Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Indian Officials Protest Death Sentence for Accused Spy; Ghani Faces Press Criticism

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  • Following yesterday’s announcement by Pakistani military officials that accused Indian spy Khulbushan Yadav had been sentence to death, Indian foreign ministry officials said that the sentence, if carried out, would amount to “premeditated murder”. Some sources note that the sentence follows the disappearance of a retired Pakistani army officer in Nepal last week, although it is unconfirmed if the incidents are related.
  • PPP leaders continue to protest the disappearance of several party activists and associates of former Pres. Zardari, accusing Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan of instigating their extrajudicial detention.
  • Pres. Ghani faced criticism from Afghan press groups on Monday after cutting off questions from a TOLO reporter at a press conference on Sunday following his return from travel in Southeast Asia.
  • The Guardian reports that Taliban commanders have dropped access restrictions on polio vaccinators in Kunduz, after a new case was reported there last week.
  • Sindh provincial home ministry officials formally requested the extension of policing powers for the Sindh Rangers, which are set to expire April 15.
  • Pakistan’s remittances rose month-on-month in March, State Bank of Pakistan data indicates, but remains down year-on-year for the first three quarters of the year.

Pakistan – Security

  • Accused Indian Spy Sentenced: Following statements yesterday by Pakistani military spokesmen that accused Indian spy Khulbushan Yadav had been sentenced to death in a military court martial, India’s foreign ministry conveyed a formal protest to the Pakistani embassy that Yadav’s execution, if carried out, would be viewed as “premeditated murder”, describing his previously undisclosed trial as “farcical”. On Tuesday, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj told the Indian parliament that India would “go out of its way” to rescue Yadav, describing him as a “son of India” and saying there was “no evidence of wrongdoing” on his part. Swaraj cautioned Pakistan to “consider the consequences for our bilateral relationship if they proceed on this matter.” Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Asif said that the sentence was a “warning to the enemies of Pakistan”; the PTI voiced support for the action, as did the JI and former Pres. Musharraf, while PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari professed an opposition to the use of the death penalty. Prime Minister Sharif has not commented directly on the issue; appearing at a graduation ceremony for Pakistan Air Force cadets on Tuesday, he said that “Pakistan is a peace-loving nation and has always maintained the policy of having amicable relations with other countries particularly its neighbours”. The Indian Express and India Today note that the announcement followed the disappearance last week of a former Pakistani army officer, Lt. Col. Mohammad Habib, while traveling in Nepal, although it is unclear if he is in Indian custody, as some sources suggest, or if the incidents are linked. India has reportedly halted the release of around a dozen Pakistani fishermen scheduled to be freed on Wednesday. [NYT] [WAPO] [AP] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Rangers Policing Powers: On Monday, Sindh home ministry officials issued a formal request to the Chief Minister’s office seeking an extension of policing powers for the Sindh Rangers, whose authorities are currently set to expire April 15. Separately, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah appointed Ziaul Hasan Lanjar as provincial law minister on Monday.
  • Iran Deports Pakistani Nationals: On Monday, Iranian security forces transferred custody of 102 Pakistani nationals to the Balochistan Levies, after they were earlier detained and charged with overstaying visas.

Pakistan – Politics and Diplomacy

  • PPP Protest Party Members’ Disappearance: PPP leaders continue to demand the release of several associates of former Pres. Zardari and party activists, who disappeared over the weekend and are believed to be in extrajudicial custody. PPP Balochistan chapter president Mir Madad Ali Jattak threatened to block highways in the province if the party workers were not released, blaming Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan for their disappearance. The wife of Nawab Ali Leghari, one of the men, has petitioned the Islamabad High Court, charging Chaudhry Nisar with holding him “in illegal confinement”. Speaking at a press conference on Monday, PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also accused the PML-N government of disrupting a public gathering planned in Sialkot. [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Panama Papers Hearings: Speaking at an unrelated hearing on Tuesday, Judge Ejaz Afzal Khan, a member of the Supreme Court bench hearing petitions on the Panama Papers, said that “our pronouncement on the Panama issue will be a law which will be endured for centuries”, without elaborating further.
  • Census Count: Chief of Army Staff Bajwa visited the army’s Census Support Center at the headquarters of the Army Air Defense Command in Rawalpindi on Monday to review progress on the census, which he pledged “would be completed at all costs”. [Dawn]

Pakistan – Economics and Development

  • Remittance Figures: State Bank of Pakistan data released Monday showed that overseas remittances rose month-on-month to $1.69 billion in March, but that the overall total for the first nine months of the fiscal year remains around 2.3% lower than the previous year, at roughly $14.06 billion.
  • Energy Crisis: At a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Energy on Monday, Prime Minister Sharif approved the removal of a moratorium on new gas connections for domestic, commercial, and industrial consumers. Sharif also tasked the secretaries of finance, water and power, and petroleum and natural resources with resolving circular debts in the power sector “on a war footing”. [ET]

Pakistan – Remainders

  • Punjab Police Chief Retires [Dawn]
  • Prime Minister Reviews Energy Outages [The Nation]
  • ECP Resumes Participation in Electoral Reform Committee [Dawn]
  • PTI Demands Removal of PTV Chairman [ET]
  • PTI Rallies in Karachi in Support of Pakistan Steel Mills [The Nation]
  • Commentary: Are India-Pakistan Relations Doomed? – “Having emerged stronger at home with some help from this hardline policy towards Pakistan, it may be time for Modi to hit the pause button, especially when his policy may be having a blowback externally.” [Touqir Hussain, The Diplomat]

Afghanistan – Security

  • Attacks and Operations: Achin district governor Esmail Shinwari tells TOLO that as many as 250 Islamic State fighters have been killed in special operations in the district over the past ten days, claiming that Afghan security forces have suffered no casualties. Sar-e-Pul officials say they have killed at least 25 insurgents in operations over the past week. In Kabul, an officer working for the Afghan director of VIP security was killed in a shooting on Monday, hours after an earlier attack that killed two staff of the Anti-Corruption Criminal Justice Center; no claims have been reported for either of the attacks. Two policemen were killed and a third wounded in a Taliban attack on a checkpost in Zabul’s Shar-e-Shafa district on Monday. Four children were killed and six wounded by an unexploded ordinance round in Kunduz on Tuesday. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
  • De-mining Cutbacks: Minister for Rehabilitation and Rural Development Wais Barmak said Monday that at least 5,000 employees of the government’s de-mining program have lost their jobs for lack of funding, appealing to donors to boost their commitments to the effort.

Afghanistan – Politics and Diplomacy

  • Press Backlash: Afghan press organizations criticized Pres. Ghani on Monday after he cut off questions from a TOLO reporter at a press conference the day prior discussing his recent trip to Australia, Indonesia, and Singapore. A separate TOLO report notes silence from Ghani about the status of the investigation against Vice President Dostum and the appointment of cabinet ministers, among other issues. [Ariana News]
  • Corruption Sentencing: A spokesman for the Ministry of Interior said Monday that “preliminary steps have been taken” for the arrest of Herat provincial council chief Kamran Alizai, who was sentenced to a 2.5 year prison term by the Anti-Corruption Criminal Justice Center last month on charges of misuse of authority.

Afghanistan – Economics and Development

  • Polio Vaccinations: The Guardian reports that Taliban commanders have dropped access restrictions on polio vaccination campaigns in Kunduz, after a third case was reported there last week.
  • Water Rights: Minister of Water and Energy Ali Ahmad Osmani said Monday that the government was moving to renegotiate the Hirmand Water Treaty with Iran, in order to retain a greater share of the Helmand river through the construction of the Kamal Khan Dam.

Afghanistan – Remainders

  • Government Approves 11 New Procurement Contracts [Khaama Press]
  • Kabul Facing Water Shortage in Future [TOLO]
  • Report: The Future of the National Unity Government – “International assistance, fiscal and military, is important for forestalling insurgent advances, but the country’s stability ultimately depends on Ghani and Abdullah resolving their differences and working together to meet the many security, economic and humanitarian challenges that confront the country and threaten their government roles and political survival.” [ICG]

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