Category Archives: News Briefs

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Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Trump Meets Advisors on Strategy Review; Sharif Lawyers Continue Panama Papers Defense

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Topline

  • Pres. Trump met with top national security advisor on Wednesday, and will visit the Pentagon today for further briefings focused on the administration’s Afghanistan and South Asia strategy review. Reporting suggests divisions remain between top National Security Council, Pentagon, and State Department officials, and one source tells the Military Times that finalization of the strategy is “literally weeks away”.
  • Lawyers for the Sharif family continued arguments before the Supreme Court on the Panama Papers Joint Investigation Team report. The Nation reports that the PML-N is seeking to guard against the formation of a “forward bloc” within the party, and that National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq has been floated as a possible replacement in the event that Prime Minister Sharif is disqualified from office.
  • Pakistan’s military claimed to have killed five Indian soldiers in retaliatory fire along the Line of Control in Kashmir on Wednesday, after one Pakistani soldier and two civilians were killed earlier in the day.
  • Speaking at a ceremony on Wednesday, Abdullah Abdullah rebuffed criticism from opposition critics; in remarks to supporters on Thursday, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar accused those groups of simply seeking a share of power.
  • The Pakistani parliamentary committee on electoral reforms approved electoral reform legislation on Thursday, but the PTI has announced a boycott of the committee’s proceedings.

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: In a statement on Wednesday, Pakistan’s military said that one Pakistan soldier had been killed along with two civilians in cross-border firing along the Line of Control, and claimed to have retaliated against Indian posts, killing five Indian soldiers and injuring many. Foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz also met with a delegation from the Hurriyat Conference. [AP]
  • FATA Operations: On Thursday, the Pakistani military reported that 13 terrorist suspects had been killed in the Rajgal Valley region of the Khyber Agency as part of new operations there; one soldier was also killed. On Wednesday, military spokesmen rebuffed criticism from the Afghan defense ministry, whose spokesman had said that they were not consulted on the new operations and that they should target “the terrorist centers are located in Pakistan; Quetta Council, Peshawar Council and Miranshah Council that are Taliban groups”. [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Bhutto Cousin Detained: Family members of Mushtaq Bhutto, a cousin and former advisor to the late prime minister Benazir Bhutto, say that he was detained by law enforcement personnel in Karachi on Tuesday evening and that his whereabouts are currently unknown.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Hearings: Lawyers for Prime Minister Sharif’s children began arguments before the Supreme Court on Thursday, at which court judges reiterated their demand for a clear money trail used for the purchase of the family’s London real estate. Judges also warned that the family was at risk of prosecution for submitting forged documents. Earlier on Wednesday, lawyers for Prime Minister Sharif argued that he had not been proven to have been the owner or beneficiary of the apartments. Speaking at a gathering of supporters in Sialkot on Wednesday, Nawaz said that he was “not worried about my accountability because if I am being held accountable today, others will face accountability tomorrow”, denying any corruption or misuse of authority on his part. At a press conference on Wednesday, Imran Khan said that Sharif had “done nothing but corruption in the name of business”. The Nation reports that Shehbaz Sharif has reached out to Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan in an effort to defuse tensions between him and the prime minister; a separate piece reports that several senior party leaders have been tasked to monitor the PML-N’s parliamentary delegation against the chance of a “forward bloc” splintering off. Another piece reports that National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq has been tapped as a potential replacement in the event that Prime Minister Sharif is disqualified from office; Khawaja Asif, Ashan Iqbal, Chaudhry Nisar, and Kulsoom Nawaz are also reportedly under consideration as possible replacements. [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: On Thursday, Finance Minister Dar announced that the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms had reached agreement on the passage of new amendments to the electoral law; the PTI announced a walkout from the committee process, however. Elsewhere, the Election Commission referred an MQM petition against the victory of PPP candidate Saeed Ghani in the PS-114 special election to an election tribunal. [The Nation] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Senators Chairman Seeks Report on Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act Implementation [Dawn]
  • Facebook Was Where Pakistan Could Debate Religion; Now It’s a Tool to Punish ‘Blasphemers’ [Guardian]
  • Army Chief Visits Heavy Industries Taxila [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Sindh Chief Minister Seeks Sales Tax Collection Authority [ET]
  • Report: Pakistan Country Report on Terrorism 2016 – “The government did not take any significant action against LeT or JeM, other than implementing an ongoing ban against media coverage of their activities. LeT and JeM continued to hold rallies, raise money, recruit, and train in Pakistan.” [US State Department]

Afghanistan — Security

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Politics: Speaking at a ceremony on Wednesday, Chief Executive Abdullah called for national unity and brushed off the criticisms of opposition party leaders who have called for the removal of top security officials and criticized Abdullah for failing to represent the Jamiat-e-Islami party’s interests. Speaking to supporters on Thursday, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar dismissed the new opposition coalition formed by Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor, Vice President Dostum, and Hezb-e-Wahdat-e-Islami leader Mohammad Mohaqiq, suggesting it had been formed “mainly to seek [a] share in the power”. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Iran Aims to Boost Prestige of Beleaguered Afghan Proxy Force in Syria [RFE/RL]
  • Child Sexual Abuse Added to Afghan Penal Code Revisions [Khaama Press]
  • Afghan Government Appoints Second Woman as District Governor [Khaama Press]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Sharif Lawyers Continue JIT Report Arguments; Dostum Spokesman Says He Will Return Within a Week

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Topline

  • Lawyers for Prime Minister Sharif and his family and aides continued their arguments before the Supreme Court on Tuesday and Wednesday, seeking to challenge the findings of the Joint Investigation Team report on the Panama Papers case. The PTI warned of street protests if Sharif was not ultimately disqualified.
  • Spokesman for Vice Pres. Dostum continue to deny that his plane was diverted from returning to Mazar-e-Sharif yesterday, although their accounts conflict as to whether he is in Turkmenistan or Turkey; one spokesman said that Dostum would return to Afghanistan within a week. A spokesman for the NATO Resolute Support mission denied any involvement in the re-routing of Dostum’s plane.
  • Pres. Trump met with four U.S. veterans on Tuesday to discuss Afghanistan, saying he wanted “to find out why we’ve been there for 17 years, how it’s going and what we should do in terms of additional ideas.”
  • At the direction of Pres. Ghani, the Afghan Ministry of Interior has introduced a new provincial rotation requirement for Kabul police.
  • Four members of a Hazara family and their driver were killed in a driveby shooting in Balochistan’s Mastung district on Wednesday.
  • Two civilians were killed and 13 wounded in cross-border firing along the Line of Control in Kashmir on Tuesday; Pakistan’s foreign ministry formally protested the ceasefire violations.

Pakistan — Security

  • Hazaras Targeted in Mastung: Four members of a Hazara family and their driver were killed in an attack on their vehicle in Balochistan’s Mastung district on Wednesday; no claim of responsibility has been reported, although police officials said they believed the attack was sectarian in nature. [AP] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Tensions with India: Two civilians were killed and as many as 13 wounded in cross-border shelling along the Line of Control on Tuesday, local officials reported; Pakistan formally protested the firing in a summons to the Indian deputy high commissioner. [AP] [The Nation]
  • Haqqani Network: Speaking during senate debate on Tuesday, foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz insisted that Pakistan’s “policy towards all militants and their networks, including the Haqqani network is quite clear,” saying that “we will fight them wherever they are and will never tolerate their presence on our soil.” The Post profiles the Haqqani network and its ties to Pakistan.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Hearings: Lawyers for Prime Minister Sharif argued before the Supreme Court on Wednesday that the Joint Investigation Team in the Panama Papers case had not found evidence of corruption against the prime minister, and had not proven that he was the real owner of real estate holding companies owned by his children. Court judges said that there was no still no clear money trail establishing the source of funds used to purchase London apartments by the Sharif children. Lawyers for Finance Minister Dar argued that the JIT did not have a mandate to recommend reopening old corruption cases. A spokesman for the PTI warned of protests if Prime Minister Sharif was not disqualified from office, while PPP parliamentary opposition leader Khurshid Shah reiterated calls for Sharif to resign. On Tuesday, the national Pakistan Bar Council and the Supreme Court Bar Association announced a countrywide strike on Wednesday, calling on the Supreme Court to disqualify Sharif. On Tuesday, the Lahore High Court dismissed a PTI petition seeking the disqualification of Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif. [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • US Transfers Hand-Held Explosive Detectors to Pakistan [Dawn]
  • Senators Debate Raheel Sharif’s Leadership of Saudi Military Alliance [Dawn]
  • Anti-Narcotics Force Says Half of Afghan Drug Production Smuggled Through Pakistan [The Nation]
  • Lahore High Court Overturns PEMRA Ban on Indian TV Dramas [ET]
  • Devaluation Risks Another Hazard for Battered Pakistan Market [Bloomberg]

Afghanistan — Security

  • US Strategy: On Tuesday, Pres. Trump held a lunch meeting with four US servicemembers who had served in Afghanistan, telling reporters that he wants “to find out why we’ve been there for 17 years, how it’s going and what we should do in terms of additional ideas.”
  • Police Reforms: On Tuesday, the Ministry of Interior announced that Pres. Ghani had ordered changes to the Kabul police service, introducing a rotation requirement that officers also serve in the provinces. [TOLO]
  • Attacks and Operations: Taliban fighters attacked the Baghlan-e-Markazi district in Baghlan province on Tuesday morning, with fighting reportedly to still be ongoing through the day; TOLO reports that Afghan Air Force reinforcements were deployed by the afternoon. In Zabul, eight policemen were killed and seven wounded in attacks on their checkposts in the Arghandab district over Tuesday night. Nangarhar provincial officials say 14 Islamic State fighters were killed in operations in the Achin district on Tuesday. Seven people were reportedly killed in the premature explosion of a bomb at the home of an ISIS operative in the Pacher Agam district on Wednesday, and a Taliban insider attack reportedly left two senior Taliban leaders dead in the Bati Kot district on Tuesday night. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Dostum Diversion Dispute: A spokesman for the NATO Resolute Support mission denied any involvement by the coalition in the diversion of Vice President Dostum’s plane from Mazar-e-Sharif on Tuesday, saying “it is not the business of the Resolute Support Mission to get involved in internal Afghan government affairs”. A spokesman for Dostum said on Wednesday that he would return to Afghanistan within a week, and insisted he was still in Turkey, not Turkmenistan as reports suggested earlier; other Dostum spokesmen have admitted that the diversion took place, but attributed it to technical issues with the plane. [WSJ] [AJE]
  • Corruption Investigations: On Tuesday, the Attorney General’s office announced the arrest of seven senior military officials, including three generals, accused of embezzling funds and the misuse of their authority.
  • Taliban Talks: Afghan ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal met with JUI-S leader Sami-ul Haq in Nowshera on Tuesday, their third meeting in recent months; Sami agreed to support efforts to open up peace talks with the Taliban, but said that this would be conditional on the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan. [The Nation] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghan Girl Robotics Team Wins Silver at Competition [NYT]
  • Commentary: Defying Dostum: A New Jombesh and the Struggle for Leadership Over Afghanistan’s Uzbeks – “With the overshadowing figure of Dostum away and his return unclear, the dissidents dared to do what they had tried to avoid for more than a decade whilst pushing for reform (and, without saying it aloud, trying to sideline the volatile Dostum) – they made a break with the mother party.” [Thomas Ruttig, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PML-N Challenges Report on Sharif Family Assets; Dostum Diverted from Return to Mazar-e-Sharif

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Note: The news returns to its daily update schedule from today; the following summary covers events during the period between July 8th-18th. Apologies again for the interruption in service and the resulting length of this brief. Thanks for reading.

Topline

  • The Joint Investigation Team investigating the Panama Papers case presented its report to the Supreme Court of Pakistan on July 10, which found “significant discrepancies” between the declared sources of income and the wealth of the Sharif family, and recommended the reopening of cases against Prime Minister Sharif, his children, and a number of close aides. Opposition leaders seized on the report to demand Nawaz’s resignation, which he has refused to profer; on July 17, PML-N lawyers began arguments before the Supreme Court seeking to rebut the JIT report’s findings and argue against the court taking up its recommendations. The PTI is also continues to face its own court cases regarding the party’s funding and Imran Khan’s real estate assets, with the next Supreme Court hearings scheduled for July 25.
  • Vice President Dostum was reportedly set to arrive by plane in Mazar-e-Sharif on July 18, but his flight was diverted to Kabul, and instead of proceeding there he re-routed to Turkmenistan. Spokesmen for Dostum deny that his flight was changed at all. His abortive return came after Pres. Ghani and the attorney general’s office confirmed that abuse charges against him had been referred to a Anti-Corruption and Justice Center court; spokesmen for Dostum said that he would not appear before the court, and dismissed the charge as an attempt by political rivals to discredit him with international allies. Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor and Hezb-e-Wahdat-e-Islami leader Mohammad Mohaqiq, the other members of the opposition alliance formed with Dostum last month, continue to criticize Pres. Ghani’s leadership, accusing him of monopolize power, particularly through the use of the National Procurement Commission. On July 16, former NDS chief Rahmatullah Nabil and former national security advisor Rangin Dadfar Spanta announced the formation of a new political party.
  • Advisors to Pres. Trump have reportedly sought recommendations from private military contractors on alternatives to the deployment of additional U.S. troops in Afghanistan sought by the Pentagon; Sec. Mattis is reportedly opposed to the plan, one version of which would reportedly shift authority over operations to the CIA and increase reliance on local paramilitaries.
  • Cross-border tensions in Kashmir spiked following the one-year death anniversary of local militant commander Burhan Wani, which both Prime Minister Sharif and Chief of Army Staff Bajwa commemorated in separate statements on July 8. At least five Indian and four Pakistani soldiers were reported to have been killed.
  • The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan released midyear figures on civilian casualties in Afghanistan on July 17, reporting a 2% year-on-year increase in civilians killed, or 1,662 in total, and another 3,581 injured.
  • The Pentagon announced that Abu Sayed, identified as the new emir of the Islamic State’s Khorasan Province affiliate, had been killed in an airstrike in Kunar province on July 11; US and NATO commander Gen. John Nicholson vowed to continue operations against ISIS in Afghanistan “until they are eliminated”.
  • On July 16, the Pakistani military announced new operations in the Khyber Agency, which they said would target TTP splinter groups and Islamic State-affiliated militants in the area. Bombings targeted Frontier Corps checkposts in Khyber and the Kurram Agency the preceding week.
  • The Sindh government appointed a new Karachi police chief and several deputies, as control over postings and transfers has been taken away from the provincial police chief. The government extended policing powers for the paramilitary Rangers for another 90 day period on July 12.
  • Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan met with representatives from Facebook, seeking to restrict “blasphemous” content online and to link Facebook accounts to registered mobile phone numbers, a request which Facebook declined.
  • Officials with Afghanistan’s High Peace Council say they are developing a new peace strategy for outreach to the Taliban, including a proposal for a ceasefire agreement around the parliamentary elections scheduled for next year.
  • Responding to criticism from Iranian Pres. Hassan Rouhani, Afghan officials reiterated their intention to construct dams on several rivers that share water with Iran.
  • Pakistan’s trade deficit hit a record high of $32.6 billion in the previous fiscal year, new Pakistan Bureau of Statics figures indicate, driven by a drop in exports and remittances and increase in imports. Pakistani finance officials have reportedly decided to maintain the current rupee-dollar parity, however, and are said to be considering new tariffs as a means of reducing imports.

Pakistan — Security

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Economic Indicators: Pakistan’s trade deficit totaled $32.6 billion in the 2016-17 fiscal year, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics figures released July 11 indicates, a 36.3% increase over the previous year. Exports fell 1.63% to $20.44 billion, while imports rose to a record high $53 billion, a 18.7% increase. State Bank of Pakistan data for the previous fiscal year released July 10 found that remittances to Pakistan dropped year-on-year for the first time in 13 years, totaling $19.3 billion, a drop of 3.08% from last year. A meeting of the government’s Monetary and Fiscal Policies Coordination Board on July 14 reportedly agreed to maintain rupee-dollar parity, and may consider tariff rate increases in order to reduce imports. [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • US Assistance: On July 13, the House Appropriations Committee began hearings on the 2018 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, which includes $642.2 million in assistance to Pakistan; the Secretary of State is only authorized to waive counterterrorism cooperation certification requirements on 85% of Foreign Military Financing funds. [ET]
  • CPEC Projects: Speaking at a conference on July 12, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa touted the benefits to Pakistan and the region of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Project, and underscored that “all national institutions will have to make a deliberate effort to ensure success of the CPEC”. On July 8, the board of the National Transmission Dispatch Company removed its director, Dr. Fiaz Chaudhry, over “lack of professionalism allegedly on his part in executing various projects” related to CPEC. On July 11, the China Construction Third Engineering Bureau  was awarded a Rs 2.6 billion contract for the reconstruction of the Lahore airport. [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • “Banned” Organizations Thrive Online [AP]
  • Former Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif Visits Lahore with Saudi Entourage [Dawn]
  • Peshawar High Court Orders Investigation Into Prisons for Mashal Khan Lynching Trial [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Lyari Gang Leader’s Brother Killed in Police Encounter [Dawn]
  • PTI Councillor in Haripur Arrested in Connection to Journalist’s Murder [ET]
  • Shipment of Trucks for US Army in Afghanistan Arrives at Karachi Port [Dawn]
  • PIA Ex-CEO Fails to Return to Pakistan [ET]
  • Malala Yousafzai Finishes High School in UK [NYT]
  • Punjab Government Approves Rs 8.44 Billion in Office Construction for Union Councils [ET]
  • Sindh High Court Investigation Finds 77% of Water in 14 Districts Unsafe for Drinking [Dawn]
  • Petroleum Minister Sees Bigger LNG Profile, Imports to Surge by 2022 [Reuters]
  • Moody’s Notes Concerns Over High Debt Burden [ET] [Dawn]
  • Balochistan Fails to Account for Over 1,500 Government Schools [Dawn]
  • Report: 2017 IMF-Pakistan Article IV Consultation Report – “The accumulation of arrears in the power sector has resumed, financial losses of ailing public sector enterprises continue to weigh on scarce fiscal resources, and exports remain low.” [IMF] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]

Afghanistan — Security

  • US Strategy: The NYT reports that Trump administration advisors Stephen Bannon and Jared Kushner have sought proposals from Blackwater founder Erik Prince and DynCorps owner Stephen Feinberg as alternatives to the Pentagon’s plan to send several thousand additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan; Sec. Mattis is reported to have rebuffed those suggestions, which reportedly included shifting control over operations in Afghanistan to the CIA and increasing a reliance on paramilitary units. [TOLO]
  • Pentagon Reports Death of New ISIS Affiliate Leader: On July 14, the Pentagon announced that a U.S. airstrike in Kunar province earlier that week on July 11 had killed Abu Sayed, identified as the newest leader of the Islamic State’s Khorasan province affiliate in Afghanistan, following the death of commander Abdul Hasib Logari in a U.S. operation in Nangarhar in April. Few details of the operation were released. In remarks on July 15, US commander Gen. John Nicholson vowed to continue operations against ISIS in Afghanistan “until they are eliminated”. Earlier on July 10, the NATO Resolute Support mission denied ISIS claims to have killed two U.S. soldiers in Nangarhar, but confirmed that two soldiers had been wounded. Airstrikes and ground operations against ISIS fighters were reported in the Haska Mina and Ghani Khel districts of Nangarhar province on July 7; the Qosh Tapa district of Jawzjan province on July 9; Pacher Agam and Chaparhar distircts of Nangarhar on July 13; the Asmar and Shigal districts of Kunar province on the same day; and the Pacher Agam district on July 14. Afghan security forces reported disrupting an ISIS bombing plot in Jalalabad on July 17; eight civilians were freed from ISIS captivity in Haska Mina on July 14. In remarks in a parliament session on July 17, Haji Zahir Qadir accused the government of failing to check the Islamic State affiliate’s activity in Nangarhar, and threatened to carry out protests in Kabul and Jalalabad if they did not take action. [NYT] [WSJ] [Reuters] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Civilian Casualties: The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan released mid-year civilian casualty figures on July 17, reporting a 2% increase in civilians killed during the six-month period, or 1,662 in total. Another 3,581 were injured, with women and children being particularly vulnerable to violence. Mass-casualty attacks in Kabul were a significant driver of violence, with more civilians killed there than in Helmand. The Taliban dismissed the report’s validity, accusing government forces of causing the majority of casualties; although overall casualties attributed to government forces dropped, the share caused by US and Afghan airstrikes increased 43%. Separately, the Post notes that U.S. and coalition aircraft droped or expended 1,634 munitions in Afghan operations through June 30 of this year, up from 545 last year. On July 16, a NATO spokesman refuted Taliban allegations that airstrikes in Kunduz and Uruzgan had destroyed  school buildings and caused civilian casualties, a charge that was echoed by former Pres. Karzai. [AP] [Guardian] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Tensions with Pakistan: The WSJ reports on the agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan earlier this month to restart joint counterterrorism and border security cooperation agreements, with the U.S. playing a monitoring and verification role; some Afghan officials are said to favor a Chinese oversight role as well. Speaking at a press conference on July 11, Pres. Ghani said that the two countries had yet to finalize a memorandum of understanding on intelligence exchanges, adding that “the factory of interference must be closed in Afghanistan. In establishing peace, at first we want peace with Pakistan; peace with the Taliban comes next.” At a weekly press briefing on July 13, a spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign ministry said that “the focus should be on a politically negotiated settlement under an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process” and “on exploring political incentives that can attract Taliban to negotiations”. In remarks on July 14, Pakistani Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Zubair Mahmood Hayat accused Afghan intelligence services of cooperating with Indian intelligence in seeking to sabotage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project; a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense said that it would “never allow Afghanistan to be used as the centers of terrorism against the other countries.” [Dawn] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
  • Kabul Security: Kabul acting mayor Abdullah Habibzai announced July 15 that the city would begin restricting vehicle access to the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood. The Ministry of Justice is reportedly developing a draft law that would give the government authority to restrict public demonstrations in sensitive areas.
  • Taliban Infighting: Militants belonging to the Rasool splinter group clashed with Taliban fighters in Badghis’ Jawand district on July 7, with as many as seven reportedly killed. Nangarhar provincial officials reported July 12 that a Taliban commander had been killed in a clash with a rival in the Bati Kot district.
  • Ghani Signs ‘Cybercrime’ Law: On July 10, Pres. Ghani signed a new Cyber Crime Law, which criminalizes hacking, the distribution of defamatory or hate speech, and the breech of government secrets.
  • Southern Attacks and Operations: The NYT and Reuters report on Marine operations in Helmand, where a small force is providing support to the Afghan National Army’s 215th Corps. On July 17, Afghan forces retook control of the Nawa district in Helmand from the Taliban, who had seized the district nine months ago; a spokesman for the provincial governor said that 20 Taliban fighters and one Afghan soldier had been killed, although military spokesmen put the Taliban toll at 50 or more killed. U.S. airpower supported the operation. On July 12, Taliban fighters attacked a military convoy on the Kandahar-Kabul highway; seven militants were killed. On July 15, four policemen were killed in a Taliban attack on their checkpost near the Zabul provincial capital of Qalat; the day prior, two children were killed in a rocket attack in the Shajoi district in Zabul. [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Eastern Attacks and Operations: A bomb planted in the vehicle of a Nangarhar tribal elder in the Pekha district killed him and two others on July 8; there has been no claim of responsibility. A US drone strike killed a Taliban commander and six others while they were traveling by car through the Bati Kot district in Nangarhar on July 15. Another drone strike in Paktia’s Zurmat district on July 9 reportedly killed seven militant suspects. Two would-be suicide bombers were killed by Paktia police in the capital of Gardez on July 15. Wardak police officials report five Taliban fighters were killed in a clash in the Jalrez district on July 10, including the Taliban military commander for the district. On July 11, a Taliban commander was reportedly killed in an attack on a checkpost in the Alisheng district of Laghman province; two policemen were also killed. Operations in the Logar district of Mohammad Agha on July 9 reportedly killed 16 Taliban fighters. A policeman was killed in a roadside bombing in the Azra district in Logar on July 15. [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Northern Attacks and Operations: Kunduz police report that the Taliban deputy shadow governor for the province, identified as Mawlawi Nooruddin, was killed in an airstrike on the outskirts of the capital on July 17. Taliban fighters attacked police checkposts in the Jabal Saraj district of Parwan province on July 8, targeting areas along the Ghorband highway. On July 13, Taliban fighters attacked a fuel tanker convoy near the Baghlan capital of Pul-e-Khumri; two tankers were destroyed and two Taliban fighters were reportedly killed. [Khaama Press]
  • Western Attacks and Operations: Eight Afghan army soldiers were kidnapped from their checkpost in the Ab Kamari district in Badghis province after a Taliban attack on July 14, local officials report. Provincial government officials report seven civilians were killed in the Bala Bolok district of Farah province on July 12, after they were seized from their vehicle by Taliban fighters. Taliban fighters attacked checkposts in the Tewora district of Ghor province over the night of July 17; provincial police say they killed 13 attackers. [TOLO] [AP]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Dostum’s Return Aborted: In remarks at a press conference on July 11, Pres. Ghani said that Vice Pres. Dostum had been allowed to leave the country earlier this summer with the permission of the attorney general’s office, but was still facing a case against him for the alleged abuse of former Jawzjan governor Ahmad Eschi. Ghani’s remarks coincided with separate comments by U.S. Charges D’Affaires Hugo Llorens, in which he described the charges against Dostum as “serious allegations” which needed “thorough investigation”. EU ambassador Franz-Michael Melbin echoed that assessment in remarks on July 13. On July 12, the attorney general’s office confirmed that it had forwarded the case for court hearings on June 22; Dostum and his bodyguards did not appear at hearings that took place on July 13, and a spokesman for Dostum said that he would not appear before the court. On July 18, a plane carrying Dostum was reportedly diverted from landing in Mazar-e-Sharif; rather than proceeding to Kabul as directed, he landed in Turkmenistan. A spokesman for Dostum denied that the plane was diverted and said that he had not made a decision about returning to Afghanistan; the NYT reports several hundred people had gathered in Mazar in anticipation of his return, and also reports that a NATO coalition commander rebuffed a request from governor Atta Mohmmad Noor to intervene and facilitate Dostum’s landing. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Opposition Politics: Speaking on July 16, Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor accused Pres. Ghani of “monopolizing power” and “occupying the leadership”. Atta specifically criticized the National Procurement Commission led by Ghani, which Hezb-e-Wahdat-e-Islami leader and opposition coalition ally Mohammad Mohaqiq also criticized in a July 14 TOLO interview. A spokesman for the authority defended its work in remarks on July 17. Also on July 16, former NDS chief Rahmatullah Nabil, former National Security Advisor Rangin Dadfar Spanta, and a group of other leaders announced the formation of a new opposition party, the Mehwar-e-Mardum-e-Afghanistan; Spanta and Nabil both criticized Ghani for his outreach to Pakistan. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Taliban Talks: On July 10, new High Peace Council chairman Mohammad Karim Khalili said that the HPC was preparing a new peace talks strategy for outreach to the Taliban, saying that “we do not see [entering negotiations as] surrendering on the part of the Taliban when it comes to peace.” Several senators criticized the HPC the following day, calling for its dissolution. Earlier, HPC deputy chief Habiba Sarabi said that the council was seeking to negotiate a ceasefire agreement timed to upcoming parliamentary elections next year. Speaking during a meeting with visiting German Pres. Frank-Walter Steinemeir on July 13, Pres. Ghani said that “less time is left for the Taliban group to accept the reconciliation process offers”, and that if they failed to accept a peace process, they would face global terrorism sanctions. [Khaama Press]
  • Electoral Reforms: In a TOLO interview on July 9, Independent Elections Commission operations deputy chief Wasima Badghisi said that an agreement had been reached with donors for a $63 million digital voter registration effort. Separately, a pilot project for issuing electronic national ID cards is set to begin in Kabul by the end of the month.
  • Government Reforms: On July 12, the Independent Administrative Reforms and Civil Service Commission announced its intentions to conduct a “systematic review of the organizational structure of all government departments and posts”, following an order from Pres. Ghani. [TOLO]
  • Corruption Investigations: On July 12, the Anti-Corruption Criminal Justice Center announced the arrest again of Abdul Ghafar Dawi, after his previous release on bail for embezzlement charges. Associate corruption cases against several former ministry of transportation officials are reportedly set to begin “within the next few days”.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Water Disputes with Iran: In a statement on July 12 following remarks by Iranian Pres. Hassan Rouhani criticizing Afghan dam construction projects, the Afghan Ministry of Energy and Water accused Iran of using more than four times its share of waters under the 1973 Helmand River Treaty, and said that dams would continue to be a top priority for the government; at least 15 construction projects are said to be currently under way. Pres. Ghani earlier also pledged to continue work on the dams. [Khaama Press]
  • World Bank Assistance: In a statement on July 12, the World Bank announced a $482.3 million grant package for Afghanistan, focused on poverty reduction, refugee community support, rural roads, and other initiatives.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board Review Government Reforms [TOLO]
  • Maj. Gen. Robin Fontes Appointed Head of CSTC-A Training Mission [TOLO]
  • Security Forces Begin Biometric Registration of Soldiers [TOLO]
  • German President Visits Afghanistan [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Members of Parliament Raise Concerns Over Presence of ‘Suspicious Gang’ [TOLO]
  • Wolesi Jirga Speaker Criticizes US Bilateral Security Agreement [TOLO]
  • No Justice, ‘No Value’ for Women in Lawless Ghor Province [NYT]
  • Hekmatyar Calls on Tribal Elders to Secure Their Regions [Khaama Press]
  • Finance Minister Attends Council of Ministers Meeting After 7-Month Absence [TOLO]
  • National Procurement Commission Approves Contracts [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
  • Waivers Allow Afghan Girls’ Robotics Team to Visit US [NYT] [WAPO] [Guardian] [Politico]
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs Holds Planning Meeting Ahead of November RECCA Summit [TOLO]
  • Report: The Military Cohesion of the Taliban – “The military organization of the Taliban has been in constant flux after 2008 and has become increasingly fragmented, making it difficult to evaluate what impact these changes might have had on military cohesion. In any case by mid-2016 the Taliban were still much more cohesive at the group level, than at higher levels of military organization.” [Antonio Giustozzi, CRPA]
  • Report: When Looks Could Kill: Emerging State Practice on Self-Defense and Hostile Intent – “In Afghanistan, incidents justified by self-defense were more difficult to investigate and hold accountable, according to military and civilian lawyers interviewed, due to deference to soldiers’ perceptions of threat and the ambiguity over self-defense standards.” [Erica Gaston, GPPI]
  • Commentary: Rightsizing Expectations: US Policy Options for Afghanistan – “The administration should seek to distinguish its strategy from those pursued by the previous two administrations, and remind the American public that an ongoing partnership with the Afghan government has served U.S. security interests by providing a hub for critical counterterrorism-related intelligence collection and special operations.” [Brookings Institution]
  • Commentary: With More Troops in Afghanistan, Focus on Reintegration, Not Reconciliation – “A successful reintegration strategy would be based on conditions that do not presently exist. To create those conditions, the government must win back the confidence of the Afghan people, and leaders must achieve reconciliation among themselves.” [Marvin Weinbaum and Moh. Sayed Madadi, The National Interest]
  • Commentary: Afghanistan and Considerations of Supply – “The United States cannot both stabilize Afghanistan and establish a long-term military presence there.” [Barnett Rubin, War on the Rocks]
  • Commentary: New Taliban Attacks in Kunduz: Less Coordinated, Still Well-Placed to Threaten the City – “Despite the challenges the Taleban in Kunduz currently face – the internal divisions and the external targeting through air strikes and night raids – the capacity of the ANSF to protect the province’s vulnerable areas and to ensure the safety of the highway remains limited and dependent on US-supported airstrikes.” [Obaid Ali, AAN]
  • Commentary: Taliban Leader Haibatullah’s New Treatise on Jihad – “It contains little of the author’s personal opinions and interpretations. Yet, the choice of themes and sources, the limited personal comments, final conclusions and the obvious decision to avoid certain subjects offer telling hints into the Taleban leader’s mind.” [Borhan Osman, AAN]

 

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: NSC Caps Additional Afghan Troop Numbers; Sharif Maintains Innocence as JIT Nears Completion

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Note: The news will be on temporary hiatus for the coming week; updates will resume with coverage of the intervening period as early as possible within the week of July 17. Apologies for the interruption in service, and thanks for reading.

Topline

  • The WSJ reports that the White House National Security Council has placed a cap on additional U.S. troop deployments in Afghanistan at no more than 3,900 new troops, despite previously announcing that Pres. Trump would delegate the decision to Sec. Mattis. The absence of State Department appointees has reportedly delayed the administration’s ongoing regional strategy review; the administration is reportedly considering punitive measures against Pakistan for its support of the Afghan insurgency, but has not finalized decisions.
  • Speaking at Thursday’s conference in Tajikistan, Prime Minister Sharif reiterated his family’s innocence in the Panama Papers investigation. Sharif’s eldest son Hussain Nawaz traveled to Qatar on Thursday, but apparently did not meet with Qatari Sheikh Hamad bin Jasim bin Jaber al Thani. The Panama Papers Joint Investigation Team is due to submit its report to the Supreme Court on Monday, although it is unclear if the court will act immediately in response.
  • The Pakistani finance ministry announced the appointment of a new governor of the State Bank of Pakistan on Friday, Tariq Bajwa, who most recently served as finance secretary. The replacement appears to have been prompted by disputes between Finance Minister Dar and the SPB over the depreciation of the rupee earlier this week.
  • The U.S. coalition in Afghanistan confirmed Thursday that it would no longer release preliminary casualty reports and would instead only issue notifications after next-of-kin had been notified.

Pakistan — Security

  • Balochistan Operations: On Thursday, the Pakistani military announced that one unidentified militant had been killed and five “hideouts” destroyed in operations in several different towns in Balochistan. [The Nation]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Investigation: Speaking to reporters while traveling in Tajikistan on Thursday, Prime Minister Sharif insisted that he and his family had committed no wrongdoing and would be cleared by the Joint Investigation Team investigating the Panama Papers case. Dawn parses the Supreme Court’s order forming the JIT and notes uncertainty as to whether Sharif might face an immediate disqualification order or if the case could be referred to another forum for further hearings, after the JIT submits its report on Monday. On Thursday, the prime minister’s elder son Hussain Nawaz traveled to Qatar, but traveled on to London on Friday without meeting Qatari Sheikh Hamad bin Jasim bin Jaber al Thani, according to sources speaking to The Nation. Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Imran Khan accused the Sharif family of “burning the country’s money to hide their theft, and claiming they are saving democracy”, and said that they were seeking to “destroy institutions”, including the military and judiciary. In a statement on Thursday, PPP leader Aitzaz Ahsan called for the public release of the JIT’s proceedings and video recordings of its interviews. Speaking at a rally in the Sanghar district on Thursday, former Pres. Zardari accused the PML-N of “stabbing us in the back” and supporting investigations against party leaders and the government in Sindh, but suggested that the PML-N government complete its five-year term even if Prime Minister Sharif was disqualified. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [APP]
  • Other Political Activity: On Friday, Punjab Chief Minister Shehabz Sharif filed a defamation lawsuit against Imran Khan over the latter’s previous allegations that he had received bribe offers to halt the Panama Papers lawsuit. In a submission to the Supreme Court on Friday, lawyers for Khan provided a chart of remittances from his ex-wife in an attempt to establish the money trail for his purchase of his Bani Ghala residence; the court will resume hearings on Tuesday. A case against former PML-N senator Nehal Hashmi over his remarks regarding the Panama Papers JIT was transferred to an anti-terrorism court in Karachi on Friday. By-elections will be held Sunday for the PS-114 Sindh assembly seat. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • New Central Bank Governor Appointed: On Friday, the finance ministry appointed former finance secretary Tariq Bajwa as governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, replacing acting governor Riaz Riazuddin. The Express Tribune attributes the latter’s replacement to the depreciation of the rupee earlier this week, which appears to have been encouraged by the bank over the finance ministry’s objection; on Wednesday, the SBP also revised the current account deficit figures for the first eleven months of the previous fiscal year, up to $10.7 billion or 3.8% of GDP, apparently without notifying the finance ministry. The rupee recovered some of its value in trading on Thursday but remains down around 2% from previous rates. [Dawn] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Sindh Police Chief Criticizes Withdrawal of Appointment Powers [Dawn] [APP]
  • OGRA Orders Shell Subsidiary to Pay $2.4M for Bahawalpur Tanker Fire [Reuters] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Pakistan’s Mangoes Struggle to Find Market in US [ET]
  • Video: Mark Mazzetti Interviews Raymond Davis [NYT] [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • US Strategy: The WSJ reports that despite previous announcements that the White House would delegate decision-making on a U.S. troop deployment to Afghanistan, the White House National Security Council has capped new deployments at no more than 3,900 additional troops. The piece also reports that the administration’s strategy review has been delayed by the lack of confirmed diplomatic appointees in the State Department or in the Afghan and Pakistani embassies; it also reports that one faction within the administration is seeking to take “tougher steps” against Pakistan, including reductions in military and economic support and sanctions on the country’s intelligence service. Separately, in a Washington Post interview, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) discusses her recent visit to the region as part of a delegation led by Sen. John McCain, saying that “no one on the ground believes there is a military-only solution in Afghanistan. No one,” and expressing concern over a “diplomatic vacuum”.
  • Casualty Notifications: A spokesman for the US coalition in Afghanistan confirms to Reuters that commander Gen. John Nicholson has instituted a change in policy in which announcements of American casualties will only be made after next of kin are notified, with no preliminary announcement as had been the practice previously.
  • Tensions with Pakistan: Speaking at a weekly press briefing on Thursday, a spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign ministry insisted that the Haqqani network was based in Afghanistan, not Pakistan. Members of the Paktika provincial council report that Pakistani military forces have begun constructing fencing on the border with the Barmal district.
  • Attacks and Operations: In interviews with TOLO, members of the Kunduz provincial council and local residents continue to warn of deteriorating security in and around the capital city. In Faryab province, four students were killed when they were caught in a crossfire between Taliban and government security forces in the Khawaja Sabz Posh district on Friday. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Dushanbe Conference: The leaders of Tajikistan, Pakistan, Kyrzygstan, and Afghanistan met in Dushanbe on Thursday to recommit to regional economic integration and pledged support for Afghanistan’s security. The chairman of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project told reporters on Thursday that technical assessments for the pipeline would be finalized by October or November. [Ariana News]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Hekmatyar Expresses Objections Over Northern Militias [Ariana News]
  • Two Afghan Nationals Face Sentences in US for Heroin Importation [Khaama Press]
  • Commentary: To Win Afghanistan, Get Tough on Pakistan – “The Trump administration should now consider taking away Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally, which would limit its priority access to American military technology. Aid to Pakistan should be linked to a sequence and timeline for specific actions against Taliban leaders.” [Husain Haqqani, NYT]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Balochistan Political Leaders Attacked in Quetta and Panjgur; US Soldier Killed in Helmand

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Topline

  • A local leader of the BNP-Mengal was killed in a driveby shooting Quetta on Thursday; elsewhere, Balochistan health minister Rehman Saleh Baloch survived a rocket attack on his convoy while traveling through Panjgur. No claim of responsibility was reported in either attack.
  • An American soldier was killed in Helmand earlier this week while supporting a special operations unit advising Afghan commandos in the Nawa district, the Pentagon announced Wednesday.
  • Pakistan conducted a missile test of the short-range Nasr ballistic missile on Wednesday. The annual SIPRI Trends in Nuclear Forces report estimates that Pakistan currently possesses around 140 nuclear warheads, and has increased its nuclear fissile material production capabilities.
  • NDS chief Masoom Stanekzai met with Vice President Dostum in Turkey earlier this week and asked him to return to Afghanistan, a spokesman for Dostum said.
  • Imran Khan denounced police protocol given to Maryam Nawaz during her appearance before the Joint Investigation Team in the Panama Papers case on Wednesday. The JIT is scheduled to finalize and submit its report to the Supreme Court next Monday.
  • Pres. Ghani, Prime Minister Sharif, and the leaders of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan met in Dushanbe on Thursday for talks on the implementation of the CASA-1000 power project.
  • The Pakistani rupee dropped 3.1% in value against the dollar on Wednesday, the biggest single drop in nine years; while the State Bank appeared to welcome the devaluation, Finance Minister Dar said that the government was investigating the incident and suggested that a new State Bank chairman would be appointed later this week.

Pakistan — Security

  • Political Leaders Targeted in Balochistan Attacks: Malik Naveed Dehwar, a local leader of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal, was killed in a driveby shooting in Quetta on Thursday morning; another man accompanying him was also killed. No claim of responsibility has been reported. Separately, Balochistan health minister Rehman Saleh Baloch survived a rocket attack targeting his vehicle as he was traveling through the town of Panjgur on Thursday; no casualties were reported. Earlier on Wednesday, supporters of Paktunkhwa Milli Awami party member and provincial assembly member Manzoor Khan Kakar embroiled in a land dispute with an unidentified opposing group clashed in Quetta; two people were killed and nine injured. [ET] [The Nation]
  • Pakistan Conducts Missile Test: Chief of Army Staff Bajwa and other top military commanders observed a test firing of the “Nasr” short-range ballistic missile on Wednesday; military spokesmen quoted him saying that the missile would “put cold water on Cold Start”, the Indian military doctrine. Separately, the annual publication of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s Trends in Nuclear Forces report notes that Pakistan and India have both increased their military fissile material production capabilities, and estimates that Pakistan now possesses around 140 nuclear warheads. [AP] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Executions: A report by the Justice Project of Pakistan released Thursday finds that Pakistan has executed 465 people since the resumption of the use of capital punishment in December 2014; the report found no correlations between executions and a drop in crime. On Wednesday, the Sindh provincial government approved the referral of ten additional cases to the military court system, including the murder of singer Amjad Sabri in Karachi last year. [ET]
  • Journalist Receives Bail: On Wednesday, a Quetta judicial magistrate granted bail to Zafarullah Achakzai, a journalist working for the Quetta newspaper Qudrat, who was arrested in late June and charged with criticizing law enforcement agencies on social media. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Investigation: The Joint Investigation Team investigating the Panama Papers case is scheduled to present its final report to the Supreme Court on Monday; some sources tell the Express Tribune they believe the JIT may seek an additional 15 days to conduct further investigations. Speaking after Maryam Nawaz’s appearance before the JIT on Wednesday, special assistant to the prime minister Asif Kirmani questioned why the JIT had not recorded a statement from Qatari Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani; sources close to the sheikh tell The Nation he is ready to cooperate with the JIT but has not been contacted since his earlier written statements. Imran Khan denounced the police protocol given to Maryam during her visit to the JIT on Wednesday, saying that “Pakistan is a democracy not a monarchy and it is illegal to offer such protocol to a criminal”; a legal notice was filed against a police officer who appeared to salute her, causing “agony and mental shock to the public at large”. [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Sindh Anti-Corruption Cases: Speaking on Wednesday, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah defended the government’s revocation of the authority of the National Accountability Ordinance in the province, saying that the government planned to strengthen the existing Anti-Corruption Establishment and appoint a new chairman for that body through the provincial assembly. The Sindh High Court has halted hearings on pending corruption cases under the NAO following the assembly’s vote on Monday.
  • Other Political Activity: The PPP held demonstrations around the country on Wednesday marking the 40th anniversary of the 1977 military coup that overthrew the government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto; in remarks on the occasion, former Pres. Zardari blamed the “martial mindset” for holding back Pakistan’s development. On Thursday, the Election Commission heard further arguments in a case accusing the PTI of improperly raising funds overseas; PTI lawyers focused their arguments on the petitioner’s ties to the PML-N. [The Nation] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Rupee Drops in Value Against the Dollar: The Pakistani rupee dropped 3.1% in value against the dollar on Wednesday, the biggest single devaluation in nine years and bringing it to its lowest level since December 2013. Finance Minister Dar suggested that the market had been “exploited” by “certain individuals, banks, and entities”, but the State Bank said in a statement afterwards that the new exchange rate “is broadly aligned with the economic fundamentals” and would help Pakistan manage its balance of payments and boost exports. Dar also signaled that a new governor of the State Bank of Pakistan would be appointed when Prime Minister Sharif returns from Tajikistan later this week; on Thursday, he said that the government would carry out an investigation into the rupee’s drop in value.
  • Polio Crisis: A new polio case was recorded in the Chaman area on Wednesday, the third case so far this year and the first to be found in Balochistan.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Governor Meets with Parachinar Victims [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • MQM’s Rauf Siddiqui Withdraws Bail Plea in Baldia Factory Fire Case [Dawn] [ET]
  • Peshawar Clerics Challenge Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee [ET]
  • Commentary: Pakistan’s Proxy Strategy Principal Cause of Mistrust for U.S. – “Pakistan’s commitment to this proxy strategy is the principal cause of mistrust and tension with the United States. It is not the only reason for instability in Afghanistan, but it is a main one, and it is the primary threat to peace with India, where the next terrorist outrage could always escalate into war.” [Daniel Markey, The Cipher Brief]

Afghanistan — Security

  • US Soldier Killed in Helmand: The Pentagon announced Wednesday that a U.S. soldier, Pfc. Hansen Kirkpatrick, had been killed in an indirect fire attack in Helmand’s Nawa district on Monday; two other servicemembers were also wounded. He is the eighth American casualty in Afghanistan so far this year; the Post notes that Kirkpatrick, a mortarman who was not a member of the special forces himself, had been detailed to a unit training and assisting Afghan commando forces in Helmand. Buzzfeed notes that the Pentagon’s announcement of Kirkpatrick’s death several days later represents a shift in policy, as no preliminary report of the attack had been made on Monday prior to the full identification and notification of family members. [NYT] [WSJ]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: Kunduz provincial council members continue to express alarm over the security situation in the capital; provincial police chief Abdul Hamid Hamidi insists that security forces have repelled all Taliban attacks. Unidentified militants attacked a mosque in Nangarhar’s Chaparhar district on Thursday, taking three people hostage and killing three others. Nangarhar provincial police officials reported that a commander of the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Islam had been killed in an airstrike in the Nazian district on Wednesday; four other militants were also killed. Insurgents in Faryab attacked police checkposts in the Qaisar district over Wednesday night; officials say seven were killed.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Government Reaches Out to Opposition Leaders: Khaama Press reports that National Directorate of Security chief Masoom Stanekzai met with exiled Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum in Ankara on Tuesday, a week after Dostum joined with leaders from the Jamiat-e-Islami and Hezb-e-Wahdat-e-Islami to form the “Coalition for the Rescue of Afghanistan”. A spokesman for Dostum said that Stanekzai had asked him to return to Afghanistan; no further details of their conversation have been disclosed. Hezb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar said Thursday that the opposition coalition “should have been established inside Afghanistan” and called for unity amongst Afghanistan’s parties.
  • CASA Talks in Tajikistan: Pres. Ghani and Prime Minister Sharif met in Dushanbe with Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon and Kyrgyzstan Prime Minister Sooronbay Jeenbekov on Thursday, where they held talks on the CASA-1000 power project. Speaking earlier on Wednesday, Sharif said that “Pakistan desires peaceful resolution of all outstanding issues, including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute with India”. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • ICC Delays Decision on Afghan War Crimes Investigation [Reuters]
  • Attorney General’s Office Finalizing Dawi Corruption Case [TOLO]
  • Jawzjan Officials Say ISIS in Darzab Destroying Schools [TOLO]
  • Afghan Ministry of Energy and Water Rebuffs Iranian Complaints Over Dam Construction [Khaama Press] [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Senators Seek to Broker Border Security Cooperation; Maryam Nawaz Appears Before JIT

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Topline

  • A delegation of U.S. senators led by Sen. John McCain conveyed a message to Pres. Ghani on Tuesday that Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Bajwa had agreed to conduct “joint military operations against militant groups on both sides of the Durand Line, under the US watch”; a spokesman for Ghani said he had agreed to the proposal. Speaking at a press conference afterwards, McCain and other senators expressed concern over the direction on the part of State Department diplomats and the need for a clear strategy from the Trump administration; Senator Lindsey Graham suggested additional U.S. troops would be necessary to shore up the Afghan security forces and create the conditions for any future negotiations with the Taliban.
  • Prime Minister Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz appeared before the Joint Investigation Team investigating the Panama Papers case on Wednesday; like her brothers before her, she maintained the family’s innocence on all charges. Two JIT members returned from Qatar, but sources suggest they did not interview former Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani while there.
  • Chief of Army Staff Bajwa chaired a meeting of the Sindh provincial apex committee to review security in the province on Tuesday.
  • Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin negotiatior Mohammad Amin Karim tells TOLO that the party is developing a plan for peace talks with the Taliban, claiming that HIG is in contact with more than a hundred Taliban commanders who are prepared to lay down arms.
  • Prime Minister Sharif traveled to Tajikistan on Wednesday for meetings with Tajik President Emamali Rehmon focused on regional trade and investment.

Pakistan — Security

  • Army Chief Reviews Sindh Security: Chief of Army Staff Bajwa chaired a meeting of the Sindh provincial apex committee on Tuesday, joined by the chief minister and military and paramilitary commanders in Karachi. The military’s readout of the meeting indicates that discussions focused in part on the escape of two Lashkar-e-Jhangvi suspects from the Karachi Central Jail last month. Bajwa pledged continuing support for operations in Karachi; he also visited the Pano Aqil Garrison, where he was quoted saying that “country comes first, self later”. [The Nation]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Investigation: Prime Minister Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz appeared before the Joint Investigation Team investigating the Panama Papers case on Wednesday, accompanied by her husband and brothers as well as other party supporters. Speaking to reporters afterwards, she maintained her father’s innocence and said that no public funds were involved in the family’s overseas business investments. National Accountability Bureau chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhary is also scheduled to appear before the JIT today, focused on the Hudaibya Paper Mills case. Two members of the JIT who traveled to Qatar returned on Wednesday, but sources denied that they had interviewed former Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani as part of the investigation. Speaking to reporters yesterday, Hussain Nawaz also reiterated the family’s innocence and and warned JIT members against using “unconstitutional means” to fabricate evidence. Speaking at a rally in Chitral on Tuesday, Imran Khan said that “big thieves are being held accountable for the first time”; speaking at a conference in London, Pakistan Awami Tehreek chairman Tahirul Qadri predicted that “international powers” backing the Sharif government “will not let anything happen to him” regardless of the JIT findings. PPP Punjab president Qamar Zaman Kaira told a press conference on Tuesday that the PPP would not support any “unconstitutional, illegal move against the democratic set-up”, but would not intervene to support the PML-N government against the current investigations. [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Sharif Visits Tajikistan: Prime Minister Sharif departed for a two-day visit to Tajikistan on Wednesday, where he will hold talks focused on trade and investment and join a trilateral meeting with Afghanistan. [The Nation]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • No Lal Masjid Anniversary Action Planned [Dawn]
  • Mohmand Seeks to Expel Afghans [Dawn]
  • Levies Officer Killed in Mastung [The Nation]
  • ECP Seeks Army Security for NA-260 By-Polls [The Nation]
  • MOUs Signed with Chinese Energy Companies [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • ARY Group Broadcasts Briefly Interrupted [Dawn] [The Nation]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kunduz Offensive: Fighting continues around Kunduz, with local officials claiming that more than 40 Taliban fighters have been killed in the Ali Abad district east of the city in the past three days; the highway linking Kunduz and Baghlan remains closed by Taliban checkpoints. Acting defense minister Tariq Shah Bahrami said Tuesday that the army would deploy additional reinforcements to the city.
  • Other Attacks and Operations: The ministry of interior reported Tuesday that a group of 18 Taliban fighters had defected after killing their commander in Uruzgan’s Dehrawood district. Taliban fighters attacked an Afghan National Police patrol in Paktia’s Zazai Aryoub district on Tuesday night; the ministry of interior claims 14 Taliban were killed and only one police officer was injured. Airstrikes in Nangarhar’s Achin district on Tuesday killed three Islamic State fighters. A rocket attack in Kabul on Wednesday killed two children and wounded one woman.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Senate Delegation Visits Afghanistan: A delegation of U.S. senators led by Sen. John McCain met with Pres. Ghani in Kabul on Tuesday, after previously meeting with Pakistani civilian and military officials. A statement from Ghani’s office said that they had conveyed a message that Chief of Army Staff Bajwa had expressed willingness to conduct “joint military operations against militant groups on both sides of the Durand Line, under the US watch”, and spokesmen for Ghani indicated that he had agreed to the proposal. Speaking at a press conference afterwards, McCain said that “the present situation in Afghanistan is not on a course for success” and that “we need to win and have the advantage on the battlefield and then enter into a serious negotiation to resolve the conflict”. Sen. Graham suggested that the 3,000-4,000 additional U.S. troops under consideration by the Pentagon would be insufficient and that more should be deployed. McCain added that the delegation had told Pakistani army officials that “we expect them to help and cooperate against the Haqqani group and others”, and warned that “if they don’t change their behaviour, maybe we should change our behaviour towards Pakistan as a nation.” The senators also all expressed concern over the absence of confirmed U.S. diplomatic appointees, a “lack of focus”, and “the hollowing out of the State Department”. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [The Nation] [WSJ] [Reuters] [Guardian]
  • HIG Says it Will Development Peace Talks Strategy with Taliban: Mohammad Amin Karim, a top negotiator for the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin, tells TOLO that the party has begun to develop a new strategy for talks with the Taliban, saying that HIG had connections to more than a hundred Taliban commanders who are ready to join a peace process.
  • Opposition Protests: Speaking at a gathering on Tuesday, Chief Executive Abdullah called on “political leaders to consider the national interests of the country”, and insisted that the government was committed to reforming the security sector. One protestor who had been arrested during Monday’s demonstrations in Kabul was released on bail on Wednesday.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • US Envoy Calls for End to ‘Culture of Impunity’ [TOLO]
  • Denied Visas, All-Girl Afghan Robotics Team to Watch Their Creation Compete via Skype [Reuters]
  • Mahmood Karzai Seeks Indian Investment in Medicines Exports [Khaama Press]
  • Commentary: Update on the Afghan Local Police: Making Sure They Are Armed, Trained, Paid, and Exist – “Despite being viewed by many as ‘militias in uniform’, the ALP has survived and grown to become a significant part of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), present in all but one of Afghanistan’s provinces.” [Kate Clark, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Ishaq Dar Lambastes Imran Khan After JIT Appearance; Demonstrators Rally in Kabul

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Topline

  • Speaking to reporters after appearing before the Joint Investigation Team investigating the Panama Papers on Monday, Finance Minister Dar lashed out at Imran Khan, accusing him of lying and hiding his own assets. Hussain Nawaz appeared before the JIT for the sixth time on Tuesday; two members of the JIT have departed for Qatar to interview Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani on the chain of investment used by the Sharif family for the purchase of London real estate.
  • Demonstrators rallied in Kabul on Monday to reiterate their demands for the resignation of top Afghan security officials after the May 31 truck bombing in the capital; they dispersed afterwards but said protests would continue if their demands were not met. Separately, NATO diplomats and military officials held a ceremony on Sunday evening to commemorate Afghan security officers killed in the bombing.
  • In a vote on Monday, the Sindh provincial assembly approved a PPP bill that revokes the authority of the National Accountability Bureau to conduct corruption investigations against employees of provincial government departments.
  • A U.S. Senate delegation led by John McCain received a military-led tour of South Waziristan on Monday; a U.S. drone strike reportedly hit a group of Islamic State fighters in the area shortly beforehand. The delegation also met with Prime Minister Sharif in Islamabad.
  • Pres. Ghani visited Turkmenistan on Monday, signing several cooperation agreements on road, rail, and energy connectivity.
  • Tariq Mahmood Pasha, an assistant to Finance Minister Dar, has been appointed chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue.
  • Lawyers for Punjab assembly member Masroor Jhangvi, a former member of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat whose father was a founder of the Sipah-e-Sahaba sectarian group, have appealed the Islamabad High Court for his removal from the Fourth Schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Pakistan — Security

  • Senators Visit South Waziristan: The U.S. senate delegation led by Sen. John McCain visited South Waziristan on Monday, where they received briefings from the military; McCain was quoted saying that “we are confident that with the right cooperation and right strategy we can see success here in this very long struggle”. Dawn reports that a U.S. Predator drone strike killed four men belonging to the Islamic State in the Marghalan village on Monday prior to their visit, describing the target as a vehicle carrying commander Pir Agha. The delegation also met with Prime Minister Sharif. [AP]
  • Masroor Jhangvi Seeks Removal of Name from Terror Lists: Lawyers for Punjab provincial assembly member Masroor Jhangvi, a former member of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat whose father founded the Sipah-e-Sahaba sectarian group, have petitioned to the Islamabad High Court to remove his named from the Fourth Schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act. [ET]
  • Tensions with India: Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz met with a delegation of Kashmiri journalists on Monday, telling them that Pakistan was not obliged to follow the U.S. sanctions placed on Hizb-ul-Mujahadeen leader Syed Salahuddin and would “continue moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiris”. The director general of the State Disaster Management Authority in Azad Jammu and Kashmir reported that 13 peopled had been killed and 97 injured on the Pakistani side in cross-border firing incidents since January. [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Investigations: Finance Minister Dar appeared before the Joint Investigation Team in the Panama Papers case on Monday; speaking to reporters afterwards, he denounced PTI leader Imran Khan, accusing him of lying, accumulating assets through gambling and the use of donations for his hospital foundation, adding that he should “tell us where his loyalties lie: with Pakistan, with Muslims, or with Jews or Christians?” Dar also insisted that he and the Sharif family had fully accounted for their assets and had committed no wrongdoing, and disavowed a 2000 confessional statement related to alleged money laundering through the Hudaibya Paper Mills. In response, Imran said that “no amount of hysterical and gutter language is going to get [Dar] off the hook”. An anonymous PPP source tells The Nation that former Pres. Zardari “still thinks the prime minister can survive and continue as the head of the government”. Prime Minister Sharif’s son Hussain Nawaz appeared before the JIT on Tuesday for the sixth time. Separately, two members of the JIT departed for Qatar to interview Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani, who has submitted written testimony in the past regarding the money chain leading to the purchase of London properties by Sharif family members. [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Sindh Revokes National Accountability Laws in Province: In a vote on Monday, the Sindh assembly approved a PPP bill to revoke the authority of the National Accountability Bureau to conduct investigations into departments and bodies controlled by the provincial government, over the objections of the opposition parties. [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: On Tuesday, Imran Khan again failed to submit a reply to the Election Commission on a contempt of court case against him regarding his accusations of bias on the part of the ECP in the PTI’s overseas fundraising; the ECP announced that it would issue a verdict in the case on July 10. [Dawn] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • New FBR Chairman Appointed: On Monday, Finance Minister Dar appointed Tariq Mahmood Pasha, who had been serving as his special assistant, as chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue; officials tell Dawn that Pasha may keep his other portfolios as well, which include the statistics division.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Senate Committee Hears Arguments Over Wiretapping [Dawn]
  • Jamshed Dasti Released from Prison After Bail [Dawn]
  • National Ulema Council Calls to End Sectarian Divide After Parachinar Attacks [ET]
  • Balochistan Police Submit Report on Provincial Assembly Member’s Hit-and-Run Incident [ET] [Dawn]
  • Twelve Dead as Rival Tribes Clash in Shikarpur [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Sindh Chief Minister Suspends Police Prisons Director After Karachi Jail Escape [The Nation]
  • Senate Chairman to Meet Provincial Chief Ministers [Dawn]
  • Foreign Firms Repatriated $1.88 Billion in Profits in May-June Period [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Protests: Members of the “Uprising for Change” protest movement led a rally through Kabul on Monday, reiterating their demands for the removal of top security officials in the wake of the May 31 truck bombing in Kabul; the group did not set up protest camps and dispersed after a few hours, but warned of future protests if their demands were not met. Organizers tell the LAT they are not connected to the opposition alliance formed by Junbesh-e-Milli, Jamiat-e-Islami, and Hezb-e-Wahdat-e-Islami leaders in Turkey last week. NATO diplomats and military officials held a ceremony in Kabul on Sunday evening to commemorate the Afghan security officers who were killed in the May bombing. German ambassador Walter Hassman refuted reports in the German and Afghan press last week that the embassy had advanced warning of the attack, saying there had only been general threat warnings. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Pajhwok] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Ghani Visits Turkmenistan: Pres. Ghani met with his counterpart Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov in Turkmenistan on Monday; the two leaders signed several cooperation agreements, including MOUs on road and rail transport and energy. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Iranian President Voices Concern Over Afghan Dam Construction Plans [Khaama Press]

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

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Topline

  • 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]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Army Chief Meets with Protestors in Parachinar; NATO Confirms Additional Troop Deployments

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Topline

  • NATO defense ministers approved plans to increase troop deployments in Afghanistan, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said after a meeting on Thursday; he did not provide specific figures. In his remarks following the meeting, Sec. Mattis said that he was still finalizing recommendations for the U.S. mission, but that he would not “put timelines on war”.
  • Chief of Army Staff Bajwa visited Parachinar on Friday and met with protesting local tribal elders and members of the Shia community, who presented a list of demands that included removing paramilitary Frontier Corps soldiers from the town and replacing them with a tribal militia.
  • Federal Investigation Agency officials have arrested a journalist working for a daily paper in Quetta, charging him with “criticizing national institutions on social media” for remarks he apparently made regarding the slow move to arrest a provincial assembly lawmaker who struck and killed a traffic policeman last week.
  • In response to questioning from members of parliament, a spokesman for Pres. Ghani denied earlier reports that he had signed an execution order for 11 Taliban and Haqqani network prisoners following the attack in Kabul last month.

Pakistan — Security

  • Army Chief Visits Parachinar: Chief of Army Staff Bajwa visited Parachinar on Friday after weather earlier delayed an trip earlier this week; he received a security briefing and met with tribal elders and members of the Shia community, who presented a list of demands, including the removal of Frontier Corps soldiers and their replacement with a tribal militia. The group also demanded a larger compensation package for victims of the attack; they had rejected a Rs 1 million per person plan announced by Prime Minister Sharif on Thursday. Speaking to reporters during the trip, military spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor said that Pakistan would completely fence its border with Afghanistan and deploy more security forces. Prime Minister Sharif chaired a meeting of top civilian aides on Friday to review border security with Afghanistan and India. [AP]
  • Journalist Arrested: On Thursday Federal Investigation Agency officials in Quetta arrested Zafarullah Achakzai, a reporter for the Qudrat daily newspaper, charging him with “criticizing national institutions on social media”. The AP reports that Achakzai had criticized authorities over an apparent reluctance to arrest Balochistan legislator Majeed Khan Achakzai after he struck a traffic policeman last week.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Investigation: Former National Accountability Bureau chairman Syed Muhammad Amjad gave a statement to the Joint Investigation Team investigating the Panama Papers on Thursday; he did not speak to reporters afterwards. Speaking to reporters on Thursday in Peshawar, state minister for information Marriyum Aurangzeb insisted that Prime Minister Sharif would be “honorably exonerated” by the JIT investigation. Speaking at a gathering of supporters in the Naushahro Feroze district on Thursday, former Pres. Zardari said that it was time for Sharif to “face accountability”. [ET] [The Nation]
  • Census Count: Chief Census Commissioner Asif Bajwa met with Finance Minister Dar on Thursday to brief him on the process of the national census; the provisional results of the count, which was completed in May, are due to be released by the end of July. [Dawn] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan Pivots to China Amid Fresh Concerns Over US Ties with India [WAPO]
  • Punjab Government Medical Report Challenges Jamshed Dasti Allegations of Torture [Dawn]
  • Death Toll from Bahawalpur Tanker Fire Rises to 190 [AP]
  • 25 Dead in Monsoon Rains Across the Country [Dawn]
  • OFID to Loan $50M for FATA Development [Reuters]
  • Commentary: Plundering the Poor – “If you’re not born into wealth, and you are not willing to break the law or operate a racket, your path to a secure future is a very difficult one and you count on benefits like lower power bills, fuel and rent to earn some breathing space.” [Khurram Husain, Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • NATO Approves Additional Afghan Deployments: Speaking following a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels on Thursday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the alliance had agreed to send additional troops in Afghanistan to support training and assistance, as well as the Afghan special operations forces, which the Afghan government has announced plans to double in size. Stoltenberg did not announce any specific figures in terms of additional deployments. In his remarks after the meeting, Sec. Mattis said that he would continue discussions with Pres. Trump over U.S. troop contributions, saying that he would not “put timelines on war”, and that “the bottom line is that NATO has made a commitment to Afghanistan for freedom from fear and terror, and freedom from terror demands that you can’t let this be undone”. Mattis suggested that “looking back, it is pretty much a consensus we might have pulled our troops out too rapidly”, but Stoltenberg said that “if any thing we should have done it before, gone from a combat mission to a train, advise mission”, and insisted that the alliance would not return to a combat mission. [Reuters] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Presidential Palace Denies Signing Execution Orders: Following questioning from members of parliament over the implementation of execution orders for 11 Taliban and Haqqani network prisoners reportedly signed by Pres. Ghani in the wake of the attack in Kabul last month, a spokesman for Pres. Ghani said that those reports were inaccurate and those orders had not been finalized.
  • Attacks and Operations: Six police officers were killed in an attack on their checkpost in the Sheb Koh district of Farah province on Thursday night. An Afghan army officer survived an attempted kidnapping in Logar province’s Khosh district on Wednesday; the driver of the suspected kidnappers’ vehicle was killed. Local government and ministry of defense officials claim that 23 or more Islamic State fighters were killed in two separate airstrikes in the Manogi and Achin districts in Kunar and Nangarhar province on Thursday.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Alliance: Responding to reports that leaders from the Junbesh-e-Milli, Jamiat-e-Islami, and Hizb-e-Wahdat-e-Islami parties had met in Anakara and agreed to form a new opposition alliance, a spokesman for Pres. Ghani said that the government “welcomes any move that is taken in the name of national interests”, adding that “our people remember the bitter events of the past in their historic memory, but now it is the time that we focus on the political consensus and unite against the common enemies.” [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Pakistani Delegation Expected to Visit Kabul in ‘Near Future’ [TOLO]
  • National Procurement Commission Approves Afs 4 Billion in Contracts [Khaama Press]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Protests Continue in Parachinar; NATO to Increase Afghan Troop Contributions

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Topline

  • Protests continue in Parachinar after last week’s double bombing targeting members of the town’s Shia population; Prime Minister Sharif, who has not visited the area, announced a compensation package on Thursday, but demonstrators rejected that as insufficient. Pakistan’s military warned against a “malicious campaign” to “fragment us along sectarian/ethnic lines”.
  • NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed on Thursday that at least 15 alliance members had agreed to send additional troops to Afghanistan to support the training mission there; he did not specify numbers, although the UK Defense Secretary said that Britain would send an additional 100 troops. Anonymous NATO officials complain to Reuters about the lack of a clear policy direction from the United States.
  • The Joint Investigation Team in the Panama Papers case resumed hearings on Thursday, interviewing the former head of the National Accountability Bureau on investigations against the Sharif family dating back to 1999.
  • The NYT notes attacks by an Islamic State affiliate group in Jawzjan, led by two former Taliban commanders – one of whom reconciled with the government last year but later broke from it, accusing Vice Pres. Dostum of reneging on their agreement.
  • A spokesman for Junbesh-e-Milli said that Vice Pres. Dostum, Jamiat-e-Islami leader Atta Mohammad Noor, and Harakat-e-Islami party leader Mohammad Mohaqiq had reached a cooperation agreement among their parties during meetings in Turkey earlier this week.

Pakistan — Security

  • Parachinar Protests Continue: In a statement on Wednesday, Pakistan’s military spokesman warned against a “malicious campaign by hostile intelligence agencies and anti-state elements” in the wake of last week’s double suicide bombing in Parachinar aimed at “fragment[ing] us along sectarian/ethnic lines”. Protests continued in the town for the seventh straight day on Thursday, and were attended on Wednesday by the national leadership of the Shia Majlis Wahdat-ul-Muslimin party; a variety of different opposition parties are taking part in the protests. Prime Minister Sharif, whose absence from the area since the attack was criticized by PTI chief Imran Khan on Wednesday, announced a Rs 1 million per victim compensation fund on Thursday; tribal elders rejected that as insufficient. [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Tensions with India: Local police in the Kotli district in Azad Jammu and Kashmir reported Wednesday that one person had been killed and three wounded in cross-border fire by Indian forces; Pakistan formally protested in the incident on Thursday. In remarks on Wednesday, Imran Khan denounced the joint meeting between Pres. Trump and Prime Minister Modi earlier this week, saying that their joint statement had “removed fig leaf of morality and justice in US foreign policy which is now only based on arms sales and financial gains”.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Investigation: On Thursday, the Joint Investigation Team in the Panama Papers case heard testimony from former National Accountability Bureau chief Amjad Naqvi regarding the Hudaibya Paper Mills money laundering case he led against Finance Minister Dar in 1999-2000. The Federal Investigation Agency has also resumed investigations into allegations that the Securities and Exchange Commission is withholding or tampering with records sought by the JIT. Speaking on Wednesday, Imran Khan reiterated warnings that the PTI would lead mass protests if the government interfered in the JIT’s investigations, adding that “national sovereignty will be harmed if [Prime Minister Sharif] survives”. [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: Following his resignation from the PPP and switch to join the PTI, Senator Babar Awan submitted his resignation from the Senate on Thursday. [ET] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Senior Journalist Killed in Karachi [Dawn] [ET]
  • National Assembly Member Jamshed Dasti Alleges Starvation and Abuse by Police [Dawn]
  • Demonstrators Block Construction of Hazara Expressway [ET]
  • World Bank Estimates ‘Tax Gap’ of Rs 3.2 Trillion [ET]
  • Commentary: There is No Other Way with Pakistan – “Whether one follows the advice of Hadley and Yusuf or Fair, the United States is in no position to influence Pakistan’s security policies in a meaningful way.” [Hussain Nadim, War on the Rocks]

Afghanistan — Security

  • NATO Agrees to Force Increase: Speaking at the outset of Thursday’s meeting of NATO defense ministers, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed that 15 nations had pledged to increase their troop contributions for the advisory and assistance mission in Afghanistan; he did not specify numbers but said that NATO military commanders had sought “a few thousand more troops”. British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said that the UK would send an additional 100 soldiers; there are currently roughly 13,500 NATO forces in country, of which around half are American. Anonymous NATO diplomats tell Reuters that “we need clarity from the United States” on its strategy in Afghanistan, noting repeated delays in the announcement of a strategy by the Trump administration. Sec. Mattis told reporters on Tuesday that the U.S. had not finalized decisions on a troop increase; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Dunford met with Pres. Ghani on Wednesday. In a meeting with Wolesi Jirga speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi on Tuesday, the Iranian parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani, expressed concern over the NATO presence in Afghanistan. [Stars and Stripes] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
  • Attacks and Operations: Provincial officials in Jawzjan accuse members of a local Islamic State affiliate of destroying a clinic in the Darzab district, where ISIS fighters took control of the district center but were later repelled by government forces last week; 15 patients reportedly died while being evacuated from the medical facility. The NYT notes that the leaders of local affiliate are two former Taliban commanders, one of whom had agreed to join the government last year before accusing Vice President Dostum of reneging on their agreement. Elsewhere, Taliban and ISIS forces reportedly clashed in the Wanat Waigal district of Nuristan province on Tuesday, leaving at least one ISIS fighter dead. A roadside bombing in the Farah provincial capital on Wednesday killed two police officers and wounded another two; two policewomen were killed in an attack in Badakhshan on Wednesday, and two other policemen killed in an attack on their checkpost in Zabul.
  • More Visas Approved: The Senate Armed Services Committee’s final version of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2018, approved by the committee in a vote on Wednesday, includes a provision for the issuance of 4,000 additional Special Immigrant Visas for Afghans who worked with U.S. forces as interpreters or support staff; the measure must still be reconciled through conference with the House. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Leaders Meet: A spokesman for the Junbesh-e-Milli party tells Khaama Press that Vice President Dostum, Jamiat leader Atta Mohammad Noor, and Harakat-e-Islami party leader Mohammad Mohaqiq reached an agreement on “unity among the political figures, movements, and parties”, but insisted they were not seeking the collapse of the national unity government. TOLO reports that acting foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani departed for Turkey on Wednesday, but has not yet met with Dostum.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Kabul Continues Removal of Concrete Barriers [TOLO]
  • Central Statistics Organization Reports 3% GDP Growth, 2% Population Growth [TOLO]
  • Report: Ideology in the Afghan Taliban – “While the movement once typified a ‘traditionalist’ Islam – that is, it sought to articulate and defend a particular conception of Islam found in the southern Pashtun village – it is now, during its insurgency phase, closer to the form of political Islam espoused in the Arab world. This does not mean that the Taleban are less conservative or less authoritarian, but rather that the objects of their repression, and the way they frame their mission, have shifted in important ways.” [Anand Gopal and Alexander Strick van Linschoten, AAN (pdf)]