Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Torkham Gate Dispute Continues; Kabul Police Warn Foreigners Of Kidnapping Risks

Topline

  • Construction reportedly continues on the disputed Torkham border crossing gate; Afghan ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal threatened to quit his post over the issue on Thursday. Hundreds of trucks are stalled at the border; Pakistani officials reiterated their intention to continue work on the facility. Former Pres. Karzai met with Prime Minister Sharif in London on Thursday, issuing a joint statement afterwards expressing hope that “current difficulties [would] be resolved immediately”. Kabul police are warning foreign residents of the need to travel with armed guards to deter kidnapping risks; several foreigners report being stopped and questioned by the police. UK investigators have reportedly identified over 70 banks accounts linked to the MQM and its leadership and are seeking additional cooperation from Pakistani officials on money laundering investigations against party leader Altaf Hussain. Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission suggested it would announce a schedule for presidential and district council elections soon, although government officials reiterated that they did not accept the IEC’s legitimacy and would seek to appoint new members. A petitioner has challenged the appointment of Council of Islamic Ideology chairman Maulana Mohammad Khan Sheerani. The PML-N has reportedly secured PPP support for an amendment to modify the definition of “total public debt” under the Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation Act of 2005.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Karachi Crackdown: Scotland Yard investigators are seeking additional cooperation from Pakistan’s interior ministry in their investigation of money laundering charges against MQM leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain; the BBC reports that UK investigators have identified over 70 bank accounts linked to party leaders or the MQM, Dawn reports they and are seeking additional details about the MQM’s asset declarations to the Election Commission of Pakistan. Separately, Nisar Morai, the former head of the PPP-linked Fishermen Cooperative Society, was transferred to police custody on Thursday by the Rangers; he faces multiple charges of extortion and murder. Meanwhile, a Karachi anti-terrorism court issued new warrants for the arrest of Altaf Hussain and other MQM leaders in connection to the 1997 murder of Karachi Electric Supply Company director Shahid Hamid.
  • Elections and Other Political Activities: MQM activists staged a protest outside the Karachi offices of the Election Commission of Pakistan on Thursday, following the further delay of indirect elections for mayoral and council chairmanship positions. On Wednesday, the PML-N and Jamaat-e-Islami chapters in Azad Jammu and Kashmir announced an electoral alliance for the upcoming legislative assembly elections scheduled for July 21. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Council of Islamic Ideology Chief’s Appointment Challenged: On Thursday, a Lahore High Court petitioner sought the dismissal of Council of Islamic Ideology chairman Maulana Mohammad Khan Sheerani, arguing that his appointment in 2013 while simultaneously holding a national assembly seat from the NA-264 constituency in Balochistan meant he was ineligible to hold the post, and also challenging Sheerani’s educational credentials. [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Chitral Residents Clash Over Alleged Force Conversion [AFP]
  • Seven More Child Deaths Reporter in Thar [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Summons Opposition Leader Shah Over Pension Employee Case [Dawn]
  • Education Ministry Consults Wafaqul Madaris al Arabia Over Quranic Education [ET]
  • CNG Sector Hopes for Revival with LNG Import [ET]
  • Commerce Minister Seeks Trade Agreement with Tajikistan [ET]
  • FBR Chairman Skips PAC Hearing [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kidnappings: Kabul police officials tell Reuters that they are warning all foreigners living in the city to travel with guards, warning that “all foreign citizens and their offices in Afghanistan are terrorists’ targets … the kidnapping and criminal threat is very serious”. Some foreign workers have reported being questioned and stopped frequently by city police, a move the Interior Ministry said it had not approved.
  • Attacks and Operations: Three people were killed and another three wounded when gunmen attacked a mosque in Kabul’s Paghman district; no claim of responsibility has been reported. Badakhshan provincial council members called for increased security around the provincial capital, warning of possible Taliban attacks. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Torkham Border Dispute: Afghan ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal threatened to quit his post on Thursday if Pakistani officials continued construction of a border gate facility at the Torkham crossing, suggesting that he would “share all details about the Torkham crisis with the Afghan people” and “there will be consequences for Pakistan”. Construction on the facility has continued, contrary to what Zakhilwal claimed had been an agreement to halt work, reached during earlier talks with foreign secretary Aizaz Chaudhry and Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Zubair Mehmood Hayat. Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz issued a statement on Thursday saying work on the gate facility had been underway since November 2014, insisted that Afghan officials had been notified well in advance, and reiterated that the facility was on Pakistan’s side of the border. The border remains closed to traffic and a curfew is in place, with hundreds of trucks backed up. Former Pres. Karzai visited Prime Minister Sharif at his home in London on Thursday; in a statement, “both sides expressed hope for current difficulties to be resolved immediately”. In a BBC Urdu interview on Thursday, Karzai reiterated his rejection of the Durand Line border, and suggested that Pakistan was seeking to block Afghanistan’s access to Central Asia and India. [ET] [TOLO]
  • Electoral Reform: Following parliament’s rejection of a presidential electoral reform decree last week, a spokesman for the Independent Election Commission said Thursday that it would announce a schedule for presidential and district council elections “soon”; a spokesman for the president reiterated that new IEC commissioners would be appointed, and a spokesman for Chief Executive Abdullah again rejected the legitimacy of current commissioners.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghanistan Drops Plans to Import 300 MW Under CASA-1000 Project [ET]
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