Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistani Leaders Debate Kashmir Response; Brussels Donors Pledge $15.2B Through 2020

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  • Indian military officials report that they repelled an attack by three militants at a base in the Kupwara district on Thursday, killing all of the attackers. In a speech on Thursday, Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif warned that Pakistan would respond to “any aggression”. During a joint session of parliament on Wednesday and Thursday, opposition party leaders criticized the government for failing to counter Indian efforts to isolate Pakistan in the wake of recent attacks in Kashmir. Dawn reports that PML-N leaders highlighted similar concerns during a briefing session with top military and diplomatic officials on Monday, and that ISI Director General Rizwan Akhtar assented to pressure to allow civilian law enforcement agencies to crack down on nominally banned militant groups like Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba. Donors in Brussels pledged assistance totaling $15.2 billion through 2020; Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah welcomed the pledges, and returned to Afghanistan on Thursday. Fighting continues around Kunduz city, where Afghan security officials claim to have killed the Taliban shadow governor and where food shortages and power outages are reported as fighting continues for the fourth day. Karachi police seized a large weapons cache on Wednesday, indirectly accusing the MQM and Indian intelligence. A suicide bomber wounded four employees of the ministry of mines in an attack on a bus in Kabul on Wednesday. Finance Minister Dar has reportedly finalized deals for the issuance of as much as $1.5 billion in Islamic bonds.

Pakistan – Security

  • Another Indian Army Base Attacked as Pakistani Leaders Debate Kashmir: Indian military officials report that three militants were killed as they attempted an attack on an army base in the Kupwara district on Thursday. Dawn reports that villagers living near the Line of Control are migrated to safer areas in the valley, and that at least three people were injured on the Pakistani side in cross-border fire on Wednesday. Indian officials accuse Pakistan of initiating the exchange. Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif visited the X Corps headquarters on Wednesday to review border security, and on Thursday gave a speech at a Pakistan Air Force cadet graduation ceremony, calling on the international community to “condemn Indian insinuations and fabrications about a nation that has made unparalleled contributions to the global fight against terrorism” and warning that “any aggression” against Pakistan would “not be allowed to go unpunished.” Speaking at a joint session of parliament on Wednesday, Prime Minister Sharif accused India of rejecting dialogue over Kashmir, and condemned the ongoing Indian crackdown there. During the public debate, opposition leaders criticized the government for failing to push back at Indian efforts to isolate Pakistan diplomatically, and in continuing discussions on Thursday, PPP leader Aitzaz Ahsan said that the government’s failure to eliminate militant groups under the National Action Plan meant that Pakistan would continue to take the blame for attacks in neighboring countries. Dawn reports that during a briefing session on Monday with top civilian and military officials, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif pushed for, and director general of the ISI Gen. Rizwan Akhtar did not push back on, action against nominally banned militant groups like Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lahskar-e-Taiba. Akhtar is reportedly visiting all four provinces to direct the military intelligence agencies “not to interfere if law enforcement acts against militant groups that are banned or until now considered off-limits for civilian action”. Separately, a senate committee tasked with developing new policy guidelines on the Kashmir issue presented a list of 22 recommendations in closed-door debate on Wednesday, including the renewal of back-channel talks and confidence-building measures.  [ET] [ET] [AP] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Counterterrorism Response: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan ordered the formation of a dedicated counter-terrorism financing cell under the National Counter Terrorism Authority during a meeting on Wednesday, and to prepare recommendations for updating the list of individuals and organizations banned under the Fourth Schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act. [ET]
  • MQM Weapons Cache Seized: On Wednesday, Karachi police announced the seizure of a large cache of weapons and ammunition in Karachi’s Azizabad neighborhood, including some U.S. arms originally destined for NATO soldiers in Afghanistan; without naming the MQM directly, police officials blamed the party for hoarding the weapons in order to carry out terrorism in the city, in conjunction with Indian intelligence services. Separately, the UK’s Scotland Yard sought an additional two weeks before charge-sheeting MQM leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain in a money laundering case. [AP] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan – Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Protests: On Wednesday, the government’s proposed legislation setting the mandate for a commission of inquiry into the Panama Papers leaks passed out of the national assembly law committee, paving the way for passage by the full house. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday after attending the joint session on Kashmir, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that Prime Minister Sharif “will be in jail for his financial crimes” after the 2018 parliamentary elections. The Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial assembly passed another resolution seeking a judicial inquiry against the Sharif family on Wednesday. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan – Economics and Development

Pakistan – Remainders

  • Pakistan and Belarus Agree to Nuclear Energy Cooperation [ET]
  • Army to Be Deployed in Hangu Ahead of Ashura [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Five Militant Suspects Killed in Balochistan [Dawn] [ET]
  • Peshawar Doctor Shot [ET]
  • Investigation Ordered into Attack on Hazara Bus Passengers in Quetta [ET]
  • Government Considering Additional Tax Amnesty Plan in Real Estate Sector [ET]
  • No Changes in CPEC Route, Planning Ministry Insists [ET] [Dawn]
  • Election Commission Seeks to Curtail Election Spending [Dawn]

Afghanistan – Security

  • Kunduz Under Attack: Fighting continues around Kunduz city for the fourth day as of Thursday, with attacks reported in the city’s third district and on the Kabul-Kunduz highway, and the Taliban reportedly firing continuously on the police headquarters and governor’s compound. Food shortages and power outages are also reported. On Thursday, Afghan security officials claimed to have killed the Taliban shadow governor for Kunduz, identified as Mullah Abdul Salam. In comments to TOLO, Kunduz parliamentarians accuse local security officials and the central government of handing the city over to the Taliban.
  • Other Attacks and Operations: A suicide bomber targeted a bus carrying employees of the ministry of mines in Kabul on Wednesday, wounding four people. In Farah, military officials claim to have killed 17 insurgents in an airstrike on the outskirts of the provincial capital. [Reuters]

Afghanistan – Politics and Diplomacy

Afghanistan – Remainders

  • 44 Afghan Trainees AWOL on US Training Trips in Two Years [Reuters]
  • India Slow to Expand Chabahar Port [Dawn]
  • US Transfers 492 Humvees to Afghan Police [Khaama Press]
  • Commentary: In Colombia’s Hope, Afghanistan’s Future – “Colombia’s surprising referendum defeat of an all-but-complete peace deal, and the vow by its government and rebel leaders to continue talks rather than revive 52 years of war, demonstrate two principles of peacemaking that are critical this week for the war in Afghanistan.” [Alex Thier and Scott Worden, Defense One]

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