Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Bajwa Meets with Nicholson and UK Officials; Afghan Officials Suspended Over Hospital Attack

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Topline

  • Chief of Army Staff Bajwa met with UK military and civilian officials in London, and with NATO Resolute Support commander Gen. John Nicholson; a spokesman for the Pakistani military aid that he had emphasized that “peace in Afghanistan is a shared interest”.
  • At least twelve Afghan defense officials, including the head of military intelligence, have been suspended for negligence following the attack on the Kabul military hospital last month, a defense ministry spokesman confirmed Tuesday.
  • Pres. Ghani signed agreements with Australian Prime Minister Turnbull, who pledged AUS 320 million through 2020 to support civil service training, management of the Ministry of Mines, and other initiatives. Ghani continues to face protests from the Hazara community, but told reporters that he had not discussed the repatriation of Afghan asylum seekers during his meetings with his Australian counterparts.
  • Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan continues to review visa rules, and on Monday suspended ‘on-arrival’ visas granted to individuals accompanying high-level foreign dignitaries.
  • US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told reporters on Monday that the US was “concerned” over bilateral India-Pakistan tensions and suggested that the administration would be “proactive” on “de-escalat[ing] any sort of conflict going forward”.
  • Around 1200 Afghan refugees were repatriated across the border from Pakistan on Monday, the first day after crossings resumed following a suspension during the winter months.
  • The PPP marked the death anniversary of former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on Tuesday. PTI spokesman Naeemul Haque accused former Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif of participating in the rigging of the 2013 general elections, subsequently retracting his statement. The Election Commission has barred the PTI from contesting four scheduled by-elections after it failed to conduct mandatory intra-party elections; Imran Khan has also been charged with violating rules against campaigning during his visit to Chakwal on Sunday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Army Chief in UK: During his ongoing visit to London, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa met with the UK Minister of Defense, Special Representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan, and other civilian and military officials, including NATO Resolute Support commander Gen. John Nicholson. Details of his conversations are limited, the Pakistani military spokesman said that Bajwa emphasized that “peace in Afghanistan is a shared interest” and “Pakistan will continue its positive role and is ready to work closely with Afghanistan”. [ET]
  • Saudi Military Coalition: In a briefing for the National Assembly committee on foreign affairs on Tuesday, foreign secretary Tehmina Janjua said that Pakistan was “committed to its policy of non-interference in the conflicts of Muslim countries” and insisted that Pakistan’s participation in a Saudi-led military alliance was “against terrorism, not any country”.
  • ‘On-Arrival’ Visas Suspended: At a meeting on Monday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan ordered a revision and updating of visa rules, including the suspension of visas on arrival for individuals accompanying high-level foreign dignitaries. He also reviewed progress on the formation of a central visa database and reiterated a proposal to separate visa functions from the Federal Investigation Agency. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Police Appointments: In an Islamabad High Court petition on Monday, Khyber Paktunkhwa Additional Inspector General of police Akhtar Ali Shah challenged the appointment of Salahuddin Khan Mehsud as provincial police chief, saying his appointment violated promotion rules. In Sindh, Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said that the provincial government would respect a Sindh High Court order suspending the removal of police chief A.D. Khawaja until the matter was resolved in the court, but reiterated the government’s authority to remove him. [The Nation]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Tensions with India: On Monday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry formally protested with India the death of a man in cross-Line of Control firing on April 1, accusing Indian forces of deliberately targeting civilians. In a press conference, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said that the administration was “concerned about the relationship between India and Pakistan and very much wants to see how we de-escalate any sort of conflict going forward”, suggesting that the U.S. would be “proactive” on the issue.
  • PPP Marks Bhutto Death Anniversary: In a message marking the anniversary of the death of PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, former Pres. Zardari called on supporters to “stand together in foiling the designs of the religious fanatics and extremists who are out to destroy the democratic structure of the state” and “rededicate themselves to the ideal that all power belongs to the people and that power must flow from the ballot box and not from bullet”. PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari vowed to continue his grandfather’s philosophy of “a democratic, egalitarian, progressive, peaceful and model Muslim nation with each citizen enjoying equal rights”. Ceremonies will be held today in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh; the Sindh provincial government has declared the day a public holiday. [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Elections and Other Political Activity: In comments during a GEO TV interview on Monday, PTI spokesman Naeemul Haque accused former Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif of participating in a “grand scheme” along with the U.S. and Saudi Arabia to rig the 2013 general elections in favor of Nawaz Sharif. He later sought to retract those statements, saying they “do not reflect [the] party stance in any way”. On Monday, the district election commissioner in Chakwal filed a notice accusing Imran Khan of violating restrictions on campaigning ahead of by-elections scheduled to be held April 18, after his rally there on Sunday. The Election Commission has separately barred the PTI from contesting by-elections in four constituencies for failing to hold intra-party elections as required by law; the PTI has since announced plans to hold those elections “in the next few weeks”, but has not set a date. [The Nation] [Dawn] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Census Count: Speaking to reporters on Monday, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah reiterated that the PPP has “serious reservations” over the ongoing census count. In a ruling on Tuesday, the Peshawar High Court ordered the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics to include the minority Kalasha religion on census forms during the second phase count scheduled to begin April 25. At a press conference on Monday, Chief Census Commissioner Asif Bajwa told reporters that the PBS would rely on the FATA Disaster Management Authority to conduct the census in North and South Waziristan. [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Crisis: Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Minister of Water and Power Khawaja Asif brushed aside reports on rising dues owed to Independent Power Producers and increases in the electricity sector’s circular debts, attributing an increase in loadshedding and growing supply and demand shortfall to higher than normal temperatures. [The Nation]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Police Investigating Sargodha Shrine Slaying [AP] [Dawn]
  • Anti-Terrorism Court Seeks Interpol Action Against MQM Leaders in London [The Nation]
  • Judge Ghulama Mustafa Elevated to Azad Jammu and Kashmir Supreme Court [Dawn]
  • Seven More Children Die in Thar [Dawn]
  • Balochistan Government Overturns 200 Prisons Department Appointments [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Army Officials Fired Over Kabul Hospital Attack: A spokesman for the Ministry of Defense confirmed on Tuesday that at least twelve military officials had been suspended for negligence in connection to the attack last month on the Kabul military hospital, including the chief of military intelligence and the official in charge of medical support. [Ariana News]
  • Attacks and Operations: In an interview with German news agency DPA, the Taliban’s chief spokesman said that the insurgents plan to focus their spring campaign against the provinces of Helmand, Uruzgan, Farah, Faryab, Sar-e-Pul, and Kunduz, focusing on capturing provincial capitals. Nangarhar provincial officials reported Tuesday that at least nine Islamic State fighters were killed in an Afghan National Police special forces raid in the Achin district. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Tensions with Afghanistan: Around 1,200 Afghan refugees crossed the border from Pakistan on the first day of repatriations on Monday, UN officials reported. Compensation payments for returnees have been cut to $200 per person. Speaking with an Afghan media delegation on Monday, Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz called for bilateral cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan, saying that there was “no military solution” to the Afghan conflict and urging a resumption of intra-Afghan peace talks. Special assistant on foreign affairs Tariq Fatemi also met with Afghan ambassador Omar Zakhilwal on Monday to discuss the peace process. [AFP] [The Nation] [The Nation] [APP]
  • Election Planning: TOLO reports that the IEC has recommended dropping plans for single-member constituencies and instead proposed shrinking the size of multi-member electoral districts from the current provincial boundaries. [Ariana News]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Ghani Signs Development Agreement with Australia: During meetings with visiting Pres. Ghani, Australian Prime Minister Turnbull pledged AUS 320 million ($US 240M) in development assistance for Afghanistan through 2020; priorities include work with the Afghan Ministry of Mines to improve the management of energy, mineral, and water resources, and the training of civil servants, among other initiatives. Protests continue by members of the Hazara community; Ghani told reporters that he had not discussed asylum and refugee repatriation issues during his meetings with Australian officials. [Pajhwok]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • No School Buildings for 9,000 Students in Kabul’s Dasht-e-Barchi District [TOLO]
  • Border Police Seize Six Lions at Spin Boldak Crossing [TOLO]
  • India to Help Afghanistan Build WTO Research Center [TOLO]
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