Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistani Military Says Mastung Op Target LeJ Al Alami – ISIS Cell; Kabul Protests Continue

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Topline

  • In a statement on Thursday, Pakistan’s military said operations carried out last week in the Mastung district target a group of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Al Alami militants working in conjunction with the Islamic State to establish a base for the group in Balochistan, and that between 10-15 had been killed in a raid on a cave complex in the district.
  • Protests continue in Kabul, with roads closed around the presidential palace and the airport; the government issued a statement on Thursday warning of “legal action” if sit-ins persisted. The Afghan attorney general’s office is reportedly investigating the head of the Kabul Garrison in connection to clashes between protestors and police last Friday. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar issued a statement of support for the national unity government in a press conference on Thursday, saying “no one can take power by force”; Ismail Khan criticized the government, calling on international donors to halt support for it and for elections or a Loya Jirga to be held “so that these uncertainties come to an end”.
  • PML-N leaders voiced increasing frustration with the Joint Investigation Team investigation into the Panama Papers case; the prime minister’s younger son Hassan Nawaz will appear before the JIT again today.
  • Prime Minister Sharif and Pres. Ghani arrived separately to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Kazakhstan on Thursday, at which Pakistan will be granted full membership.
  • The Pakistani federal cabinet has approved a plan to borrow Rs 41 billion from the banking sector in order to pay down circular debts within the power sector.

Pakistan — Security

  • Mastung Operation: In a statement on Thursday, Pakistani military spokesmen said that last week’s operation on a cave system in the Mastung district had killed 10-15 Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Al-Alami terrorists reportedly seeking to establish an affiliate of the Islamic State in Balochistan, and that the group had been responsible for the attack on deputy senate chairman Maulana Abdool Ghafoor Haideri in May. [ET]
  • Tensions with India: District officials in Jhelum report that four civilians were wounded in cross-border firing between Indian and Pakistani forces over Wednesday night. Pakistan’s attorney general has recommended two former chief justices and a former attorney general to be ad hoc appointees to the International Court of Justice hearings on the case of Kulbushan Jhadav. During senate debate on Wednesday, Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch said that Pakistan had not identified “concrete evidence” for India’s involvement in the disappearance of retired army officer Mohammad Habib from Nepal in April, but said that the disappearance was likely linked to Jhadav’s case. [Dawn]
  • National Security Council Meet: Prime Minister Sharif chaired a meeting of the National Security Council on Wednesday, which issued a statement reiterating the complaints made by army corps commanders the day prior that Afghan accusations of Pakistani involvement in last week’s attack in Kabul were “baseless”.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Investigation: During Wednesday’s Supreme Court hearing on the progress of the Panama Papers investigation, Joint Investigation Team chief Wajid Zia suggested that the probe was facing “hurdles in [its] work”, without providing details. The prime minister’s younger son Hassan Nawaz will appear before the JIT for a second time today. Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah and Punjab government spokesman Malik Ahmed Khan voiced concerns over JIT bias, suggesting that the Sharif family could yet boycott the proceedings; in the national assembly, opposition leaders accused the PML-N of threatening the judiciary. [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • SCO Summit: Prime Minister Sharif arrived in Kazakhstan on Thursday for a Shanghai Cooperation Organization heads of state summit today, at which Pakistan will gain full membership in the SCO.
  • Other Political Activity: Arif Masih Bhatti, an MQM provincial assembly member, announced on Wednesday that he was joining the PPP. In remarks at a press conference in Dubai on Wednesday, former Pres. Musharraf called for unity among the MQM factions in order to challenge the PPP in Sindh, and offered himself as a leader for a “grand alliance” against the PML-N and PPP. [Dawn] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Crisis: A meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee of the federal cabinet approved a plan to issue a government guarantee to borrow money from commercial banks in order to pay off Rs 41 billion in dues to the energy sector; total liabilities are currently estimated in excess of Rs 400 billion. Federal minister for petroleum and natural resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi confirmed that Pakistan would continue with a 15-year LNG import agreement with Qatar, despite Saudi Arabia’s severing of relations with the state. [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Budget Debate: Khyber Paktunkhwa finance minister Muzaffar Said introduced the PTI government’s draft budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year on Wednesday, with total outlays of Rs 603 billion. The province expects to generate Rs 45.21 billion in its own revenues and resources, and fund the remainder through federal transfers and borrowing. Rs 208 billion has been allocated for development projects and Rs 136 billion for the education budget. [Dawn] [The Nation] [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistani Military Dismisses Reports of Security Threats in Karachi and Hyderabad [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • 11 More Children Die in Thar Hospitals [Dawn]
  • Fisherman Wounded After Entering Restricted Naval Area [Dawn]
  • Supreme Court Acquits Blasphemy Suspect on Lack of Evidence [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Eid Holiday to Begin June 26 [Dawn] [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kabul Attack Investigations: TOLO reports that the Afghan Attorney General’s office has summoned the Kabul Garrison commander as part of an investigation into last Friday’s clash between police and demonstrators, which left several dead; a spokesman for the office said that findings would be shared once investigations were complete. Pres. Ghani chaired a high-level security review meeting on Thursday, at which NDS officials briefed him further on findings from the interrogation of a fourth would-be suicide bomber who was part of the group who attacked funeral services in Kabul last Saturday; no details of the meeting were released.
  • Attacks and Operations: In a TOLO interview, the district governor of Kunduz’s Imam Sahib district warned that Taliban forces were on the verge of taking the district center, calling for reinforcements. Nangarhar provincial officials say that Taliban and Islamic State fighters clashed in the Pacher Agam district on Thursday, leaving 12 ISIS and three Taliban fighters dead, and forcing hundreds of families to flee the area. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Protests Continue: A sixth protest camp was set up by “Uprising for Change Campaign” demonstrators in Kabul on Wednesday, which has closed off a road to Kabul airport. The government has reportedly closed down roads leading to the presidential palace, and the Ministry of Interior issued a statement on Thursday warning that the government would “be forced to take legal actions” if sit-ins persist. In separate statement on Wednesday, Jamiat-e-Islami leader Ismail Khan called on the international community to stop supporting the “incompetent and weak” national unity government and instead “support the people of Afghanistan”, calling for “elections or a Loya Jirga so that these uncertainties come to an end”. Hezb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar held a press conference on Thursday, voicing support for the current system and saying he “would not let anyone bring [it] down”, saying that “no one can take power by force. Every Afghan has the right to make demands but not to close roads.” [AFP] [TOLO] [Ariana News] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ghani Departs for SCO Summit [TOLO]
  • Taliban Territory: Life in Afghanistan Under the Militants [BBC]
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