Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Nawaz’s Confrontational Statements Alarm PML-N Leaders; Taliban Resume Attacks in Farah

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Topline

  • Nawaz Sharif’s defiant statements this week have strained relations with PM Abbasi and Shehbaz Sharif, who have sought to press Nawaz to take a less confrontational stance.
  • Taliban fighters resumed attacks in Farah city over Wednesday night, with several suicide bombers reportedly striking near the provincial police headquarters. Police officials say search operations are currently underway in the city.
  • A cabinet meeting on Thursday reportedly approved moving ahead on FATA reforms legislation, despite objections from the PML-N’s allies the JUI-F and PkMAP, and statements the day prior that the issue would be deferred to the next government.
  • Pres. Ghani met with the families of victims of an Afghan Air Force airstrike in Kunduz in early April, apologizing for civilian deaths.
  • A Pakistani Military Intelligence colonel was killed and four soldiers wounded during an operation outside Quetta on Wednesday, which killed the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi provincial head for Balochistan, identified as Salman Badeni.
  • Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement leaders tell Reuters dozens of their supporters have been harassed and extrajudicially detained over the past month.
  • Pres. Mamnoon Hussain is expected to announce a date for the next general elections in Pakistan next week; anonymous Election Commission sources tell Dawn it will likely take place July 27.
  • Pres. Ghani and other officials called on the Taliban to allow for a ceasefire as Ramadan begins in Afghanistan and in Pakistan today.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • LeJ Commander, Army Colonel Killed in Balochistan: On Thursday, the Pakistani military announced that it had killed Salman Badeni, identified as the provincial head of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and two other militants in an operation the previous day in the Killi Almas area of Balochistan, near Quetta. A Pakistani colonel, a military intelligence officer, was killed and four soldiers wounded during the operation. [AP] [Reuters] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • PTM Detentions: Leaders of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement tell Reuters that dozens of PTM activists have been extrajudicially detained across the country over the past month, particularly in the run-up to the movement’s most recent protest in Karachi; university sources say they have been warned against hosting forums on Pashtun rights, and activists report threats. In Khyber Paktunkhwa, government officials have agreed to reconvene a “grand jirga” with PTM representatives.
  • Nowshera Bombing: At least a dozen people were wounded in a suicide attack on a Frontier Corps convoy in Nowshera on Thursday; no immediate claim of responsibility has been reported. [ET]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PML-N Leaders Discuss Nawaz ‘Confrontation with Establishment’: Top PML-N leaders, including Nawaz and Shehbaz Sharif and PM Abbasi, met in Islamabad on Wednesday; Abbasi and Shehbaz reportedly pressed Nawaz to deescalate his confrontation with the military establishment after remarks earlier this week drew censure from a meeting of the National Security Council. Nawaz is reported to remain defiant; he told reporters on Wednesday that he would “reveal the names of sponsors of the PTI and PAT anti-government sit-ins at a suitable time”. At a meeting of PML-N lawmakers on Thursday, Shehbaz and Abbasi reportedly assured them that Nawaz would “soften the stance he has taken”. On Thursday, the Lahore High Court dismissed a treason petition against Nawaz over his earlier remarks. [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • FATA Reforms: The Express Tribune reports that a cabinet meeting on Thursday agreed to introduce FATA reforms legislation over the objections of the government’s allies the JUI-F and PkMAP; earlier on Wednesday, States and Frontier Regions Minister Abdul Qadir Baloch had told the national assembly that the issue would be deferred to the next government, however. JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman reiterated opposition to the merger in remarks on Wednesday. [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: The Supreme Court registrar rejected a PML-N petition seeking the removal of National Accountability Bureau chairman Javed Iqbal on Wednesday. The Express Tribune notes ambiguities in the law as to how a NAB chairman could be removed from office. Iqbal did not appear in response to a national assembly committee summons on Wednesday, which was postponed until May 22. [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: Pres. Hussain is expected to announce the date for the next general elections next week; an anonymous Election Commission official tells Dawn that the polls will likely be set for July 27. The Sindh High Court is hearing a challenge against ECP constituency delimitations. PML-N party leaders will meet on Thursday to consider candidate nominations for Punjab. A meeting of the Balochistan Awami Party on Wednesday elected Jam Mir Kamal as the party president. On Wednesday, PML-N national assembly member Mir Zafarullah Jamali announced his resignation. The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal has formed a provincial cabinet for its Khyber Paktunkhwa chapter; speaking at a press conference, MMA general secretary and Jamiat-e-Islami leader Liaquat Baloch said that “our establishment is forcing people before the upcoming elections to change their loyalties and join a specific political party”. [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Lahore Metro Test Run: Shehbaz Sharif inaugurated a test run of the Lahore Orange Line Metro Train project on Wednesday, pledging that work on the project would be completed within the next three months. [ET]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Ramazan Begins Thursday [Dawn]
  • FIA Interviews Former Army and ISI Chiefs in Asghar Khan Case [Dawn]
  • Army Transfers Peshawar Checkposts to Police [Dawn]
  • Bajwa Meets Visiting Nepalese Army Chief [The Nation]
  • Construction of Mohmand-Bajaur Expressway Halted Due to Lack of Funds [ET]
  • Compensation Payments for 2017 Quetta Church Attack Victims Still Unpaid [Dawn]
  • Huge Power Breakdown Cripples Life in Khyber Paktunkhwa and Punjab [Dawn]
  • Pakistan’s External Debt Soars to Record $91.8 Billion [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Fighting Resumes in Farah: Fighting resumed in Farah city Wednesday evening, with three suicide bombers reportedly attacking near police headquarters and other government buildings overnight. The city police chief tells Reuters that search operations are now underway in the city, and claimed that foreign fighters were bolstering the Taliban forces. On Thursday, the ministry of education ordered schools in Farah to close due to insecurity, at least through Eid. [Pajhwok]
  • Ghani Apologizes for Kunduz Civilian Deaths: Pres. Ghani met with tribal elders and families of the victims of an Afghan Air Force airstrike in Kunduz’s Dasht-e-Archi district in early April, apologizing for the civilian casualties; UN investigations reported at least 31 deaths and dozens of injuries in the incident. [Ariana News]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: On Thursday, the NDS announced the arrest of a man identified as an Islamic State recruiter in Kabul. A roadside bomb was discovered and defused in the Qarabagh district in Kabul on Wednesday. [Khaama Press] [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Calls for Peace as Ramadan Begins: Pres. Ghani, UN Special Representative Yamamoto, and Resolute Support commander Gen. Nicholson all issued separate messages on Thursday urging the Taliban to institute a ceasefire as Ramadan begins in Afghanistan.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Head of Administrative Office of the President Daud Noorzai Resigns [Khaama Press]
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