Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Sharif Pushes Back At Critics in Parliamentary Address; Donors Suspend APRP Support

Topline

  • Prime Minister Sharif addressed parliament on Monday, pushing back at critics who he said were only seeking his own accountability, and reiterating that investigations into offshore business holdings detailed in the Panama Papers leaks should be “across the board”. Opposition legislators walked out after Sharif’s address, and later said that he was “wasting the nation’s time”. Sharif visited Khyber Paktunkhwa on Tuesday to inaugurate new infrastructure projects. Pres. Ghani thanked protestors for demonstrating peacefully in Kabul on Monday, reiterating his government’s commitment to “equal development”. The Post confirms that donors have suspended funding for the High Peace Council-managed Afghan Peace and Reintegration Program, with roughly 11,000 militants taking part over the course of its six-year lifetime. Rival Taliban factions clashed in Badghis and Ghor on Monday, although details are limited. Afghan Border Police have reportedly been redeployed to central Helmand to fill in the ranks of missing “ghost soldiers”. Salman Taseer gave his first interviews since being freed from four years’ captivity, saying that he had been held by Uzbek militants and was freed by the Afghan Taliban. Both Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif and Chief Executive Abdullah are in Beijing, where they held separate meetings with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. The Quadrilateral Coordination Group will meet in Islamabad on Wednesday in an effort to renew talks about negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Pakistan — Security

  • Taseer Speaks of Kidnapping: In interviews with the BBC Urdu service and CNN, Shahbaz Taseer, the son of the late governor Salman Taseer, described his four years of captivity following his kidnapping in August 2011. Taseer told interviewers that he had been tortured while being held by Uzbek militants in North Waziristan, and that his freedom came after the group holding him clashed with Afghan Taliban fighters, who later took custody of him and arranged for Taseer’s release. [BBC]
  • F-16 Sale: Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Defense Minister Khawaja Asif reiterated that Pakistan “would explore other options” if an agreement for the subsidized sale of eight F-16 fighter jets from the U.S. fell through. In a separate statement, former Pres. Zardari urged the U.S. to “look beyond its checklist of requirements for cooperation on our security needs and instead think strategically about how it can support a democratic nation under pressure from the same terror groups that threaten regional security”. [ET]
  • FATA Development Authority Workers Freed: Seven FATA Development Authority employees were freed on Monday after being kidnapped in South Waziristan in March; Reuters credits the government’s detention of 22 tribesmen arrested under the collective responsibility provisions of the Frontier Crime Regulation, although officials did not confirm whether a ransom had been paid or which group had been holding the workers hostage.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Prime Minister Addresses Parliament: Speaking before parliament on Monday, Prime Minister Sharif pushed back at critics of his government, saying said that the opposition “only want[s] accountability for me” and said that he had “faced selective justice in the past”. Sharif called for the formation of a committee in the national assembly to finalize “comprehensive” terms of reference for a commission to investigate the Panama Papers leaks, reiterating that there should be “across the board” investigations. Opposition legislators did not disrupt the Sharif, but walked out afterwards, holding a press conference in which they accused Sharif of ignoring their list of seven questions for him to address and “wasting the nation’s time”. Opposition leaders will meet again on Tuesday evening to plan a response. Former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry filed a petition with the Election Commission on Monday seeking a report on the prime minister’s declared assets; Chaudhry’s lawyer said that he will seek Sharif’s disqualification after those details are received. Sharif submitted his tax details to the National Assembly secretariat for release on Tuesday, totaling Rs 35.9 million over a 23-year period, including seven years in exile. On Tuesday morning, Sharif visited Dera Ismail Khan to inaugurate a new motorway section and gas supply project alongside JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman, saying that “those who are destined to stage sit-ins will keep protesting but we will keep working”, and warning the PTI that Khyber Paktunkhwa was “slipping away” from its control. [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Chief of Army Staff Visits China: Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif continued his two-day trip in Beijing, meeting on Monday with Premier Li Keqiang and his counterpart Gen. Li Zoucheng for talks that reportedly centered on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Project.
  • Elections and Other Political Activity: On Monday, Sindh Assembly speaker Agha Siraj Durrani accepted the resignations of two former MQM lawmakers who left the part to join the Pak Sarzameen Party. Separately, former Sindh Home Minister Zulfikar Mirza accused the PPP-led provincial government of coercing his allies into voting for other candidates in the local town committee elections. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Planning Minister Tells Parliament ‘All Hurdles Removed’ in Gwadar Development [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Expresses Concern Over Indian ‘Maps Bill’ [Dawn]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa NAB Director General Charged with Torture [Dawn]
  • Two NADRA Officers Arrested on Charges of Providing CNICs to Afghan Nationals [ET]
  • Joint Economic Commission with Iran to Meet After Ramazan [ET]
  • PPP Senator Proposes Women’s Quota for Judicial Appointments [Dawn]
  • Health Officials Express Optimism Over Polio Vaccination Campaigns [BBC]
  • Sindh Seeks to Recruit 4000 Rural Doctors [ET]
  • Commentary: What’s Behind Russia’s Rapprochement with Pakistan? – “By engaging with Pakistan, Russia leaves New Delhi with a hard choice: to honor its strategic commitment to Russia and make concessions or to observe Russian-Pakistani rapprochement, which could potentially erode India’s military advantage.” [Dmitriy Frolovskiy, The Diplomat]

Afghanistan — Security

  • APRP Suspended: The Post reports that international donors have suspended support for the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Program, a six-year effort to provide small financial stipends to insurgent fighters who pledge to lay down their arms and reconcile; only 11,077 militants have entered into the program since its inception, and High Peace Council officials charged with its oversight say they cannot track whether participants have rejoined fighting.
  • Taliban Divisions: The dissident Taliban faction led by Mullah Mohammd Rassoul reportedly clashed with the pro-Mullah Akhtar Mansour faction in several districts Badghis and Ghor on Monday; TOLO reports “massive fatalities” but provides no further details.
  • Displacement: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs officials reported on Monday that roughly a thousand Afghans have fled their homes each day since the start of the year in response to fighting, and that 118,000 have been displaced during the first four months of the year. [AJE]
  • Attacks and Operations: The Guardian reports that Afghan Border Police forces have been redeployed to central Helmand to fill in on the front lines for “ghost soldiers” missing from the army’s ranks. Overnight operations in Baghlan reportedly drove Taliban fighters away from the Karkar coal mine on the outskirts of the provincial capital of Pul-e-Khumri. Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor, in military uniform, oversaw operations in the Koshindeh district that provincial officials claim killed at least 38 militants; Noor vowed to turn the province “into graveyard of Taliban militants and loyalists of ISIS terrorist group.” At least twenty were also arrested. Afghan security guards shot a would-be suicide car bomber seeking to attack the Ministry of Interior headquarters in Kabul on Tuesday. Officials in Kunduz claim that at least 20 Taliban fighters were killed in a drone strike in the Dasht-e-Archi district on Tuesday that targeted two vehicles. [Khaama Press] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Ghani Thanks Protestors: In a message on Monday evening to demonstrators who rallied in opposition to the TUTAP electricity distribution line’s re-routing away from Bamiyan province, Pres. Ghani praised the work of the security services and thanked protestors for remaining peaceful, saying he appreciated “all those who engaged in the discussions and offered their views, analysis, and recommendations in a compassionate way and without having a spirit for chaos and riots.” Ghani added that the government “strongly believes in equal development and equal implementation of projects”. Some reporters and cameramen were wounded in clashes with protestors earlier in the day. [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Abdullah in China: Chief Executive Abdullah met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on Monday; a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry said afterwards that Abdullah had voiced support for China’s position in the disputed South China Sea. Speaking at a Chinese university, Abdullah emphasized the shared threat posed to China and Afghanistan of regional terrorism. On Tuesday, Abdullah signed six cooperation agreements, focusing on economic ties.
  • Quadrilateral Coordination Group to Meet: Representatives from Afghanistan, China, the United States and Pakistan will meet again in Islamabad on Wednesday in an attempt to restart talks over negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government, a spokesman for the Pakistani foreign ministry confirmed.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Attacks in Kabul Keep Wall Builders Busy, Turning City Into Labyrinth [NYT]
  • Commentary: Doctors With Enemies: Did Afghan Forces Target the MSF Hospital? – “A question hangs over the Kunduz bombing, even as the military has moved to declare the matter settled: Did Afghan forces, out of longstanding mistrust of M.S.F., draw the United States into a terrible tragedy?” [Matthieu Aikins, NYT]
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