Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Cabinet Meeting Called Over Kashmir Tensions; US Troops to Provide ‘Over the Horizon’ Support

Topline

  • Pakistan held briefings for the ambassadors of the permanent UN Security Council members on Tuesday, highlighting concerns over recent violence in Indian-administered Kashmir. Prime Minister Sharif has called a cabinet meeting for Friday, as the PPP has accused the ruling PML-N of “remaining silent” on the recent clashes, which comes ahead of legislative assembly elections scheduled to be held in Pakistani-administered Kashmir on July 21. U.S. and NATO commander Gen. John Nicholson told reporters on Tuesday that the U.S. was conducting supporting actions under expanded authorities approved by Pres. Obama last month “almost daily”; operations have reportedly focused in Nangarhar. Nicholson indicated that roughly 400 U.S. troops would provide “over the horizon” support to the NATO Resolute Support mission next year, and would not be counted towards the 8,400 U.S. troops in country. The Interior Ministry has sought a two-year extension of the Protection of Pakistan Act, whose provisions otherwise expire July 15, and of three-month detention powers under an amendment to the Anti-Terrorism Act. Finance Minister Dar and PPP opposition leader Khurshid Shah will meet later this week to discuss nominees for vacant Election Commission positions, after a meeting of opposition leaders scheduled to take place today. Afghanistan’s upper house of parliament nominated ten members for a conference committee with the lower house over a presidential electoral reforms decree rejected by the lower house. Peshawar exporters have reportedly halted their flour exports to Afghanistan after a hike in Afghan customs duties.

Pakistan — Security

  • Kashmir Tensions: Pakistan’s foreign secretary Aizaz Chaudhry held a briefing in Islamabad for the ambassadors of China, France, Russia, the UK, and the US on Tuesday, highlighting concerns over ongoing protests and violence in Indian Kashmir following the death of Hezb-ul Mujahadeen commander Burhan Wani. Prime Minister Sharif has called a special cabinet session on July 15 to discuss the situation in Kashmir. Six PPP legislators submitted a motion in the national assembly on Tuesday, seeking a debate on the issue. The violence comes amidst clashes between the PPP and PML-N ahead of legislative elections in Pakistani-administered Azad Jammu and Kashmir, scheduled for July 21; PPP senate opposition leader Aitzaz Ahsan criticized the PML-N for “remaining silent” over the violence on the Indian side of the disputed border. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Interior Ministry Seeks Extension to Detention Powers: The Express Tribune reports that the Interior Ministry has sent a request to the prime minister for a two-year extension of the 2014 Protection of Pakistan Act, whose provisions are due to expire July 15; the ministry has also sought an extension of amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Act that allow security forces to detain a suspect for up to three months without charge. Separately, Okara police killed six militants who are reported to have been linked to Al Qaeda in a raid on Wednesday; details of their identities have not been released. [ET]
  • FATA Attacks and Repatriation: Hamid Hussain Turi, the PPP chapter president in the Kurram Agency, was found dead of a bullet wound at his office on Tuesday morning; no claim of responsibility has been reported. Orakzai officials say they will repatriate 5,000 families between July 20-30. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Investigations: The PPP plans to introduce a new senate bill to form a judicial commission to investigate the Panama Papers, something that PPP leaders acknowledged they lacked the strength in parliament to pass into law but which they said was intended to bring “moral pressure” on the government to accept the opposition’s preferred terms of reference for an investigation. Meanwhile, Finance Minister Dar met with PPP leader Khurshid Shah on Tuesday to discuss nominees for the Election Commission, and agreed to meet again on Thursday after a meeting of opposition parties scheduled for today. Prime Minister Sharif met with his aides in Lahore on Tuesday, in which PML-N sources suggest that there was discussion of developing a “single tough strategy” to counter the PTI. [ET]
  • MQM Protests Leader’s Detention: On Tuesday, the MQM accused the Sindh Rangers of “abducting” party leader Izhar Uddin Ahmed Khan, who they said had been detained without charges or a warrant. The MQM also accused their rivals in the Pakistan Sarzameen Party, led by former mayor Mustafa Kamal, of collaborating with the Rangers to target the MQM. [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Flour Export to Afghanistan Suspended: Peshawar flour exporters halted shipments to Afghanistan on Tuesday after Afghan customs officials reportedly hiked duties on the import of flour, a move dealers linked to Afghanistan’s recent signature of an import agreement with India. [ET]
  • China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Projects: The Frontier Works Organization has been tasked with leading the construction of a new oil pipeline linking Gwadar port with China, the Express Tribune reports; a budget and timeline for the project has not been specified. A separate editorial notes that a $1.8 billion hydroelectric project faces up to a year’s delay due to land acquisition disputes in Khyber Paktunkhwa. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Army Denies Connection to Banners Calling for Martial Law [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Musharraf Challenges Trial by Anti-Terrorism Court in Judges’ Detention Case [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Government Searching for Replacement FBR Chief [ET]
  • Balochistan Frontier Corps Seizes Explosives Cache [ET]
  • Supreme Court Hearing Case Over Labor Welfare Contributions [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • U.S. Operations: In a briefing for reporters on Tuesday, U.S. commander Gen. John Nicholson said that the U.S. was now supporting the Afghan national security forces “almost daily” through strikes on Taliban forces and the dispatch of U.S. troops in a planning and advisory role, under new authorities approved by Pres. Obama last month. Nicholson indicated that operations had shifted to focus on Nangarhar. An anonymous U.S. military source said that a “couple dozen” airstrikes had been carried out so far under the new authorities. Nicholson indicated that under new deployment plans, the U.S. would contribute 6,700 troops to the NATO Resolute Support training mission next year, of whom 400 would be based “over the horizon” in other unspecified countries, and would not count towards the 8,400 total troops in country. Carter’s briefing coincided with a visit by Defense Sec. Carter, who held a joint press conference with Pres. Ghani in which he reiterated support for the Afghan forces. [Khaama Press]
  • Attacks and Operations: In comments to TOLO, Baghlan provincial police chief Noor Habib Gulbahari acknowledged that government forces had suffered “heavy losses” and only controlled major highways and roads in the province, saying “we do not have the ability [to move forward] and to strengthen our outposts”. Fourteen Taliban fighters, including a local commander, were killed in a raid outside the Logar provincial capital of Pul-e-Alam on Tuesday. Continuing Afghan army operations in Kunduz’s Chahardara district killed seven Taliban fighters on Tuesday. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Electoral Reforms: The Meshrano Jirga nominated ten senators for a conference committee with the Wolesi Jirga on a presidential electoral decree that was rejected by the lower house of parliament but approved by the upper house. The Wolesi Jirga has yet to nominate members to the committee.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ministry of Higher Education Concerned Over Sexual Harassment of Female Students [TOLO]
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