Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Supreme Court Resumes Panama Papers Hearings; Helicopter Crash Kills Afghan Army Corps Commander

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Topline

  • Hearings resumed in the Supreme Court on Wednesday on the Panama Papers and the Sharif family’s overseas business holdings; they will resume again next week. Afghan army corps commander General Muhayuddin Ghori was killed in a helicopter crash in Badghis on Tuesday. Reuters confirms that Pakistan has unofficially halted cotton imports from India in recent weeks. Vice President Dostum’s office issued a statement Tuesday evening denying that he had kidnapped a former rival in Shiberghan, saying that the man had been detained on security charges. Pres. Ghani made his first visit to Balkh province since taking office, meeting with governor Atta Mohammad Noor. The PPP will begin a weeklong 50th anniversary celebration of its founding day in Lahore on Wednesday. The Sindh and Lahore High Courts issued orders staying the expulsion of Turkish nationals teaching in the PakTurk schools system.

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: The death toll from Tuesday’s attack on an Indian army base in Nagrota, Kashmir, rose to at least seven soldiers; the four gunmen were killed, after briefly taking a group of hostages. Elsewhere, three militants wearing suicide vests were killed by security forces in the town of Ramgarh. The AFP reports a spike in the construction of underground bunkers in villages along the Line of Control, given the recent nearly-daily exchanges of cross-border fire. The National Assembly passed a resolution on Wednesday condemning “the deliberate targeting of a civilian bus carrying women and children” in the Neelum valley last week. Reuters picks up earlier reports that Pakistan has unofficially suspended cotton imports from India; Pakistan was India’s largest customer for cotton imports last year, although Indian exporters suggested they had other market options. [AFP]
  • New Army Chief Takes Command: New Chief of Army Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa began his first full day on the job at General Headquarters in Rawalpindi on Wednesday. The Express Tribune reports that “Gen. Qamar considers the homegrown militancy as the main threat rather than the danger posed by arch-rival India”, although it does not source this assessment. A spokesman for the PPP said that former Pres. Zardari called Bajwa by phone to congratulate him on his posting.
  • FATA Operations: Eight people were reportedly killed in an airstrike in the Tirah Valley of the Khyber Agency on Tuesday; no further details on the targets were disclosed.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Hearings Resume: The PTI’s new lead counsel presented more arguments before the Supreme Court’s hearing on disqualification petitions against Prime Minister Sharif and his family; judges noted that investments by the Sharif family in Qatar in 1980 were apparently made despite outstanding debts to the Bank of Commerce and Credit International, and questioned the validity of a signature by Nawaz Sharif’s cousin Tariq Shafi on a court affidavit attesting to the money trail behind the Sharif family’s investments. Hearings have been adjourned until Dec 6. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: The PPP will begin a weeklong celebration of its 50th foundation day anniversary in Lahore on Wednesday; over the next week, party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari plans to hold interviews with prospective party cadres for the provinces and northern areas. The MQM-Pakistan faction has sought the return of a retainer paid to the UK law firm defending Altaf Hussain against money laundering cases in London. The Khyber Paktunkhwa chapter of the PML-N is “in disarray”, the Express Tribune reports. [ET]
  • High Courts Stay Turkish Teacher Expulsion: The Sindh High Court and Lahore High Court issued separate orders on Tuesday, staying the expulsion by the interior ministry of Turkish teachers working for the PakTurk schools network as it hears a challenge against that move. The orders come a week after the Peshawar High Court made a similar ruling; many teachers are already reported to have left the country. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Police Seek to Drop Azizabad Weapons Cache Investigation [Dawn]
  • Sindh Chief Minister Demands Finalization of National Finance Commission Award [Dawn]
  • ‘Pakistan Can’t Afford Bullet Trains’, Railways Minister Tells Parliament [Dawn]
  • Five Militants Killed in Sibi District [Dawn]
  • Iran Arrests 10 Pakistani Fishermen [Dawn]
  • OGRA Proposes Petroleum Price Hike [Dawn] [ET]
  • Chief Justice Expresses ‘Alarm’ Over Sindh Health Department Appointments [Dawn]
  • Commentary: An India-Pakistan Crisis: Should We Care? – “No other issue risks causing as much damage to the world, and to America’s credibility as its effective leader, as the prospect of an India-Pakistan nuclear exchange.” [Moeed Yusuf, War on the Rocks]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Corps Commander Killed in Helicopter Crash: General Muhayuddin Ghori, the corps commander for the Afghan National Army’s 207th Corps, was killed when his helicopter crash-landed in the Bala Morghab district in Badghis on Tuesday, the Ministry of Defense reported. The Taliban claimed to have shot down the helicopter, but officials blamed a “technical fault” and said there were no militants in the area at the time of the landing. At least ten other people were injured in the crash, including the provincial intelligence chief and the provincial council chairman. [TOLO]
  • Dostum Denies Holding Rival: In a statement on Tuesday, Vice President Dostum’s office denied that he had beaten or kidnapped a rival last week in Shiberghan, saying that Ahmad Ischi had been “arrested by the security officials after reports received by different sources for his involvement in insecurities in Jawzjan province and funding oppositions”. [TOLO]
  • Attacks and Operations: Pres. Ghani visited Balkh on Tuesday, where he told an audience of security personnel to “take an offensive stance” against militants in the north. Governor Atta Mohammad Noor told the same audience that the number of Quick Reaction Force and Police Special Unit commandos should be increased. The Ghazni police chief reports that at least sixteen Taliban fighters were killed after attacking checkposts on the border between the Ab Band and Muqor districts on Wednesday. A would-be suicide bomber was arrested in the Paktika provincial capital of Sharan on Wednesday. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Ghani and Noor Meet: Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor hosted Pres. Ghani during his visit to Balkh on Tuesday, part of what TOLO describes as increasingly closer ties between the two leaders, reversing an initial rivalry; it was Ghani’s first visit to the province since taking office.
  • Taliban Talk to Reporters: The Express Tribune reports that the Taliban’s Qatar office invited a group of Afghan journalists for a briefing in Doha, including a TOLO TV anchor who survived a Taliban bombing attack in January; the report is unclear on the timing of the meeting.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Government Dimisses Taliban Claim to Protect National Infrastructure Projects [Khaama Press]
  • 162 Arrested in Kabul Sweep [Khaama Press]
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