Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Supreme Court Proposes Separate Panama Papers Commission; Soldier Succumbs to Bagram Bombing Wounds

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  • In hearings on Wednesday, Supreme Court judges raised the possibility of creating a separate commission to investigate Panama Papers charges; on Thursday, Imran Khan told a press conference that the PTI opposed such a move. All passengers and crew were killed when a PIA flight en route from Chitral to Islamabad crashed on Wednesday. A U.S. soldier wounded in last month’s suicide attack at Bagram Airbase succumbed to his wounds at Walter Reed hospital on Wednesday. NATO ministers “reaffirmed our mutual commitments” with Afghanistan at a meeting on Wednesday. The Pakistani military has announced the appointment of Lt. Gen. Shahid Baig Mirza as the new Karachi Corps Commander. Pakistan’s ministry of national food security has reportedly dropped an unofficial ban on Indian cotton imports. The Asian Development Bank has approved a $415M grant for energy grid projects in Afghanistan.

Pakistan — Security

  • PIA Crash Kills All Onboard: All 47 passengers and crew onboard PIA flight PK-661 from Chitral to Islamabad were killed when it crashed on Wednesday, officials confirmed. Popular singer-turned-evangelist Junaid Jamshed was among those killed, as well as Chitral’s deputy commissioner Osama Ahmed Warraich, two Austrians, and a Chinese national. Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority is investigating the cause of the crash; the pilot issued a distress call reporting an engine fire prior to the crash, and eyewitness reports suggest it caught fire before crashing. PIA chairman Muhammad Azam Saigol insisted that the plan was “perfectly sound” and had undergone regular maintenance checks in October. Many of the bodies were badly damaged, and DNA tests are underway in Islamabad to identify them. PIA has announced a compensation fund for families of the victims. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • New Karachi Corps Commander: On Wednesday, the military announced the appointment of Lt. Gen. Shahid Baig Mirza as the new Karachi Corps Commander, replacing Lt. Gen. Naveed Mukhtar, whose next posting was not announced. Mirza previously served as military secretary at the army’s General Headquarters. [ET]
  • CNIC Re-Verification: Interior ministry officials have re-verified the details of over 95 million computerized national ID cards, and have identified more than 66,000 “intruders” who held national IDs, the Express Tribune reports.
  • Peshawar Bombings: Two bombs struck two private residences in Peshawar on Wednesday evening, in what police described as extortion threats; no casualties were reported.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Supreme Court Proposes Panama Papers Commission: At hearings on Wednesday, Supreme Court Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali proposed the creation of a separate commission to investigate charges against Prime Minister Sharif and his family members, but said that the court would continue to adjudicate the case if the major parties did not agree to shifting the venue. Speaking to the press on Thursday, Imran Khan said that “we do not require an inquiry commission to decide the Panamagate case” and that the court should continue to hear the issue; lawyers for the prime minister said that they would not object to a commission if Prime Minister Sharif was exempted from the probe. Chief Justice Jamali will retire at the end of the month. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Tensions with India: Dawn reports that the Ministry of National Food Security’s Department of Plant Protection has lifted an unofficial ban on the import of cotton from India. Speaking in the senate on Wednesday, foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz said that “evidence was being collected” regarding accused Indian spy Kulbushan Jhadav’s activities. At the weekly press briefing on Thursday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman said that last weekend’s Heart of Asia conference in Amritsar “exposed [India’s] claims of being committed to peace in Afghanistan”. [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Population Census: Pakistan’s Statistics Division filed a response with the Supreme Court on Wednesday pledging to hold a nationwide census beginning March 15, 2017, and to be completed in two months; the court warned that the government would face contempt of court charges if the census was not held by that date.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • 62 ‘Banned’ Groups Active in Sindh, Officials Report [Dawn]
  • 11 Suspects Arrested in Balochistan’s Barkhan District [Dawn]
  • Altaf Hussain Speeches Under Review for Treason Hearings [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Revises Elementary School Textbooks [ET]
  • Prime Minister Appoints CPEC Project Coordinator [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Soldier Succumbs to Wounds from Bagram Attack: The Pentagon announced Wednesday that a soldier under treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center died of wounds incurred during a suicide bombing attack at Bagram Airbase last month. Two other U.S. soldiers and two military contractors were also killed in that incident.
  • Attacks and Operations: Speaking to a youth conference on Wednesday, Pres. Ghani praised the Afghan security forces for safeguarding the country, saying that “a foreign war is ongoing in Afghanistan, but not a civil war”. Nangarhar provincial officials report that a foreign ISIS recruiter, identified only as Aziz, was killed during counterterrorism operations in Khogyani district on Wednesday.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • NATO Conference: Foreign Minister Rabbani met with NATO foreign ministers in Brussels on Wednesday, where he welcomed NATO’s pledged commitments of assistance through 2020. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters after the meeting that the alliance “reaffirmed our mutual commitments” with Afghanistan, adding that “it is essential that Afghanistan continues to pursue reforms and improve governance, to fight corruption, protect human rights and advance the peace process.” Stoltenberg also announced the appointment of German ambassador Cornelius Zimmerman as the next senior NATO civilian representative in Afghanistan. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Infrastructure: The Asian Development Bank approved a $415 million grant for a converter station to connect the Turkmenistan and Afghan power grids, and to run transmission lines and expand grid access in at least eight Afghan provinces. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ahmad Zia Massoud Accuses NUG Officials of Corruption [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • First Phase of Dar-ul-Aman Palace Restoration Completed [Khaama Press]
  • India Approves MOU with Afghanistan on Space Technology Cooperation [Khaama Press]

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