- At a press conference on Wednesday, the Pakistani army’s chief spokesman insisted that the “Pakistan Army believes in democracy like all other Pakistanis and will continue to work to strengthen democracy”. Pakistan’s interior ministry said that the Dawn Leaks issue was now “settled”; no additional steps by the government have been reported since its initial actions drew public rebuke from the military. PTI and PPP leaders called for continued debate on the issue, with Imran Khan demanding the report investigating the leaks be made public.
- UK Prime Minister May is reportedly considering around 100 additional British troops for Afghanistan; speaking on Thursday following a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, German Chancellor Merkel said that “I don’t think we’re first in line to expand our capacities” in Afghanistan.
- Indian and Pakistani forces trade fire across the Line of Control on Thursday, with one Pakistani teenager and one Indian woman reportedly killed in the exchange.
- Fighting continues around Kunduz, where Afghan forces say they have pushed Taliban fighters back from the city limits but residents express fears that the city may again fall to insurgent control.
- A spokesman for Hezb-e-Islami defended the continued holding of weapons by members of the group that accompanied Gulbuddin Hekmatyar to Kabul; Reuters notes continued concerns over the reintegration of HIG fighters into the Afghan security forces.
- Pakistan signed a memorandum of understanding with Turkey on Wednesday for the sale of four Turkish corvettes and 52 Pakistani training planes; financial details and timelines for delivery were not disclosed.
- A Pakistani government economic advisor tells Reuters that debt and other repayments on CPEC will likely peak at around $5 billion by 2022, but estimated that transit fees will exceed $6-8 billion, offsetting the costs.
Pakistan — Security
- Tensions with India: On Thursday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry accused Indian forces of deliberately targeting civilians in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, reporting multiple ceasefire violations along the Line of Control which police say killed a teenager and injured three others. Indian forces in turn say that “indiscriminate” Pakistani fire of killing one woman and injuring her husband. Earlier on Wednesday, the Indian army said that a lieutenant had been abducted and killed while on leave in the Shopian area of Indian Kashmir; no claim of responsibility has been reported. The International Court of Justice will begin public hearings May 15 on an Indian petition over the death sentence for accused Indian spy Kulbhushan Jhadav and Pakistan’s denial of consular access to him; Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz told reporters on Wednesday that the government was still reviewing the Indian petition. On Wednesday, the Indian foreign ministry said that India would accept letters from Aziz for the immediate issuance of medical visas for Pakistani travelers; Indian officials have reportedly instituted an unnaounced policy of reducing or eliminating visas for Pakistanis seeking to travel to India. [The Nation]
- Turkish Defense Cooperation: Turkey and Pakistan signed a memorandum of understanding on Wednesday for the sale of four Turkish corvettes and 52 Pakistani training planes; no financial details or timelines for delivery were disclosed. [The Nation]
- Former TTP Spokesman Could Face Charges: Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, chief military spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor said that former TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan’s confessional video had been “aimed at exposing the enemy designs against Pakistan before the ordinary citizens”, and rebuffed complaints that Ehsan was being “presented as a hero”, saying that “his fate will be decided as per law”. The Senate interior committee sent letters to Khyber Paktunkhwa police officials on Wednesday, seeking for Ehsan to be prosecuted in connection to the attack on Malala Yousafzai.
- Arrest in Murder of ASWJ Leader: On Thursday, the Federal Investigation Agency announced the arrest of Sibtain Kazmi, a suspect in the 2003 murder of Maulana Azam Tariq, the former leader of the Sunni sectarian group Millat-e-Islamia, now known as the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat. Kazmi was arrested at the Islamabad airport while attempting to leave the country. [ET]
- Military Courts: Four more prisoners convicted under the military courts system were executed on Thursday, all identified as members of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan who had confessed to attacks on Pakistani armed forces and civilians. [ET] [The Nation]
Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- ‘Dawn Leaks’ Resolution: Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday in which he “withdrew” the military’s objections to the government’s implementation of recommendations from a commission investigating the ‘Dawn Leaks’, chief military spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor said that a late-April Twitter statement by the military “was not directed against any institution or individual” and “what followed it was something regrettable”. Ghafoor added that the “Pakistan Army believes in democracy like all other Pakistanis and will continue to work to strengthen democracy”. The Interior Ministry issued a statement saying that “since action on orders of the prime minister has already been completed by the respective Ministries and Divisions, the issue of the Dawn Leaks stands settled”; at a press conference on Thursday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that “the matter had been blown out of proportion”. An Express Tribune account of the whole episode suggests that a desire on the part of the military and civilian leaders to present a united front on a number of foreign policy issues prompted the resolution of the dispute, although it does not clarify what the military’s specific objections to the government’s response were; no additional actions by the government have been reported since the dismissal of two top aides and calls for a new code of conduct for press reporting on national security issues. PTI leader Imran Khan called for the public release of the investigation commission report, saying “the whole nation now needs to know what was ‘settled’”. PPP leader Aitzaz Ahsan suggested that Maj. Gen. Ghafoor should have resigned over the military’s earlier statement, and claimed that “the actual player in the whole fiasco was Maryam Nawaz and her media cell that leaked the story”. [AP] [Reuters] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]
- Other Political Activity: In Supreme Court hearings on Thursday, PTI lawyers argued that neither the Supreme Court nor the Election Commission had jurisdiction to hear charges that the PTI had received foreign funding, saying that such an investigation would have to be initiated by the government and that an individual petitioner did not have standing on the issue. Prime Minister Sharif visited Sheikhupura on Wednesday, telling reporters that “staging sit-ins and observing protest is not a solution to any problem” and touting the government’s development record, vowing to make Pakistan into a new ‘Asian Tiger’. [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
Pakistan — Economics and Development
- CPEC Project: In a Reuters interview, Nadeem Javaid, a government advisor and economist, said that debt and other repayments on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects would peak at around $5 billion in 2022, but said that this would be “more than offset” by transit fees, which he projected at $6-8 billion annually. [AP]
Pakistan — Remainders
- Senate Committee Approves New Fines and Imprisonment for Open Violations of Ramazan Fast [ET]
- Millions of Pakistanis Receive Blasphemy Warning Texts [AFP]
- Senate Panel Approves Extension of ‘National Language’ Status [Dawn]
- Frontier Corps Seize Arms Cache in Chaghi District [Dawn]
- PEMRA Fines GEO for Criticisms of Two Politicians [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
- K-Electric Cites Low Gas Pressure as Karachi Faces Outages [Dawn]
- Commerce Minister Seeks Qatari Investment [APP]
Afghanistan — Security
- NATO Troop Increase: Speaking on Thursday following a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, German Chancellor Merkel said that “I don’t think we’re first in line to expand our capacities” in Afghanistan, saying that “it’s more important to ensure that … stability is guaranteed in the north” and that she was waiting for a fuller assessment of additional troop requests. Stoltenberg met with UK Prime Minister May on Wednesday; British press sources suggest that the UK is considering the deployment of around a hundred additional troops, to the 500 already deployed in Kabul.
- Attacks and Operations: TOLO reports that Afghan security forces pushed Taliban fighters back to around two kilometers from the Kunduz city limits during fighting on Wednesday; the NYT interviews Kunduz residents who express fear that the city may again fall to Taliban control, and members of parliament voiced concern over security in the north during debate on Wednesday. On Thursday, the Ministry of Defense claimed to have retaken control of the Zebak district in Badakhshan province. Eleven people were killed in a roadside bombing in Kandahar’s Maiwand district on Tuesday night, the provincial government reported on Wednesday. The Long War Journal notes video released last week showing a convoy of Taliban vehicles making a show of force movements through Helmand’s Sangin district. The Maidan Shahr-Jalrez highway in Wardak province has been reopened to traffic, but security officials report some continued Taliban sniping and roadside bombs. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy
- Hezb-e-Islami Reintegration: Responding to criticism from members of parliament, a Hezb-e-Islami spokesman defended the continued holding of weapons by HIG members who have accompanied Gulbuddin Hekmatyar on his return to Kabul, saying that “they need these weapons for their own safety, because no one can guarantee their security”. Reuters notes concerns over the planned integration of HIG fighters into the Afghan security forces; a group of as many as 3,500 militia members has been prepared, including around 80 former senior officers.
Afghanistan — Remainders