Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Burden-Sharing Disputes Overshadow Afghanistan at NATO; Farmers Protests Ahead of Budget Release

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Topline

  • Thursday’s NATO heads of state summit concluded without any announcements on the alliance mission in Afghanistan, which was overshadowed by disputes with Pres. Trump over burden-sharing; Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that “several allies” offered new troop contributions, but did not provide specifics, saying a decision would be made “in the coming weeks”.
  • Police clashed with a protesting farmers’ union outside of parliament on Friday, ahead of Finance Minister Dar’s planned presentation of the government’s draft budget for the next fiscal year. The Nation reports the budget will total Rs 4.8 trillion in outlays and will have a Rs 4 trillion tax collection target.
  • Sindh police chief A.D. Khawaja skipped a meeting with new provincial home minister Sohail Anwar Siyal, who subsequently accused him of blocking meetings between the government and police.
  • The Afghan government plans to host a conference of regional countries on June 6 focused on the Afghan peace process; the government has not specified which countries will attend.
  • The Peshawar High Court has issued a stay of execution for former TTP Swat spokesman Muslim Khan, agreeing to hear a challenge to his conviction in a military court.
  • A Jamiat-e-Islami splinter group has protested the party’s formation of a new interim leadership council, calling for a new party congress to be held.

Pakistan — Security

  • Sindh Government at Odds with Police Chief: Newly appointed Sindh Home Minister Sohail Anwar Siyal called a briefing sessions on security in the province ahead of Ramazan on Thursday, which Sindh police A.D. Khawaja and several other officers did not attend; speaking at a press conference afterwards, Siyal blamed a recent directive by Khawaja ordering police officers to report their meetings with the government. In a separate statement, Khawaja denied that he had barred other officers from attending. Meanwhile, in Sindh High Court hearings on Thursday federal government lawyers argued against a Sindh government proposal that powers to appoint the provincial police chief should lie exclusively with the provincial government. [Dawn]
  • Execution Stay for Taliban Leader: On Thursday, the Peshawar High Court issued a stay of execution order for former Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Swat chapter spokesman Muslim Khan and agreed to hear a petition from his wife challenging his conviction in a military court last year. [ET] [The Nation]
  • Turbat Naval Base Opened: Defense Minister Khawaja Asif and Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Mohammad Zakaullah attended a ceremony on Thursday for the official start to operations at Naval Air Station Turbat in Balochistan.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Police Clash with Protesting Farmers: Islamabad police clashed with the Pakistan Kissan Ittehad farmer’s union in Islamabad on Friday as they demonstrated outside parliament demanding greater subsidies on fertilizer and electricity. [AP]
  • Social Media Crackdown: Despite an Islamabad High Court order barring the Federal Investigation Agency from “harassment” against journalist Taha Siddiqui, Siddiqui reported Thursday that he had been served a notice to appear for questioning by the FIA’s Islamabad counter-terrorism wing. [The Nation]
  • Saudis ‘Apologize’ for Summit Snub: A spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign ministry told reporters on Thursday that Saudi King Salman had apologized to Prime Minister Sharif and other attendees at the US-Arab-Islamic summit earlier this week for not setting aside time for them to address the summit; Sharif was criticized by the opposition for his silence.
  • Court Seeks PTI Funding Records: During hearings on Thursday, the Supreme Court sought additional records from the Election Commission and other courts on the PTI’s financial records and its alleged overseas fundraising.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Rollout: Finance Minister Dar is expected to unveil the government’s draft budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year beginning in July today, which The Nation reports will have a total outlay of Rs 4.8 trillion and a fiscal deficit equivalent to around 4 percent of GDP. The tax collection target will reportedly total Rs 4 trillion, and the government has projected GDP growth of 6%. Speaking during a meeting with PML-N lawmakers in Islamabad on Thursday, Prime Minister Sharif touted the government’s planned Rs 1 trillion in development spending. Minister of State for Education Muhammad Baligur Rehman said that federal spending on education would increase to Rs 800 billion. Reuters and the Express Tribune summarize Dar’s report on Thursday on the government’s economic survey of the outgoing fiscal year, which can be found here. Pakistan’s estimates of its economic losses from the “war on terrorism” totaled $3.9 billion in the outgoing fiscal year, or more than $123 billion since 2001. PPP senator Sherry Rehman criticized the government for “run[ning] Pakistan into a debt trap deeper than it had ever been in before”; Imran Khan will skip today’s budget session. [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Literacy Rate Declines: Pakistan’s literacy rate declined by 2% during the 2015-16 fiscal year, to 58%, with Sindh and Balochistan both reporting declines of five and four percent, respectively.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Missing MQM Activist Found Dead [Dawn]
  • Investigations Continue Into PIA Heroin Smuggling [Dawn] [ET]
  • PTI Protests ‘Useless’ CPEC Parliamentary Panel [Dawn]
  • Sindh Building Control Authority Bans High-Rise Construction [Dawn]
  • Sindh High Court Reserves Verdict on Travel by Asim Hussain [Dawn]
  • Islamia Jamiat-e-Talaba Protests Music Event at University of Peshawar [ET]
  • Former Islamabad Police Chief Exonerated Over 2014 PTI Protests [Dawn]
  • Commentary: Pakistan Left with Limited Options in Saudi-Led Islamic Military Alliance – “Pakistan has to decide that whether it should withdraw from the [Islamic military alliance] and damage its relations with a close ally like Saudi Arabia, or whether it can annoy Iran by being a part of it.” [Imdad Hussain, Express Tribune]

Afghanistan — Security

  • NATO Summit: Thursday’s NATO summit concluded without any major announcements on Afghanistan, which was overshadowed by disputes over alliance burden-sharing. Speaking to reporters afterwards, however, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the alliance had “reviewed our training mission in Afghanistan, and we agreed that we will continue to sustain our mission”, adding that “several allies came forward today with new troop contributions”. He did not provide details, but said that “we will take further decisions in the coming weeks.” [WSJ] [WAPO] [AP] [TOLO] [Stoltenberg Press Conference Transcript]
  • Attacks and Operations: In an address to Afghan forces on Thursday, U.S. commander Gen. John Nicholson confirmed that U.S. special forces had been deployed to Kunduz to help defend the city against a recent Taliban offensive on its outskirts, vowing that “Kunduz will not fall”. Another attack on an ANA military base in Kandahar’s Shah Wali Kot district on Thursday, the second this week, killed 15 Afghan soldiers, the defense ministry reported Friday; provincial officials say the toll could be as high as 20. Nangarhar police officials say that seven ISIS fighters were killed in continuing operations in the Chaparhar district on Friday. A suicide bomber killed at least six people and wounded two others in an attack outside a National Directorate of Security office in Helmand’s Washir district on Thursday.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Kabul Conference Planned: A spokesman for Pres. Ghani said Thursday that the government plans to host a conference of regional partners “to cooperate with the peace process and to get regional consensus”; the meeting will take place June 6, but officials did not specify which countries would attend.
  • Hezb-e-Islami Agreement: In a statement on Thursday, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said that it had received a petition “requesting justice for the victims of crimes allegedly committed by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar”; the statement affirmed support for “transitional justice” and “right to judicial redress” but also said that the UN “remains encouraged by the progress in the implementation of the agreement between the Government of Afghanistan and Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin.” [TOLO] [RFE/RL]
  • Jamiat Split: A splinter group of the Jamiat-e-Islami calling itself the “Jamiat Integration Council” protested the formation of a new party interim leadership council earlier this week, and calling for a new party congress to be convened. A spokesman for the party said that one would be held within the year. [Ariana News]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • IMF Assistance: In a statement on Thursday, the IMF announced that its board had approved a $6.2 million Extended Credit Facility loan agreement with Afghanistan, noting as it did the need for “reforms in the financial sector (turning the page on the Kabul Bank crisis), corruption and economic governance, and revenue mobilization combined with improved public financial management”.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • MPs Accuse Government of Violating Law with Failure to Nominate Cabinet Replacements [TOLO]
  • Three Bamiyan Officials Suspended Over Plane Diversion [TOLO]
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