Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistan Shuts Down Save the Children Office; Iran Reportedly Offering Support to Taliban

Topline

  • Pakistan has shut the offices of the international charity Save the Children, on unspecified charges of “anti-Pakistan activities”; speaking on Friday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said Pakistan would support NGOs operating under their charter and the law, but warned of further restrictions on NGOs operating “against the national interest”. Pakistan’s foreign ministry rebuffed EU calls for the restoration of the moratorium on capital punishment on Thursday. The WSJ reports increased Iranian support for Taliban fighters in western Afghanistan, including the creation of four training camps and a permanent Taliban office in the city of Mashhad. Pakistan’s parliament passed unanimous resolutions condemning recent remarks by Indian officials on Thursday, as tensions in the relationship pick up. Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor has increased his military posture, publicly reiterating offers to lead military operations in northern Afghanistan against the Taliban insurgency; he has also taken to wearing a military uniform in public for the past two weeks. The Sindh Rangers director general accused unspecified political parties and “high profile personalities” of extortion, land theft, and other forms of organized crime in a briefing on Thursday, in apparent reference to the MQM. Pres. Ghani “has started consultations” on the question of parliament’s legal status after the expiration of its term on June 21, a presidential spokesman indicated.

Pakistan — Security

  • Save the Children Charity Expelled: On Thursday, Pakistan’s interior ministry shut down the offices of the international charity Save the Children in Islamabad and ordered the expulsion of the group’s remaining international staff from the country. In a statement responding to the move, the group noted that all of its 1,2000 staff in the country are Pakistani nationals. Anonymous government officials tell the AFP that the group was expelled for “anti-Pakistan activities,” without elaborating; Save the Children officials confirmed that their offices had been shut but said they had not received any formal notification as to why, “strongly object[ing]” to the move. Although Save the Children officials have denied the reports, Pakistan has previously linked the group to Dr. Shakil Afridi, a Pakistani doctor who allegedly conducted surveillance for the CIA in Abbottabad in advance of the US raid on Osama bin Laden. The move comes as Pakistan has increased its scrutiny of NGOs with international ties and is preparing greater regulation on their activities; on Friday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that “we will support those NGOs who are doing a good job. But we cannot allow anti-state NGOs to operate under the umbrella of the good-performing NGOs.” [BBC] [AJE] [ET]
  • Executions: Two more death row prisoners were executed in Faisalabad and Haripur on Thursday. Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman rebuffed European Union calls for the reimposition of the moratorium on the use of capital punishment, saying that “awarding of death sentences comes under international laws and it is Pakistan’s internal affair” and “only such convicts are being hanged who are involved in heinous crimes”.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Tensions with India: Speaking at the conference of Pakistani ambassadors in Islamabad on Thursday, Prime Minister Sharif said that Pakistan would “continue our quest for a peaceful neighborhood” but called for “reciprocity” from India to Pakistani initiatives, decrying “irresponsible” statements by Indian officials. Sharif stressed that “we will protect our vital interests at all costs” but said that “at the same time, we will not abandon our high moral ground because of provocations.” On Thursday, the national assembly and senate passed unanimous resolutions condemning recent statements by Indian Prime Minister Modi during his earlier visit to Bangladesh and by other officials in connection to reported Indian cross-border operations in Myanmar. [Dawn]
  • Karachi Tensions: According to a Rangers statement on Thursday, Major General Bilal Akbar, the Rangers’ director general, told the Sindh provincial apex committee that “several high-profile personalities” were involved in land theft, extortion, and other forms of organized crime in Karachi, operating “systematically under the tutelage of a prominent political party in Karachi”, in an apparent reference to the MQM. Party leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain denounced the report; the PTI has called for the report to be made public. Meanwhile, an anti-terrorism court extended the remand without bail of MQM leader Amir Khan until June 25. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: The PML-N is seeking to take advantage of tensions between the PTI and Jamaat-e-Islami in Khyber Paktunkhwa and is reaching out to the latter to join the PML-N coalition, The Nation reports. Prime Minister Sharif met with the Gilgit-Baltistan governor on Thursday to discuss the formation of the legislative assembly cabinet and candidates for chief minister; an independent candidate switched to join the PML-N on Thursday, bringing the party up to 15 out of 24 seats in the assembly. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Provincial Budgets: On Friday, the Punjab cabinet approved a Rs 1.22 trillion budget for the upcoming fiscal year, of which approximately Rs 400 billion will go to development projects, Rs 290 billion to education, and Rs 800 billion to non-development expenditures, among other priorities; the Punjab Assembly began debate on the budget on Friday. [Dawn] [ET]
  • No Duties at Gwadar Port: Speaking during the parliamentary debate on the budget on Thursday, Prime Minister Sharif indicated that he would seek to give Gwadar port duty-free status, describing it as a “gift for the entire region”.
  • Polio Crisis: A new polio case was registered in South Waziristan on Thursday, bringing the total number of cases across the country so far this year to 25.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Orakzai Political Agent Returns After Eight Years [ET]
  • One Killed, Three Wounded in Blast at Torkham Gate [Dawn]
  • Two Bodies Found Near Mastung [Dawn]
  • Morgan Stanley Upgrades Pakistan to ‘Emerging-Market’ Status [ET]
  • Prime Minister Inaugurates Hub Oil Refinery [Dawn] [ET]
  • Sindh and Government to Talk on Gas Supply [Dawn] [ET]
  • NADRA Employees Strike in Sindh [ET]
  • Report: Changes in Pakistan’s Counter-Terrorism Legal Regime – “The condemnations and calls for action aside, the most consequential response in the [Peshawar] attack’s aftermath has been the drastic change in the structure of Pakistan’s anti-terrorism laws through the establishment of special military courts for conducting trials for terrorism offenses under the Army Act instead of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997.” [Zulfiqar Hameed, New America Foundation]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Iranian Support for Taliban: The WSJ, citing Afghan and Western officials, reports that “Tehran has quietly increased its supply of weapons, ammunition and funding to the Taliban, and is now recruiting and training their fighters”. One commander interviewed by the paper describes being paid around $580 a month and provided with weapons and ammunition; beyond support, the report indicates that Iran operates at least four training camps for Taliban fighters. Officials describe the move as intended in part to counter U.S. influence and in part to counter the potential spread of the Islamic State into Taliban territory. The Taliban are reported to have opened a permanent office in the Iranian city of Mashhad, which some officials now describe as the “Mashhad shura” and suggest operates on par with other Taliban regional commands.
  • Balkh Governor Increases Military Posture: Stressing his support for the Afghan national security forces in remarks on Thursday, Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor said that he was “ready to lead” a “decisive military operation” to eliminate the insurgent presence in northern Afghanistan, saying that “if the president, commander of the armed services, chief executive, minister of defense and minister of interior assign me the task and give me permission, with joint cooperation we are determined to clean our neighboring provinces in the north from the existence of militants”. Governor Noor has taken to wearing a military uniform for the past two weeks, and making high-profile “assessment” trips to Balkh districts facing Taliban attacks.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Parliament Status: On Thursday, a presidential spokesman said that Pres. Ghani “has pledged to clear up the fate of the Wolesi Jirga before its legal term comes to an end; therefore, he has started consultations and next week these meetings will expand so that a constitutional solution is found to the issue”. The upper and lower house are split, and divided internally, on the question of the legality of parliament’s continuation in office past the expiration of its term on June 21, in the absence of scheduled parliamentary elections.
  • Corruption Complaints: In remarks on Thursday, presidential envoy for reform and good governance Ahmad Zia Massoud said that “top officials” and “civil administration employees” were involved in corruption at the national as well as local level, suggesting that “meritocracy is under attack” and that “every political party is trying to introduce their own representatives” at the deputy minister level.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghanistan’s “Mini-Pentagon” Far Removed from the Front Lines of Fighting [AP]
  • IDLG Promises to Complete Governor Appointments Within Next Ten Days [Pajhwok]
  • Transportation Minister Discusses 100-Day Plan [TOLO]
  • Womens Activists Still Concerned Over Peace Talks with Taliban Despite Norway Meeting [TOLO]
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