Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistan and UK Pledge Cooperation; Afghan Taliban Figures Reportedly Detained in Pakistan

Topline

  • Prime Ministers Sharif and Cameron pledged expanded economic and security cooperation during talks in London, although a UK parliamentary committee has recommend that DFID reprioritize its assistance to Pakistan, currently the largest British bilateral aid recipient, to other lower-income countries. Two brothers of Afghan Taliban negotiators Tayyeb Agha were reportedly arrest in Karachi and Quetta this week; anonymous Afghan intelligence sources allege that former Taliban military commander Qayyum Zakir has been detained by the Pakistani Taliban, although Afghan Taliban spokesmen dispute this. The Federal Board of Revenue failed to meet tax collection targets in April, seeing the largest monthly shortfall so far this year. In a speech marking Martyrs’ Day, Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif expressed support for democracy and called on anti-state elements to “unconditionally submit” to the constitution. Afghanistan’s mining law, under draft for more than a year, remains deadlocked in parliament.


Pakistan — Security

  • Taliban Talks: Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan sources tell the Express Tribune that military forces are continuing to target their forces in South Waziristan, blaming them for recent fighting in the area and accusing the military of violating the previous ceasefire agreement. Taliban intermediaries Maulana Sami-ul Haq and Professor Ibrahim Khan claimed that the TTP were prepared to accept the Pakistani constitution and wanted to resume dialogue with the government. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Schools Attacked: Two primary schools were bombed in Mohmand Agency and a third in the Charsadda district on early Thursday morning, although no casualties or claim of responsibility have been reported.


Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Sharif in London: Prime Minister Sharif held talks with British Prime Minister Cameron on Wednesday in London, with the two sides vowing to continue and expand cooperation on trade and economic issues. Sharif pledged that Pakistan was “fully committed to eliminating terrorism and will never allow the use of Pakistan’s territory against any country, including Afghanistan.” Sharif’s visit coincided with a new report by the British parliament’s international development committee, which recommended that Department for International Development assistance to Pakistan, which will total $750M this year, making it the largest recipient of UK bilateral aid despite the country’s middle-income status, be re-allocated to other developing countries unless there is “clear evidence that DFID support is effective in reducing the extremist threat.”
  • Pakistan Marks Martyrs’ Day: Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif addressed a ceremony marking Martyrs’ Day on Wednesday, his first public speech to a non-military audience since taking office last November, during which he professed support for “democracy as the only way forward” for the country and warned that “all elements fighting against the state should unconditionally submit to the country’s constitution and law and come back to the national main stream”.[Dawn] [ET]


Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Power Cuts: Following earlier orders this week to cut off power supply to federal government offices that had not paid outstanding electricity bills, the Lahore Electric Supply Company cut supplies to 66 provincial government offices on Wednesday, including the Punjab police and the residence of Punjab Assembly speaker Rana Iqbal. Separately, Pakistan signed a new $167.2 million loan agreement with the Asian Development Bank to help augment the power distribution network.
  • Tax Shortfall: The Federal Board of Revenue collected only Rs 167 billion in taxes in April, against a target of Rs 196.4 billion, the largest monthly shortfall so far this fiscal year. Tax revenues have grown 8.69% over the previous year, below inflation. Cumulative collections to date are at 74% of an annual target of Rs 2.345 trillion, revised downward from an initial budget target of Rs 2.475 trillion. [ET] [The Nation]


Pakistan — Remainders

  • Khurshid Shah Meets with Khawaja Asif to Discuss Civil-Military Tensions [Dawn]
  • Rawalpindi-Area Seminaries Linked to TTP Extortion Networks [Dawn]
  • Navy Officer’s Driver Killed in Karachi Shooting [ET]
  • Balochistan Education Advisor Acknowledges ‘Alarming’ Number of Ghost Schools; EU Pledges Education Sector Assistance [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Election for Vacated Senate Seat Scheduled for May 16 [ET]
  • Petroleum Prices Cut by Rs 4.51 [ET]
  • Government Aims to Sell PIA-Affiliated Hotels for at Least $700M [ET]
  • Report: Country Reports on Terrorism: South and Central Asia Overview – “Although al-Qa’ida’s (AQ) core in Afghanistan and Pakistan has been seriously degraded, AQ’s global leadership continued to operate from its safe haven in the region and struggled to communicate effectively with affiliate groups outside of South Asia.” [US State Department]
  • Commentary: Shrinking Religious Freedom in South Asia – “Pakistan stands apart from the other countries in South Asia due to the astonishing scale and severity of abuses to religious freedom.” [Knox Thames and Sahar Chaudhry, South Asia Channel]


Afghanistan — Security

  • Taliban Detentions in Pakistan Reported: Anonymous Afghan intelligence sources claimed on Wednesday that former Afghan Taliban military commander Mullah Qayyum Zakir, who stepped down from his position last week, is now under detention by the Pakistani Taliban. There was no further explanation offered, and the Afghan Taliban’s spokesman rejected the account. Separately, two brothers of lead Afghan Taliban negotiator Tayyeb Agha were reportedly arrested in Karachi and Quetta.


Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Mining Law Delay: The Wolesi Jirga has only passed one article out of 116 total in the draft mining law first introduced to parliament last year, although it will meet again next Tuesday to consider more sections of the law. The cabinet has barred the approval of additional mining contracts until the next government is formed, TOLO reports.


Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Former Taliban Leader Syed Akbar Aqa Launches Political Movement [TOLO]
  • UNHCR Calls for ‘Safe and Dignified’ Repatriation of Afghan Refugees in Pakistan [AP] [ET]
  • 80% of Taliban Suicide Bombers Are Children, NDS Alleges [TOLO]
  • 20 Coal Miners Killed in Explosion at Samangan Mine [TOLO]
  • Four Policemen Killed in Khost Attack [AP]
  • Report: Quarterly Report to Congress, April 2014 – “This report provides an overview of reconstruction activities in Afghanistan and includes a detailed statement of all obligations, expenditures, and revenues associated with reconstruction.” [SIGAR (pdf)]
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