Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: ANSF Reinforcements Dispatched to Kunduz; Supreme Court Considers Constitutional Amendments

Topline

  • Reinforcements are being deployed to Kunduz to repel an insurgent offensive around the provincial capital, although current reports suggest that a major counter-offensive has yet to be launched. Pres. Ghani arrived in New Delhi for a three-day visit, and will met with Prime Minister Modi on Tuesday. The Supreme Court of Pakistan held hearings on Monday regarding challengings to the 18th and 21st amendments to the Pakistani constitution, debating whether or not the constitution had a “basic structure” on the basis of which the judiciary could strike down parliamentary amendments. Sindh will oppose an extension to the current National Financial Commission revenue-sharing formula past its expiration in June, Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah said Monday, and will seek an increase of the provincial revenue share. New governors were appointed for Herat and Kandahar province.

Pakistan — Security

  • No Leads in Sabeen Mahmud Murder Investigations: Karachi police investigators tell Reuters that they have had no success in matching ballistics from the shooting of activist Sabeen Mahmud, suggesting that “a new group or new weapon has been used in the killing”.
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Attacks: One security official was killed and three wounded in a roadside bombing in the Dera Ismail Khan district on Tuesday, which the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for. On Monday, a Shia man, shopkeeper Abid Hassan Qazalbash, was killed by unidentified gunmen in Peshawar; no claim of responsibility has been reported. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Supreme Court Hears Questions on ‘Basic Structure’ of Constitution: At hearings on Monday, a full 17-judge court heard arguments related to combined challenges against the 18th and 21st amendment to the constitution; Judge Ejaz Afzal Khan suggested in his remarks that despite not being enforced, the constitution did have a “basic structure” that should limit some amendments. Most discussion focused on the parliamentary committee to confirm judicial appointments introduced under the 18th and 19th amendments; hearings continue today. [Dawn]
  • Karachi Crackdown: During an interior ministry meeting convened on Monday, Sindh Rangers commander Maj. Gen. Bilal Akhtar reported that violence in Karachi had fallen by 50% since September 2013 after the beginning of the paramilitary-led crackdown on criminal and militant groups in the city. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan endorsed the operation, saying that it would continue. Meanwhile, MQM leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain revived his call for the creation of a separate province for Sindh’s urban areas, saying it was the “only permanent solution” for resolving the urban population’s issues. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Party Divisions: PPP leaders in Sindh hit back at former home minister Zulfiqar Mirza on Monday with charges of corruption and political irrelevance, as Mirza has continued his criticism against party co-chairman former Pres. Zardari. A request by Mirza for state-provided security was approved by the Sindh High Court on Tuesday. Separately, the PTI internal election tribunal headed by retired judge Wajihuddin Ahmed held hearings on Monday, in violation of party leader Imran Khan’s orders dissolving the tribunal. [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Tax Revenues: Speaking on Monday, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah said that his government would oppose the extension of the current National Financial Commission revenue-sharing formula pass its expiration at the end of June, saying that Sindh would seek an increase in the provincial share of combined revenues to 60%, from 57.5%. The Express Tribune reports that, despite chronic missed targets, the federal government is considering upping its tax collection target for the next fiscal year to Rs 3.2 trillion, Rs 400 billion higher than the initial target for the current fiscal year, which was subsequently revised downward by roughly Rs 100 billion, and which is likely to be revised downward again in the face of collection shortfalls.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Lahore High Court Bench to Hear Disqualification Petition Against Prime Minister [Dawn]
  • Electoral Reform Committee to Review Senate Voting Rules [Dawn]
  • FIA Seizes Spoiled Vaccines in Belated Investigation [Dawn]
  • Civil Society Groups Challenge Karachi Nuclear Plant Construction [Dawn]
  • Musharraf Cites Health Troubles in Skipping Lal Masjid Murder Case Hearings [Dawn]
  • Commerce Minister Briefs Parliament on Afghan Trade Agreement [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kunduz Clashes: At least 2,000 reinforcement soldiers have reportedly been deployed to Kunduz, where a Taliban offensive has hit three districts, including the outskirts of the provincial capital. Afghan security sources and local elders report the presence of foreign fighters from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Chechnya amongst the insurgents. TOLO reports that as of Tuesday morning reinforcements are being dispatched to a military base under siege in the Imam Sahib district, but that a large scale counter-offensive had yet to be launched. Ministry of Interior officials claimed that they had killed a senior Taliban commander in the district, along with 27 fighters, in overnight fighting. Reports of ANSF casualties vary, with between 9-17 reportedly killed. [Reuters] [AJE] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Ghani Visits India: After initially delaying his departure for talks with Afghan and NATO force commanders on Monday, Pres. Ghani arrived in India on Monday night for a three-day visit. He held talks with Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Prime Minister Modi on Tuesday, and will meet with Indian business leaders on Wednesday. Speaking to the Indian press, Ghani reiterated objections to the use of Afghanistan as a field for proxy conflict, warning that “if people want to play short sighted games, it’s going to have medium to long term devastating consequences”. Speaking with Ghani on Tuesday, Modi said that India supports “an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned [peace] process”, which “requires a positive and constructive approach from neighbours, including an end to support for violence.” [TOLO]
  • New Subnational Appointments: On Monday, the Independent Directorate of Local Governance announced that Pres. Ghani had approved the appointment of Mohammad Asif Rahimi as governor of Herat province and Humayun Azizi as governor of Kandahar province. Rahimi is a former deputy minister of rural rehabilitation and development; Azizi was previously a minister for parliamentary affairs. [TOLO]
  • Prosecution in Farkhunda Case Omits High Officials: On Monday, the Attorney General’s office filed charges in connection to the Farkhunda lynching case, in which 49 individuals, including 19 police officers, have been arrested. Safiullah Mujadidi, the head of the Kabul Primary Court, tells TOLO that “the names of those serving in top police posts have not been included” in the prosecution, however. [NYT]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Fuel Imports: TOLO reports that fuel imports nominally intended for NATO forces in Afghanistan — which are imported without being charged customs duties — have continued at 2014 levels during the first quarter of 2015, at around 200,000 tons, despite the decline in international force levels. Ministry of finance and ministry of commerce officials dispute the report but say they do not have exact figures of the import levels.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Kandahar Public Health Official Wounded in Attack [Khaama Press]
  • Commentary: Is the Islamic State Escalating in Afghanistan? – “ISIS’ claim of responsibility for the Kabul Bank attack in Jalalabad should be treated skeptically, as the nature of the Kabul Bank attack suits a number of militant groups.” [Lauren McNally, ISW]
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