Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistan to Renew Dialogue Offers with India and Afghanistan; Dostum Blasts Balkh Governor

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  • At the first major meeting of senior civilian and military officials since Chief of Army Staff Bajwa took office, Pakistani officials reportedly decided to renew dialogue offers with both India and Afghanistan. The Supreme Court of Pakistan resumed hearings on the Panama Papers on Wednesday, and will now hold daily hearings. Vice President Dostum’s office hit back after an interview in which Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor suggested he had been offered Dostum’s position, suggesting that Atta had been prompted to enter negotiations with Pres. Ghani due to his “loss of illegal channels of income”. Shia protestors held a rally in Herat on Tuesday to denounce the Islamic State, which interior ministry officials say is now present in eleven provinces. UK Prime Minister Teresa May defended Britain’s support for the Benazir Income Support Program from conservative party members calling for a review of that assistance. Pakistan’s finance ministry is reviving state-owned enterprise privatization plans, ahead of a meeting with the IMF scheduled for late February.

Pakistan — Security

  • Regional Diplomacy: Prime Minister Sharif, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa, and other top military and civilian officials met on Tuesday to review Pakistan’s regional security policies for the first time since Bajwa assumed command. The Express Tribune reports that the government has decided to seek to renew dialogues with India and Afghanistan, and that Bajwa will accept an invitation to visit Kabul “soon”. In an interview on Tuesday, India’s newly appointed army chief, General Bipin Rawat, described “surgical strikes” carried out across the line of control last fall as “messaging that was needed to be communicated” and that “if there are terrorist bases across and if they continue to disrupt the situation on our side of the Line of Control then we have a right to take action against the terrorists”. [APP] [ET]
  • Dera Ismail Khan Bombing: As many as 19 people, including four police officers, were wounded when a roadside bomb struck a police vehicle in Dera Ismail Khan on Wednesday; no claim of responsibility has been reported. [Dawn]
  • Counterterrorism Response: The Interior Ministry is preparing a formal response to the judicial commission investigation into the Quetta Civil Hospital bombing, which Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan will use to challenge that commission’s criticism of the government’s implementation of the National Action Plan. [Dawn]
  • Karachi Operation: On Tuesday, the Sindh Rangers arrested at least ten suspects, including a local MQM unit leader. Sindh police chief Allah Dino Khawaja has formed a new committee to offer new examination tests for police officers recruited into the force through irregular processes between 2012-2015. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Supreme Court Bench to Hold Daily Hearings on Panama Papers: On Wednesday, Judge Asif Saeed Khosa resumed hearings into the Panama Papers and petitions from the PTI for Prime Minister Sharif’s disqualification from office; hearings will now be held on a daily basis. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, PPP parliamentary opposition leader Khurshid Shah insisted that Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, not former Pres. Zardari, was directing the PPP’s strategy, and suggested that Bilawal rather than his father would become opposition leader once both are in parliament. Several other parties, including the PTI, PML-N and JUI-F, have announced plans to also field candidates against Bilawal and Zardari. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • UK Assistance: Prime Minister Theresa May defended the UK’s assistance program to Pakistan from criticism from some conservative Tory party members on Tuesday, who had called for a review of £300 million in British support for the Benazir Income Support Program. [ET]
  • Privatization Planning: Finance Ministry sources tell the Express Tribune that they have revived unofficially suspended plans for the privatization of PIA, Pakistan Steel Mills, and the power sector, ahead of a planned meeting with the IMF in late February.
  • Oil Tanker Strike: Fuel shortages were reported in Quetta and other parts of Balochistan on Tuesday after the All Pakistan Oil Tankers’ Association went on strike to protest customs checks on tankers traveling from Karachi. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • NAB Arrests Five in Connection to Land Scam [ET]
  • Garbage Workers Strike in Karachi Over Chinese Privatization Plan [Dawn]
  • Abbottabad Land Owners Along CPEC Route Reject Compensation Package [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Governor Approves Rs 2 Billion in FATA Projects [ET]
  • Sindh Chief Minister to Brief Zardari on CPEC Projects [Dawn]
  • LNG Pipeline Delayed Until March [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Protest Against Daesh: Shia protestors rallied in Herat city on Tuesday to denounce the Islamic State. Interior Ministry counter-terrorism officials say that Daesh is present in at least eleven provinces, and linked the group to recent attacks on Shia mosques in Herat.
  • Turkey Extends NATO Mission: Turkey’s parliament approved a two-year extension of Turkey’s NATO mission in Afghanistan on Tuesday. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Attacks and Operations: Badakhshan police officials say they have launched new operations in the province and will “continue through the winter until the region is cleared of insurgents”. At least four police officers were killed in a Taliban ambush in the province on Monday. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Pajhwok]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Dostum Reacts to Noor Claims of Replacement Offer: In a statement on Tuesday, Vice President Dostum’s office rejected claims by Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor that he had been offered Dostum’s position, saying that Noor’s remarks had “seriously harmed the Turkmen people of Afghanistan” and suggesting that Noor’s negotiations with Pres. Ghani and split with Abdullah Abdullah and other Jamiat-e-Islami leaders were prompted by his “loss of illegal channels of income”.
  • Communications Minister Rejects Corruption Allegations: In a TOLO interview on Tuesday, suspended minister of communications Abdul Razaq Wahidi rejected allegations that he had interfered in an audit of the ministry’s collection of a cell phone tax, insisting that “there has not been any kind negligence in the job or negligence in terms of corruption”.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Wolesi Jirga Reiterates Demands for Supreme Court Ruling on Ministers Suspension [TOLO]
  • EU Pledges Five Million Euros for Afghan Health System [TOLO]

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