Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistani Senate Approves Military Courts Renewal; Plan to Double Afghan Special Forces

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Topline

  • The Pakistani senate voted to approve the renewal of the military courts system, clearing the way for its signature into law. The JUI-F and BNP-M skipped the vote, and the PkMAP was the only party to vote against the measure.
  • Afghan and Western military officials plan to double the size of the Afghan special forces from around 17,000 troops currently, Reuters reports.
  • Pakistan’s foreign ministry is reportedly seeking to reassure Iran that former Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif’s appointment to head a Saudi military alliance is not an indication that Pakistan is seeking to join an “anti-Iran alliance” but rather an “anti-terrorism alliance”.
  • Nangarhar provincial officials report that Pakistan has resumed cross-border shelling into several districts, displacing families; no casualties have been reported.
  • At least three people were reportedly killed in an overnight raid on the home of the Nangarhar provincial chief of the Afghan state bank; provincial officials insist the operation was targeting Islamic State fighters. Support reports suggest U.S. forces also took part in the raid.
  • Members of the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba and Paktun Students Federation clashed on the campus of the Islamia College University in Peshawar on Tuesday, following a similar brawl last week at Punjab University.
  • The American University of Afghanistan reopened in Kabul on Tuesday, months after an attack there killed at least sixteen people; the university is now using private security guards to secure the campus.
  • A “test launch” for the distribution of electronic national ID cards in Afghanistan will begin within the next one to six weeks, officials said Wednesday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Senate Approves Military Courts Renewal: In a 78-3 vote on Tuesday, the senate approved the renewal of the military courts system. The three senators of the Paktunkhwa Milli Awami Party opposed the measure, and the JUI-F and BNP-M abstained from voting. The amendment is now scheduled to go to the president for signature into law; the mandate of the courts is expected to be backdated to their expiration in January. [Dawn] [ET]
  • Sharif to Join Saudi Military Coalition: In an interview on Tuesday, Defense Minister Khawaja Asif defended the government’s approval of former Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif’s appointment to head a Saudi military coalition, but provided few details on the coalition’s role or other contributions by Pakistan to it. The Nation reports that Pakistan’s foreign ministry has sought to assure Iran that Pakistan was “part of an anti-terrorism alliance not an anti-Iran alliance”. [The Nation]
  • Counterterrorism Crackdown: In a report to the Lahore High Court on Wednesday, the interior ministry insisted that it was “fully enforc[ing]” the National Action Plan against terrorism. Chief of Army Staff Bajwa visited the Bahawalpur garrison on Tuesday, touting Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad and praising the “exemplary performance of young officers and sacrifices rendered by them during security operations”. [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Student Groups Clash Again: At least two students were injured and twelve arrested in a clash between members of the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba and the Paktun Students Federation at the Islamia College University in Peshawar on Tuesday; the brawl follows a clash at Punjab University last week. Punjab University has instituted a ban on visits to the university by any “political, religious, or social personalities” and has reiterated a ban on political activity by students.
  • Visa Controversy: Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan insisted that the government had tightened scrutiny over visas since taking office, and said he was working to institute an online visa application system. Speaking separately, former Interior Minister Rehman Malik alleged that the government was still “secretly” issuing visas to U.S. officials. [The Nation]
  • Sectarian Politics: Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat leader Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi told reporters on Tuesday that he was seeking action by the government to remove the ban on his organization, suggesting he would not offer assistance mediating with other militant groups; Ludhianvi professed a willingness to meet with the rival Shia Ulema Council, who he said should also not be banned.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Crisis: Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, State Minister for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali blamed the provincial governments of Sindh, Balochistan, and the government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir for failing to pay overdue electricity bills, saying that their payments collectively account for the bulk of circular debts within the power sector. In a Xinhua news interview, the chairman of China Power International touted investments in the Hub coal power plant, saying “we come to Pakistan not for the installation of our equipment and to gain profits” but to “make the development sustainable”. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Sindh High Court Throws Out Report on Police Shootings [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Overturns Appointments of Four NAB Officials [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Karachi Mayor Continues to Criticize Sindh Provincial Government [ET]
  • Anti-Terrorism Court Orders Release of PPP Leader Asim Hussain [Dawn]
  • 963 Balochistan Schools Non-Functional [Dawn]
  • Senate Approves Climate Change Act [Dawn]
  • Central Bank Updates Guidance on Shariah-Compliant Banking [Reuters]
  • Government Sets Base Price for 3G/4G Spectrum at $295 Million [ET]
  • Supreme Court Bans Unregistered Motorcycle Rickshaws [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Special Forces to Increase: Anonymous Afghan and Western military officials tell Reuters that under current plans, Afghanistan will double the number of elite special forces soldiers, from around 17,000 troops currently to the size of an army corps. A spokesman for the US-led military coalition insists that training and assistance will also focus on conventional forces, and “the real goal is to get the conventional corps up to the same level of proficiency at their job as the special forces are at their jobs.”
  • Pakistan Shelling: A spokesman for the Nangarhar provincial governor reported Wednesday that Pakistani forces had resumed cross-border artillery shelling into the Lalpur, Momand Dara, and Nazyan districts; “hundreds” of families have reportedly fled their homes, although no casualty details have been reported.
  • American University Reopens: The American University of Afghanistan reopened its doors on Tuesday, following an attack on the school last August that killed at least sixteen people. Faculty turnover since the attack has been higher than usual, and a Canadian private security company is now securing the school. Two professors kidnapped from the university last year remain missing.
  • Other Attacks and Operations: At least three people were killed and a fourth injured in a raid on the home of Mawlavi Ahmadi, the provincial chief of Da Afghanistan Bank, in the Khewa district in Nangarhar over Tuesday night. As many as 18 people have reportedly been arrested; a provincial spokesman claimed that the raid was targeting Islamic State fighters. TOLO reports that foreign troops took part in the operation. Helmand provincial officials claim that as many as 45 Taliban fighters were killed in airstrikes on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah on Tuesday. [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [Ariana News]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Electoral Preparations: Humayoun Mohtat, the head of the department tasked with distributing electronic national ID cards, said Wednesday that a “test launch” of the cards would begin in the next 1-6 weeks, with negotiations still ongoing with donors to fund a full nationwide distribution program. [TOLO]
  • Corruption Investigations: The NYT provides additional reporting on yesterday’s arrest of Maj. Gen. Mohammad Moeen Faqir, the former commander of the 215th Corps in Helmand; in an interview, he denied being under arrest but confirmed his dismissal from his position “five to six months ago”. He denies the allegations against him.
  • Hezb-e-Islami Agreement: In a TOLO interview on Tuesday, Hezb-e-Islami negotiator and spokesman Amin Karim denied that the party was factionalized; Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal has led a registered Hezb-e-Islami political party since 2005.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • German Officials Arrest Former Taliban Fighter [Khaama Press]
  • $60M Natural Gas Project Planned in Jawzjan [TOLO]
  • US to Grant Export Priveleges to Afghan Businesses [TOLO]
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