Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: US Withholds Foreign Military Financing Aid; Noor Accuses Govt Rivals of Supporting ISIS

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Note: The news returns to its regular daily update schedule from today. Thanks for reading, and happy new year.

 

Topline

  • The Trump administration has reportedly decided to withhold $255 million in Foreign Military Finance assistance for Pakistan over complaints that it is not cooperating against the Haqqani network and other militant groups; in a tweet on Jan 1, Pres. Trump said that Pakistan had “given us nothing but lies and deceit”. Senior Pakistani civilian and military leaders are meeting in response to those remarks.
  • The Pakistani finance ministry and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan are putting in place new restrictions on donations to the Jamaat-ud-Dawa and its affiliated charities, ahead of a Financial Action Task Force plenary session in February that could blacklist Pakistan if it fails to take action against the group. Hafeez Saeed appeared at a rally in Rawalpindi on Dec 29, which protested the planned U.S. move of its embassy to Jerusalem; the Palestinian ambassador to Pakistan also participated in that event and was subsequently recalled by Palestinian officials after Indian protests.
  • Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor continues to challenge his removal from office, holding a meeting with provincial officials on Dec 30. In remarks to supporters, Noor accused his opponents in the government of secretly supporting attacks on the Jamiat-e-Islami leadership, providing weapons to destabilize security in Balkh, and supporting the Islamic State.
  • A bomb at a funeral service for the former district governor of the Haska Mina district held outside Jalalabad on Dec 31 killed at least 17 people; no claim of responsibility has been reported.
  • The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps announced on Dec 31 that it had freed an Iranian engineer who had been kidnapped in Iranian Balochistan and subsequently taken across the border into Afghanistan; the governor Nimroz province denied that account, however.
  • Nawaz and Shehbaz Sharif traveled to Saudi Arabia and met with crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman, as well as the Turkish prime minister; accounts suggest that the meeting was aimed at securing Saudi support for Shehbaz’s election as prime minister in the general elections. Pakistani opposition party leaders accused the PML-N of seeking to negotiate a “new National Reconcialition Ordinance” for themselves.
  • The Pakistan Awami Tehreek organized a conference of opposition parties in Lahore on Dec 30, which set a Jan 7 deadline for the resignation or removal of Shehbaz Sharif and Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah; the gathering appears to have rejected PAT proposals for a unified opposition campaign in the upcoming general elections.
  • The Supreme Court of Pakistan began hearings on Jan 1 over challenges to the Elections Act of 2017, most of which focus on provisions allowing for parties to elect leaders who are otherwise disqualified from holding public office.
  • Balochistan Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri faces a no-confidence motion from at least 14 provincial assembly members, including some members of the governing coalition.
  • Afghan Minister of Water and Energy Ali Ahmad Osmani survived a no-confidence vote in parliament on Jan 1, with the majority of legislators ultimately voting to uphold his tenure.
  • The Indian and Pakistani national security advisors met in Bangkok the day after accused Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav was allowed to meet with family members.
  • Pakistani officials are considering a six-month extension for the status of registered Afghan refugees living in Pakistan; military officials are reported to have objected to a yearlong extension.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • US Withholds FMF Aid: The NYT reported that the Trump administration is debating a “final decision” on whether to withhold $255 million in Foreign Military Financing assistance to Pakistan that it previously held back from disbursal in August. U.S. officials are reported to have been repeatedly rebuffed over requests for access to an unidentified Haqqani network-affiliated militant who was detained by Pakistani forces during the freeing of Canadian-American hostages Caitlan Coleman and Joshua Boyle in October. The White House subsequently confirmed that those funds would indeed be withheld. In a tweet on Jan 1, Pres. Trump said that “the United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies and deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools”, adding “no more!”. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif responded that Pakistan would “let the world know the truth [and] difference between facts and fiction”; in an interview, he added that “we have already said ‘no more’ to America, so Trump’s ‘no more’ has no importance.” Pakistan’s foreign ministry summoned U.S. Ambassador David Hale to formally protest Trumps’ remarks late Monday evening. PM Abbasi has called meetings of the federal cabinet and National Security Committee; the latter is underway as of this writing. [WAPO] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Restrictions on JUD: Reuters reports that the Pakistani finance ministry gave orders in mid-December to provincial governments to crack down on the Jamaat-ud-Dawa and take over the operations of its Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation charity, citing international Financial Action Task Force warnings that Pakistan would risk blacklisting if it failed to take action against the group. A FATF plenary meeting is scheduled for Feb 18. On Jan 1, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan issued a notification barring donations to the JUD and its affiliates; a spokesman for JUD said they would challenge the action in court. The Islamabad capital administration also announced restrictions on Jan 1 on fundraising by “any organisations or individuals that are named in UN watch lists or banned by the government of Pakistan for having links with terrorist activities”. JUD leader Hafeez Saeed appeared at a Defense of Pakistan Council rally in Rawalpindi on Dec 29 organized to protest the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem; the Palestinian ambassador to Pakistan, Walid Abu Ali, also participated in the conference and was subsequently recalled by the Palestinian foreign ministry, after protests by India. [Dawn] [The Nation] [AJE]
  • National Security Advisors Meet: Indian and Pakistani national security advisors Ajit Doval and Nasser Khan Janjua met in Bangkok on Dec 26, a day after accused Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav was allowed to meet with his family, the Indian Express reported. Anonymous Pakistani officials speaking to Dawn confirmed the meeting and described the conversation as “friendly and positive”. Janjua met with Nawaz Sharif in Lahore on Dec 28 for a five-hour meeting; a PML-N source quoted Nawaz as saying that “there is a dire need to improve ties with the neighbouring countries”. Indian officials reiterated their demands for consular access to Jadhav on Jan 2.
  • Tensions with Afghanistan: The Pakistani military announced on Dec 29 that an Afghan man accused of being an agent of the National Directorate of Security intelligence agency had been detained in a search operation in Balochistan; it did not provide further details. In a Voice of America interview, Pakistan’s chief military spokesman said that the military was aiming to complete a project fencing the border with Afghanistan by the end of 2018, at an estimated cost of $550 million. [The Nation]
  • Chaman Bombings: Two separate bombings hit the Chaman border crossing in Balochistan on Jan 1, one of which targeted a security checkpost; eight people, including three security personnel, were wounded. No claim of responsibility has been reported. [The Nation]
  • Karachi Operations: Karachi police announced on Dec 31 that they had killed five militants they linked to the Islamic State; in another incident, police arrested five suspected members of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. [ET]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Nawaz Visits Saudi Arabia: Nawaz Sharif traveled to Saudi Arabia on Dec 29, following his brother Shehbaz Sharif’s departure earlier in the week; one PML-N source tells Dawn that the trip was in part intended to “mend fences” after earlier strains in the bilateral relationship over the conflict in Yemen. An Express Tribune report suggests that the meetings are intended to establish Saudi support for Shehbaz’s election as prime minister. Shehbaz earlier met with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in Medina. Pakistani opposition politicians charged that the Sharif brothers were meeting with Saudi leaders to negotiate an amnesty agreement along the lines of the 2007 National Reconciliation Ordinance, which PML-N spokesmen denied; the London Times reported that Nawaz might be seeking an agreement with the Saudis to live in exile. Nawaz and Shehbaz met with Saudi crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman on Jan 2; Shehbaz subsequently returned to Pakistan, and Nawaz will reportedly return later this evening. Speaking upon his return, Shehbaz said that “the Kingdom retains complete faith in Pakistan”. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Opposition Parties Meet: Opposition parties met in Lahore on Dec 30 for a gathering called by the Pakistan Awami Tehreek to demand the resignation or removal of Nawaz and Shehbaz Sharif, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, and other officials linked to the 2014 Model Town clash between Punjab police and PAT activists. The gathering set a Jan 7 deadline for those actions, and agreed to meet to discuss a protest plan afterwards if the opposition’s demands were not met. A spokesman for the Punjab government rejected the resignation calls on Dec 31. No major party leaders attend the conference, sending deputies instead, but former Pres. Zardari met with PAT leader Tahirul Qadri on Dec 29, and called for murder charges to be brought against Nawaz and Shehbaz Sharif. The Express Tribune reports that the gathering rejected earlier PAT proposals for a single opposition coalition in the next elections. The MQM-Pakistan distanced itself from the gathering on Dec 30. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: Speaking at a press conference on Dec 29, PTI leader Imran Khan announced that he had obtained documents showing additional offshore holding companies in Dubai owned by the sons of former finance minister Ishaq Dar, which he also linked to Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law Mohammad Safdar. Dar denied the charges in an interview. The Express Tribune reports that the PPP and PTI have agreed to jointly file an appeal against the Supreme Court’s decision not to reopen the Hudaibya Paper Mills money laundering case against the Sharif brothers. On Jan 2, an Islamabad anti-terrorism court accepted a bail petition from Imran Khan in connection to four cases dating back to the PTI’s 2014 Islamabad protests; Imran touted the order in remarks afterwards. The Supreme Court separately rejected a bail plea from former Sindh information minister Sharjeel Memon. [Dawn] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET]
  • Election Preparations: The Supreme Court of Pakistan held hearings on Jan 1 on a consolidated set of challenges to the Elections Act of 2017, which allowed for parties to choose leaders otherwise disqualified from holding office; the court sought response from the federal government and Nawaz Sharif, and adjourned the case until Jan 23. The court also rejected a plea seeking to strike down party registration requirements that mandate 20,000 verified signatures. The Peshawar High Court has agreed to hear a challenge to the results of special elections held in Sahikhel for local government seats, in which women were barred from voting. [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Afghan Refugee Status Extension: Dawn reports that the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions has sought a one-year extension in the refugee status for registered Afghan nationals, after legal provisions for their stay expired at the end of the year; Minister Abdul Qadir Baloch tells the Express Tribune the extension is likely to be for six months, which anonymous sources attribute to objections from the army over a longer extension. Roughly 48,000 Afghan refugees are reported to have returned from Pakistan in 2017 as part of a voluntary return program, down from more than 600,000 registered and unregistered returnees in 2016.
  • Other Political Activity: On Jan 2, opposition party leaders in Balochistan submitted a no-confidence motion against Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri; the Express Tribune reports the move has the support of at least 14 of the provincial assembly’s 65 members, including some allied with the governing coalition. In a statement on Dec 28, PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that his party would not ally with any other party during next year’s general elections. JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman led a rally in Islamabad on Dec 30 to protest the planned merger of the FATA with Khyber Paktunkhwa province, calling for a public referendum and the formation of a separate province for FATA instead. Dissident PTI leader Ayesha Gulalai is reportedly seeking to recruit supporters for the formation of a new party faction. A group of ten leftist political parties met in Lahore on Dec 29 and agreed to form an “alliance of the left”. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Supreme Court Acquits Man of Blasphemy Charges After Nine Years’ Imprisonment [Dawn] [AP]
  • Five Pakistani Soldiers Missing After Siachen Avalanche [ET] [The Nation]
  • Pakistan Frees 145 Indian Fishermen, India and Pakistan Exchange Prisoner and Nuclear Lists [AP] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Interior Minister Visits Quetta Church [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Pakistan Navy to Build Gwadar Shipyard [The Nation]
  • Punjab Government Demands Transfer of Punjab University Land for Seminary Construction [Dawn]
  • Five Frontier Corps Soldiers Killed in Battle with Oil Smugglers [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Former Joint Chiefs Chairman Khalid Shamim Wynne Dies in Car Accident [Dawn] [AP]
  • Balochistan Provincial Assembly Member Released on Bail in Traffic Policeman’s Death Case [Dawn] [ET]
  • IHC Strikes Down Islamabad Mayor’s Role as Capital Development Authority Chairman [ET]
  • Balochistan and NADRA Sign MOU for Computerization of Arms Licenses [ET]
  • Inflation Hits Eight-Month High of 4.6% in December [ET] [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Jalalabad Funeral Bombing: On Dec 31, a bombing struck a group of people gathering in the Behsud district outside Jalalabad to attend funeral services for the former district governor of Nangarhar’s Haska Mina district; at least 17 people were reportedly killed and more than a dozen wounded. Initial reports indicated that the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber, although provincial officials subsequently said the bomb had been planted. No claims of responsibility have been reported; on Monday, provincial officials claimed to have seized and defused another car bomb in the Khogyani district. [Reuters] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
  • Iran Announces Hostage Rescue: On Dec 31, Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps officials announced that they had freed Hossein Hajmalek, an engineer working for an IRGC subcontractor who had reportedly been kidnapped from Iran’s Balochistan province in mid-December and subsequently moved to Nimroz province. The provincial governor, Mohammad Sami Tasal, denied that account, saying that “no hostage was brought into Nimroz province and no operation has been launched in the province”. [Khaama Press]
  • Kabul Bombing Aftermath: Reuters interviews survivors of the Dec 28 suicide attack on a Shia cultural center in Kabul; funeral services were held for most of the victims the following day. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was reported to have sent a condolence message to Pres. Ghani following the attack, which was claimed by ISIS. Afghan Ministry of Justice officials tell TOLO that the Tabyan Center, the target of the attack, is only licensed to conduct “social and cultural activities”; other press accounts have linked the center to Iran. [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Air Operations: In an interview on Dec 31, the commander of the Afghan Air Force, Gen. Mohammad Shoaib, said that the AAF plans to “significantly increase” the use of airstrikes around the country. The US Air Force issued an acquisition notice on Dec 27 signaling its intention to provide seven new AC-208 Eliminator light attack plans. The AAF carried out airstrikes in Faryab’s Pashtunkot district on Dec 30, reportedly killing seven Taliban fighters. An airstrike in Helmand’s Gereshk district on Dec 31 reportedly killed three senior Taliban commanders. A U.S. drone strike in Nangarhar’s Deh Bala district on Dec 30 reportedly killed 11 ISIS fighters, and another drone strike on Jan 1 in the Achin district reportedly killed five. On Jan 2, Nangarhar officials claimed that as many as 78 ISIS fighters had been killed in airstrikes in the Haska Mina district the day prior. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: The district police chief for Farah’s Pusht-e-Rod district was killed and two policemen wounded in a Talban attack on Jan 1. Also on Jan 1, Nangarhar security officials claimed to have killed 11 ISIS fighters in operations across several districts. At least 12 people were wounded when a magnetic explosive was planted on a police vehicle in Mazar-e-Sharif on Dec 30. Another magnetic bomb attack in Kabul on Jan 2 wounded three police officers. Wardak police officials announced on Dec 30 that they freed two students and a teacher who had been kidnapped by unidentified armed men two days previously; the circumstances of their release were not disclosed. One Afghan soldier and as many as ten Taliban fighters were killed in an attack on a checkpost in the Khas Uruzgan district on Dec 30. [TOLO] [Ariana News] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Noor Firing Dispute: Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor chaired a meeting of provincial government officials on Dec 30, despite being removed from office by Pres. Ghani; he reiterated his intention to remain in office unless an agreement was negotiated between the government and the Jamiat-e-Islami party. Noor alleged that his opponents “want to bring Daesh here” and also accused national unity government officials of plotting the June suicide bombing attack at a funeral attended by senior Jamiat leaders. Speaking to supporters on Jan 2, Noor accused “certain circles belonging to the” NDS intelligence service of distributing weapons and “attempting to destabilize” Balkh province. Speaking at a gathering in Kabul the day prior, jihadi veteran Abdul Rasool Sayyaf expressed concern over the tensions between Noor and the government, calling on leaders to “extend the hand of brotherhood and take the country out of this ill situation”. In a TOLO interview, EU ambassador Pierre Mayaudon said that the EU would “not interfere” over the issue but encouraged “the parties to find [a] solution through dialogue”. [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Ariana News]
  • Water and Energy Minister Surives No-Confidence Vote: On Jan 1, the Wolesi Jirga voted 124-32 to uphold Minister of Water and Energy Ali Ahmad Osmani’s continued tenure in office, after a no-confidence motion was brought against him over allegations of illegal hiring and a failure to spend his ministry’s budget. [Khaama Press]
  • Election Preparations: On Dec 31, a spokesman for the Independent Election Commission said that Pres. Ghani had re-issued orders to a special selection committee to review candidates for a new chairman for the IEC; applications will be accepted through Jan 1. On Dec 30, donors agreed to fund up to 90% of a $28.4 million voter registration process budget. As many as 50 members of parliament have protested plans to move ahead with the issuance of electornic national ID cards that include “nationality” and “ethnicity” categories. [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Amrullah Saleh Accuses Hezb-e-Islami of ISIS Links [Khaama Press]
  • Lawmakers Accuse House Speaker Ibrahimi of Misusing Authority [TOLO]
  • Exports Total $723 Million in FY 1396 [Khaama Press]
  • Government Approves $113M in New Electricity Projects [Khaama Press]
  • Parliamentary Commission Summons Officials Over Air Pollution [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Some Afghan Children Find an Alternative to Jail – For Now [NYT]
  • Commentary: Pressure and Peril: Afghan Refugees and Europe in 2017 – “The decrease in numbers coming to Europe is mainly a result of policy changes there vis-à-vis asylum seekers, not of the war in Afghanistan or the socio-economic problems related to it subsiding.” [Thomas Ruttig, AAN]
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Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistani Military Rebuffs US Pressure Over Militants; ISIS Claims Attack on Shia Center

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Note: The news will be on hiatus through the end of the year and will return on January 2nd with a summary of events in the intervening period. Have a safe and happy new year, and thank you for reading.

 

Topline

  • Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Pakistan’s top military spokesman rebuffed U.S. demands that Pakistan take action against militant groups based on its territory, insisting that there was “no organized infrastructure of any banned organization” present in the country and that “it is time Afghanistan and the US do more for Pakistan”.
  • The Islamic State claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing attack at a Shia cultural center in Kabul on Thursday that has killed at least 41 people and wounded dozens more.
  • PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and former Pres. Zardari headlined a PPP rally in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh on Wednesday to commemorate the anniversary of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination in 2007.
  • Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission reiterated calls for the government to appoint a new chairman to lead the body, a position that has been vacant for the past month and a half.
  • A conference of religious leaders recommended on Wednesday that the Afghan government allow the opening of a Taliban political office in Kabul; Pres. Ghani met with the group and called on the Taliban to join in a peace process.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with the US: Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Pakistani military spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor insisted that there was “no organized infrastructure of any banned organization” present in Pakistan, and said that “it is time Afghanistan [and] the US do more for Pakistan”, adding that “we have fought an imposed and imported war twice in Pakistan and now we cannot do any more for anyone”. Ghafoor also said that “no amount of coercion can work; it is only trust-based cooperation that can bring enduring peace to the region”. [ET]
  • Tensions with India: Speaking in the upper house of the Indian parliament on Thursday, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj criticized Pakistan’s handling of the visit by the wife and mother of accused spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, saying that Pakistani claims that their shoes were taken for investigation on suspicion that they contained a chip or recording device were “absurd”. She also said that Jadhav’s confessional statement, broadcast after the visit, was made under duress. [ET] [AP]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Benazir Death Anniversary: Speaking at a rally in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh on Wednesday, PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari vowed to follow his mother Benazir Bhutto’s legacy, and accused former Pres. Musharraf of being responsible for her assassination in 2007. Former Pres. Zardari also told the crowd that his party would challenge “another National Reconciliation Order” and predicted that the PPP would defeat the PML-N in the next elections. [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Chinese Assistance: Speaking at a press briefing on Thursday, China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman said that a trilateral meeting of the Afghan, Pakistani, and Chinese foreign ministers earlier this week had agreed to support Afghan reconciliation efforts and had also discussed the possible extension of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project and Belt and Road Initiative to Afghanistan. On Thursday, China pledged $1 million for World Food Program assistance in Khyber Paktunkhwa and FATA. [ET] [ET]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: National Accountability Bureau officials have reportedly decided not to seek to pursue cases dating back to 1999 against Nawaz Sharif over illegal appointments within the Federal Investigation Agency, but will open new charges against Nawaz and Shehbaz Sharif over a road construction project in 2000. [The Nation] [ET]
  • FATA Reforms: Anonymous government sources tell the Express Tribune that after the formation of a new cabinet body on FATA reform implementation, the government is preparing to proceed with passage of reforms legislation despite the objections of the JUI-F and Paktunkhwa Milli Awami Party.
  • Other Political Activity: In remarks on Wednesday, JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman denied that the new Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal alliance of religious parties was being formed against the PML-N government, and that his party was not involved in sit-ins against the government. On Thursday, PTI leader Jahangir Tareen’s son Ali Khan Tareen submitted nomination papers to contest his father’s vacant NA-154 seat after his disqualification from office; the elder Tareen nominated his son as his successor at a rally in Lodhran on Wednesday. The Nation reports that former law minister Zahid Hamid’s son Ali Zahid may contest in his stead in the next general elections. MQM-Pakistan provincial assembly member Sheraz Waheed has quit the party to join the Pak Sarzameen Party. [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Shehbaz Sharif Travels to Saudi Arabia [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Information Ministry Reportedly Seeks Control Over Maryam Nawaz-Led Media Cell [The Nation]
  • PM Visits Haripur to Inaugurate New Road Construction [Dawn] [APP] [The Nation]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Government Regularizes Thousands of Lower Cadre Police [ET]
  • Ahmadis Find Refuge in a City of Their Own [NYT]

 

Afghanistan — Security

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Government and US Officials Review Strategic Partnership Agreement Commitments [Ariana News] [TOLO]
  • Parliamentarians Voice Support for Balkh Governor Atta [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: PPP Marks Ten-Year Bhutto Death Anniversary; Atta Suggests Gen. Raziq May Be Removed Next

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Topline

  • PPP leaders are commemorating the tenth death anniversary of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination; in a BBC interview, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari accuses former Pres. Musharraf of sabotaging her security and causing her death.
  • Pakistan’s foreign ministry rebuffed complaints from Indian officials that the wife and mother of accused Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav were harassed during their visit on Monday; Pakistani officials also formally protested cross-border firing that killed three soldiers in Kashmir, but denied Indian reports that their forces had cross the border to carry out a “tit-for-tat response”.
  • Tahirul Qadri and Imran Khan met in Lahore on Tuesday, with Imran pledging support for a Pakistan Awami Tehreek conference of opposition parties scheduled to take place on Dec 30. Former Pres. Zardari spoke by phone with Qadri on Wednesday and will reported meet with him later this week.
  • Speaking to supporters in Mazar-e-Sharif on Tuesday, Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor suggested that the central government was preparing to remove Kandahar police chief Gen. Abdul Raziq.
  • At least 14 Afghan soldiers were wounded in a suicide car bombing outside their base in the Helmand provincial capital of Lashkar Gah on Wednesday.
  • Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau has begun investigations against more than 430 Pakistani nationals named in the Panama Papers leaks. Speaking to party activists on Tuesday, Nawaz Sharif reiterated criticism over the “double standard of justice” applied to his cases, and suggested that his pursuit of treason charges against former Pres. Musharraf had led to his disqualification.
  • The Express Tribune reports that the government has spent Rs 54 billion in discretionary funds in the last six months in constituencies previously won by the PML-N, with 90% of that spending occurring in the Punjab.
  • Afghan officials inaugurated a new Kabul-Mumbai air cargo link on Wednesday.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: On Tuesday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry rebuffed Indian foreign ministry complaints that the wife and mother of accused spy Kulbhushan Jadhav had been harassed during their visit to Pakistan on Monday, saying that Jadhav’s wife’s shoes had been confiscated for security reasons. The Pakistani foreign ministry separately made a formal complaint over a cross-border firing incident in Kashmir in which three soldiers were killed. The foreign ministry denied Indian reports that Indian forces had crossed the Line of Control to carry out a “tit-for-tat response” and instead accused Indian forces of “providing cover for the planting of IEDs by non-state actors”. [Reuters] [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Bhutto Death Anniversary: PPP leaders are planning to hold a rally in Garhi Khuda Bux on Wednesday to mark the ten-year anniversary of the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. In a BBC interview, her son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari blames former Pres. Musharraf for her murder, saying that he “purposely sabotaged her security so that she would be assassinated and taken off the scene”. Musharraf, also interviewed, denies those charges. [The Nation]
  • Opposition Politics: Tahirul Qadri and Imran Khan met in Lahore on Tuesday and agreed that the PTI would take part in Qadri’s planned multi-party conference scheduled for Dec 30, reiterating demands that Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Law Minister Rana Sanaullah step down in connection to the 2014 Model Town clash. Imran stopped short of saying that the two parties would engage in a “political alliance”, however. Former Pres. Zardari spoke by phone with Qadri on Wednesday and will meet with him on Thursday or Friday to discuss the issue. In a statement on Tuesday, the PPP’s leadership said that it would “not permit any disruption in the continuity of democratic process”. [The Nation] [ET]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: In remarks to party activists in Lahore on Tuesday, Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz reiterated their criticism of judicial “double standards”, and suggested that Nawaz’s disqualification was a response to his move to initiate treason charges against former Pres. Musharraf. Meanwhile, National Accountability Bureau chairman Javed Iqbal has reportedly ordered the opening of investigations against as many as 435 Pakistani nationals named in the Panama Papers leaks. [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • FATA Reforms: On Tuesday, the federal cabinet reviewed stalled FATA reform plans and approved the conversion of the previously-formed National Implementation Committee on FATA Reforms into a cabinet-level body. Education activist Malala Yousafzai called for the government to implement its reform plan “as soon as possible” on Tuesday. [ET] [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: On Tuesday, the provincial leaders of the JUI-F, Jamaat-e-Islami, Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan, Jamiat Ahle Hadith, and the Shia Ulema Council announced their revival of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal coalition in Khyber Paktunkwha province; party leaders indicated they would quit their membership in the national and provincial coalition governments “whenever they get the instructions from the heads of the parties”. On Wednesday, Pres. Mamnoon Hussain signed into law the constitutional amendment passed by parliament allowing for the delimitation of new constituency boundaries on the basis of provisional census data, clearing the way for the Election Commission to begin the process; draft boundaries are due to be submitted by the end of February. [The Nation] [ET] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Constituency Spending: The Express Tribune reports that the government has spent around Rs 54 billion in the past six months on targeted development programs in constituencies won by the PML-N or its allies, with 90% of the expenditures taking place in Punjab.
  • Ismail Appointed Advisor to PM on Finance: On Tuesday, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on economic affairs Miftah Ismail was appointed Advisor to the Prime Minister on finance, revenue, and economic affairs; Rana Afzal Khan, the minister of state for economic affairs, was also sworn in. [Reuters] [Dawn] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Army to be Allotted Over 1,000 Acres for New Islamabad Headquarters [Dawn]
  • PPP Calls for New Commission on Missing Persons [Dawn]
  • Army Chief Visits Pakistan Ordnance Factories [ET]
  • ‘Honor Killings’ in Karachi Shock Pakistan’s Largest City [Guardian]
  • Cabinet Approves Adding Blasphemy and Pornography as ‘Cybercrime’ Offenses [Dawn]
  • Sindh Police Await Federal Funds for Protection of Chinese Nationals [Dawn]
  • Pakistan’s Second LNG Terminal Starts Commercial Operations [ET]
  • Senate Chairman Criticizes Reliance on Foreign Loans [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Atta Firing: Jamaat-e-Islami deputy spokesman Zabi Fitrat warned on Tuesday that it would “cause much damage” if Engineer Dawood, Pres. Ghani’s appointee to replace Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor, attempted to take office. Speaking to supporters on Tuesday, Noor warned that the government was seeking to remove Kandahar police chief Gen. Abdul Raziq next “as part of their conspiracies against the influential figures”. [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ghani Reviews Report on Mirza Olang Massacre [Khaama Press]
  • Electronic National ID Card Rollout to Begin Next Week [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Jadhav Allowed to Meet with Family; Balkh Governor Refuses to Accept Removal from Office

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Note: Today’s update covers the Dec 23 – 26 period. There will updates this week on the 27th and 28th, then another holiday hiatus through the end of the year, with updates returning again on January 2, 2018.

 

Topline

  • Accused India spy Kulbhushan Jadhav was allowed to meet with his wife and mother on Monday; on Tuesday, India’s foreign ministry accused Pakistani officials of harassing the family during the visit. At least four Indian and three Pakistani soldiers were killed in separate cross-border clashes on Saturday and Monday in Kashmir.
  • Speaking to supporters on Saturday, Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor insisted that he would not relinquish his office after he was removed by Pres. Ghani last week; Noor also harshly criticized Chief Executive Abdullah, a rival for influence within the Jamiat-e-Islami party. Former NDS chief Amrullah Saleh voiced support for Abdullah on Sunday, while former Herat governor Ismail Khan said that Noor should continue in office.
  • Despite earlier reports, the PML-N has yet to formally announced that Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif will be the party’s nominee for prime minister in the next general elections; Nawaz Sharif is reported to be seeking to “keep his cards close to his chest”. Another report suggests that Maryam Nawaz would be the party’s candidate for Punjab chief minister.
  • China hosted a trilateral meeting of the Afghan and Pakistani foreign ministers in Beijing on Tuesday, at which the three sides reaffirmed support for an Afghan peace process.
  • The Islamic State claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing attack outside the headquarters of the NDS in Kabul on Monday, the second such attack in the past week; six civilians were killed in the bombing. Afghan security officials disputed remarks by Russian’s special envoy for Afghanistan that suggested there were as many as 10,000 ISIS fighters in Afghanistan.
  • Five activists and bloggers who were detained at the start of the year and later released were cleared of charges of blasphemy by the Islamabad High Court on Friday, one of their lawyers tells the AFP.
  • Tahirul Qadri has pushed back the Pakistan Awami Tehreek’s planned multi-party conference of opposition parties until Dec 30 as he seeks to confirm the support of other opposition parties; the PTI has reportedly agreed to send Shah Mehmood Qureshi as its representative, but the PPP has yet to agree to participate. Pir Hameeduddin Sialvi reiterated his demand for the removal of Law Minister Rana Sanaullah by the end of the month at a meeting on Sunday, at which Tehreek-e-Labbaik faction leader Ashraf Jamali announced plans for new sit-ins in Lahore.
  • Two people, including a Haqqani network commander, were reportedly killed in a U.S. drone strike in the Kurram Agency on Tuesday.

 

  • Pakistan — Security
    Jadhav Family Meets:
    On Monday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry released details of a meeting between accused Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav and his mother and wife, who made a one-day trip from India; they were accompanied by four officials from the Indian embassy, although the Pakistani foreign ministry said that those officials were not allowed to meet with Jadhav. The foreign ministry also played a video statement from Jadhav thanking the Pakistani government for allowing him the meeting with family, and reiterating a previous confessional statement saying that he had been working for India’s RAW intelligence service. Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman suggested that “this is not [the family’s] last meeting with him”, noting that Jadhav’s appeal of his death sentence is still pending. In a statement on Tuesday, Indian’s foreign ministry accused the Pakistani press and officials of harassing Jadhav’s family members during their visit. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [AFP] [Reuters] [The Nation]
  • India Border Clashes: Indian officials reported Saturday that as many as four soldiers had been killed in cross-border firing along the Kashmir Line of Control; the Kashmir Director-General of Police blamed Pakistani attackers who he said had crossed over the border to carry out the attacks. On Monday, the Pakistani military reported that three of its soldiers were killed in cross-border firing in the Rawalkot area. On Tuesday, Indian security officials announced that Noor Muhammad Tantray, a Jaish-e-Muhammad commander in Kashmir, was killed in a police raid in Srinagar on Monday evening. [NYT] [AP] [ET]
  • Bloggers Cleared of Blasphemy Charges: On Friday, lawyers for five activists and online bloggers who were detained at the start of the year on charges of blasphemy told the AFP that the Islamabad High Court had cleared their clients of those charges after an investigation by the Federal Investigation Agency found no evidence to support those charges.
  • Drone Strike: A U.S. drone strike in the Kurram Agency reportedly killed two people, including a Haqqani network commander identified as Jumma Khan, on Tuesday. [Dawn]
  • FATA Attacks: Three Frontier Corps soldiers were killed in an attack on their checkpost in the Mohmand Agency on Friday; Pakistani military officials blamed militants crossing over from Afghanistan. On Sunday, a roadside bombing in North Waziristan killed three soldiers. No claim of responsibility was reported for either attack. [AFP] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PML-N Leadership Maneuvers: Despite reports last week that Nawaz Sharif had agreed that his brother Shehbaz Sharif will be the party’s nominee for prime minister in the next general elections, the party and Nawaz have yet to make a public announcement confirming the decision, and Dawn reports that Nawaz “wants to keep his cards close to his chest till the last minute”. Nawaz praised Shehbaz in remarks to PML-N supporters in Lahore on Tuesday, and touted the party’s development record. The Nation reports that Maryam Nawaz will be named the party’s choice for Punjab chief minister. The PML-N also has yet to announce details of the “movement for justice” announced by Nawaz upon his return to Pakistan last week. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is reportedly preparing to hear arguments over whether parliamentarians disqualified from office on the basis of Article 62 of the constitution are barred from serving in office for life, or for a specific time period. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • US Relations: In an interview on Friday, the Pakistani military’s chief spokesman, Maj. Gen Asif Ghafoor, warned that recent remarks by VP Pence during his trip to Kabul last week could “negatively affect existing cooperation”. On Saturday, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said that that the U.S. should not “blame or threat[en] us” but rather “learn from our experiences in war against terror…if that is our common objective”. On Sunday, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani warned that “Pakistan is a sovereign state and is not in the habit of taking notices from anyone, let alone the US”; the PPP later said that Rabbani’s remarks were not reflective of party policy. [Dawn] [ET] [APP] [The Nation]
  • Opposition Politics: In remarks in Gujranwala on Sunday, Pir Hameeduddin Sialvi reiterated demands for the removal of Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, setting an end-of-month deadline for the PML-N government to take action. Speaking alongside Sialvi, Tehreek-e-Labbaik faction leader Ashraf Jalali announced plans to stage a new protest against the PML-N government beginning January 4. Dawn reports that contrary to earlier reports, the PPP have yet to decide on whether they will participate in the Pakistan Awami Tehreek’s planned multi-party conference, which has been pushed back by two days to Dec 30; Imran Khan and PAT leader Tahir-ul Qadri are due to meet on Dec 26. PTI leaders met on Saturday and reportedly agreed that PTI vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi would represent the party at Qadri’s conference. Pak Sarzameen Party chairman Mustafa Kamal spoke by phone with Qadri on Tuesday and pledged support for Qadri’s movement. Islamabad city officials are reportedly considering seeking to place Qadri on the Exit Control List, barring him from leaving the country. At Saturday’s meeting, the PTI also reportedly discussed plans to carry out a protest movement over the government’s delay in introducing FATA reforms legislation. [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • MML Registration: The Islamabad High Court reserved its verdict on Friday on a petition from the Jamaat-ud-Dawa-affiliated Milli Muslim League challenging the Election Commission’s decision not to grant it registration as a political party. Dawn reports that the Interior Ministry had again recommended against the MML’s registration. Hafeez Saeed inaugurated new MML offices in the NA-120 Lahore constituency on Sunday. [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: As many as 317 parties have received notices from the Election Commission that they are at risk of de-registration if they do not submit party membership records, including the JUI-F and MQM-Pakistan. Chaudhry Raza Nasrullah Ghumman, a PML-N Punjab Assembly member, announced his resignation from the party on Saturday, citing the party’s handling of the disputes over the oath taken by candidates affirming the finality of Mohammad’s prophethood. Nawabzada Lashkari Raisani, a former PML-N senator and former PPP leader in Balochistan, announced on Sunday that he was quitting the party to join the Balochistan National Party-Mengal. The Pak Sarzameen Party held a rally in Karachi’s Liaquatabad neighborhood on Sunday, accusing the PPP government of undercounting the city’s urban residents. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistani Officials Commemorate Jinnah’s Birth Anniversary, Christmas [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Chief Justice Hears Case on Karachi Pollution, Pledges “Protection of Fundamental Rights” [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Malaysian Man Arrested Carrying Pistols on Karachi Flight [Dawn] [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Government Threatens CCI Boycott Over Energy Disputes [Dawn]
  • Pakistan and Iran Agree on Joint Aerial Border Monitoring [Dawn]
  • National Assembly Speaker Meets with Regional Parliamentary Heads [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum Chairman Accuses PPP Leader of Kidnapping Him [Dawn] [ET]
  • Bilawal Slams Sindh Govt Use of Force Against Protesting Teachers in Karachi [ET]
  • No Progress in Search for Missing Chinese Engineer [Dawn]
  • PM Abbasi Visits Pakistan Navy Sub Crew [ET]
  • Gas Supplies Jump as Critical Project Finally Starts [Dawn]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Local Governments Struggle to Spend Development Funds [Dawn]
  • CCI Considering Extra Tax on Couples with Multiple Children [The Nation]
  • Cabinet Approves Rs 15 Billion Benefit to Sugar Mills [ET]
  • Pakistani Women Seize Film Dispute as a Chance to Discuss Rape and Injustice [NYT]

 

Afghanistan — Security

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Atta Firing: Speaking to supporters in Mazar-i-Sharif on Saturday, Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor rejected his removal from office by Pres. Ghani last week, saying he would continue in office; he also harshly criticized Chief Executive Abdullah, with whom he has clashed in the past over the control of the Jamiat-e-Islami party and government appointments, describing Abdullah as a “snake up our own sleeve”. Prior to his remarks Noor and Ghani were reported to have begun “indirect negotiations” over the dispute. Jamiat leaders, including acting foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani, held talks with Atta on Sunday. Former NDS chief Amrullah Saleh voiced support for Abdullah after Noor’s criticism, but in an interview on Sunday, accused the presidential palace of “nepotism, power monopoly, and racism”. Former Herat governor Ismail Khan held a press conference on Sunday and backed Noor to continue governor. Interior Minister Wais Barmak criticized statements of support for Noor made by several senior police officials in Balkh and Kandahar; TOLO reports rumors that Kandahar police chief Gen. Abdul Raziq might also be removed from office. In remarks at Monday’s Council of Ministers meeting, Abdullah denied involvement in Noor’s removal, which he attributed to Noor’s own submission of his resignation to Ghani. Ghani’s office has not commented on Noor’s remarks since his removal. [AP] [Reuters] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Ariana News]
  • Trilateral Talks: In a joint statement on Tuesday after a trilateral meeting in Beijing, the foreign ministers of China, Afghanistan, and Pakistan reaffirmed support for a “broad-based and inclusive process” in Afghanistan, as well as to regional economic connectivity efforts. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said afterwards that both Afghanistan and Pakistan had agreed “to improve their relations as soon as possible” and “that they will not allow any party or force to use their territories to engage in the activities that would undermine the security of the other side.” [TOLO] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Election Preparations: Speaking in Kabul on Sunday, Second Vice Pres. Sarwar Danish said that the government would begin distributing electronic national ID cards within the next week. [TOLO] [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Tax Revenue: On Monday, Minister of Finance Eklil Hakimi announced that the government had collected Afs 169 billion in tax revenue, beating a target set by the IMF of Afs 152 billion. He also projected three percent GDP growth in the next year.
  • India Air Cargo Route: Presidential spokesmen reported Sunday that they plan to open a second air cargo link with India on Wednesday, this time linking Kabul and Mumbai; officials say the current flight link between Kabul and New Delhi has generated $20 million in exports six it was launched six months ago.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Putin Voices Support for Continued US Presence in Afghanistan [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • High Peace Council Holds Ulema Conference [TOLO]
  • Ministry of Justice Developing Draft Legislation on Discrimination [TOLO]
  • Afghan Torture Survivor Gains 11th Hour Reprieve from UK Deportation [Guardian] [Guardian]
  • For More Than 300 Afghan Children, Home is Mother’s Cellblock [NYT]
  • Russian Company to Build Paktia Dam [TOLO]
  • Thermal Power Plant Activated in Kabul [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pence Visits Afghanistan; Pakistan Nuclear Command Meets

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Note: The news will be on hiatus for the Christmas weekend holidays and will return with updates on the intervening period on Dec 26.


Topline

  • Vice President Pence visited Afghanistan in an announced trip on Thursday, where he met with US forces and with Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah. Pence pledged that the US was “here to see this through”, and reiterated warnings that Pakistan “has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists”. Pakistan’s foreign ministry respond on Friday that “allies do not put each other on notice”.
  • PM Abbasi chaired a meeting of Pakistan’s National Command Authority on Thursday, which released a statement afterwards reaffirming support for Pakistan’s strategy of “Full Spectrum Deterrence” and expressed concerns over Indian conventional and nuclear build-up.
  • The Election Commission of Pakistan met on Friday to begin planning for the next general elections and the process of drawing new constituency boundaries on the basis of provisional census data, a process the ECP said they were aiming to complete by May 3.
  • Pres. Ghani met with a delegation of parliamentarians affiliated with the “Jamiat-e-Islami Integration Council” on Thursday, who expressed support for the “principle” of “appointment, reshuffling, and retirement in the government”. In interviews on Thursday, Jamiat-e-Islami deputy head Zabi Fitrat reiterated the party’s demands for additional ministerial and ambassadorial appointments as a concession to accepting Ghani’s removal of Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor.
  • China will host a foreign ministerial meeting with Afghanistan and Pakistan in Beijing next Tuesday, the Chinese foreign ministry announced Thursday.
  • PM Abbasi met with Nawaz Sharif on Thursday to discuss ongoing negotiations to secure the support of the JUI-F and PkMAP for FATA reform legislation that remains stalled in parliament.
  • At least six Afghan Local Police officers were killed in a suicide Humvee bombing at their checkpost in Kandahar’s Maiwand district on Friday.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Nuclear Security: PM Abbasi chaired a meeting on Thursday of Pakistan’s National Command Authority, the country’s top nuclear body; a military press release issued after the meeting said participants had reaffirmed support for a strategy of “Full Spectrum Deterrence” and “Credible Minimum Deterrence”, and expressed concerns over “growing conventional asymmetry with India because of its arms buildup, nuclearisation of Indian Ocean Region, and Indian plans for [the] development of [a] Ballistic Missile Shield”. [The Nation]
  • NGO Crackdown: In a Reuters interview, Minister of State for Interior Talal Chaudhry defended the government’s crackdown on international NGOs, confirming that 27 groups had recently received orders to conclude their operations in the country within the next 90 days, saying that they were doing work “which is beyond their mandate and for which they have no legal justification”.
  • Balochistan Conflict: Three members of Quetta’s Hazara community were killed in a driveby shooting on Friday; no claim of responsibility has been reported. One police officer was killed and three others wounded in a clash with gang members in the town of Usta Muhammad in the Jafarabad district. The Pakistani military announced that it had killed four suspected terrorists during a “sanitization operation” in the Sibbi district on Friday. [Dawn] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • FATA Reforms: PM Abbasi met with Nawaz Sharif on Thursday; Dawn reports that the discussion focused on negotiations with the JUI-F and PkMAP over their objections to the government’s planned merger of the FATA with Khyber Paktunkhwa province. Opposition members boycotted national assembly proceedings for the ninth consecutive day on Thursday over the government’s failure to introduce reform legislation. [The Nation]
  • Opposition Politics: Pakistan Awami Tehreek leader Tahir-ul Qadri and Awami Muslim League leader Sheikh Ahmed Rashid held a press conference on Thursday, at which they announced plans to hold an All Parties Conference on Dec 28 to mobilize opposition parties against the PML-N government. Rashid pledged that the PTI would also attend; the Express Tribune reports that the PPP is unlikely to join in the opposition coalition.
  • Other Political Activity: Following passage in the senate earlier this week of an amendment allowing for the delimitation of constituencies on the basis of provisional census data, the Election Commission met on Friday to plan for the next parliamentary elections; following the meeting, the ECP announced that it would complete the delimitation process by May 3. On Thursday, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa-affiliated Milli Muslim League petitioned the ECP to suspend the registrations of all political parties who failed to meet the membership and deposit requirements under the new election law; the MML itself is appealing an earlier ECP decision to deny it registration. Dawn cites anonymous diplomatic sources who report that the US may place additional sanctions on the MML. PM Abbasi will visit Karachi on Friday to inaugurate a new oil pipeline project. [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • New Minister of State for Finance: The Express Tribune reports that parliamentary secretary Rana Afzal will be appointed as ministry of state for finance.

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • LHC Orders Recovery of Missing Activist [Dawn]
  • Pakistan to Release 291 Indian Fishermen; 28 Arrested [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Aims to Cut Pension Expenses by Rs 8 Billion [Dawn]
  • MQM-Pakistan Protests Evictions and Land Seizures [ET] [Dawn]
  • Gas Utilities to Bear Cost of Gas Supply to Nearby Communities [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: A suicide attack using a Humvee packed with explosives struck an Afghan Local Police checkpoint in Kandahar’s Maiwand district on Friday; at least six police officers were killed and five injured. A bombing in Herat city on Thursday killed at least three people and wounded six others; no claim of responsibility has been reported. Nangarhar provincial officials reported that three Taliban fighters were killed in a US drone strike in the Ghani Khel district on Friday. [Ariana News] [Pajhwok] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Pence Visits Kabul: VP Pence made a brief unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Thursday, where he met with U.S. soldiers stationed at Bagram airbase and with Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah; his trip was not announced until just as he departed. Pence praised U.S. forces serving in Afghanistan and was quoted saying that “under President Donald Trump, the armed forces of the United States will remain engaged in Afghanistan until we eliminate the terrorist threat to our homeland, our people once and for all”, and to have told Afghan leaders that “we’re here to see this through”. In a statement on Friday, Ghani thank Pence for American support and said that “Afghan-US relations is based on mutual and strategic interests between the two countries and that they would strengthen further”. Pence also warned that “President Trump has put Pakistan on notice… Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with the United States, and Pakistan has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists.” In remarks to Pakistan’s senate committee on external affairs, Pakistan foreign secretary Tehmina Janjua said that Pence’s remarks were “worrisome”; on Friday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry responded with a statement that “allies do not put each other on notice” and that “externalizing blame should be put on notice”. [WSJ] [CNN] [AP] [Ariana News] [ET] [Pence Bagram Transcript]
  • Atta Firing: In interviews on Thursday, Jamiat-e-Islami party deputy head Zabi Fitrat said that the party would only accept Pres. Ghani’s removal of Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor if the government accepts the party’s demands for control of several ministries and ambassadorships, warning that the party would take “civic moves” around the country in protest if those demands were not met. Ghani met with several members of parliament representing the “Jamiat-e-Islami Integration Council” on Thursday, who issued a statement afterwards calling on Ghani to take action against “islands of power” inside the government and expressing support for the “principle” of “appointment, reshuffling, and retirement in the government”. [Ariana News] [Pajhwok] [TOLO]
  • Regional Diplomacy: China will host a trilateral meeting of the Afghan, Pakistani, and Chinese foreign ministers in Beijing on Dec 26, the Chinese foreign ministry announced Thursday. Separately, the Afghan ministry of foreign affairs called on parliament to review and approve a draft foreign policy strategy submitted for approval four months ago. [TOLO] [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • UN Special Representative Briefs Security Council on Afghanistan [TOLO] [TOLO] [UN]
  • Kabul Municipality Begins 10-Year City Expansion Plan [TOLO]
  • World Bank Provides $46M Incentive Payment to Finance Ministry [TOLO]
  • Afghan-Turk Teachers Protest Against Extradition [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Shehbaz to be Candidate for PM in 2018 Elections; India Considering Mi-35 Purchase for ANDSF

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Topline

  • In a statement on Thursday after a meeting of PML-N leaders, Nawaz Sharif announced that his brother Shehbaz Sharif would be the party’s candidate for prime minister in the next general elections.
  • Indian officials are considering an Afghan government request for the purchase of second-hand Russian-made Mi-35 helicopters, The Hindu reports; seven helicopters provided by India between 2015-16 are now reportedly grounded for repairs. The U.S., meanwhile, will deliver the next batch of Black Hawk helicopters in January.
  • Aides to Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor complain to TOLO that the Jamiat-e-Islami party statement regarding his removal from office “did not convey a firm enough message”; a statement on Thursday by the Council for the Salvation of Afghanistan, of which Noor is a leader, accused Pres. Ghani of seeking to monopolize power, and called on the international community to “intervene and prevent the government for taking further unilateral steps”. Despite rejecting his resignation, another TOLO report suggests that Noor has threatened to resign if Jamiat did not receive control over two ministerial and embassy appointments, and that he has identified Farhad Azimi as his preferred successor.
  • PM Abbasi and other government officials met with representatives of a JUI-F-organized “Supreme Jirga Council” on Wednesday but remain deadlock over plans for legal and political reforms in FATA and the area’s merger with Khyber Paktunkhwa province.
  • Two National Accountability Bureau investigators who visited the UK last week to investigate Sharif family properties are under scrutiny for additional private meetings, including with an associate of opposition politician Sheikh Ahmed Rashid.
  • The Afghan parliament voted on Wednesday to reject an executive decree lowering the age of mandatory retirement for Afghan military officers.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Dera Bugti Attack Kills Seven: At least seven people were killed and four injured when gunmen attacked a home in Balochistan’s Dera Bugti area on Thursday; six people were killed in the initial attack, and afterwards a vehicle transporting victims to a nearby hospital struck a mine, killing another person. No claim of responsibility has been reported and there are limited details as to the identity of the target. [ET] [The Nation]
  • Jhadav Family Granted Visas: Pakistan’s embassy in New Delhi issued visas to the wife and mother of accused spy Kulbhushan Jhadav on, the foreign ministry announced Wednesday; they will travel to Pakistan on Dec 25 to meet with him, accompanied by the Indian deputy high commissioner in Pakistan. [Dawn] [AP]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Shehbaz Tapped as PML-N Candidate for PM: In a statement on Thursday following a meeting of top party leaders, PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif backed his brother, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, as the party’s candidate for prime minister in the 2018 elections. [ET] [Dawn]
  • FATA Reforms: PM Abbasi and a team of government negotiators met with representatives of the JUI-F-led “Supreme Jirga Council” on Wednesday but failed to reach an agreement over the implementation of proposed legal and political reforms in the FATA. Opposition lawmakers staged a walkout over the delayed vote on Thursday. Afghanistan’s consul general in Peshawar, Mohammad Moeen Marastial, told a press conference on Wednesday that the Afghan government was not opposed to a merger but that “the opinion of the people should be taken into consideration before taking major decisions”, echoing the JUI-F position that a referendum must first be held.  [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: The team of National Accountability Bureau investigators who traveled to London last week to investigate Sharif family properties and meet with UK authorities is under scrutiny for additional private meetings, including a dinner with a close friend of opposition politician Sheikh Ahmed Rashid, The Nation reports. Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira called for the Supreme Court to initiate contempt proceedings against Nawaz Sharif for his remarks on the judiciary. [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Islamabad Sit-In: Speaking before the senate on Wednesday, Minister of State for Interior Talal Chaudhry acknowledged that the negotiated end to the sit-protests by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah was “not exemplary”, and said the government had been forced to negotiate because it “had been left alone” despite the participation of other parties in changes to the oath taken by prospective election candidates that had sparked the protests. [The Nation] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: Speaking at the inauguration of a new Hyundai manufacturing plant in Faisalabad on Wednesday, PM Abbasi reiterated that elections would be held on July 15 after the completion of the PML-N’s full term. The Pakistan Awami Tehreek is reportedly planning to launch public demonstrations beginning in mid-January; the party is also pursuing the reopening of investigations into the 2014 Model Town clashes. In an interview on Wednesday, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal said that a group of “disheartened politicians, retired military officials and journalists” was “hatching conspiracies against the government”, and that “if we manage to organise the civil-military relations, we will win the war for Pakistan”. [Dawn] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Sindh High Court Orders Provincial Government to Consider Police Transfer Proposal [Dawn]
  • India Sends Formal Protest Notes to China and Pakistan Over Dam Construction [ET]
  • Chinese Engineer Goes Missing in Kahuta [Dawn]
  • Dawn News Journalist Receives Threats Over Peshawar AIT Attack Reports [Dawn]
  • Four Suspected Kidnappers Arrested in Karachi [Dawn]
  • Army Chief Visits Bahawalpur [ET] [The Nation]
  • LHC Orders Removal of Pakistan Telecoms Authority Chairman [Dawn]
  • Chief Justice Meets with Protesting Multan Lawyers [ET]
  • Refineries Consider Re-Export of Furnace Oil Surplus [ET]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • India Considering Helicopter Purchase: The Hindu reports that the Indian government is considering an Afghan request to purchase second-hand Russian-made Mi-35 helicopters from other countries for use by the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. All of the seven helicopters provided by India in 2015-16 are now reported to have been grounded and in need of repairs; the US is seeking to shift the Afghan fleet over to US-made equipment, and is scheduled to deliver a new batch of Black Hawk helicopters in January.
  • Parliament Rejects Change in Military Retirement Age: In a vote on Wednesday, the Wolesi Jirga voted to reject a presidential decree that would have lowered the mandatory age of retirement for military officials. [Ariana News]
  • Attacks and Operations: Helmand provincial officials report that Afghan air and ground operations in the Nad Ali district killed at least 17 Taliban fighters. Military officials in Kunduz report that the Taliban shadow district governor in Khanabad was killed by his own mine while attempting to escape from Afghan forces.

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Atta Firing: An aide to Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor tells TOLO that the statement by the Jamiat-e-Islami party regarding his firing earlier this week “did not convey a firm enough message” that Atta’s dismissal was a “red line”. The TOLO report also indicates that Noor, while rejecting his removal, has threatened to resign if the government did not “return control” of two unspecified ministries and embassies to Jamiat appointees; he has also reportedly demanded that Farhad Azimi, rather than Mohammad Daoud, be named as his replacement. Noor’s Coalition for the Salvation of Afghanistan group issued a statement on Thursday accusing Pres. Ghani of attempting to “monopolize the power and sideline key political figures”, and called on the international community to “intervene and prevent the government for taking further unilateral steps”. Germany’s acting foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel met with Pres. Ghani on Wednesday and was quoted saying that “the Afghan government must deal with the issue on the basis of the law”. Another TOLO report overviews the tensions between Noor and the national unity government, dating back to its initial formation. [TOLO] [Pajhwok]

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Tajikistan Border Crossing Closed in Kunduz [RFE/RL]
  • German Prosecutors Arrest Accused Taliban Member [AP]
  • Young Afghans Face Perilous Deportation [Guardian]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Amendment to Draw New Constituency Boundaries Passes Senate; Jamiat Protests Atta’s Firing

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Topline

  • The Pakistani senate passed an amendment approving the use of provisional census data as a basis for re-drawing constituency boundaries, a process expected to take six months. JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman also met with PM Abbasi and Chief of Army Staff Bajwa to discuss his objections to stalled FATA reforms.
  • Pakistan’s foreign ministry issued a statement on Tuesday rejecting “unfounded accusations” regarding “Pakistan’s efforts for fighting terrorism” in the new Trump administration National Security Strategy released earlier this week.
  • The Jamiat-e-Islami party continues to protest the firing of Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor, warning in a statement that it will “nullify the national unity government agreement” if Pres. Ghani does not reverse his decision.
  • During her visit to Mazar-e-Sharif on Tuesday, Germany’s defense minister suggested that she would seek the deployment of additional German forces to Afghanistan to provide more security for German trainers.
  • State Bank of Pakistan governor Tariq Bajwa told members of the national assembly finance committee on Tuesday that Pakistan was facing an external financing gap of $11-12 billion this fiscal year, including around $5.9 billion in external debt repayment obligations; the SBP currently holds around $14.5 billion in foreign exchange reserves.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • US Relations: In a statement on Tuesday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry rejected “unfounded accusations” in the Trump administration National Security Strategy released earlier this week, which it said “belie facts on ground and trivialise Pakistan’s efforts for fighting terrorism”. In remarks unveiling the strategy on Monday, Trump reiterated that “we must see decisive action against terrorist groups operating on [Pakistan’s] territory”, adding that “we make massive payments every year to Pakistan. They have to help”. [Dawn]
  • Balochistan Security: Balochistan Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti announced on Wednesday that two men had been arrested in the Killa Abdullah district on charges of planning a suicide attack against governor Muhammad Khan Achakzai. [The Nation]
  • Civil-Military Relations: During remarks to a closed-door briefing on Tuesday with members of the senate, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa is reported to have denied any support from the military to Islamist protestors in Islamabad last month, and to have professed support for efforts to normalize relations with Pakistan’s neighboring countries. [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Senate Passes Delimitation Bill: In an 84-1 vote on Tuesday, the senate passed an amendment that will allow for the reapportioning and delimitation of new constituency boundaries on the basis of provisional census data; Balochistan is expected to gain two directly-elected seats in parliament, Khyber Paktunkhwa four, Islamabad one, and Punjab will lose seven, with Sindh unchanged. Election Commission officials have estimated it will take at least six months to draw new boundary lines. [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • FATA Reforms: PM Abbasi and Chief of Army Staff Bajwa met jointly with JUI-F leader Fazl-ur Rehman to discuss his objections to proposed FATA reforms; on Monday, Fazl also met with States and Frontier Regions Minister Abdul Qadir Baloch and National Security Advisor Nasser Janjua. Following Tuesday’s meeting, Fazl said that “we will continue to hold discussions” with the government over reforms legislation. [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: Lawyers for Nawaz Sharif filed a petition on Wednesday seeking to challenge the Supreme Court’s dismissal of his earlier petition seeking the consolidation of three corruption cases against him into a single reference. The Islamabad High Court has temporarily stayed accountability court proceedings against Ishaq Dar to hear a challenge from his lawyers. [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [ET] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: The Nation reports that Punjab officials are still seeking to negotiate an agreement with Pir Hameeduddin Sialvi over his demands for Law Minister Rana Sanaullah’s resignation, which officials say the government will not concede. The Election Commission has set Feb 12 as the date for a special election to fill PTI leader Jahangir Tareen’s seat after his disqualification. [Dawn] [The Nation] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Financing Challenges: In a briefing for the national assembly finance committee on Tuesday, State Bank of Pakistan governor Tariq Bajwa reportedly estimated that Pakistan will face an external financing gap of $11-12 billion in the current fiscal year, including around $5.9 billion in external debt repayment obligations and around $14 billion in current account deficits. The SBP currently holds around $14.5 billion in foreign exchange reserves. On Tuesday, the World Bank approved a $825 million loan to support Pakistan’s public finance management, of which $400 million is conditioned on parliamentary action to pass draft public finance management legislation. [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Budget Planning: The finance ministry announced Monday that the budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year will be presented in May 2018, the final month of the current government’s tenure. Dawn reports that the government has made no progress towards appointing a junior minister of state for finance, with duties instead split between several advisors and overall strategic direction set by PM Abbasi; Finance Secretary Shahid Mahmood is due to retire within the next 15 days.

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • PM Calls CCI Meeting to Address Provinces’ Energy Concerns [Dawn]
  • Sindh Increase Female Police Quota to 5% [Dawn]
  • India Cut Visas to Pakistan in 2017 [The Hindu]
  • 170 OGDCL Employees Found Guilty of Forging Documents [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Germany Considering Additional Troops: In additional comments on Tuesday during her visit to Mazar-e-Sharif, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said that she was seeking to increase Germany’s troop contribution in Afghanistan, citing arguments from German forces she was meeting with that “we have enough trainers but we could do significantly more if we had better protective components, more security personnel”.
  • Attacks and Operations: Helmand provincial officials claim to have killed 14 Taliban fighters in operations in the Nad Ali district on Monday evening. The government also reported that a Taliban commander was killed in airstrikes in the Marjah district on Wednesday. Nangarhar provincial officials reported Wednesday that five ISIS fighters, including a “shadow judge”, were killed in operations in the Khogyani district. One person was killed and two wounded in a US-Afghan joint special operations night raid in the Bagram district on Tuesday night; officials say they are investigating the incident.

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Jamiat Protests Atta Firing: In a statement on Tuesday, the Jamiat-e-Islami party called on Pres. Ghani to “review” his decision to remove Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor from office, and warned that “the presidential palace does not reconsider its one-sided action which is misusing the presence of the international community, Jamiat-e Islami will nullify the national unity government agreement and will employ all options to defend the legitimate rights of the people”. TOLO quotes several northern security officials professing support for Atta. Jamiat leaders are reportedly meeting to discuss their response, with some reports suggesting the party is considering broader resignations from the unity government. [Khaama Press] [Ariana News] [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Investment Drops: Leaders of the Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industry reported Tuesday that overall trade and investment has fallen by more than 50% since 2014, totaling less than $6 billion in 2017.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Russia Deploys Military Equipment on Afghanistan-Tajikistan Border [Khaama Press]
  • Two Herat Customs Officials Arrested on Corruption Charges [Pajhwok]
  • Death Row Prisoners Spending Years in Jail [TOLO]
  • Report: Secretary General’s Quarterly Report to UNSC on Afghanistan – “The Quadrilateral Coordination Group, comprising Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the United States of America, reconvened for the first time in over a year, while Afghanistan continued to expand its multilateral engagement in the region through such forums as the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan. There was no meaningful progress towards a peace settlement.” [UN Security Council]

 

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Balkh Governor Atta Rejects Firing; Pakistan NSC Reviews Security

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Topline

  • Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor rejected his firing by Pres. Ghani on Monday; Noor warned the international community and Afghan security forces not to intervene, and told his supporters that “for now we are only resorting to civil action but if this atrocity continues, there are many other options”.
  • The Pakistani National Security Council met on Monday to review internal and regional security, as well as relations with the U.S. and the Middle East. Chief of Army Staff Bajwa briefed members of the senate on Tuesday on Pakistan’s regional security.
  • Speaking at a court appearance on Tuesday, Nawaz Sharif reiterated his intention to start a “movement for the restoration of justice”, saying that “the court’s double standards and this blatant murder of justice will not be tolerated”.
  • German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen visited Mazar-e-Sharif on Monday to meet with German soldiers stationed there; in remarks, she noted concerns with “too big a reduction in troop numbers” from the earlier ISAF mission, and voiced support for continued engagement in support of Afghanistan’s security forces.
  • Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal and Chinese Amb. Yao Jing publicly launched the Long-Term Plan for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor; the plan includes an agreement to “actively explore” the use of Chinese currency for trade and investment, a proposal Pakistan was previously reported to have rejected.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • National Security Council Meets: Top Pakistani civilian and military leaders held a meeting of the National Security Council on Monday to review internal security after Sunday’s attack at a church in Quetta; a statement from the prime minister’s office said that the meeting had noted the need for “more commitment and attention” to “certain areas” of the National Action Plan against terrorism. The meeting also included discussions on relations with the US and Middle East, and reiterated opposition to the U.S. transfer of its embassy to Jerusalem. The Express Tribune reports that the the government is finalizing a “strategy for future relations with the United States” based on a “tit for tat policy under which Pakistan will respond according to US behavior”. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Drone Strike: Dawn reports that a U.S. drone strike hit a village in the Kurram Agency near the Afghan border on Sunday evening; the target is described as a compound owned by a Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan commander. No casualties were reported.
  • Civil-Military Relations: On Tuesday, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa briefed senate members on Pakistan’s regional security. Earlier on Monday, several senators argued for phasing out military commercial activities in Pakistan.

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: Speaking to reporters on Tuesday as he attended hearings in the corruption case against him, Nawaz Sharif reiterated that “the court’s double standards and this blatant murder of justice will not be tolerated, not by the PML-N and neither by this nation”, saying that he would start a “movement for the restoration of justice” soon. PML-N lawyers will appeal the Supreme Court’s verdict acquitting Imran Khan on a petition for his disqualification from office. At hearings on Tuesday, the Election Commission sought additional financial records from the PPP and PML-N in response to a PTI petition against them; the ECP is also hearing a complaint regarding PTI intra-party elections. [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • FATA Reforms: The Nation reports that JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman has agreed to accept the merger of the FATA and Khyber Paktunkhwa province after meetings with PM Abbasi, who reportedly emphasized pressure from the military to move forward with the reforms.
  • Other Political Activity: Speaking at a press conference in Lahore on Tuesday, Tahir-ul Qadri set a Dec 31 deadline for the resignation of Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, saying he would “announce the next strategy soon”. The Express Tribune reports that PM Abbasi has been tasked with negotiating a new “Charter of Democracy” agreement with the PPP and other political party leaders. A senate vote is expected Tuesday on an amendment allowing the use of provisional census data for constituency delimitation; the Express Tribune reports that a faction of dissident PML-N lawmakers may seek to skip the vote. Speaking during a meeting with newspaper editors on Monday, PM Abbasi reiterated that the next elections would be held on schedule after the completion of the government’s term; National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq met with Nawaz Sharif on Monday to discuss his stated concerns that the assemblies might not finish their full term. PPP secretary general Nayyar Bokhari told The Nation that “we will not push them too much” to call early elections. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • CPEC Long Term Plan Announced: Minister for Planning Ahsan Iqbal formally launched the Long Term Plan for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor at a ceremony in Islamabad on Monday, along with Chinese Amb. Yao Jing. The plan includes an agreement to “actively explore the use of bilateral currencies for the settlement of bilateral trade and investment”, a Chinese proposal that earlier reports had indicated Pakistan had rejected. [Reuters] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Three Security Personnel Wounded in DI Khan Blast [Dawn] [ET]
  • PPP and PTI Reach Settlement Over Convoy Clash [The Nation]
  • Sindh High Court Seeks Responses Over Missing MQM-Pakistan Leader Shahid Pasha [Dawn]
  • Sindh Rangers Recover Ammunition Cache [The Nation]
  • Former Finance Minister Warns of ‘Incipient Financial Crisis’ [ET]
  • Parched For a Price: Karachi’s Water Crisis [AJE]
  • Report: Pakistan’s Military Elite – “After retirement, we show little involvement in electoral politics but extensive involvement in military-linked corporations, state employment, and other positions of influence. This combination provides Pakistan’s military with an unusual blend of professional discipline internally and political power externally – even when not directly holding power.” [Paul Staniland, Adnan Naseemullah, and Ahsan Butt, Working Paper (pdf)]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • German Defense Minister Visits: German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen visited Mazar-e-Sharif on Monday to meet with German forces stationed there; in remarks during her visit, she said that “we got out of ISAF too quickly with too big a reduction in troop numbers” and that “there’s still a lot to do but I‘m convinced that we’re going in the right direction with our mission there.” Around a thousand German soldiers are currently stationed in Afghanistan. [Deutsche Welle]
  • Attacks and Operations: Kabul security officials killed all three gunmen who carried out at attack near a NDS training facility after around six hours of fighting on Monday; two policemen were reported to have been wounded in the battle. A Taliban suicide car bombing in the Helmand capital of Lashkar Gah on Monday killed at least two people and wounded 31 others, including security personnel. Laghman provincial officials claim to have killed a Taliban commander in a clash with Afghan Local Police militiamen in the capital of Mehtarlam on Monday evening. Nangarhar provincial officials report that four ISIS fighters were killed and five wounded in ongoing operations in the Khogyani district. [TOLO]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Atta Rejects Firing: In a speech to supporters on Monday after the presidential palace announced that it had “accepted his resignation”, Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor said that his dismissal “has no legal or legitimate basis” and that “for now we are only resorting to civil action but if this atrocity continues, there are many other options”. He also warned the Afghan security forces and international community not to intervene on the issue. The NYT reports that Chief Executive Abdullah, who shares a party affiliation with Noor but has clashed with him over control of it, had backed Pres. Ghani’s removal of Noor “but had questioned its timing”. Acting foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani has reportedly cut short a trip abroad to return and respond to the issue. [WAPO] [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Ghani Calls on Military to Stay Out of Politics: Pres. Ghani announced the appointment of three new deputies for Afghan National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar on Monday; during his remarks, he also emphasized that “no members of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces can be involved in political and partisan issues [or] present the ethnic and tribal views, but every member of the forces is Muslim and committed to future of this land”. [TOLO]
  • Refugee Repatriation: Minister for Refugees and Repatriation Said Hussain Alemi Balkhi reported on Monday that 528,000 Afghan refugees had returned from Pakistan and Iran so far this year, and that around 100,000 out of 500,000 internally displaced Afghans had been able to return to their place of origin. Around 750 Afghans were deported from Europe this year.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghan Government Welcomes Trump National Security Strategy [TOLO]
  • Karzai Doubtful About Washington’s New Approach Towards Pakistan [Khaama Press]
  • Senate Committee Approves ID Card Decree [TOLO] [Ariana News]
  • In Polio’s Worst-Hit District, Vaccinators Strain for Access [NYT]
  • National Procurement Commission Approves Afs 4.7 Billion in New Contracts [Khaama Press]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Islamic State Claim Quetta, Kabul Attacks; Balkh Governor Fired

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Topline

  • The Islamic State claimed responsibility for a double suicide bombing attack on a church in Quetta on Sunday that killed at least nine people and wounded more than fifty. On Monday, ISIS-affiliated fighters attacked a building near a NDS training facility in Kabul; fighting there is ongoing as of this writing and details are limited.
  • Pres. Ghani announced on Monday that he had “accepted the resignation” of Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor. A delegation led by acting Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani met with Noor on Friday, when initial reports emerged that he was about to be fired. A spokesman for the Jamiat-e-Islami party, of which both Noor and Rabbani are leaders, warned Saturday that “no official including the president and chief executive could oust” Noor from his position.
  • Jahangir Khan Tareen has resigned from his position as PTI general secretary following his disqualification from office by the Supreme Court on Friday; the PTI said no replacement would be named, and Imran Khan said that Tareen would “remain right next to me”. Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar rebuffed critics of judiciary in remarks on Saturday, insisting that it was independent and should be treated “like elders”. Nawaz Sharif returned to Pakistan on Sunday; in remarks to reporters, he criticized the court’s verdict acquitting Imran Khan and said he planned to lead a nationwide movement against the “dual standard of justice”.
  • TOLO reports that Afghanistan’s National Security Council has not held a meeting in the last three weeks as Pres. Ghani has pushed for the removal of deputy chief executive Mohammad Mohaqiq from the forum after his remarks praising Afghans fighting for an Iranian-backed unit in Syria; Chief Executive Abdullah is said to be supporting Mohaqiq’s continued participation.
  • A suicide car bomber attacked a NATO convoy in Kandahar on Sunday, killing a female bystander. Taliban fighters attacked police checkposts in Helmand and Badghis, where they killed a district police chief.
  • PM Abbasi has reportedly reached an agreement with the PPP on a vote for an amendment that will allow for the reapportioning of constituencies on the basis of provisional census data; a vote may come on Tuesday.
  • Some of the Turkish teachers arrested by the NDS in Kabul last week have been freed, but reports indicate at least one or two remain in custody.
  • Pakistani officials commemorated the three-year anniversary of the Army Public School massacre in Peshawar on Saturday.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • Quetta Church Bombing: A double suicide bombing attack struck the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta on Sunday, killing at least nine people and wounding fifty or more; police security personnel intercepted two suicide bombers, one of whom detonated his explosive vest at the church’s main door after being shot. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack through its Amaq News agency. Provincial officials in Sindh have ordered additional security at minority places of worship around the province. [AFP] [Reuters] [Dawn] [ET] [APP]
  • Gilani and Imran Convoys Clash: Vehicle convoys belonging to Imran Khan and Ali Musa Gilani, the former prime minister’s son, were involved in an incident on Sunday; the PTI accused Gilani’s guards of opening fire on Imran’s vehicle, which he denied, and accused the PTI convoy of striking his car. No injuries were reported.
  • APS Memorial: Pakistani civilian and military leaders marked the three-year anniversary of the attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar on Saturday; in his remarks, PM Abbasi said that “all political parties and all our armed forces came together to fight terrorism in the country… as a result of this fight, we have defeated terrorism and today, our schools and mosques our safe”. Chief of Army Staff Bajwa pledged that the victims’ “sacrifice has not gone in vain, we owe this improving peace to you”. In his statement, former Pres. Zardari criticized the government for failing to implement the National Action Plan against terrorism passed after the attack. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Senate Security Briefing: On Sunday, the senate secretariat announced that Chief of Army Staff Bajwa would brief the senate behind closed doors on Tuesday on “the emerging national security paradigm for Pakistan with respect to recent visits/developments”. Senators had demanded responses from the government on Pakistan’s participation in the Saudi Islamic Military Counter-Terrorism Coalition during a session on Friday. [ET] [The Nation]
  • Nuclear Suppliers Group Membership: Speaking at a conference in Islamabad on Friday, Russian embassy first secretary Pavel Didkovsky said that Russia would not block Pakistani efforts to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group despite its not having signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
  • US Relations: In remarks in Islamabad on Monday, National Security Advisor Nasser Khan Janjua expressed concern that “the US is willing to give India a bigger role in Afghanistan while blaming Pakistan for its own failure in the region”, and accused the U.S. of “want[ing] imbalance in the region to ensure that China does not rise and that there is no resurgence of Russian powers in the region”. [The Nation]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Jahangir Tareen Resigns After Court Disqualification: On Saturday, PTI general secretary Jahangir Tareen announced his resignation from his party office, following a Supreme Court ruling on Friday that disqualified him from elected office for life. The Election Commission formally removed Tareen from office after Friday’s verdict. Reports conflict as to whether Tareen’s resignation will in fact take effect; no new secretary general will be appointed to replace Tareen, and Imran Khan, who met with Tareen on Saturday, said that he would “remain right next to me”. Tareen and PTI leaders have indicated they would appeal the court verdict. [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Chief Justice Rebuffs Judiciary Critics: Speaking at a Pakistan Bar Council seminar in Lahore on Saturday, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar insisted that the judiciary was independent and should be treated like “elders”, adding that “if a decision is issued against you, don’t abuse [the judiciary]” by suggesting that it was the result of the judiciary “being part of a plan” or “being under pressure”. At the same time, the chief justice said that judges regularly received threatening phone calls warning them away from particular cases, and questioned why no action was taken in response. [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Nawaz Sharif Returns to Pakistan: Nawaz Sharif returned to Lahore on Sunday after a week and a half in London, accompanied by his daughter Maryam Nawaz. Shehbaz Sharif is expected to return from the UK on Monday. Speaking to reporters on Saturday prior to his departure, Nawaz denounced the Supreme Court’s exoneration of Imran Khan in its ruling disqualifying Jahangir Tareen as a “dual standard of justice” and announced his intention to “launch a movement for the provision justice in the country”. Speaking at a rally in Okara on Sunday, Imran Khan dismissed Nawaz’s remarks, saying that the PML-N “cannot mobilize the masses for any cause”, but warned that “if you do come out, the PTI will come out against you”. Separately, The Nation reports that UK officials have provided details to a National Accountability Bureau team investigating the Sharif’s London properties; the Express Tribune reports that the NAB will appeal the Supreme Court verdict turning down a request to reopen the Hudaibya Paper Mills money laundering case. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Election Preparations: In a meeting with PPP senate leaders on Friday, PM Abbasi reportedly agreed to the party’s demand that the provisional census results from five percent of all census blocks in Sindh be audited by a third party, in exchange for which the PPP will support the passage of a constitutional amendment to allow the delimitation of constituencies on the basis of provisional census data. A vote may take place on Tuesday. Abbasi has reportedly formed a four-member parliamentary committee, including two senators from the government and two from the opposition, to monitor implementation of the census audit, and also on the introduction of stalled FATA reforms. Abbasi visited Muzaffarabad on Friday to inaugurate a new hydroelectric power project, where he dismissed the notion that the government’s term would end before its full tenure was completed, and challenged “whoever wants to fight us should do so in the electoral field on July 15, 2018”. Abbasi visited Kohat on Saturday and made similar remarks. [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: Bhutto Zardari led a rally in Multan on Friday, pledging to introduce agricultural reforms and to form a separate South Punjab province. In a TV interview Saturday, former Pres. Musharraf called for the formation of an “technocrat interim government” of no fixed tenure, with a mandate to “hold the corrupt politicians accountable”. [The Nation] [ET] [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • ‘No Plans’ for Futher Rupee Devaluation: PM Abbasi told Bloomberg on Friday that the government had “no plans” to further devalue the rupee against the dollar, but also that “the market will decide” the currency’s final level.
  • Energy Crisis: The Express Tribune reports that the finance ministry is preparing to release Rs 35 billion to pay Pakistan State Oil for dues owed by Pakistan International Airlines and power producers, and avoid its default. [Dawn]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Jamaat-e-Islami Leads Rallies Against Jersualem Embassy Move [AP] [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • Jhadav Family Applies for Pakistan Visa [Dawn]
  • Indian Diplomats Recalled After Being ‘Honeytrapped’ in Pakistan [Hindustan Times]
  • Iranian Ambassador ‘Keen to Be a Part of CPEC’ [The Nation]
  • Grenade Attack Targets National Party Offices in Kech [The Nation]
  • Punjab Government Requests Rangers’ Deployment at Sahiwal Prison [Dawn]
  • PML-Q Leaders Questioned by NAB [Dawn] [ET]
  • Lahore High Court Overturns PEMRA Chief’s Appointment [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • 19 Human Traffickers Arrested in Gujranwala [The Nation]
  • Hangu Sikh Community Protests Forced Conversions [ET]
  • World Bank Approves $300M Loan to Modernize Punjab Agriculture [Dawn] [ET]
  • The DHA City Juggernaut Rolls On in the Name of Development [Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • NDS Building Attacked: A group of armed men seized a building under construction in Kabul on Monday and opened fire near a training facility operated by the National Directorate of Security intelligence service; fighting is ongoing as of this writing, and details are limited. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack. [TOLO]
  • Kandahar Bombing: A female bystander was killed and at least four others wounded when a suicide car bomber struck a NATO convoy in Kandahar’s Daman district on Sunday, provincial officials report; no international casualties were reported. Earlier on Sunday, four policemen were reportedly killed in separate roadside bombings in Kandahar city. [NYT] [TOLO]
  • Nangarhar Operations: Pres. Ghani met with tribal elders from Nangarhar’s Khogyani district and told them he had instructed the ministry of defense to “clear Khogyani and all other parts of Nangarhar from the presence of ISIS militants”, the provincial government announced on Sunday. Provincial officials reported that two ISIS fighters, including a Tajikistan national, were killed in a U.S. drone strike in the Haska Mina district on Saturday; nine Taliban and ISIS fighters were killed in separate airstrikes and ground operations in Khogyani on Saturday, and that a senior Taliban commander was arrested in Khogyani on Friday. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
  • US Assistance: In remarks to Russian news on Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov objected to what he said was an American proposal for Afghan security forces to switch away from the use of the AK-47 and its accompanying ammunition to American-made rifles [Khaama Press]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: The Ab Kamari district police chief in Badghis province was killed in a Taliban attack on a police post on Sunday evening. At least one person was killed and two wounded when a magnetic bomb planted on a vehicle exploded in Mazar-e-Sharif on Sunday; no details were initially reported, but Vice Pres. Dostum condemned the attack and identified the victim as a highway police commander, Sakhi Mohammad Qateh. At least 11 Afghan police officers were killed in a Taliban attack on their checkposts in the Helmand provincial capital of Lashkar Gah on Sunday. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Balkh Governor Fired: Acting Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani is reported to have led a delegation to hold talks with Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor on Friday, as several local press sources reported rumors that Noor had been removed from his position or resigned; on Saturday, a spokesman for the Jamiat-e-Islami party said that “no official including the president and the Chief Executive could oust” Noor from his position. On Monday, the presidential palace announced that Pres. Ghani had “approved Noor’s resignation” from his position and appointed Engineer Mohammad Dawood as his replacement. The Jamiat-e-Islami denounced the action, saying it was an “irresponsible move and against the stability and current situation of the country”. [Ariana News] [TOLO]
  • NSC Meetings Halted: TOLO reports that Afghanistan’s National Security Council has not held a weekly meeting for the past three weeks over a dispute regarding the continued participation of deputy chief executive Mohammad Mohaqiq; Pres. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah are reported to be divided over Mohaqiq’s participation after he made remarks praising Afghans fighting as part of an Iranian-backed unit in Syria.
  • Some Turkish Teachers Freed: Three teachers working for the Afghan-Turk school system who were arrested by the NDS last week were freed on Sunday, but another two teachers, both Turkish nationals, are still in custody, TOLO reports. Previous accounts had indicated only three had been arrested; Ariana News reports that four were released. Parents of children attending the schools protested outside the attorney general’s office on Saturday.
  • National ID Cards: Officials working in the office responsible for issuing electronic national ID cards tell TOLO that they are coordinating with the presidential palace on the timeline for rolling out the cards, starting with an initial phase in Kabul, and that they will announce a start date this week.
  • Karzai Meets Modi: Former Pres. Karzai met with PM Modi in New Delhi on Sunday; details of their discussions have not been reported.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Kabul Residents Protest Jerusalem Embassy Move [TOLO]
  • Afghan and Pakistani Parliamentarians Meet in Kabul [Dawn] [TOLO]
  • Law on Use of Afghan Airspace Approved [TOLO]
  • ADB Approves $400M Aid Package [TOLO]
  • Disease Increase as Kabul Air Pollution Gets Worse [TOLO]
  • Report: Biannual Pentagon Report to Congress on Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan – “As long as the Afghan Government continues to show real progress and make real reforms, we will continue to support them as our strategic partners in the fight against international terrorism. The Taliban cannot win on the battlefield.” [US DOD (pdf)]
  • Commentary: The Dilemma of Electoral Constituencies – “Due to a lack of consensus, the electoral system remains unchanged, but the IEC has been grappling with the question of whether to stick to the old electoral constituencies or to divide them.” [Ali Yawar Adili, AAN]

 

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Supreme Court Disqualifies Tareen, Quashes Hudaibya Case; IEC Sets Deadline for New Chairman

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Topline

  • In a ruling on Friday, a Supreme Court bench cleared Imran Khan, but disqualified PTI secretary general Jahangir Khan Tareen for his failure to disclose assets; the court also affirmed an Election Commission investigation into the PTI’s finances. Imran said afterwards that the PTI would appeal Tareen’s disqualification. A separate court ruling on Friday dismissed a National Accountability Bureau petition to reopen the Hudaibya Paper Mills money laundering case against Nawaz Sharif, as had been recommended by the Panama Papers Joint Investigation Team.
  • Pres. Ghani has reportedly ordered the distribution of electronic national ID cards to begin within the coming days; the Independent Election Commission, meanwhile, has given the government a four-day deadline to appoint a new chairman, after which members said they would choose one of their own.
  • Pakistan and Afghanistan are reported to have agreed to post liaison officers in each other’s military headquarters; Pakistan’s foreign ministry said that Afghanistan was reviewing Pakistani proposals for the creation of several working groups.
  • The JUI-F organized a tribal jirga to oppose the merger of the FATA with Khyber Paktunkhwa on Thursday; khasadar militiamen also demonstrated in opposition to proposals to introduce regular police to the FATA as part of the reform plan.
  • The IMF and Pakistan concluded negotiations on Thursday; Finance Secretary Shahid Mahmood said afterwards that the government was committed to avoiding the need for a new IMF loan program, and indicated it might issue another international bond in the coming month and a half.

 

Pakistan — Security

  • NGO Crackdown: Additional reporting on the Interior Ministry’s most recent round of notices to international NGOs seeking registration suggests that nearly 30 groups have been denied permission to operate in Pakistan; groups that received notices to halt operations indicate that they received little explanation for the decision. The AP reports that another 19 groups’ registration is currently under scrutiny.
  • Tillerson Warns of Terrorism Threat: In remarks at an event in Washington earlier this week, Sec. Tillerson said that he had shared concerns with Pakistani leaders that militant groups currently carrying attacks in Afghanistan might “turn their attention from Kabul and decide they like Islamabad as a target better”, saying that Pakistan’s relationship with the Haqqani network “has to be altered because if they’re not careful, Pakistan is going to lose control of their own country”. [ET]

 

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Supreme Court Rules on PTI Leaders’ Disqualification, Hudaibya Case: On Friday, a Supreme Court bench ruled that Imran Khan would not be disqualified from office over a failure to declare overseas business assets; PTI secretary general Jahangir Khan Tareen, however, was disqualified on the basis of Article 62 of the Constitution, the same provision under which Nawaz Sharif was removed from office. The court also affirmed that the Election Commission had the responsibility and authority to investigate the PTI’s overseas fundraising. Dawn profiles Tareen and the charges against him. Speaking at a press conference afterwards, Imran said that the PTI would appeal the verdict against Tareen. Also on Friday, a separate Supreme Court bench rejected an appeal by the National Accountability Bureau to reopen the Hudaibya Paper Mills money laundering case, which was closed in 2014 by the Lahore High Court. Meanwhile, the NAB is reportedly planning to seek Interpol support for the arrest of Ishaq Dar, who faces his own corruption charges and served as a key witness in the Hudaibya case in 2000, and currently remains abroad in London. [Reuters] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • FATA Reforms: The JUI-F organized a tribal jirga in Khyber Agency on Thursday to oppose the planned merger of FATA with Khyber Paktunkhwa province; tribal elders from Mohmand Agency also held a press conference and opposed the merger. Khasadars militiamen held a protest in Jamrud on Thursday against the proposed deployment of regular police to the FATA as part of the reform plan. Paktunkhwa Milli Awami Party leader Mehmood Khan Achakzai called for the formation of a “judicial council-like body” to consider a new reform plan for the FATA. On Thursday, States and Frontier Regions Minister Abdul Qadir Baloch reiterated the government’s intention to introduce legislation on FATA reforms soon. [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: In remarks to reporters on Thursday, PM Abbasi downplayed concerns over the government’s stability that had been expressed by Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, saying that “our government will have smooth sailing and an interim government will be formed in June”. PPP senate leader Aitzaz Ahsan told reporters on Thursday that he thought there would be a “positive outcome” to a meeting of parliamentary leaders called by PM Abbasi to resolve the deadlock over new constituency delimitations on the basis of provisional census data. Speaking to a group of lawyers on Thursday, Pakistan Awami Tehreek leader Tahir-ul Qadri claimed to have the support of the PPP, PTI, and Jamaat-e-Islami for a movement to seek the removal of Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif in response to the publication of an inquiry report into the 2014 Model Town clashes. Imran Khan and Pak Sarzameen Party leader Mustafa Kamal spoke by phone on Thursday and agreed to meet for “detailed discussion” in the near future. On Thursday, the MQM-Pakistan petitioned the Election Commission to remove from office two national assembly members and nine provincial assembly members who defected from the party. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [ET] [ET]

 

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • IMF Talks: The IMF and Pakistani finance ministry concluded ten days of talks on Thursday; Finance Secretary Shahid Mahmood told reporters that the government was “fully focused not to let things reach a stage where you need [an] IMF program” and suggested that Pakistan may issue another international bond in the next month and a half to boost its foreign currency reserves. IMF mission chief Harald Fingar said that Pakistan’s GDP growth was still projected to reach 5.6% this year, “but things will depend how the political and security situation evolves in the coming months”. [ET]

 

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Details of Jhadav Family Meeting ‘To Be Worked Out’ [Dawn] [ET]
  • Punjab Rangers Arrest 19 Terrorist Suspects [ET]
  • Senators Call for Investigations Into Tehreek-e-Labbaik Protests [Dawn] [ET]
  • Ministry of Human Rights and UN Recommend Halt to Dealth Penalty, Military Courts [Dawn]
  • MQM-Pakistan Leader Shahid Pasha Detained [ET]
  • Senate Committee Seeks Explanation on Deportation of Turkish School Teachers [ET]
  • Rs 21B Needed for Orange Line Metro Land Acquisition and Displacement Payments [ET]
  • Commentary: Silencing Dissent – “There is a criminal silence from our legislators over illegal detentions that are no more restricted to the conflict zones. Many more people are now being picked up from cities for reasons never disclosed.” [Zahid Hussain, Dawn]

 

Afghanistan — Security

  • Cooperation with Pakistan: Speaking at a press briefing on Thursday, a spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign ministry said that Pakistan had proposed the formation of several working groups with Afghanistan on “politics, economy, military, intelligence sharing and refugee issues”; the proposal is currently under review on the Afghan side. The Pakistani and Afghan militaries have reportedly previously agreed to place liaison officers in each other’s respective military headquarters and to establish ground coordination centers.
  • Attacks and Operations: On Thursday, the ministry of defense announced that a senior Taliban commander affiliated with the group’s “Red Unit” special operations group had succumbed to injuries he suffered in an airstrike in Farah province earlier this week. Military officials in Nangarhar claim to have killed at least 26 Islamic State fighters in operations in the Khogyani district over the past week. [Ariana News] [TOLO]
  • Russian Assistance: In remarks on Thursday, Pres. Putin professed Russia’s readiness to provide arms and military materiel and training for Afghan security forces, noting with concern that “radical international formations are occupying more and more areas in north Afghanistan at the border with former republics of the Soviet Union”.

 

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Election Preparations: On Thursday, Pres. Ghani ordered the Afghanistan Civil Registration Authority to begin rolling out the distribution of electronic national ID cards within the next few days. Separately on Thursday, members of the Independent Election Commission announced a four-day deadline for the appointment of a new chairman by the government, saying it would select one of its own members if that deadline was not met.

 

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Families of Detained Turkish Teachers Plead Against Deportation [TOLO]
  • Ghani Fails to Appoint Kabul Mayor After Three Years [TOLO]
  • State Bank to Inject $150M Into Foreign Reserves [TOLO]
  • Report: Taliban and Islamic State: Enemies or Brothers in Jihad? – “A permanent ceasefire and long-term coexistence between the Taliban and IS Khorasan are ambitious aims as the two organisations compete for territory, recruits and — increasingly — for sources of revenue.” [Antonio Giustozzi, CRPA]