Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Recuperating Sharif May Not Return from UK Until After Ramazan; Some Kunduz Hostages Freed

Topline

  • Prime Minister Sharif is recovering from yesterday’s heart surgery; his daughter suggested that he may not return to Pakistan until after Ramazan. Afghan diplomats closed their Peshawar consulate in protest after the consul general’s vehicle was stopped and searched while entering the cantonment area on Wednesday; elsewhere, Torkham border crossing officials have begun requiring travel documents for Afghan nationals seeking to cross into Pakistan. Pres. Mamnoon Hussain addressed a joint session of parliament on Wednesday; speaking to the press afterwards, Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif criticized U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, saying they were “regrettable and must stop”. Kunduz police officials report that at least eight more hostages have been freed after a bus convoy was stopped earlier on Tuesday. The circumstances of their release remain sketchy, and the Taliban have yet to comment on the incident, which Pres. Ghani denounced in a statement vowing punishment for those responsible. A spokesman for the Afghan ministry of interior acknowledged a lack of coordination between security forces in Helmand, after 50 or more police officers were killed in recent Taliban attacks around the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah. Pakistani Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal reported that financing agreements for $30 billion worth of infrastructure projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor plan were “finalized or at various stages of approval”.

Pakistan — Security

  • Chief of Army Staff Criticizes Drone Strikes: Speaking to the press after attending President Hussain’s address to a joint session of parliament on Wednesday, Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif said that “U.S. drone strikes in Pakistani territory are regrettable and must stop”. Sharif also pledged that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project and the “war on terror” would be completed “at any cost”. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Sharif Recovering from Surgery: In comments to the press and on Twitter, Prime Minister Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz reported that her father had undergone four artery grafts as part of his heart surgery on Tuesday, and was now in stable condition and recovering after the successful completion of the procedure. Maryam vowed that Nawaz would “recover and fight against all conspiracies with renewed zeal”; she suggested that he would return to the country “by the end of Ramazan,” at least three weeks from now. [WSJ] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: Pres. Hussain addressed a joint session of parliament on Wednesday, calling on the “government of Pakistan and all political parties must work together to strengthen democracy” and arguing that “while the government should take the opposition’s criticism on economic policies positively, opposition has no right to impose its beliefs on the government.” Separately, the Election Commission released asset declarations from provincial lawmakers. [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Project: Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday following the conclusion of the National Economic Council meeting, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal said that financing arrangements for $30 billion worth of infrastructure projects falling under the CPEC had been either “finalized or are at various stages of approval”; the government has allocated Rs 125 billion, or roughly $1.2 billion, for CPEC-related projects in the upcoming fiscal year’s development budget. Sindh police officials tell Dawn that “the process has been expedited” to hire former army service members to staff a police force dedicated to protecting Chinese nationals working on CPEC projects, particularly after one engineer was wounded in a bombing last week.
  • Nuclear Construction: Work will begin “within weeks” on the third reactor at the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant, based on third-generation Chinese reactor designs, officials at the China National Nuclear Corporation said on Tuesday.
  • Polio Crisis: Sewage samples from 40 high-risk urban sites around the country in April showed no traces of the polio virus, the first time that has been the case, health officials reported on Tuesday. Eleven new cases have been reported so far this year, compared to 25 in the same period in 2015.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Suspect in Lahore Bombing Linked to Arms Dealing Network [Dawn]
  • Suspect Alleges Police Coercion in Parween Rehman Case [Dawn]
  • Petitioner in Jamaat-ud-Dawa ‘Arbitration Court’ Case Reports Kidnapping and Harassment [Dawn]
  • Senators Call for Ban on Foreign Channels and ‘Odd’ Content [Dawn]
  • Government Keeps Petroleum Prices Unchanged in June [Dawn] [ET]
  • Azad Jammu and Kashmir Officials Report 80% of Seminaries Registered [Dawn]
  • Commentary: Nawaz Sharif is the Only Viable Option for Pakistan – “With [Benazir Bhutto] gone, Sharif is the only politician in Pakistan with the stature of a credible national leader, albeit it a highly flawed one.” [Tom Hussain, Al Jazeera]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kunduz Kidnapping: Acting Kunduz provincial police chief Masoum Hashimi told TOLO that Taliban militants had freed eight passengers kidnapped from a busy convoy earlier on Tuesday, leaving only ten still as hostages; Khaama Press reports that ten were freed in an overnight raid and that eight remain hostage, and reports that as many as 17 of the initial group of 185 or more hostages had been killed. Pres. Ghani issued a statement denouncing the killing of civilians, describing the Taliban as “bandits” who “deserve the harshest punishments in accordance with the religion, law and traditions of the country”. The Taliban’s spokesman has not commented on the incident and details remain sketchy.
  • Other Attacks and Operations: At least five people, including one policeman, were killed and a dozen wounded when a team of as many as six suicide bombers attacked the Ghazni provincial appeals court on Wednesday; the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. The district police chief in Balkh’s Sholgara district was killed by a roadside mine on Wednesday morning; in Nangarhar’s Khogyani district, an Afghan Local Police commander was killed in another roadside bombing, along with his bodyguard and a civilian bystander. Members of parliament heavily criticized the government’s security strategy after reports that 50 or more Afghan policemen had been killed in recent fighting around the Helmand provincial capital. A spokesman for the ministry of interior acknowledged that “our forces in some areas had no effective consolidation and did not manage to maintain better consolidation”. [AP] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Mansour Body Transferred: In a statement on Tuesday, Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan reported that the body of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour had been transferred to his heirs for burial, after DNA tests confirmed his identity; some earlier reports had indicated the transfer had already taken place. [Dawn] [ET]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Afghan Consulate Closed in Peshawar in Protest: Afghan diplomatic officials closed their Peshawar consulate in protest on Wednesday after Pakistani security services conducted a check of the consul general’s vehicle during travel to the cantonment zone, denouncing the “harassment” of their envoy; Pakistani sources tell Dawn that the vehicle “was not following the specified protocol for official and diplomatic vehicles”. Meanwhile, officials at the Torkham border crossing have begun requiring valid travel documents for Afghan nationals seeking to cross the border into the Khyber Agency. [Khaama Press] [ET]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Hamid Karzai to Visit Pakistan Next Month [ET]
  • Rula Ghani Inaugurates Afghanistan’s First Women’s University [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Struggling to Get a Quorum: Fiddling the Figures and Suspending MPs – “With two thirds of all plenary sessions inquorate, many laws on the agenda could not be voted on and the parliament has fallen behind in its legislative calendar.” [Salima Ahmadi and Lenny Linke, AAN]
  • Commentary: Afghans, the Refugees’ Refugees – “Whether the situation in Afghanistan today still formally counts as war, and whether you call them migrants or refugees, the men and women who are leaving Afghanistan are driven away by insecurity, as they have been for years.” [May Jeong, NYT]
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