Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Karzai Concludes Islamabad Visit; Supreme Court Drops Contempt Case Against Imran Khan

Topline

  • Pres. Karzai concluded his visit to Islamabad with pledges from Pakistan to try to help facilitate direct talks between the government and the Taliban, but few concrete public commitments. The Pakistani Supreme Court has dropped a contempt of court charge against Imran Khan. The International Rescue Committee has temporarily suspended operations in Afghanistan after six of its employees were killed in Herat earlier this week. The MQM’s calls for martial law in Karachi have drawn criticism from other parties. Pakistan tax collections have risen 25% since the imposition of new general sales tax at the start of the fiscal year in July. Chinese and Pakistani finance officials held talks on investment and infrastructure projects as part of the proposed ‘economic corridor’ linking Gwadar and Kashgar.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Supreme Court Drops Contempt Case Against Imran Khan: PTI chairman Imran Khan appeared before the Supreme Court on Wednesday to defend his description of the administration of Pakistan’s general elections as “shameful,” which had invited a contempt of court hearing initiated by Chief Justice Chaudhry, who did not join the bench hearing the case. Khan said he was “only [referring] to the returning officers,” who are appointed from the district judiciary, and had “never named the Supreme Court or the superior judiciary” in his criticism. The case was subsequently dropped. In a backgrounder, the Guardian notes waning public support for Chief Justice Chaudhry as his term nears expiration in December. [ET]
  • MQM Calls for Army in Karachi: The MQM’s parliamentary leader in the national assembly, Farooq Sattar, reiterated party chief Altaf Hussain’s call for martial law in Karachi in response to “killings, robberies, kidnappings for ransom and other crimes”. Other parties spoke out against such a move. Prime Minister Sharif has called a special cabinet meeting for early September to be held in Karachi to review the security situation there. On Wednedsay, Chief Justice Chaudhry chaired a hearing in Karachi, during which the head of the paramilitary Rangers, Maj. Gen. Rizwan Akhtar, placed blame on the militant wings of political parties as the source for ongoing violence. Seven people were reportedly killed in separate incidents in Karachi on Wednesday. [ET]
  • EU Delegation Warns Against Resumption of Death Penalty: A delegation from the European Union warned Pakistan that the resumption of capital punishment after a five-year moratorium would be a “major setback”. Pakistan is seeking access to European markets under the “Generalized System of Preferences-plus” tariff standard, and while delegates did not state that ending the moratorium would directly affect that application, “it contributed to the picture”. [Dawn]
  • Russian Relations: Pakistan and Russia opened their first-ever strategic dialogue-level bilateral talks in Moscow on Wednesday, with Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani representing the Pakistani side.
  • Mengal Takes Oath: Balochistan National Party-Mengal party leader Sardar Akhtar Mengal took the oath of office as a member of the Balochistan provincial assembly on Wednesday, three months after he won seats in both the Balochistan and national assemblies. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Tax Revenues Rise: The government’s increase in the general sales tax under the new budget has resulted in a 25% rise in tax collections since the start of the fiscal year in July, government finance officials tell Reuters. The new tax measures are expected to generate approximately Rs 207 billion in additional revenue for the full year.
  • Chinese Investment: Pakistan and China held the first session of the Joint Cooperation Committee of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in Islamabad on Wednesday, during which federal Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal asked the Chinese side to raise the investment ceiling of China’s Export-Import Bank from $3 billion to $10 billion in order to facilitate greater investments in Pakistan. Separately, Finance Minister Dar met with the chairman of China’s new Universal Credit Rating Group, welcoming the chance to use its services to help finance major infrastructure projects.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Jamaat-e-Islami Leader Dissatisfied with Khyber Paktunkhwa Government Progress [Dawn]
  • Zardari to ‘Focus on PPP Reorganization’ After End of Presidential Term, Party Says [Dawn]
  • Blame Game Begins for Delay in Bhutto Murder Trial [Dawn]
  • Benazir Income Support Program Employees Complain of Unpaid Salaries for Two Months [Dawn]
  • Federal Government Refuses to Assume Responsibility for GIlgit-Baltistan Loans [ET]
  • Sikh Minority in Sindh Calls for Government Action After Desecration of Holy Books [Dawn]
  • Cabinet Plans to Seek Repatriation of Aafia Siddiqui [Dawn] [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Hospital Administration to be Overhauled [Dawn]
  • Balochistan Government Drops Case Against TV Channel [APP]

Afghanistan — Security

  • IRC Suspends Aid Operations: The six Afghan aid workers kidnapped and killed in Herat over the weekend were employees of the International Rescue Committee, the group confirmed on Wednesday, saying it was temporarily suspending operations in Afghanistan to reassess the security situation.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Karzai Concludes Islamabad Visit: Pres. Karzai concluded his trip to Islamabad on Tuesday, extending a return invitation to Prime Minister Sharif to visit Kabul at a later date. A presidential spokesman said afterwards that “the Pakistani side is expected to take specific and practical steps in accordance with the decisions made during these negotiations,” but specific details of any agreement are minimal. Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz tells the WSJ that Afghan government officials for the first time accepted Pakistan’s contention that it cannot control the activities of the Afghan Taliban during recent meetings in Islamabad. Pakistan nonetheless pledged to “do its best” to push the group into talks with the government. Pakistan has agreed to release additional Taliban commanders “at an appropriate time”, but the specific question of former Taliban deputy commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar’s status remains unresolved. [WAPO] [TOLO] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghan Army Seen Improving, But Public Fears Mount [AP]
  • Ambitious Plans for Kabul Expansion Remain Stalled After Six Years [TOLO]
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