Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Xi Signs Economic Corridor Agreements; Afghan Cabinet Members Sworn In

Topline

  • Chinese Pres. Xi Jinping concluded his two-day visit to Pakistan with an address to parliament and the signature of 51 memorandums of understanding totaling $28 billion in investment agreements, most concentrated on loans to the power sector. The Pakistani government has approved the creation of a special security force devoted to protecting Chinese engineers working on the economic corridor project. The Balochistan Republic Army claimed responsibility for an attack on the Pasni radar station in Gwadar on Monday evening. Afghan cabinet ministers were sworn in on Tuesday, leaving the defense ministry the only vacant ministerial-level position; Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah are reported to have reached an agreement on the nomination of Abdullah Habibi for the post. Afghan provincial officials and parliamentarians continue to express alarm at the alleged spread of Daesh in Afghanistan, with some accusing the government of complicity or support for the group. Prime Minister Sharif will reportedly depart for Saudi Arabi later this week in a bid to mend ties.

Pakistan — Security

  • Pasni Radar Attacked: A group of militants attacked an air traffic control radar in Pasni, in the Gwadar district of Balochistan, on Monday evening; Civil Aviation Authority officials reported that the attack was repelled without damage to the radar system, but that it has been temporarily shut down, disrupting air travel. The Balochistan Republic Army claimed responsibility for the attack; two Frontier Corps personnel were killed in subsequent search operations in the area on Tuesday. [ET]
  • Saudi Relations: Prime Minister Sharif will reportedly depart for Saudi Arabia later this week for meetings with King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, cancelling earlier plans to visit Indonesia during, in a bid to “remove the misunderstandings” between the two countries over Pakistan’s neutrality resolution on the Yemen conflict.
  • Military Courts: On Tuesday, the federal government petitioned the Supreme Court to withdraw its stay order on executions approved by the new military court system last month, which the court issued as it hears challenges against the court system and other amendments to the constitutional structure. On Tuesday, 17 death row prisoners were executed at jail around the country, bringing the total to 75 since the withdrawal of the moratorium on capital punishment in Decemner. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Air Force Officer Detained on Espionage Charge: At hearing in the Islamabad High Court on Monday, Pakistan Air Force officials said that squadron leader Hassan Akhtar had been detained last November and held since without formal charge on espionage charges, the investigations of which they said was still ongoing. Akhtar’s wife had petitioned for his release; Air Force officials challenged the jurisdiction of the high court system to hear the case.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Xi Addresses Parliament, Signs Investment Agreements: Chinese Pres. Xi Jinping concluded his two-day visit to Pakistan on Tuesday with an address to parliament, during which he reiterated pledges of diplomatic solidarity between China and Pakistan. Xi also met separately with senior military officers and the heads of the country’s major political parties. On Monday, Xi and Prime Minister Sharif signed 51 memorandums of understanding, touting the new economic corridor project linking the two countries and a new civil nuclear energy cooperation agreement. Of the $28 billion in agreements, $22 billion was devoted to commercial loans from Chinese banks to the Pakistani power sector, for projects totaling 8,400 megawatts of generation by 2018. Most of the non-energy infrastructure funds are devoted to transportation infrastructure around the Karakorum Highway and Gwadar port. The AFP notes persistent security concerns for the corridor project in Balochistan; the Pakistani government has approved the creation of a special army security division of around 10,000 soldiers and special forces commandos devoted to protecting Chinese engineers working on economic corridor projects. [AJA] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Karachi Crackdown: In a statement on Monday, the Rangers warned residents to carry national ID cards at all times or risk detention, and on Tuesday issued a nine-day deadline to surrender illegally owned weapons. The Election Commission reviewed security measures for the NA-246 special election on Tuesday, which will be headed by the Rangers.
  • Elections: The Awami Muslim League and Pakistan Awami Tehreek have announced plans to form an alliance in the Rawalpindi cantonment local elections, voicing complaints that they had been marginalized by the PTI after earlier supporting the party’s sit-ins last fall. In Karachi, analysts suggest that the JI and PTI may draw from each others’ support base, giving the MQM an edge in the special election later this week. [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • NADRA Submits Biometric Reports to Judicial Panel [Dawn]
  • PTI Vows to Block Cybercrime Bill [ET] [Dawn]
  • Senators Accuse Government of Slow Implementation of National Action Plan [Dawn]
  • PTI Activists Force Reopening of PESCO Grid Station in Peshawar [ET]
  • 185 Universities Operating without Higher Education Commission Authorization [Dawn]
  • NEPRA Approves 97MW Rental Power Project [Dawn]
  • World Bank Reports Only 8.7% of Pakistanis Hold Bank Accounts [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Faces Daunting Challenge Identifying Unvaccinated Children [Dawn] [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kidnapping Victims: The WSJ interviews family members of the 31 Hazara men kidnapped in Kabul in February, which local officials attribute to a former Taliban commander who switched allegiances to the more overtly sectarian Daesh. Speaking to Afghan students in Iran, Pres. Ghani defended the government’s response to the kidnappings, saying more than $6 million had been spent on operations to secure their release.
  • Islamic State in Afghanistan: Helmand provincial police officials claim that Taliban and Daesh forces are currently fighting each other in the Kajaki district. On Monday, parliamentarians and provincial officials traded charges that members of the National Security Council and provincial officials in Kunduz and Paktika had distributed arms and funds to families of Daesh members and other anti-government groups; little evidence was offered to substantiate those accusations. [TOLO]
  • Attacks: An explosion in Kandahar on Tuesday killed two civilians and wounded 21 other people, including eight police officers; TOLO reports that the blast was caused by a bombing, but Khaama Press reports that it took place at an explosives depot. On Monday, seven people were wounded in a bombing in the Kunduz provincial capital. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Cabinet Sworn In: Pres. Ghani officially swore in the 16 new cabinet members confirmed by parliament this weekend on Tuesday. On Monday, Wolesi Jirga second deputy Mohammad Nazeer Ahmadzai told TOLO that Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah had reached an agreement to appoint Abdullah Habibi as minister of defense, the last unfilled cabinet position; nominees for the Supreme Court and the attorney general’s office have also yet to be announced. [TOLO] [BBC]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ghani Seeks Iranian Investments During Tehran Visit [TOLO] [Pajhwok]
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