Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Interior Ministry Suspends Closure Order for Save the Children; Musa Qala Police Attacked

Topline

  • Press reports on Sunday indicate that Pakistan’s Interior Ministry reversed its closure of the Islamabad offices of Save the Children “until further notice”, although the group says that it has not received official notice to that effect. Attacks continue around Afghanistan, the most serious of which included a Taliban attack on a police outpost in Musa Qala, Helmand, which killed as many as 20 Afghan police officers. Afghan intelligence officials reported that the Taliban shadow governors for Nangarhar and Kunar were killed in separate incidents, one in a shooting in Peshawar and another in an airstrike. Pakistan marked the one-year anniversary of the initiation of Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan; military officials say that 2,763 militants and 347 Pakistani soldiers have been killed to date. Taliban and Afghan government representatives are reportedly meeting in Norway for talks, although the Taliban rejected calls for a Ramazan ceasefire. Disputes continue between donors and the Afghan government over the transfer of control of the LOTFA fund for Afghan police salaries. The PTI has petitioned the special judicial commission investigating election rigging during the 2013 general elections to conduct constituency-by-constituency questioning of polling staff, extending the commission’s duration. The UN will shut down its electoral support program early in the absence of any clear timeline for parliamentary elections, Reuters reports; in ongoing consultations, Pres. Ghani has reportedly proposed a six-month extension to parliament’s term and a vote near the end of the year. The MQM held protests in Karachi and Hyderabad over the Sindh provincial budget, which was introduced in the provincial assembly on Saturday; after rebuffing criticism from Prime Minister Sharif over the party’s frequent city-wide strikes, MQM leader Altaf Hussain reversed course and cut the protest short on Sunday. Pres. Ghani has reportedly appointed Anisa Rassouli as the first female Supreme Court justice.

Pakistan — Security

  • NGO Crackdown: The Post and NYT provide additional details and background on Pakistan’s closure of the Islamabad offices of the international charity Save the Children last Thursday, and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s Friday press conference in which he implied that the charity was operating outside unspecified regulations on its activities. Although details are limited, reports indicate that as part of a review of international NGO activity over the past year, Pakistan has suspended the operating permits of at least two dozen NGOs with international ties; sources tell Dawn that nine organizations — specifically Save the Children International, Oxfam GB, Norwegian Refugee Council, Danish Refugee Council, Catholic Relief Services, World Vision, Save the Children USA, Mercy Corps, and Church World Service — have been directed to halt their operations, although some of those groups say they have not received notifications to that effect. At the same time, officials say that Tariq Fatemi, advisor to the prime minister on foreign affairs, has been tasked to draft new regulations on NGO activities, although the timeline for such regulations is unclear. Dawn reports that officials have introduced substantial new reporting requirements on NGO funding sources in a bid to gain closer control over NGO activities. The U.S. State Department issued a statement on Friday expressing concern over the crackdown. On Sunday, Interior Ministry sources disclosed a new letter to the local media which reversed their previous shutdown of Save the Children’s operations “until further notice”; a spokesman for the group said that they had not received official notice to that effect.
  • FATA Operations: In statements on Saturday, ahead of the one-year anniversary of the launch of Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan, military spokesmen said that they had killed 2,763 militants over the course of fighting, and that 347 Pakistani army officers and soldiers have been killed to date. The latest figures included airstrikes in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan on Saturday, which the military says killed 20 militants. No independent confirmation of military figures is available. Anonymous military sources tell Dawn that “preliminary preparations for the final push” into the Shawal Valley border region have begun and will commence in mid-July. Prime Minister Sharif commemorated the military effort in remarks on Sunday. [AFP] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Karachi Police Officer Targeted: On Saturday, unidentified gunmen attacked the vehicle of Karachi police superintendent Rao Anwar; four attackers were killed in retaliatory gunfire, and subsequently identified as members of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan splinter group Jamaat-ul Ahrar. Anwar previously survived an attack by gunmen in early May. [Dawn]
  • Aircraft Sale: On Monday, Pakistan Air Force officials announced that following demonstrations at the Paris Air Show, they had secured a deal for the first ever export of the JF-17 Thunder fighter jet, which is jointly produced in Pakistan with Chinese manufacturers. Deliveries are said to be planned for 2017, but the client and size of the sale have not been disclosed.
  • Executions: During his remarks to parliament on Friday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan rebuffed calls from the European Union to reinstate a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. Chaudhry Nisar also suggested that neither Shafqat Mehmood, who faces the death penalty, nor Aftab Bahadur, who was executed last week, were juveniles when sentenced for their crimes, as activists have maintained. Sindh jail authorities may face punishment for deferring Mehmood’s execution to allow for a Supreme Court appeal to be heard last week, which was ultimately rejected. The Interior Ministry has imposed a moratorium on executions for the duration of Ramazan, however. [ET] [AFP]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Complaints: At a press conference on Friday, Imran Khan alleged that in 149 constituencies were more than 5% extra ballot papers were provided, all but six PTI candidates had lost, and suggested that the distribution of extra papers was correlated with missing polling-station level results forms. Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid countered that those forms were in fact most frequently missing in constituencies where the PTI had won. Data on the polling station level forms has thus far not been released publicly, and is reported to be incomplete in many constituencies. On Saturday, PTI lawyers appealed for the special judicial commission investigating allegations of election rigging during the 2013 parliamentary polls to extend its hearings, summoning returning officers from all national assembly and provincial assembly constituencies to testify, among other steps. The commission will hear the PTI petition on Monday, as well as testimony from caretaker officials in Balochistan. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Karachi Tensions: On Saturday, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah appointed a three-member commission headed by retired judge Ghulam Sarwar Korai to examine a report prepared last week by the Rangers assessing the prevalence of organized crime in Karachi, a large portion of which was attributed to an unspecified “major political party”, an apparent reference to the MQM. [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Tensions with India: The Express Tribune reports that, following a conference of Pakistani ambassadors last week, top diplomats posted in SAARC regional countries have advised that Pakistan should “stick with our plans and vision of regional connectivity and economic development, no matter what India says” and cautioned Pakistan not to fall into India’s “trap”. Speaking on Monday, Foreign Advisor Sartaj Aziz said that Pakistan is seeking a “tension-free” relationship with India but would “not hold dialogue with India on her terms”. [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan Awami Tehreek to Hold Protests Over Model Town Investigations [ET]
  • Sweep Arrests in Quetta in Wake of Pashtoonabad Shootings [ET] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Balochistan Fighters Hand Over Weapons [ET]
  • Dera Bugti Gas Pipeline Bombed [Dawn]
  • Chief of Army Staff Attends Naval Ceremony, Vows to Defeat ‘Enemy Campaign’ Against China Economic Corridor [ET] [Dawn]
  • Sindh Plans Competitive Examinations for Teachers’ Appointment [ET]
  • World Bank Expected to Release $1B Loan Despite Missed Targets [ET]
  • 2.2 Million Fake Degrees Stored at Axact, FIA Reports [ET]
  • Chinese Delegation Meets with Pakistani Business Groups [ET] [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Police Management: Reuters reports that the dispute between donors and the Afghan government over the transfer to government control of the UN-administered Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan, which supports police salaries, is ongoing, and likely to miss a June 30 deadline for resolution. At least one donor is reported to have frozen “millions” of dollars in aid to the fund. Separately, on Sunday the Interior Ministry announced the appointment of multiple senior officials, including nine provincial police chiefs.
  • Taliban Shadow Governors Killed: On Friday, Afghan intelligence officials reported that Mawlavi Mir Ahmad Gul, identified as the Taliban’s shadow governor for Nangarhar province, was killed by unidentified gunmen in Peshawar. No claim of responsibility was reported, and the Taliban have yet to confirm his death. On Sunday, the NDS said that Omar Zadran, identified as the Taliban shadow governor for Kunar province, had been killed in an airstrike. [Reuters]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: As many as twenty Afghan police officers were killed in an attack on an outpost near the district center of Musa Qala, Helmand on Friday, for which the Taliban claimed responsibility; the base, which adjoins the Taliban-controlled district of Baghran, was encircled and destroyed by a massed formation of Taliban fighters who cut off ANSF reinforcements. At a press conference on Saturday, Afghan National Army chief of staff for operations Major General Afzal Aman acknowledged Taliban control over four districts across the country, and highlighted the need for additional close air support assets. Elsewhere, attacks were reported on the Keshk-e-Kohna district in Herat and Sayad district in Sar-e-Pul, and on a police checkpost in Zabul’s Shenkai district. On Sunday, the district governor of Ashkamish district in Takhar was killed in a roadside bombing. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [BBC] [AP] [Reuters] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • ISIS in Afghanistan: Officials in Nangarhar report that “hundreds” of families have been displaced by fighting between Taliban and Daesh forces in the Bati Kot district, although details are limited. On Saturday, screenshots were distributed online of a video attributed to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s Khorasan Wilayat, which covers Afghanistan and Pakistan; in it, a former Taliban member who defected to ISIS and then switched sides again is shown to be executed by beheading. Details are otherwise limited. Meanwhile, former Pres. Karzai told Russian television that ISIS’ expansion into Afghanistan would be impossible without “foreign backing”. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Taliban Talks: In a statement on Sunday, the Taliban said that they would continue attacks throughout the month of Ramazan, rejecting a call for a ceasefire by ulema leaders. Meanwhile, Pajhwok reports that a delegation of Afghan officials, including deputy foreign minister Hekmat Karzai, deputy chief executive Mohammad Mohaqiq, and former vice president Yunus Qanooni, among others, will attend a dialogue with Taliban representatives, led by Taliban negotiator Tayyab Agha, hosted in Norway.
  • Parliamentary Term Uncertainties: Western diplomatic sources tell Reuters that they have pulled support for the UN Development Program’s electoral support program, prior to its expiration in December, due to the lack of a clear timeframe for parliamentary elections. The ELECT II program had originally received $338 million to support presidential and parliamentary elections; UN officials have not disclosed how much remains unspent. Pres. Ghani has begun to meet with stakeholders to discuss options for determining an election schedule and clarifying parliament’s status past the end of its term on June 21; one civil society activist tells TOLO that Ghani has proposed holding elections within six months, and extending parliament’s term until then. [TOLO]
  • Female Supreme Court Judge Nominated: Pres. Ghani reportedly plans to appoint Anisa Rassouli, a lawyer and Kabul University graduate, as the first ever female member of the High Council of the Supreme Court of Afghanistan. Speaking to TOLO, Rassouli vowed to bring “transparency and accountability in the Supreme Court”. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ministers of Interior and Higher Education Present 100-Day Plans [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Criticism Over Interior Ministry Gun Licensing [TOLO]
  • Newly-Formed Afghanistan Radio and Television Union Issues Award to Former Pres. Karzai [TOLO]
  • Family of Farkhunda Denounce Release of Defendants on Appeal [TOLO]
  • World Bank to Provide Support for Customs Service Standardization [TOLO]
  • Negotiations Ongoing for Work Permit Agreement with Gulf States [TOLO]
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