Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Parliamentarians Brawl in National Assembly; Afghan Border Guard Killed in Spin Boldak

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  • Afghan border police officials report that one officer was killed and two wounded in an exchange of fire with Pakistani forces on Friday in the Spin Boldak district. Hearings continue into the Panama Papers, with Friday’s proceedings focusing on testimony from Finance Minister Dar’s lawyers over his confession regarding money-laundering charges brought by the Musharraf government in 2000, which he now disavows. In a statement on Thursday, the military’s public relations arm warned against further critical coverage of former Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif’s receipt of a 90-acre land grant near Lahore, which it said had been done “under constitutional provisions”. The Pakistani army will deploy enumerators as well as guards as part of the upcoming national census, Bureau of Statistics officials report. In a WSJ interview, former Pres. Karzai welcomes Russian outreach to the Taliban, saying “there has to be a balance of power here now”. Prime Minister Sharif met with the visiting World Bank CEO, Kristalina Georgieva, to discuss the arbitration of two disputed Indian hydropower projects.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Hearings: Supreme Court hearings on the Panama Papers and petitions for the disqualification of Prime Minister Sharif’s family and several top advisors heard from lawyers for Finance Minister Dar on Friday, who quoted a statement from Dar disavowing a previous confession he made in 2000 regarding money-laundering charges brought by the Musharraf government, which Dar said was made under duress. Meanwhile, following claims from Maryam Sharif’s that leaked documents showing her ownership of an offshore holding company used for the family’s London real estate were “forged”, the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung continued to highlight previously-released Panama Papers documents showing her ownership. Meanwhile, lawmakers came to blows in the national assembly on Thursday after the PTI delegation demanded to speak against the prime minister, leading to a walkout; on Friday, the PTI introduced a motion against a number of PML-N legislators, including minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and the prime minister’s son-in-law. [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Army Warns Against Criticism of Land Grant: In a statement on Thursday, the military’s Inter-Services Public Relations arm noted recent media reports on the grant of 90 acres of land in Lahore to former Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif, saying that it had been done “under constitutional provisions” and said that the current debate had the “intent of maligning [the] army”. [ET]
  • Indus Water Treaty Talks: Prime Minister Sharif met with World Bank Chief Executive Officer Kristalina Georgieva on Thursday to discuss the implementation of the Indus Water Treaty and the ongoing dispute with India over two Indus hydropower projects on the Chenab river tributary.  Sharif reiterated Pakistan’s request for a court of arbitration in the dispute, and renewed requests for financing of the Diamer-Bhasha dam.
  • Other Political Activity: The draft election law currently under review in parliament would ban “any contribution or donation made, directly or indirectly, by any foreign source”. The PML-N remains divided over a choice for Sindh governor, the Express Tribune reports.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Census Planning: In addition to providing security for census enumerators, the army will also deploy enumerators alongside Bureau of Statistics civilians, the Express Tribune reports, which a spokesman suggested was meant to “overcome discrepancies and reduce grievances of people.”
  • Iran ‘Eager’ to Join CPEC: Iran’s ambassador to Pakistan, Mehdi Honardost, told a conference in Islamabad on Thursday that Iran was “eager to join CPEC with its full capabilities, possibilities and abilities”, downplaying concerns from the audience about Iranian-Indian ties.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Interior Minister Suspends E-Payment Agreement Between NADRA and Mastercard [Dawn] [ET]
  • BOL TV Continues Aamir Liaquat Broadcasts Despite PEMRA Ban [Dawn] [Reuters]
  • ‘Missing’ MQM-London Activist Freed, Announces Retirement from Politics [Dawn]
  • Punjab Signs Agreement With Turkish Firm for 100MW Solar Plant in Bahawalpur [Dawn] [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Border Clash with Pakistan: Officials in Kandahar’s Spin Boldak district report that an Afghan border policeman was killed and two wounded in an exchange of fire with Pakistani security forces, which Afghan officials say began when their forces opened fire on a group of militants seeking to infiltrate across the border. Pakistan’s military said it was investigating the incident.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • US Immigration Ban: When asked in an ABC interview broadcast on Wednesday why his executive order barring immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries did not include Afghanistan or Pakistan, President Trump said that “we’re going to have extreme vetting in all cases.”
  • Russian Intervention: The WSJ overviews recent Russian statements confirming their outreach to members of the Taliban, which has drawn statements of concern in turn from US and NATO commander Gen. John Nicholson, but which the Taliban’s spokesman describes as “just political”. In an interview, former Pres. Karzai welcomes the move, saying “there has to be a balance of power here now”.
  • Taliban Talks: Speaking at a ceremony on Thursday honoring the late High Peace Council chairman Pir Syed Ahmad Gailani, HPC members called for “an end to war”; a spokesman for the chief executive said that talks were still ongoing to determine Gailani’s successor.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ministry of Defense Urges Women to Join the Army [TOLO]

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