Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Border Clashes Continue at Torkham, Afghan Guard Killed; Panama Papers Committee Deadlocks

Topline

  • Another Afghan border police soldier was killed in continuing cross-border firing between Afghan and Pakistani forces at the Torkham border crossing over Tuesday night; Afghanistan’s foreign ministry called for a resolution of the dispute “through diplomatic ways”. The parliamentary committee on the Panama Papers investigation has deadlocked, with no dates set for future meetings. NATO diplomats tells Reuters and the AP that they will commit to a continued training mission in Afghanistan for the next year, and to continued financial support for the Afghan national security forces through 2020. An audio message attributed to deputy Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani has been released, in which he rules out talks with the Kabul government but professes openness to talks with the international community “if they are held in line with sharia”. Tahir-ul Qadri returned to Pakistan from eight months abroad in Canada on Wednesday, announcing plans to hold a new protest movement demanding justice for the deaths of Pakistan Awami Tehreek activists in a clash with Lahore police in June 2014. Pakistani officials marked the two-year anniversary of the start of Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan on Wednesday. Balochistan home ministry officials report that an Afghan NDS agent was killed along with four other unidentified militant suspects during a raid in Quetta earlier this week. The Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial government unveiled its budget for the forthcoming fiscal year on Tuesday.

Pakistan — Security

  • FATA Operations: Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif inaugurated several development projects during his visit to North and South Waziristan on Tuesday, including a Frontier Work Organization road project linking Miran Shah and Makeen. Military spokesmen quoted Gen. Sharif as saying that the military’s focus in FATA would “now be on more efficient border management to prevent cross-border movement”. Lt. Gen. Asim Bajwa, the military’s chief spokesman, held a press conference on Wednesday to mark the two-year anniversary of the launch of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, saying that there were “just the last few pockets remaining in the Shawal valley”. Prime Minister Sharif issued a separate statement, praising the armed forces and crediting the operation with “breaking the back of terrorists” and helping the nation “regain peace”. [ET]
  • Accused Afghan Spy Killed in Quetta: Dawn cites Balochistan home ministry officials who report that one of the unidentified militants killed in a raid in Quetta over Monday night was a member of the Afghan NDS intelligence agency; four others killed are said to have been members of two unidentified “banned militant organizations”.
  • Nuclear Testing: At a meeting of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Organization in Vienna on Monday, Pakistan’s ambassador voiced its support for a “voluntary moratorium” on nuclear testing, despite the fact that Pakistan is not a signatory to the treaty.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Investigation: Tuesday’s meeting of the parliamentary committee negotiating terms of references for an investigation into the Panama Papers leaks concluded without an agreement on a date for future meetings, as both sides remain deadlocked over the degree to which Prime Minister Sharif’s family members will be direct targets of a proposed investigation. Railways Minister Saad Rafique reiterated the government’s opposition to “selective accountability” and said that it had “all other options open including necessary legislation to form a commission or through other means”. [Dawn] [ET]
  • Tahir-ul Qadri Returns: Pakistan Awami Tehreek leader Tahir-ul Qadri arrived in Lahore on Wednesday after eight months abroad in Canada, telling reports that he would lead a new sit-in protest, with details to be announced June 17, to demand justice for PAT supporters killed in a clash with Lahore police two years ago. Qadri made an appeal that “the army chief who has broken the backbone of militants, should ensure justice for the innocent people killed in Model Town clashes”.
  • MQM Spokesman Charged: At the request of the Sindh Rangers, Karachi police registered a case against Aminul Haq, the head of the MQM’s media cell, charging him with “spreading venomous propaganda against Rangers personnel”. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Planning: Khyber Paktunkhwa finance minister Muzaffar Said introduced a draft provincial budget for the forthcoming fiscal year on Tuesday, which includes Rs 505 billion in total expenditures and an equal amount in revenues. Roughly 90% of the province’s budget is derived from federal revenue transfers, reimbursements, and royalties. The province’s Annual Development Program budget was cut by 8%, to Rs 161 billion. Budget debate continued in the Sindh and National Assemblies. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Census Delay: Responding to a question in parliament on Tuesday, Law Minister Zahid Hamid suggested that a national census might be held later this year in November or in March of next year; the Council of Common Interests indefinitely postponed the census in a meeting in March earlier this year, citing a shortage of army personnel to provide security for the exercise. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan Proves Slippery Target for IS [AFP]
  • Council of Islamic Ideology Reiterates Censure of “Honor Killings” [Dawn]
  • Three Killed in Swat Search Operation [Dawn]
  • Committee Formed to Consider Nominees for Vacant Election Commission Seats [ET]
  • Former Gas Pipelines Employee Under Consideration for Vacant OGRA Chairmanship [ET]
  • Government Orders Hike in Re-Gasified LNG Price [Dawn]
  • Stocks Rise as MSCI Raises Pakistan to Emerging Market Status [ET] [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Torkham Clashes Continue: Firing continued at the Torkham border crossing over Tuesday night, leaving another Afghan border policeman dead; since Sunday, TOLO reports that three Afghan policemen and two civilians have been killed, and another 21 wounded, while Pakistani officials report that an army major has been killed on their side and at least 18 wounded. A spokesman for the U.S. State Department urged “a calm resolution to the tension”; Dawn confirmed earlier reports that the Pakistani army has deployed additional troops and heavy weaponry near the border crossing, quoting an anonymous military officer who warns that the army is ready to “retaliate with full force”. Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan, Omar Zakhilwal, denied that any agreement had been made over the construction of a new border gate facility at Torkham, which Afghan officials accuse Pakistan of constructing unilaterally in violation of the border agreement. Pres. Ghani chaired a meeting of the National Security Council on Tuesday to review the issue; a spokesman said afterwards that “the issue should be resolved through diplomatic ways”, while also praising Afghan border security forces; the Afghan foreign ministry echoed the call for a diplomatic resolution to the conflict. [AP] [Khaama Press] [APP]
  • NATO Assistance: An anonymous NATO diplomat tells Reuters and the AP that alliance members meeting next month in Warsaw are expected to agree to maintain their training and assistance forces in Afghanistan for another year, and to maintain deployments in all regions of the country, regardless of the U.S. decision on its level of troop commitment. NATO is also expected to commit to continued funding for the Afghan national security forces, at a cost of $5 billion annually, through 2020. [TOLO]
  • Attacks and Operations: Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum presided over military operations in Jawzjan province on Tuesday, which he claimed had killed 15 Taliban militants since Monday, with no casualties reported amongst Afghan forces. Ministry of Defense officials claim to have killed dozens of Islamic State-affiliated fighters in airstrikes in the Achin district on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Sirajuddin Haqqani Releases Audio Message: The Express Tribune reports that Taliban deputy chief Sirajuddin Haqqani has issued a rare audio message in which he professes that the Taliban are “not opposed to talks if they are held in line with Sharia and if the international community agrees to this”. He rejected talks with the “puppet administration” in Kabul, however.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Senators Criticize Wolesi Jirga for Rejecting Electoral Reforms Decree [TOLO]
  • Badakhshan Provincial Council Members Echo Reports of Illegal Lapis Mining [TOLO]
  • Contract Signed for New Dam in Farah [Khaama Press]
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