Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Accused Indian Spy May Appeal, Defense Minister Says; McMaster to Visit India and Afghanistan

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Topline

  • Speaking on Tuesday, Defense Minister Khawaja Asif defended the sentencing of accused Indian spy Khulbushan Yadav, saying he had “received due process” and retained the right to appeal. Indian Express reports suggest that Yadav’s arrest was linked to the disappearance of a retired Pakistani officer in Nepal last week, and cite Indian intelligence officials who claim that while Yadav previously offered his services as a freelance intelligence officer, he was rejected.
  • National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster will visit India and Afghanistan this week for talks on regional security concerns and bilateral defense ties, Indian press sources indicate.
  • Pakistan’s military announced Tuesday that it had taken custody of former Lyari gang leader Uzair Baloch, charging him with espionage in connection to Iranian intelligence agencies.
  • Afghan National Security Hanif Atmar announced a number of new appointments to the Afghan National Security Council on Wednesday.
  • The PTI introduced a resolution on Wednesday opposing Pakistan’s participation in a Saudi military alliance, saying that “it is not in Pakistan’s national interest to get involved in others’ wars”; Defense Minister Khawaja insisted Tuesday that the alliance was not sectarian in nature.
  • Kunduz residents called for the removal of Governor Assadullah Omarkhail after he acknowledged providing financial support to the families of Taliban fighters who had been killed in a joint U.S.-Afghan operation in Buz Kandahari earlier this year.
  • Abdul Ghaffar Dawi, the owner of Dawi Oil company, will face trial on corruption charges, a spokesman for the Afghan Attorney General’s Office said Tuesday.
  • The PTI released a ten-point electoral reforms program on Tuesday.
  • In response to questions on Tuesday, a Pentagon spokesman said that the Secretary of Defense had not made a determination on certifying Pakistani cooperation against the Haqqani network, which would free the release of the remaining $350 million in un-disbursed Coalition Support Funds for FY2016.

Pakistan – Security

  • Accused Indian Spy Sentenced: Speaking in the senate on Tuesday, Defense Minister Khawaja Asif insisted that accused Indian spy Khulbushan Yadav had “received due process”, claiming that the court martial trial against him had been conducted over the past three and a half months, and saying that Yadav retained the right to appeal his death sentence within the next 60 days. The Indian Express reports that Yadav had approached India’s Research and Intelligence Wing offering to serve as a “freelance intelligence operative” but RAW sources maintain that he was rejected. A separate report appears to confirm a connection to the disappearance in Nepal last week of retired Pakistani army Lt. Colonel Muhammad Habib Zahir, who security sources claim had been involved in the capture of Yadav last year. Elsewhere, in a meeting with Canada’s ambassador to Pakistan on Tuesday, National Security Advisor Nasser Khan Janjua was quoted saying that India and Pakistan “need to engage with each other and resolve disputes”. [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Lyari Gang Leader in Military Custody: On Tuesday evening, Pakistani military spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor announced that the military had taken former Lyari gang leader Uzair Baloch into custody, on charges of espionage and alleged cooperation with Iranian intelligence services. Baloch was officially arrested by the Sindh Rangers last year, after earlier being detained in the UAE, and faces a range of multiple charges related to his time as a leader of the People’s Amn Committee; he was acquitted in one murder case last week. [ET] [The Nation]
  • Military Courts: Two accused TTP members previously convicted in the military courts system were executed at the Sahiwal jail on Tuesday. Al Jazeera reports on Pakistan’s more than 6,000 death row prisoners, the largest such population in the world; Amnesty International’s annual report on the death penalty worldwide noted that Pakistan executed 87 people in 2016, the fifth most prolific in the world. [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Saudi Military Coalition: In his remarks in the senate on Tuesday, Defense Minister Khawaja said that former Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif had not formally applied for permission from the government to take up command of the Saudi military coalition, and insisted that “Pakistan does not wish to be a part of any sectarian alliance” and that the alliance was “solely against terrorism”. On Wednesday, the PTI introduced a National Assembly resolution opposing Pakistan’s participation in the alliance, arguing that “it is not in Pakistan’s national interest to get involved in others’ wars”. [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Counterterrorism Crackdown: Sindh Rangers officials announced the arrest on Wednesday of five militant suspects, some linked to the TTP or Al Qaeda; a spokesman for the Rangers also claimed that the group had received support from Indian and Afghan intelligence services. A van driver detained in connection to the attack on an army census team in Lahore has been cleared of involvement, The Nation reports. Multan police Counter-Terrorism Department officials reportedly arrested seven suspected TTP Jamaat-ul-Ahrar members on Monday.
  • Expat Expulsions: In response to questions in the senate on Wednesday, Minister of State for Interior and Narcotics Control Balighur Rehman said that Pakistani law enforcement agencies had arrested 52,144 foreigners in the country – primarily Afghans – since 2012, of which 40,149 had been deported.
  • US Ambassador Meets COAS: U.S. Ambassador David Hale met with Chief of Army Staff Bajwa in Rawalpindi on Tuesday to discuss regional and internal security issues, the Pakistani military announced; no details of the discussions were released. [The Nation] [Dawn]

Pakistan – Politics and Diplomacy

  • Elections and Other Political Activity: On Tuesday, the PTI released a ten-point electoral reform proposal, including changing the composition of the committee to choose Election Commission members and caretaker government officials to include all opposition parties in proportion to their representation in parliament. The proposals also include mandatory polling recounts at the request of runner-up candidates, reducing the powers of the ECP to disqualify candidates, and eliminating current reporting requirements for party donations above Rs 100,000, among other points. Elsewhere, Jamaat-e-Islami Khyber Paktunkhwa leaders called for the inclusion of Pakistani expatriates in the census count; in Karachi, the JI held another sit-in protesting K-Electric. PML-N lawmakers called for the resignation of Khyber Paktunkhwa assembly speaker Asad Qaiser on Tuesday, citing corruption investigations against him. The ANP has called for a hunger strike to protest the blocking of what they maintain are valid Computerized National ID Cards held by members of the Pashtun community. [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • New Ambassador to India: The Times of India reports that Sohail Mahmood, currently Pakistan’s ambassador to Turkey, is likely to be appointed to succeed Abdul Basit as ambassador to India within the next month.

Pakistan – Economics and Development

  • Coalition Support Funds: A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Defense said Tuesday that it had authorized the disbursement of $550 million in Coalition Support Funds to Pakistan for the 2016 fiscal year, but had not made a certification on Pakistani action against the Haqqani network, which is required for the remaining $350 million in CSF appropriations.

Pakistan – Remainders

  • Interior Minister Meets OIC Secretary General on Blasphemy Concerns [The Nation]
  • NAB Cancels Plea Bargain Agreement with Former Balochistan Finance Secretary [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • PPP Leader Asim Hussain Seeks Permission to Travel Abroad [Dawn]
  • Trade Deficit Hits New Record [ET]
  • Lahore High Court Turns Down Plea to Resume Operations at Sharif Sugar Mills [Dawn] [ET]
  • Finance Minister Reviews Tax Collection Performance [The Nation]
  • Jameel Ahmad Appointed State Bank of Pakistan Deputy Governor [ET]

Afghanistan – Security

  • National Security Council Appointments: On Wednesday, National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar announced the appointment of several new officials on the National Security Council staff, incuding new planning, audit, and management deputies.
  • Attacks and Operations: Around 200 U.S. soldiers will deploy to Helmand to train and advise Afghan forces there, the Ministry of Defense said Tuesday. TOLO reports that three Afghan army bases in the Dehraud, Charchino, and Tirin Kot districts in Uruzgan are under Taliban siege and that troops there have been cut off “for months”. A spokesman for the Ministry of Defense insisted that routes to those areas had been reopened. Ghulam Nasir Khaze, the governor of Ghor, alleged that the NDS had released Mawlawi Saadyar, a purportedly Islamic State-affiliated commander who was detained in the provincial capital earlier this year.  The head of the provincial council, Fazlulhaq Ehsan, confirmed the release and said it had been made as part of a peace agreement with Saadyar’s men. In Nangarhar, provincial officials claimed Wednesday that as many as 49 Islamic State fighters have been killed in operations in the Achin district over the past 24 hours. An army battalion chief and another soldier were killed in an attack in the Arghandab district in Zabul on Wednesday. An Afghan Air Force strike in the Alisheng district in Laghman on Wednesday reportedly killed seven Taliban fighters. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan – Politics and Diplomacy

  • McMaster to Visit Region: The Hindustan Times reports that U.S. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster will visit Afghanistan and India over the coming weekend to discuss security concerns in Afghanistan, as well as bilateral relations with India and concerns over what Indian sources describe as a “newly formed Russia-China-Pakistan-Iran axis to promote the Taliban”. Separately, a spokesman for the Afghan foreign ministry said that the Afghan government’s participation in a Moscow conference on Afghanistan on April 14 is intended to send a “clear message” to the Taliban that “they cannot achieve their goals through war”. The government has reportedly yet to finalize a decision on what level of delegation to send; the U.S. is not participating in the conference.
  • Kunduz Governor Criticized: A number of members of parliament called for the dismissal of Kunduz governor Assadullah Omarkhail after he acknowledged providing financial support to the families of Taliban fighters who had been killed in a joint U.S.-Afghan operation in Buz Kandahari earlier this year; the Independent Directorate of Local Governance said it was investigating the issue.
  • Corruption Investigations: A spokesman for the Attorney General’s office said Tuesday that Abdul Ghaffar Dawi, the owner of Dawi Oil company, would face trial over allegations of embezzlement, non-payment of fuel contracts, and refusal to pay taxes, among other charges. Dawi also has outstanding unpaid loans from the Kabul Bank crisis.
  • Tensions with Pakistan: Speaking in Peshawar on Tuesday after visiting a UN repatriation center in Chamkani, Afghan ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal reiterated Afghanistan’s opposition to Pakistani plans to build fencing along the border.
  • MPs Suspended: On Wednesday, the Wolesi Jirga announced that it had suspended four parliamentarians – Ahmad Behzad, Parwin Durani, Fareshta Anwari, and Bashir Ahmad Tahyanj – for failing to meet attendance requirements.

Afghanistan – Remainders

  • Afghan MP Reports Threats After Endorsing Durand Line Border [ET]
  • Ministry of Interior Announces Destruction of Nangarhar Heroin Factories [Khaama Press]
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