Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Sharif Pledges Assistance to Yemen; One Killed in Kabul Minibus Bombing

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  • Prime Minister Sharif pledged $1 million in assistance to Yemen during a meeting with visiting Yemeni deputy prime minister Abdulmalik Aduljalil Al-Mekhlafi. There are unconfirmed reports that Pakistan has deployed a brigade to Saudi Arabia’s border with Yemen to provide security.
  • At least one person was killed and 19 injured when an explosion hit a minibus in Kabul carrying employees of a private telecommunications company; no claim of responsibility has been reported.
  • Investigations continue into the attack on the Kabul military hospital last week, with as many as twelve reportedly arrested, and more reports of alleged support for the attack from doctors working at the hospital.
  • Prime Minister Sharif chaired a meeting of top military and civilian aides to review military and counter-terrorism operations on Monday. The Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial apex committee also met on Monday to review security in the province.
  • In a speech on Tuesday, foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz pledged that Pakistan would act as a “responsible nuclear state” and would not provide nuclear weapons technology to non-state actors.
  • In remarks on Monday, Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor, announced that he and by extension the Jamiat-e-Islami party were cutting support for Chief Executive Abdullah, saying that Abdullah “cannot cope with the responsibilities of what the nation wants him to carry on his shoulders”.
  • Prime Minister Sharif and the national assembly followed the senate and Islamabad High Court in condemning “blasphemy” on social media and demanding action against those responsible.
  • Abdul Ghafar Dawi, a shareholder in Kabul bank and husband of former parliamentarian and ambassador to Norway Shukria Barakzai, was reportedly arrested in Kabul on Monday on charges of embezzlement.

Pakistan — Security

  • Security Review: Prime Minister Sharif chaired a meeting of top military and civilian officials in Islamabad on Monday, reviewing the implementation of Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad and the National Action Plan against terrorism; a statement afterwards said that it “was reiterated unanimously that elimination of extremism and terrorism are policy imperatives for Pakistan’s security” and that the NAP “should be expedited”. Separately, the Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial apex committee met in Peshawar on Monday for a review of security in the province. [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Drone Strikes: The WSJ reports that the Trump administration has given the CIA new authority to conduct drone strikes without the involvement of the U.S. military, reversing an Obama-era order and potentially giving the agency freer range.
  • Nuclear Security: In a speech at a conference in Islamabad on Tuesday, foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz pledged that Pakistan would act as a “responsible nuclear state” and “will continue to partner with the global community to prevent non-state actors from acquiring these weapons”. Aziz suggested that there was a need to “strike a balance between advancing the goals of non-proliferation and facilitating access of developing countries to the strategic and dual use of goods, materials and technologies for peaceful purposes” and reiterated Pakistan’s desire to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group. [AP] [APP]
  • Military Courts: A meeting of parliamentary party leaders in the national assembly on Monday failed to reach an agreement on the legislation governing the renewal of military courts, as PPP representatives sought additional time to consult on the issue; a date for the next meeting has not been set. PPP sources tell The Nation they are still working to cut the tenure of the courts down from two years.
  • FATA Repatriation: Around 25,000 displaced South Waziristan residents will begin repatriation on Tuesday; FATA secretariat officials say the process will run through mid-April. [Dawn]
  • PML-N Legislator Charged in PPP Leader’s Murder: The surviving brother of slain PPP leader Babar Sohail Butt accused PML-N national assembly leader Sohail Shaukat Butt for sponsoring the attack; police have filed a case against him but have not initiated an arrest and tell Dawn they are still investigating.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Yemen Support: Yemeni Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Abdulmalik Aduljalil Al-Mekhlafi visited Islamabad on Monday, meeting with Pres. Hussain and other officials. Foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz pledged that Pakistan would “extend all possible assistance for the restoration of peace and stability in Yemen”, and on Tuesday, Prime Minister Sharif pledged that Pakistan would donate $1 million in assistance to Yemen. A report in the Middle East Eye claims that the Pakistani army has deployed a brigade of soldiers to southern Saudi Arabia to provide security along the border with Yemen, but there have been no other confirmations of that account. [The National]
  • ‘Blasphemy’ Widely Condemned: Following the senate, the National Assembly passed a resolution introduced by Prime Minister Sharif’s son-in-law on Tuesday condemning “blasphemous” content on social media. The prime minister issued a separate statement describing blasphemy as an “unpardonable offense” and reiterating court orders that police should work to block and prosecute those responsible for such content. [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Census Planning: On Monday, Sindhi nationalist party leaders sought to mobilize supporters in Hyderabad to participate in the national census, set to begin tomorrow, and called for the exclusion of “non-Sindhis and illegal immigrants” from the population count. In senate debate, some members raised concerns over the “lack of transparency” around the census process.
  • Other Political Activity: Minister of State for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb told a press conference on Monday that the government would seek defamation charges against Imran Khan for his efforts to “damage the reputation of the prime minister by levelling false allegations against him”. Prime Minister Sharif arrived in Karachi on Tuesday, where he is expected to review the security situation in the city and meet with Karachi’s Hindu minority community to celebrate Holi. [Dawn] [The Nation] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Circular Debts: In a meeting with thirteen independent power producers on Monday, government officials sought an additional two days to resolve overdue payments to the producers; the thirteen producers have sought immediate payment of Rs 48 billion out of around Rs 242 billion in dues.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • PPP Leaders Disassociate Themselves from Former Ambassador’s Description of Cooperation with U.S. Intelligence [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Sindh Assembly Passes Right to Information Law [Dawn]
  • Karachi Police Submit Inquiry Report on Fake ‘Encounters’ [ET]
  • Arms Cache Seized in Quetta [Dawn]
  • Government Waives Income Tax on Foreign Loans [ET]
  • Federal Shariat Court to Take Up Prohibitions on Interest [ET]
  • Former Pres. Musharraf Seeks Dismissal of Cases [Dawn] [ET]
  • MQM Lawmaker Granted Bail [ET]
  • Asian Development Bank Agrees to Finance Karachi Red Line Bus Rapid Transit Project [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Steel Mill Salary Bills Cut Through Workforce Cuts [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kabul Bus Targeted: A bombing struck a minibus carrying employees of a private telecommunications company in Kabul on Monday, killing one person and wounding at least 19 people. Accounts variously attribute the explosion to a suicide car bomber, roadside bomber, or suicide bomber on foot. No immediate claim of responsibility has been reported for the attack; on Tuesday, Ministry of Interior officials said they had arrested three suspects, but provided no further details. [Reuters] [TOLO] [AP]
  • Kabul Hospital Attack: Kabul military hospital employees tell TOLO that between 10-12 people have been arrested in connection to the attack there last week. Ariana News reports that the “main facilitator” of the attack had been inducted as a new trainee five months prior, and that two doctors had aided in the attack, and that of the three all but one doctor had been arrested. In parliamentary hearings on Monday, members of parliament criticized the government and security services for their response to the attack.
  • Other Attacks and Operations: Three U.S. soldiers were wounded in a roadside bombing near Jalalabad on Monday, NATO officials announced. Unidentified gunmen killed two Kabul police officers during a search operation on Monday evening. A U.S. drone strike in the Zeruk district of Paktika province killed as many as twenty Taliban fighters on Tuesday, provincial government spokesmen claim. [Khaama Press] [AP] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Noor Cuts Support for Abdullah: In remarks in Mazar-e-Sharif on Monday, governor Atta Mohammad Noor apologized for his support for Abdullah Abdullah in the 2014 presidential elections, saying that Abdullah had been “separated from the decision making within the [Jamiat-e-Islami]” because he “cannot cope with the responsibilities of what the nation wants him to carry on his shoulders”. [Khaama Press]
  • Kabul Bank Shareholder Arrested: Abdul Ghafar Dawi, a shareholder in Kabul bank and husband of former parliamentarian and ambassador to Norway Shukria Barakzai, was reportedly arrested in Kabul on Monday on charges of embezzlement and barred from leaving the country.
  • Russia Talks: National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar will hold three days of talks with Russian officials in Moscow on counter-terrorism cooperation and bilateral relations beginning March 16, a spokesman for the national security council announced Monday.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Smuggling from Pakistan Jumps After Border Closure: Afghan Chamber of Commerce officials estimate that the smuggling of Pakistani goods to Afghanistan has tripled since the closure of the border last month.
  • Kabul Investment: Khaama Press reports that at a meeting of the national economic council on Monday, officials reviewed a proposal from an unnamed company to invest $1.3 billion in a variety of manufacturing projects in Kabul; the plan was said to have been approved “on the condition of the full clearance of the outstanding accounts the company has with the Kabul Bank.”

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • High Economic Council Plans Chamber of Commerce for Women [TOLO]
  • Taliban Dominate Paktia Chromite Mine [TOLO]
  • Avalanche Kills Eight in Badakhshan [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Why We Need More Forces to End the Stalemate in Afghanistan – “Our assessment, based on our conversations with commanders on the ground, is that a strategy for success will require additional U.S. and coalition forces and more flexible authorities.” [John McCain and Lindsey Graham, Washington Post]
  • Commentary: The Never-Ending War in Afghanistan – “In Washington, war has become tolerable, an enterprise to be managed rather than terminated as quickly as possible.” [Andrew Bacevich, NYT]

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