Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Parachinar Protest Ends After Meeting with Army Chief; Opposition Alliance Issues Reform Demands

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  • Demonstrators in Parachinar agreed to end their weeklong sit-ins on Friday after meeting with Chief of Army Staff Bajwa, who pledged to address their demands for the removal of the Frontier Corps commander and induction of local tribesmen into security checkposts in the area.
  • The alliance of Jamiat-e-Islami, Junbesh-e-Milli, and Hizb-e-Wahdat-e-Islami leaders formed in Turkey last week issued a list of demands on Friday, including the reinstatement of Vice President Dostum and second deputy Mohammad Mohaqiq. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar issued a statement on Saturday that “urged the political parties and movements to refrain from any such provocative acts that could take the country into further crisis”, and senate chairman Fazal Haidi Muslimyar denounced the group’s formation as “shameful”. Small protests resumed in Kabul on Monday, with demonstrators reiterating demands for the resignation of top security officials.
  • India and Pakistan exchanged prisoner lists on Saturday, but Pakistan rebuffed a renewed Indian request for consular access to accused spy Kulbhushan Jhadav. Hizb-ul-Mujahadeen leader Syed Salahuddin held a press conference in Kashmir on Saturday, dismissing new US sanctions against him.
  • The Panama Papers Joint Investigation Team is finalizing its report into the case and preparing to submit its findings to the Supreme Court by July 10. Prime Minister Sharif’s cousin Tariq Shafi and son Hassan Nawaz appeared before the JIT over the weekend, and his son Hussain Nawaz and daughter Maryam Nawaz will appear later this week.
  • Taliban fighters launched an offensive on Kunduz city over the weekend; sources in the provincial council report that the main roads into the city have been cut off, and an Afghan National Army base surrounded.
  • Senator McCain led a delegation of U.S. senators to Islamabad on Sunday, meeting with foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz and Chief of Army Staff Bajwa to discuss bilateral and regional relations.
  • Pres. Ghani swore in Karim Khalili as the new chairman of the High Peace Council on Sunday; in his remarks, Ghani said that “the Afghan government and nation wants peace with Pakistan” but did not expect it to deliver on that demand.
  • The Sindh provincial government has introduced a measure removing the authority of the provincial police chief to make appointments and transfers, and plans to introduce a measure revoking the authority of the National Accountability Bureau in the province.

Pakistan — Security

  • Parachinar Bombing Aftermath: Demonstrators in Parachinar agreed to end their week-long sit-in on Friday after Chief of Army Staff Bajwa visited the area and met with representatives of the protestors; the local commander of the Frontier Constabulary has been removed and compensation payments were announced for the families of four civilians who were reportedly killed when FC troops opened fire on demonstrators earlier last week. The army also agreed to incorporate members of the Turi tribe into security checkposts, to increase army deployments and deploy a network of CCTV cameras through the town, and has announced plans to upgrade hospital facilities in Parachinar. Bajwa stressed the importance of national and sectarian unity and attributed the bombings to ‘foreign elements’. At a press conference in Karachi on Sunday, the Majlis-e-Wahdatul Muslimeen praised Bajwa for his intervention and criticized Prime Minister Sharif for not meeting with victims. In a statement on Sunday, Sharif tasked Khyber Paktunkhwa Governor Iqbal Zhafar Jhagra with monitoring the distribution of compensation payments. [AP] [AJE] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Tensions with India: A Pakistani civilian was reportedly wounded in cross-border firing near Rawalkot in Pakistani Kashmir on Sunday. India and Pakistan conducted a biannual exchange of prisoner lists on Saturday, almost all of whom are fishermen detained on charges of violating territorial waters; Pakistan rebuffed fresh Indian requests for consular access to accused spy Kulbhushan Jhadav. In a statement on Friday following briefings at the foreign ministry, Prime Minister Sharif expressed disappointment over “the complete silence in the US-India joint statement” during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Washington last week “on the atrocities being committed by the Indian forces against Kashmiris”. In his first press conference since being designated for terrorism-related sanctions by the U.S., Hizb-ul-Mujahadeen leader Syed Salahuddin dismissed that action and insisted that he was a “freedom fighter”, while also accusing India, Israel, and the United States of supporting the Islamic State and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. Indian security forces killed two top Lashkar-e-Taiba militants in an operation in Kashmir on Saturday. [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Financial Sanctions: A meeting in Spain last week of the international Financial Action Task Force on money-laundering and terrorist financing has referred Pakistan’s status to FATF’s Asia/Pacific Group regional affiliate for further review, Dawn reports. Pakistan reportedly issued a ban on the Tehreek-i-Azad-i-Jammu and Kashmir, the rebranded organization set up by Jamaat-ud-Dawa leader Hafiz Saeed after his house arrest earlier this year, before the FATF meeting last week.
  • Polio Vaccinator Killed: A man working as a polio vaccination campaigner was killed in a driveby shooting in Swabi on Saturday; no claim of responsibility has been reported. [The Nation]
  • FATA Attacks: At least one security official and three other people were reportedly killed in a roadside bombing in the Medan Valley area of the Khyber Agency on Saturday. [The Nation]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Investigation: The Joint Investigation Team investigating the Panama Papers case and the Sharif family’s overseas business assets is preparing to finalize its report and submit it to the Supreme Court by July 10. The JIT interviewed Tariq Shafi, Prime Minister Sharif’s cousin, for a second time on Sunday; he told reporters afterwards that questioning had focused on the family’s Gulf Steel Mills. Sharif’s son Hassan Nawaz appeared before the JIT for the third time on Monday; in remarks to reporters afterwards, he suggested that the JIT was “trying to frame a charge” against his family but had not substantiated any wrongdoing. Hussain Nawaz and Maryam Nawaz are scheduled to testify before the JIT on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Friday, the Federal Investigation Agency questioned the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan and five directors over allegations by the JIT that they had withheld information as part of the probe; in remarks to reporters, chairman Zafar Hijazi denied any knowledge of any record tampering. Dawn reports that a former FIA deputy director, Inam Sehri, has submitted reports dating back to 1997 alleging money laundering by the Sharif family. In separate remarks over the weekend, PML-N ministers Khawaja Saad Rafique and Abid Sher Ali criticized the JIT proceedings; a PML-N source tells the Express Tribune that the party leadership has begun organizing activists to mobilize support. A PTI spokesman accused the government of “malign[ing] the judiciary and the JIT” and said that the PTI would not focus on any other pending legal challenges until the JIT investigation was resolved. [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • US Senators Visit: A delegation of U.S. senators led by Armed Services Chairman Sen. John McCain visited Islamabad on Sunday, meeting with foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz and Chief of Army Staff Bajwa for talks focused on bilateral relations and Pakistan’s relations with India and Afghanistan. Details of their conversations are minimal; in an interview with Pakistan Television, McCain said that “peace and stability in Afghanistan is not possible without Pakistan’s help” and that the “Kashmir problem should be resolved in a peaceful way through negotiations”. [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Sindh Weakens Police Chief, NAB Authorities: In an order on Friday, the Sindh provincial government removed the authority of the provincial police chief to make transfers and postings of senior police officials; the government has sought to remove police chief A.D. Khawaja twice so far this year, but his dismissal in April has been tied up in legal challenges. The provincial cabinet also decided to introduce an amendment voiding the authority of the National Accountability Bureau in the province; opposition parties denounced the move. [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: Speaking to supporters in Nushero Feroze on Saturday, former Pres. Zardari criticized Prime Minister Sharif’s leadership in the national assembly and claimed credit for laying the groundwork for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the strengthening of parliament. Zardari also dismissed the significance of PPP defections to the PTI, and predicted the party would sweep the next general elections. In remarks at a press conference on Sunday, Imran Khan confirmed that he would make all final decision on party ticket nominations for upcoming elections, rather than delegating the decision to district-level party leaders. MQM-London leader Nadeem Nusrat held meetings last week with Sen. McCain and Congressman Ted Poe; speaking at a press conference on Friday, MQM-Pakistan leader Farooq Sattar denounced Nusrat’s “anti-Pakistan lobbying”. [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Economic Indicators: The State Bank of Pakistan reported Friday that GDP growth rose to 5.3% during the first three quarters of FY2016-17, a ten-year high. At a meeting on Friday, Finance Minister Dar pledged to meet the government’s target of 6% growth in the new fiscal year, which began Saturday. The Federal Board of Revenue’s provisional figures indicate it fell more than Rs 250 billion short of the annual tax collection target for the outgoing fiscal year, which had been revised downward to Rs 3.521 trillion. [ET] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Zahid Nasrullah Appointed Ambassador to Afghanistan [The Nation]
  • North Waziristan Border Crossing to Be Reopened [Dawn]
  • Release of Raymond Davis Memoir Renews Criticisms [AP] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Bomb Defused on Rawalpindi-Bound Quetta Train Line [Dawn]
  • Lawyer Petitions for Medical Investigation for Jamshed Dasti; Bail Approved [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Interior Ministry Investigating Report of Afghan National Working in Passport Office [The Nation]
  • Foreign Loans for PSDP Exceed Budgetary Limit [ET]
  • ADB Offers $335M Loan for Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit Project [The Nation]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kunduz Offensive: Taliban fighters attacked the Dasht-e-Archi district in Kunduz on Saturday, but provincial officials say they were repelled by Afghan security forces; on Sunday, officials reported that the Taliban were carrying out attacks from two different directions on the provincial capital. TOLO reports that roads into the city have been cut off, and quotes provincial council members who warn that an Afghan National Army base in the city has been surrounded. Fighting was continuing as of Monday; an army helicopter reportedly made an emergency landing while en route to aid the army base. [Khaama Press]
  • NATO Assistance: Speaking on Saturday after the conclusion of last week’s meeting of NATO defense ministers, a spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry welcomed the alliance’s announcement that it would send an unspecified number of additional troops to Afghanistan. Some members of parliament called for additional funds to be sent instead, or for the alliance to put greater pressure on Pakistan. The defense ministry’s four-year security plan includes shifting control over the Afghan Border Police and Afghan National Civil Order Police from the interior to the defense ministry, and doubling the size of the Afghan special forces commando unit. [Khaama Press]
  • Kabul Attack: The German foreign ministry confirmed to local press on Friday that German intelligence agencies had received advanced warning of the truck bombing that struck near the German embassy in Kabul in late May, killing scores of people. National Directorate of Security chief Masoom Stanekzai said Sunday that the NDS had also received intelligence reports on the bomb plot and had been working jointly with Germany prior to the attack. [Khaama Press]
  • Attacks and Operations: Provincial police officials in Paktia have called for a military operation around the provincial capital of Gardez following recent attacks on police checkposts. The interior ministry reported that a Taliban shadow district governor for the Nerkh district in Faryab was killed in an operation on Friday. Taliban fighters attacked a local militia group gathering at a mosque in Balkh’s Chemtal district on Saturday, killing as many as thirteen. At least seven people were killed when the Taliban ambushed an Afghan army convoy in Faryab’s Shirin Tagab district on Saturday. Airstrikes in the Pacher Agam and Achin districts of Nangarhar province on Saturday killed several Islamic State fighters; in Jawzjan, provincial police claim ten ISIS fighters were killed in an airstrike on Friday. Helmand provincial officials claim that airstrikes and ground operations in the Nawa district killed at least 43 Taliban fighters on Sunday. Four civilians were killed in a roadside bombing in Kandahar on Monday. [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
  • Ghazni Police Chief Resigns: Ghazni provincial police chief Gen. Aminullah Amarkhel resigned from his position on Sunday, citing health issues; he had held the position since October 2015. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Alliance: In a statement on Friday, the leaders of the Jamiat-e-Islami, Junbesh-e-Milli, and Hizb-e-Wahdat-e-Islami parties — now operating under the banner of the “Coalition for the Rescue of Afghanistan” — accused Pres. Ghani of seeking to monopolize power and violating the law, and called for “systematic reforms” of the security services. TOLO quotes the group’s manifesto of demands, which includes reinstating Vice President Dostum and deputy to the chief executive Mohammad Mohaqiq to their positions and decentralizing control over budgeting to the provinces and ministries. A spokesman for Pres. Ghani said that if the group has “any alternative plans for overcoming the current situation, they should share them”; Chief Executive Abdullah has not commented on the group’s formation. In a statement on Saturday, Hezb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar said Saturday that he would “support any move or step that strengthens the current system” and “urged the political parties and movements to refrain from any such provocative acts that could take the country into further crisis”. Senate chairman Fazel Hadi Muslimyar described the opposition alliance’s formation as a “shameful” act and an attempt to “make a government inside government”. Several dozen protestors resumed demonstrations in Kabul on Monday, demanding the resignation of government officials; the Kabul Garrison warned demonstrators against gathering in key public areas or carrying firearms. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • New High Peace Council Chairman Sworn In: Speaking at a swearing-in ceremony for new High Peace Council chairman Karim Khalili on Sunday, Pres. Ghani said that “the Afghan government and nation wants peace with Pakistan” but did not expect it to deliver on that demand; TOLO quotes Ghani saying that “I do not want peace from Pakistan, but I want peace with Pakistan and it means that Pakistan should endorse Afghanistan as a dignified nation.” In his remarks, Khalili said that “the peace process does not mean ransom to any armed opposition and does not mean the failure of any negotiation parties”.
  • Election Preparations: On Sunday, the Independent Election Commission signed an agreement with the Ministry of Defense and National Directorate of Security to prepare a security strategy for elections scheduled to take place next July. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ghani Visits Turkmenistan [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Ministry of Information and Technology Seeks to Register SIM Cards [TOLO]
  • US Denies Visas for Afghanistan’s All-Girls Robotics Team [WAPO]
  • Son of Kam Air Owner Killed While Hunting in Balkh [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Saleh Urges US to Target Terrorists in Pakistan [TOLO]
  • Finance Ministry Preparing to Sign ‘Lapus Lazuli Corridor’ Agreement [TOLO]
  • Australian Firm Begins Technical Study for Second Salang Tunnel [TOLO]
  • Commentary: I Was US Ambassador to Afghanistan; The Military Can’t Fix This Mess Alone – “Winning will require impacting the calculations of all parties involved and marshaling the instruments of military, political and economic power at the disposal of the United States and its international partners.” [James Cunningham, The National Interest]

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