked: Four policemen were killed in an attack in the Kohat district on Saturday and two in a shooting in Karachi on Sunday. The TTP Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility for the former attack; the AP reports Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed the latter, but the Express Tribune attributes both to the TTP JuA. [Dawn]
  • FATA Displacement: Minister of States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch told the national assembly on Friday that the repatriation of around 130,000 families displaced from North Waziristan had been completed, and that the government was shifting its efforts to focus on restoring services. In a separate interview, North Waziristan Political Agent Kamran Afridi estimated that around six percent of IDPs remained in camps. Around 3,000 people in the Khyber Agency village of Sheenpokh have been evacuated after recent cross-border shelling with Afghanistan, which the Express Tribune reports had been claimed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Jamaat-ul-Ahrar. [APP]
  • Border Tensions with Iran: Iranian border security forces fired mortar shells across the border into the Chagai district on Sunday; no casualties were reported. An Iranian military delegation from Iran’s National Defense University arrived in Pakistan on Sunday to meet with Pakistan National Defense University counterparts. [The Nation]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: Pakistani Air Force jets struck three “militant hideouts” in the Khyber Agency on Friday; no casualties were reported. On Monday, five members of a local militia group were killed in a roadside bombing in the Tirah Valley area of Khyber. As many as fifteen people were wounded in a string of grenade and low-intensity bomb attacks in the town of Shabqadar in the Mohmand Agency on Saturday; no claim of responsibility has been reported. Peshawar police seized 400 kilos of military-grade explosives in a raid at the Shamshato refugee camp on Saturday; one man was arrested. [AP] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Prime Minister Visits Saudi Arabia: Prime Minister Sharif arrived in Saudi Arabia on Sunday to participate in the Arab-Islamic-American Summit being hosted in Riyadh; in a statement on Saturday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said that Sharif did not plan to hold any bilateral meetings on the summit sidelines, although Dawn reports that Saudi officials are working to broker a meeting between Sharif and Pres. Trump, who is also attending the summit. The Associated Press of Pakistan reports that Sharif “exchanged views” with Trump, King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz, and other leaders; Sharif was quoted telling the summit that Pakistan had “confronted terrorism with courage and conviction; and the massive human and financial costs have further strengthened our resolve”. Former chief of army staff Raheel Sharif also joined a dinner with Trump son-in-law and aide Jared Kushner. Anonymous sources tell The Nation that Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan will visit Iran after Ramazan in an effort to maintain that relationship. [The Nation]
  • Panama Papers Investigation: Prime Minister Sharif met with former attorney general Salman Butt and top legal advisors on Friday to discuss the Sharif family’s response to the Joint Investigation Team investigating the family’s overseas business holdings. The JIT has reportedly sought additional comments from the Qatari royal family regarding the money trail behind the Sharif’s London properties. JIT officials are reportedly still debating the mechanism through which to summon the prime minister himself. On Monday, the Supreme Court reviewed an interim report by the JIT, warning officials that the court would “not allow extra time under any circumstances” for the investigation. Speaking at a rally in Quetta on Friday, Imran Khan called for the JIT to investigate Sharif family business investments in India, likening Pakistani political elite families to the East India Company. After a convention on Saturday in which they clashed with the faction of pro-PML-N lawyers, members of the Supreme Court Bar Association and Lahore High Court Bar Association threatened to launch countrywide protests if Sharif did not resign within a week. [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Social Media Crackdown: The Nation reports that the Federal Investigation Agency has arrested six unnamed people on charges of “propaganda against the Pakistan Army” on social media, five of whom are said to have been members of an unnamed opposition political party. An anonymous journalist also reports being summoned to FIA headquarters on charges of “spreading hate against armed forces and the chief of army staff”. An FIA official tells Dawn that the agency has identified “dozens of suspects involved in running an organised campaign on social media against the Pakistan Army”. A second PTI activist and a supporter of the PML-N were among those reportedly detained, although reports suggest that most if not all had subsequently been released after questioning. PTI spokesman Fawad Chaudhry told the AFP on Sunday that as many as 23 PTI activists had been detained. Chaudhry told The Nation on Sunday that the party was preparing to petition the Islamabad High Court against “the harassment of political activists, students, government employees and the common citizens” over their comments on social media, and on Sunday the party announced plans for protests in Islamabad and Karachi. [The Nation]
  • FATA Reforms: Prime Minister Sharif met with Paktunkhwa Milli Awami Party leader Mehmood Khan Achakzai on Saturday to discuss disputes over the government’s FATA reforms program. The JUI-F’s Khyber Paktunkhwa chapter reiterated its opposition to the plan without a public referendum. Separately on Saturday, Quami Watan Party leader Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao criticized the government for delaying the FATA merger plan. The MQM will reportedly back the government over the delay on a vote on reforms legislation. [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: In a vote on Thursday, the National Assembly approved amendments to the Representation of Peoples Act that allows for the disqualification of any candidate found to have been interfering a woman from voting in elections, and for the Election Commission to invalidate an election on the basis of reports of “irregularities”. The PTI will hold a rally in Sindh’s Kashmore district on May 24, the party’s last major public activity before Ramazan and intra-party elections scheduled for June 11. The ‘Grand Democratic Alliance’ coalition of opposition parties seeking to challenge the PPP in Sindh met on Friday; The Nation notes that the party has suffered from defections in Punjab. Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, MQM-Pakistan leader Farooq Sattar vowed that the party’s vote bank remained intact, saying “those considering MQM a dead entity will be disappointed in the 2018 general elections”. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Planning: Prime Minister Sharif has formally requested the convening of a national assembly session on May 24 and senate session on May 26 for the presentation of the federal budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year; anonymous sources tell Dawn that the government plans to increase salaries for government employees and will not impose new taxes, but that rates for both have yet to be finalized. Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal tells the Express Tribune that Rs 180 billion has been allocated to Public Sector Development Program spending on CPEC projects, of which Rs 44 billion will go to the project’s “western route”. On Friday, the National Economic Council approved a doubling of borrowing limits for the four provinces collectively, to Rs 300 billion. At Friday’s meeting, Azad Jammu and Kashmir Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider and Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Hafi Hafeezur Rehman are reported to have complained of their regions’ lack of representation in the National Finance Commission. [The Nation]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Student Groups Brawl at Quaid-e-Azam University, Leaving 35 Wounded [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Retired Service Members Seek Publication of Dawn Leaks Inquiry Report [Dawn]
  • PAC Upgrading Super Mushshak Training Aircraft for Counter-Insurgency Operations [Dawn]
  • Chehlum Held for Slain Abdul Wali Khan University Student [Dawn]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Chief Minister Orders Formation of ‘Investment Protection Force’ [The Nation]
  • Rangers Seize Weapons Linked to MQM [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Interior Ministry Suspends Officer of Leaks on Rangers’ Raid [ET]
  • Four Arrested in Murder of Ahmadi Professor [Dawn]
  • Religious Minorities Seek Greater Representation After Census [AFP]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Assembly Forms Panel to Investigate Bank of Khyber Scam [ET]
  • State Bank Maintains Policy Interest Rate Unchanged [The Nation]
  • Special Court Seeks Records of Musharraf Assets [ET] [The Nation]
  • Gwadar Fisherfolk Worry About One Belt One Road [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kabul Guesthouse Attacked: An Afghan guard and a German woman were killed in an attack on a Kabul guesthouse used by the Swedish charity Operation Mercy on Saturday evening; a Finnish woman was kidnapped in the attack. Their identities have not been released. One account suggests that the guard was beheaded, although others indicate his throat was slit in the attack. Two other residents of the house survived the attack. No claim of responsibility has been reported, and the Afghan interior ministry said it was investigating. [AFP] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Kabul Bank Branch Attacked: At least three people were killed and as many as thirty or more wounded in an attack by a suicide bomber and four gunmen on a New Kabul Bank branch office in the Paktia capital of Gardez on Saturday. All of the attackers were subsequently killed by Afghan security forces after a multi-hour standoff. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. [TOLO] [Pajhwok]
  • Taliban Attack Ghazni and Zabul: Taliban fighters attacked the Ghazni provincial capital and two adjoining districts over Friday night; the district police chief in Waghaz, who was wounded, tells Reuters the Taliban used a captured Humvee as a suicide vehicle but denied Taliban claims to have seized control of the district. The Ministry of Defense claimed to have killed as many as 48 Taliban insurgents in artillery strikes in the district on Sunday. As many as twenty Afghan police officers were killed in a coordinated Taliban attack on multiple checkposts in Zabul’s Shah Joi district on Saturday; rockets also struck the provincial capital of Qalat, which damaged government buildings but which are not reported to have caused casualties. [AP] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Police Planning: A spokesman for the Ministry of Interior said that the National Security Council has developed a draft plan for the “demilitarization” of some Afghan National Police units and the integration of some Afghan Local Police units into the uniformed police “whenever their mission is ended”, but said the plan had not been finalized and gave no timeline for implementation.
  • Other Attacks and Operations: In a statement on Friday, U.S. military officials estimated that more than 750 Islamic State fighters had been killed since March, including top commander Abdul Hasib Logari; Nangarhar provincial officials reported the deaths of 16 ISIS fighters in operations in the Chaparhar district on Saturday, and another seven killed there on Sunday. Another 14 ISI and Taliban fighters were reportedly killed in operations in the Koz Kunar and Achin districts on Monday. The Ministry of Interior reported that the Taliban shadow district governor for Kunduz’s Qala-e-Zal district had been killed in an airstrike on Sunday night, along with other militants. Eleven civilians were killed in a roadside bombing while traveling in Logar province on Friday; on Monday, the deputy head of the Logar Ulema Council, Mawlawi Abdul Ghafoor, was killed in a driveby shooting. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Dostum Leaves for Turkey: Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum left Afghanistan for Turkey on Friday, in what officials suggest may be another extended period of unofficial exile. Dostum had faced charges of participating in physical and sexual abuse against rival and former Jawzjan governor Ahmad Eschi, and had been holed up in semi-official house arrest for months; he is reported to have previously rejected two attempts at convincing him to leave the country voluntarily, and is reported to have made the trip at the recommendation of his eldest son. A statement by Dostum’s office attributed the travel to medical checkups, and quoted him saying he would “return to the country in a short while”. No arrests have been made in the Eschi case despite reported commitments made by Pres. Ghani to take action. [WAPO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Ghani Travels to Saudi Arabia: Pres. Ghani departed Kabul on Saturday to participate in the Saudi conference along with other Muslim nations and the United States; he met briefly with Pres. Trump on Sunday, who “welcomed President Ghani’s leadership in Afghanistan on fighting terrorism and implementing key reforms” and praised the Afghan national security forces in his remarks at the summit . Ariana News notes complaints by aides to Chief Executive Abdullah that Ghani was not accompanied by Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani. [TOLO]
  • Hezb-e-Islami Agreement: Former Pres. Karzai met with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar on Saturday; reported details of their discussion are limited. The Washington Post overviews Hekmatyar’s return, and notes concerns over how he might reshape the current political balance of power.
  • Election Reforms: In a TOLO interview, IEC head of secretariat Imam Mohammad Warimach accused the government of “killing time” and had yet to approve an election budget, which he said would delay parliamentary and district council elections until next year.
  • Refugee Repatriation: A spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Returnees tells VOA that nearly 130,000 undocumented Afghan refugees have been repatriated from Iran so far this year, as much as 65% of them involuntarily.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Former NDS Chief Nabil Criticizes National Security Council Decisionmaking [TOLO]
  • Ghani Meets Kandahar Elders, Calls for Friendly Regional Relations [Khaama Press]
  • Government Officials Attend Conference on Governance and Development [TOLO]
  • Nadery Inaugurates Afs 921.3 Million Housing Project [Khaama Press]
  • Afghan Magazine, A Sisterhood of Ideas, Hopes to Counter Men’s Sway [NYT]
  • Commentary: Voluntary and Forced Returns to Afghanistan in 2016-17: Trends, Statistics and Experiences – “The number of voluntary returnees from Europe picked up significantly throughout 2016, with additional returns in the first four months of 2017, reaching a total figure of over 8,000.” [Jelena Bjelica and Thomas Ruttig, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Opposition Criticizes Govt Handling of ICJ Case; NATO Defense Chiefs Back Afghan Support Mission

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Topline

  • Opposition parties criticized the PML-N government’s handling of the International Court of Justice’s hearings on an Indian petition seeking a stay of execution for accused spy Kulbhushan Jhadav; law ministry officials speaking to the Express Tribune lay blame on the foreign ministry.
  • NATO defense chiefs met Wednesday and issued a statement afterwards affirming support for the Resolute Support mission and continued assistance to the Afghan national security forces; U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman Dunford appealed to allies to be “prepared to act quickly” once a final decision was taken on increase in international force levels in Afghanistan.
  • Prime Minister Sharif reportedly approved a Rs 2.113 trillion federal and provincial development budget for the forthcoming fiscal year, a large increase over this year. The finance ministry is reportedly projecting a $10.4 billion current account deficit for the next fiscal year, which may push Pakistan to seek a new IMF agreement; the rating agency Fitch estimated Thursday that Pakistan was “unlikely to face significant external financing difficulties in the short term”, however.
  • The Afghan government made several new security appointments on Friday, including Afghan National Army Deputy Chief of Staff General Murad Ali Murad as deputy interior minister for security.
  • The Panama Papers Joint Investigation Team began recording statements on Thursday, but has not yet summoned the prime minister and his family to testify.
  • At a briefing for reporters on Thursday, military officials in North Waziristan said that as much as 80% of the displaced population had returned to the area, but local tribal leaders complained of a lack of services. Pakistani military officials also said that they had satellite evidence that Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan militants were training in Afghanistan.

Pakistan — Security

  • FATA Operations: Military officials in North Waziristan hosted a briefing for journalists in Miram Shah on Thursday; Maj. Gen. Hassan Azhar Hayat reported that as much as 80% of the displaced population had returned to the area, and said that the army had constructed four schools. Local tribal elders nonetheless complain of a lack of services. A curfew has been imposed in Mohmand Agency after reports that six would-be suicide bombers had entered the area.
  • Balochistan Laborers Killed: Three laborers working on a road construction project near Turbat were killed in an attack on Friday; all were migrants from Sindh. No claim of responsibility has been reported, although a similar attack in Gwadar last week was claimed by the Baloch Liberation Army.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Backlash Over ICJ Case: Following the International Court of Justice’s ruling on Thursday staying the execution of accused Indian spy Kulbhushan Jhadav while the court hears an Indian petition protesting the sentence, opposition parties criticized the government’s handling of the case. In a statement following the initial ruling on Thursday, the Attorney General’s office stressed that the court’s decision “has not changed the status of Kulbhushan Jhadav’s case in any manner”. The PTI demanded explanations from the prime minister, and suggested a link to his meetings with Indian business leader Sajjan Jindal; PPP leaders criticized the government as being unprepared to argue the case. Some lawyers recommended that Pakistan withdraw from ICJ jurisdiction entirely following the ruling. Law ministry officials speaking on background to the Express Tribune lay blame on the foreign ministry for the loss, and say Pakistan’s lawyers failed to bring up a 2008 agreement between India and Pakistan agreeing that consular access would not be granted to terrorists. [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Panama Papers Investigation: The Joint Investigation Team investigating the Panama Papers and the financial assets of Prime Minister Sharif’s family began recording statements on Thursday; the prime minister and his family have reportedly not yet been summoned to testify.
  • FATA Reforms: The ‘All FATA Political Parties Alliance’ announced plans to hold protests beginning May 23 against delays in the implementation of the government’s plans for the merger of the FATA with Khyber Paktunkhwa and implementation of political and legal reforms. During national assembly debate on Thursday, Paktunkhwa Milli Awami Party chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai, a government ally, opposed the government’s proposed reform package.
  • Other Political Activity: A PTI activist detained by the Federal Investigation Agency in Quetta earlier this week has been released on bail after questioning over his social media activity.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Planning: Prime Minister Sharif, back in the country from travel to China and Hong Kong, presided over a meeting of the National Economic Council in Islamabad on Friday, which approved a Rs 2.113 trillion development budget for the upcoming 2017-18 fiscal year, of which Rs 1.001 trillion will go to the federal government and the remainder to the provinces. The budget marks an increase of Rs 438 billion over the outgoing year. In a statement on Thursday, Fitch Ratings estimated that Pakistan was “unlikely to face significant external financing difficulties in the short term, barring an unexpected shock”, despite increases in the external debt. The Express Tribune reports that the finance ministry is projecting a $10.4 billion current account deficit for the next fiscal year, however, based on import targets which Pakistan is likely to already exceed this fiscal year. Anonymous sources suggest that Pakistan may seek another IMF agreement after June 2018. [Dawn]
  • CPEC Projects: The Nation reports that China and Pakistan have agreed to cut five pending power projects from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor framework, collectively totaling 3470 megawatts in planned power output; officials insisted that their removal from the plan would be offset by other projects, including hydropower.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Senate Deputy Chairman Haideri Blames External Forces for Attack [The Nation]
  • Sindh Seeks to Dismiss Petition Over Removal of Provincial Police Chief [Dawn]
  • Prime Minister’s Advisor on Aviation Seeks to Shut Down PIA [Dawn] [ET]
  • Musharraf Lawyer Says He Won’t Testify by Video [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Sindh Assembly Approves Hike in Lawmaker Salaries [The Nation]
  • 1,340 Children Have Died in Thar Since 2014 [ET]
  • Protests in National Assembly Over PTI Power Protests in Peshawar [Dawn] [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • NATO Assistance: In comments on Wednesday after a meeting with NATO military leaders, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Dunford said that he had asked allies to “be prepared to act quickly” once a decision was made on additional forces for Afghanistan; NATO Supreme Allied Commander Scaparrotti said that “we think this will be considered here very soon”. A statement by NATO defense chiefs “recommended the Resolute Support Mission remain conditions-based and flexible taking into account the challenging security environment” and reiterated their commitment to supporting the Afghan security forces. A NATO heads of state and government conference is scheduled for May 25.
  • Border Tensions with Pakistan: In a briefing for Pakistani reporters on Thursday, Pakistani military officials said that they had “satellite images and ground reports that prove Afghanistan’s involvement” in cross-border terrorist attacks by groups like the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. Nangarhar provincial officials accuse Pakistan of firing rockets across the border into the Lalpur district on Wednesday; no casualties were reported. [TOLO]
  • Security Appointments: Afghan National Army Deputy Chief of Staff General Murad Ali Murad was appointed deputy interior minister for security on Friday; Gen. Aminullah Karim as also been appointed deputy interior minister for administrative affairs and Abdul Khalil Bakhtiar as deputy interior minister for counter-narcotics.
  • Attacks and Operations: Five police officers were reportedly killed by a colleague in Nangarhar over Thursday night; no claim of responsibility was immediately reported. Taliban fighters attacked multiple police checkposts in Kandahar overnight, leaving as many as eight police officers and 22 Taliban dead. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Jamiat-e-Islami Meet: TOLO and Ariana News provide additional reporting on Tuesday’s meeting of Jamiat-e-Islami and other political leaders, at which Atta Mohammad Noor and other officials expressed concerns over deteriorating security in northern Afghanistan, with most speakers alleging some form of unspecified conspiracy or intervention to bring conflict to the area.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghan Women Break Ground with TV Station Launch [Reuters]
  • Ghani Inaugurates Bamiyan Highway Project [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Interview: ‘There is a Country to Build’ – “South Asia bureau chief Nikhil Kumar sat down with Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani in the presidential palace in Kabul to talk about the deteriorating security situation, the possible troop increase, Ghani’s conversations with Donald Trump, the threat from ISIS and the prospects for a political settlement with the Taliban.” [TIME]
  • Commentary: Seven Questions Congress Should Ask About Trump’s Mini-Surge in Afghanistan – “The United States and Afghan government have never developed a common strategy for how to bring the war to a successful conclusion. It is time to start.” [Christopher Kolenda, The Hill]
  • Commentary: What’s Behind the Taliban’s Major Gains in Northern Afghanistan – “Once considered relatively stable, northern Afghanistan more broadly has become increasingly volatile since the drawdown of foreign troops at the end of 2014.” [Barin Sultani Haymon and Michael Kugelman, The Diplomat]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: ICJ Stays Jhadav Execution to Hear Full Case; Intel Community Estimates 50k Troops Needed

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Topline

  • In a ruling on Thursday, the International Court of Justice ordered Pakistan to maintain a stay on the execution of accused Indian spy Kulbhushan Jhadav while it hears a full case on an Indian petition arguing he had been denied consular access rights.
  • Bloomberg reports that the U.S. intelligence community has estimated that the draft Afghanistan strategy awaiting Pres. Trump’s sign-off would require as many as 50,000 U.S. troops to be successful at shoring up the Afghan government; the current plan only envisages up to 5,000 additional U.S. troops.
  • A spokesman for the Taliban tells RFE/RL that the group has no connections to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e-Islami and rejected suggestions that the group should lay down arms and enter into peace talks.
  • Parliamentary proceedings on FATA reform legislation have been blocked after the continuing objections of JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman.
  • Two staff members at Pakistan’s Kabul embassy were detained for three hours by Afghanistan’s NDS intelligence service, prompting protests from Pakistan’s foreign ministry; they were subsequently released.
  • Four more men convicted under the Pakistani military courts system were executed on Thursday, all described as members of the TTP who had confessed to attacks on armed forces personnel.
  • Pakistan will miss its GDP growth target for the outgoing fiscal year but will likely still achieve its highest growth in nine years, officials estimate. Pakistan’s current account deficit for the year exceeds $7.25 billion, more than triple last year’s.

Pakistan — Security

  • International Court of Justice Stays Jhadav Execution: On Thursday, the International Court of Justice ruled in favor of an Indian petition seeking a stay of execution for accused spy Kulbhushan Jhadav, rejecting Pakistan’s argument that the court did not have jurisdiction and agreeing to hear full arguments that Jhadav had been denied the right to consular access. The court ordered Pakistan not to carry out Jhadav’s death sentence until the case was completed. Separately, Pakistan’s military made a formal protest with UN military observers on Wednesday over “unprovoked ceasefire violations and targeting of civilian population by [the] Indian Army”. [Reuters] [Dawn] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Military Courts: Four more men sentenced by the military courts system were executed in Khyber Paktunkhwa on Thursday, all described as active members of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Paksitan who are said to have confessed to attacks on armed forces personnel. [ET]
  • Stay on Sindh Police Chief’s Removal Extended: On Thursday, the Sindh High Court extended a stay order blocking the removal of Sindh police chief A.D. Khawaja from his post for another five days to allow for the completion of arguments before the court in a petition challenging his removal.
  • Pipeline Attacked: A bomb blew up a section of a natural gas pipeline in the Manghopir district on Thursday; no claim of responsibility has been reported.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • FATA Reforms: Continued objections from JUI-F leader Fazl-ur Rehman to the government’s draft legislation reforming the Frontier Crimes Regulation and merging the FATA with Khyber Paktunkhwa have reportedly stalled debate in the national assembly, with Prime Minister Sharif intervening after receiving calls from Fazl. Separately, the Bajaur Agency political administration has reportedly barred political office-bearers and activists from participating in tribal jirgas. [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: On Wednesday, PTI leader Imran Khan and other party leaders protested the arrest of Salar Kakar, a PTI social media activist who was detained by the Federal Investigation Agency under provisions of Pakistan’s “cybercrime” law. The Election Commission has given the PTI a new May 30 deadline to provide financial details in a case accusing the party of improperly accepting donations from overseas. PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari appointed three vice presidents for the party’s central Punjab chapter on Wednesday. [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Economic Indicators: After a meeting of the National Accounts Committee on Wednesday, government officials acknowledged that they would likely miss the 5.7% GDP growth rate target for the fiscal year, which ends in June; the current estimated growth rate of 5.28% remains Pakistan’s highest in nine years. The agriculture sector grew at 3.46%, reversing a contraction last year, while the services sector grew 5.98% and the industrial sector 5.02%. The State Bank of Pakistan meanwhile reports that Pakistan’s current account deficit has expanded to $7.25 billion during the first ten months of the year, compared to $2.38 billion during the same period last year; exports totaled $17.91 billion, a year-on-year decline of 1.3%, while imports rose to $37.85 billion, a 15.5% increase.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Army Chief Warns Against ‘Hostile Forces Polluting Young Minds’ on Social Media [ET]
  • Sindh Leads in Number of Casualties from Sectarian Violence [Dawn]
  • Government Prosecutors Reject Musharraf Conditions on Return to Trial [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Mortars Hit Near Mohmand Agency Headquarters [The Nation]
  • Karachi Transporters Agree to End Strike [Dawn] [ET]
  • Commentary: Plugging Dawn Leaks Permanently – “The saga endures because the single greatest instrument available to Pakistan’s enemies continues to be ignored by public policy in Pakistan: internationally sanctioned terrorist groups continuing to live on Pakistani soil.” [Mosharraf Zaidi, The News]
  • Commentary: Setting the Record Straight – “The minister has preferred to speak in large generalities, and is reluctant to discuss details. The net result is that people are genuinely surprised to learn that there is a lot more to CPEC than what they imagined, which is roads, power plants and Gwadar.” [Khurram Husain, Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • U.S. Strategy: Bloomberg reports that a U.S. intelligence community assessment has estimated that the draft Afghan war strategy approved by the Trump national security council and awaiting his sign-off “would require at least 50,000 U.S. forces to stop the advance of the Taliban and save the government in Kabul”; U.S. officials have reportedly been considering additional deployments of no more than 3,000-5,000 additional troops.
  • Taliban Reject Peace Talks: RFE/RL reports that Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid issued a statement to reporters on Wednesday saying that the Taliban’s position was that “laying arms to the enemy and assisting them in achieving their sinister designs is not only contrary to the national aspirations of millions of martyrs, but Shariah too”, and denying suggestions that the Taliban had established contact with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar or the government.
  • Noor Warns of Security Threats: Speaking at a gathering in Kabul on Thursday, Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor warned that northern Afghanistan could become a “second Syria” if the government did not take “immediate steps … to improve the security and eliminate threats posed by the terrorist groups.” Noor also suggested that a party summit would be convened for the Jamiat-e-Islami to choose a new party leader, but gave no timeline.
  • Attacks and Operations: The death toll from Wednesday’s attack by the Islamic State on the RTA television offices in Jalalabad has risen to at least six people, including four employees of the network and two security personnel. Nangarhar police officials say four attackers were killed and one arrested. At least one person was killed and two wounded in an attack on an Afghan army bus in Herat city on Thursday. Helmand provincial officials claim as many as 23 Taliban fighters were killed in U.S. airstrikes in the Garmser district on Thursday. [WSJ] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Pakistan Protests Diplomats’ Detention: Two Pakistani staff at the embassy in Kabul were detained for several hours by Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security intelligence agency on Wednesday; they were released after intervention by Pakistan’s foreign ministry, which formally protested their detention. Afghan officials have not commented on the incident. [Dawn] [The Nation] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Election Reform: Speaking on Thursday, Chief Executive Abdullah vowed that the government would “not allow even a second delay to organize the Presidential elections”; speaking at a separate conference, the observer group TEFA said that it was “quite obvious” that parliamentary elections would be “impossible to be held this year”.
  • Corruption Cases: On Wednesday, the appeals court of the Anti-Corruption and Criminal Justice Center overturned an earlier sentence against Herat provincial council chief Kamran Alizaee, reducing his sentence from two and a half years to eight months and allowing for him to be released on Afs 500,000 bail; lawyers for Alizaee suggested he would appeal for a full acquittal. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • USAID Provides $20M to Food Program for Vulnerable Afghans [TOLO]
  • Commentary: The Afghan Surge Trump Needs – “Team Trump … need to resist the notion that they can turn the tide with more troops and beat back the Taliban. Instead, they need to recognize that success in Afghanistan will only come through a political settlement among all major Afghan factions, including the Taliban.” [Saad Mohseni and John Dempsey, Politico]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: US and Pakistan Discuss Shakil Afridi Case; Islamic State Attacks Jalalabad TV Station

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Topline

  • The WSJ reports that Pakistani officials discussed the “need to find a solution” for the case of Dr. Shakil Afridi in meetings with the Trump administration last month, with whom they are “looking for a better relationship”.
  • The Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack on the Afghanistan state broadcaster RTA’s Jalalabad offices on Wednesday morning; at least two people are reported to have been killed, in addition to as many as four attackers.
  • Aides to Vice President Dostum complain to TOLO that they have not received salary and transportation benefit payments for months, and that Pres. Ghani has not finalized the staffing structure for the vice president’s office; a spokesman for Ghani confirmed delays in salary payments but attributed them to “administrative issues”.
  • Lawyers for Sindh police chief A.D. Khawaja told a Sindh High Court hearing on Wednesday that he was prepared to step down from his position after earlier attempts by the provincial government to remove him.
  • The father of Mashal Khan, the university student who was lynched on allegations of blasphemy in Mardan last month, appealed to the Supreme Court to transfer the case to Islamabad, citing concerns over his family’s safety.
  • A Karachi anti-terrorism court issued arrest warrants for MQM-Pakistan leader Farooq Sattar and others in connection to a speech by MQM leader Altaf Hussain last summer, ordering the paramilitary Sindh Rangers to carry out the order rather than police.
  • Prime Minister Sharif met with the business community in Hong Kong on Wednesday, touting Pakistan as an investment opportunity.

Pakistan — Security

  • Discussions with US on Shakil Afridi Release: The WSJ reports that National Security Advisor McMaster and Finance Minister Dar discussed in April the “need to find a solution” to the case of Dr. Shakil Afridi, whose appeal against his conviction in a tribal court has been stalled for three years. Pakistani sources say that they are “looking for a better relationship” with Pres. Trump; the U.S. Congress has conditioned $33 million in assistance payments to Pakistan on Afridi’s release. [APP]
  • Sindh Police Chief Offers to Step Down: In a Sindh High Court hearing on his removal on Wednesday, lawyers for Sindh police chief A.D. Khawaja said that he was ready to step aside as sought by the provincial government, saying that “uncertainty surrounding [his] appointment was increasingly telling on the morale and efficiency of the police force.” [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Mardan Lynching Case: On Tuesday, Mardan police reported the arrest of three more people in connection to the lynching of Abdul Wali Khan University student Mashal Khan in Mardan last month, including a lecturer and student accused of inciting the attack against him. During Supreme Court hearings on Wednesday, Khan’s father Iqbal Khan asked for the case to be transferred to Islamabad, citing concerns for his safety and that of his family; he also said that police had so far arrested the “actors” but not the “directors” of his son’s murder. [The Nation]
  • Military Courts: On Wednesday, the military announced the execution of four men convicted under the military courts system, all identified as active members of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan who were said to have confessed to attacks on the Pakistani armed forces. [ET] [The Nation]
  • Mastung Bombing: On Tuesday, Balochistan Chief Minister Sanaullah Khan Zehri ordered the formation of a Joint Investigation Team to investigate last week’s attack on JUI-F leader Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, which was claimed by the Islamic State. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Karachi Crackdown: A Karachi anti-terrorism court issued arrest warrants for MQM-Pakistan leader Farooq Sattar and others in connection to sedition charges related to a speech by Altaf Hussain last August; the court ordered the Sindh Rangers rather than the police to carry out the order and to make the arrest their “top priority”. Separately, charges were filed by police against Pak Sarzameen Party leader Mustafa Kamal and other top party leaders over clashes with police over the weekend. [The Nation]
  • Afghan Refugees: In remarks on Tuesday, Pakistan’s chief commissioner for Afghan refugees estimated that around 600,000 unregistered refugees were still living in Pakistan, and another million registered refugees.
  • Other Political Activity: Former Pres. Zardari met with ANP leader Ghulam Ahmad Bilour in Peshawar on Tuesday, criticizing the PTI’s management of Khyber Paktunkhwa. By-elections for local government seats are being held in 14 Khyber Paktunkhwa districts on Wednesday. The Nation reports that the Election Commission is considering scrapping a project to use a biometric voting system and electronic voting machines in the next general elections, citing hacking concerns. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Germany Charges Pakistani Man with Joining Lashkar-e-Taiba [AP]
  • Lawyers for Hafiz Saeed Seek Release from House Arrest [ET]
  • Interior Ministry Makes No Moves to Pursue Corruption Case Against Former Army Chief’s Brother [Dawn]
  • Sindh Chief Minister Announces New Development Projects for Karachi [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • IRSA Chief Denies Sindh Not Receiving Full Water Share [ET]
  • Cabinet Approves Rs 1.6 Billion Ramazan Subsidy Package [The Nation]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Nangarhar TV Station Attack: A group of as many as four suicide bombers attacked the Jalalabad offices of the Afghan state television service Radio Television Afghanistan on Wednesday morning, killing at least two people and leaving seventeen or more injured. Details remain sketchy as of this writing. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack from its Amaq News service; the Taliban denied responsibility. [NYT] [AP] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • U.S. Assistance: Afghan Air Force officials tell TOLO they expect to receive 165 Black Hawk helicopters from the U.S. between now and 2022, with training and the delivery of the first batch beginning in the next three months.
  • Attacks and Operations: An airstrike in the Chaparhar district in Nangarhar province on Tuesday killed at least four Taliban fighters, provincial officials report; another air strike in the Bati Kot district on Wednesday reportedly killed four Islamic State fighters. Police officials in Baghlan accused the Taliban of planting bombs on the bodies of a dead civilian and in a coffin, both of which were defused. In Laghman, security officials claim to have killed 45 Talban fighters in ongoing operations across the province. At least one civilian was killed and ten wounded, including security personnel, in a double bombing near a checkpost in Kandahar city on Tuesday evening. Two children were killed and another two wounded in a roadside bombing in the Nijrab district in Kapisa province on Tuesday. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • National Unity Government Divisions: Aides to Vice President Dostum complain to TOLO that they have not received government salaries for the past two months, have not paid transportation benefits dating back nine months, and have not shared reports from the National Security Council. Pres. Ghani is also said to have delayed action on the approval of the staffing structure for the vice president’s office. A spokesman for the president acknowledged the delayed salary payments but attributed it to unspecified “administrative issues”.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Attorney General Warns of Corruption Within Security Services [TOLO]
  • National Procurement Council Approves Five Contracts, Including CASA-1000 Project [Khaama Press]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: International Court of Justice Hears Arguments on Jhadav Case; UN Envoy Meets with Hekmatyar

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Topline

  • Lawyers for India and Pakistan argued before the International Court of Justice on Monday over India’s petition seeking a stay to the execution of accused spy Kulbhushan Jhadav; Pakistan argued that the court lacked jurisdiction in the case. No date has been set for a ruling.
  • UN Special Representative Yamamoto met with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in Kabul on Tuesday; in a statement afterwards, Yamamoto praised Hekmatyar’s “commitment to attain peace through negotiations and his call to all parties to end conflict through peaceful means”.
  • Afghan forces retook control of the Qala-e-Zal district in Kunduz on Tuesday, although fighting is reportedly still ongoing in the area.
  • Legislation on the merger of FATA with Khyber Paktunkhwa and the amendment of the Frontier Crimes Regulation has been referred to a national assembly committee following debate on Monday.
  • On Monday, the Wolesi Jirga refused to hold a confirmation vote for three ministerial nominees until the government nominates replacements for seven “acting” ministers who failed a confidence vote last November.
  • Lal Masjid leader Maulana Abdul Aziz is reportedly planning a conference marking the ten-hear anniversary of the 2007 raid on the mosque.
  • On Tuesday, Pakistan signed a MOU with China’s Alibaba Group to promote Pakistani exports through the e-commerce platform. Prime Minister Sharif travels to Hong Kong today for talks with business leaders there.

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: During hearings at the International Court of Justice on Monday, Pakistani lawyers argued that the court did not have jurisdiction to hear an Indian petition against the death sentence against accused spy Kulbhushan Jhadav, and that Jhadav had confessed to “having been sent by India to wage terror on the innocent civilians and infrastructure of Pakistan”. The court reserved its verdict and has not set a date for a ruling, but said it would deliver a decision on a stay of execution order for Jhadav “as soon as possible”. In an interview on Monday, Indian journalist Prem Shankar Jha claimed that Indian businessman Sajjan Jindal had not visited Pakistan on the direction of Prime Minister Modi, but at Prime Minister Sharif’s request. A 60-year old Pakistani woman was killed by Indian Border Security Force personnel as she was crossing the border in the Gurdaspur sector early Monday morning; officials say she ignored orders to stop. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Maritime Security: The Nation reports that Pakistani is “trying to bolster its naval capabilities because of India’s efforts to undermine the CPEC”, including agreements with China and Turkey for the construction of eight new submarines and four corvettes. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • FATA Reforms: JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman reiterated his opposition to the government’s planned FATA reforms during debate in the national assembly on Monday; legislation on the merger of FATA with Khyber Paktunkhwa and the replacement of the Frontier Crimes Regulation with the Rewaj Act were referred to the committee on States and Frontier Regions, will all legislators from FATA to participate in debate there.
  • Lal Masjid Plans Conference: Lal Masjid leader Maulana Abdul Aziz is reportedly planning a conference in July marking the ten-year anniversary of the 2007 raid on the seminary, which left Aziz’s brother Maulana Abdul Rashid and several students dead. Lal Masjid sources suggest that they will invite top civilian and military leaders to attend, and that the conference “would not only be a milestone towards the implementation of ‘Sharia’ but would also prove to be a referendum towards the imposition of Islam in the country”.
  • PM Travel: Following meetings in Beijing, Prime Minister Sharif will travel to Hong Kong on Tuesday for a three-day visit for meetings with business leaders.
  • Other Political Activity: On Tuesday, the national assembly rejected a PPP legislative proposal for an inquiry into every named Pakistani citizen listed in the Panama Papers. PPP and PTI parliamentary leaders have reportedly reached agreement to jointly demand the government release the inquiry commission report to the assembly for review. In a statement on Monday, the PTI said that it would not compromise on demands that electoral reforms include the use of electronic voting machines and biometric verification, the extension of voting rights to overseas nationals, the appointment of returning officers from the army, and a change in the appointments process for caretaker governments. The committee on elector reforms is due to meet today. [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • CPEC Project: Responding to a Dawn report on a copy of the Long Term Plan for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal told reporters on Monday that the document was an earlier draft and not a finalized document, denouncing Dawn’s coverage as “one-sided and factually incorrect” without providing specifics. On Tuesday, Pakistan signed an MOU with China’s Alibaba Group to promote Pakistani exports through the e-commerce portal, and to “promote the growth of financial services in Pakistan in areas such as mobile and online payment services.” [Dawn] [APP]
  • Energy Pricing: Officials tell the Express Tribune that the government plans to set future electricity tariff rates for new solar and wind projects through competitive bidding, rather than current rates set by the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Investigation Begins into 2003 Murder of Maulana Azam Tariq [Dawn] [ET]
  • Government Introduces Right of Access to Information Legislation in Senate [The Nation]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Government Limits Disbursals to Local Governments [Dawn]
  • Federal Government Seeks to Bar Asim Hussain’s Travel Abroad [Dawn]
  • PIA Crew Members Searched, Briefly Detained in London [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Karachi Strike Stalls Movement of Goods [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Afghan Forces Retake Kunduz District: In a statement on Tuesday, Interior Ministry officials said that Afghan security forces had retaken control of the Qala-e-Zal district outside Kunduz city, after Taliban fighters took control of the district ten days ago; a “massive operation” in the area is still ongoing. Defense Ministry officials said that one insurgent had been killed in the operation. [TOLO] [Ariana News]
  • U.S. Assistance: At a press conference on Monday, Afghan Defense Ministry officials said that the U.S. had pledged to transfer four Black Hawk helicopters to the Afghan Air Force by the end of the fiscal year. The Post interviews the Marine commander in Helmand leading a task force there to support the Afghan security forces; Brig. Gen. Roger B. Turner Jr. tells the Post that his unit has enough “capabilities, capacities and authorities” now but that if the mission grows, “then we’re not going to have enough to do what we need to do.”
  • Child Casualties: The NYT interviews surviving family members whose five children were killed in a Taliban mortar strike in Laghman on Sunday; in a statement on Monday, the UN reported that 283 children had been killed and 704 wounded during the first four months of the year, a 21% increase over the same period last year.
  • Other Attacks and Operations: Two employees of the Kunar department of communications were killed in a rocket attack on a marketplace in the provincial capital of Asad Abad on Tuesday, the governor said. The Afghan National Army said it repelled attacks on security checkposts in multiple Kunar districts over Monday night. Laghman provincial government officials claim that 15 Taliban fighters were killed in operations in the Alingar district on Monday. An explosion at a house in Jalalabad on Tuesday left two civilians dead; explosives are believed to have been stored on site. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • UNAMA Chief Meets Hekmatyar: UNAMA special representative Tadamichi Yamamoto met with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in Kabul on Tuesday; in a statement afterwards, the UN praised “Hekmatyar’s commitment to attain peace through negotiations and his call to all parties to end conflict through peaceful means”. [Khaama Press]
  • Wolesi Jirga Protests Delay on Cabinet Appointments: On Monday, the Wolesi Jirga refused to hold confirmation votes for nominees to lead the ministries of defense, labor, and mines, saying they would not hold a vote until the government named replacements for seven other ministries whose heads were rejected by a no-confidence vote in November but who continue to serve in “acting” capacities.
  • National ID Card Distribution: TOLO reports Pres. Ghani approved on Saturday the beginning of a pilot project for the distribution of electronic national ID cards within 90 days, pushing back an earlier start that had been slated for late June.
  • Tensions with Pakistan: During debate in the Pakistani senate on Monday, Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch said that Afghan officials had offered “third party verification to confirm that its soil was not being used to launch terror attacks inside Pakistan” during meetings with National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq earlier this month.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ministry of Finance Says Afs 5.2 Billion in Additional Defense Spending Added to This Fiscal Year’s Budget [TOLO]
  • One Year On, No Afghan Representative Named to WTO [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Back to First Principles: Four Fundamental Questions About Afghanistan – “The debate should be focused on whether buttressing the Afghans against the Taliban is necessary to achieve vital national interests related to counter-terrorism. If not, then any review will need to make the case for why the United States should expend more blood and treasure and what Washington reasonably hopes to accomplish.” [Stephen Tankel, War on the Rocks]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Sharif Attends Chinese OBOR Summit; No Decision Yet on US Afghanistan Strategy

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Topline

  • Prime Minister Sharif and other government officials attended the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing over the weekend, where Pakistan signed six new MOUs with Chinese officials. Dawn has published a copy of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’s Long-Term Plan, which includes details on planned investments in the agriculture and telecoms sectors, among other areas; Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal denounced the report.
  • Speaking at a White House briefing on Friday, National Security Advisor McMaster said that no decision had been made on an Afghanistan strategy policy, and that Pres. Trump “wants to hear from our allies as well” at upcoming meetings with NATO and the G7 countries later this month before doing so.
  • At least two civilians were killed on the Indian side of the Line of Control and thirteen Pakistanis wounded in exchanges of fire on Saturday. The International Court of Justice began hearings on Monday on an Indian petition against the planned execution of accused Indian spy Kulbhushan Jhadav.
  • A report by the UN Committee Against Torture recommendation the prosecution of Kandahar provincial police chief Gen. Abdul Raziq on charges that he was personally involved in the detention and abuse of prisoners; he denied the charges.
  • The Islamic State claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack on JUI-F leader Abdul Ghafoor Haideri; the JUI-F protested the attack on Saturday and Sunday.
  • The Baloch Liberation Army claimed responsibility for an attack that killed ten Sindhi laborers in Gwadar on Saturday.
  • On Sunday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan ordered immediate action against all those dishonouring the Pakistan Army” on social media; on Friday, PEMRA warned TV channels against broadcasting “unconfirmed news or analysis related to the Pakistan Army’s relations with the civilian government”.
  • In remarks on Friday, former NDS chief Amrullah Saleh criticized ceremonies held for Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s return to Kabul; Wolesi Jirga speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi urged “all Afghans, government institutions, civil society organizations and media outlets not to damage the [peace] process and support it instead”.
  • Pak Sarzameen Party activists clashed with police in Karachi at a rally on Sunday, after restrictions were placed on their assembly; party leader Mustafa Kamal was arrested but later released early Monday morning.

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: At least two civilians were reportedly killed on the Indian side of the Line of Control in heavy cross-border shelling on Saturday; Pakistani officials say as many as thirteen civilians were wounded on their side. Both sides blamed the other for initiating the firing. Chief of Army Staff Bajwa visited the area on Saturday, issuing a statement accusing India of targeting civilians and warning that “any misadventure by [the] Indian army… could lead to unintended consequences”. Separately, hearings began on Monday in the International Court of Justice on an Indian Pakistan petition challenging the sentencing of accused spy Kulbhushan Jhadav, whose trial Indian officials described as “farcical”; Pakistan reportedly plans to challenge the jurisdiction of the court to hear the issue. [AP] [Reuters] [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [APP]
  • Islamic State Claims Mastung Attack: The Islamic State claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack on JUI-F leader and deputy senate chairman Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri in the Mastung district, which Haideri survived but which left at least 28 dead. Some analysts suggested that the attack may have been carried out by a breakaway Lashkar-e-Jhangvi faction. The JUI-F held a strike in Quetta and Mastung on Saturday to protest the attack, and in Khyber Paktunkhwa on Sunday; JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman said Friday that “the attack was not aimed at an individual but the entire nation” and that “we should sit and negotiate with these people and ask them why they are targeting people and who is behind them”. On Monday, four Frontier Corps soldiers were wounded in a roadside bombing in Mastung; no claim of responsibility has been reported. [AP] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Gwadar Attack: Gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on a group of laborers working on a road project in the Gwadar district on Saturday, killing at least ten; other sources suggest the workers were killed “execution style”. The Nation identifies the victims as all being migrants from Sindh. The Baloch Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the attack, which coincided with a visit by Prime Minister Sharif and the four provincial chief ministers to China for talks on the One Belt One Road initiative. Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Defense Minister Khwaja Asif charged that the attack in Gwadar and last week’s attack in Mastung “were being carried out by India and other anti-Pakistan forces to sabotage the development projects in the country”. [AP] [Dawn]
  • FATA Attacks: Sarfraz Hussain, a political secretary in the Kurram Agency, was killed along with a bodyguard in a shooting on Saturday evening. No claim of responsibility has been reported. [ET] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Civil-Military Tensions: In a statement on Friday, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority warned TV channels against airing “unconfirmed news or analysis related to the Pakistan Army’s relations with the civilian government”. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan issued a statement on Sunday directing the Federal Investigation Agency to take “immediate action against all those dishonouring the Pakistan Army” on social media, saying that “ridiculing Pakistan Army or its officers in the name of freedom of speech is unacceptable”. Speaking at a rally in Sargodha on Friday, Imran Khan claimed that the ‘Dawn Leaks’ were aimed at “weakening the country” and the army, saying that “this is an Indian conspiracy and its friends are also involved”. [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Panama Papers Investigation: Anonymous sources tell Dawn that the Joint Investigation Team on the Panama Papers case will “concentrate more on uncovering new facts than on reinvestigating the available record”, and is unlikely to complete work within the two-month timeframe set by the Supreme Court. The JIT reportedly began reviewing asset filings by Prime Minister Sharif last week. The PTI plans to petition the Supreme Court to require the JIT to give daily public updates of its proceedings. The Sharif family faces a May 20 deadline to file a review petition on the court’s order; they have reportedly been advised not to do so by their lawyers. [The Nation]
  • Karachi Protests: Pak Sarzameen Party activists clashed with police in Karachi on Sunday after they attempted to march on the Chief Minister’s house, despite movement restrictions placed on them by the government. PSP leader and former Karachi mayor Mustafa Kamal and several other party leaders were arrested, but were subsequently released from detention early Monday morning. [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • FATA Reforms: The national assembly is scheduled to vote on Monday to repeal the Frontier Crimes Regulation and extend the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and Peshawar High Court to cover the Federally Administered Tribal Areas through amendments to the constitution, and to provide for the merger of FATA into Khyber Paktunkhwa province. [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: On Saturday, the PTI announced that it would hold intra-party elections on June 11, with Senator Azam Swati serving as the party’s chief election commissioner. Modifications to the party’s constitution will allow for direct elections to all seats, and for elections to be held in a phased sequence. Imran Khan led a rally in Abbottabad on Sunday, saying that “unless the rulers are put behind bars, there is no future for the people of Pakistan”. On Friday, Hamza Shehbaz, the son of Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, filed a defamation petition against Imran Khan, in connection to Khan’s allegations that he had received a bribe offer to drop the Panama Papers case. Former Pres. Zardari visited Peshawar on Saturday, telling reporters that the PPP “will not let returning officers fix the coming general elections”, and warning that the party would initiate court proceedings in the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms did not finalize its work within the next week. At a rally in Peshawar on Sunday, Zardari said that “Nawaz has the same thought process as the Americans when it comes to waging wars” but “we will not let this war happen”. [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • OBOR Conference: Prime Minister Sharif met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Saturday, ahead of the Belt and Road Forum conference that opened on Sunday; Xi was quoted calling to “push forward the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Project”. On Monday, Dawn published a leaked copy of the “Long Term Plan” for CPEC, which lays out plans for large-scale investments in the agricultural sector, as well as mining, telecommunications and fiberoptics networks, and the extension of “safe cities” surveillance programs, among other items. Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal denounced the report as “Dawn Leaks II”, saying there was “definite angling in story to malign CPEC by promoting fears”. China and Pakistan signed six MOUs during the visit, including a cooperation agreement on the construction of the Gwadar airport, the Havelian dry port in Pakistan, and planning for an expressway linking Gwadar to Pakistan’s existing national highway system. In his remarks at Sunday’s plenary session, Sharif praised Chinese cooperation in CPEC, saying that “we are not striving to merely leverage geography for economic prosperity; we are also trying to build a peaceful, connected and caring neighbourhood”. Sharif also met with Turkish Pres. Erdogan and Belarusian Pres. Lukashenko on the sidelines of the summit, and with officials at China’s National Energy Administration to discuss the Diamer Bhasha dam project. Indian government officials did not attend the Beijing conference, with a spokesman for the foreign ministry saying that “no country can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity” and warning of “unsustainable debt” associated with the project. [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Energy Investments: The Asian Development Bank, IMF, and Japan International Cooperation Agency have reportedly warned the government that they will withhold a $300 million grant for the power sector if the government limits the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority’s independence and authority, as has reportedly been proposed. Separately, the Ministry of Water and Power is seeking to merge the Private Power and Infrastructure Board and the Alternative Energy Development Board in order to secure $400 million in investments from the ADB and the French Development Agency. [ET] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Sharif and Trump to Meet in Saudi Arabia [Dawn] [ET]
  • Islamabad High Court Allows GEO Broadcast of Ehsanullah Ehsan Interview [Dawn]
  • Hearings Adjourned on Hafeez Saeed House Arrest [ET]
  • Pakistani and Iranian Officials Meet to Discuss Border Cooperation [Dawn]
  • Multan Police Kill Four Terrorist Suspects [Dawn]
  • Lahore High Court Orders Appointment of Punjab Police Chief [ET]
  • Parents Protest Child Deaths in Tharparkar [Dawn]
  • Former Chief Justice Chaudhry Denounces FATA Reforms Plan [Dawn]
  • National Assembly Interior Committee Passes Amendment Requiring Annual NACTA Board Meetings [ET] [Dawn]
  • Three Quarters of Prime Minister’s Youth Business Loan Program Distributed in Punjab [Dawn]
  • Report: UN Committee Against Torture Initial Report of Pakistan: “The Committee is seriously concerned at consistent reports that police engage in the widespread practice of torture throughout the territory of the State party with a view to obtaining confessions from persons in custody.” [UN (pdf)]
  • Commentary: Don’t Fear Pakistan’s Participation in China’s ‘New Silk Road’ – “Chances are CPEC will result in both some success and shortcomings. If approached in a dispassionate manner and deftly managed by American strategists and diplomats, any of the outcomes can be turned to U.S. advantage.” [Sameer Lalwani and Hannah Haegeland, Defense One]

Afghanistan — Security

  • U.S. Strategy: Speaking at a White House press briefing on Friday, U.S. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said that Pres. Trump had not yet made a decision on a new strategy review proposal for the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, suggesting that he “wants to hear from our allies as well” and would do so at upcoming meetings with NATO and the G7 countries. McMaster indicated that “what we’ll have at the end of this next few weeks… is an opportunity for a much more effective strategy for the problem set in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the region broadly”, suggesting that no decision would be taken until the end of the month. Australian Prime Minister Turnbull told reporters on Friday that Australia was “actively considering” requests from NATO for additional resources and troop deployments in Afghanistan.
  • UN Recommends Raziq Prosecution: A report by the UN Committee Against Torture released Friday recommended that Kandahar police chief Gen. Abdul Raziq be prosecuted for allegations of torture, abuse, and enforced disappearances, citing reports that Raziq had been personally involved in some cases. Raziq denied the charges in remarks to Reuters, saying that he did not maintain any private prisons and that government prisons were inspected by the Red Cross. Meshrano Jirga speaker Mohammad Alam Ezidyar and other senators defended Raziq during a session on Sunday. [UN Report (pdf)]
  • New Security Appointments: On Saturday, the Ministry of Interior announced that Brigadier General Abdul Kaliq Aqsa had been appointed “security chief” for Badakhshan province, replacing Brig. Gen. Ghulam Sakhi Ghafoori, and that Brig. Gen. Delawar Shah Delawar had been appointed security chief for Faryab province, replacing Brig. Gen. Abdul Nabi Elham.
  • Border Security: Military representatives from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the United States held talks in Rawalpindi on Friday to discuss border security cooperation, the Chaman border dispute, and “the need for coordinated efforts to eradicating threats posed by groups such as” the Islamic State. [Dawn]
  • Attacks and Operations: A magnetic bomb planted on a vehicle for the Kabul water supply department killed two civilians and wounded two others on Saturday; no claim of responsibility was reported. Another bomb was planted on a police vehicle on Sunday evening, but no casualties were reported. Fighting on the outskirts of the Baghlan capital of Pul-e-Khumri and in two adjoining districts has cut off highways to Kabul and Kunduz; police and army officials say they are battle to retake the area. On Monday, the NDS announced the arrest of a Taliban leader linked to the assassination of the Parwan ulema council chief last week. Laghman provincial officials reported that five children were killed in a mortar attack on Sunday. The chief prosecutor of the Khaksafid district in Farah province was killed by unidentified gunmen on Saturday. Ministry of Interior officials say the Taliban shadow deputy governor and shadow district governor in the Doab district of Samangan province were killed in a special forces raid on Saturday. Nangarhar provincial police officials say that 12 Islamic State-affiliated fighters were killed in operations in Achin district on Saturday, and the Ministry of Defense reported that four were killed in an airstrike on Monday. The Ministry of Defense said that twelve Taliban fighters were killed in Kandahar’s Maiwand district on Saturday when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb. A top Taliban recruiter in Kandahar, identified as Akhtar Mohammad, was reportedly arrested in the city on Saturday night. A U.S. drone strike in the Dandpatan district in Paktia province last week reportedly killed three Haqqani network commanders. On Sunday evening, two border police officers and two civilians were killed in a roadside bombing in Paktia’s Zari Ayub district. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Negotiations: In remarks on Friday, former NDS chief and state minister for security sector reforms Amrullah Saleh criticized ceremonies held for the return of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, saying he was “not against the peace process” but “organizing a big event … was a mistake”. On Saturday, Wolesi Jirga speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi urged “all Afghans, government institutions, civil society organizations and media outlets not to damage the [peace] process and support it instead”. During debate on Sunday, members of parliament criticized the national unity government for delaying the appointment of a new head of the High Peace Council, more than five months after the death of former head Pir Syed Ishaq Gilani; a spokesman for Chief Executive Abdullah said that “discussions are ongoing” for a replacement.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ghani, UNAMA Chief Speak Out in Support of Women [TOLO]
  • Ghani Awards Medals to NATO and DFID Officials [Khaama Press]
  • High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption Chief Blames Parliament for Lack of Anti-Corruption Law [TOLO]
  • Opposition Parties Criticize National Unity Government [TOLO]
  • Road Project Launched in Badakhshan [Khaama Press] [Ariana News]
  • Commentary: No Retreat: The American Legacy in Afghanistan Does Not Have to Be Defeat – “Afghanistan will not look like Colombia any time soon. But it can look like one of the Central Asian states — relatively impoverished, but slowly working out of it through natural resources, capable of securing itself with a widely-respected military that can disrupt terrorist sanctuaries, and sustaining a political system that provides a voice to ethnic groups and provides the most basic needs.” [Michael Waltz, War on the Rocks]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Bombing Targets JUI-F Leader Haideri; US Intel Warns of Deteriorating Afghan Stability

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Topline

  • A bombing outside a seminary targeted a convoy carrying JUI-F leader and Senate deputy chairman Abdul Ghafoor Haideri in Balochistan’s Mastung district on Friday; he survived with minor injuries, but as many as 21 people have reportedly been killed and dozens wounded.
  • At least two Frontier Constabulary soldiers were wounded in an exchange of fire between Afghan and Pakistani forces along the Kurram-Khost border on Friday.
  • In Senate testimony on the annual U.S. intelligence community Worldwide Threat Assessment report on Thursday, DNI Coats warned that “the political and security situation in Afghanistan will almost certainly deteriorate through 2018”, even with increases in U.S. and international military assistance.
  • A BBC Urdu report confirms that Indian businessman Sajjan Jindal’s meeting last month with Prime Minister Sharif was aimed a reducing bilateral tensions through a diplomatic backchannel; details of their discussions remain limited.
  • Prime Minister Sharif and the four provincial chief ministers arrived in Beijing on Friday for a six-day visit that will include attendance at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation beginning Sunday.
  • A conference of veteran jihadi politicians organized by Mohammad Karim Khalili and the Hizb-e-Wahdat-e-Islami party criticized Pres. Ghani and the national unity government.

Pakistan — Security

  • Mastung Bombing Targets Deputy Senate Chairman: A bombing outside the Jamia Masjid Hammadia seminary in Balochistan’s Mastung district targeted a convoy of vehicles for Senate deputy chairman and JUI-F leader Abdul Ghafoor Haideri on Friday; reports conflict as to whether or not the bomb was planted or carried by a suicide bomber. Haideri suffered minor injuries, but as many as 21 people are reported to have been killed and more than two dozen injured. No claim of responsibility has been reported as of this writing. [AP] [Dawn]
  • Afghan Border Clashes: At least two Frontier Constabulary soldiers were wounded in an exchange of fire with Afghan forces at the Kurram-Khost border on Friday, security officials report; Pakistani sources blame Afghan forces from firing on them while constructing a wall along the border. Separately, officials reported the destruction of a van carrying explosives in Kurram as it entered the agency from Paktia.
  • Tensions with India: Pakistan’s foreign ministry summoned the Indian deputy high commissioner to formally protest Line of Control ceasefire violations earlier this week, which Pakistan charges deliberately targeted civilians, one of whom was killed. A BBC Urdu report confirms that Indian businessman Sajjan Jindal’s meeting with Nawaz Sharif last month was part of a diplomatic backchannel aimed at reducing tensions with India, and that Sharif discussed the issue in meetings with Chief of Army Staff Bajwa this week; details of the conversation remain limited, and it was said not to include the case of accused Indian spy Kulbushan Jhadav. Officials met at the attorney general’s office on Thursday to review an Indian petition to the International Court of Justice. Separately, The Nation reports that a Pakistani team will visit Nepal soon to investigate the disappearance of a former Pakistani army office. [Dawn] [Reuters] [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Legal Battles: The Express Tribune reports that the Panama Papers Joint Investigation Team is preparing a “detailed questionnaire” for the Qatari royal family as part of the investigation into the Sharif family’s overseas assets. The Supreme Court agreed to an 11-day recess to hearings it is holding on disqualification petitions against Imran Khan, as PTI lawyers continue to argue that both the court and the Election Commission lack jurisdiction on the issue of the party’s funding. [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: During a visit to the Chichawatni district in Punjab on Thursday, Prime Minister Sharif touted the PML-N government’s development record around the country, and dismissed the PTI’s administration of Khyber Paktunkhwa. The PPP and PTI continue to call for parliamentary debate on the ‘Dawn Leaks’ issue. [Dawn] [The Nation] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Afghan Refugee Repatriation: Speaking to reporters on Thursday, States and Frontier Regions Minister Abdul Qadir Baloch said that the government was planning to document an estimated one million unregistered Afghan refugees living in Pakistan within the next ten months.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Sharif and Chief Ministers Attend Belt and Road Summit: Prime Minister Sharif and the four provincial chief ministers arrived in Beijing on Friday for a six-day visit that will include participation in the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing on May 14-15. [Dawn] [ET]
  • Budget Planning: At a meeting on Thursday, Prime Minister Sharif approved a budget strategy paper prepared by the ministry of finance for the upcoming fiscal year; Dawn notes that the document was not shared more widely with other ministries. The budget targets 6% GDP growth in the next year, and allows for an increase in the fiscal deficit target of up to 4% by 2020.
  • Energy Crisis: The government has reportedly reached an agreement with Independent Power Producers to resolve payment disputes and outstanding dues, which total at least Rs 245 billion; IPPS currently contribute around half of the total electricity supply in the country. Separately, the government is seeking financing from the World Bank Green Fund to support solar power projects in Pakistan. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • 37 Men Granted Bail After Attack on Ahmadi Mosque [Dawn]
  • Four More Arrested in Mashal Khan Lynching Case [ET] [Dawn]
  • Prime Minister and Army Chief Note Threats Against PEMRA Staff [Dawn] [ET]
  • Chief of Army Staff Visits Quetta Garrison [ET] [The Nation]
  • Sindh High Court Unsatisfied with Report on Thar Deaths [ET]
  • Sindh High Court Extends Bail for PPP Leader Sharjeel Memon [ET]
  • PIA Losses Rise to Rs 282 Billion [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • U.S. Strategy Review: Testifying at the annual U.S. intelligence community threat assessment hearings in the Senate on Thursday, Director of National Intelligence Coats said that “the intelligence community assesses that the political and security situation in Afghanistan will almost certainly deteriorate through 2018, even with a modest increase in military assistance by the United States and its partners”. Afghan analysts and officials interviewed by the Washington Post argue for the need for the government to implement political reforms or for the U.S. to put “maximum pressure” on Pakistan in order for a U.S. troop deployment to be effective. In comments to TOLO, former interior minister Mohammad Umer Daudzai questioned the need for additional U.S. forces; spokesmen for the defense ministry and Chief Executive Abdullah welcomed further deployments. [DNI Assessment (pdf)]
  • Attacks and Operations: Taliban fighters attacked the Burka district center in Baghlan province on Friday morning; the provincial police chief said that at least four security personnel had been killed, with heavy fighting still ongoing. [RFE/RL]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Government Under Criticism: A conference of former jihadi leaders organized on Thursday by Mohammad Karim Khalili and the Hizb-e-Wahdat-e-Islami party criticized the national unity government and Pres. Ghani for “totalitarianism”, with Khalili warning that “there are attempts to grow the seeds of division, ethnic division, political division and religious division, but we will never return to that era”.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Infrastructure Projects: A cabinet meeting on Thursday approved ‘in principle’ an implementation plan for the development of Chabahar port, and tasked the Ministry of Transportation with coordinating government agencies. A Chinese delegation from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences met with Chief Executive Abdullah on Thursday to discuss the One Belt One Road initiative, which a spokesman for the Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industry urged the government to join.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Former Army Generals Continue ‘Luxurious Lifestyle’ Despite Firing [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Why is Trump Focusing on ISIS in Afghanistan, When the Taliban is the Bigger Threat? – “The threat posed by the militant group to the Afghan national unity government led by President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, and to U.S. interests in the region, is relatively small compared to the ongoing Taliban insurgency—not to mention the fractious political dynamics and weak resource base that plague the Afghan government’s efforts to assert control over the country.” [Colin Cookman, World Politics Review]
  • Commentary: Resettling Nearly Half a Million Afghans in Nangarhar: The Consequences of the Mass Return of Refugees – “This rapid increase in Nangarhar’s population has put a strain on government services, including health and education.” [Fazal Muzhary, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Interior Ministry Says Dawn Leaks ‘Settled’; No Major Troop Increase from UK or Germany

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Topline

  • At a press conference on Wednesday, the Pakistani army’s chief spokesman insisted that the “Pakistan Army believes in democracy like all other Pakistanis and will continue to work to strengthen democracy”. Pakistan’s interior ministry said that the Dawn Leaks issue was now “settled”; no additional steps by the government have been reported since its initial actions drew public rebuke from the military. PTI and PPP leaders called for continued debate on the issue, with Imran Khan demanding the report investigating the leaks be made public.
  • UK Prime Minister May is reportedly considering around 100 additional British troops for Afghanistan; speaking on Thursday following a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, German Chancellor Merkel said that “I don’t think we’re first in line to expand our capacities” in Afghanistan.
  • Indian and Pakistani forces trade fire across the Line of Control on Thursday, with one Pakistani teenager and one Indian woman reportedly killed in the exchange.
  • Fighting continues around Kunduz, where Afghan forces say they have pushed Taliban fighters back from the city limits but residents express fears that the city may again fall to insurgent control.
  • A spokesman for Hezb-e-Islami defended the continued holding of weapons by members of the group that accompanied Gulbuddin Hekmatyar to Kabul; Reuters notes continued concerns over the reintegration of HIG fighters into the Afghan security forces.
  • Pakistan signed a memorandum of understanding with Turkey on Wednesday for the sale of four Turkish corvettes and 52 Pakistani training planes; financial details and timelines for delivery were not disclosed.
  • A Pakistani government economic advisor tells Reuters that debt and other repayments on CPEC will likely peak at around $5 billion by 2022, but estimated that transit fees will exceed $6-8 billion, offsetting the costs.

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: On Thursday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry accused Indian forces of deliberately targeting civilians in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, reporting multiple ceasefire violations along the Line of Control which police say killed a teenager and injured three others. Indian forces in turn say that “indiscriminate” Pakistani fire of killing one woman and injuring her husband. Earlier on Wednesday, the Indian army said that a lieutenant had been abducted and killed while on leave in the Shopian area of Indian Kashmir; no claim of responsibility has been reported. The International Court of Justice will begin public hearings May 15 on an Indian petition over the death sentence for accused Indian spy Kulbhushan Jhadav and Pakistan’s denial of consular access to him; Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz told reporters on Wednesday that the government was still reviewing the Indian petition. On Wednesday, the Indian foreign ministry said that India would accept letters from Aziz for the immediate issuance of medical visas for Pakistani travelers; Indian officials have reportedly instituted an unnaounced policy of reducing or eliminating visas for Pakistanis seeking to travel to India. [The Nation]
  • Turkish Defense Cooperation: Turkey and Pakistan signed a memorandum of understanding on Wednesday for the sale of four Turkish corvettes and 52 Pakistani training planes; no financial details or timelines for delivery were disclosed. [The Nation]
  • Former TTP Spokesman Could Face Charges: Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, chief military spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor said that former TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan’s confessional video had been “aimed at exposing the enemy designs against Pakistan before the ordinary citizens”, and rebuffed complaints that Ehsan was being “presented as a hero”, saying that “his fate will be decided as per law”. The Senate interior committee sent letters to Khyber Paktunkhwa police officials on Wednesday, seeking for Ehsan to be prosecuted in connection to the attack on Malala Yousafzai.
  • Arrest in Murder of ASWJ Leader: On Thursday, the Federal Investigation Agency announced the arrest of Sibtain Kazmi, a suspect in the 2003 murder of Maulana Azam Tariq, the former leader of the Sunni sectarian group Millat-e-Islamia, now known as the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat. Kazmi was arrested at the Islamabad airport while attempting to leave the country. [ET]
  • Military Courts: Four more prisoners convicted under the military courts system were executed on Thursday, all identified as members of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan who had confessed to attacks on Pakistani armed forces and civilians. [ET] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • ‘Dawn Leaks’ Resolution: Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday in which he “withdrew” the military’s objections to the government’s implementation of recommendations from a commission investigating the ‘Dawn Leaks’, chief military spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor said that a late-April Twitter statement by the military “was not directed against any institution or individual” and “what followed it was something regrettable”. Ghafoor added that the “Pakistan Army believes in democracy like all other Pakistanis and will continue to work to strengthen democracy”. The Interior Ministry issued a statement saying that “since action on orders of the prime minister has already been completed by the respective Ministries and Divisions, the issue of the Dawn Leaks stands settled”; at a press conference on Thursday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that “the matter had been blown out of proportion”. An Express Tribune account of the whole episode suggests that a desire on the part of the military and civilian leaders to present a united front on a number of foreign policy issues prompted the resolution of the dispute, although it does not clarify what the military’s specific objections to the government’s response were; no additional actions by the government have been reported since the dismissal of two top aides and calls for a new code of conduct for press reporting on national security issues. PTI leader Imran Khan called for the public release of the investigation commission report, saying “the whole nation now needs to know what was ‘settled’”. PPP leader Aitzaz Ahsan suggested that Maj. Gen. Ghafoor should have resigned over the military’s earlier statement, and claimed that “the actual player in the whole fiasco was Maryam Nawaz and her media cell that leaked the story”. [AP] [Reuters] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: In Supreme Court hearings on Thursday, PTI lawyers argued that neither the Supreme Court nor the Election Commission had jurisdiction to hear charges that the PTI had received foreign funding, saying that such an investigation would have to be initiated by the government and that an individual petitioner did not have standing on the issue. Prime Minister Sharif visited Sheikhupura on Wednesday, telling reporters that “staging sit-ins and observing protest is not a solution to any problem” and touting the government’s development record, vowing to make Pakistan into a new ‘Asian Tiger’. [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • CPEC Project: In a Reuters interview, Nadeem Javaid, a government advisor and economist, said that debt and other repayments on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects would peak at around $5 billion in 2022, but said that this would be “more than offset” by transit fees, which he projected at $6-8 billion annually. [AP]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Senate Committee Approves New Fines and Imprisonment for Open Violations of Ramazan Fast [ET]
  • Millions of Pakistanis Receive Blasphemy Warning Texts [AFP]
  • Senate Panel Approves Extension of ‘National Language’ Status [Dawn]
  • Frontier Corps Seize Arms Cache in Chaghi District [Dawn]
  • PEMRA Fines GEO for Criticisms of Two Politicians [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • K-Electric Cites Low Gas Pressure as Karachi Faces Outages [Dawn]
  • Commerce Minister Seeks Qatari Investment [APP]

Afghanistan — Security

  • NATO Troop Increase: Speaking on Thursday following a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, German Chancellor Merkel said that “I don’t think we’re first in line to expand our capacities” in Afghanistan, saying that “it’s more important to ensure that … stability is guaranteed in the north” and that she was waiting for a fuller assessment of additional troop requests. Stoltenberg met with UK Prime Minister May on Wednesday; British press sources suggest that the UK is considering the deployment of around a hundred additional troops, to the 500 already deployed in Kabul.
  • Attacks and Operations: TOLO reports that Afghan security forces pushed Taliban fighters back to around two kilometers from the Kunduz city limits during fighting on Wednesday; the NYT interviews Kunduz residents who express fear that the city may again fall to Taliban control, and members of parliament voiced concern over security in the north during debate on Wednesday. On Thursday, the Ministry of Defense claimed to have retaken control of the Zebak district in Badakhshan province. Eleven people were killed in a roadside bombing in Kandahar’s Maiwand district on Tuesday night, the provincial government reported on Wednesday. The Long War Journal notes video released last week showing a convoy of Taliban vehicles making a show of force movements through Helmand’s Sangin district. The Maidan Shahr-Jalrez highway in Wardak province has been reopened to traffic, but security officials report some continued Taliban sniping and roadside bombs. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Hezb-e-Islami Reintegration: Responding to criticism from members of parliament, a Hezb-e-Islami spokesman defended the continued holding of weapons by HIG members who have accompanied Gulbuddin Hekmatyar on his return to Kabul, saying that “they need these weapons for their own safety, because no one can guarantee their security”. Reuters notes concerns over the planned integration of HIG fighters into the Afghan security forces; a group of as many as 3,500 militia members has been prepared, including around 80 former senior officers.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • UK Parliament Attacker Allegedly Received Training in Afghanistan in 2012 [AFP]
  • National Procurement Authority Claims Afs 18 Billion in Savings Over Two Years [TOLO]