Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Security Officials Face Impeachment Hearings Over Hospital Attack; PPP Under Pressure on Visas

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Topline

  • The Wolesi Jirga reportedly plans impeachment hearings against the ministers of defense and interior and the head of the National Directorate of Security. Reports conflict as to whether the attack on the Kabul military hospital last week involved inside support or not, and some claims suggest a far higher death toll than has been confirmed to date.
  • Afghan national security advisor Hanif Atmar and Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz held talks in London on Wednesday; no details have been disclosed, but other Pakistani officials have suggested that the border may be reopened “soon”.
  • PML-N leaders are reportedly planning to push for an investigation into remarks by former ambassador Husain Haqqani describing the issuance of visas to U.S. intelligence officers during the PPP government’s last tenure; an Express Tribune report also describe the Dubai consulate as issuing visas to 230 American and Indian nationals “on the instruction of” former Pres. Zardari’s half-brother Awais Muzaffar Tappi.
  • PPP and PML-N leaders met again on Wednesday but reached no consensus on legislation for the renewal of military courts; they will reportedly meet again on Thursday.
  • The Punjab Rangers arrested at least 26 suspects, including 11 Afghan nationals, in raids across Punjab on Wednesday.
  • A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation on Wednesday to increase the number of Special Immigrant Visas available for Afghan interpreters who assisted the U.S. in Afghanistan. At least two Afghan families traveling on SIV have been detained by Customs and Border Patrol, but deportations of both have been suspended or overturned by the courts.
  • The Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial government issued an ordinance allowing itself to borrow money from a dedicated fund set aside for hyrdroelectric development projects; the government is facing a shortage of funds and has only collected around half of its revenue target for the year so far.
  • Prime Minister Sharif visited Gwadar on Wednesday, touting current and future investments in the port city.
  • Kandahar governor Humayun Aziz returned to the country on Wednesday after receiving treatment abroad for injuries suffered during the January attack at the Kandahar governor’s compound, which he attributed to “regional intelligence agencies”.

Pakistan — Security

  • Military Courts: PPP and PML-N parliamentary leaders met on Wednesday but failed to reach a consensus on legislation to renew special military courts for terrorism suspects; further talks are planned for Thursday.
  • Counterterrorism Crackdown: The Punjab Rangers arrested 26 suspects, including 11 Afghan nationals, in separate raids across Punjab on Wednesday, the military’s chief spokesman announced; weapons and suicide vests were reportedly seized, but details on the suspects’ identities were not disclosed. Speaking at the closing session of a Pakistan-UK conference at Pakistan’s National Defense University, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that “to win the war against terrorism, there has to be an international coalition, but this coalition should be based on mutual and greater understanding of regional dynamics and regional compulsions”, and warned against Islamaphobia. [The Nation] [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Visa Investigation: PML-N sources tell The Nation that the party plans to respond to PPP criticism “with full might”, including a push for an investigation into recent remarks from former ambassador Husain Haqqani about the issuance of visas to U.S. intelligence officers during the last PPP government’s tenure. Haqqani has said that he is ready to appear before a commission on the issue. The Express Tribune separately reports that Pakistan’s Dubai consulate issued 230 visas to American and Indian nationals in 2010, “on the instruction of Dubai-based PPP leader Awais Muzaffar Tappi,” former Pres. Zardari’s half-brother.
  • Census Count: On Thursday, the Supreme Court ordered the government to amend census forms to include persons with disabilities and transgender individuals in their count, which began on Wednesday; Pakistan Bureau of Statistics officials had sought to conduct a separate count of those populations. [The Nation] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: On Thursday, the Election Commission of Pakistan threw out disqualification petitions against PTI leaders Imran Khan and Jahangir Tareen; in response, PTI leaders called for the disqualification of National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, who had referred the petitions to the ECP. PML-N national assembly member Javed Latif offered an “unconditional apology” on Thursday for his remarks against PTI legislator Murad Saeed, following mediation by legislator Shah Jee Gul Afridi and others. [Dawn] [The Nation] [Dawn] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Borrows from Hydel Fund: On Wednesday, the Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial government issued an ordinance giving itself permission to borrow money from the provincial Hydroelectric Development Fund to finance current budget expenses, removing previous restrictions on the use of the money. The provincial government has only collected Rs 24 billion in revenues so far this fiscal year, against a target of Rs 49 billion, and is expected to borrow half of the Fund’s Rs 30 billion reserve.
  • CPEC Project: Prime Minister Sharif visited Gwadar on Wednesday, holding a rally and touting the development of the port city, announcing additional plans for a water desalinization plant, road construction, a hospital, and the expansion of dam projects. [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Supreme Court Freezes Grade 21 Civil Service Promotions [The Nation]
  • Washington Embassy Tasked with Outreach to Facebook on “Blasphemous” Content [The Nation]
  • National Assembly Speaker Meets Indian Parliamentary Delegation [The Nation] [ET]
  • Pakistan Navy Test-Fires Surface-to-Sea Missile [ET]
  • Circular Debt Spills Over Into Entire Fuel Supply Chain [Dawn]
  • Five Infants Die in Thar District [Dawn]
  • Judge Sajjad Ali Shah Joins Supreme Court [The Nation]
  • PEMRA Chief’s Appointment Challenged [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kabul Military Hospital Investigation: The NYT notes contradictory reporting and claims of a higher death toll in the attack last week on the Kabul Military Hospital, which defense ministry spokesmen put at 50 in a news conference yesterday. The LAT reports that most if not all of the two dozen people arrested in connection to the attack are army personnel, and quotes anonymous sources who question the assertion yesterday that there was no inside assistance to the attackers. On Wednesday, the Wolesi Jirga announced impeachment hearings against Defense Minister Abdullah Habibi, Interior Minister Taj Mohammad Jahed, and NDS chief Masoom Stanekzai, although a date for the hearings does not appear to have been announced; TOLO reports that a delegation from parliament met Pres. Ghani on Tuesday. [TOLO]
  • Kandahar Governor Returns: Kandahar governor Humayun Aziz returned to the country on Wednesday after receiving treatment for injuries sustained during a bombing at the governor’s compound in January. He pledged to continue the investigation into the incident, which he said “was plotted outside the Afghan borders and by regional intelligence agencies”.
  • Attacks and Operations: On Thursday, the ministry of defense claimed to have killed 36 Taliban fighters in multiple airstrikes in the Nad Ali district in Helmand. Another 31 Islamic State fighters were reported to have been killed in airstrikes in the Kot and Achin districts in Nangarhar. The Afghan National Army launched operations in Kandahar’s Nesh district on Wednesday, which they said killed 30 Taliban fighters. The ministry of interior announced the arrest of a Taliban commander and an explosives expert working for Jundullah in operations in Samangan on Thursday. [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Trilateral Talks: Afghan national security advisor Hanif Atmar and Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz met in London on Wednesday for UK-brokered talks; details of the discussions were limited, but they are said to have focused on the border closure and charges from each side that the other was failing to take action against terrorist groups. Separately, Pakistani commerce minister Khurram Dastgir Khan suggested that the border could be reopened soon, and Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman echoed that suggestion at a press briefing on Thursday.
  • Interpreter Visas: A group of four Republican and Democratic senators introduced legislation on Wednesday to provide an additional 2,500 Special Immigrant Visas to Afghans who have assisted U.S. forces as interpreters or in other support functions, after reports last week that the State Department had halted interviews and was running out of visas to issue under the existing quota. In a statement on Wednesday, the U.S. embassy in Kabul reiterated that Afghans with valid visas were not affected by the Trump administration’s travel ban, which does not cover Afghanistan and whose implementation was suspended by a court order on Wednesday. A federal court blocked the deportation of an Afghan man who was detained at Newark airport on Monday, despite holding a SIV; another Afghan family traveling on the visa was detained an eventually released without charge earlier this month. Customs and Border Patrol officials have not provided an explanation for the detentions.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • IEC Chairman Transfers Provincial Chairmen, Drawing Criticism [TOLO]
  • Afghan Banks Post Afs 930 Million Annual Loss [TOLO]
  • Ghani Calls for ‘Sovereign Rule of Law’ [TOLO]
  • Construction on 1,400 Chinese-Built Apartments in Kabul Planned [Khaama Press]
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