Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Former TTP Spokesman Claims to Have Received Indian, Afghan Intel Support; Karzai Visits Moscow

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Topline

  • Pakistan’s military released a confessional statement by former TTP and TTP Jamaat-ul-Ahrar spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan on Wednesday, in which he accused the TTP leadership of extortion and the murder of innocents, and alleged that both groups had received support from Indian and Afghan intelligence services.
  • Former Pres. Karzai visited Moscow on Tuesday, where he met with Russia’s foreign minister and expressed hope that Russia would support direct talks between the government and the Taliban.
  • Tariq Shah Bahrami was sworn in as acting Minister of Defense and Mohammad Sharif Yaftali as acting Army Chief of Staff, following the resignation of their predecessors on Monday.
  • In a WSJ interview, Finance Minister Dar expressed hope that Pakistan could “reset” its relations with the United States, arguing that U.S. strategy in Afghanistan had been ineffective and that the priority should be an “Afghan-owned, Afghan-led” peace process.
  • PTI, PPP, JI, and QWP legislators passed a joint resolution in the Khyber Paktunkhwa assembly on Tuesday demanding Prime Minister Sharif’s resignation; former Pres. Zardari and Imran Khan continue to trade criticisms, despite both calling on Sharif to step down.
  • Iranian and Pakistani foreign ministry officials say Iran has rebuffed Pakistani proposals that Iran join a Saudi military coalition, to be led by former Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif.

Pakistan — Security

  • Former TTP Spokesman’s Confessional Statement Released: On Wednesday, the Pakistani military broadcast a confessional statement by former Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and TTP Jamaat-ul-Ahrar spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan, who it reported had surrendered to the army earlier this month. In the video, Ehsan describes the TTP as having “misled people in the name of Islam”, blaming factions for extortion and the murder of innocents, and claiming that the TTP had received support from both Indian and Afghan intelligence services after relocating to Afghanistan following the launch of Operation Zarb-e-Azb in 2014. [ET]
  • Saudi Alliance: Iranian embassy officials and anonymous Pakistani foreign ministry sources tell The Nation that Iran remains opposed to the formation of a Saudi military alliance, despite proposals from Pakistan that it join the group.
  • Kurram Bombing: The death toll from Tuesday’s roadside bombing of a van carrying census workers and other passengers in the Kurram Agency has reached 14, including five women and four children, Dawn reports.
  • Karachi Operations: On Tuesday, the Sindh Rangers announced that they had killed four members of the militant group Jundullah in an overnight raid, who they linked to a 2015 attack on a bus carrying security personnel. [Dawn] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • US Relations: In a WSJ interview on Tuesday, Finance Minister Dar, who is in Washington to attend annual meetings of the World Bank and IMF and to meet with U.S. National Security Advisor McMaster, said that Pakistan was hoping to “reset” its relations with the United States, saying “we need to remove any ambiguities that we have between each other as friends.” Dar argued that U.S. strategy in Afghanistan had been ineffective, and said Pakistan was “very keen to contribute whichever way we can to support” an “Afghan-owned, Afghan-led” peace process. Acting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Tom Shannon met with Dar on Tuesday.
  • Opposition Politics: Legislators from the PTI, PPP, QWP, and JI passed a joint resolution in the Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial assembly on Tuesday demanding Prime Minister Sharif’s resignation. Speaking in Malakand on Tuesday, former Pres. Zardari continued to trade criticisms with Imran Khan, despite agreement by both that the prime minister should step down. The PPP has planned a series of protests in Sindh, beginning in Karachi on Wednesday and continuing for the next month. Former PML-N Sindh leader Ismail Rahu joined the PPP on Tuesday. In a Dawn interview, former PPP Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani suggested he might contest elections again in the future; his five-year disqualification period following a Supreme Court ruling on contempt of court charges ends today. [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Civil-Military Tensions: Information and interior ministry officials denied reports that Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had briefed Prime Minister Sharif on the findings of an inquiry commission into the ‘Dawn Leaks’ on Tuesday, although other sources say they meet and also held discussions with special assistant Tariq Fatemi, who has been linked to the inquiry despite denials from the foreign ministry.
  • Census Count: The second phase of the national census began around the country on Tuesday, including in parts of the FATA. The Pakistani military contacted its Indian counterparts by hotline on Tuesday to alert them of the movement of census and army staff near the Line of Control. [Dawn] [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Planning: Finance ministry sources tell The Nation that the government’s draft budget for the next fiscal year targets 6.2% GDP growth and a 4% fiscal deficit, with a tax target of Rs 4 trillion and defense spending increased to Rs 950 billion. The Express Tribune reports that Prime Minister Sharif has approved Rs 27 billion in spending to create 97 new gas connections in the constituencies of key parliamentary allies.
  • Chinese Lending: The Financial Times reports that state-backed Chinese banks provided $900 million in loans in 2016 and $300 million during the first three months of this year to help avoid a currency crisis; some analyst predict the government will seek another IMF agreement, but only after general elections.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Provincial Water and Gas Demands Top Agenda for April 28 Council on Common Interests Meeting [ET] [Dawn]
  • Interior Ministry Defends Border Fencing [ET]
  • Pakistan and UK Hold Military-to-Military Talks; Italian Army Chief Visits [The Nation] [ET]
  • Probe Into 2014 Airport Attack Hits Snags [Dawn]
  • Women Make Up Less Than 2% of Police Force [Dawn]
  • Pakhtun and Baloch Students Seek Punjab University Action Against IJT [Dawn]
  • Over 100 National Accountability Bureau Officials Face Removal [Dawn]
  • Immunization Coverage in Sindh Less Than 30% [Dawn]
  • Interior Ministry Issues Restrictions on Hunting Party Visitors [APP] [ET]
  • Commentary: How to Islamize an Islamic Republic: Jamaat-e-Islami in its Own Words – “It bothers us that Jamaat is being viewed through lenses of hostility and suspicion, in part because of an alleged association with extremist groups that are also considered ‘Islamists.’” [Asif Luqman Qazi, Brookings]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Balkh Attack Aftermath: A Defense Ministry spokesman said Tuesday that Second Vice President Mohammad Sarwar Danish had sworn in Tariq Shah Bahrami as acting Minister of Defense and Mohammad Sharif Yaftali as acting Army Chief of Staff, following the resignation of their predecessors on Monday in the wake of last Friday’s attack on a military base in Balkh. TOLO reports that the death toll from that attack exceeds 250 people, and accuses the government of seeking to hide details about the casualties. Speaking at a gathering in Mazar-e-Sharif on Tuesday, governor Atta Mohammad Noor warned that “the enemies of Afghanistan must know that with such brutal and shameful acts they cannot bring the nation to its knees”.
  • Other Attacks and Operations: Jawzjan provincial officials claimed on Wednesday that as many as 91 Taliban and Islamic State fighters had been killed in infighting in the Darzab district. Nangarhar provincial officials reported Wednesday that 28 ISIS fighters were killed in operations in the Achin district. Taliban fighters attacked a police checkpost in Kunduz on Tuesday, provincial police officials said; four insurgents were reported to have been killed. Eight soldiers were killed in an attack on a checkpost in the Khwaja Bahauddin district in Takhar on Tuesday. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Karzai Visits Moscow: Former Pres. Karzai visited Moscow to participate in a security conference and met with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov on Tuesday; in a statement, he said that he “hoped Russia’s efforts in helping to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan will continue and that these will eventually lead to direct talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government”. Karzai previously met with Russia’s ambassador in Afghanistan earlier this month. [Ariana News]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Chamber of Commerce and Industries Finds Pessimism Amongst Small and Medium Enterprises on Business Climate [TOLO]
  • 250 Women Graduate Kabul Police Academy [Khaama Press]
  • Report: Afghanistan’s Fight Against Corruption: The Other Battlefield – “In many respects, the largest challenge in Afghanistan’s fight against corruption is not the need to undertake additional reforms but, rather, the need to more effectively implement the reforms already undertaken.” [UNAMA]
  • Commentary: The Taliban ‘Cultural Weapon’ That is Driving U.S. and Afghan Forces Apart – “Unfortunately, Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS), the country’s main intelligence agency, faces dangerous gaps in intelligence collection and analysis, as well as effective leadership to confront the Taliban’s new tactics [of infiltration].” [Javid Ahmad, WAPO]
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