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Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PM Abbasi Arrives for UN Assembly; Mattis Confirms Troop Deployments, Won’t Give Details

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Topline

  • PM Abbasi arrived in New York on Monday to attend the UN General Assembly; he is scheduled to meet with Vice Pres. Pence on September 21, and to push back against the new U.S. strategy for the region. Abbasi however endorsed earlier remarks by Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif that Pakistan must “put its house in order”, which Interior Minsiter Ahsan Iqbal echoed in a speech on Tuesday. Afghanistan’s deputy foreign minister Hekmat Karzai met with Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua at the UN on Monday.
  • Dr. Yasmin Rashid, the PTI candidate for the NA-120 by-election on Sunday, challenged the results at a press conference on Monday; the Election Commission has yet to issue official final results.
  • Speaking to reporters on Monday, Sec. Mattis confirmed that he had ordered the deployment of more than 3,000 additional U.S. forces to Afghanistan, but reiterated that the administration would not provide precise details on their deployments. Four Black Hawk helicopters arrived in Kabul on Monday, the first of 159 total planned for delivery to the Afghan Air Force in the coming years.
  • At least one child was killed and a dozen people injured in a suicide bombing attack at the Chaman border crossing on Monday; the Majlis-e-Abrar, a TTP splinter faction, claimed responsibility, and the crossing has been shut to traffic.
  • A spokesman for Afghanistan’s defense ministry said that the ministry was finalizing plans for the creation of a new militia unit to be deployed across the country, which he suggested would primarily recruit veterans and act as a reserve force under the command of the army corps.
  • The Sharif family are all currently in London and did not respond to an accountability court summons to testify in response to new corruption investigations, which anonymous PML-N sources suggest they will not cooperate with. The NAB reissued the summons for hearings next Tuesday.
  • The head of the monitoring and observation office at the Administrative Office of the President has been accused of ethnic discrimination in hiring, and has reportedly been asked to resign.

Pakistan — Security

  • Chaman Bombing: A child was killed and as many a dozen more people were injured after a suicide bomber targeted a paramilitary Frontier Corps vehicle near the Chaman border crossing in Balochistan on Monday. The Majlis-e-Abrar, a splinter faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the attack. The border crossing has been closed in the aftermath of the attack. [AP]
  • Civil-Military Relations: Chief of Army Staff Bajwa met with a delegation from the defense committees of the national assembly and senate on Monday; the military issued a statement afterwards saying the group had “resolve[d] to continue our struggle against the menace of violent extremism through a synergetic, whole-of-the-nation approach based on the principle of collective potential and shared responsibility”. [The Nation]
  • Mashal Khan Lynching Case: A Haripur anti-terrorism court issued an indictment on Tuesday against 57 people in the lynching of Abdul Wali Khan University student Mashal Khan in Mardan in April; arguments in the case are scheduled to begin Wednesday. The provincial home ministry has appointed three senior public prosecutors to assist in the case.
  • Suicide Bomber Arrested: Lahore police arrested a man on Monday accused of planning to carry out a suicide attack against Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif; his identity and affiliation, if any, were not released.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Prime Minister Arrives for UNGA: PM Abbasi arrived in New York on Monday to attend the UN General Assembly session; he is scheduled to meet with Vice President Pence on September 21, but not with Pres. Trump. The Express Tribune reports that Abbasi’s message to the US will be that “collaboration among all stakeholders is the key to bringing the ongoing war in Afghanistan to its logical conclusion” and that the U.S. should pursue an “inclusive” political settlement rather than a military strategy that is “bound to fail again”. Abbasi will also hold meetings with the UN Secretary General and the leaders of Jordan, Turkey, Afghanistan, Iran, Sri Lanka, the UK, and Nepal, among others. In remarks to GEO News on Monday, Abbasi supported Foreign Minister Khawaj Asif’s remarks that Pakistan needed to “clean our own house”, which were echoed in separate remarks on Tuesday by Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation] [LAT]
  • NA-120 Elections: Speaking at a press conference on Monday, the PTI’s candidate for the NA-120 by-election, Dr. Yasmin Rashid, said that she would not accept the results of the vote held on Sunday until the Election Commission accounted for 29,607 registered voters whose identities could not be verified by the National Database and Registration Authority prior to the vote for lack of available biometric information. The ECP has not yet issued official results; Dawn reports a total turnout of 126,869 votes cast, of which 1,731 were disqualified. 41 out of the 43 candidates in the election will forfeit security deposits after they failed to meet requirements that they receive at least one-eighth of the vote, including those of the PPP and Jamaat-e-Islami. The third and fourth place finishers in the vote were Khadim Hussain Rizvi of the Tehreek-e-Labaik / Labbaik Ya Rasullah coalition, who campaigned in support of blasphemy laws, and Yaqoob Sheikh of the Milli Muslim League, the Jamaat ud Dawa’s new political party. [Reuters] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Sharif Corruption Investigations: PML-N sources tell Dawn that the Sharif family will not appear before an accountability court, which had summoned them to testify today; Nawaz Sharif, his two sons, and daughter Maryam Nawaz are all currently in London. National Accountability Bureau sources say they may issue arrest warrants if the Sharifs continue to refuse to participate in the investigation. The NAB re-sent summons to the family on Tuesday, for hearings now scheduled for September 26. New petitions have also been filed with the Islamabad High Court seeking the disqualification of Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif.
  • Other Political Activity: In remarks on Monday, Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique praised Maryam Nawaz’s campaigning in the NA-120 by-election but said that she needs to be “cautious when addressing public meetings”. Nadeem Razi, an MQM provincial assembly member in Sindh, quit the party and joined the Pak Sarzameen Party on Monday, alleging that the MQM-Pakistan remained linked to leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain. There was no quorum in parliament for the fifth consecutive day on Monday. [Dawn] [The Nation] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Trade Talks: UK Minister of State for Trade Policy Greg Hands visited Islamabad on Monday for meetings with Commerce Minister Pervaiz Malik; a joint statement afterwards said that the UK would “continue to support Pakistan to benefit from the EU’s GSP+ scheme, whilst in return Pakistan pledges to continue to make progress to improve human rights, labour rights, environment and good governance in line with the commitments made as part of the GSP+ scheme”.
  • Chinese Investment: At a meeting on Monday on security for the CPEC project, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal ordered the sharing of “real-time information” on the whereabouts of Chinese nationals traveling within the provinces. Separately, the State Bank of Pakistan approved the beginning of commercial banking operations in Pakistan by the Bank of China, the second Chinese bank to enter the market. [ET] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • PPP Challenges Benazir Murder Verdict [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Karachi Jail Officials Charged with Facilitating Escape of LeJ Convicts [Dawn]
  • Spanish Police Arrest Pakistani Man on Terrorism Charges [AP]
  • NAB Re-Hires Two of Four Sacked Directors [The Nation]
  • Pakistan’s UN Representative Asks Swiss Authorities to Take Action Against ‘Free Balochistan’ Posters [Dawn] [ET]
  • Senators Express Concerns Over Students’ Involvement in Terrorist Activities [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Government Plans Curriculum for Friday Sermons [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Mattis Confirms Troop Deployments: Speaking to reporters on Monday, Sec. Mattis confirmed that more than 3,000 additional U.S. forces had been ordered to deploy to Afghanistan, some of whom have already departed; he reiterated that the administration would not provide exact details on their numbers or operations, however. Separately, four new UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were delivered to the Afghan Air Force on Monday, the first of 159 total planned for delivery over the coming years. [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Militias: A spokesman for the ministry defense said Monday that the ministry was in the “final stages” of planning for the introduction of a new militia unit in provinces across the country, which he suggested would recruit primarily from veterans, and work as a reserve force under the command of the regular army corps.
  • Attacks and Operations: Six civilians were killed in a roadside bombing in Kandahar on Monday. A spokesman for the Herat governor reported that the bodies of three government customs department employees abducted last month had been found dead on Monday evening. Afghan army officials claim that the Taliban shadow military chief for Jawzjan province was killed in operations on Tuesday morning. In Nangarhar, airstrikes in the Achin district on Tuesday reportedly killed two Lashkar-e-Islam militants, and separate strikes in the Bati Kot district reportedly killed two Islamic State fighters. [AP] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Regional Diplomacy: Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Karzai met with his Pakistani counterpart Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday; Janjua “reaffirmed Pakistan’s desire for lasting peace in Afghanistan which was important for regional stability” and Karzai “reiterated that the Afghan government was committed to strengthening relations with Pakistan”. [TOLO]
  • Discrimination Alleged in Administrative Office Hiring: The deputy chief of monitoring and observation at the Administrative Office of the President has been accused of discrimination in the hiring process for that office after he inadvertently sent an internal document to a group of users over the app Telegram, laying out ethnic criteria for hiring and appointments. The official, Sawabdin Makhkash, has reportedly been asked to resign.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • MPs Accused of Trading Jobs for Votes [TOLO]
  • Government Brushes Off Claims of Terrorism at Afghan-Turk Schools [TOLO]
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Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PML-N Holds on to NA-120 Lahore Seat; NATO Still Planning for Additional Force Deployments

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Topline

  • Unofficial results from Sunday’s polls in the NA-120 Lahore constituency vacated by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif indicate his wife Kulsoom Nawaz has held on to the seat for the party, in a campaign largely led by her daughter as she continues to undergo cancer treatment in London. The PTI shrunk the margin of victory in the race, which was also notable for the entry of the Jamaat ud Dawa’s new political party, the Milli Muslim League, although the party’s candidate received only around 4,000 votes. Reuters reports that ISI and military officials have been pushing for the JuD to join the formal political system in order to “mainstream” the group, something Nawaz reportedly objected to in civil-military debates last year.
  • PM Abbasi met with US Ambassador Hale in Islamabad on Friday before departing for the UN General Assembly meeting this week; he told the Financial Times that “the signals we get from Washington are confusing, but our message is very clear: we are committed to fighting terror and we will continue to fight terror”. The US administration is reportedly considering assistance cuts, targeted sanctions against individual ISI officers, and the revocation of Pakistan’s major non-NATO ally status as part of a new package of coercive measures in response to counterterrorism cooperation concerns; the Express Tribune reports that Pakistan is preparing a tiered response, to include “gradually limiting diplomatic relations with the US, reducing mutual cooperation on terrorism-related issues and non-cooperation in US strategy for Afghanistan”.
  • US and NATO military officials say they are still finalizing plans and commitment levels from NATO partners for additional deployments to Afghanistan, and are aiming to establish the “full picture” by October. The Washington Post indicates NATO forces will focus on training missions, allowing U.S. forces to “push closer to the front” and provide more direct assistance to Afghan forces engaged in combat. The NYT reports on the expansion of the Kabul Green Zone security perimeter as U.S. and NATO military forces settle in for an indefinite presence.
  • Chief Executive Abdullah met with Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor on Saturday, their first private meeting since Noor’s estrangement from the government and Abdullah earlier this year; Abdullah said afterward that “we should solve problems by talking, accepting each other and listening to each other and we should not stop talking”.
  • Pres. Ghani departed Afghanistan on Sunday to attend the UN General Assembly summit this week, where he is expected to meet in person with Pres. Trump for the first time. Ghani stopped over in Turkmenistan, meeting with his Turkmen and Tajik counterparts to discuss regional trade.
  • PM Abbasi also stopped in London while en route to the UN, meeting with Nawaz Sharif to discuss the party’s strategy going forward after the Supreme Court dismissed appeals against its July Panama Papers verdict. Maryam Nawaz told reporters on Saturday that Nawaz would not appear for court hearings on corruption charges against him and “if you want to arrest him go ahead”.
  • PM Abbasi has expanded the number of civil service positions in the ISI’s leadership, ordering the appointment of three more directors general and seven more deputy directors general. Names for those appointments have not been announced.
  • Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal has been given the additional portfolio of planning minister, which he previous held during the Nawaz Sharif cabinet, apparently after complaints from Chinese officials over coordination and oversight on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Project after that responsibility was initially shifted to the planning commission.
  • After several months of delays and legal battles, the PTI submitted party financial records to the Election Commission on Monday, dating back to 2010.

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with US: The Financial Times reports that the Trump administration “has yet to flesh out” plans for relations with Pakistan as part of the broader South Asia strategy announced last month, but quotes anonymous officials who suggest that assistance cuts, sanctions on individual ISI officers, and the revocation of Pakistan’s major non-NATO ally status are all under consideration. The Express Tribune reports that Pakistan in turn is preparing a tiered response of “gradually limiting diplomatic relations with the US, reducing mutual cooperation on terrorism-related issues and non-cooperation in US strategy for Afghanistan”, to include the closure of ground lines of communication. PM Abbasi met with U.S. Amb. Hale in Islamabad on Friday, and subsequently told the FT that “the signals we get from Washington are confusing, but our message is very clear: we are committed to fighting terror and we will continue to fight terror”. Abbasi will lead Pakistan’s delegation to the UN General Assembly this week, and is “likely” to meet with Vice President Pence, according to anonymous Pakistani diplomatic sources. In a WSJ interview, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif says that the United States is “pursuing a folly, a strategy that has already failed”, and that “force will not solve any problem, it has not solved problems in the past.” Former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan criticized Asif in a statement on Saturday over earlier remarks in which Asif had suggested a need to take more action against militant groups in response to the new U.S. strategy. Separately, Lt. Gen. Michael Shields, the head of the DOD Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Organization, held talks with Pakistani army officials on Friday to discuss counter-IED cooperation. [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Army Supported ‘Mainstreaming’ of JuD: Reuters, citing former army Lieutenant General Amjad Shuaib and three anonymous aides to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, reports that Pakistani ISI and military officials have been pushing the Jamaat ud Dawa to take part in electoral politics in order to “mainstream” the group, which Shuaib suggested was intended to “separate those elements who are peaceful from the elements who are picking up weapons”. The JuD formed a political party wing, the Milli Muslim League, in August; the NYT and Dawn profile its campaign in the NA-120 by-election, where the party’s candidate is officially running as an independent after the Election Commission withheld registration of the party. The Reuters report indicates the mainstreaming plan was initiated in April 2016 and that then-PM Sharif was “strongly against” the policy; later in October, the disclosure of civilian-military disputes over Pakistan’s military policy was reported in Dawn.
  • Civilian Leadership Expanded at ISI: Dawn reports that PM Abbasi has ordered the appointment of three more directors general within the ISI leadership structure, for a total of four; the number of deputy directors general has also been increased from eight to 15. Those positions are held by grade 21 and grade 20 civil service officers, respectively. A spokesman for the military did not directly respond to requests for comment.
  • Drone Strikes: Additional reporting on Friday’s drone strike in the Kurram Agency identifies the target as Maulana Muhibullah, a member of the Haqqani network; two other Taliban fighters were reportedly killed, and another two injured. [AP] [AFP] [The Nation]
  • Bajauar Bombing: A roadside bombing killed a local government official and at least four paramilitary soldiers in the Bajuar Agency on Sunday; the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack. [Dawn]
  • Torkham Border Crossing Reopened: The Torkham border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan was reopened on Saturday after a grenade attack on Friday prompted its closure; Pakistani security officials say the attack came from the Afghan side of the border, while Afghan officials accused Pakistan of “unprovoked firing”. [ET] [The Nation]
  • Sindh Policing: The Express Tribune reports that Sindh police chief A.D. Khawaja has ordered a fixed appointment tenure of one and a half years for Station House Officers, as part of efforts to reassert control over the appointments and transfer process and prevent reshuffling of posts. [The Nation] [ET]
  • Former Senator’s Son Freed: Vikki Kumar, the son of a former JUI-F senator who had been kidnapped in May, was freed and returned to his home on Saturday, police officials report. Local tribal elders reportedly negotiated his release; the identities of his kidnappers were not disclosed. [The Nation]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Held for Sharif’s Lahore Seat: Elections were held on Sunday in the NA-120 constituency vacated by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif after his disqualification from office in July. Nawaz’s wife, Kulsoom Nawaz, contested for the PML-N, although her campaign was led in her absence by her daughter Maryam Nawaz as she continues to undergo cancer treatment in the UK. Dr. Yasmin Rashid contested for the PTI; the ANP’s candidate dropped out on Friday and threw his support to the PML-N. Unofficial results as of Sunday evening indicate that Kulsoom Nawaz won with 61,254 votes to Yasmin Rashid’s 47,066; the JuD’s Milli Muslim League came in third with 4,174 votes, ahead of the PPP’s candidate with 2,520. Overall turnout was reported to be below 50%, and the WSJ notes that the PML-N’s margin of victory in the race was cut in half from the 2013 general elections. After celebrating her mother’s win, Maryam Nawaz departed for London on Monday; Kulsoom Nawaz is due to undergo further surgery in the coming week. Maryam alleged that several PML-N activists were detained or received threatening phone calls during the campaign, saying party supporters had “defeated not only people who were in the field but also those who are invisible.” Long lines were reported during polling in some areas, in part due to multiple layers of security. There are 321,786 registered voters in the constituency, including around 29,000 voters whose biometric fingerprints were not on record with the National Database and Registration Authority; in a ruling on Friday, the Lahore High Court ordered the ECP to disclose the complete voter registry prior to the election. The paramilitary Punjab Rangers and army soldiers provided security; some reporters and observer groups report being barred from entering the polling station. The ECP served notices on Friday to several PML-N and PTI legislators for code of conduct violations prior to the start of polling; the FAFEN observer group had also highlighted violations on the eve of the polls. [WAPO] [Guardian] [Reuters] [AJE] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Sharif Corruption Investigations: PM Abbasi arrived in London on Saturday while en route to the UN General Assembly for a meeting with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif; other top aides are also reportedly convening to discuss the party’s strategy after the Supreme Court dismissed Nawaz’s appeal against the disqualification verdict against him. Abbasi met with Nawaz on Sunday and told reporters afterwards that “conspiracies are continuing and there is nothing new about it”. In an interview on Saturday, Maryam Nawaz said that her father was “not going to appear before any accountability court. If you want to arrest him then go ahead”, adding that “if you want to disqualify him then you will also have to disqualify all the people who cast votes for him.” Nawaz and family members have been summoned to testify before the National Accountability Bureau on September 19. Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal suggested that the Hudaibya Paper Mills money laundering case against Nawaz and Finance Minister Dar had been reopened under pressure from unnamed sources, warning that “if the trend of reopening such cases takes off, we will be heading towards anarchy as no decision or order will be final”. [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • PTI Submits Financial Records: After several months of legal battles, on Monday, the PTI submitted seven years of party financial records and information on overseas fundraising to the Election Commission, which had issued the latest of a series of “final warnings” last week with a deadline today. Hearings on the issue have been adjourned until mid-October. [ET] [The Nation]
  • FATA Reforms: Following cabinet approval last week, the government introduced legislation on Friday to extend the jurisdiction of the Islamabad High Court and Supreme Court to the FATA; however, the session was adjourned for lack of quorum for the fourth consecutive day. [Dawn]
  • Indian Diplomacy: India has reportedly appointed Ajay Bisaria, currently ambassador to Poland, as its next ambassador to Pakistan, a position he will take up in October; Amb. Gautam Bambawale, the incumbent, will become ambassador to China. Separately, Indus Water Treaty talks between India and Pakistan last week are reported to have concluded without any agreement over two disputed hydropower projects; Pakistan is seeking a court of arbitration on the issue, which India has rejected. [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: In remarks to reporters on Saturday, PPP parliamentary opposition leader Khurshid Shah downplayed the significance of PTI-MQM negotiations over his removal as opposition leader, suggesting that it was “good to see that the PTI and the MQM P have settled their differences”. Imran Khan led a rally in Khushab on Friday, and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari led a rally in Dadu on Saturday. The Senate committee on law and justice approved the Election Bill 2017 on Friday, moving the legislation to the full upper house; the senate committee amended the version of the legislation passed in the National Assembly to include party spending in candidate expenditure filings. Filings begin today for candidates for the NA-4 Peshawar assembly seat, after the death of Gulzar Khan of the PTI in late August; PTI provincial leaders accused the PML-N of “pre-poll rigging”. At a convention in Hyderabad on Sunday, PML-F leader Pir Sadruddin Shah Rashidi called on the military to “come forward and play their due role in order to save the country and nation”, suggesting “a change in the country may happen within the next 60-70 days”. [Dawn] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Interior Minister Gets CPEC Oversight Role: Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal was given the additional portfolio of the ministry for planning and development on Friday, the position he previously held under the Nawaz Sharif cabinet; Iqbal will resume oversight over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project through chairmanship of the CPEC Joint Cooperation Committee. PM Abbasi had initially tasked a cabinet committee led by Sartaj Aziz as deputy planning commissioner with overseeing the project. The Express Tribune report suggests that Chinese officials expressed concerns over the shift in leadership, and that a JCC biannual meeting previously scheduled for July was postponed as a result; the next meeting is now scheduled for November. Iqbal met with China’s ambassador to Pakistan on Friday. [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Trade Talks: The Nation reports that Chinese negotiators “agreed to address the major concerns” of Pakistan during talks last week on the second phase for the China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement; details are limited, but Pakistan is reportedly seeking preferential tariff rates for 70 high-priority items the currently constitute 80% of current exports to China.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Iranian and Pakistani Army Chiefs Urge “Concerted Action” on Rohingya Crisis [The Nation]
  • Christian Man Sentenced to Death Over Blasphemy Charges [AP] [Reuters]
  • National Assembly Committee to Consider Corruption Sentencing Legislation [Dawn]
  • PPP Challenges Bhutto Assassination Verdict [The Nation]
  • JUI-F Leader Denounces Khyber Paktunkhwa Mosque Reform Plans [ET]
  • Karachi Development Authority Diretor General Arrested [The Nation]
  • SHC Seeks Responses Over Challenge Against Warrants for Former Information Minister’s Arrest [ET]
  • Sindh Government Reviews Muharram Security Plans [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Pakistani Provinces Vying for Control of Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources [Dawn]
  • Investors Aim for LNG Import Terminal in Early 2019 [Reuters]
  • PCRWR Warns of ‘Severe’ Drought Risk by 2025 [ET] [The Nation]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Government Abandons Austerity Plans [ET]
  • Punjab Bans Use of State Expenses for Ministers’ Foreign Travel [Dawn]
  • Auditor General Raises Spying Concerns Over New US Embassy [Dawn]
  • National Highway Authority Barred from Collecting Tolls on Indus Highway [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • US Strategy and Assistance: U.S. and NATO military officials tell the Washington Post that they are still developing plans for additional forces to be sent to Afghanistan in response to the new U.S. strategy towards the region; NATO Military Committee chairman Gen. Petr Pavel said that there was “is still a lack of clarity which positions, which functions, to focus [NATO] contributions” towards, and U.S. European Command chief Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti said that he expected to have the “full picture” on NATO commitments by October. Those forces are expected to focus on training the Afghan security forces, freeing U.S. forces to “push closer to the front” and conduct more direct assistance in combat situations. Albania’s defense minister announced the deployment of a third infantry platoon to Afghanistan on Friday. Afghanistan’s defense ministry announced Saturday that six US Black Hawk helicopters were scheduled for delivery to the Afghan Air Force within the coming week. [TOLO]
  • Kabul Security: The NYT reports that Kabul’s “Green Zone” security district is being expanded to incorporate a former U.S. special forces military base and other embassy and NATO buildings into the security perimeter, as part of what now appears to be an indefinite presence for US and NATO forces set by the Trump administration. A broader “Blue Zone” is also planned to cover much of the city center, with restrictions on movement for trucks.
  • Kandahar Attack: A Romanian soldier injured in Friday’s suicide bombing attack on a NATO convoy in Kandahar succumbed to his injuries, the Romanian defense minister confirmed; two others were also wounded. [Khaama Press]
  • Insurgent Infighting: Clashes between rival Islamic State and Taliban forces in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar province on Friday left at least five dead, provincial officials reported. Khaama Press reported Sunday that a Taliban commander, identified as Ubaid, was killed by members of the TTP Jamaat ul Ahrar in Kunar province; circumstances of his death are unclear. [Pajhwok]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: Pres. Ghani visited Paktia on Friday to review security in the province, praising Afghan security forces,  As many as four people were killed and 14 wounded in an explosion at a marketplace in Khost city on Sunday; no claim of responsibility has been reported. A dozen Islamic State fighters were reportedly killed in joint US and Afghan special forces ground and air operations in Nangarhar’s Bati Kot and Achin districts over Sunday night. Afghan army officials claim to have killed at least 12 Taliban fighters in operations in Faryab’s Pashtun Kot district on Sunday; TOLO reported Friday that two ANA bases are under siege by Taliban fighters in the Ghormach district of Faryab. The Ministry of Interior claims to have killed 15 Taliban fighters in airstrikes in Uruzgan’s Khas Uruzgan district on Saturday. [AP] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Abdullah and Noor Meet: Chief Executive Abdullah and Balkh Governor Atta Mohammad Noor had their first closed-door meeting in months, as Abdullah traveled to Mazar-e-Sharif on Saturday to attend a Martyrs Week ceremony; Abdullah afterwards said that “we should solve problems by talking, accepting each other and listening to each other and we should not stop talking”. In his remarks, Noor criticized “the monopolization of power by a few people”; he also called for the return of Vice Pres. Dostum to the country. Ahmad Zia Massoud, who also attended the event, criticized Pres. Ghani and called on him to resign. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
  • Ghani to Visit UN: The Afghan foreign ministry announced Saturday that Pres. Ghani would lead the Afghan delegation to the UN General Assembly meeting in New York this coming week; acting Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani is accompanying him, along with other aides. A spokesman for Ghani said that he would meet with Pres. Trump on the sidelines of the assembly, their first in-person meeting. A spokesman for National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar spoke by videoconference with his U.S. counterpart Gen. H.R. McMaster on Saturday ahead of Ghani’s trip. Ghani departed on Sunday, stopping in Turkmenistan to attend the opening of the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games and for meetings with the presidents of Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, with whom he held trade talks. [TOLO]
  • IEC Official Resigns: Independent Election Commission officials met on Saturday to review allegations of corruption against the IEC’s site operations chief, Qalamyar. He denies the charges against him, but announced his resignation on Sunday; the IEC has not announced a course of action but reportedly has referred the case to the Attorney General’s office. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Iran Recruits Afghan and Pakistani Shiites to Fight in Syria [AP]
  • Bodyguards of Zahir Qadir Kill Tribal Elder Accused of Suicide Attack [Ariana News]
  • Islamic Development Bank Signs $74M Loan Agreement for Kabul Ring Road Project [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Lack of Water and Security Prevent Cultivation of Millions of Arable Land [TOLO]
  • Commentary: Non-Pashtun Taliban of the North: A Case Study from Jawzjan – “Daesh’s appearance in this Uzbek-dominated province has created concerns, not only for the local government, but also for the Taliban.” [Obaid Ali, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Supreme Court Rejects Sharif Appeals; CIA Seeking Authority for Afghan Drone Strikes

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Topline

  • On Friday, the Supreme Court of Pakistan dismissed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and family’s appeals against the July ruling in the Panama Papers case; the court has not released a full rationale for the decision.
  • The CIA is reportedly seeking authority to carry out drone strikes in Afghanistan, where the U.S. military has till now held responsibility for such operations; a new strike was reported in the Kurram Agency on Friday, the first since June. Three unidentified terrorist suspects were reported to have been killed.
  • Interior ministry officials tell the NYT that Medecins Sans Frontieres’ expulsion from the Kurram Agency was due to the 2015 expiration of a permit to work in the area, saying the group had “created problems for itself”; MSF officials say that they received no response to their application until this week.
  • Afghan and US military officials are reportedly considering the creation of a new paramilitary security force falling under the command of the ministry of defense and modeled on the Indian Territorial Army and the Afghan Local Police.
  • Military officials from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the US held tripartite talks in Kabul on Thursday to discuss the coordination of operations against Islamic State-affiliated forces along the border region.
  • A former Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial assembly member, Hashim Khan, was killed in a driveby shooting in Lower Dir on Thursday; he had been a PML-N member and more recently was affiliated with the JUI-F.
  • At least three Romanian soldiers were reportedly wounded in a suicide car bombing attack on a military convoy near the Kandahar airport on Friday.
  • At a joint press conference on Thursday, Pakistan Awami Tehreek leader Tahirul Qadri endorsed the PTI’s candidate in the NA-120 Lahore by-election, which will be held on Sunday. Meanwhile, the MQM and PTI are in talks to replace parliamentary opposition leader Khurshid Shah of the PPP.
  • Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission announced the suspension of its site operations chief on Thursday after audio recordings were released implicating him in bribery.

Pakistan — Security

  • Drone Strike: Anonymous security sources tell Dawn that a U.S. drone strike in the Kurram Agency killed three suspected terrorists on Friday. No details were disclosed; it is the first reported strike since June.
  • Tensions with India: India’s Border Security Force reported that one of its soldiers was killed and at least one civilian injured in an exchange of fire along the Line of Control on Friday. The incident follows the death of a Pakistani woman on Thursday, which Pakistan formally protested with India’s deputy ambassador. At a weekly press briefing on Thursday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry warned that arms deals between India and the United States “accentuate military imbalances in the region and undermine strategic stability in South Asia. This further emboldens India to adopt aggressive military doctrines and even contemplate military adventurism”. [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • MSF Expulsion: A spokesman for Pakistan’s interior ministry confirmed the expulsion of Medecins Sans Frontieres / Doctors Without Borders from the Kurram Agency on Thursday, attributing the decision to the expiration of a permit to work in the area in 2015 and saying that the group had “created problems for itself”. An anonymous MSF official tells the NYT that the charity had reapplied for permission in 2015 and had gotten no response until the order this week.
  • Former Provincial Assembly Member Killed: Hashim Khan, a former Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial assembly member who had been affiliated with the PML-N and recently joined the JUI-F, was killed in a driveby shooting in Lower Dir on Thursday; no claim of responsibility has been reported. [Dawn]
  • Torkham Bombing: At least six Frontier Constabulary members and a child were injured in a double bombing near the Torkham border crossing in Khyber Agency on Friday; the border gate has been temporarily closed and investigations are underway into the incident. No claim of responsibility has been reported as of this writing.
  • Former Army Officer ‘Goes Missing’: An unidentified retired army lieutenant colonel who previous served with the ISI has reportedly been missing for the past week after traveling to Islamabad; his brother has filed a kidnapping case with police. [The Nation]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Supreme Court Dismisses Sharif Appeal: On Friday, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal petitions of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his children, and Finance Minister Dar against the court’s July ruly in the Panama Papers case. The court has not issued a full rationale for the ruling as of this writing. During arguments on Thursday, lawyers for Nawaz had expressed concern that he could not receive a fair trial under the National Accountability Bureau investigations opened as a result of the court order. The NAB said Thursday that it would seek to appeal a 2014 Lahore High Court ruling acquitting Nawaz and Dar in the Hudaibya Paper Mills money laundering case. [Reuters] [AP] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [ET]
  • NA-120 Election: Speaking to supporters on Thursday, Imran Khan said that the upcoming NA-120 by-election in Lahore, which will be held September 17, “will mark the end for Sharifs”. Pakistan Awami Tehreek leader Tahirul Qadri announced his support for the PTI’s candidate in the race at a joint press conference with Imran on Thursday. [WSJ] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Press Controls: The Sindh provincial government is finalizing draft legislation regulating newspaper and other printed media, Dawn reports.
  • Other Political Activity: PTI vice president Shah Mehmood Qureshi told reporters on Thursday that the PTI was in talks with the MQM to seek the removal of PPP parliamentary opposition leader Khurshid Shah; the PPP, PTI, and MQM respectively hold 47, 32, and 24 seats in the national assembly. Consultation between the government and opposition is required for a number of key appointments, including the new head of the National Accountability Bureau and caretaker government appointments prior to general elections. [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Afghan Taliban Will Support Pakistan Against Foreign Agression: Sami [Dawn]
  • Parties Divided Over FATA Reform Plans [Dawn] [ET]
  • Christian Man Sentenced to Death on Blasphemy Charges [AFP]
  • Pakistan and China Conduct Joint Air Exercises [Dawn]
  • Interior Minister Says Responsibility Lies with Provinces to Take Action Against Banned Groups [Dawn]
  • Escaped LeJ Prisoners Reported to Have Fled to Afghanistan [Dawn]
  • SHC Orders Law Enforcement to Recover ‘Missing Persons’ [Dawn]
  • Lack of Quorum Stalls Passage of Right to Information Bill [Dawn]
  • Auditor General Finds Rs 36 Billion in Irregularities in Punjab Accounts [ET]
  • NAB Arrests Balochistan Health Official on Embezzlement Charges [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • CIA Seeking Authority to Carry Out Drone Strikes: The NYT reports that the CIA is seeking the authority to conduct covert drone strikes in Afghanistan, where the U.S. military has held responsibility for drone operations and has carried out 362 strikes so far this year. The report indicates that the CIA intends to carry out more direct strikes on the Haqqani network, and suggests that the Department of Defense is “somewhat resigned to the outcome”, reversing efforts under the previous CIA director to rein back the agency’s paramilitary operations.
  • Militia Plans: The NYT reports that Afghan and U.S. advisors are considering the formation of a new paramilitary militia force, modeled on the Indian Territorial Army and the Afghan Local Police, that would fall under the command of the defense ministry and would focus on static community defense. A force of around 20,000 soldiers is reportedly envisioned; several analysts express skepticism that the army will be able to monitor the local forces, and warn of potential for abuse.
  • Tripartite Talks on Islamic State Operations: Military officials from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the U.S. held talks in Kabul on Thursday to discuss coordinated operations against Islamic State-affiliated forces operating along the Afghan-Pakistan border. [Dawn]
  • Civilian Casualties: Anonymous Western diplomats and some Afghan officials express concerns to Reuters over proposals to increase the use of U.S. airpower in Afghanistan.
  • Attacks and Operations: A suicide car bomber reportedly targeted a NATO military convoy in Kandahar on Friday near the city’s airport; TOLO reports that three Romanian soldiers were wounded in the bombing. Islamic State-affiliated fighters have publicly beheaded two civilians in Kunar on charges of espionage on behalf of the government and foreign forces. Several Nangarhar business leaders tell TOLO that they are concerned for their safety and that of their investments, reporting multiple robberies. [AP] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • IEC Suspends Site Survey Chief on Bribery Charges: On Thursday, the Independent Election Commission suspended the IEC’s site operations chief after the release of an audio tape in which he appears to be requesting a bribe from a provincial colleague. Details of the incident are unclear and the official, Qalamyar, denied wrongdoing.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Government Set to Announce New Anti-Corruption Strategy [TOLO]
  • Kandahar Youth Council Endorses US Strategy [TOLO]
  • Journalists Protest Confiscation of Cameras After Cricket Stadium Attack [TOLO]
  • Chief Executive Abdullah Pledges Greater Agricultural Investments [Pajhwok] [Ariana News]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Supreme Court Hears Appeal on Sharif Disqualification; Kidnapped Finnish Aid Worker Freed

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Topline

  • During Supreme Court hearings on Wednesday and Thursday over former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s appeal of his disqualification verdict, judges suggested that he had failed to substantiate his claims that he never received salary payments from an undisclosed work permit issued by his son’s UAE-based company. Lawyers for Nawaz challenged his disqualification under Article 62 of the constitution, saying he should not have been disqualified on the basis of an omission. Meanwhile, PM Abbasi and PPP opposition leader Khurhshid Shah met to discuss nominees for the head of the National Accountability Bureau; Chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry’s tenure expires in November.
  • A Finnish aid worker kidnapped in Kabul in May was freed on Thursday, her employer announced; the details of her release have not been disclosed. The Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industries meanwhile reports at least thirty businessmen have been kidnapped around the country so far this year.
  • The Islamic State appeared to claim responsibility for a suicide attack outside Kabul’s main cricket stadium during a match on Wednesday; at least three people were killed and a dozen wounded.
  • The Election Commission of Pakistan has issued an arrest warrant against Imran Khan after he failed to appear before the commission in contempt of court hearings on Thursday.
  • A Pakistani man was killed in cross-border firing by India on Wednesday, Pakistani military officials report. India submitted its arguments to the International Court of Justice in the case of accused spy Kulbhushan Jhadav on Wednesday; Pakistan has until December to make its arguments. India and Pakistan are scheduled to hold talks under the Indus Water Treaty on Thursday.
  • The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee held confirmation hearings earlier this week for Amb. John Bass, nominated to become the next U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan.

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: Pakistan’s military spokesman announced that a man was killed in cross-Working Boundary firing by India on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Indian lawyer submitted arguments to the International Court of Justice in the case of accused spy Kulbhushan Jhadav. Pakistan has until December 13 to file its response. Separately, India and Pakistan are scheduled to hold talks under the Indus Water Treaty on two disputed Indian hydroelectric plants at the World Bank headquarters in Washington on Thursday.
  • Tensions with US: Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Defense Minister Kurram Dastgir Khan said that Pakistan would “explain our position” but that “it’s not for us to satisfy” the United States about its concerns with Pakistan’s security policies. He said that the government was “reassessing ties with the US”.
  • MSF Expelled from Kurram: Reuters follows yesterday’s report on the expulsion of Medecins Sans Frontieres / Doctors Without Borders from the Kurram Agency; anonymous officials describe the order as being directed from Islamabad but provide no explanation for the decision.
  • Ansar-ul Sharia Pakistan to Be Banned: Speaking to a senate committee on Wednesday, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal said that the government was planning to formally ban the group Ansar-ul Sharia Pakistan, which has been linked to the recent assassination attempt against the Sindh provincial opposition leader and several attacks on police in Karachi. [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Sharif Appeal Hearings: During hearings on Thursday over Nawaz Sharif’s appeal against his disqualification by the Supreme Court in its July Panama Papers verdict, court judges suggested that Nawaz had failed to substantiate his claim that he had not received a salary from an undeclared work permit issued by his son’s UAE-based company Capital FZE. Lawyers for Nawaz argued during hearings on Wednesday that he could not be disqualified on the basis of an omission, and argued that he should have faced a full investigation and trial over the question; they also challenged his effective disqualification for life following the court’s ruling under Article 62 of the Constitution. [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • ECP Issues Arrest Warrant for Imran Khan: On Thursday, the Election Commission issued a bailable arrest warrant for Imran Khan over his failure to appear in contempt of court hearings; lawyers for Imran unsuccessfully defended his absence by noting that he had just returned from London. The next hearings have been set for September 25. [Dawn] [AP]
  • NAB Appointments: PM Abbasi and opposition leader Khurshid Shah met on Wednesday to discuss options for the appointment of a new head of the National Accountability Bureau; current chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry’s tenure is due to expire in November. [Dawn]
  • FATA Reforms: In comments to Dawn, party leaders challenged the government’s plans to place the FATA under the jurisdiction of the Islamabad High Court, arguing that it should fall under the Peshawar High Court instead when merged with Khyber Paktunkhwa.
  • Other Political Activity: Dawn reports that Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son Hamza will not return to Pakistan until after the NA-120 by-election in Lahore on Sunday. Imran Khan will lead an election rally in the constituency on Thursday, skirting restrictions on election campaigning by sitting assembly members by describing it as a visit to a local shrine. The Nation reports that the PTI is reaching out to the MQM to seek its support to replace Khurshid Shah as parliamentary opposition leader. [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Senior Police Official Appointed Sindh FIA Director [Dawn]
  • Senate Pushes for Broader Investigation Into Multan Metro Bus Corruption Allegations [ET] [Dawn]
  • Prime Minister Inaugurates Balochistan Canal Project [Dawn]
  • Ministry of Finance Insists No Plans for New IMF Agreement [The Nation]
  • Supreme Judicial Council Hears 26 Misconduct Complaints Against Judges [ET]
  • Commentary: Pakistan Won’t Let Terrorist Organizations Contest Elections. For Now. – “Pakistan had never forced them to choose between terrorism and politics. Instead, these men and the groups they led have been allowed to ply their terrorist trade while simultaneously increasing their political power.” [Stephen Tankel, NYT]
  • Commentary: The South Asian Vortex – “Salvaging an unsatisfactory but workable relationship with Islamabad may in time look like a more palatable outcome than adding Pakistan to America’s list of outright adversaries.” [Dan Markey, The American Interest]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Finnish Aid Worker Freed: A Finnish aid worker working for the Swedish charity Operation Mercy was released from captivity on Thursday after being kidnapped from her guesthouse in Kabul in May of this year; a German colleague and Afghan guard were killed in that incident. No details of her release have been reported. Separately, the Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industry reports at least thirty cases of businessmen being kidnapped so far this year, an increase over last year that they said have contributed to a drop in investments. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Cricket Stadium Bombing: At least three people were killed and a dozen or more wounded when a suicide bomber detonated at the gates of the Kabul cricket stadium during a tournament on Wednesday; the Islamic State’s Amaq News agency claimed responsibility for an attack on Afghan security forces shortly afterwards, although it has not been confirmed if it refers to this incident. The Taliban denied involvement in the attack. [AP] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: Pres. Ghani chaired a meeting on Wednesday to review security in several provinces. The district police chief in Ghazni’s Jaghatu district was killed in a roadside bombing on Thursday morning. A U.S. drone strike in Nangarhar’s Nazian district killed two Islamic State fighters, police officials report. Taliban fighters attacked police checkposts along the Baghlan-Samangan highway on Thursday, killing at least one officer. A rocket attack in Laghman’s Qarghayi district on Thursday reportedly wounded at least six civilians. [AP] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • US Ambassador Nomination Hearings: Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearings were held on Tuesday for Amb. John Bass, who has been nominated as the next ambassador to Afghanistan; he told the committee that “we have to make clear to the Taliban that they can’t outlast us on the battlefield and that the only path forward for them is through negotiated political settlement”. [SFRC Testimony and Video]
  • Herat Airport Police Chief Arrested: TOLO reports that Abdul Hai Rasouli, the Herat airport police chief, was arrested on drug smuggling charges on Wednesday.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • UN Chief Calls for Political Solution to Afghanistan [TOLO]
  • Acting Interior Minister Pledges Action on Corruption [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Foreign Minister Asif Meets with Turkish Leaders; US Airstrikes Reached New Peak in August

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Topline

  • Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif met with Turkish leaders on Tuesday as part of his ongoing tour seeking support for Pakistan after the announcement of a new U.S. strategy towards the region last month. PM Abbasi told reporters on Tuesday that Pakistan was “open to joint patrols” with Afghanistan, saying that “all the criminal elements we are fighting are based in Afghanistan”. Abbasi downplayed the possibility of punitive U.S. action and said that “we don’t think that the Pakistani-US relationship will be defined by Afghanistan”; anonymous Pakistani diplomatic sources tell the Express Tribune that they have received assurances of support from China and Russia to block any UN sanctions, and that the government is working to “phase out its dependence on the United States”.
  • The Supreme Court of Pakistan began hearings on Wednesday on appeals from former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and family challenging the July Panama Papers verdict. An accountability court has summoned the Sharifs on September 19 as it begins hearings on corruption cases reopened as a result of the Supreme Court verdict.
  • The US Air Force carried out more than 500 airstrikes in Afghanistan in August, the highest number of bombs dropped since 2012, new data indicates; more than two thousand bombs have been dropped so far this year, almost doubling totals for all of last year
  • Doctors Without Borders has been given a one-week deadline to halt operations in the Kurram Agency, the organization’s Pakistan country representative announced; no explanation has been offered by Pakistani officials for the expulsion order.
  • Demonstrators protested in Kabul’s Qarabagh district on Tuesday over the distribution of propaganda leaflets in Parwan province earlier this month that included a Quranic quotation imposed over a dog.
  • Germany repatriated eight Afghan men on Wednesday whose asylum applications had been rejected, the first to be deported since the process was temporarily halted in May after the attack near the German embassy in Kabul.
  • Pakistan’s federal cabinet approved draft legislation for introduction in parliament to abolish the Frontier Crimes Regulation and extend the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and Islamabad High Court over the area.

Pakistan — Security

  • Doctors Without Borders Expelled from Kurram: The Pakistan country representative for Medecins Sans Frontieres / Doctors Without Borders tells the Express Tribune that the organization has been given a one-week deadline to halt operations in the Kurram Agency, where MSF has operated two hospitals since 2001. No explanation for the order was given.
  • Hafeez Saeed House Arrest: In a response on Tuesday to a Lahore High Court hearing on challenges against the house arrest order against Jamaat-ud Dawa leader Hafeez Saeed, the Punjab Home Ministry justified Saeed’s detention as a measure to prevent him from fundraising in violation of UN and US sanctions, saying that his release would “lead to unrest” in Punjab. [ET]
  • Blasphemy Charges: An Islamabad anti-terrorism court indicted four unnamed suspects on blasphemy charges at a hearing on Wednesday, all of whom have pleaded not guilty.
  • Balochistan Security: A strike was held in Quetta on Tuesday in protest against the kidnapping over the weekend of Jamiat Ahle Hadees provincial chief Maulana Ali Muhammad Turab. Elsewhere, a roadside bombing in the Kohlu district killed at least one person on Tuesday.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Regional Diplomacy: Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif met with Pres. Erdogan and other senior Turkish leaders in Ankara on Tuesday, discussing both bilateral cooperation and the response to the U.S. regional and Afghanistan strategy announced last month. The two sides “agreed that there was no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and reiterated that Afghanistan’s neighbours and regional countries needed to work together for facilitating a politically negotiated settlement under an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process”. In separate remarks to reporters on Tuesday, PM Abbasi said that Pakistan was open to joint patrols and joint border posts with Afghanistan, saying that “all the criminal elements we are fighting are based in Afghanistan”. Separately, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan, Omar Zakhilwal, told a conference audience in Islamabad on Tuesday that “both the states have mismanaged their relationship” and that “Afghanistan must ensure that its space is not used by the TTP against Pakistan, and Pakistan must ensure that its soil is not used by the Haqqanis and others against Afghanistan”. In his remarks Abbasi also said that “we don’t think the Pakistani-US relationship will be defined by Afghanistan” and that he was unaware of any planned punitive moves by the United States over counterterrorism cooperation; anonymous diplomatic sources tell the Express Tribune that China and Russia have promised Pakistan to block any US move to impose sanctions on Pakistan at the UN, and that the government is now working to “phase out its dependence on the United States”. [Dawn] [The Nation] [AP] [Dawn]
  • Sharif Corruption Investigations: The five judge bench formed to hear former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and family members’ appeals against the July verdict in the Panama Papers case began hearings on Wednesday, where Judge Asif Saeed Khosa noted that the earlier verdict had been unanimous on Nawaz’s disqualification. Lawyers for Nawaz argued that he had been denied a right to a fair trial. Separately, the accountability court hearing reopened corruption investigations against the Sharifs has summoned them for hearings beginning September 19. [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • FATA Reforms: On Tuesday, the federal cabinet approved draft legislation that will abolish the Frontier Crimes Regulation in FATA and extend the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the Islamabad High Court over the area. [ET]
  • Sindh Corruption Investigations: Dawn reports that the PPP leadership in Sindh is now planning to further revise corruption and accountability laws to restore the powers of the National Accountability Bureau to conduct investigations against provincial government officials.
  • Other Political Activity: Reuters interviews and profiles Maryam Nawaz, the former prime minister’s daughter and heir apparent, as she leads her mother’s campaign for the NA-120 by-election, which is scheduled to take place September 17. The Election Commission has upheld the registration of 29,000 voters in NA-120 whose biometric data could not be verified by the National Database and Registration Authority; the PTI has challenged their inclusion in a Lahore High Court petition that will be heard September 15. The LHC dismissed challenges to Kulsoom Nawaz’s candidacy in a ruling on Wednesday. [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • International Court of Justice to Resume Hearings on Kulbhushan Jadhav Case [ET]
  • Interior Minister Claims Ansar-ul-Sharia Pakistan ‘Almost Busted’ [ET]
  • Senate Panel on Human Rights to Review Plight of Bagram Returnees [ET]
  • Sindh Rangers Arrest Six on Weapons Charges [The Nation]
  • PTI Criticizes PML-N Economic Management [Dawn]
  • ADB to Provide $435M for Khyber Paktunkhwa and Sindh Projects [The Nation]
  • Farmers Seek Payment After Order to Freeze Movement of Sharif Sugar Mills [Dawn]
  • ‘Missing’ PIA Plane in Germany After Ex-CEO’s Flight from Pakistan [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Airstrikes: The U.S. Air Force released more than 500 weapons in operations in Afghanistan in August, the highest level of activity in a single month since 2012, officials report; more than two thousand bombs have been dropped so far this year, almost doubling totals for all of last year. Several airstrikes were reportedly carried out in Nangarhar’s Achin and Lalpur districts on Tuesday targeting Islamic State fighters, although reports are unclear if they were carried out by US or Afghan forces.
  • ALP to Expand: The head of the directorate for the Afghan Local Police tells TOLO that the number of ALP forces will be increased under the new U.S. and Afghan military strategy, although he did not provide specifics.
  • Arrests Over Massoud Protests: Kabul police officials say they have arrested at least a dozen people on weapons charges following demonstrations in the city over the past weekend commemorating the death anniversary of Ahmad Shah Massoud.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Protests Against US Leaflets: Protestors demonstrated in Kabul’s Qarabagh district on Tuesday against the propaganda leaflets dropped by U.S. forces in Parwan province earlier this month, temporarily blocking the Kabul highway and calling for the prosecution of those involved. [Reuters]
  • Refugee Repatriation: Germany repatriated eight Afghan men whose asylum applications had been rejected back to Afghanistan on Wednesday, the first deportations to resume since the attack near the German embassy in Kabul in May halted the process. [AP]
  • Hekmatyar Bashes Rivals: In remarks to a gathering of tribal elders in Kabul’s Chahar Asiab district on Wednesday, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar dismissed “figures who have gained power with the support of the outsiders”, saying that “certain people who supported Soviets and now supporting NATO are calling themselves Mujahideen and misuse the word of Jihad to compromise with the rights of the oppressed people.”

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Abdullah Pledges Action Against Islamic State Fighters in Pachir Agam District [Pajhwok]
  • National Procurement Commission Approves Afs 2 Billion in New Contracts [Khaama Press]
  • ‘Fake Life’: Being Gay in Afghanistan [RFE/RL]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistani Foreign Minister Visits Iran, Turkey; India and Afghanistan Affirm Partnership

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Topline

  • Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif concluded meetings with Iranian officials on Monday, agreeing that “there was no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan”; he traveled onward to Turkey on Tuesday. In a Reuters interview, PM Abbasi warned that it would be “counter-productive” for the United States to cut aid to Pakistan.
  • India and Afghanistan agreed to continue and expand their partnership following talks on Monday; Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj pledged India’s support for more than a hundred “high impact” development projects, and suggested that India would expand defense cooperation with Afghansitan, although she did not provide details.
  • The Supreme Court of Pakistan agreed to expand the size of the bench hearing appeal petitions from former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family. Separately, the court resumed hearings on a disqualification petition against Imran Khan, pressing his lawyers to submit details on his purchase of a home in Bani Gala. The PTI in turn has petitioned the court to investigate the party finances of the PML-N and PPP.
  • The Red Cross confirmed the identity of a clinician killed in a shooting incident in Mazar-e-Sharif on Monday; some details of the gunman’s identity have been released, but his motivation remains unclear.
  • A suicide car bombing targeted a U.S. military convoy in the Bagram district on Monday; at least three civilians and two U.S. soldiers were reportedly wounded.
  • The Wolesi Jirga will vote on Wednesday on nominees for eight ministries currently run by “acting” ministers; three more ministries have yet to receive nominees.
  • A Chinese rail link with Afghanistan launched last year halted operations in June after China withdrew subsidies for the project, Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industries officials report.

Pakistan — Security

  • Detention Powers: The Nation reports that in June the PML-N government under former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had directed the interior ministry to amend powers of preventative detention granted to “the federal government” under the 1952 Security of Pakistan Act and shift that power specifically to the prime minister; it is unclear from the report whether PM Abbasi’s government is continuing to pursue the shift.
  • FATA Attacks: Five soldiers were injured when their vehicle struck a landmine in the Mohmand Agency on Monday. On Tuesday, one person was killed and at least four injured in a roadside bombing in North Waziristan. [ET]
  • Karachi Security: Two Karachi policemen were injured on Monday in a driveby shooting; no claim of responsibility has been reported. Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal visited the Sindh Rangers headquarters in Karachi earlier on Monday for a briefing on security in the city, including investigations into the recent assassination attempt against MQM-Pakistan leader Khawaja Izharul Hassan. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Regional Diplomacy: In a Reuters interview, PM Abbasi says that it would be “counter-productive” to cut off military assistance to Pakistan, saying that “we are fighting the war against terror, anything that degrades our effort will only hurt the U.S. effort”. A statement by Pakistan’s foreign ministry following Foreign Minister Asif’s meetings in Iran said that Pres. Rouhani had agreed that “there was no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and a politically negotiated settlement was imperative for lasting peace in Afghanistan”. Asif departed for Turkey on Tuesday. Separately, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa is visiting Australia, where he met with his counterpart in the Australian army and with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Defense Minister Marise Payne. [AP] [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Sharif Corruption Investigations: On Tuesday, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar agreed to form a larger five-judge bench to hear appeal petitions by Nawaz Sharif and his family members, as sought by the family’s lawyers. Nisar defended the court in remarks on Monday, saying that the court “did not write judgements to please or settle scores.” Separately, the accountability court hearing NAB charges against the Sharifs has ordered a re-filing of case materials after several documents were found to be incomplete during an initial review. [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • PTI Legal Battles: The Supreme Court resumed hearings on challenges to Imran Khan’s personal and party finances on Tuesday, with judges pressing lawyers for Imran to document the source of funds used for the purchase of his estate in Bani Gala. The PTI has in turn filed a court petition seeking investigations by the Election Commission into the funding of the PML-N and PPP. The ECP gave the PTI yet another “last chance” to submit financial records and details on funds received from overseas sources on Monday, setting an October 11 deadline. [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • FATA Reforms: Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch told a national assembly committee on Monday that the government was concerned that a merger of the FATA with Khyber Paktunkhwa would result in development funds being shifted to cities in Khyber Paktunkhwa; members of the committee, including from the PML-N, rejected a draft law intended to reform the FATA legal system.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Information Ministry Suspends Two Officers Over Proposed Print Media Controls [ET] [The Nation]
  • Maryam Nawaz Campaigns in Lahore [ET] [The Nation]
  • Census Commissioner Notes Afghan Refugees Included in Provisional Census Figures [Dawn] [ET]
  • Senate Body Recommends ‘Withholding Cooperation’ with Mynamar Over Rohingya Violence [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Red Cross Worker Killed: The Red Cross confirmed the death of Lorena Enebral Perez, a Spanish national working at an orthopedic clinic in Mazar-e-Sharif, who was shot on Monday by two patients at the clinic. The NYT and WSJ have more details on the incident, identifying one of the gunman as a 21-year old polio patient, Mohammed Nasim. Motivations for the shooting remain unclear.
  • Attacks and Operations: A suicide car bomber targeted a convoy of American troops in the Bagram district on Parwan province on Monday, where tensions have been high following the use of leaflets using a Quranic quotation imposed over a dog. At least three civilians and two U.S. soldiers were reportedly wounded in the incident, which the Taliban claimed responsibility for. Nuristan security officials say they repelled a Taliban attack in the Barg-i-Matal district on Monday, killing 33 attackers. The Ministry of Defense said that they destroyed an insurgent base in Kandahar’s Maiwand district that had been used for making explosives. A local militia force killed four Islamic State fighters in Nangarhar’s Nazian district on Monday, provincial government officials reported. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Afghanistan and India Hold Talks: In a joint statement following the conclusion of talks between acting Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani and PM Modi in New Delhi on Monday, India and Afghanistan pledged to continue their partnership, and called for “an end to all forms of support, State sponsorship, safe havens and sanctuaries to terrorists against Afghanistan”. At a press conference, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj indicated that India would support 116 new “high impact” development projects in Afghanistan and that the two sides had agreed to “expand bilateral cooperation in the field of security and defense”, but did not provide details; Rabbani told The Hindu that India would continue to offer training for Afghan cadets. India also committed to “speeding up” development of the Chabahar port with Iran. [Dawn] [Economic Times]
  • Cabinet Appointments: TOLO notes that eleven of the cabinet’s 25 ministries are currently being run by “acting” ministers; the government has nominated new candidates for eight ministries, and parliament speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi indicated that votes would be held on their nominations on Wednesday. No new nominees have been named for the foreign ministry, education ministry, or ministry of information and culture.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • China Rail Route Halts: A new rail link with China inaugurated last September halted operations earlier this summer, Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industry officials report, after the Chinese government withdrew subsidies for the project.
  • Power Outages: A power line linking Kabul and Tajikistan was damaged during fighting in several districts in Baghlan on Monday, electric utility Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat reported; repairs are underway.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Karzai Meets with Pakistani Ambassador, Criticizes ‘Instrumental Use of Terror’ [Khaama Press]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Supreme Court to Hear Sharif Appeal this Week; 13 Injured in Pro-Massoud Demonstrations

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Topline

  • The Supreme Court of Pakistan has set hearings for later this week on former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s appeal of his disqualification verdict; lawyers for Nawaz have petitioned to postpone that hearing and to first hear a procedural appeal on the size of the judicial bench that issued the verdict. Separately, the National Accountability Bureau has appealed against the acquittal of former Pres. Zardari in the last of six corruption cases pending against him by a Rawalpindi accountability court last month.
  • Multiple injuries were reported during show-of-force demonstrations in Kabul by supporters of the late Ahmad Shah Massoud on the anniversary of his death on Saturday; national leaders spoke at the start of Martyrs’ Week, calling for national unity.
  • Pres. Ghani attended an Organization of the Islamic Conference summit in Astana, Kazakhstan, meeting with Turkish Pres. Erdogan, who also met with Pakistani Pres. Mamnoon Hussain and offered to mediate between the two countries.
  • Following a visit to China on Friday, Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif traveled to Tehran on Monday, where he met with Pres. Rouhani and his counterpart Javed Zarif. Afghan acting Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani visited India on Sunday for meetings with PM Modi and his counterpart Sushma Swaraj.
  • A foreign female Red Cross worker was killed in a shooting by two patients at a Mazar-e-Sharif hospital on Monday; circumstances of the shooting are unclear, but the two gunmen have reportedly been arrested. The head of the Kapisa Ulema Council was killed in a driveby shooting near his home on Saturday.
  • Maulana Abu Turab, the leader of Balochistan’s chapter of the Markazi Jamat Ahle Hadees, was kidnapped along with his son and a bodyguard in Quetta on Friday. On Sunday, as many as five members of Quetta’s Shia Hazara community were killed in a driveby shooting.
  • Pakistani officials are considering the creation of a new print press regulatory authority and the introduction of annual publication license renewal requirements, Dawn reports; Minister of State for Information Marriyum Aurganzeb denied knowledge of the proposal.
  • PM Abbasi chaired a meeting on FATA reforms on Friday, ordering the appointment of a “Chief Operating Officer for the period of transition” and the “fast-tracking” of legislation for the FATA’s merger with Khyber Paktunkhwa.
  • Chief of Army Staff Bajwa approved death sentences for four men convicted by the military courts system, as well as varying prison terms for 23 other convicts.
  • Leading Afghanistan historian and archivist Nancy Hatch Dupree passed away in Kabul on Sunday; she was 89.

Pakistan — Security

  • Quetta Attacks: As many as five members of the Hazara minority community were killed in a driveby shooting in Quetta on Sunday evening; no claim of responsibility has been reported. On Friday, Maulana Abu Turab, the Balochistan chapter leader of the Markazi Jamat Ahle Hadees, was kidnapped along with his son and a bodyguard while traveling near Quetta’s airport road; other religious party leaders announced plans to hold a strike in the city on September 12 to protest the incident. [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Military Courts: On Friday, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa approved death sentences for four men convicted under the military courts system, all of whom were identified as members of an unspecified “banned organization” and accused of attacks on civilians and security personnel. Another 23 prisoners were reported to have been sentenced to varying prison terms; details of their identities and sentences were not released. [ET] [The Nation]
  • Ansar-ul Sharia Pakistan: In an interview on Saturday, the head of the Sindh Rangers Maj. Gen. Muhammad Saeed described the Ansar-ul Sharia militant group as a “purely Karachi-based organization” that he linked to several previous attacks on police officers in the city and said had been founded by two Al Qaeda-associated individuals. [The Nation]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Sharif Corruption Investigations: The Supreme Court has scheduled hearings for September 12 to hear appeal petitions filed by Nawaz Sharif and his family members against the court’s orders to reopen corruption investigations against them; on Saturday, lawyers for Nawaz filed a petition seeking a postponement of that hearing, seeking a ruling first on the authority of the five-judge bench to issue the verdict against Nawaz in July. Nawaz is also seeking a larger bench for the appeal hearing. Former information minister Pervaiz Rashid and other party leaders told reporters on Saturday that Nawaz would not return from London until his wife Kulsoom Nawaz’s health improves; she underwent a second cancer surgery on Saturday. Meanwhile, on Monday the Lahore High Court ruled that the relocation of three Sharif family-owned sugar mills to southern Punjab was illegal. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Zardari Corruption Investigations: On Saturday, the National Accountability Bureau filed an appeal against the acquittal in late August of former Pres. Zardari in the last of six corruption cases; the appeal argued that the Rawalpindi accountability court ruled to dismiss charges against Zardari without considering all evidence collected by the NAB. Separately, PPP leader Asim Hussain departed Pakistan on on Sunday for London, where he will undergo medical treatment following months of detention and his eventual release on bail earlier this spring. [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Regional Diplomacy: Following a visit to China on Friday, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif traveled to Tehran on Monday, where he met with his counterpart Javed Zarif and with Iranian Pres. Hassan Rouhani to discuss bilateral relations and the new U.S. strategy towards the region. [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Press Restrictions: Dawn reports that the government is preparing to introduce new controls on print media that will institute an annual license renewal process and form a new regulatory oversight body, the Pakistan Print Media Regulatory Authority. Minister of State for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb denied involvement in the process and said she would investigate the issue.
  • FATA Reforms: PM Abbasi chaired a meeting of the National Committee on the Implementation of FATA Reforms on Friday, which was also attended by Khyber Paktunkhwa Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak and Chief of Army Staff Bajwa, among other senior government officials. The committee announced plans to appoint a “Chief Operating Officer for the period of transition”, reviving plans for the FATA’s eventual merger with Khyber Paktunkhwa province; it also tasked the law minister with “fast track[ing] legislative and administrative measures” for FATA’s integration.
  • Census Debates: Representatives of the MQM-Pakistan, PPP, Pak Sarzameen Party, and other major Karachi political parties participated in a conference on Saturday, challenging census figures for Karachi; Sindh Information Minister Nasir Hussain Shah called for detailed census block results to be released, and other speakers called for a partial re-count to check the results. [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [WAPO]
  • Protests Over Myanmar Violence: Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua summoned Myanmar’s ambassador to Pakistan on Saturday to formally protest ongoing violence against the Rohingya Muslim minority community in Myanmar. In an open letter to the UN Secretary General, opposition leader Imran Khan also condemned the violence, criticizing the UN for failing to intervene more forcefully to halt the conflict. The Jamaat-e-Islami organized rallies on the issue across the country on Friday and in Karachi on Sunday, drawing several thousand protestors. [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn] [AFP] [Reuters]
  • NA-120 Election: Imran Khan led an election rally in Lahore on Friday, telling voters that support for the PTI’s candidate would “strengthen the judiciary” and be “an homage to the Supreme Court”. Khan subsequently departed for London on a weeklong visit. Maryam Nawaz continues to campaign for her mother in the race, and to denounce the Supreme Court verdict against her father. The Election Commission issued a warning notice on Saturday to two Punjab provincial ministers for violating restrictions on campaigning in the NA-120 race by active parliamentarians. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: In an interview on Saturday, former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that “better coordination with both the judiciary and military is the only option in the current situation, where conspiracies are being hatched against the country”, warning against “unnecessary confrontation”. Nisar was also critical of Maryam Nawaz’s leadership, describing her as “a child”. The PTI missed another Election Commission deadline on Monday to submit details on its funding. The Nation reports the MQM-Pakistan is considering reshuffling local government officeholders in Karachi, including the mayor and deputy mayor. Pres. Hussain, PM Abbasi, and other leaders marked the death anniversary of Mohammad Ali Jinnah on Monday. [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • China Trade Talks: Finance Minister Dar met with his Chinese counterpart Xiao Jie in Urumqi on Friday for discussion on bilateral economic relations. The two countries are scheduled to hold free trade agreement talks in Beijing beginning September 14; Dawn reports that Pakistan may not sign a new agreement for lack of further Chinese concessions for Pakistani imports, and concerns that Chinese imports will increase.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan and Kazakhstan Sign Energy, Defense Cooperation Agreements [APP]
  • Prime Minister Abbasi Participates in F-16 Training Mission [APP] [The Nation]
  • Indian Border Security Forces Detain Five Pakistani Fishermen [Dawn]
  • Sindh Police Chief Reshuffles Senior Police Appointments [The Nation] [ET]
  • Three MQM Members Accused of Working for RAW Released on Bail [Dawn]
  • Rawalpindi Corps Commander Visits Line of Control [Dawn] [ET]
  • Arms Caches Seized in Balochistan, Khyber Paktunkhwa [ET]
  • Bodies Found in Mastung May Be Missing Chinese Couple [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Gets $230M Loans to Cushion Forex Reserves [ET]
  • Sindh Building Control Authority and Airport Security Force in Tug of War Over Construction Plans [Dawn]
  • Over Rs 800M in Kohistan Development Funds Unspent Due to Absence of Local Government Bodies [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • ‘Martyrs Week’ Demonstrations Turn Violent: Multiple injuries were reported from indiscrimi ate firing by supporters of the late mujahedeen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, whose sixteenth death anniversary was commemorated in Kabul on Saturday, the start of “Martyrs’ Week”. TOLO quotes ministry of interior sources who say that thirteen people were injured; three children were also reportedly struck by a vehicle on Friday. The NYT reports at least six people were arrested, but describes police as being “outgunned and outnumbered” by the militia forces. Chief Executive Abdullah and former Pres. Karzai spoke at a gathering of leaders at the Loya Jirga tent in Kabul on Saturday; Pres. Ghani issued a statement calling for national unity. Abdul Rasool Sayyaf also warned against “sidelining” mujahedeen veterans. In his remarks on the occassion, Vice President Dostum denounced “conspiracies and efforts against the coalition” he has formed with Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor and Hezb-e-Wahdat leader Mohammad Mohaqiq; a spokesman for Dostum called on the government to “create the proper environment so that he can return to his people”. [Pajhwok] [Ariana] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Ghani Attends Astana Summit: Pres. Ghani traveled to Kazakhstan on Saturday to attend an Organization of the Islamic Conference summit on science and technology in Astana; he met with Turkish Pres. Erdogan on the sidelines of the summit on Sunday, who also met with Pakistani Pres. Mamnoon Hussain and offered to mediate between the two countries. [Khaama Press] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Foreign Minister Visits India: Acting Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani arrived in New Delhi on Sunday for a three-day visit, during which he will meet with PM Modi and co-chair a new strategic partnership council with his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Election Preparations: A spokesman for the Independent Election Commission said Friday that the IEC had assessed around 7,000 polling centers in all 34 provinces thus far, but that centers in 33 insecure districts had not yet been assessed. [TOLO]
  • Afghan Historian Nancy Dupree Passes Away: Nancy Hatch Dupree, a leading American historian of Afghanistan who had lived in and studied the country for decades and who was a leading curator and archivist of its history, passed away in Kabul on Sunday; she was 89. The NYT, Washington Post, TOLO, and Afghan Analysts Network, among others, offer obituaries. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • At Friday Prayers, Simmering Anger of Leaflets Seen as Insulting Islam [NYT]
  • Kabul Seeks Extended Economic Ties with Central Asian Nations [TOLO]
  • Transmission Line Work Begins in Wardak Province [Khaama Press]
  • Solar Power Project to Kick Off in Kandahar Next Month [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: NAB Files Corruption References Against Sharifs; Afghan General Accuses Iran of Supporting Taliban

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Topline

  • On Friday, the National Accountability Bureau filed corruption charges against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his three children, and Finance Minister Dar, reopening four cases against them.
  • Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif arrived in Beijing on Friday; at a joint press conference, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that China supports Pakistan in safeguarding its national sovereignty and dignity”. At a cabinet meeting on Thursday, PM Abbasi was quoted saying that the new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan “will fail” and “we will not allow bringing the war into Pakistan”. Chief of Army Staff Bajwa chaired a meeting of army corps commanders on Friday.
  • A meeting of Pakistan’s Inter-Provincial Coordination Committee is reported to have reached agreement on the use of provisional census results for the re-drawing of constituency boundaries in advance of the next general elections, rather than waiting for finalized results due by April 2018.
  • In a BBC Persian service interview, Afghan army chief of general staff Lt. Gen. Mohammad Sharif Yaftali accused Iran of providing weapons and materiel to the Taliban; a spokesman for the defense ministry said he had been misquoted and that the government had “reports”, but not confirmation, of that support.
  • In a statement on Friday, former Pres. Karzai criticized the United States after a leaflet drop in Parwan earlier this week which included a Quranic quotation imposed over the image of a dog.
  • PM Abbasi inaugurated the Chashma-4 nuclear power plant in Mianwali on Friday; NEPRA reported Thursday that power production rose 14% year-on-year in July, with the share of power produced by nuclear, coal, and LNG rising.

Pakistan — Security

  • Universities Under Scrutiny: At a press conference on Friday, University of Karachi Vice Chancellor Mohammad Ajmal Khan said that the university had “not taken a decision” on sharing student data with security agencies but was “ready to cooperate with security departments”; he insisted that there were “no student terrorist wings” operating from the university.
  • PPP to Appeal Bhutto Murder Verdict: The Express Tribune reports that PPP leaders plan to file at least three appeals against a Rawalpindi anti-terrorism court verdict on the 2007 assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, seeking among other things punishment for former Pres. Musharraf, who has been declared an absconder in the case but did not receive a sentence.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Corruption Charges Reopened Against Sharifs: On Friday, the National Accountability Bureau formally filed four corruption references against Nawaz Sharif, his sons and daughter, and Finance Minister Dar, following an approval of the cases by NAB Chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry at a meeting on Thursday. The NAB did not seek asset freezes, travel restrictions, or arrests, deferring that decision to the accountability court hearing the cases. [Reuters] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Foreign Minister Visits China: Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif arrived in Beijing on Friday, where he held a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who said that “China supports Pakistan in safeguarding its national sovereignty and dignity”, adding that “some countries need to give Pakistan the full credit that it deserves” on counterterrorism efforts. On Thursday, PM Abbasi chaired a cabinet meeting, and was quoted as describing the Trump administration’s South Asia strategy as a “non-starter”; in remarks to a conference of Pakistani diplomats, Abbasi said that “Trump’s new Afghan policy will fail. We will not allow bringing the war into Pakistan”. On Friday, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa chaired a corps commanders meeting in Rawalpindi; no details have been released. Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal met with the UK ambassador on Thursday, claiming that the “achievements and sacrifices by Pakistan against terrorism are unparalleled”. In a BBC Urdu interview, UK Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn said that “Pakistan is a country which should be treated respectfully. It should not be criticised from the outside”. [AP] [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Census Planning: A meeting of the Inter-Provincial Coordination Committee agreed to a proposal from the federal government to use provisional census data in re-drawing constituency boundaries in advance of new elections, rather than waiting for the final publication of the census report by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, estimated to take place in April 2018. The Council of Common Interests must approve the proposal. The MQM-Pakistan has cancelled a protest planned for September 16 over the census data, but did not disclose the reason for doing so. [ET]
  • ECP Refuses to Recognize JUD Party: On Thursday, the Election Commission reportedly denied recognition to the Milli Muslim League, the political party formed by Jamaat ud Dawa in August, and barred its candidate in the NA-120 Lahore by-election from displaying images of Jamaat ud Dawa leaders or using the party’s name in his campaign.
  • Other Political Activity: Imran Khan and other PTI leaders called for the resignation of Finance Minister Dar at a press conference on Thursday, accusing him of “four years of economic misrule”. Imran will lead an election rally in Lahore today, in an area bordering but outside the bounds of the NA-120 constituency. The PPP has cancelled a planned rally led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardar in Mardan that had been scheduled for September 14, citing security concerns from the provincial government. [The Nation]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Infrastructure: Power production in July increased 14% year-on-year to 12,496 gigawatt-hours, the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority reported, with energy from nuclear, coal, and liquefied natural gas rising as a share of total production and hydroelectric and furnace oil dropping. State Minister for Power Abid Sher Ali told reporters on Thursday that the government plans to announce an end to loadshedding in November. On Friday, PM Abbasi inaugurated the Chashma-Four nuclear power plant in Mianwali, which will have a production capacity of 340 megawatts. [APP] [Dawn]
  • HBL Settles Fine with New York: Habib Bank Limited has agreed to pay a $225 million settlement after facing fines of up to $630 million due regulatory violations in New York state, where the bank has already agreed to surrender its operating license and close its branch. [The Nation]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Sindh to Challenge Sindh High Court Order on Police Chief’s Appointment [ET]
  • Cabinet Extends Inquiry on Missing Persons [Dawn]
  • Two Police Constables Sacked for Alleged Torture of Journalist in Thar [Dawn]
  • Seven Men Acquitted in Kasur Child Sex Abuse Scandal [Dawn]
  • Jamaat-e-Islami Calls for Expulsion of Myanmar Ambassador [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Sindh Plans to Gather Data on Private Schools [Dawn]
  • Two Contracts Approved for Balochistan Road Project [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Top General Accuses Iran of Arming Taliban: In a BBC Persian service interview, Afghan Army Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Mohammad Sharif Yaftali accused Iran of providing arms and military equipment to the Taliban, saying that Pres. Ghani had raised the issue in his most recent trip to Tehran. A spokesman for the ministry of defense walked back those remarks, saying that the government had “reports, not evidence about Iran’s involvement”.
  • Karzai Criticizes Parwan Leaflet Drop: In a statement on Friday, former Pres. Karzai criticized the U.S. military’s drop of propaganda leaflets in Parwan province earlier this week which included a Quranic quotation imposed over an image of a dog; U.S. military officials apologized for the incident. [WSJ]
  • Attacks and Operations: Three Taliban fighters were killed and four wounded in an airstrike in Wardak’s Nerkh district on Thursday, local officials report. Three unidentified militants were killed in “mysterious circumstances” in Nangarhar’s Shirzad district on Wednesday evening, local security officials report; details are limited.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Talks with Pakistan: A spokesman for Afghanistan’s ministry of foreign affairs confirmed Thursday that acting Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani would meet with Pakistani Foreign Minister Asif on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly later this month.
  • Election Preparations: Independent Election Commission chief for Paktia Zahir Akbari tells Pajhwok that a survey of polling station locations is almost complete.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghanistan’s Lost Movies, Hidden from the Taliban, Go Digital [AFP]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: COAS and Foreign Minister Respond to Counterterrorism Criticism; DOD Approves 3500 More Troops

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Topline

  • Speaking at a Defense Day ceremony on Wednesday, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa rebuffed criticism of Pakistan’s counterterrorism efforts, saying “the world must do more” and that “our security concerns should also be resolved”. In remarks on Thursday following the conclusion of a three-day envoys summit, Foreign Minister Asif acknowledged a “difference between the world’s perception and Pakistan’s perception” of its counterterrorism efforts. Asif will travel to China on Friday; he spoke by phone on Wednesday with Afghanistan’s acting Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, agreeing to meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly later this month. China’s ambassador to Pakistan said that “there has been no change in Chinese policy regarding Pakistan” following a BRICS summit statement on Monday that expressed concern over several Pakistan-based terrorist organizations; a US State Department spokesman said that “Pakistan must change its approach”.
  • Reuters and the Washington Post report that the Pentagon has approved the deployment of around 3,500 additional U.S. servicemembers to Afghanistan, bringing total American force levels there to around 14,500. The Post also reports that the Trump administration is likely to loosen rules of engagement to allow U.S. forces to carry out strikes on the Taliban regardless of whether they are directly threatening U.S. or Afghan forces.
  • The Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide attack outside Bagram airbase on Wednesday, saying it was in retaliation for an American leaflet drop in the province earlier this week that feature imagery of a dog inscribed with a Quranic quotation, which U.S. military officials subsequently apologized for. As many as six people were injured in the bombing; CNN reports one American was among the injured.
  • On Thursday, the Sindh High Court ruled against the Sindh provincial government’s efforts to remove police chief A.D. Khawaja and reduce his powers of appointment and transfer.

Pakistan — Security

  • Sindh High Court Upholds Sindh Police Chief’s Tenure: In a decision on Thursday, the Sindh High Court overruled the Sindh provincial government’s efforts to remove provincial police chief A.D. Khawaja and to take away his powers of appointment and transfer, ordering the restoration of those powers. [ET] [The Nation]
  • Counterterrorism Arrests: Two men associated with Ansarul Sharia Pakistan were arrested in Quetta and Pishin on Wednesday, Dawn reports. A spokesman for the group was also reportedly arrested in Karachi. Details remain limited, but Malir Senior Superintendent of Police Rao Anwar tells Dawn that “we have broken their network”.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Responses to Counterterrorism Criticism: In Defense Day remarks at the Pakistani military’s General Headquarters on Wednesday, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa rebuffed U.S. criticism of Pakistan’s counterterrorism efforts, saying that “if Pakistan has not done enough in this war, then no country in the world has done anything” and that “the world must do more”. Bajwa added that Pakistan would “encourage actions by America and Nato that will bring peace to Afghanistan specifically and the region at large. But we also wish for our security concerns should also be resolved”, saying that “Afghanistan’s war cannot be fought in Pakistan”. Foreign Minister Asif is due to travel to Beijing on Friday, after the conclusion of an envoys conference in Islamabad this week. Speaking at a press conference on Thursday following the conclusion of an envoys conference in Islamabad this week, Foreign Minister Asif said that Pakistan would have to “quickly adjust our direction” in response to “seismic shifts” in the region; he acknowledged “a difference ─ a distance ─ between the world’s perception and Pakistan’s perception” of the war against terrorism. Asif spoke by phone with his Afghan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani on Wednesday; the two agreed to meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly later this month. Asif is due to travel to Beijing on Friday, where he will meet with State Councilor for Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. On Thursday, China’s ambassador to Pakistan Sun Weidong was quoted saying that Monday’s BRICS summit statement regarding militant groups based in Pakistan was focused on “groups which are already banned”, saying “there has been no change in Chinese policy regarding Pakistan”. A US State Department spokesperson responding to questions about the BRICS statement tells Dawn that “Pakistan must change its approach. We look to the Pakistani government to take decisive action against militant groups based in Pakistan that are a threat to the region”. China’s ambassador to Afghanistan Yao Jing, meanwhile, visited Badakhshan on Wednesday, where he said China was “working for anti-terrorism, second we are increasing our capacity-building and certainly we have more regional consensus and coordination as far as anti-terrorism is concerned”. Elsewhere, Indian Chief of Army Staff Gen. Bipin Rawat said Wednesday that India would need to prepare for the possibility of a two-front war with China and Pakistan. [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Lahore Election: The Election Commission directed Punjab officials to install CCTV cameras in all polling stations for the NA-120 Lahore by-election, and announced that paramilitary Rangers would be deployed to provide security at the polls. Maryam Nawaz continues to oversee the PML-N campaign for her mother; on Thursday, the Lahore High Court formed a bench to hear petitions challenging Kulsoom Nawaz’s candidacy, after two other benches were dissolved following judges’ recusals. [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Census Disputes: In remarks on Wednesday, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said that his government would not allow a delay in elections based on the absence of finalized census results, and suggested that provisional results should be used as a basis for the next general elections, although he also challenged the accuracy of those figures. The Sindh High Court has begun hearing a challenge against the results.
  • Other Political Activity: Imran Khan accused the BBC Urdu of distorting remarks made in an interview on Wednesday regarding the party’s support for local government reforms in Khyber Paktunkhwa. The Election Commission has set a new September 11 deadline for the PTI to submit financial records. The Supreme Court will resume hearings on disqualification petitions against Imran and other PTI leaders on September 12. MQM-Pakistan leaders reportedly plan to make a “last ditch effort” to persuade the government to reopen party offices in Karachi that were seized or closed last year. [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Infrastructure: PM Abbasi chaired a cabinet committee on energy meeting on Wednesday to review energy infrastructure projects; the Neelum-Jhelum power transmission line is reportedly due to be completed by the end of September. Dawn notes that the energy sector was the largest single source of revenue for the government in the previous fiscal year, thanks to high sales taxes, increases in consumption, and rising global oil prices. U.S. Embassy Counsellor for Economic Affairs William Laitinen met with the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Wednesday, telling the audience that the U.S. “wanted continuous engagement with Pakistan for economic benefit of both countries” and that “many US companies were interested to explore Pakistan for the export of LNG”. [The Nation] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Police Officers Challenge Convictions in Bhutto Murder Case [Dawn]
  • Foreign Minister Asif Calls for World Pressure on Myanmar Over Rohingya Crisis [AP] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Supreme Court Criticizes Balochistan NAB Chief Over Negligence in Graft Cases [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Bureaucrats Lobby for Vacant Positions with International Financial Institutions [ET]
  • PEMRA Censures BOL News Over “Anti-Pakistan Sentiments” [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Seeks to Recruit “Trained Teachers” for Mosques [The Nation]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Cabinet Approves Removing Bank of Khyber Chief [Dawn]
  • Over 2800 Pakistanis Affected by Trump Repeal of DACA [APP]

Afghanistan — Security

  • US to Deploy 3500 Additional Troops to Afghanistan: Reuters reports, and the Washington Post confirms, that the Pentagon has approved the deployment of approximately 3,500 additional U.S. servicemembers to Afghanistan, bringing the total American force in country to around 14,500. Sec. Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Dunford briefed Congressional representatives on the administration’s plans in a closed-door session on Wednesday. No public announcement has been made regarding the deployment. The Post report also indicates that the administration will give U.S. forces greater leeway to carry out strikes on Taliban forces even if they are not directly threatening U.S. or Afghan forces. Earlier this week, the DOD approved a $1.3 billion foreign military sales contract to deliver 150 MD 530F helicopters by August 2022. [TOLO] [WAPO]
  • Taliban Attack Bagram After ‘Offensive’ Leaflet Drop: As many as six civilians were wounded in a suicide bombing attack at one of the gates to Bagram Airbase on Wednesday; the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was carried out in retaliation for a U.S. leaflet airdrop in the province earlier this week which featured a dog inscribed with a Quranic quotation that U.S. military commanders subsequently apologized for. CNN reports that one “U.S. citizen” was wounded in the attack, but does not provide further details. [TOLO]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: Kabul Emergency Hospital officials report a 10% increase in patients with war-related injuries since March over the same period last year. Afghan National Army officials in Kunduz claim to have killed at least 50 Taliban fighters in operations in the Chardara district. Taliban fighters attacked multiple checkposts in several Faryab districts on Tuesday, the provincial police chief reported; he said that 18 insurgents had been killed. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Preparations: IEC officials tell TOLO that only one company has submitted a bid for a $16 million procurement contract for electronic equipment for use in the parliamentary elections; the source suggests that the contract will be opened to public bids if the proposal does not meet IEC requirements.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Chamber of Commerce Calls on Iran to Improve Chabahar Port [TOLO]
  • Retired Civil Servants Complain of Unpaid Pensions [TOLO]
  • Russian Envoy Denies Claims of Support for Taliban [TOLO]
  • US Envoy Says More Women Needed in Workforce [TOLO]
  • Ahmad Wali Massoud Calls for National Unity [TOLO]
  • Vice President Danish Says Corruption Holding Back Growth in Education [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: FM Asif Suggests Pakistan Should Restrict Militants; US Military Apologizes for Parwan Leaflets

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Topline

  • In a statement on Tuesday following the BRICS summit statement on Monday highlighting concerns over the presence of several Pakistan-based terrorist groups, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said that Pakistan was “also seriously concern about the threat posed by terrorism and extremism in the South Asian region”, pointing to groups based in Afghanistan. Foreign Minister Khawaja Asfi was more forthcoming in an interview on Tuesday evening, suggesting that Pakistan should impose some restrictions” on militant groups “so that we can show the global community that we have put our house in order”.
  • A U.S. military commander in Afghanistan issued a statement apologizing for a leaflet drop in Parwan province on Monday evening that featured an image of a dog carrying the Taliban flag, which includes Quranic quotes on it, saying the image was “highly offensive to both Muslims and the religion of Islam”; the Parwan provincial governor called for arrests and trials of those responsible.
  • Two Afghan Red Cross employees were freed after being taken hostage in Jawzjan in an attack in February; no details of their released were given.
  • A senior Hezb-e-Islami leader survived an assassination attempt in Kabul on Tuesday, a party spokesman said; no claim of responsibility was reported.
  • A spokesman for the National Accountability Bureau denied reports that recommendations had been made to freeze the assets or travel of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif as part of renewed corruption investigations; the NAB is meeting Wednesday to finalize those cases.
  • Sindh law enforcement agencies are reportedly seeking student data from universities after the leadership of the militant group Ansarul Sharia Pakistan was reported to have been university-educated; Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani expressed concern over that step.
  • Pakistan marked “Defense Day” on Wednesday, commemorating the anniversary of the 1965 war with India.

Pakistan — Security

  • Ansar-ul Sharia Pakistan Blamed for Attacks: In a press release on Tuesday, the Sindh Rangers linked the Ansarul Sharia Pakistan, the group blamed for Sunday’s assassination attempt against provincial assembly opposition leader Khawaja Izharul Hassan, to several earlier attacks on police personnel in Karachi. Karachi police and the Rangers met on Tuesday to review the case. The Express Tribune reports that law enforcement agencies plan to scrutinize university student enrollment data; the ASP leader and one of the attackers are reported to be Karachi University graduates. Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani expressed concern over the university’s cooperation in sharing data. [The Nation]
  • Gwadar Attack: Seven people were reportedly injured in a grenade attack as they were picnicking in Gwadar’s Gul Makran area on Wednesday. Details are limited and no claim of responsibility has been reported.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Regional Diplomacy: In a statement on Tuesday in response to a BRICS summit statement that cited several Pakistan-based militant groups as threats to the region, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said that it was “also seriously concerned about the threat posed by terrorism and extremism in the South Asian region”, citing groups based in Afghanistan. Defense Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan separately stated that “we reject this thing categorically, no terrorist organisation has any complete safe havens” in Pakistan; he also said that “we are trying to resolve the issues amicably because any American action would cause instability in Pakistan.” Responding to the BRICS statement, a spokesman for Pres. Ghani in Afghanistan said that “we hope that this correct understanding would result in action against the countries which are publicly supporting terrorism”. In an interview on Tuesday evening, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said that Pakistan “will continue to face such embarrassment till the time we keep our eyes off these organisations in our country”, and said “we should impose some restrictions on the activities of elements like [Lashkar e Taiba] and [Jaish e Mohammad], so that we can show the global community that we have put our house in order”. The Nation provides some details from the ongoing conference of Pakistani diplomats taking place in Islamabad, which is reviewing the newly announced U.S. policy towards the region and the BRICS statement. In a resolution on Tuesday, the defense committee of the national assembly rejected the “hostile and threatening statements” of Pres. Trump and Gen. Nicholson. [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Sharif Investigations: The Nation reports that National Accountability Bureau chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry has rejected proposals from NAB investigators to seek a freeze on the assets and travel of Nawaz Sharif and his family members as part of re-opened corruption investigations; a spokesman for the NAB denied that those measures had been proposed. The NAB will hold a meeting of its executive board on Wednesday to approve the case references. The Supreme Court has set a Friday deadline for the cases to be filed. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Defense Day Commemorated: Pakistan commemorated “Defense Day” on Wednesday, marking the 52nd anniversary of the 1965 war with India. In his message on the occasion, PM Abbasi said that “we can only defeat our enemies through strict adherence to the cardinal principles of unity, faith and discipline laid down by the Father of the Nation”. [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: National Assembly deputy speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi tells Dawn that Nawaz Sharif will hold a public rally in Abbottabad after he returns from London later this week. Imran Khan will hold a rally in Lahore on Friday. The Nation looks at the NA-120 constituency’s Christian minority as a potential swing block in the upcoming by-election. In a BBC Urdu interview, Imran Khan acknowledged opposition from PTI lawmakers to the local government system in Khyber Paktunkhwa, but touted reforms there as a “revolutionary step”. [The Nation] [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Sindh Chief Minister Seeks Explanation of Police Chief’s Complaint [Dawn]
  • Gunmen Abduct 17 Youth from Landi Kotal [Dawn]
  • Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan Awami Tehreek, and Pakistan Defense Council Plan Protests in Support of Rohingya Muslims [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • UK Seeks Pakistan’s Help in Altaf Hussain Hate Speech Probe [Dawn]
  • Stock-Taking Finds Rawalpindi Police Weapons Defective, Missing [Dawn]
  • Qatar Taps Pakistan Market Amid Gulf Blockade [AJE]
  • Currency Limit for Travelers Raised to Rs 10,000 [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Red Cross Staff Freed: The Red Cross announced on Tuesday that two of its staff members had been freed after being taken captive in February this year while delivering assistance in Jawzjan province; six of their colleagues were killed in the attack at the time. Details of their release or their captivity were not disclosed. [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • Attacks and Operations: Qazi Amin Waqad, a senior member of Hezb-e-Islami, survived a driveby shooting assassination attempt in Kabul on Tuesday, a spokesman for HIG announced; no casualties or claim of responsibility were reported. Pres. Ghani met with victims of a coalition airstrike in Logar province last week on Tuesday and ordered international medical treatment for those in need. Kabul police are still investigating Monday’s strike on two men who apparently opened fire on NATO helicopters passed overhead during a wedding party; TOLO interviews some of the family members. Police in Ghor closed a madrassa in the Saghar district after two mullahs were accused of planting a roadside bomb targeting a police vehicle. [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • US Military Apologizes for ‘Offensive’ Leaflet Drop: In a statement on Tuesday, a U.S. military commander in Afghanistan issued an apology for images on leaflets dropped in Parwan province on Monday night, which “mistakenly contained an image highly offensive to both Muslims and the religion of Islam”. The leaflets in question are reported to have contained an image of a dog carrying the Taliban flag, which includes a quote from the Quran. Parwan governor Mohammad Haseem told Reuters that “those who have committed this unforgivable mistake in the publicity, propaganda or media section of the coalition forces will be tried and punished”.
  • Election Preparations: TOLO reports concerns among electoral observers that the Independent Election Commission and National Procurement Authority are using a limited group of companies for tenders on new electronic equipment; a spokesman for the IEC said that “the national procurement law has been observed”.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • A Funeral of Two Friends: CIA Deaths Rise in Secret Afghan War [NYT]
  • Poverty Forces Child Soldiers into Endlessly Replenishing Taliban Ranks [AFP]
  • NATO Civilian Representative Welcomes New US Strategy [Deutsche Welle]
  • Traffic Officer Assaulted After Stopping VIP Vehicle [TOLO]
  • Commentary: The Hizb-e-Islami Deal: Dawn of Reconciliation or Sunset of NUG? – “Sources in Hekmatyar’s party hint that Ghani’s team sought Hekmatyar’s support for Ghani’s campaign in exchange for a promise to seriously discuss reconciliation if Ghani was to be elected president.” [Antonio Giustozzi, CRPA]
  • Commentary: Afghan Child Migrants: Italy, the Preferred Country of Transit? – “While Germany and Sweden received by far the highest number of applications, Italy became an important staging post in the long journey to other European destinations.” [Fabrizio Foschini and Jelena Bjelica, AAN]