- Pres. Ghani declined separate invitations this week from ISI director Lt. Gen. Naveed Mukhtar and National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq, with his spokesman saying that he would not visit Pakistan until it took action against terrorist groups targeting Afghanistan.
- Gulbuddin Hekmatyar arrived in Kabul on Thursday after a twenty-year exile; he is expected to meet with Pres. Ghani today and address a rally of supporters tomorrow.
- The PTI has decided to file a Supreme Court petition seeking a review of the implementation of the court’s 2012 Asghar Khan case verdict, which implicated the PML-N and other parties in receiving slush fund payouts from the military to influence the course of the 1990 general election.
- The Afghan government’s draft four-year war plan proposes to shift control over the Afghan Public Protection Force and Afghan border police to the Ministry of Defense, a ministry spokesman said Tuesday; it also proposes consolidating army commandos into a single corps.
- Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz is seeking to assert control over the foreign ministry following the removal of his rival, special assistant to the prime minister Tariq Fatemi, who The Nation reports may yet seek to be reinstated. In his first remarks on the issue, former information minister Pervaiz Rashid defended his conduct during the ‘Dawn Leaks’ episode.
- Mardan police officials say they are still seeking the whereabouts of a PTI local councilor, Arif Khan, in connection to the lynching of Abdul Wali Khan University student Mashal Khan last month; ANP leader Bushra Gohar alleged that Arif was seeking to flee the country with the support of other PTI leaders.
- Pakistan will increase troop deployments along the Iranian border and re-institute a hotline system in order to improve border security cooperation; in meetings with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Wednesday, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa said that “Islamabad would keep up its efforts to reduce friction amongst brotherly Muslim countries.”
Pakistan — Security
- Mardan Lynching: Mardan police officials say they have not arrested Arif Khan, a PTI local councilor who was captured on video amongst the members of the group who killed Abdul Wali Khan University student Mashal Khan last month. ANP leader Bushra Gohar alleged Tuesday that PTI provincial assembly member Iftikhar Mashwani was seeking to aid Arif in fleeing the country. Federal Investigation Agency sources tell Dawn that his passport had expired last year and they had no record of him leaving the country; police are seeking to place his name on the Exit Control List. Meanwhile the PPP has disciplined three party members, including former deputy provincial assembly speaker Ikramullah Shahid, for participating in a rally over the weekend seeking the release of suspects in the case. [The Nation]
- Missing Persons: On Thursday, the Sindh High Court ordered the formation of a Joint Investigation Team to locate three associates of former Pres. Zardari who went missing last month.
- Iranian Border Security: Following visits by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif with top civilian and military officials in Islamabad on Wednesday, including Prime Minister Sharif, Pakistan has agreed to increase troop deployments along the Iranian border and reinstitute a hotline system to improve border security coordination. Zarif also discussed Pakistan’s participation in a Saudi military alliance with Chief of Army Staff Bajwa, who was quoted saying that “Islamabad would keep up its effort to reduce friction amongst brotherly Muslim countries”.
Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Opposition Politics: At a PTI leadership meeting on Wednesday, the party agreed to file a Supreme Court petition seeking a review of the implementation of a 2012 verdict by the court in the Asghar Khan case, a 16-year old petition that documented the receipt of bribes and slush fund payments to the PML-N and other parties from the military during the 1990 general elections. The petition may seek a contempt of court ruling against the Federal Investigation Agency for failing to implement the verdict. Former Pres. Zardari rallied supporters in Badin on Wednesday, reiterating calls for Prime Minister Sharif to step down; the PPP also plans to launch a “protest camp” in Lahore on Thursday against the government’s management of the electricity sector. [The Nation] [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation]
- Dawn Leaks: The Nation reports that foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz is seeking to assert control over the foreign ministry following special assistant to the prime minister and rival Tariq Fatemi’s removal from his position in connection to the ‘Dawn Leaks’ episode. Aides to Fatemi suggest he will attempt to appeal his dismissal and return to the position. Speaking publicly on the issue for the first time since his removal last October, former Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid defended his conduct, saying that “under a democracy, one can only inform journalists about the factual errors and share your point of view with them, however, you cannot force your views on them.” Journalists unions staged rallies around the country in connection to World Press Freedom Day on Wednesday, and in support of Dawn. [ET]
- Tensions with India: A fifty-member delegation of Pakistani students and teachers was sent back early from a trip to India on Wednesday; tensions remain high following reports earlier this week that two Indian soldiers were killed and mutilated while patrolling along the Line of Control, and the host NGO reportedly received threats from the Hindu nationalist Shiv Sena. Pakistan’s foreign ministry said Thursday that it would raise the issue in diplomatic channels, expressing concern over “India’s hostile policy towards Pakistan, and persecution of religious minorities including Muslims, Christians and others within India”. [Dawn] [APP]
Pakistan — Economics and Development
- Polio Crisis: A meeting of the International Monitoring Board in London on Tuesday reviewed Pakistani efforts to combat the spread of polio; the group will conclude the review this week and issue a report later this month.
Pakistan — Remainders
- Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Zubair Hayat Visits Saudi Arabia, Receives Award [ET]
- Ahmadi Man Killed in Rahim Yar Khan [ET]
- Planning Body Approves Karachi and Peshawar Mass Transit Projects Under CPEC [Dawn]
- Sindh Chief Minister Seeks LNG Import Policy [Dawn]
- Government Considering New Real Estate Sector Regulations [The Nation]
- National Assembly Committee Criticizes Karachi Electric ‘Overbilling’ [Dawn]
- Finance Minister in Tokyo for ADB Meeting [The Nation]
Afghanistan — Security
- ANSF Strategy: A spokesman for the Ministry of Defense outlined elements of its four year war strategy in comments to TOLO on Wednesday, which includes shifting control of the Afghan Public Protection Force and the border police to the ministry, from the Ministry of Interior, and consolidating commando units into a single corps.
- Attacks and Operations: Taliban fighters carried out an attack in the Uruzgan provincial capital of Tirin Kot on Wednesday evening; details are limited, but three soldiers and ten Taliban fighters were reportedly killed. Two Taliban suicide bombers and a civilian girl were killed in an attack on a checkpost in Kandahar’s 4th Police District on Wednesday. Nangarhar provincial police officials report that seven Islamic State fighters were killed in a U.S. drone strike in the Haska Mina district on Wednesday. [Khaama Press]
Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Ghani Declines Invitation to Pakistan: A spokesman for Pres. Ghani told the BBC Urdu service in an interview on Wednesday that Ghani had declined separate invitations from ISI director Lt. Gen. Naveed Mukhtar and National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq to visit Pakistan, saying he would not travel there “until Islamabad takes concrete action against Afghan Taliban militants on Pakistani soil”. Ghani is reported to have shared reports with Gen. Mukhtar linking past attacks on the American University in Kabul and the 209th ANA Corps base in Balkh to plotters based in Quetta, Peshawar, and elsewhere, and warned that “relations between the two countries will not improve as long as practical steps are not taken against the terrorist groups”. [Ariana News]
- Hekmatyar Returns to Kabul: Gulbuddin Hekmatyar arrived in Kabul on Thursday for the first time in almost twenty years; he is expected to meet with Pres. Ghani today, and to hold a rally with supporters on Friday. Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Hezb-e-Islami negotiator Abdul Hadi Zolhekmat acknowledged that thirteen HIG prisoners who had been cleared for release but who remain in detention had participated in suicide bombing plots, but noted that the targets had been foreigners. [Reuters] [RFE/RL] [TOLO]
Afghanistan — Remainders
- Afghan Women Fear Loss of Shelters as Funding Dwindles [AP]
- ‘Massive Corruption’ in Mining Contracts, Integrity Watch Afghanistan Charges [Khaama Press]
- Poppy Harvesters Seek Jobs in Balkh [TOLO]
- DABS Plans to Introduce Monthly Billing System [TOLO]
- Commentary: Afghanistan War Crimes Suspect Comes Home – “[Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s] return will compound the culture of impunity that the Afghan government and its foreign donors have fostered by not pursuing accountability for the many victims of forces commanded by Hekmatyar and other warlords that laid waste to much of the country in the 1990s.” [Patricia Grossman, HRW]