- Pakistani Finance Minister Ishaq Dar introduced the government’s budget for the coming fiscal year in an address to parliament on Saturday, which targets 5.5% GDP growth and a fiscal deficit of 4.3%; opposition parties denounced the budget as favoring the rich. The Afghan Taliban confirmed their participation in a second Pugwash-sponsored discussion forum in Dubai over the weekend; details are limited so far. Separate shootings in Quetta on Saturday and Sunday killed four police officers and five members of the Hazara community. An ANSF counteroffensive is reportedly underway in Badakshan’s Yamangan district after Taliban fighters took control of the district center over the weekend. The ANP, JUI-F, and PPP announced plans to hold protest sit-ins across Khyber Paktunkhwa calling for the resignation of Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak, who they accuse of presiding over rigged local government polls; the Jamaat-e-Islami’s Peshawar chapter has also separately warned of protests if its complaints are not address. Khattak announced plans for an all-parties conference to address the elections on June 9. Voting is currently underway for the legislative assembly in Gilgit-Baltistan. A U.S. drone strike on a Taliban funeral in Khost may have killed as many as 15 civilians in addition to large numbers of Taliban fighters. The Afghan government has named new governor appointments for Daikundi, Samangan, Kapisa, Panjshir, and Laghman provinces.
Pakistan — Security
- Quetta Attacks: Unidentified gunmen attacked a police patrol vehicle in the Quetta neighborhood of Pashtoonabad on Saturday, killing four officers. No immediate claim of responsibility was reported for the attack, which follows an attack on ethnic Pashtun bus passengers in the Mastung district in late May. Police sources told Dawn on Sunday that as many as 33 suspects had been arrested in a crackdown following the attack, although no details have been released on their identities. On Sunday evening, five members of the Hazara minority community were killed in a shooting in the Bacha Khan Chowk area of Quetta; again, no claim of responsibility was reported, although two suspects were arrested on Monday. Elsewhere, the Baloch Republican Army claimed responsibility for a bombing that derailed a Quetta-bound train from Rawalpinid near Jacobabad, Sindh on Saturday; at least eight people were injured. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET]
- Predator Strike: Nine people were reportedly killed in a Predator drone strike in the Shawal Valley region of North Waziristan on Saturday; details are limited, but the AFP reports that the target was a meeting of commanders from the Haqqani network and the Afghan Taliban.
- FATA Operations: Pakistani military spokesmen say that as many as 19 militant fighters were killed in ground clashes with military personnel in the Laddha-Shawal area near the Afghan border in North Waziristan on Sunday. Dawn describes the incident as taking place during a search and chase operation; Reuters reports that a military checkpost was initially attacked. Seven soldiers were also killed when one of the militants detonated a suicide vest. Meanwhile, a jirga of North Waziristan tribal elders have issued a June 15 ultimatum to the government to begin repatriating displaced residents.
- Malala Suspects Still in Custody: As reported on Friday, eight of ten suspects linked to the 2012 shooting of teenage education activist Malala Yousafzai, previously reported to have been convicted in April of this year, were in fact acquitted by the Anti-Terrorism Court which heard their case behind closed doors. On Saturday, police said that the remaining eight men were in fact still being held in custody on other terrorism charges. The actual gunman in the attack, previously identified as Ataullah Khan, is believed to be in hiding in Afghanistan. [WSJ] [WAPO] [Reuters] [Guardian] [ET]
Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Khyber Paktunkhwa Elections: Following meetings on Saturday, leaders of the ANP, JUI-F, and PPP announced a province-wide strike beginning June 10 to demand the resignation of the PTI-led provincial government, who they accused of rigging the results of the May 30 local government elections. Separately, the Peshawar chapter of Jamaat-e-Islami warned that they would begin demonstrations against Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak on June 8 if action was not taken on their complaints of vote rigging in the provincial capital. On Sunday, Khattak announced that he would convene an all-parties conference on June 9 to discuss the election complaints. On Friday, a small group of women protested restrictions on their voting during the local government polls in Swat and Lower Dir; the Election Commission had earlier announced a re-election for the PK-95 Lower Dir provincial assembly seat after reports that women had been barred form voting in some polling stations. Elsewhere, the Express Tribune notes that despite the high-level dispute, PTI and ANP councilors in the Hangu district appear set to reach an agreement on forming a district and tehsil-level alliance to challenge the JUI-F, which won a plurality of seats; the paper also rounds up reports from the contests in Swat, Charsadda, Bannu, and Swabi. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
- Gilgit Baltistan Elections: Army personnel were deployed across Gilgit-Baltistan on Saturday to provide security for the legislative assembly polls, which began on Monday and are still underway as of this writing. 272 candidates are contesting 24 seats; there are roughly 618,000 registered voters. Separately, Ahmed Raza Khan Qasuri, a senior aide to former Pres. Musharraf, filed a legal petition with the Islamabad High Court on Friday, seeking to upgrade Gilgit-Baltistan to provincial status.
- Other Election News: In statement to the judicial commission investigating charges of rigging during the May 2013 general elections, PTI representatives disputed allegations from PPP lawyers that the results in Khyber Paktunkhwa, where the PTI won a governing plurality, were also rigged, saying that the PPP had failed to provide any proof to substantiate their allegations. Anticipating the conclusion of the commission’s review, Prime Minister Sharif has appointed three senior ministers and his daughter to form a special committee to “defend the party and government’s position on alleged rigging.” [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
Pakistan — Economics and Development
- Budget Introduced: During remarks before the joint parliamentary session on Friday, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar unveiled the government’s budget for the forthcoming 2015-16 fiscal year, which begins July 1. The government is targeting a 5.5% GDP growth rate for the coming fiscal year, and a fiscal deficit equivalent to 4.3% of GDP. New tax measures have been introduced — Dawn puts the total at Rs 267 billion, the Express Tribune at Rs 238 billion — primarily by withdrawing previous special exemptions, a special surcharge on high-income individuals. Special tax exemptions were offered for new industry in Khyber Paktunkhwa and for exports to Afghanistan and Central Asia, as well as support for the textile and agriculture sectors. Provincial government will receive Rs 1.938 trillion in transfers, primarily tax revenues collected on their behalf by the federal government. The federal Public Sector Development Program has been allocated Rs 700 billion in spending, a 29.1% increase over the current year. The Express Tribune notes that despite previous agreements, projects along the ‘eastern route’ of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor have received the greatest share of funding under the PDSP. The overt defense budget has been increased by 11.6% from the current year, to Rs 781 billion, growing to 19% of the total budget. The Express Tribune notes that no specific allocation was made for the National Counter-Terrorism Authority. Rs 100 billion has been allocated for the rehabilitation of residents displaced by military operations in the FATA. Subsidies on commodities and electricity have been cut to Rs 137.6 billion, although actual payments have regularly exceeded the budgeted allocations in past years. The office of the prime minister and president received increases in their budgets, and civil service employees received a 7.5% ‘ad hoc allowance’; calls for the past five years of pay bonuses to be updated into the basic salary grades were ignored, however. The PTI, PPP, and MQM opposition parties separately denounced the budget in statements on Saturday and Sunday, arguing that it favors the rich and gives preferential treatment to PML-N supporters. Dar pushed back at a press conference on Saturday, insisting that “it is a developmental and poor-friendly budget which would strengthen our national economy”. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
- Energy Pricing: The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a government petition to suspend the Lahore High Court’s May ruling against its practice of imposing surcharges on electricity tariffs; hearings are scheduled to begin today. [ET]
Pakistan — Remainders
- Chief of Army Staff Meets Sri Lankan Counterpart [APP] [ET]
- PTI and PPP Clashes Halt Special Election Polling in Gujrat [Dawn] [ET]
- Cabinet Approves Spot Purchasing of LNG [Dawn]
- Former PML-Q Senator Named Special Advisor to Prime Minister on Finance [Dawn]
- PPP Vice President Sherry Rehman Elected to Senate Vacancy [Dawn] [ET]
- Sindh Police Appoint Investigation Committee Into Attack on Ismaili Community [ET] [Dawn]
- Two Would-Be Suicide Bombers Detonate in Sargodha [Dawn] [ET]
- Government Moves to Introduce Urdu as Official Language of Business [Dawn]
- Punjab PTI Issues ‘White Paper’ Criticizing Government Tenure [Dawn]
- Government Purchased 35 Vehicles for Staff Through Supplementary Grants [ET]
- Government Planning Dedicated Freight Rail Corridor [Dawn]
Afghanistan — Security
- Taliban Attack Badakshan District: A massed force of as many as 300 Taliban fighters overtook the center of the Yamgan district in Badakshan province for the second time in the past year on Saturday, provincial officials reported. At least eight Afghan police officers were killed in the attack; Taliban spokesmen claim to have detained multiple Afghan soldiers. A spokesman for the Badakhshan provincial police said Sunday that a counteroffensive had been launched to retake the district, although details are limited thus far. [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [AJE] [AP]
- Civilians Killed in Strike on Taliban Funeral: A Predator drone strike targeted a funeral gathering for a Taliban commander in the Alishir district of Khost province on Friday; although initial accounts reported that as many as 34 Taliban fighters had been killed in the strike, local residents and lawmakers said that at least 15 civilians had also been killed. The NATO Resolute Support mission said that it was investigating allegations of civilian casualties; in a statement on Saturday, former Pres. Karzai condemned the strike, suggesting that the majority of the dead were civilians. TOLO tracking indicates that 13 of 20 airstrikes in Afghanistan over the past month have been carried out by drones, seven of which were carried out in Nangarhar.
- Other Attacks and Operations: Taliban fighters in Ghazni ordered a halt to school services on Sunday as part of a “day of mourning” in the wake of the death of nine civilians in a roadside IED bombing near the provincial capital. Afghan forces reclaimed control of the Tabakshur Tapa area north of the Zabul provincial capital of Qalat on Sunday, an area they said had been held by Taliban fighters for much of the past decade. Also on Sunday, the district governor of Uruzgan’s Gizab district reports that Taliban fighters have seized at least a dozen security checkposts and warned that they were moving on the district center. Six civilians were killed in a roadside bombing near the Uruzgan provincial capital of Tirin Kot on Saturday, and another six killed in Kandahar’s Shah Wali Kot district on Friday; on Monday, four civilians were killed in a roadside bombing targeting the district governor of Baghlan’s Burka district, who was not hurt. A group of workers with the HALO Trust demining company were kidnapped in Logar province on Sunday; nine men are reported to have been freed as of Monday. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Taliban Talks: The international NGO Pugwash, which previously hosted a meeting in Qatar in early May between Taliban representatives and some other Afghan representatives, reportedly held a follow-up meeting in Dubai on June 6-7. A Taliban spokesman confirmed participation, saying that the meetings “are organized for exchanging views and responding to concerns about the Islamic Emirate”. TOLO indentifies the participants on the Taliban side as Shahabuddin Delawar, Sohail Shaheen, Sayed Rassoul, Abdul Salam Hanafi and Mawlawi Naik Mohammad, and other participants as Mirwais Yasini, Qayum Kochai, Qutbuddin Helal, Wahidullah Shahrani, Mawlawi Saleem and Sayed Eshaq Gailani. A third meeting is reportedly planned for July.
- Tensions with Pakistan: Speaking at a press conference in Bamiyan on Friday, Second Vice President Mohammad Sarwar Danish said that the controversial cooperation agreement between the NDS and the ISI was “in the initial and preliminary stages and but it is not in a stage that we can say it is finalized or signed”. In a Voice of America interview on Thursday, former Pres. Karzai said that the agreement was “embarrassing and contrary to the country’s national sovereignty” and that “a peace which surrenders Afghanistan to Pakistan is not acceptable to me”. During a parliamentary session on Saturday, where remarks focused primarily on the NDS-ISI agreement, first deputy house speaker Zahir Qadir said that “former officials should cooperate to improve the situation of the country and should refrain from objections and efforts to spark disorder in the country”, without elaborating.
- Governor Appointments: Contrary to initial reports, Masooma Muradi, a former vice presidential running mate for former minister Zalmay Rasoul, was appointed governor of Daikundi province, not Maidan Wardak, on Friday. TOLO additionally reports that Mohammad Hashim Zare has been named governor of Samangan, Sayed Mohammad Khaliq the governor of Kapisa, and Mohammad Arif Sarwari the governor of Panjshir. On Monday, Abdul Jabbar Naimi, a former governor Khost and Wardak, was named governor of Laghman province.
Afghanistan — Remainders
- Seal Team Six: A Secret History of Quiet Killings and Blurred Lines [NYT]
- Laws Still Pending as Parliament’s Term Approaches Uncertain End [TOLO]
- Afghan Foreign Minister Attends SCO Conference in Moscow [TOLO]
- Ulema Gathering Voices Support for ANSF [Khaama Press]
- Ghani Touts Procurement Commission Savings [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
- Health Minister and Border and Tribal Affairs Minister Announce 100 Day Plans [TOLO] [TOLO]
- Bergdahl Lawyer Seek Removal of Top General From Case [WAPO]