Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Finance Minister Presents PML-N Budget for 2017-18; Taliban Target Khost Protection Force

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Topline

  • Finance Minister Dar unveiled the government’s budget for the FY 2017-18 fiscal year on Friday, which has a total outlay of Rs 4.75 trillion and includes large expenditures for defense and the Public Sector Development Program.
  • A Taliban suicide bomber targeted members of the Khost Protection Force, a CIA-backed militia in Khost, on Saturday; as many as 18 people were reportedly killed. A Zabul police officer killed six colleagues before fleeing in an insider attack on Sunday.
  • Pakistan reopened the Chaman border crossing on Saturday after more than 20 days’ closure, citing “humanitarian grounds”.
  • The prime minister’s son Hussain Nawaz was questioned by the Joint Investigation Team investigating the Panama Papers case on Sunday; on Monday, the Supreme Court rejected Nawaz’s petition challenging the impartiality of two members of the JIT.
  • Pres. Ghani suspended the mayors of Jalalabad and Herat on Sunday, citing complaints from local residents; separately, Takhar governor Yasin Zia has resigned his position.
  • Supporters of Vice President Dostum rallied in Faryab on Saturday, accusing groups within the national unity government of conspiring against him.
  • Karachi was hit by major power outages on Sunday, and PTI protests against outages in Malakand turned violent on Monday, with at least one activist killed.
  • The Ramazan month of fasting began in Afghanistan on Saturday and in most parts of Pakistan on Sunday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Chaman Border Reopened: On Saturday, the Pakistani military announced that it was reopening the Chaman border crossing with Afghanistan on “humanitarian grounds”, following a request by Afghan officials. The crossing had been closed since May 5, when both sides exchanged fire after a Pakistani military escort for a census team entered a village straddling the disputed border. Afghan officials welcomed the move. [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation] [TOLO]
  • Tensions with India: Officials in Azad Jammu and Kashmir reported the death of a woman from Indian cross-border shelling in the Bhimber district on Friday. Indian officials renewed a curfew in Kashmir on Saturday after clashes with protestors following the death of Sabzar Ahmad Bhat, a local Hizb-ul Mujahadeen militant commander. On Sunday, four people were wounded in an IED blast in the Chakothi sector of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Meanwhile, former senate chairman Farooq Naek petitioned the Supreme Court on Saturday to order the immediate execution of accused Indian spy Kulbhushan Jhadav, whose sentence has been stayed as India and Pakistan argue his case before the International Court of Justice. [NYT] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Border Tensions with Iran: A Pakistani man was killed by cross-border Iranian mortar shelling in the Panjgur district on Saturday, district officials report. [Reuters] [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Ramazan Begins: Prime Minister Sharif, Chief of Staff Bajwa, and President Hussain all issued statements welcoming the beginning of Ramazan, which started in the FATA and parts of Khyber Paktunkhwa on Saturday and the rest of the country on Sunday. [The Nation]
  • Panama Papers Investigation: Hussain Nawaz, one of the prime minister’s two sons under investigation by the Joint Investigation Team probing the Panama Papers, appeared for questioning before the JIT on Sunday; he told reporters beforehand that he did not receive an advance questionnaire, and the Express Tribune reports he was not questioned in the presence of his lawyer. Dawn reports Nawaz was questioned on his ownership of properties in London, and sought additional time to draft a complete response. Nawaz had earlier petitioned the Supreme Court challenging the impartiality of two members of the JIT; at hearings on Monday, the court rejected his petition. Separately, Lahore High Court Bar Association Vice President Rashid Lodhi told reporters on Saturday that the group would begin protests demanding Prime Minister Sharif’s immediate resignation after Eid. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • FATA Reforms: In a Dawn interview on Saturday, FATA national assembly member Shah Jee Gul Afridi warned that the people of FATA would launch a “massive sit-in” after Ramazan to “paralyze” the government after it failed to meet a May 20 deadline to pass FATA reforms legislation. Other members were more circumspect on their plans. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: Speaking to reporters on Friday after the budget session, which he did not attend, Imran Khan said that the PTI would begin campaigning for the next general elections after the end of Ramazan, predicting that the party would “clean-sweep” in Khyber Paktunkhwa. The Express Tribune notes that two legal notices sent by the PML-N over allegations by Khan that he had been offered bribes to drop the Panama Papers expired without action last week. Prime Minister Sharif has reportedly issued an order barring PML-N parliamentarians from traveling abroad this month, in order to ensure passage of the budget during the current session. [Dawn] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Government Seeking to Form ‘Board of Ministers’ to Make Decisions on Finance Issues [Dawn]
  • Kidnapped BNP-Awami Leader Found Dead in Kech [Dawn]
  • Sindh Home Minister and Police Chief Hold Separate Meetings on Ramazan Security [The Nation]
  • Death Sentence for Seven Convicted for 2014 Murder of PTI Leader Masood Bhatti [The Nation]
  • Fatwa Issued Against Suicide Attacks [APP]
  • PIA IT System Crashes, Halting Operations [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Broadcasters Association Challenges PEMRA TV Censorship [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Khost Bombing: A suicide car bombing killed as many as 18 people in a marketplace in Khost city on Saturday morning, the first day of Ramadan. The Taliban claimed responsibility the attack, which targeted members of the Khost Protection Force, a CIA-backed paramilitary militia; accounts conflict as to whether any members of the force were among the casualties, or only civilians. [WSJ] [AP] [Reuters] [TOLO]
  • Insider Attack: A Zabul police officer killed six of his colleagues in an insider attack in the Shinkai district on Saturday evening; police officials said the gunman fled after the attack. [TOLO]
  • International Assistance: Australia’s defense minister Marise Payne announced on Monday that the country would increase it advisory team in Afghanistan by 30 soldiers, to 300 total, as part of the NATO Resolute Support mission. [Reuters] [TOLO]
  • ISIS in Afghanistan: Local officials say that as many as 15 Islamic State fighters were killed in a clash with local residents in the Achin district on Friday evening; six civilians were also killed. A two-week long operation in the Chaparhar district concluded on Friday, which officials claim killed 59 ISIS fighters. A drone strike in the Nazian district on Sunday reportedly killed three ISIS fighters. Nangarhar provincial officials reported the separate arrests of three Pakistanis, three Afghans, and one Iranian national accused of seeking to join the ISIS affiliate in the Rodat and Haska Mina districts.
  • Other Attacks and Operations: A spokesman for the Ministry of Defense said on Sunday that Afghan special forces units were preparing to increase the rate of night raids targeting Taliban forces; commando units currently conduct as many as 15 operations daily. The NYT notes that the Taliban have targeted hundreds of Islamic scholars over the past few years, which some attribute to the influence of Taliban leader Maualana Haibatullah Akhunzada. Officials in Kunduz say that ground operations and airstrikes in the Chardara district killed as many as 19 Taliban fighters on Saturday; a U.S. drone strike earlier last week reportedly killed three senior Taliban military leaders. At least fifteen Afghan soldiers were killed in an attack on an army base in the Shah Wali Kot district on Friday, the second attack within a week in the district. Provincial police chief Abdul Raziq said that the Taliban had been repelled and suffered large casualties, but warned at a press conference that “Kandahar’s insecurity is not by accident but there are some elements from within central government who are working on the process”. Taliban fighters attacked multiple checkposts in the Sangin district in Helmand on Sunday, but were repelled; on Friday, Afghan forces rescued 11 people from a Taliban prison in the Nad-e-Ali district. The Talban shadow district governor for Herat’s Keshk Kuhna district was killed in operations on Monday, the Ministry of Interior reported. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [AP] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Ramadan Celebrated: In a statement commemorating the start of Ramadan on Saturday, Pres. Ghani called on “all militant groups to accept the call of Afghan people on peace or at least avoid killing, conflict and violence during the Holy month of Ramadan in order to respect this sacred month”.
  • Ghani Suspends Mayors: Pres. Ghani suspended the mayors of Jalalabad and Herat on Sunday; a spokeswoman for the Independent Directorate of Local Governance cited complaints from local residents, but provided no details. Separately, Takhar governor Yasin Zia resigned from his position on Sunday, IDLG officials confirmed; Ghani has not taken action on his resignation request. [TOLO]
  • Dostum Supporters Rally: Supporters of Vice President Dostum rallied in Faryab on Saturday, accusing unspecified “groups within the government” of conspiring against him and trying to marginalize the Turkmen-speaking people of Afghanistan.
  • Election Reform: Independent Election Commission operational deputy chief Wasima Badghisi tells TOLO that the IEC has finalized a draft plan for an electronic voting system, but attributed delays to a lack of a budget approved by the government; the cost is estimated at $68 million.
  • Regional Diplomacy: Director general-level representatives from the Chinese and Pakistani foreign ministries and the Afghan ministry of finance met in Beijing on Saturday for a meeting of the “Practical Cooperation Dialogue”, which “agreed to advance practical cooperation in various areas so as to promote mutual benefit and regional economic integration under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative”.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Trade with Tajikistan: Tajikistan Minister of Transport Khudoyorzoda Khudoyor signed several trade and economic agreements with Afghan Minister of Economy Abdul Sattar Murad on Friday, concluding a two-day visit to Kabul. Bilateral trade between the two countries has reportedly doubled in volume, with Tajikistan exporting $74 million in goods during the first quarter of the current year. [Ariana News]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • 37 Ministry of Interior Personnel Arrested on Corruption Charges [Khaama Press]
  • Attorney General’s Office to Charge Officials Who Diverted Bamiyan Plane [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • US Approves $76 Million Contract to Support Afghan Air Force [Khaama Press]
  • Report Casts Doubts Over Ministry of Interior Meat Contracts [TOLO]
  • In Kabul, a Sidewalk Cobbler Repairs More than Shoes [WAPO]
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