Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistani Leaders Huddle Again On China Corridor Project; Ghani Cancels Qatar Trip

Topline

  • During meetings presided over by Prime Minister Sharif on Thursday, senior party leaders reportedly reached a renewed consensus on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, and will reportedly prioritize projects along the westernmost route first. Pres. Ghani has cancelled a planned trip to Qatar for talks on the Afghan peace process. Maulvi Sayed Maqbool, a former Kabul-area commander during the anti-Soviet jihad, was assassinated in Kabul on Thursday by unidentified gunmen. Khyber Paktunkhwa police are short of personnel to staff polling stations for the upcoming local body elections, and are drawing on VIP security details and female health workers to supplement their numbers, Dawn reports. Former Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah was reinstated to his old portfolio on Friday, after he was cleared of involvement in the June 2014 Model Town clash in a joint investigation team report last week. Pres. Ghani suspended at least six officials in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development on Thursday on corruption charges, and the acting president and vice president of the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency.

Pakistan — Security

  • Counterterrorism Response: In briefings before the national assembly on Thursday, Interior Secretary Shahid Khan acknowledged that the implementation to date of the National Action Plan on counterterrorism was “unsatisfactory”, saying it was a “difficult and multifaceted task”. In a separate speech at a Frontier Corps graduation ceremony, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that “those fighting in the name of Islam are foreign-funded puppets” and vowed to carry out the NAP.
  • FATA Attacks: Two members of the paramilitary Touchi Scouts were killed and one injured in an attack on a checkpost in the Ghulam Khan area of North Waziristan on Friday; military officials claim to have killed 15 militants in retaliation. On Thursday, North Waziristan tribal elders in Peshawar called for the military not to demolish market areas in Miram Shah and Mir Ali, and reiterated calls for displaced North Waziristan residents to be allowed to return. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Elections: Khyber Paktunkhwa police officials tell Dawn that they are currently only able to deploy around 50% of the necessary manpower to provide security at polling stations for the upcoming local government elections, and will pull VIP security details and female health workers to supplement their numbers. In Gilgit-Baltistan, at least 6,000 army personnel will be deployed to provide security for polling scheduled for June 8. Meanwhile, Sindh provincial election commissioner Tanveer Zaki tells the Express Tribune that constituency delimitation will be finalized by the end of the month, and announced within ten days for a period of complaints and appeals. [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Former Punjab Law Minister Reinstated: Following his clearance by a joint investigation team into the June 2014 clash between Lahore police and Pakistan Awami Tehreek activists, former Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah was reinstated in his former portfolio today. Additionally, Ayesha Ghous Pasha was sworn in as provincial finance minister. [Dawn]
  • Karachi Tensions: An anonymous cabinet member source tells The Nation that the government has decided to “go soft” on the MQM and has “asked the people involved in the [Karachi] operation to stop bashing MQM in every case and treat terrorists as terrorists, not as activists of any party”. The source also suggests that the government will not seek MQM leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain’s extradition from the UK. Meanwhile, Karachi Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Naveed Mukhtar met with members of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Thursday, where he vowed to fix law and order in the city and heard complaints over infrastructure and service delivery in the city.
  • Bol Broadcast Blocked: At the request of the federal information ministry, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority has blocked Bol TV from beginning its broadcast — previously scheduled for the beginning of Ramazan — while investigations continue into its parent company, Axact, and CEO Shoaib Ahmed Shaikh. [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Leaders Meet Again on China Corridor: Prime Minister Sharif chaired a meeting of senior party leaders in Islamabad on Thursday and reportedly reached a consensus agreement with opposition dissidents who had protested what they said was the disproportionate infrastructure benefits accorded to Punjab in the plans for the proposed China-Pakistan economic corridor project. Although details are limited, the meeting appears to have reached agreement to prioritize the development of the “western route” through Balochistan and Khyber Paktunkhwa, one of three north-south road corridors that the government has announced as part of the project. The gathering agreed to the creation of a national assembly committee to oversee all projects falling under the corridor — the senate has already formed such a committee — and the creation of a task force with provincial representation to select possible sites for Chinese-funded industrial zones. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Electricity Surcharge: The Express Tribune reported Thursday that the government had agreed to impose a 7.5% withholding tax on electricity bills for those paying more than Rs 50,000 per month, as part of the budget for the next fiscal year. On Friday, the Lahore High Court voided multiple surcharges that had been previously imposed by the government on electricity tariffs, saying that they were in violation of the constitution.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Prime Minister Sharif Hosts Visiting Belarus President [Dawn] [ET] [APP]
  • Sindh High Court Orders Chief Minister to Punish Police for Failing to Detain Zulfikar Mirza [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Continues to Hear Arguments Over Constitutional Amendments [Dawn]
  • NADRA Scrutiny Bars As Many as 100,000 From National IDs Due to ‘Suspect Alien’ Status [Dawn]
  • India Frees Three Pakistani Prisoners [APP]
  • Sharif Brothers Acquitted in Ittefaq Foundries Case [Dawn] [ET]
  • National Accountability Bureau to File Another Reference Against Pervez Ashraf [Dawn]
  • FBR Denies Customs Waiver for LNG Import Tugs [ET]
  • Council on Islamic Ideology Calls for ‘Uniform System of Education’ Including Religious Teachings [ET] [ET]
  • Commentary: Sectarian Violence and Intolerance in Pakistan – “Violent sectarian groups are expanding their geographical influence in the country and have largely been able to carry out large-scale attacks with insufficient state reprisals. As their power and influence increases at the local level, they become attractive partners for political parties seeking electoral success.” [Niloufer Siddiqui, MEI]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Ghani Cancels Qatar Trip: Pres. Ghani has reportedly cancelled a planned trip to Qatar, during which he and High Peace Council advisors were to have held talks on the status of the Taliban political office there and “the role of the Qatari government in supporting the peace process”. Although some analysts attribute his decision not to go to the continuing furore over the NDS-ISI cooperation agreement, a presidential spokesman claimed the visit was delayed due to Ghani’s ongoing review of action plans being presented by cabinet ministers for their first 100 days in office, saying that “the president’s focus is on domestic issues”.
  • Former Jihadi Leader Killed in Kabul: Maulvi Sayed Maqbool, a former commander with the Harkat-i-Islami party during the anti-Soviet jihad period from the Kabul area, was killed by unidentified gunmen in Kabul on Thursday evening. No claim of responsibility has been reported. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Officials Suspended: On Thursday, Pres. Ghani suspended six officials in the Ministry of Urban Development Affairs and Housing, on charges of millions of dollars worth of corruption. Separately, Ghani also suspended the acting president and vice president of the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency, again on corruption charges; the move comes a day after a brawl between three new deputies to the agency by the Commerce Ministry. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Parliamentary Criticisms Continue Over Appointment Delays [TOLO]
  • Zabul Hostages Reunited With Families, Demand Release of Those Still Captive [TOLO]
  • Baghlan Schools Closed Over Insecurity [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Stanakzai Goes From Peace to War – “It is clear that the appointment has been held up not by a shortage of suitable candidates, but by the political ‘tug of war’ over appointments at the heart of the national unity government.” [Kate Clark, AAN]
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