Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PML-N Prepares to ‘Fight Out’ Panama Papers Pressures; Ghani and Abdullah Meet Again

Topline

  • At a cabinet meeting on Thursday, Prime Minister Sharif and top aides are reported to have decided to “fight out the Panamagate battle on the legal front”. Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah met again on Thursday to discuss Abdullah’s complaints regarding the implementation of the national unity government agreement; Protests were held in Balochistan on Thursday, denouncing remarks by Indian Prime Minister Modi in which he suggested that he had received thanks from the region for Indian support; Pakistan’s foreign ministry described those remarks as “crossing a red line”. MQM party leaders are staging a hunger strike in Karachi over the arrest of party activists, six of which were freed on the order of Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah on Thursday. The U.S. Air Force has resumed the use of B-52 bombers in Afghanistan for the first time in ten years; Air Force officials said two bombing sorties had taken place, although they did not specify when and where. Reuters reports progress on de-mining efforts in Afghanistan has slowed as international funding for the effort has diminished in recent years. The target of a bombing in Kabul on Thursday has been identified as General Samim Samim, a former aide to the late Muhammad Qasim Fahim; he survived but his son was injured in the blast.

Pakistan – Security

  • U.S. National Approved for Deportation: Contrary to earlier reports, the Express Tribune indicates that detained U.S. national Matthew Barrett has not yet been deported from Pakistan, but that a special court approved his deportation by the Federal Investigation Agency on Thursday. The court accepted bail bonds from two FIA officials who are being investigated for allowing Barrett to enter the country.
  • FATA Operations: Pakistani military spokesmen said that airstrikes carried out in the Khyber Agency’s Rajgal Valley on Thursday killed “eleven terrorists” and destroyed “eight terrorist hideouts”, without providing further details. [Dawn]
  • NADRA Officials Arrested: On Thursday, the Federal Investigation Agency arrested two National Database and Registration Authority officers in Quetta, charging them with accepting bribes to issue national ID cards to an Afghan national, who was also arrested. [Dawn]

Pakistan – Politics and Diplomacy

  • Tensions with India: Protests were held in Balochistan on Thursday, denouncing remarks by Indian Prime Minister Modi; Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri touted the protests and lashed out at exiled Baloch Republican Party chief Brahamdagh Bugti, who Zehri said had “proved that he is a traitor” by welcoming Modi’s support. At a press briefing on Thursday, the foreign ministry’s spokesman said that Modi had “crossed a red line” and that his comments “could set back relations in a far more serious manner than anything that’s gone before”. The foreign ministry also said that it would welcome any UN observation mission to Kashmir, but insisted that the focus should be on Indian-administered Kashmir, not Pakistan’s side. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and the Norwegian foreign minister have offered separately to mediate between India and Kashmir over Kashmir.
  • Panama Papers Investigation: During Thursday’s cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Sharif and his aides decided to “fight out the Panamagate battle on the legal front and not to be blackmailed” by the opposition, the Express Tribune reports. On Thursday, PML-N legislators brought another motion to the national assembly speaker, seeking the disqualification of PTI secretary general Jahangir Tareen from office. Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed, the PTI’s opposition leader in the Punjab assembly, says that the party plans to “bring Lahore to a standstill” with its protest march, scheduled to take place September 3. [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Karachi Operations: Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah ordered the release of six MQM party activists who had been detained by police, saying that “there should not be unnecessary harassment of any citizen, but at the same time my government will not allow anyone to support criminals”. MQM officials say three more activists remain in custody, and say they will continue a hunger strike that began on Wednesday. [Dawn] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan – Economics and Development

  • Chinese Investment: Thursday’s federal cabinet meeting reviewed progress on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, focusing particularly on electricity sector infrastructure; the planning and finance ministers reportedly objected to proposals to create a “special monitoring committee” to oversee implementation. The Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet also granted tax concessions for two Chinese firms working on two highway projects under CPEC. [Dawn]
  • Pipeline Firm Leadership Sacked: Dawn reports that the chairman and a member of the board of directors of the Interstate Gas Systems pipeline firm have been removed by the Ministry of Petroleum after they objected to plans for pipelines linking Gwadar and Nawabshah, Karachi and Lahore, and Iran and Pakistan.

Pakistan – Remainders

  • Prime Minister Inaugurates Turkish-Designed Pakistan Navy Fleet Tanker [Dawn] [ET]
  • NACTA Hotline Choked with Prank Calls [Dawn] [ET]
  • Suspect Arrest in Connection to Charsadda Bombing [ET]
  • Afghan Refugees Facing Deportation Under Renewed Financial Constraints [ET]
  • New Azad Jammu and Kashmir Government Shakes Up Bureaucratic Appointments [ET]
  • Lahore High Court Orders Halt to Orange Line Metro Train Near Heritage Sites [Dawn] [ET]
  • Sindh Chief Minister Vows ‘Legal Battle’ Over FBR Withholding of Taxes [ET]
  • Parliamentary Delegation Meets Erdogan [ET]

Afghanistan – Security

  • U.S. Assistance: U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfien told reporters earlier this week that the U.S. had resumed the use of B-52H Stratofortress bombers in Afghanistan for the first time in ten years; the planes carried out two sorties and dropped 27 bombs, although the Air Force did not specify when and where those took place. Separately, the State Department approved a $60 million Foreign Military Sale agreement for small arms to the Afghan forces.
  • Slow Progress on De-Mining: The deadline for clearing Afghanistan of millions of landmines has been pushed back by ten years to 2023 as international support dwindles, Reuters reports; although four-fifths of the country is reported to be mine-free, nearly 600 square kilometers of minefields dating back to the anti-Soviet jihad and civil war era remain unclear, affecting more than 1500 communities.
  • Attacks and Operations: The bomb planted on a vehicle in Kabul on Thursday targeted General Samim Samim, a former secretary to the late Mohammad Qasim Fahim and a current defense ministry employee; Samim was unhurt but his son was injured in the blast. On Friday, local security officials reported that they had reopened the Baghlan-Kunduz highway; Kunduz provincial council members tell TOLO that as much as 80% of the province is outside the government’s control.
  • Ministry Promotions: On Thursday, in conjunction with Afghan Independence Day celebrations, Pres. Ghani promoted Defense Minister Abdullah Habibi and Interior Minister Taj Mohammad Jahid, both lieutenant generals, to full general rank.

Afghanistan – Politics and Diplomacy

  • Ghani and Abdullah Meet Again: Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah met again on Thursday to discuss Abdullah’s complaints that he was being marginalized and that the government had not completed its electoral reform pledges. Sec. Kerry is also reported to have spoken by phone with both leaders on Thursday morning. Details are limited and further discussions are reportedly planned, although no date for those talks has been set.

Afghanistan – Remainders

  • Pottery Town of Istalif Struggles in the Face of Economic Contractions [NYT]
  • Hazaras Seek Refuge in Iran, and Get Sent to Fight in Syria [LAT]
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