Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Bombing Targets JUI-F Leader Haideri; US Intel Warns of Deteriorating Afghan Stability

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Topline

  • A bombing outside a seminary targeted a convoy carrying JUI-F leader and Senate deputy chairman Abdul Ghafoor Haideri in Balochistan’s Mastung district on Friday; he survived with minor injuries, but as many as 21 people have reportedly been killed and dozens wounded.
  • At least two Frontier Constabulary soldiers were wounded in an exchange of fire between Afghan and Pakistani forces along the Kurram-Khost border on Friday.
  • In Senate testimony on the annual U.S. intelligence community Worldwide Threat Assessment report on Thursday, DNI Coats warned that “the political and security situation in Afghanistan will almost certainly deteriorate through 2018”, even with increases in U.S. and international military assistance.
  • A BBC Urdu report confirms that Indian businessman Sajjan Jindal’s meeting last month with Prime Minister Sharif was aimed a reducing bilateral tensions through a diplomatic backchannel; details of their discussions remain limited.
  • Prime Minister Sharif and the four provincial chief ministers arrived in Beijing on Friday for a six-day visit that will include attendance at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation beginning Sunday.
  • A conference of veteran jihadi politicians organized by Mohammad Karim Khalili and the Hizb-e-Wahdat-e-Islami party criticized Pres. Ghani and the national unity government.

Pakistan — Security

  • Mastung Bombing Targets Deputy Senate Chairman: A bombing outside the Jamia Masjid Hammadia seminary in Balochistan’s Mastung district targeted a convoy of vehicles for Senate deputy chairman and JUI-F leader Abdul Ghafoor Haideri on Friday; reports conflict as to whether or not the bomb was planted or carried by a suicide bomber. Haideri suffered minor injuries, but as many as 21 people are reported to have been killed and more than two dozen injured. No claim of responsibility has been reported as of this writing. [AP] [Dawn]
  • Afghan Border Clashes: At least two Frontier Constabulary soldiers were wounded in an exchange of fire with Afghan forces at the Kurram-Khost border on Friday, security officials report; Pakistani sources blame Afghan forces from firing on them while constructing a wall along the border. Separately, officials reported the destruction of a van carrying explosives in Kurram as it entered the agency from Paktia.
  • Tensions with India: Pakistan’s foreign ministry summoned the Indian deputy high commissioner to formally protest Line of Control ceasefire violations earlier this week, which Pakistan charges deliberately targeted civilians, one of whom was killed. A BBC Urdu report confirms that Indian businessman Sajjan Jindal’s meeting with Nawaz Sharif last month was part of a diplomatic backchannel aimed at reducing tensions with India, and that Sharif discussed the issue in meetings with Chief of Army Staff Bajwa this week; details of the conversation remain limited, and it was said not to include the case of accused Indian spy Kulbushan Jhadav. Officials met at the attorney general’s office on Thursday to review an Indian petition to the International Court of Justice. Separately, The Nation reports that a Pakistani team will visit Nepal soon to investigate the disappearance of a former Pakistani army office. [Dawn] [Reuters] [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Legal Battles: The Express Tribune reports that the Panama Papers Joint Investigation Team is preparing a “detailed questionnaire” for the Qatari royal family as part of the investigation into the Sharif family’s overseas assets. The Supreme Court agreed to an 11-day recess to hearings it is holding on disqualification petitions against Imran Khan, as PTI lawyers continue to argue that both the court and the Election Commission lack jurisdiction on the issue of the party’s funding. [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: During a visit to the Chichawatni district in Punjab on Thursday, Prime Minister Sharif touted the PML-N government’s development record around the country, and dismissed the PTI’s administration of Khyber Paktunkhwa. The PPP and PTI continue to call for parliamentary debate on the ‘Dawn Leaks’ issue. [Dawn] [The Nation] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Afghan Refugee Repatriation: Speaking to reporters on Thursday, States and Frontier Regions Minister Abdul Qadir Baloch said that the government was planning to document an estimated one million unregistered Afghan refugees living in Pakistan within the next ten months.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Sharif and Chief Ministers Attend Belt and Road Summit: Prime Minister Sharif and the four provincial chief ministers arrived in Beijing on Friday for a six-day visit that will include participation in the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing on May 14-15. [Dawn] [ET]
  • Budget Planning: At a meeting on Thursday, Prime Minister Sharif approved a budget strategy paper prepared by the ministry of finance for the upcoming fiscal year; Dawn notes that the document was not shared more widely with other ministries. The budget targets 6% GDP growth in the next year, and allows for an increase in the fiscal deficit target of up to 4% by 2020.
  • Energy Crisis: The government has reportedly reached an agreement with Independent Power Producers to resolve payment disputes and outstanding dues, which total at least Rs 245 billion; IPPS currently contribute around half of the total electricity supply in the country. Separately, the government is seeking financing from the World Bank Green Fund to support solar power projects in Pakistan. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • 37 Men Granted Bail After Attack on Ahmadi Mosque [Dawn]
  • Four More Arrested in Mashal Khan Lynching Case [ET] [Dawn]
  • Prime Minister and Army Chief Note Threats Against PEMRA Staff [Dawn] [ET]
  • Chief of Army Staff Visits Quetta Garrison [ET] [The Nation]
  • Sindh High Court Unsatisfied with Report on Thar Deaths [ET]
  • Sindh High Court Extends Bail for PPP Leader Sharjeel Memon [ET]
  • PIA Losses Rise to Rs 282 Billion [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • U.S. Strategy Review: Testifying at the annual U.S. intelligence community threat assessment hearings in the Senate on Thursday, Director of National Intelligence Coats said that “the intelligence community assesses that the political and security situation in Afghanistan will almost certainly deteriorate through 2018, even with a modest increase in military assistance by the United States and its partners”. Afghan analysts and officials interviewed by the Washington Post argue for the need for the government to implement political reforms or for the U.S. to put “maximum pressure” on Pakistan in order for a U.S. troop deployment to be effective. In comments to TOLO, former interior minister Mohammad Umer Daudzai questioned the need for additional U.S. forces; spokesmen for the defense ministry and Chief Executive Abdullah welcomed further deployments. [DNI Assessment (pdf)]
  • Attacks and Operations: Taliban fighters attacked the Burka district center in Baghlan province on Friday morning; the provincial police chief said that at least four security personnel had been killed, with heavy fighting still ongoing. [RFE/RL]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Government Under Criticism: A conference of former jihadi leaders organized on Thursday by Mohammad Karim Khalili and the Hizb-e-Wahdat-e-Islami party criticized the national unity government and Pres. Ghani for “totalitarianism”, with Khalili warning that “there are attempts to grow the seeds of division, ethnic division, political division and religious division, but we will never return to that era”.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Infrastructure Projects: A cabinet meeting on Thursday approved ‘in principle’ an implementation plan for the development of Chabahar port, and tasked the Ministry of Transportation with coordinating government agencies. A Chinese delegation from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences met with Chief Executive Abdullah on Thursday to discuss the One Belt One Road initiative, which a spokesman for the Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industry urged the government to join.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Former Army Generals Continue ‘Luxurious Lifestyle’ Despite Firing [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Why is Trump Focusing on ISIS in Afghanistan, When the Taliban is the Bigger Threat? – “The threat posed by the militant group to the Afghan national unity government led by President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, and to U.S. interests in the region, is relatively small compared to the ongoing Taliban insurgency—not to mention the fractious political dynamics and weak resource base that plague the Afghan government’s efforts to assert control over the country.” [Colin Cookman, World Politics Review]
  • Commentary: Resettling Nearly Half a Million Afghans in Nangarhar: The Consequences of the Mass Return of Refugees – “This rapid increase in Nangarhar’s population has put a strain on government services, including health and education.” [Fazal Muzhary, AAN]
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