- The IMF has approved the third quarterly tranche of its loan program with Pakistan, disbursing roughly $540 million. A team of Taliban gunmen attacked an Afghan Independent Election Commission office in Kabul on Tuesday, but current reports indicate only two civilians were injured. Pakistan has rejected Afghan NDS accusations of involvement in planning last week’s attack on the Serena Hotel. Planned talks between the Pakistani Taliban and government representatives were postponed on Tuesday, apparently because of the weather. The Afghan parliament has confirmed Yunus Qanuni as first vice president, succeeding the late Qasim Fahim. Prime Minister Sharif attended the Nuclear Security Summit at the Hague on Monday, where he met with Sec. Kerry; Sharif appealed for U.S. help in mediating the Kashmir dispute, and acknowledge the postponement of Most Favored Nation trading status for India. Ashraf Ghani and Zalmay Rassoul continue to trade allegations that each is receiving support from Afghan government officials.
Pakistan — Security
- TTP Talks: A planned meeting between government intermediaries and Pakistani Taliban leaders that was to be held at an undisclosed location on Tuesday has been postponed “due to bad weather,” according to Jamaat-e-Islami Khyber Paktunkhwa leader and TTP intermediary Professor Mohammad Ibrahim. No new date for talks has been announced. [ET] [ET]
- Missing Persons: The Islamabad High Court has summoned ISI director general Zaheer ul Islam in the case of Mohammad Arif, a Rawalpindi man who was allegedly taken into ISI custody last month. Hearings have been set within a week. [Dawn]
Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Sharif Visits Hague Summit: Speaking to delegates at the Third Nuclear Security Summit in the Hague on Monday, Prime Minister Sharif stressed that Pakistan places “the highest importance” on nuclear security issues, and emphasized the country’s need to expand energy production through civil nuclear power to overcome is current energy shortfalls. Sharif met with Sec. Kerry prior to the summit, for discussions that focused on Pakistan’s relations with India and Afghanistan; Sharif appealed for U.S. help in mediating the Kashmir conflict, which India has previously opposed, and acknowledged that the extension of Most-Favored Nation trading status to India has been “postponed”, which he attributed to the transition of leadership due to India’s upcoming elections. [Dawn]
- Khyber Paktunkhwa Governor: Sardar Mehtab Abbasi is the likely PML-N choice to become the next governor of Khyber Paktunkhwa, the Express Tribune reports; no timing for the replacement of current governor Shaukatullah Khan has been announced, though PML-N sources suggest that the government wants Abbasi in place to have its own appointee involved in peace negotiations with the TTP.
- Iranian Border Guard Killed: Iran’s Fars News agency reports that one of five border guards kidnapped by the Jaish al-Adl militant group in February near the Balochistan border has been killed in captivity.
Pakistan — Economics and Development
- IMF Releases Loan Tranche: The IMF’s board formally approved the immediate release of the third loan tranche of $540 million, part of a $6.7 billion package agreed to last September that is paid in quarterly installments; $1.65 billion has been paid out to date. The review waived performance conditions regarding the government’s borrowing from the State Bank of Pakistan. The Express Tribune notes that the government has yet to complete consultations on a planned withdrawal of special tax exemptions, a key condition of the next quarterly review round, which begins April 30. [AFP] [IMF Statement]
- Thar Relief: Sindh Minister for Information Sharjeel Memon told reporters on Monday that pledges of assistance from the central government had not been delivered to the Tharparkar district and said that the PPP provincial government was responsible for current relief efforts, adding that a “planned conspiracy against the provincial government” had exaggerated the impacts of a famine and child health crisis in the press. Finance Minister Dar approved the transfer of Rs 500 million to local banks for disbursement under the Benazir Income Support Program on Monday, with another Rs 500 million to be transferred in May.
Pakistan — Remainders
- Musharraf Files Fresh Supreme Court Appeal for Trial by Military Court [Dawn]
- Government Imposes 17% Sales Tax on CNG Stations [Dawn]
- At Least 13 Arrested in Karachi Raids [Dawn]
- Election Tribunal Disqualifies Khyber National Assembly Member, Orders Re-Election [Dawn]
- Pakistan Telecommunications Agency Admits Limits of Internet Filtering Capabilities [Dawn] [ET]
- Electricity Tariff Increased [ET]
- National Assembly Furor Over US Bar on Sheikh Rashid Ahmed’s Overflight [Dawn]
- Rawalpindi Replicates ‘Seha Ka Insaf’ Vaccination Program [ET]
- Commentary: The Seeds of Insurgency – “The insurgency we face is rooted in the needless meddling in the affairs of the tribal areas, unwanted military ingress, destruction of institutions, demolition or weakening of the tribal Maliks, dismantling of the institution of the Political Agent and using the tribal areas as a scapegoat to promote the interests of the coalition forces in Afghanistan.” [Rustam Shah Mohmand, Express Tribune]
Afghanistan — Security
- IEC Office Attacked: A group of Taliban fighters staged a complex attack on a Kabul regional office of the Independent Election Commission, beginning with a suicide bombing and continuing with gunfire. Two civilian injuries were reported, but IEC officials say all their staff are safe and accounted for. The attack took place near the home of presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani, who was not in Kabul at the time of the incident, but the IEC office appears to have been the focus of the attack. [WSJ] [BBC] [TOLO] [TOLO]
- Pakistan Accused on Sponsoring Serena Attack: In a direct accusation, Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security intelligence service concluded that “Pakistani intelligence services were involved in planning” last week’s attack on the Serena Hotel in Kabul. An unidentified member of the hotel security staff is alleged to have links to Pakistani intelligence and to have quit his job and left the country a week prior to the attack. Pakistan’s foreign ministry described the accusation as “highly disturbing” and said that “the tendency to immediately blame Pakistan is unhelpful and should be discarded.” [AP]
- Afghan Local Police: Irregular Afghan Local Police units set up by the U.S. military over the past four years are becoming “increasingly untethered” from the Afghan government, which is unable to effectively supply or pay them, the WSJ reports, raising risks that the groups will increasingly turn to extortion. The program is officially due to begin phasing out in 2016, but this will be contingent on continued U.S. support past the end of this year. ALP personnel will not be deployed as election security, in part due to concerns that they are linked to local power brokers who might influence the vote.
Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Qanuni Confirmed as Vice President: The Wolesi Jirga has confirmed former speaker Yunus Qanuni as first vice president after his nomination last week, succeeding the late Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim. [TOLO]
- Election Campaign: 7,000 Afghan security personnel have been deployed to nine northern provinces ahead of the upcoming elections to provide additional poll security, Afghan military commanders report, with another 5,000 soldiers in reserve. In a Monday press conference, Ashraf Ghani campaign officials accused government representatives, including the Paktia governor, of violating electoral law and supporting Zalmay Rassoul’s candidacy; Rassoul’s team returned the allegation. At a separate Monday press conference, the Independent Election Commission’s Secretary, Ziaul Haq Amarkhel, expressed concern over government officials’ intervention in the race. Rassoul campaigned in Baghlan and Abdullah Abdullah visited Badakshan on Monday. [AP]
Afghanistan — Remainders
- Legislators Call on Karzai to Reassess Policy Towards Insurgents [TOLO]
- Kunar Kabul Bank Branch Attacked [Khaama Press]
- Afghans Who Helped the US Fear That Time for Visas Has Run Out [NYT]
- Commentary: Can the Taliban Outwrestle the Government? – “In the end, it is the legitimacy and inclusiveness of the state which is the main bulwark against insurgency.” [Borhan Osman, AAN]