Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Prime Minister Sharif to Undergo Heart Surgery; Family of Mansour Driver File Case Against US

Topline

  • Prime Minister Sharif will undergo heart surgery in London on Tuesday, but is expected to preside remotely over a cabinet meeting before that to approve the federal budget, which will be presented by Finance Minister Dar on June 3. The family members of a tax driver who was killed along with Mullah Akhtar Mansour in last week’s drone strike in Balochistan have filed a legal case against U.S. officials at the local police station, insisting that he was innocent and had no connections to militant groups. Two more officials were arrested in connection with Mansour’s apparent possession of a Pakistani national ID card; Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has set a six-month deadline for the re-verification of all national IDs. A spokesman for the splinter Taliban faction led my Mullah Mohammad Rasool reportedly told supporters that he would be willing to engage in negotiations with the Afghan government; the Taliban dismissed the faction as a “puppet of Afghan intelligence”. Pakistan commemorated the anniversary of the 1998 nuclear tests on Saturday. The deadline for Pakistan to sign off on the terms of sale for the purchase of eight F-16 fighter jets passed without an agreement on May 24, diplomatic sources tell Dawn. Fighting continues in Baghlan’s Baghlan-e-Markazi distrct, where a force of local police was reportedly rescued from Taliban encirclement in an operation on Saturday. The Peshawar Corps commander may head a new FATA Development Committee with authority over a Rs 200 billion fund to repatriate displaced residents and reconstruct damaged infrastructure in the area, the Express Tribune reports. Following a meeting of Jamiat-e-Islami leaders on Saturday, Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani criticized the national unity government for failing to meet its commitments under the unity government agreement, and also blamed Junbesh for recent clashes in Faryab. Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial police officials are opposing plans to cut 12,500 reserve members from the force. Afghanistan’s ministry of refugees is seeking an extension of Pakistani permissions for registered Afghan refugees to remain in the country until 2020.

Pakistan — Security

  • Nuclear Anniversary Commemorated: In remarks issued on the 18th anniversary of Pakistan’s 1998 nuclear tests, Prime Minister Sharif touted the country’s nuclear program, describing it as a “guarantee for peace in South Asia” that “created balance of power, which was necessary to make this region safe”. Separately, asked to comment on Pakistan’s application to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a State Department spokesman said that “we’ll consider [it] based on a consensus decision.” [APP] [ET] [ET]
  • F-16 Sale: The terms of sale for a deal in which Pakistan would purchase eight F-16 fighter jets expired without an agreement on May 24, Pakistani diplomatic sources tell Dawn, after Pakistan failed to sign a letter of acceptance that would require it to pay the full unsubsidized cost of the planes; Ambassador to the U.S. Jalil Abbas Jillani told the paper that “a dead-end has not been reached as yet”, however.
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Policing: In a Dawn interview, Khyber Paktunkhwa Inspector General of Police Nasir Khan Durrani expresses concerns over government plans to cut 10,000 reserve police officers and 2,500 former army servicemembers from the provincial police force, arguing “the security situation has not normalised and a state of war still exists in the province, [and that] the threat level has also increased with the construction of CPEC”. Meanwhile, paramilitary khasadar personnel in South Waziristan tell the Express Tribune they have not been paid salaries for the past two months. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Karachi Crackdown: On Saturday, Karachi police announced that they had killed two Lashkar-e-Jhangvi militants linked to the murder of MQM lawmaker Manzar Imam as well as over twenty members of the Shia community, in a raid in the Manghopir neighborhood. Three more accused Al Qaeda members were killed in a raid on Sunday. On Monday, three people were wounded when a bomb targeted a Chinese engineer in Karachi’s Gulshan-e-Hadeed neighborhood; Dawn reports claims of responsibility by the “Sindhudesh Revolutionary Party”. Separately, the Sindh Rangers announced the arrest of three “hardcore terrorists,” all linked to the MQM, who they accused of carrying out attacks on paramilitary checkposts earlier this spring; the arrests themselves are reported to have taken place in April. On Friday, MQM and Majlis Wahdat-i-Muslimeen leaders held protests and condemned the shooting of two Shia party activists in Karachi the day prior. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Balochistan Conflict: Two Frontier Corps personnel were killed and three injured in a roadside bombing in Balochistan’s Awaran district on Saturday; the Balochistan Liberation Front claimed responsibility for the attack. Tthe bodies of two government employees who had been kidnapped two weeks prior were found in the Kech district on Saturday; on Sunday, a tribal policeman and one other man were killed in a driveby shooting in the district. Two people were killed and six injured in a hand grenade attack near the Chaman border crossing; no further details have been reported on the victims’ identities.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Sharif to Undergo Heart Surgery: Prime Minister Sharif will undergo open-heart surgery in London on Tuesday, his daughter and government officials announced on Friday; he previously underwent the procedure in 2011. Sharif previously traveled to London for medical examinations in April. Defense Minister Khawaja Asif said that the prime minister would return to Pakistan after one week’s recuperation, doctors permitting. A spokesman for Sharif’s office said that he was continuing to oversee government operations from London, and has tasked Finance Minister Dar to lead the federal cabinet in his absence. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif are reported to have met with Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif on Saturday; a meeting of the cabinet defense committee is planned after Sharif’s return from London. Shahbaz departed for London on Monday. Former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry argued on Saturday that an interim prime minister must be elected in Sharif’s absence, particularly to approve the forthcoming federal budget, and that Dar was ineligible to serve the role given his position in the upper house of parliament; other legal experts suggested there were no such restrictions on Sharif’s powers to delegate authority to his ministers, and Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid hit back that Chaudhry was “ignorant of the Constitution”. Imran Khan criticized the prime minister for appointing Dar and running the government “like a kingdom”. Prime Minister Modi and Pres. Ghani both issued statements wishing Sharif a quick recovery. [Reuters] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Military to Head FATA Development Committee: The Express Tribune reports that the National Economic Council is considering a proposal to create a new FATA Development Committee, headed by the Peshawar Corps Commander, with authority over a Rs 200 billion fund earmarked to repatriate displaced FATA residents, and powers to approve projects of up to Rs 1.5 billion, bypassing the Central Development Working Party and the National Economic Council.
  • Judicial Policy: A meeting of all Supreme Court justices endorsed a range of perks for members of the judiciary, including subsidized medical, technology, and guest house expenses, the Express Tribune reports. Speaking to a group of lawyers in Larkana on Saturday, Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali said that successive generations of political leaders had “failed miserably in materialising the dreams of our ancestors” and said that a “lot of legislation in our country has been done to fulfil vested interests”.
  • Other Political Activity: PTI spokesmen argued on Saturday that the parliamentary committee on investigations into the Panama Papers should complete its work by June 10. In a statement on Sunday, former Pres. Zardari denied that he had “reached some understanding on the issue of Panama leaks with the prime minister”. Former Karachi mayor Mustafa Kamal opened an office of his new Pakistan Sarzameen Party in Quetta on Saturday. Supporters of Tahir-ul Qadri are planning a demonstration in Lahore on June 17 to commemorate Pakistan Awami Tehreek party workers killed in a clash with Punjab police in 2014; Qadri remains outside the country. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Planning: Prime Minister Sharif will preside remotely over back-to-back meetings of the National Economic Council and federal cabinet on Monday to approve the federal public sector development program and the national budget; the budget will be announced on June 3. Total outlays are reportedly roughly Rs 4.4 trillion, including Rs 1.25 trillion in interest payments, Rs 860 billion in defense expenditures, and Rs 800 billion for the PDSP. Dawn reports the federal government has dropped all 45 of the Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial government’s proposals for PDSP projects. The budget also reportedly plans new sales taxes on five previously exempted export-oriented sectors, and higher capital gains tax rates for those who do not file income tax returns; import tariffs on some raw materials will be dropped, while rates for finished and semi-finished goods may be raised, as the government moves to phase out the 5% customs slab. [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Path to Peace a ‘Two-Way Street’, Modi Says [Dawn]
  • World Bank to Support Sindh Disaster Management [Dawn]
  • Chief of Army Staff Visits Naval War College in Lahore [ET]
  • Sindh Chief Minister Visits Tharparkar, Rejecting Drought Reports [Dawn] [ET]
  • Baldia Factory Fire Case in Limbo [ET]
  • Environmental Polio Samples Test Negative for First Time [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • AJK Electric Department Cuts Power to Defaulting Government Offices [Dawn]
  • Michelle Obama Visits Pakistan Embassy [Dawn] [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Assembly Plans ‘Training Tour’ in UK for Legislators [Dawn]
  • PEMRA Enacts, Withdraws Ban on Contraceptive Advertisements [Dawn] [Reuters] [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Mansour Strike Aftermath: The family of the taxi driver who was killed alongside Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a U.S. military drone strike last week filed a criminal case against U.S. officials at the Naushki district police station on Sunday, insisting that Mohammad Azam had no links to militant groups and had been unaware of Mansoor’s identity. RFE/RL interviews a man who identifies himself as an eyewitness to the strike on Mansour, and who says that he recovered Mansour’s passport documents after a portion of his kameez tore off while he attempted to free the inhabitants of the car, which he later handed over to local authorities. Taliban sources tell the Express Tribune that Mansour traveled icognito through Iran on a regular basis, and say “we do not blame any neighbouring country” for his identification and targeting by the United States. Special assistant Tariq Fatemi told a Dawn interviewer on Friday that Pakistan’s military leadership “was unaware” of the planned strike on Mansour. On Saturday, Pakistani interior ministry officials announced the arrest of two more officials believed to have approved Mansour’s application for a Pakistani national ID card, one of them a member of the Balochistan Levies; speaking to reporters on Friday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan set a six-month deadline for the re-verification by the National Database and Registration Authority of all identity cards. Jamaat-ud-Dawa held funeral services for Mansour in Peshawar and several other cities on Friday; the Afghan government released an Afghan political analyst who was arrested after he described Mansour as a “martyr”. [WSJ] [AP] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [AP] [AP]
  • Border Tensions with Pakistan: Nuristan provincial police officials accuse Pakistani border security forces of encroaching across the border into Afghanistan by approximately 500 meters.
  • Attacks and Operations: Baghlan provincial police and army sources reported heavy fighting between Taliban and police forces in the province on Friday; the provincial police chief told Pajhwok on Saturday that a group of 100 police and ALP members were rescued from a Taliban siege in the Baghlan-e-Markazi district. The Ministry of Defense claimed to have killed a group of “at least ten Taliban commanders” in an airstrike in the district on Sunday. At least seven policemen were wounded in fighting in Helmand’s Nad Ali and Nah-e-Saraj districts on Saturday evening; at least 11 were killed in attacks overnight Sunday in the Gereshk district. In Uruzgan, ANA officials reported that they had killed the Taliban’s shadow governor, identified as Mawlavi Jan Agha. The administrative director of the Kunduz provincial police was kidnapped on Saturday. Eleven civilians, including several children, were wounded in a roadside bombing in the Logar provincial capital of Pul-e-Alam on Saturday. A drone strike in Nangarhar’s Haska Mina district killed six suspected ISIS-affiliated militants on Sunday; airstrikes in Baghlan and Kandahar on Monday killed 29 militants, according to the Ministry of Defense. [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: A spokesman for the Taliban tells the Express Tribune that “we have the same stance about peace negotiations as we had in the past” and would not hold talks with the Afghan government. Mullah Abdul Manan Niazi, the deputy leader and prominent spokesman of the Taliban splinter faction officially led by Mullah Mohammad Rasool, reportedly told his supporters that he would be willing to hold talks with the government, although he “had no faith in [it]”; the Taliban dismiss the faction as a “puppet of Afghan intelligence”. Niazi has in turn rejected Haibatullah Akhunzada’s elevation as the successor to Mullah Akhtar Mansour. Afghan ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal met with foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz on Monday to discuss the status of peace talks.
  • Jamiat Leaders Criticize National Unity Government: Leaders of the Jamiat-e-Islami party met in Kabul on Saturday for a convention; speaking at a press conference afterwards, party leader Salahuddin Rabbani, who is also foreign minister in the current government, criticized the government for failing to carry out “some of its duties which were defined in the political agreement”, including electoral reforms that he said were a requirement for a free and fair election. Rabbani also denounced recent clashes between forces affiliated with Vice President Dostum’s Junbesh-e-Milli party and Jamiat; a Junbesh spokesman rebuffed the criticism. Separately, Abdul Rasool Sayyaf warned the government against “isolating the mujahadeen”. [TOLO]
  • Modi to Visit: Prime Minister Modi will stop in Afghanistan on June 4 to inaugurate the Salma Dam project in Herat, the Indian press indicates.
  • Refugee Repatriation: Dawn reports that Afghanistan’s minister for refugees and repatriation, Sayed Hussain Alemi Balkhi, has proposed extending the say of registered Afghan refugees living in Pakistan through 2020; Pakistani officials are reported to be considering a stay through 2017; the formal permissions for the refugees continued presence expired at the end of 2015, but has been temporarily extended through June 30 of this year, with another temporary extension expected as the government debates its decision. Separately, the ministry of refugees and repatriation reports that 900 Afghan refugees have been repatriated from Europe so far this year; only 47.6% of those who sought asylum in Germany were formally approved in 2015. [ET]
  • Anti-Corruption Efforts: On Saturday, Attorney General Mohammad Farid Hamidi reshuffled at least 40 positions in Kabul and at the provincial headquarters level, a move spokesmen for attorney general’s office said was intended to “boost transparency and develop the legal expertise in the attorney general’s office and to highlight our gains and demonstrate our commitment to the faithful people of Afghanistan”. Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, his first since taking office, Hamidi pledge to combat corruption, and said that “no one will be above the law from now on”. Separately, the Kabul deputy mayor for finance and administration and the head of the municipality’s human resources department were arrested on corruption charges on Sunday. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Rights Group Calls for Hekmatyar to Be Tried for War Crimes [TOLO]
  • ‘Enlightening Movement’ Threatens Renewed Protests Over TUTAP Route [TOLO]
  • Local BBC Reporter Arrested in Nangarhar [Khaama Press]
  • Ghani to Inaugurate Dar-ul-Aman Palace Reconstruction [Khaama Press]
  • Hopes and Fears for Jobs as Cement Factory Reopens [Reuters]
  • Report: Enhancing Access to Education: Challenges and Opportunities in Afghanistan – “This study examines Taliban positions toward girls’ education. In particularly it looks at the trends and changes in Taliban positions.” [Barnett Rubin and Clancy Rudeforth, NYU CIC]
  • Commentary: When the Political Agreement Runs Out: On the Future of Afghanistan’s National Unity Government – “While Secretary Kerry’s remarks were widely seen as a de facto extension of the National Unity Government’s term, the de jure arrangement after the two-year timeframe mentioned in the agreement remains a matter of contention.” [Martine van Bijlert and Ali Yawar Adili, AAN]
  • Commentary: A Good Taliban, Bad Taliban Strategy for the US and Afghanistan? – “With the wreckage of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour’s taxi only just beginning to cool in southern Pakistan, the Wall Street Journal revealed on Sunday that Afghan and U.S. intelligence were providing financial and military support to a “breakaway” Taliban faction in southwestern Afghanistan led by veteran insurgent commander Mullah Mohammed Rasool.” [Casey Garret Johnson, The Diplomat]
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