Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Debates Continue on Military Courts; Nadery and Saleh Appointed to New Positions

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Topline

  • PML-N sources say they expect the PPP to compromise on legislation to revive the military courts system after some “ceremonial opposition”.
  • On Saturday, Nader Nadery was formally appointed director of the Independent Administrative Reform Commission, a position to which he was nominated by Pres. Ghani several months ago; Chief Executive Abdullah attended his confirmation ceremony. Additionally, Pres. Ghani appointed former National Directorate of Security chief Amrullah Saleh as as state minister for security sector reform, giving him an oversight and advisory role on appointments and performance by top defense officials.
  • Afghan Defense Ministry officials confirmed that last week’s attack at the Kabul military hospital was aided by gunmen inside the building; TOLO identifies a doctor believed to have joined the attackers, while the AFP reports that two hospital interns are suspects.
  • Chief of Army Staff Bajwa visited the headquarters of the Special Security Division for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, and presided over an induction ceremony for a new Chinese-built air defense system.
  • Following a raid in the Achin district in Nangarhar on Saturday, the NDS announced the death of an Islamic State commander linked to last summer’s attack on the ‘Enlightenment Movement’ rally in Kabul, as well as other high-profile attacks.
  • Eight Afghan Local Police milita members were killed in an insider attack by two of their colleagues at a checkpost in the Shinkai district in Zabul province.
  • Two civilians were injured in cross-Line of Control firing on Sunday, the Pakistani military reported; officials in Balochistan also report mortar fire from across the border in Iran.
  • Babar Sohail Butt, a PPP leader and former provincial assembly candidate, was killed at his home in Lahore on Sunday, prompting party leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to cancelled planned organizing meetings in Lahore on Monday.
  • JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman held a jirga with party leaders from the FATA on Saturday, reiterating demands for a public referendum on the government’s plans to merge the FATA with Khyber Paktunkhwa province.
  • The Afghan government is seeking to secure the interest and support of the Trump administration by emphasizing the investment potential of its large natural resource endowment, Politico reports.
  • Finance Minister Dar has been given new authorities to issue supplementary budgets without the approval of the full cabinet and to appoint the heads of government institutions operating under the finance ministry, the Express Tribune reports.
  • Pakistan’s trade deficit widened during the first eight months of the fiscal year to a record $20.2 billion, driven principally by declining imports and rising machinery imports.

Pakistan — Security

  • Military Courts: PML-N sources tell the Express Tribune that they expect the PPP to compromise after “ceremonial opposition” on the proposed legislation, introduced in the national assembly on Friday, for the renewal of military courts. On Friday, PPP parliamentary opposition leader Khurshid Shah criticized the government for failing to consult with the opposition or implement the National Action Plan against terrorism. [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • CPEC Security: On Saturday, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa visited the headquarters of the Special Security Division for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, pledging full security for the CPEC project. On Sunday, a bomb partially destroyed a bridge on the Sur Bandar road in Gwadar; no casualties or claim of responsibility were reported. [ET] [The Nation]
  • New Air Defense System: On Sunday, Gen. Bajwa presided over an induction ceremony for a new Chinese-built LY-80 LOMADS mobile surface-to-air defense system. [Dawn]
  • Tensions with India: Pakistani military spokesmen reported on Sunday that two civilians were injured in “unprovoked firing” by Indian forces across the Line of Control in the Chirikot sector. On Friday, Pakistan formally protested the acquittal of Swami Aseemanand in connection to the 2007 attack on the Samjhota Express train. [ET]
  • Tensions with Iran: Balochistan security officials accuse Iranian border forces of cross-border mortar fire near the town of Saindak on Saturday; no casualties were reported. Separately, Iran repatriated 35 Pakistani illegal immigrants.
  • Military Delegation Visits: Dawn reports that a Pakistani military delegation completed a weeklong visit to the United States on Sunday, but provides no details on their talks.
  • PPP Leader Killed: Babar Sohail Butt, a former PPP candidate for the Punjab provincial assembly and member of the party’s People’s Youth Organization was killed in a shooting at his home in Lahore on Sunday evening. Details are limited, but Dawn suggests that his guard assisted the attacker. PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who had arrived in Lahore on Saturday and announced plans to revive his party’s four-point reform demands, suspended meetings that had been planned for Monday. [ET]
  • Counterterrorism Crackdown: Minister of State for Interior Balighur Rehman reported to the senate on Friday on implementation of the National Action Plan against terrorism, providing data on the number of cases registered against “hate speech” and the closure of seminaries, recruitment of counter-terrorism forces, and numbers of accused terrorists killed. The Punjab Rangers arrested 19 terrorism suspects in raids on Saturday, the military’s public relations arm announced; no further details were released. The Nation reports that the Punjab police have been directed to issue certificates to members of the “Afghan/Pashtoon community” to “avoid repeated botheration” by security agencies. During a visit to Swat on Saturday, Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial police chief Nasir Khan Durrani warned of continued threats in the province despite the closure of the border with Afghanistan. [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • FATA Reforms: JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman hosted a jirga of the party’s local leadership in Peshawar on Saturday, protesting the government’s plans for merging FATA with Khyber Paktunkhwa and reiterating demands for a public referendum on reforms. [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Senate Condemns “Blasphemy”: In a unanimous resolution on Friday, the senate condemned “blasphemous” content on social media and urged the government to take criminal action against those responsible for such messages. Federal Investigation Agency officials told the Islamabad High Court on Monday that they had sought details from Facebook on three pages accused of promoting blasphemous content. [Dawn]
  • PM Calls for Support of Religious Scholars Against Terrorism: Prime Minister Sharif visited the Jamia Naeemia seminary in Lahore on Saturday, urging religious scholars to “reject all those fatwas that incite violence” and counter “hate … being spread in the name of religion”. [ET] [AP]
  • Karachi Politics: Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Karachi mayor Waseem Akhtar reiterated his intentions to file a Supreme Court petition together with other municipal leaders, accusing provincial and federal officials of denying local governments meaningful authorities. Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah brushed off criticisms, saying that the mayor was “confused” and laying blame on the municipality for failing to accomplish Wasim’s 100-day city cleanliness drive. [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Sindh Public Service Exam Results Voided: On Monday, the Supreme Court voided the results of the 2013 Sindh Public Service Exam and ordered the appointment of a new Sindh Public Service Commission chairman. [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: PTI and PML-N parliamentarians continue to spar over a dispute outside the parliament building last week and remarks by national assembly member Javid Latif. Maulana Asmatullah, a JUI-F Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial assembly member, resigned and announced his intention to join the PTI, reportedly in exchange for an agreement to create a new district district headquarters in his home area. Imran Khan inaugurated a new hospital facility in Nowshera on Sunday, named after the former Jamaat-e-Islami leader Qazi Hussain Ahmed; but the apparent exclusion of JI representatives from the ceremony prompted criticism from the party. [The Nation] [Dawn] [The Nation] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Finance Minister Authorities: The Express Tribune reports that Finance Minister Dar has been authorized since February to appoint the heads of government institutions under the finance ministry, and to issue supplementary budgets without full cabinet approval, a move challenged by some constitutional scholars.
  • Trade Deficit Widens: The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics reported on Saturday that the trade deficit during the July-February period widened to $20.2 billion, a record gap that is near the finance ministry’s target for the overall year. Exports fell 3.9% year-on-year to $13.3 billion, while imports rose 16%, to $33.5 billion, driven primarily by a spike in machinery imports. Remittances declined year-on-year to $12.3 billion for the year thus far. [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Army-Backed Census Count to Begin Wednesday [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Two Killed in Clash Between Rival Kurram Tribes [Dawn] [ET]
  • Two Frontier Corps Personnel Wounded in Turbat Grenade Attack [Dawn]
  • Judge Ahmed Ali Sheikh Appointed Sindh High Court Chief Justice [ET]
  • Reforms Committee Proposes Overseas Voting Mechanism [ET]
  • NAB Considering Oversight Committees in Khyber Paktunkhwa Government [ET]
  • Former Hyderabad Official Arrested on Embezzlement Charges [Dawn] [ET]
  • Government Releases Rs 30 Billion to Independent Power Producers [The Nation]
  • Chinese Firm Closes on Karot Hydroelectric and Wind Power Project [ET]
  • Indian Farmers Seek to Sell Produce in Pakistan [ET]
  • Pakistan’s Affluent Women Bring Islam Into Their Lives and Lifestyles [NYT]
  • Commentary: U.S.-Pakistan Relations and the Big Stick – “The impulse to isolate, stigmatize and punish Pakistan won’t produce the outcomes that are best for Pakistan, India, and the United States.” [Michael Krepon, Arms Control Wonk]
  • Commentary: Yes, the Russian Ambassador Met Trump’s Team. So? That’s What We Diplomats Do – “Ambassadors do not make policy. They only facilitate understanding between countries that leads to policymaking in their respective capitals.” [Husain Haqqani, Washington Post]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kabul Military Hospital Attack: TOLO, citing unspecified “reliable sources”, identifies a doctor named Shakir as a collaborator with the gunmen who attacked the Kabul military hospital last week. Ministry of Defense spokesmen declined to confirm or deny the report, but confirmed to the AFP “the help of people inside”; the AFP reports that two hospital interns were involved in the attack, and raises questions as to whether the Islamic State was in fact responsible, as it has claimed. The Meshrano Jirga has summoned top security officials to testify on Monday on the investigations into the attack.
  • Insider Attacks: Eight Afghan Local Police militia members were killed by two colleagues in a shootout at their checkpost in the Shinkai district in Zabul province on Friday evening, local officials report. The Taliban claimed responsibility for sponsoring the attack; both gunmen reportedly fled, taking weapons with them. Elsewhere, six ALP members reportedly defected to join the Taliban in the Baghlan-e-Markazi district in Baghlan, stealing a police vehicle in the process. [Khaama Press] [RFE/RL] [AP]
  • NDS Reports Death of ISIS Commander Linked to Kabul Rally Attack: On Saturday, NDS officials announced the death of Maulvi Abdul Qayum, aka Shaheen Khorasani, in a raid in the Achin district in Nangarhar province. He was identified as a leading ISIS commander and linked to attacks by the group in Kabul against a rally by the ‘Enlightenment Movement’ in July and a Shia shrine in November. [TOLO]
  • Khost Base Attacked: A group of at least three gunmen attacked a military base in Khost province near the border with Pakistan on Saturday; details are limited. [RFE/RL]
  • Tensions with Pakistan: On Friday, Afghanistan’s ambassador to the UN complained to the Security Council that since January Pakistani forces had violated Afghanistan’s territory at least 62 times, including three airspace violations, and had carried out over 1,375 artillery shellings. Afghanistan formally protested continued shelling with Pakistan’s charges d’affaires in Kabul on Sunday. Afghan ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal met with JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman in Islamabad on Friday, focused on the reduction of bilateral tensions. [Khaama Press] [Pajhwok]
  • Security Policy Criticisms: Foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani attend a gathering in Parwan on Friday, at which he criticized the government for having an “unclear policy” and suggested that “some people are benefiting from the continuation of terror activities in the country”. At a separate event on Friday, former vice president Mohammad Karim Khalili called for a national strategy to break the “peace and war deadlock” in the country.
  • Other Attacks and Operations: Following operations in Kunduz’s Dasht-e-Archi district on Saturday, ANA officials reported the deaths of Qari Dost Mohammad and Mullah Niaz Mohammad, identified as leaders of the Taliban military commission and finance commission. Baghlan provincial council members complain of a lack of reinforcements for two Afghan National Army bases in the Baghlan-e-Markazi district. Taliban, ISIS, and Afghan forces clashed in the Ghani Khel and Khogyani districts of Nangarhar on Saturday, leaving at least 20 militants and four security personnel dead. Nangarhar provincial police claim that at least 16 ISIS fighters, including seven Pakistanis, were killed in airstrikes in the Nazian and Kot districts on Saturday. Fighting was reported in Helmand’s Nad Ali and Garmser districts on Saturday, leaving as many as 27 dead; local security officials carried out raids in Lashkar Gah on Sunday, which they said killed 11. On Monday, the defense ministry announced that 32 people had been freed from a Taliban prison facility in Nad Ali. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Saleh and Nadery Appointed: On Saturday, Chief Executive Abdullah presided over a ceremony for the appointment of Nader Nadery as director of the Independent Administrative Reform Commission, a position to which he was nominated five months prior by Pres. Ghani, but blocked from confirmation. In his remarks, Abdullah emphasized the need for the government to be “neutral, free, and independent”. Separately, Ghani appointed former NDS chief Amrullah Saleh as state minister for security sector reform, giving him an oversight and advisory role on appointments and performance by top defense officials. Saleh was earlier reportedly tapped to lead a commission on security appointments last November. [Ariana News] [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • ID Card Planning: At a meeting on Saturday, Pres. Ghani reportedly ordered a report within 10 days on plans to launch and distribute a national electronic ID card.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Mining Investments: Afghan ambassador to the U.S. Hamdullah Mohib tells Politico that the Trump administration has expressed interest in developing investments in Afghanistan’s natural resources; a Trump National Security staff source says that “as a dynamic results-oriented president from the business world, he’s going to look at everything with a fresh set of eyes”.
  • Money-Printing Project: Afghanistan and Germany will jointly invest 70 million Euros for the construction of a money-printing company at the Jangalak industrial township site in Kabul, the General Directorate of Enterprises and Government Companies announced on Sunday.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • EU Urges Anti-Corruption Action on Mining, Security, and Judicial Sectors [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Kabul Plagued by Kidnapping and Extortion of Locals [AFP]
  • Afghan Hindus and Sikhs Cancel Holi Festivals Due to Security Concerns [TOLO]
  • CASA-1000 Construction to Begin in 2018 [TOLO]
  • Afgha Khan Foundation Pledges to Build Kabul Hospital [Khaama Press]
  • Commentary: Afghanistan is Now Trump’s War – “Before the White House responds to the Pentagon’s latest request for a troop surge in Afghanistan to counter insurgent forces that now control substantial parts of the country, it would serve administration officials well to examine the long history of deluded thinking about what could be accomplished if the United States committed more troops to the effort.” [NYT]
  • Commentary: A Success Story Marred by Ghost Numbers: Afghanistan’s Inconsistent Education Statistics – “The Ministry of Education has now made it clear that its previous numbers were inaccurate, but appears still to be struggling to clean up its databases.” [Ali Yawar Adili, AAN]
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