Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistan to Revive Military Parade; US Command Reverses Some ANSF Data Classification

Topline

  • Pakistan will revive its annual Pakistan Day military parade in March for the first time since 2008; reports suggest that Chinese President Xi Jinping may attend, in apparent effort to mirror Pres. Obama’s visit to India last month. Responding to criticism from SIGAR, the US military command in Afghanistan appears to have reversed course and declassified some previously public data on the Afghan national security forces. Qatar’s foreign ministry denied reports last week that a Taliban detainee transferred there in exchange for the release of Bowe Bergdahl was seeking to reengage in militancy, insisting that controls on the detainees remain in place. JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman has threatened nationwide protests over the institution of military courts under the 21st Amendment. MQM leader Altaf Hussain has reshuffled the party’s senior leadership in Karachi and London again. Pakistan’s tax revenue collection from July – January was Rs 113 billion short of its target.

Pakistan — Security

  • Counterterrorism Response: Speaking in parliament on Monday, Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch defended the government from opposition criticism and insisted that the federal government was providing generous assistance to the provinces to combat terrorism. The ministry of interior has directed the provinces to set up scanners and cameras at provincial border crossings to check for weapons and explosives, and reiterated orders for a crackdown on terrorist financing. [AP] [Dawn]
  • Military Courts: Speaking to the press on Monday, JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman threatened to carry out nationwide protests if the government does not “remove controversial clauses” from the 21st Amendment to the constitution, which created special military courts to hear terrorism cases. Rehman has not detailed his specific complaints with the law, but has voiced concerns over an “international conspiracy to target seminaries and religious figures”. Separately, two Lashkar-e-Jhangvi members were hanged on Tuesday in Karachi, on 2001 murder charges. [ET]
  • Balochistan Attacks: The Balochistan Republican Army attacked a grid station in Gwadar on Monday evening, killing one employee of the Quetta Electric Supply Company. Separately on Monday, five irrigation department engineers were kidnapped in the Mekran district.
  • FATA Operations: The Khyber Paktunkhwa Provincial Disaster Management Authority reported Monday that it had distributed Rs 359.9 million to roughly 54,600 displaced people from North Waziristan between November and January 14.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Military Parade Revived: Military sources reported Monday that Pakistan will revive its annual Pakistan Day military parade on March 23, to be held for the first time since 2008; for the past seven years, parades have been cancelled on security grounds. A venue has yet to be selected, though the parade is likely to be held near the army’s General Headquarters in Rawalpindi. An anonymous diplomatic source tells Dawn that Chinese President Xi Jinping would attend the ceremony as chief guest, although the WSJ suggests his attendance has yet to be confirmed; the move follows Pres. Obama’s recent visit to India to attend its Republic Day ceremonies. Meanwhile, Pakistani corps commanders met on Tuesday to review security policy. [ET] [Dawn]
  • MQM Leadership Reshuffled Again: On Monday, MQM leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain instituted another leadership shakeup of the party, removing the heads of the party’s top leadership bodies in London and Karachi and respectively replacing Irshad Hussain and Qamar Mansoor with Mustafa Azizabadi and a trio of leaders for Karachi, Amir Khan, Dr Nusrat, and Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui. Amir Khan is a former leader of the breakaway MQM-Haqiqi faction who later reconciled with the party in 2011.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • US Assistance: President Obama’s budget request for the 2016 fiscal year — which is highly unlikely to pass through Congress un-amended — seeks a total of $800 million in assistance for Pakistan, a 10% cut from this year, of which $534 million is economic aid and the remainder security assistance. [Dawn]
  • Tax Revenues: Revenue collection grew only 8.9% over the previous year during the July-January period, totaling Rs 1.333 trillion, against a target of Rs 1.446 trillion during the same period; making that goal requires a growth in tax collection of 24% over the previous year. Meanwhile, legal challenges have been filed in the Supreme Court against the government’s recent increase of the general sales tax on petroleum products. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • PML-N Divided on Replacement for Punjab Governor [ET]
  • ANP Leader Offers Reward for Charlie Hebdo Attackers’ Heirs [Dawn] [ET]
  • Islamabad Advocate General Expected to Head Mumtaz Qadri Case [ET] [Dawn]
  • Islamabad High Court to Conduct ‘Daily’ Hearings in Zakiur Rehman Lakvhi Case [Dawn]
  • Grenade Attack on Karachi School [Dawn] [ET]
  • Attacks in Khyber, Kurram Kill Seven [Dawn] [ET]
  • External Debt Rising Compared to Foreign Exchange Earnings [ET]
  • Inflation at 11-Year Low in January [ET]
  • Commentary: A New Foreign Policy Paradigm – “Seeking security against a much larger neighbour is a rational objective but seeking parity with it on a constant basis is not.” [Husain Haqqani, Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Security Data Declassified: In the wake of complaints by SIGAR in its most recent quarterly report to Congress that the US military command in Afghanistan had classified previously publicly available data on the Afghan national security forces, the US forces command has reversed course and released at least some of that data, Reuters reports. SIGAR said that a “majority” of the information sought had been declassified and it was in the process of reviewing.
  • Taliban Detainees in Qatar: Qatar’s foreign minister said Monday that reports last week that one of the five Taliban detainees transferred to Qatari custody in exchange for the release of Bowe Bergdahl had sought to reenage in militant activity were “totally false” and that the detainees “are living according to the agreement we signed with the United States.”

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Government Formation: The eight new cabinet ministers and director of the National Directorate of Security visited parliament on Monday accompanied by Chief Executive Abdullah, First Vice President Dostum, and other senior executive officials. New minister of interior Nur-ul Haq Ulumi pledged to concentrate on the process of distributing national ID cards, which will also be used for voter registration. Minister of Mines Dawoud Shah Saba announced that he would form an advisory council and pledged to “make sure all the people benefit from the natural resources”.
  • Pakistan Relations: In an Express Tribune interview, Afghan ambassador to Pakistan Janan Mosazai highlighted efforts by the national unity government to “boost cooperation with Pakistan against terrorism, extremism and organised crimes and for the promotion of peace and stability in both countries”. Mosazai also noted concerns over the treatment of Afghan refugees. Separately, US General John Campbell visited Rawalpindi on Monday for talks with Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif on cross-border security cooperation.
  • Iran Relations: In a VOA interview, Iran’s councilor for Herat expressed optimism that the new government in Afghanistan will crack down on the presence of ISIS in the country.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ministry of Defense Procurement Official Disputes Fuel Contract Corruption Charges [TOLO]
  • Three Helmand Police Killed in Suicide Attack [TOLO]
  • EU Ambassador Joins Calls for Electoral Reform [TOLO]
  • Commentary: What if America Had Never Invaded Afghanistan? – “In late September, the president and his cabinet principals still held out the possibility of a continued role for the Taliban in Afghanistan, provided its leaders agreed to break with Omar and meet U.S. demands.” [Robert Grenier, The Atlantic]
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