Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Opposition Criticizes Govt Handling of ICJ Case; NATO Defense Chiefs Back Afghan Support Mission

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Topline

  • Opposition parties criticized the PML-N government’s handling of the International Court of Justice’s hearings on an Indian petition seeking a stay of execution for accused spy Kulbhushan Jhadav; law ministry officials speaking to the Express Tribune lay blame on the foreign ministry.
  • NATO defense chiefs met Wednesday and issued a statement afterwards affirming support for the Resolute Support mission and continued assistance to the Afghan national security forces; U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman Dunford appealed to allies to be “prepared to act quickly” once a final decision was taken on increase in international force levels in Afghanistan.
  • Prime Minister Sharif reportedly approved a Rs 2.113 trillion federal and provincial development budget for the forthcoming fiscal year, a large increase over this year. The finance ministry is reportedly projecting a $10.4 billion current account deficit for the next fiscal year, which may push Pakistan to seek a new IMF agreement; the rating agency Fitch estimated Thursday that Pakistan was “unlikely to face significant external financing difficulties in the short term”, however.
  • The Afghan government made several new security appointments on Friday, including Afghan National Army Deputy Chief of Staff General Murad Ali Murad as deputy interior minister for security.
  • The Panama Papers Joint Investigation Team began recording statements on Thursday, but has not yet summoned the prime minister and his family to testify.
  • At a briefing for reporters on Thursday, military officials in North Waziristan said that as much as 80% of the displaced population had returned to the area, but local tribal leaders complained of a lack of services. Pakistani military officials also said that they had satellite evidence that Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan militants were training in Afghanistan.

Pakistan — Security

  • FATA Operations: Military officials in North Waziristan hosted a briefing for journalists in Miram Shah on Thursday; Maj. Gen. Hassan Azhar Hayat reported that as much as 80% of the displaced population had returned to the area, and said that the army had constructed four schools. Local tribal elders nonetheless complain of a lack of services. A curfew has been imposed in Mohmand Agency after reports that six would-be suicide bombers had entered the area.
  • Balochistan Laborers Killed: Three laborers working on a road construction project near Turbat were killed in an attack on Friday; all were migrants from Sindh. No claim of responsibility has been reported, although a similar attack in Gwadar last week was claimed by the Baloch Liberation Army.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Backlash Over ICJ Case: Following the International Court of Justice’s ruling on Thursday staying the execution of accused Indian spy Kulbhushan Jhadav while the court hears an Indian petition protesting the sentence, opposition parties criticized the government’s handling of the case. In a statement following the initial ruling on Thursday, the Attorney General’s office stressed that the court’s decision “has not changed the status of Kulbhushan Jhadav’s case in any manner”. The PTI demanded explanations from the prime minister, and suggested a link to his meetings with Indian business leader Sajjan Jindal; PPP leaders criticized the government as being unprepared to argue the case. Some lawyers recommended that Pakistan withdraw from ICJ jurisdiction entirely following the ruling. Law ministry officials speaking on background to the Express Tribune lay blame on the foreign ministry for the loss, and say Pakistan’s lawyers failed to bring up a 2008 agreement between India and Pakistan agreeing that consular access would not be granted to terrorists. [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Panama Papers Investigation: The Joint Investigation Team investigating the Panama Papers and the financial assets of Prime Minister Sharif’s family began recording statements on Thursday; the prime minister and his family have reportedly not yet been summoned to testify.
  • FATA Reforms: The ‘All FATA Political Parties Alliance’ announced plans to hold protests beginning May 23 against delays in the implementation of the government’s plans for the merger of the FATA with Khyber Paktunkhwa and implementation of political and legal reforms. During national assembly debate on Thursday, Paktunkhwa Milli Awami Party chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai, a government ally, opposed the government’s proposed reform package.
  • Other Political Activity: A PTI activist detained by the Federal Investigation Agency in Quetta earlier this week has been released on bail after questioning over his social media activity.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Planning: Prime Minister Sharif, back in the country from travel to China and Hong Kong, presided over a meeting of the National Economic Council in Islamabad on Friday, which approved a Rs 2.113 trillion development budget for the upcoming 2017-18 fiscal year, of which Rs 1.001 trillion will go to the federal government and the remainder to the provinces. The budget marks an increase of Rs 438 billion over the outgoing year. In a statement on Thursday, Fitch Ratings estimated that Pakistan was “unlikely to face significant external financing difficulties in the short term, barring an unexpected shock”, despite increases in the external debt. The Express Tribune reports that the finance ministry is projecting a $10.4 billion current account deficit for the next fiscal year, however, based on import targets which Pakistan is likely to already exceed this fiscal year. Anonymous sources suggest that Pakistan may seek another IMF agreement after June 2018. [Dawn]
  • CPEC Projects: The Nation reports that China and Pakistan have agreed to cut five pending power projects from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor framework, collectively totaling 3470 megawatts in planned power output; officials insisted that their removal from the plan would be offset by other projects, including hydropower.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Senate Deputy Chairman Haideri Blames External Forces for Attack [The Nation]
  • Sindh Seeks to Dismiss Petition Over Removal of Provincial Police Chief [Dawn]
  • Prime Minister’s Advisor on Aviation Seeks to Shut Down PIA [Dawn] [ET]
  • Musharraf Lawyer Says He Won’t Testify by Video [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Sindh Assembly Approves Hike in Lawmaker Salaries [The Nation]
  • 1,340 Children Have Died in Thar Since 2014 [ET]
  • Protests in National Assembly Over PTI Power Protests in Peshawar [Dawn] [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • NATO Assistance: In comments on Wednesday after a meeting with NATO military leaders, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Dunford said that he had asked allies to “be prepared to act quickly” once a decision was made on additional forces for Afghanistan; NATO Supreme Allied Commander Scaparrotti said that “we think this will be considered here very soon”. A statement by NATO defense chiefs “recommended the Resolute Support Mission remain conditions-based and flexible taking into account the challenging security environment” and reiterated their commitment to supporting the Afghan security forces. A NATO heads of state and government conference is scheduled for May 25.
  • Border Tensions with Pakistan: In a briefing for Pakistani reporters on Thursday, Pakistani military officials said that they had “satellite images and ground reports that prove Afghanistan’s involvement” in cross-border terrorist attacks by groups like the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. Nangarhar provincial officials accuse Pakistan of firing rockets across the border into the Lalpur district on Wednesday; no casualties were reported. [TOLO]
  • Security Appointments: Afghan National Army Deputy Chief of Staff General Murad Ali Murad was appointed deputy interior minister for security on Friday; Gen. Aminullah Karim as also been appointed deputy interior minister for administrative affairs and Abdul Khalil Bakhtiar as deputy interior minister for counter-narcotics.
  • Attacks and Operations: Five police officers were reportedly killed by a colleague in Nangarhar over Thursday night; no claim of responsibility was immediately reported. Taliban fighters attacked multiple police checkposts in Kandahar overnight, leaving as many as eight police officers and 22 Taliban dead. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Jamiat-e-Islami Meet: TOLO and Ariana News provide additional reporting on Tuesday’s meeting of Jamiat-e-Islami and other political leaders, at which Atta Mohammad Noor and other officials expressed concerns over deteriorating security in northern Afghanistan, with most speakers alleging some form of unspecified conspiracy or intervention to bring conflict to the area.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghan Women Break Ground with TV Station Launch [Reuters]
  • Ghani Inaugurates Bamiyan Highway Project [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Interview: ‘There is a Country to Build’ – “South Asia bureau chief Nikhil Kumar sat down with Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani in the presidential palace in Kabul to talk about the deteriorating security situation, the possible troop increase, Ghani’s conversations with Donald Trump, the threat from ISIS and the prospects for a political settlement with the Taliban.” [TIME]
  • Commentary: Seven Questions Congress Should Ask About Trump’s Mini-Surge in Afghanistan – “The United States and Afghan government have never developed a common strategy for how to bring the war to a successful conclusion. It is time to start.” [Christopher Kolenda, The Hill]
  • Commentary: What’s Behind the Taliban’s Major Gains in Northern Afghanistan – “Once considered relatively stable, northern Afghanistan more broadly has become increasingly volatile since the drawdown of foreign troops at the end of 2014.” [Barin Sultani Haymon and Michael Kugelman, The Diplomat]
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