Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Protests After Kabul Bombing Turn Violent; Hassan Nawaz Testifies Before JIT

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  • The death toll from Wednesday’s boming in Kabul surpassed 100 victims, with more than 600 wounded, according to Ministry of Public Health reports on Thursday. Demonstrators gathered at the bomb site on Friday to criticize the government’s security response and call for the execution of Taliban and Haqqani network prisoners; TOLO reports that Anas Haqqani is not among the prisoners whose execution order Pres. Ghani approved on Thursday. Those protests turned violent as protestors clashed with police; at least one person, the son of the Meshrano Jirga deputy speaker, was killed, and ten or more wounded.
  • National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster spokes with his counterpart Hanif Atmar on Friday; in a statement, Atmar said that the two had agreed to begin “high level talks and consulations” under the framework of the US-Afghan Bilateral Security Agreement to discuss the deteriorating security situation.
  • Hassan Nawaz, Prime Minister Sharif’s younger son, appeared before the Panama Papers Joint Investigation Team for the first time on Friday.
  • The Pakistani senate debated Pakistan’s participation in the Saudi military alliance on Thursday, with several opposition lawmakers expressing concern over its opposition to Iran.
  • In an interview with the Indian press, Pres. Putin insisted that Russian cooperation with Pakistan would not impact bilateral Russia-Indian relations, but also refrained from commenting on the situation in Kashmir and credited Pakistan with “immense steps to stabilize the situation in the country”.

Pakistan — Security

  • Saudi Military Alliance: Senators debated Pakistan’s participation in the Saudi military alliance on Thursday, with several PPP leaders arguing that the alliance was aimed at combating Iran and that Pakistan should not participate. Foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz said that the terms of reference of the alliance had not been finalized and would “have no effect on Pakistan’s policy” towards Iran, adding that Pakistan would not deploy military forces outside Saudi Arabia. [ET] [The Nation] [
  • Photojournalist Attacked: Zeshan Ali, a Pakistani photojournalist working for the Iranian state news agency IRNA, was attacked and beaten by two unidentified armed men on Thursday, the IRNA bureau chief reported. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Investigation: Prime Minister Sharif’s younger son Hassan Nawaz appeared for the first time before the Joint Investigation Team investigating the Panama Papers on Friday; speaking to reporters following questioning for the third day on Thursday, his elder brother Hussain Nawaz complained that “politicians have always suffered from political victimization”. In a statement attributed to “a government spokesman” on Thursday, the government criticized remarks during Supreme Court hearings on Thursday against former PML-N senator Neshal Hashmi, in which Judge Sheikh Azmat Saeed compared the government to “the Sicilian Mafia” for Hashmi’s threats against those investigating the Sharif family. The parliamentary opposition staged another walkout on Friday over Hashmi’s remarks. [AP]
  • PTI Funding Investigations: In preliminary hearings on Thursday, the Islamabad High Court ordered the PTI to submit additional documents accompanying its petition challenging the jurisdiction of the Election Commission to investigate the party’s funding sources. [Dawn]
  • Regional Relations: In an interview with the Press Trust of India, Pres. Putin said that growing Russian cooperation with Pakistan would have “no impact on trade between India and Russia”, saying that “there is no other country in the world that we have such deep cooperation” as India. Putin declined to comment on the situation in Kashmir, but said “we will always support Indian in its fight against terrorism. I believe Pakistan is taking immense steps to stabilise the situation in the country.” [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Debate: Members of the senate finance committee criticized plans in the government’s draft 2017-18 budget to extend the special “Super Tax” on banks and high-earning companies first introduced in 2015 for a third year; at the time of introduction, it was described as a temporary measure to collect funds for the repatriation of displaced persons in FATA. The Sindh provincial government will introduce its budget on June 5.
  • Inflation Rises: Inflation crossed the 5% threshold for the first time in two and a half years in May, with the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics reporting Thursday that the Consumer Price Index rose 5.02% in May compared to the same period last year. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Karachi Police Arrest Suspect in Murder of Singer Amjad Sabri [The Nation]
  • Gujrat Police Seize Explosives from LeJ Suspects [The Nation]
  • Pakistan Navy Conducts Relief Operations in Sri Lanka [APP]
  • Dubai Halts 90 Day Tourist Visas for Pakistanis [The Nation]
  • Jamaat-e-Islami Resumes Protests Against K-Electric [The Nation]
  • Former Attorney General Sharifuddin Pirzada Passes Away [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Bombing Aftermath: Ministry of Public Health officials reported Thursday that the death toll from Wednesday’s truck bombing in Kabul had risen to at least a hundred people, with more than 600 injuries reported. Recovery operations are still underway at the site of the bombing, with a number of nearby buildings collapsed or heavily damaged; the Wazir Akbar Khan hospital reports conducting at least 51 surgeries since Wednesday. Reuters interviews survivors and families of the victims. On Thursday, the Ministry of Interior announced that four senior police officials in the 10th Police District had been suspended as they are investigated for charges of negligence; TOLO notes that the truck would have passed multiple checkpoints before detonating near Zanbaq Circle.
  • Tensions with Pakistan: Speaking at a weekly press briefing on Thursday, a spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign ministry said that accusations of Pakistani involvement in the blast were “unfounded” and that “Pakistan has always made sincere efforts to establish peace in Afghanistan”. The NYT reports that the bombing is likely to overshadow a planned regional conference that the government had hoped to use to reignite pressure for a peace process, but that Pres. Ghani is determined to continue with the meeting; several embassies have shifted or evacuated personnel in the wake of the attack, however. The Afghanistan Cricket Board announced on Thursday that it would “cancel all kinds of cricket matches and mutual relationship agreement with the Pakistan Cricket Board”. [ET]
  • Friday Protests Turn Violent: Hundreds if not thousands of demonstrators converged on the site of the bombing on Friday, calling on Pres. Ghani to resign and for the execution of Taliban and Haqqani network prisoners in retaliation for the attack. TOLO reports that Anas Haqqani, the seniormost prisoner affiliated with the group held by the Afghan government, is not among those whose execution order Ghani signed on Thursday. Protestors clashed with police, who opened fire as they attempted to march on the presidential palace; at least one protestor died and ten or more were wounded. Several outlets identify the casualty as Mohammad Salim Ezadyar, a son of deputy speaker of the Meshrano Jirga Mohammad Alam Ezadyar. [NYT] [Reuters]
  • US Assistance: In a statement on Friday, National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar said that he had spoken by phone with his U.S. counterpart H.R. McMaster and agreed to begin “high level talks and consultations” within the framework of the US-Afghan Bilateral Security Agreement “considering the deteriorating security situation of the country”.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • German Deportations: Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Chancellor Merkel said that Germany would only deport “criminals and people it considers a threat” to Afghanistan, to include those traveling under a fake identity. [AP]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Five Insurgents Killed in Premature Explosion in Ghazni [Khaama Press]

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