Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Shehbaz Meets with Cabinet, Army Chief; Uzbekistan Disputes ISKP Cross-Border Attack Claim

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Topline

  • Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif held his first meeting with Chief of Army Staff Bajwa on Tuesday, and chaired his first full cabinet meeting on Wednesday, which focused on economic challenges facing the government. Earlier on Tuesday, Shehbaz met with economic advisors and announced food subsidies for the month of Ramazan.
  • On Wednesday, a petition was filed in the Lahore High Court challenging the resignation of former chief minister Usman Buzdar; the petition follows a review by the provincial advocate general at the request of governor Omer Cheema.
  • A spokesman for the president of Uzbekistan denied claims by the Islamic State’s Khorasan province affiliate that it had carried out a cross-border rocket attack from Hairatan, Afghanistan against an Uzbek military base.
  • In a press conference on Tuesday, new federal information minister Marriyum Aurangzeb announced plans to disband the Pakistan Media Development Authority formed by the previous PTI government, and to review the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Ordinance.
  • In a statement on Wednesday, PML-N leader Javed Latif said that Nawaz Sharif would return to Pakistan after Eid. PPP leaders are reportedly meeting with Nawaz in London to discuss their partnership.
  • Reuters reports that the World Bank is maintaining a freeze on $150 million worth of spending for education projects in Afghanistan, but has resumed work on approximately $450 million worth of projects related to healthcare, agriculture, and livelihoods.

Pakistan — Security

  • Army Chief Meets PM: Chief of Army Staff Bajwa visited Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday for their first official meeting since Shehbaz took office; no details of their discussion were disclosed. Bajwa did not attend Shehbaz’s swearing-in ceremony earlier this month. [Dawn]
  • Counterterrorism Operations: Military officials announced on Tuesday that they had killed an unidentified militant suspect in an operation in North Waziristan; earlier, two paramilitary Frontier Corps recruits were killed in an attack over Monday night.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Government Formation: PM Shehbaz chaired his first full cabinet meeting on Wednesday, which focused on economic challenges facing the government; earlier on Tuesday, Shehbaz met with economic advisors and announced food subsidies for the month of Ramazan. The News reports that Shehbaz will meet with Pres. Alvi today. PPP leader Hina Rabbani Khar has been appointed state minister for foreign affairs and met with the foreign secretary on Tuesday. Dawn reports tension within the PML-N over the choice of cabinet appointees, and reports that JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman blocked the inclusion of the ANP and independent lawmaker Mohsin Dawar. PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is reportedly planning to visit London to meet with Nawaz Sharif and discuss the coalition partnership. JUI-F leader Zahid Akram Durrani is expected to be elected deputy national assembly speaker unopposed in a session on Wednesday. [ET]
  • Punjab Politics: On Wednesday, a petition was filed in the Lahore High Court challenging the resignation of former chief minister Usman Buzdar, arguing that Buzdar had failed to address it to former governor Chaudhry Sarwar; the petition follows a review by the provincial advocate general at the request of governor Omer Cheema. A Lahore district court granted nine PTI and PML-Q lawmakers pre-arrest bail in connection to the brawl in the provincial assembly on Saturday. [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Information Policy: In a press conference on Tuesday, new federal information minister Marriyum Aurangzeb announced plans to disband the Pakistan Media Development Authority formed by the previous PTI government, and to review the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Ordinance. [ET] [The News]
  • Legal Proceedings: Hearings continued in the Supreme Court on Tuesday on the PTI petition seeking lifetime disqualification for lawmakers who defect from party directives. The PTI has challenged Election Commission proceedings investigating its overseas fundraising, arguing that the ECP lacks a complete quorum. On Wednesday, the Islamabad High Court ordered the disclosure of information about public gifts received by Imran Khan during his tenure. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • External Relations: New finance minister Miftah Ismail met with the Chinese charge d’affaires in Islamabad on Tuesday to discuss CPEC projects. Anonymous diplomatic sources tell the Express Tribune that the new government will seek to “repair the damage done to the relationship with the West, especially the US, during the PTI government”, and that PM Shehbaz will travel to Saudi Arabi next month. Shehbaz met with the UK ambassador on Wednesday. US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) visited Islamabad on Wednesday.
  • Other Political Activity: Imran Khan will give an address on social media on Wednesday, ahead of a planned rally in Lahore tomorrow. In a statement on Wednesday, PML-N leader Javed Latif said that Nawaz Sharif would return to Pakistan after Eid; Dawn notes prior strains between Latif, who has been included in the federal cabinet, and Shehbaz. The Lahore High Court has suspended plans for local elections in Punjab while it hears a challenge to constituency boundaries in the Khushab district. MQM national assembly lawmaker Iqbal Muhammad Ali Khan passed away on Tuesday.[Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Foreign Direct Investment Turns Net Negative in March [Dawn]
  • Commentary: How Imran Khan’s Removal Affected Civil-Military Ties in Pakistan – “The outpouring of support for Khan among military personnel – serving and retired, young and old, junior and senior, and their families – is a sensitive issue in Pakistan because it has the potential to cast the weight of overall military opinion behind Khan and against the military leadership.” [Cyril Almeida, AJE]

Afghanistan — Security

  • ISIS in Afghanistan: A spokesman for the president of Uzbekistan denied claims by the Islamic State’s Khorasan province affiliate that it had carried out a cross-border rocket attack from Hairatan, Afghanistan against an Uzbek military base.
  • Kabul Bombing: The NYT and Washington Post have additional reports on yesterday’s bombing at a Shia school in western Kabul, in which six people were killed; the attack was broadly condemned by Afghan and international officials.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Girls’ Education: In remarks on Tuesday, Nangarhar deputy intelligence chief Rahmatullah Najib stated that the curriculum and practice of girls’ secondary education in Afghanistan was “in opposition to Sharia law”, without providing further justification.
  • Refugees and Repatriation: On Tuesday, the US Embassy in Pakistan announced plans to spend $48 million in assistance to support Afghan refugees living in Pakistan. On Tuesday, the Taliban ministry of defense touted the return of a former Afghan Air Force pilot.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Humanitarian Assistance: World Bank sources tell Reuters that they are maintaining a freeze on $150 million worth of spending for education projects in Afghanistan, but have resumed work on approximately $450 million worth of projects related to healthcare, agriculture, and livelihoods. The Taliban ministry of public health reports that at least 308 children have died from malnourishment since the start of the year, with another 200,000 affected by malnutrition.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Central Bank Establishes Telegraphic Transfer Facility [Ariana News]
  • Commentary: The Fourth Wave of COVID-19 Hits Afghanistan – “Another wave of Covid-19 struck Afghanistan early in 2022 with doctors throughout the country reporting a rise in cases from January onwards. The devastation suffered by the Afghan health system since the suspension of most foreign aid following the Taleban takeover left it wholly unprepared to deal with the wave.” [Rohullah Sorush and Thomas Ruttig, AAN]

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