- The Pakistani defense ministry has sought an 18% increase in its budget for the coming fiscal year, to Rs 920 billion, and has also sought to retain control of all Coalition Support Fund money transferred to Pakistan, rather than sharing it with the civilian government. Several Kabul police officials were suspended in the wake of the truck bombing earlier this week; NDS officials blamed the Haqqani network for organizing the attack. Afghan National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar met with Chinese military officials on Wednesday, who pledged support for closer military and counterterrorism cooperation. PPP leaders reiterated their call for a parliamentary committee to investigate the Panama papers leaks, rather than a judicial commission as proposed by the government. Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif has reportedly dismissed as many as a dozen senior military officers on corruption charges, all reported to have been serving in the Balochistan Frontier Corps. Vice President Dostum traveled to Dostum on Wednesday, where he is leading military operations against Taliban fighters in the Aqcha district. Reuters notes that the number of remotely-piloted drone strikes in Afghanistan exceeded those carried out by manned planes in 2015, and that the ratio has rise to over 60% during the first quarter of this year. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility for Wednesday attack on Karachi police providing protection for a polio vaccination campaign.
Pakistan — Security
- Defense Ministry Seeks Budget Increase: The Express Tribune reports that during briefings to the senate defense committee on April 13, the defense ministry sought an increase in its budget for the coming fiscal year of roughly 18%, to Rs 920 billion, not counting defense procurement. The report also indicates that the ministry has sought to retain control of all Coalition Support Funds provided by the United States, rather than sharing 40% of those funds with the civilian government for other purposes, and to have sought U.S. funding for an $8 billion, five to eight year plan to develop the FATA. CSF payments were previously reported to be expiring this September.
- Chotoo Gang Surrenders in Rajanpur: At a press conference on Wednesday, chief military spokesman Lt. Gen. Asim Bajwa confirmed reports that gang leader Gulam Rasool, aka Chotoo, had surrendered along with thirteen other gang members, freeing 24 policemen in the process. Bajwa vowed that “the army will not vacate this area until all the miscreant elements are neutralised”. Dawn reports five other gangs are still operating in the area. [Reuters]
- Karachi Police Attack: A spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaat-ul-Ahrar faction claimed responsibility for drive-by shooting attacks on seven police officers providing security for polio vaccination teams in Karachi on Wednesday. Commissioner Asif Hyder Shah vowed that the vaccination campaign would continue on Thursday despite the attacks, although other reports suggest it has been postponed. Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif spoke by phone with the Sindh provincial police chief, A.D. Khawaja, on Thursday to condole the deaths of the seven officers and pledge the army’s “complete support to the police in all aspects”. [Dawn] [Dawn]
Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Panama Papers Fallout: Dawn cites anonymous sources in the prime minister’s office who say he is “determined” to clear his three children of accusations of wrongdoing and tax evasion in their overseas Panamanian-registered business holdings; the government is reportedly willing to pursue a joint parliamentary committee to investigate the case if a judicial commission cannot be quickly formed. PPP leaders met with Finance Minister Dar on Wednesday and reiterated their demand for the parliamentary committee investigation format; PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that any judicial nominee of the prime minister’s “would not be credible”. Speaking in the national assembly on Wednesday, Jamaat-e-Islami leader Sirajul Haq called for a “National Action Plan against corruption,” citing statements by the army chief calling for “across the board accountability”. The Federal Bureau of Revenue has sought information on the reported assets of Pakistani nationals named in the leaks, but officials there say the FBR “cannot move against these individuals until it has actionable information”. [Dawn] [ET]
- Army Chief Dismisses Officers on Corruption Charges: News reports indicate that Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif has dismissed a dozen senior military officers on corruption charges. No official announcement has been made; Dawn provides a partial list, including one lieutenant general and one major general, and reports that all involved were serving with the Balochistan Frontier Corps. The action follows the army chief’s call for “across the board accountability” earlier this week.
- Other Political Activity: At a hearing on Wednesday, Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali and a bench of two other judges gave the Balochistan provincial government a two-week deadline to introduce legislation delegating financial and administrative powers to local government councils elected last fall, warning of unspecified action if it failed to do so. [Dawn] [Dawn]
Pakistan — Remainders
- Peshawar High Court Freezes Salaries Over Failure to Respond to Petition [Dawn]
- Anti-Terrorism Court Judge Recuses from Imran Farooq Case [Dawn] [ET]
- Two Killed in Mohmand Agency Bombing [Dawn]
- New Pakistani Ambassador Presents Credentials to Pres. Putin [ET]
- Lahore High Court Agrees to Hear Ali Musa Gilani Petition Over Exit Controls [ET]
- Balochistan Minister Defends Environment Impact of Gwadar LNG Terminal Project [Dawn]
Afghanistan — Security
- Kabul Bombing Aftermath: Omar Azizi, the Kabul NDS chief, told a press conference on Wednesday that the truck bombing attack on Tuesday was organized “outside the country” by the Haqqani network. The truck used in the bomb stopped in a parking lot adjacent to the Directorate of Security for Dignitaries; at least three gunmen, wearing directorate uniforms, then entered the compound and opened fire on the VIP protection unit’s staff, engaging in a two-hour gun battle. On Thursday, Interior Minister Taj Mohammad Jan suspended the First Police District police chief and four other police officials in connection to the attack. In addition to the death toll, the deadliest in Kabul since the 2011 Ashura bombing, the attack also caused $10 million in losses and damages to the private sector, the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries estimated on Wednesday. Members of parliament and families of the victims criticized the national unity government’s security preparations; presidential advisor Ahmad Zia Massoud called on the president to sign execution orders for imprisoned terrorists, and alleged that “Taliban have penetrated into our security and civil organizations and have paved the ground to carry out their cowardly attacks”.
- Drone Operations: U.S. Air Force data indicates that more weapons were fired from remotely piloted drones in Afghanistan than manned planes last year, and that that ratio is rising, Reuters reports. The overall number of strikes declined from 2014, but drone strikes accounted for around 530 cases of weapons deployed in 2015, or 56% of the total, and 61% of weapons deployed during the first quarter of this year.
- Chinese Military Assistance: Afghan National Security Advisor met with Chinese General Feng Fehui on Wednesday and offered support to “deepen counter-terrorism intelligence, joint drills, personnel training and other areas of practical cooperation”, the Chinese defense ministry said in a statement. Atmar was reported to have traveled to China with a “wish list” of military equipment; that request was reportedly “discussed” but no details in that regard were announced. Atmar also met with Chinese domestic security chief Meng Jianzhu for discussions focused on counterterrorism. [TOLO]
- Other Attacks and Operations: In a CNN interview on Wednesday, NATO military chief Gen. Philip Breedlove said that the drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan to 5,500 by the end of the year “would have a negative impact” on the training and support mission for Afghan forces, and “the mission would have to change in some way.” Breedlove said that “we are looking at options now to retain that connectivity to the cause, providing enablers and possibly other nations providing more troops” but said that “this is still very preliminary”. Officials in Nangarhar claim that Afghan and coalition airstrikes in the Achin district on Wednesday killed 21 Daesh-affiliated militants. [Khaama Press]
Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Dostum in Jawzjan: Vice President Dostum donned a military uniform and returned to Jawzjan province on Wednesday, where provincial officials described him as leading military operations in the Aqcha district that killed at least thirty Taliban fighters. Meanwhile, a presidentially appointed delegation arrived in Faryab province on Tuesday to investigate clashes last month between Dostum supporters and those of Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor; officials on both sides criticized the move, saying the dispute had been resolved.
Afghanistan — Remainders
- Pakistani Trade Initiatives Stall as Afghanistan Prefers Chabahar Port Plans [ET]
- Barely Guarded Afghan Border Puts Tajikistan in Peril [Reuters]
- Russian Envoy Alleges ISIS Seeking Expansion into Central Asia [Khaama Press]
- My Terrifying Plunge in a Car from One of Afghanistan’s Most Dangerous Roads [WAPO]
- Commentary: Can Afghanistan Survive September? – “Now that the agreement is valid for three more years, the government should move decisively on electoral reforms and amending the constitution to resolve the source of the current crisis.” [Mohammad Sayed Madadi and Tabish Forugh, South Asia Channel]