Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Lawyers Defend PM’s Remarks Before Parliament; CENTCOM Chief Talks Afghan Security with COAS

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  • During Supreme Court hearings on Tuesday, lawyers for Prime Minister Sharif defended his statements before parliament explaining his overseas assets, saying that those remarks were constitutionally protected. U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Joseph Votel met with Chief of Army Staff Bajwa on Monday to discuss the security situation in Afghanistan. A spokesman for the Afghan intelligence service said that last week’s attack on the Kandahar governor’s compound “was likely planned in Quetta” but offered no further details. The policing mandate for the Sindh Rangers expired without renewal on Monday; the PPP and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan continue to spar over the latter’s meetings with Sunni sectarian groups. Investigations are still ongoing as to the whereabouts of at least four missing activists who have disappeared since the start of the year. The Afghan IEC will announce a date for parliamentary elections next month, a commissioner tells Ariana News. The Wolesi Jirga voted to approve the Afghan government’s revised draft budget for the new fiscal year on Monday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Missing Activists: Islamabad police filed a First Information Report on the reported kidnapping of Samar Abbas, one of several activists to have gone missing since the start of the year; speaking before the senate on Monday, Minister of State for Interior Baleeghur Rehman said that investigations were still ongoing as to the whereabouts of at least four missing activists. [ET]
  • Military Courts: National Assembly speaker Ayaz Sadiq will meet with parliament party leaders on Tuesday, where he is expected offer an additional security briefing as part of the government’s efforts to secure cooperation for the renewal of military courts legislation. [ET]
  • FATA Repatriation: 374 people, the first batch of North Waziristan residents displaced from the area two years ago by military operations and who had resettled in Afghanistan, crossed back over the Ghulam Khan border crossing on Monday. Daily returns are scheduled to continue through Jan 26, amounting to roughly 2,000 families, with all returnees initially settled at an IDP camp in Bannu. [Dawn]
  • Tensions with India: Speaking in the senate on Monday, defense minister Khawaja Asif warned that Pakistan would respond to future Indian “surgical strikes” with “full force”. Speaking at a separate panel on Tuesday, Asif said that Pakistan “would not accept any external pressure” on the Indus Water Treaty, insisting that “each and every clause of the IWT should be followed by both the signatories in its letter and spirit”.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Hearings: Maryam Nawaz Sharif filed a response with the Supreme Court on Tuesday, submitting tax details and stating that she had not been a dependent of her father since her marriage in 1992.  Meanwhile, lawyers for the prime minister defended his remarks before parliament but also argued that they were protected under Article 248 of the constitutions, and that he could not be prosecuted or disqualified for them. [ET]
  • Rangers Powers Expire in Karachi: On Monday, the most recent 90-day extension of policing powers for the paramilitary Sindh Rangers expired, without any official announcement; Dawn quotes anonymous sources who say that the PPP government is withholding an extension until it gets “some assurances” regarding recent Rangers arrests of businessmen linked to former Pres. Zardari. [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: An interior ministry spokesman rebuffed continued PPP criticism of Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s contacts with leaders of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, accusing former Pres. Zardari and other PPP officials of doing the same. On Monday, lawyers for Imran Khan proffered an “unconditional apology” to the Election Commission, seeking to walk back Khan’s allegations that the institution was biased. [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • CPEC Project: During a parliamentary committee hearing on Monday, opposition party members criticized the government for the slow pace of development projects along the project’s “western route”, complaining that no industrial zones are currently being planned for near-term development. Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal claimed to have reached “total consensus” amongst the provinces, highlighting energy priorities and the construction of an $8 billion railway line linking Karachi with the Torkham border crossing.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Prime Minister Arrives in Switzerland for Davos Summit [APP]
  • Balochistan Provincial Government Purchase Russian Helicopter [Dawn]
  • Two Police Officers Killed in Quetta [Dawn]
  • 30% of Sindh Population Lacks CNICs [ET]
  • Senate Seeks National Commission on Human Rights Investigation into Bhutto Murder Case Delays [Dawn]
  • FDI Rises to $1.08 Billion During July-December Period [Dawn]
  • Second LNG Regasification Facility to Arrive in June [ET]
  • Government Pakistan Steel Mills Lease Plan [Dawn]
  • PIA Removes Acting Chief Operating Officer [ET]
  • Commentary: The Myth of Two Extremes – “Instead of provoking unequivocal condemnation, the abduction of several activists has spawned mass indifference, or much worse, victim-blaming.” [Umair Javed, Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kandahar Attack Investigation: A spokesman for the NDS said on Monday that last week’s attack at the Kandahar governor’s compound “was likely planned in Quetta”, but provided no more details on an ongoing investigation.
  • Attacks and Operations: Nangarhar local officials say they are working to recover 14 Ministry of Education staffers kidnapped by the Islamic State in the Kot district on Sunday. Daesh fighters destroyed another 20 homes in the district on Sunday night, but local officials say there were no casualties. NDS officials announced the discovery of a Taliban bomb-making factory in Balkh province on Tuesday. [RFE/RL]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Tensions with Pakistan: U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Joseph Votel visited Pakistan’s military headquarters on Monday for meetings with Chief of Army Staff Bajwa that focused on security in Afghanistan; Bajwa is reported to have insisted that “there are no safe havens inside Pakistan to be used against Afghanistan” and to have warned against “rhetoric implicating Pakistan”. [TOLO] [ET]
  • Electoral Reforms: Independent Election Commission member Rafiullah Bidar tells Ariana News that the IEC will announce a parliamentary election date next month, and will also make a decision regarded voter registration cards.
  • Refugee Repatriation: Speaking at a conference on Tuesday, Minister for Refugees and Repatriation Syed Hussain Alimi Balkhi said that more than one million Afghans had returned to the country in 2016, most from Pakistan, and that they had repatriated around $7 billion in the process.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Draft Budget Approved: After previously rejecting the government’s draft budget for the fiscal year, the Wolesi Jirga voted to approve the revised budget on Monday.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Turkish Officials Say Nightclub Attacker ‘Training in Afghanistan’ [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • National Procurement Center Approves 13 Contracts Worth Afs 13 Billion [Pajhwok]
  • Deh Sabz Brickmakers Avoiding Taxes [TOLO]

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