Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Taliban Attack Parliament Building in Kabul; PPP Seeks to Deescalate Conflict with Military

Topline

  • The PPP’s standoff with the military establishment continues, with travel bans reportedly placed on hundreds of former and current government officials and investigations continuing into allegations of corruption and land theft. At an Iftar meeting on Friday, fellow political leaders reportedly advised former Pres. Zardari against a confrontational course, and the PPP publicly praised the current army leadership in statements on Saturday. The Sindh government has also agreed to a long-pending transfer of 9,000 acres of forest land to the Pakistani Army. The Taliban staged a complex attack on the Afghan parliament on Monday, coinciding with parliamentary debate on the nomination of defense minister Masoom Stanekzai; all attackers were killed within a few hours, and while as many as thirty civilians were injured, no other deaths were reported. On Friday, Pres. Ghani issued an executive order extending parliament’s term until new elections are held, and said that a decision on the election schedule would be made within the next month. Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan announced Monday that regulation of NGO activity in Pakistan would be transferred to the interior ministry. Taliban fighters took control of two districts outside Kunduz city over the weekend; Afghan defense officials claim to have retaken Yamgan district in Badakhshan province, which they had already previously claim to have ousted the Taliban from. Power outages during the first days of Ramazan prompted protests, some violent, around Pakistan; Prime Minister Sharif has ordered action to reduce the outages, which come amidst a major heatwave that has killed as many as 200 people in Sindh.

Pakistan — Security

  • FATA Operations: Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif visited the Khyber Agency on Friday, the first day of Ramazan, where he met with soldiers and local tribal elders and received briefings on ongoing military operations from the 11 Corps commander, Lt. Gen. Hidayatur Rehman. Military spokesman said that Gen. Sharif vowed that “terrorists will not be allowed to reestablish themselves”. On Sunday, protestors at a camp for displaced Waziristan residents in Bannu clashed with troops stationed as guards, who reportedly opened fire, killing at least one and injuring at least six. [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation] [RFE/RL]
  • NGO Crackdown: NGO representatives at a meeting organized by the Pakistan Civil Society Forum in Islamabad on Friday denounced critical remarks made last week by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan regarding the activities of NGO organizations in Pakistan, saying that Chaudhry Nisar’s comments “amount to hate speech as they may incite violence against NGOs and can put at risk the lives of hundreds of thousands of NGO workers active in various parts of Pakistan”. On Friday, a lawyer representing the Watan Party filed a petition with the Supreme Court seeking a ban on unregistered NGOs operating in the country. On Monday, Chaudhry Nisar announced that NGO activity in Pakistan would now be regulated by the Interior Ministry rather than the Economic Affairs Division of the Finance Ministry. [ET]
  • Sentence in Connection to 2009 Lahore Attack: On Friday, Reaz Qadir Khan, a naturalized US citizen of Pakistani origin, was sentenced to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to the transfer of funds to Ali Jalil, a lead organizer of the May 2009 suicide bombing attack on ISI headquarters in Lahore.  [AFP]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Civil-Military Tensions in Karachi: During a post-budget debate session on Friday, representatives from the Sindh opposition parties, with the exception of the MQM, praised action by the Rangers and National Accountability Bureau to crack down on corruption in the province. A meeting of the Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Association on Sunday also voiced support for the Rangers’ action. The News reports that the government has placed exit controls on hundreds of former assembly members and Sindh government officers who are under scrutiny for corruption. PPP leader Owais Muzaffar was briefly detained at the Karachi airport on Friday but was allowed to travel onwards; Sindh Secretary for Education Fazlullah Pechacho, a brother-in-law to former Pres. Zardari, was barred from leaving the country. Representatives from the PML-Q, MQM, JUI-F, ANP, and BNP-Awami all attended an iftar meeting with Zardari on Friday, during which they reportedly “advised caution” rather than escalated confrontation between the PPP and the security establishment. In a statement on Saturday, Zardari offered public praise for the armed forces, and PPP vice president Sherry Rehman stressed that the PPP “holds General Raheel Sharif in high esteem… we are talking about former military dictators who’ve assumed power and are trying to return to the political front”. Zardari pledged not to withdraw from investigations against former Pres. Musharraf in connection to the death of the late Benazir Bhutto, whose birthday the party marked on Sunday, however. At an earlier meeting on Friday chaired by Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, the Sindh government decided “in principle” to transfer 9,000 acres of forest land to the Pakistani Army, which has sought control for the past 14 years of around 35,000 acres “to distribute among the heirs of martyred soldiers and wounded military personnel”, apparently for agricultural use. Some environmental groups have protested the proposed transfer. Meanwhile, on Sunday evening, the two senior leaders of the Sunni Tehreek party were reportedly detained by the Rangers, following a raid on Sunni Tehreek offices earlier in the day.  [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Election Complaints: The special judicial commission hearing charges of election rigging in the May 2013 polls concluded its cross-examination of polling station staff on Friday, and has requested a copy of the original memorandum of understanding between the PML-N and PTI that led to the commission’s formation; the Express Tribune suggests that the commission may conclude its proceedings during the first week of July. Meanwhile, 26 cases are still pending with election tribunals, who were originally mandated to conclude all rulings within four months. The tribunal hearing the PTI’s challenge to the NA-122 Lahore constituency results has set final arguments for June 22. [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Crisis: Power shortages on the first day of Ramazan prompted protests around the country on Friday, some of which involved minor violence; outages were reported in several major cities, including Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Multan, and Faisalabad. Prime Minister Sharif chaired a meeting to focus on the issue on Saturday, where he was reportedly told that outages could only be controlled through reduced demand or forced loadshedding; Sharif had earlier ordered that the power supply continue uninterrupted during the sehri and iftar feasting hours. Total demand reportedly exceeded 21,000 megawatts on Thursday evening, high above normal peak demand; Pakistan is currently undergoing a major heatwave, and as many as 200 people are reported to have died in Sindh over the past three days. Meanwhile, the Express Tribune reports that the World Bank has delayed signature on the second $500 million tranche of a energy sector reform support loan; a $500 million loan to support privatization and tax mobilization was approved, however. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Saudi Arabia Reportedly Pressuring Pakistan Again to Join Yemen Coalition [The Nation]
  • PAT Leaders Say Tahirul Qadri Will Return to Lahore June 29 [ET]
  • UK Officials Briefed on Imran Farooq Suspect Arrests [ET]
  • Foreign Policy Briefing for Parliamentary Committees Planned [Dawn] [ET]
  • Islamabad Police Pickets Unmanned During Iftar [Dawn]
  • Five Killed in Lyari Shootout [Dawn] [ET]
  • PML-Q Candidate, Backed by PTI, Wins PP-97 Gujranwala Special Election [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Budget Debate Wrapping Up as Fiscal Year Nears End [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Government to Roll Over Rs 8.4 Trillion in Domestic Debt [ET]
  • Government Plans Surcharges on LNG Import [ET] [Dawn]
  • India Releases Pakistani Fishermen in Goodwill Gesture [Dawn]
  • Report: Country Reports on Terrorism 2014: South and Central Asia Overview – “Pakistan remains a critical counterterrorism partner that is plagued with numerous violent extremist groups, many of which target Pakistani government or members of other religious sects.” [US State Department]
  • Commentary: The Zardari Myth – “Are the boys going after the PPP now because the pillaging and incompetence is out of control or are the boys going after them because they can now?” [Cyril Almeida, Dawn]
  • Commentary: Sindh Circa 2015 – “Zardari’s outburst has laid bare a predicament that holds this country — and Sindh in particular — in its jaws: who will hold to account the rapacious elected elite within a broken system?” [Fahd Hussain, Express Tribune]

Afghanistan — Security

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Ghani Extends Parliament Term: On Friday, Pres. Ghani issued an executive decree extending the Wolesi Jirga lower house of parliament’s tenure indefinitely until elections are held; although Ghani indicated that a date for elections would be announced within a month, it has yet to be specified. Ghani met with UN officials to discuss electoral reform issues on Monday. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah remain deadlocked on the workings of the special electoral reform commission that is meant to propose overhauls to the electoral process, the NYT notes, although both agree that such reforms must be put in place before elections are held. The Wolesi Jirga’s tenure had been set to expire at the end of June 21; some lawmakers protested that Ghani lacked the authority to extend the term unilaterally, and suggested that they would pass an extension themselves. [Pajhwok] [Khaama Press] [Reuters]
  • Taliban Talks: The NYT assesses the past few months of informal talks between Taliban representatives and other groups of Afghan leaders, noting despite the increased outreach, the Taliban have maintained their position that the government itself is illegitimate and refusing to engage in direct talks.
  • Refugee Registration: Pakistani authorities, working in conjunction with the Afghanistan ministry of refugees and repatriations, will begin efforts in late July to register around one million undocumented Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, an exercise that officials estimate will cost Rs 500 million and which they aim to complete by January 2016. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Taliban Offer ‘Hotline’ for Government Defectors [AFP]
  • An Afghan Jihadist’s Life and Death in Iraq [WAPO]
  • Senators Express Alarm at Reported Daesh Presence in Nangarhar [TOLO]
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs Offers 100-Day Plan [TOLO]
  • Ministry of Labor Accused of Corruption [TOLO]
  • State Bank to Offer $200M in Loans for Industrialists [TOLO]
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