Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Karzai Announces Security Transition; Pakistan Provinces Unveil Budgets

Topline

  • Pres. Karzai announces the formal transition of security responsibility across Afghanistan to Afghan forces, and also says that an Afghan government delegation will travel to Qatar to open talks with Talban representatives; the Taliban have not confirmed their participation in any discussions. A bomb in Kabul on Tuesday targeted lawmaker Mohammad Mohaqiq, killing three civilians; he was unhurt. The governments of Punjab, Sindh, and Khyber Paktunkhwa presented their draft budgets for the upcoming fiscal year yesterday. A petition has been brought seeking the suspension of Pakistan Federal Law Minister Zahid Hamid’s appointment, citing his role in the same position under former Pres. Musharraf during the 2007 emergency period. Members of Uzbek commander Abdul Rashid Dostum’s bodyguard clashed with Jowzjan governor Mohammad Aleem Sayee’s forces on Monday. Sen. Bob Corker has frozen U.S. assistance to the Afghan elections in an effort to force the White House to respond to his questions about the provision of CIA cash assistance to Pres. Karzai’s office.

Pakistan — Security

  • Interior Minister Criticizes Security Agencies: Speaking before parliament on Monday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan vowed to fully investigate weekend violence in Balochistan, saying that there had been a “lack of coordination” between law enforcement and security agencies, resulting in a “serious security lapse”. Mehmood Khan Achakzai of the Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party said that parliament “will be useless if it cannot control intelligence agencies”; PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar said that “civil-military disconnect” and enforced disappearances were “the root of the problem” and that parliament would support Chaudhry Nisar in investigating the issue. [ET] [ET]
  • Hafeez Saeed Criticizes Attacks in Pakistan: In a statement issued Monday, Jamaat-ud-Dawa leader Hafeez Saeed said that “militant activities in Pakistan do not fall in the category of jihad”, suggesting that “America and India are taking benefit” from the action of domestic militant groups. The Times of India reports over Rs 400 million in allocations to Jamaat-ud-Dawa-affiliated centers in the Punjab provincial government’s draft budget.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Law Minister’s Appointment Challenged: Sheikh Ahsanuddin, the former head of the Rawalpindi Bar Association, has petitioned the Supreme Court to suspend the appointment of Dr. Zahid Hamid as federal law minister; he previously served in that position in 2007, during the period in which former Pres. Musharraf suspended the constitution and removed several high court judges. Attorney Gen. Muneer Malik says he is still consulting with the government on its stance in regards to joining the prosecution against Musharraf, which the former president’s lawyers argue is required for a treason trial; hearings will resume June 24.
  • MQM-PPP Talks: MQM leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain has called for a referendum within the party on whether or not to join the PPP in coalition in Sindh; although the referendum has yet to be held, office holders and party workers are reported to have generally opposed the proposal. [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Federal Budget Debate: PPP senate opposition leader Raza Rabbani called on the government to withdraw the General Sales Tax increase and to further increase the minimum wage and government salaries. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar told the Senate Finance Committee that if parliament could convince the defense secretary to accept a Rs 50 billion cut, he would withdraw the sales tax increase, which Dar said would otherwise produce around Rs 60 billion in much-needed revenues, double initial projections. University professors and researchers’ associations representatives have protested the withdrawal of income tax exemptions in the new budget, which had been set at 75%.
  • Provincial Budgets Released: The provincial governments of Punjab, Sindh, and Khyber-Paktunkhwa unveiled draft budgets for the upcoming fiscal year on Monday. Punjab’s budge totals Rs 897 billion; the development budget accounts for Rs 290 billion, a 74% increase over the budget execution for the outgoing fiscal year. After an agricultural commodity price support program financed through bank borrowing, local government salaries and road infrastructure development consumed the largest portion of the budget. In all three provinces, federal tax transfers form the bulk of revenues, although the Punjab budget proposes a 40% increase in provincial tax revenues, primarily through residential real estate taxes. The PPP and PML-Q criticized the Punjab budget as being “disappointing and anti-poor”. Sindh’s budget calls for a Rs 617 billion outlay, a 22.3% increase despite a development budget execution rate of only 54% in the past budget. The largest portion of the new budget will go to the education sector, at around 21%. The Khyber Paktunkhwa budget totals Rs 344 billion, around Rs 118 billion of which goes to the development budget, a 17.3% and nearly 40% increase, respectively; sector-wise, education forms the largest priority. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Kerry Visit Delayed Due to Syria Issues [AFP]
  • Imran Khan to Take Oath June 19 [ET]
  • Afghan Refugees Await Extension of Repatriation Deadline [ET]
  • Balochistan Prisons on High Alert Against Reports of Sectarian Attacks [ET]
  • Scotland Yard Raids Two Houses in Connection to MQM Leader’s 2010 Murder [ET]
  • Parties Prepare for NA-48 Islamabad By-Election [Dawn]
  • Senators Oppose Granted Federal Board of Revenue Access to Bank Accounts [ET]
  • Oil Prices Raised in June for Third Time [ET]
  • Pakistan Asks India to Drop Duties on Liquefied Natural Gas Exports [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Transition Announcement: At a ceremony on Tuesday, Pres. Karzai formally announced that Afghan security forces had taken over security responsibility throughout the entire country; Karzai said that ISAF security personnel who remain in supporting roles around the country and will gradually move to complete their drawdown by the end of 2014. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who joined Karzai in Kabul, praised the Afghan national security forces, and said that while ISAF would “continue to help Afghan troops in operations if needed,” it will “no longer plan, execute or lead those operations. And by the end of 2014, our combat mission will be completed.” After that time, Rasmussen said NATO countries would continue to “train, advise and assist Afghan forces”, however. The NYT reports from the Kabul military hospital, where Afghan National Army service members have suffered casualties in the absence of American air support, medical evacuation services, and supporting combat units; Defense Ministry officials say that 276 ANA soldiers have been killed so far from March 21 to June 11 of this year. [BBC] [TOLO]
  • Bombing Targets Mohaqiq: Three people were killed and as many as thirty wounded when a roadside bombing targeted the convoy of prominent Hazara politician Mohammad Mohaqiq while he was traveling in western Kabul on Tuesday. Mohaqiq is said to be unhurt; no claim of responsibility for the bombing, which took place near the offices of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, has been reported. [AJE] [TOLO]
  • Dostum Clashes with Rival: Bodyguards of Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, a leader of the National Front coalition and former Northern Alliance commander, clashed with those of Jowzjan governor Gen. Mohammad Aleem Sayee on Monday. Sayee, who is also the deputy leader of Dostum’s Junbish-e-Milli party, alleges that Dostum was pressuring him to raise a militia against the Taliban; Dostum supporters say he was merely visiting to discuss political issues and that Sayee’s forces opened fire first. Another Junbish member tells the NYT that “there is no problem inside the party”. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Qatar Talks: Pres. Karzai chaired a meeting of senior government and former mujahedeen leaders on Monday, which agreed to the opening “for the sake of a sustainable peace and stability in the country”, but cautioned against “any foreign side [using] the hope of Afghans for peace as a political tool to serve its own interests”. Speaking at the transition ceremony on Tuesday, Karzai said that a government delegation will travel to Qatar for peace talks, which he said must be guided by three principles: that the talks should be moved to Afghanistan after beginning in Qatar; that they should end violence; and that they must not become a tool for a “third country’s” exploitation of Afghanistan. Afghan government sources say a Taliban office could be opened in Qatar on Tuesday, although the Taliban have yet to react to Karzai’s speech and a Taliban spokesman tells the AFP he is “unaware” of any such development.
  • Election Law: Reuters follows up on previous reports that provisions in the country’s electoral law setting reserved seats for women in Afghanistan’s provincial and district councils – which are in turn also used to select a portion of the reserved seats for women in the upper house of parliament — were quietly removed during debate in the lower house in late May. The draft election law is awaiting approval from the upper house and Karzai, who rejected previous drafts over provisions strengthening the autonomy from the presidency of the Independent Election Commission and Electoral Complaints Commission.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Election Aid Freeze: Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has instituted a hold on the disbursal of $75 million in funds intended to support the organization of the upcoming Afghan presidential elections, citing a failure by the White House to respond to repeated complaints related to the reported CIA disbursal of cash grants to Pres. Karzai’s office.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Parliament Again Summons Finance Minister Over Corruption Allegations [TOLO]
  • IEC Spokesman Welcomes Political Parties’ Coalition Efforts [TOLO]
  • Afghan Journalists’ Union Condemns Remarks by Information Minister [TOLO]
  • Report: Quarterly Report to the UN Security Council on the Situation in Afghanistan [UN Secretary General’s Office (pdf)]
  • Commentary: Getting Ready for Change, or What to Make of Fahim’s Speech – “
  • Fahim, interestingly, managed to discuss the subject of political transition at length with only the faintest reference to the upcoming election, focusing mainly on the need, and challenge, to build a new governing team.” [Martine van Bijlert, AAN]

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