Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Protests in Pakistani Kashmir Over Salahuddin Sanctions; Atta Noor Meets Dostum in Turkey

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Topline

  • Demonstrations were held in Pakistani Azad Kashmir on Tuesday following U.S. sanctions on Hizb-ul Mujahadeen leader Syed Salahuddin earlier this week; in remarks to reporters Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan vowed to continue Pakistani support for the Kashmir causes, and said that “it seems as though the blood of Kashmiris in not at all important to the US, and international laws relating to human rights do not apply to Kashmir”.
  • Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor met with exiled Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum in Turkey on Tuesday, a spokesman for Dostum said; details of their conversations were not disclosed.
  • NATO defense ministers will meet in Brussels tomorrow to discuss the alliance’s Afghanistan mission and future troop contributions.
  • A spokesman for Pres. Ghani confirmed that Pakistan and Afghanistan would exchange delegations in the near future as part of the “crisis management mechanism” and foreign ministerial dialogue brokered by China last week.
  • News is otherwise limited as Pakistan and Afghanistan observe the Eid holidays.

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: Several hundred demonstrators, led by opposition party members, rallied in Muzaffarabad on Tuesday to protest the U.S. sanctioning of Hizb-ul Mujahadeen leader Syed Salahuddin. Azad Jammu and Kashmir President Sardar Mohammad Masood issued a statement expressing concern over a “Trump-Modi nexus”, and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told reporters that “it seems as though the blood of Kashmiris in not at all important to the US, and international laws relating to human rights do not apply to Kashmir”. In an interview with the Hindustan Times, Indian chief of army staff Bipin Rawat warned that “we have options (other than surgical strikes) that are far more impactful and effective” to retaliate against Pakistan. [The Nation]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Sharif Orders Monsoon Preparations: On Wednesday, Prime Minister Sharif ordered the National Disaster Management Authority and all provincial governments to begin preparations ahead of heavy monsoon rainfall forecast to begin this week. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Scorching Ramadan Month Highlights Chronic Water and Power Shortages [WAPO]
  • Balochistan Liberation Army Activist Surrenders [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Planning Minister Acknowledges Challenges in CPEC Implementation [Reuters]

Afghanistan — Security

  • NATO Defense Ministers Meet: NATO defense ministers will meet in Brussels on Thursday to discuss the Afghanistan mission; Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told a press conference on Wednesday that he “hopes to give some indication” of future troop commitments after the meeting, and reaffirmed NATO support for the Afghan national security forces through 2020. Acting Afghan defense minister Tariq Shah Bahrami will attend the meeting. [Khaama Press]
  • Helmand Security: The interior ministry announced Wednesday that Gen. Ghulam Daud Tarakhel had been appointed as commander of the 505th Police Zone in Helmand, and Gen. Abdul Ghafar Safi appointed as provincial police chief. An airstrike in the Musa Qala district in Helmand on Wednesday killed six insurgents, the ministry of defense reported.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Opposition Leaders Meet in Turkey: Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor met with Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum in Turkey, spokesmen for Dostum said Wednesday; second deputy to the chief executive Mohammad Mohaqiq also met separately with Dostum. Noor’s trip was nominally to attend the wedding engagement of Dostum’s son Batur Dostum, with whom he has held multiple meetings since the attacks in Kabul earlier this month and Dostum’s exile.
  • Tensions with Pakistan: A spokesman for Pres. Ghani tells TOLO that Pakistan and Afghanistan are likely to exchange delegations “in the near future” following an agreement brokered by Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi to establish a “crisis management mechanism” and form a foreign ministerial dialogue. The spokesman added that the Chinese “should oversee the accusations to find that which sides are working honestly in the war against terrorism and which sides are only chanting slogans”. In a separate interview, the Paktia police chief accuses Pakistani military forces of supplying heavy weapons to Taliban fighters in the Dand-e-Patan district.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Commentary: Investigating Post-2003 War Crimes: Afghan Government Wants ‘One More Year’ from the ICC – “Kabul’s main demand now is that the Office of the Prosecutor delay submitting its application to the Pre-Trial Chamber to open an investigation. The reason: It feels that such an investigation could derail the September 2016 peace deal with Hezb-e Islami, the country’s second largest insurgent group.” [Ehsan Qaane, AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: US Sanctions Hizb-ul Mujahadeen Leader; CJCS Dunford Visits Afghanistan

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Topline

  • The U.S. State Department has sanctioned Hizb-ul Mujahadeen leader Syed Salahuddin as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist; Pakistan’s foreign ministry protested the move, saying “the designation of individuals supporting the Kashmiri right to self-determination as terrorists is completely unjustified”. Pres. Trump hosted Prime Minister Modi at the White House on Monday, where their joint statement called on Pakistan to “ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries”.
  • Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford arrived in Afghanistan on Monday for meetings with U.S. commanders and Afghan officials as part of the administration’s strategy review. Sec. Mattis is scheduled to meet with NATO allies in Brussels later this week to discuss troop contributions.
  • The Panama Papers Joint Investigation Team has summoned the prime minister’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz, and recalled her two brothers for testimony next week.
  • Chief of Army Staff Bajwa’s visit to Parachinar on Tuesday was cancelled due to poor weather conditions; Shia activists protested on Monday after bombings there killed dozens on Friday.
  • Pres. Ghani met with military officials in Kabul, pledging to develop a comprehensive security plan for the city soon.
  • News is otherwise limited as Pakistan and Afghanistan observe the Eid holiday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Parachinar Bombing Aftermath: Chief of Army Staff Bajwa was scheduled to visit Parachinar on Tuesday, but his travel was postponed due to bad weather. Members of the Shia community held protests there on Monday, criticizing the government for failing to provide security against sectarian threats from Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and other groups. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Trump Meets with Modi: Pres. Trump hosted Prime Minister Modi of India in a meeting at the White House on Monday; in their joint statement, the two leaders “called on Pakistan to ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries” and pledged closer bilateral cooperation between the U.S. and India on counterterrorism and intelligence sharing. The U.S. State Department also designated Hizb-ul Mujahadeen leader Syed Salahuddin as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist on Monday, barring U.S. persons from conducting financial transactions with him and blocking his assets in any properties subject to U.S. jurisdiction. In a statement on Tuesday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry criticized the sanction, saying that “the designation of individuals supporting the Kashmiri right to self-determination as terrorists is completely unjustified”. [BBC] [Guardian] [TOLO] [Trump and Modi Remarks Transcript] [Salahuddin Notice]
  • Panama Papers Investigation: The Joint Investigation Team investigating the Panama Papers has summoned the prime minister’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz, to testify in the investigation on July 5; her brothers Hassan and Hussain have also been called back for further testimony. Dawn notes allegations from the prime minister’s office that the JIT was wiretapping the phones of witnesses, and the lack of a legal code governing the use of wiretaps. [ET] [The Nation]
  • Provincial Tensions: Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah accused the federal government of failing to transfer Rs 110 billion in funds this month, saying only Rs 22 billion had been transferred.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Chinese Foreign Minister Meets Army Chief [ET]
  • Inquiry Ordered into Bahawalpur Tanker Fire Deaths [NYT] [ET]
  • Report: Art of the Possible: Restructuring the Defense Relationship with Pakistan – “Rather than attempt to alter Pakistan’s behavior radically in the near term – something that has proven impossible, thus far – the aim should be to optimize the rate of return on the relationship while avoiding a rupture.” [Stephen Tankel, CNAS]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Joint Chiefs Chairman Dunford Visits: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford visited Afghanistan on Monday, where he was expected to meet with U.S. commanders and Afghan officials as part of the administration’s review process for plans to increase the level of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Sec. Mattis will hold meetings with NATO counterparts in Brussels later this week on troop contributions. [TOLO]
  • Kabul Security: Pres. Ghani met with military commanders for the Afghan army’s 111th Division in Kabul on Tuesday, pledging that a “comprehensive security plan” for the city would be finalized in the near future.
  • Attacks and Operations: The Islamic State’s Khorasan Province affiliate released a video on Tuesday in which two young children carry out executions of at least five individuals. Airstrikes in Nangarhar’s Achin district on Tuesday reportedly killed 12 militants; the ministry of defense did not specify their affiliation or provide further details. Three members of a pro-government militia group were killed in a Taliban ambush in Faryab’s Pashtunkot district on Monday.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • MPs Raise Concerns Over Level of Distrust In Government [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Dozens Killed in Parachinar Double Bombing; Chinese Foreign Minister Brokers Talks

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Topline

  • The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Al-Alami splinter faction claimed responsibility for a double suicide bombing in a crowded marketplace in the Kurram Agency capital of Parachinar on Friday; at least 72 people were reportedly killed. That attack followed a bombing earlier in the day targeting police in Quetta, which was claimed by both the TTP Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and the Islamic State.
  • In a statement after Friday’s attacks, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa said that the attacks had been “linked to sanctuaries across the border” in Afghanistan, saying Afghanistan must “do more” to curtail cross-border terrorism. Military officials blamed the attacks on the Indian and Afghan intelligence services.
  • China’s foreign minister Wang Yi shuttled between Kabul and Islamabad over the weekend as part of a previously scheduled trip; on Sunday, he announced the formation of a trilateral foreign ministers’ dialogue and China’s support for a “bilateral crisis management mechanism between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
  • In his Eid message on Sunday, Pres. Ghani called on the Taliban to “come to peace”, saying the insurgency had “run out of time”. In a separate Eid message, Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor reiterated demands for reforms to the security services, which he said were “incompetent”, and denounced the clearance of protest camps in Kabul by force.
  • Afghan Independent Election Commission officials said they would begin work surveying polling centers and preparing for the creation of voter rolls for parliamentary and district council elections now scheduled for July 2018; IEC officials warned that that date could be changed if the government and international donors failed to provide the $220M election budget.
  • Acting Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Laurel Miller and her top deputy concluded their tenure on Friday with no successor to the position named; reports on Friday suggested that the State Department was moving to reorganize the office back into the South and Central Asia Bureau, which also lacks any confirmed leadership, but a spokesman for Sec. Tillerson said he had not yet made a final decision on the office’s future.
  • Prime Minister Sharif cut short his stay in London to return to Pakistan on Monday, after at least 157 people were killed in an oil tanker fire on the outskirts of Bahawalpur on Sunday.
  • Speaking to reporters earlier on Sunday, Sharif dismissed the Joint Investigation Team investigating the Panama Papers case as “a joke and a waste of time”. His son-in-law, Mohammad Safdar, appeared before the JIT on Saturday, denouncing it afterwards as part of a “Jewish conspiracy” against Pakistan. Former interior minister Rehman Malik testified before the JIT on Friday about money-laundering investigations he led against the Sharif family in 1998.
  • At least ten Afghan police officers were killed in an attack on their checkpost near Herat’s Salma Dam on Sunday.
  • Pakistan State Oil has reportedly cut off fuel supplies to Pakistan International Airlines over the latter’s failure to pay outstanding dues.

Pakistan — Security

  • Parachinar Bombings Kill Scores: A double suicide bombing struck a marketplace in the Kurram Agency capital of Parachinar on Friday, targeting crowds of shoppers ahead of the Eid holidays; the second bombing targeted rescue efforts following the initial attack. As of Sunday, officials put the death toll from the attack at 72, with 200 or more wounded, many in critical condition; army helicopters airlifted some victims to Peshawar for treatment. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Al-Alami splinter faction claimed responsibility, saying it had sought to target members of the Shia community in retaliation for “staining your hands with the blood of Sunnis in Syria”; Kurram has been a recurrent site of sectarian conflict for several years. The attacks followed a bombing earlier in the day in Quetta, which killed at least 14 people and was claimed by both the TTP Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and the Islamic State; the Pakistani military’s chief spokesman countered that “there is no organized infrastructure of I.S. in Pakistan”. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan held discussions with military and paramilitary officials on Saturday, and was quoted expressing concern that “despite being warned of the plans of attack in Quetta and Parachinar, no preventive measures were taken”. On Saturday, Peshawar police announced that they had killed three men, including an “important commander of the Islamic State” in a multi-hour raid. [WSJ] [Reuters] [AP] [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn]
  • Tensions with Afghanistan Spikes: In a statement on Saturday following the attacks in Quetta and Parachinar the day prior, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa said that those attacks had been “linked to sanctuaries across the border” with Afghanistan, and that “Pakistan has done the best and maximum in the fight against terrorism. It is time now for other stakeholders, especially Afghanistan, to do more.” The military reported that Bajwa had been “briefed in detail about the recent incidents and their manifest linkage to terrorist sanctuaries in Afghanistan operating under the patronage of NDS and RAW”. Military officials announced tightened security measures around the country following the Friday attacks, and warned of “stringent action” against “illegal border crossers”. On Saturday and Sunday, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi shuttled back and forth between Kabul and Islamabad. He met with Pres. Ghani, National Security Advisor Atmar and acting foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani in Kabul, and with Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa, and Pres. Mamnoon Hussain, among others. In a joint press conference with Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz on Sunday, Aziz  and Wang said that China and Pakistan had agreed on the need to revive the Quadrilateral Coordination Group process and to develop a “bilateral crisis management mechanism” with Afghanistan. They also announced the formation of a trilateral foreign ministers’ dialogue. Dawn reports that the negotiation of the “crisis management mechanism” will be undertaken bilaterally between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and notes the failures of past efforts. Speaking to reporters in London on Sunday, Prime Minister Sharif expressed optimism that the relationship with Afghanistan would improve. [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Ariana News] [Pajhwok] [WAPO]
  • Scores Killed in Bahawalpur Oil Tanker Fire: At least 157 people have been killed after an oil tanker crashed on the outskirts of the city of Bahawalpur on Sunday; nearby residents who arrived to collect spilt fuel were caught in a fireball when the site ignited. Prime Minister Sharif cut short his visit in the UK to return to Pakistan on Monday, meeting with victims in Bahawalpur and offering compensation payments. [NYT] [Dawn] [Dawn] [AP]
  • Karachi Police Killed: Four Karachi police officers were killed in a driveby shooting on Friday; police officials tell Dawn that the attack was claimed by a group identifying itself as the “Jamaat-ul-Ansar Al-Sharia Pakistan”. [ET]
  • NGO Crackdown: On Thursday, the Lahore High Court ruled in favor of a challenge brought by the NGO Taang Wasaib, which had challenged an order from the provincial home department banning it from operating.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Investigation: Prime Minister Sharif’s son-in-law Mohammad Safdar appeared before the Joint Investigation Team in the Panama Papers case for five hours of questioning on Saturday; he afterwards denounced the investigation as a “Jewish conspiracy”, describing it as “a conspiracy not just against Nawaz Sharif but against the integrity and ideology of Pakistan”. In remarks to reporters on Saturday in the UK, where he is traveling for a medical check-up, Prime Minister Sharif described the JIT as “a joke and a waste of time which I could have used to contribute a lot more to the nation”, insisting that his record was “an open book”. Anonymous PML-N lawyers express concern over the ruling party’s criticism of the judicial process in comments to the Express Tribune. On Friday, the head of the Federal Board of Revenue insisted that the agency had provided all available tax records for the Sharif family sought by the JIT. Former Interior Minister Rehman Malik appeared before the JIT on Friday, testifying on a money laundering investigation against the Sharif family and associates he led in 1998. [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • FATA Reforms: A committee of lawmakers from the FATA and Khyber Paktunkhwa argued that further debate was necessary over the government’s proposed legislation to abolish the Frontier Crimes Regulation in FATA and replace it with the “Rewaj Act”, creating a mix of traditional and formal legal systems; Minister for States and Frontiers Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch called for the legislation to be approved at the committee’s next meeting, the date for which was not specified. [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: Prime Minister Sharif and Pres. Hussain issued separate messages commemorating the beginning of Eid on Monday. On Sunday, Punjab provincial assembly member Malik Mukhtar Ahmad Bherath was inducted into the provincial cabinet, increasing its size to 34 members. The PTI formally announced leadership appointments on Saturday, following intra-party elections held earlier this month; a number of members of the opposing slate who ran against Imran Khan’s leadership team were also granted positions. Former PPP minister Babar Awan announced that he was quitting the party to join the PTI on Friday; a spokesman for the PPP said that Awan was a “political turncoat” who had effectively split from the party in 2013. [The Nation] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Energy Crisis: The Nation reports that Pakistan State Oil has reportedly halted fuel supply to Pakistan International Airlines over the latter’s failure to pay outstanding dues. On Friday, the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority announced its intention to bring legal charges and fines against K-Electric, citing unscheduled loadshedding. NEPRA projects that the nationwide power shortfall will drop to 500 megawatts by the end of 2018, and that a generation surplus will be reached by 2019.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Bans Lal Masjid Foundation from Public Activities [Dawn]
  • Lawmakers Introduce Legislation to Revoke Pakistan’s Non-NATO Ally Status [Dawn]
  • Six Children Killed by ‘Toy Bomb’ [ET]
  • Police Officer and Terrorist Suspect Killed in Charsadda Raid [ET]
  • 14 PIA Employees Arrested on Narcotics Smuggling Charges [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Government Borrows $2.9 Billion from Commercial Banks Over 11 Month Period [The Nation]
  • CPEC Railway Upgrade Work to Begin This Year [The Nation]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Attacks and Operations: At least ten police officers were killed and their weapons seized in an attack on a checkpost near the Salma Dam in Herat province on Saturday night; the Taliban did not claim the attack. The Ministry of Defense claimed to have killed six militants, including an unidentified Al Qaeda member, in an airstrike in the Jaghatoo district in Wardak province on Saturday. Jawzjan provincial police officials claim that the Taliban’s shadow district governor for the Darzab district was killed by his own guard in a shooting last Thursday, after which the gunman fled to join a local ISIS affiliate; the Taliban have not confirmed the account. Acting defense minister Tariqshah Bahrami visited the Tora Bora region of Nangarhar’s Pacher Agam district on Sunday, touting operations to retake control of the area. The Guardian profiles the surviving family of one victim of the Kabul bombing last month. [Khaama Press] [AP] [TOLO]
  • APPF Officials Fired: A spokesman for the Ministry of Interior said Friday that two commanders of the Afghan Public Protection Force had been fired after a Facebook video made by soldiers complaining of substandard food for their unit went viral last week. [Ariana News]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Eid Messages: In an Eid-ul-Fitr message released on Sunday, Pres. Ghani warned the Taliban that they had “run out of time”, saying that “if you are really Afghan then come to peace.” Speaking earlier on Friday, High Peace Council chairman Mohammad Karim Khalili urged the Taliban to join the peace process. Separately, in his message Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor denounced the use of force to clear protest camps in Kabul and reiterated demands for immediate reforms in the security services, which he described as “incompetent”. [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Election Process: Speaking on Saturday following the announcement last week that the Independent Election Commission would hold parliamentary and district council elections in July 2018, a spokesman for the IEC said that the body would begin a 45-day assessment of polling centers starting next week, in preparation for the formulation of a voter list. First stage preparations are expected to cost as much as $63 million out of a total $220 million election budget; IEC secretariat chief Imam Mohammad Warraich cautioned Friday that the election date might be delayed further if the government and international donors did not provide the full budget. [Ariana News]
  • State Department Shutters SRAP Office: The State Department reportedly moved abruptly on Friday to close the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan’s office; although the reorganization of the office into the South and Central Asia Bureau had been pending for several months, Politico reported that its closure was initially announced to staff with less than 24 hours notice on Friday. A spokesman for the State Department subsequently said that Sec. Tillerson had not made a final decision on the office’s future; acting SRAP Laurel Miller and her acting principal deputy, Jonathan Carpenter, concluded their postings on Friday without replacements nominated. The SCA Bureau itself has no assistant secretary appointed to lead it. [AFP] [NYT]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Afghanistan Removed from Money Laundering ‘Gray List’: On Saturday, Central Bank officials announced that the international Financial Action Task Force had removed Afghanistan from its “gray list” of countries with questionable banking systems, lifting restrictions on relations between its banking sector and other international banks.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Kabul Continues Removal of Concrete Barricades [TOLO]
  • Afghanistan Exports 40 Tons of Fruits and Nuts to India [Khaama Press]
  • Commentary: Tents and Bullets – The Crackdown on the Kabul Protests – “The AAN team looks at who the protestors are, what their demands were and how they changed, the government’s response, the protests’ impact on day-to-day life in Kabul and whether the protests are likely to continue.” [AAN]
  • Commentary: Getting an Edge in the Long Afghan Struggle – “An intensified military effort could arrest the gradual loss of territory held by the government in recent years—now estimated by U.S. Central Command at only 60% of the country—and to regain battlefield momentum.” [David Petraeus and Michael O’Hanlon, WSJ]
  • Commentary: The Real Key to Trump’s Afghanistan Strategy – “Washington should also relinquish the Taliban war to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Let the war then continue, but with another name, forcing Kabul and Islamabad to realize that the Taliban are their common enemy and must be defeated, politically if possible but militarily if necessary.”  [Touqir Hussain, The Diplomat]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claims Quetta Bombing; IEC Announces July 2018 Parliamentary Election Date

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Topline

  • A suicide bombing near the offices of the Balochistan provincial police chief in Quetta killed at least 13 people on Friday morning; the TTP Jamaat ul Ahrar has claimed responsibility.
  • Pakistan’s military press wing released a new video of accused Indian spy Kulbhushan Jhadav on Thursday, in which he appeals for clemency and reiterates confessional statements that he had supported terrorist activities in Balochistan.
  • Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission announced Thursday that parliamentary and district council elections would be held July 7, 2018, approximately three years after parliament’s term ended.
  • An Eid address attributed to Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada was released Friday, in which he reiterated demands that the United States withdraw its forces from Afghanistan and dismissed the current government as illegitimate.
  • In a progress report to the Supreme Court on Thursday, the Joint Investigation Team in the Panama Papers case reported that government agencies, particularly the Federal Bureau of Revenue, were still not providing requested records to investigators.
  • Pakistan’s interior ministry said that it had rejected the registration applications of 23 international NGOs, with 73 applications approved and another 20 cases still pending.

Pakistan — Security

  • Quetta Bombing: An apparent suicide bombing near the offices of the Balochistan provincial police chief in Quetta on Friday morning killed at least 13 people, including five police officers; at least 19 were wounded. A spokesman for the provincial government blamed India for the attack; the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaat-ul-Ahrar splinter group claimed responsibility.
  • Accused Indian Spy Makes Mercy Plea: On Thursday, the Pakistani military’s press wing issued a video in which accused Indian spy Kulbhushan Jhadav appeals to Chief of Army Staff Bajwa for clemency from the death sentence issued against him; Jhadav again confessed to support Baloch militants and supporting attacks inside Pakistan, including those targeted at the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. India’s foreign ministry renewed demands for consular access to Jhadav and dismissed the statement as intended to influence International Court of Justice proceedings. Separately, Pakistani military officials said two civilians were wounded in an exchange of fire across the Line of Control in the Kotli district on Thursday. [Dawn] [AP] [AJE] [The Nation]
  • NGO Crackdown: In a statement on Thursday, the Interior Ministry said that it had rejected the registration applications of 23 international NGOs “in view of their past performance and projects or due to certain activities falling outside their domain and stated purpose of their organization”. 73 have been registered, and another 20 cases are pending. [The Nation]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Investigation: The Panama Papers Joint Investigation Team submitted its third interim progress report to the Supreme Court on Thursday, in which the JIT reported a continued lack of cooperation from government agencies over record searches, particularly the Federal Board of Revenue. Separately, the court will indict former PML-N senator Nehal Hashmi over his remarks against the investigation; Hashmi did not appear in the court on Friday. [The Nation] [ET]
  • Gulf Diplomacy: Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Pakistan denied that Pakistan had been mediating between the Saudis and Qatar. [ET]
  • U.S. Relations: Speaking at Thursday’s press briefing in response to questions regarding reports that the Trump administration may be considering a harder-line approach towards Pakistan, a spokesman for the foreign ministry said that Pakistan “firmly believe that continued close cooperation between our two countries is critical for promoting peace and security in the region and beyond”. [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: The Election Commission of Pakistan has set a new July 10 deadline for the PTI to submit financial documents regarding charges that it had improperly accepted funding from overseas. A separate petition has been filed challenging the PTI’s intra-party leadership elections. PPP senator Babar Awan is reportedly set to defect to join the PTI. [ET] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Trade Deficit Rises: Pakistan’s current account deficit rose to almost $9 billion during the first 11 months of the fiscal year, up 177% from $3.2 billion last year, State Bank of Pakistan figures released Thursday indicate. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Christian Man in Lahore Arrested on Blasphemy Charges [Dawn]
  • Chief of Army Staff Meets Turkish Prime Minister [Dawn] [ET]
  • Karachi Police Planning to Transfer 227 Trials to Military Courts [Dawn]
  • Sindh High Court Gives Rangers August Deadline to Recover Missing Persons [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kabul Security: Gen. Afzal Aman has been appointed acting commander of the Kabul army garrison and Gen. Mohammad Salim Ehsas has been appointed acting police chief for the capital, Khaama Press reports. Kabul mayor Abdullah Habibzai announced Thursday that the city would begin removing barricades and reopening roads starting Friday, after the dispersal of protestors earlier this week; some key roads will remain closed, however. [TOLO]
  • Attacks and Operations: Afghan National Army officials reported Thursday that they had killed a senior member of the Taliban’s military commission, identified as Mawlavi Shukoor, during operations in Takhar province on Thursday. The death toll from Thursday’s bombing in Lashkar Gah has reportedly risen to 34, with at least 60 wounded. [NYT] [WSJ]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • IEC Announces Parliamentary Election Date: On Thursday, the Afghan Independent Election Commission announced that it would hold parliamentary and district council elections on July 7, 2018, nearly three years after parliament’s term expired. The district council elections, if held, would be the first elections of those bodies since Afghanistan’s 2004 constitution was formed. UNAMA special representative Tadamichi Yamamoto welcomed the announcement. [Khaama Press] [AP]
  • Eid Message: The Taliban released an annual Eid-ul-Fitr message on behalf of the group’s leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada, in which he demanded “complete independence of the country and establishment of an Islamic system” and said that “the occupation is the main obstacle in the way of peace”. The message said that the Taliban would “not allow anyone else to intervene in Afghanistan” and promised “constructive and good relations with you and the world” if U.S. forces were withdrawn, but dismissed the current government as illegitimate. [AP] [Khaama Press] [Taliban Message on JustPaste.it]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ghani Participates in ‘Responsible Citizen’ Debate [TOLO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: FIA Investigating JIT Allegations of Record Tampering; Taliban Release Hostage Video

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Topline

  • Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency has formed a four-member team to investigate allegations that Securities and Exchange Commission officials had tampered with records sought by the Joint Investigation Team in the Panama Papers case.
  • The Taliban released video of two American and Australian professors kidnapped from the American University of Afghanistan last year, in which they again appeal for their release in exchange for the release of Taliban prisoners.
  • A suicide bombing at a branch of the New Kabul Bank in Lashkar Gah has killed at least 29 people and wounded dozens more; no immediate claim of responsibility has been reported.
  • Anti-terrorism courts in Lahore and Karachi separately acquitted two men linked to the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team, and the 2013 murder of activist Perween Rehman.
  • Pakistan’s interior ministry has approved tighter restrictions on the issuance of business and work visas to Chinese nationals.
  • At a briefing for the UN Security Council on Wednesday, UNAMA special representative Tadamichi Yamamoto warned of increasing political polarization and ethnic tensions following attacks in Kabul earlier this month.
  • Following meetings with the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday, the Election Commission of Pakistan has determined that it will not re-draw electoral constituencies prior to the next general elections.
  • Pres. Ghani appointed eight new members of the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission on Wednesday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Court Acquittals: A Lahore anti-terrorism court acquitted two men accused of providing arms and training to the militants who carried out the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore; their case is reported to have previously been referred back from a military court. In Karachi, another anti-terrorism court acquitted the main suspect in the 2013 murder of Orangi Pilot Project leader Perween Rehman.
  • Interior Ministry Reviews Visas for Chinese Nationals: At a meeting on Wednesday, the interior ministry approved a plan to tighten restrictions on the issuance of business or work visas to Chinese nationals visiting Pakistan, following reports that a pair who were kidnapped and killed by the Islamic State in Quetta last month had been missionaries. [Dawn]
  • Border Tensions: Speaking at a weekly press briefing on Thursday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman warned that U.S. drone strikes were a violation of Pakistani sovereignty and “unacceptable”. The Nation reports that two American helicopters briefly violated Pakistani airspace near the Torkham border crossing on Wednesday. Speaking during debate on Wednesday, Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN Maleeha Lodhi countered charges of Pakistani support for Afghan insurgents, saying that militant safe havens were inside, not outside, the country.
  • FATA Operations: On Wednesday, Pakistani military spokesmen announced the seizure of a large arms cache in separate operations in North and South Waziristan. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Investigation: Following a court order, the Federal Investigation Agency has formed a four-member team tasked with investigating complaints from the Panama Papers Joint Investigation Team that Securities and Exchange Commission officials had tampered with records during the course of the JIT’s investigation. At hearings on Thursday, JIT officials accused the Federal Board of Revenue of not providing full records of Sharif family assets. Following a meeting of party leaders on Wednesday, PTI chief Imran Khan accused the government and it allies of seeking to malign the judiciary and impede the investigation, vowing to counter such actions. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Tensions with India: In an interview with The Hindu on Wednesday, Pakistan’s ambassador to India Abdul Basit called for the continuation of cricket ties between the two countries, and for comprehensive dialogue talks to resume “without preconditions”. [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: At a meeting on Wednesday following meetings with Pakistan Bureau of Statistics officials, Election Commission officials decided not to redraw constituency boundaries prior to the next general elections; final census results are scheduled to be released in April, with the ECP estimating it would take as long as seven months to redraw constituencies once that data was available. The PPP commemorated the late Benazir Bhutto’s birthday on Wednesday, with her son and party leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari vowing to “fulfill her aspirations for Pakistan”. [Khaama Press]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Debates: The Balochistan assembly approved the government’s budget on Wednesday; opposition party members did not seek to challenge the budget.
  • FDI Rises in May: The State Bank of Pakistan reported that Pakistan received $295 million in foreign direct investment in May, bringing cumulative July-May totals to $2.03 billion, compared to $1.65 billion in the same period last year. 44% of total FDI comes from China. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Chief of Army Staff Meets Turkish President [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Foreign Ministry Confirms Iranian Drone Shot Down [Dawn] [AP]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Planning to Relocate Afghan Refugee Camps [Dawn]
  • Police Kill Three Lyari Gang Leaders [The Nation]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Voucher Program Targets Out-of-School Children [ET]
  • Pakistani Citizens Gasp for Clean Air [AFP]
  • Baldia Factory Fire Victims Reject Installment Compensation Payments [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Taliban Release Hostage Video: On Wednesday, the Taliban released a video of two former professors at the American University of Afghanistan, American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks; in the video, apparently recorded last week, the pair appeal for the government to negotiate a prisoner exchange for their release. The Taliban last released a video of the men in January. A spokesman for Pres. Ghani said that “all options are on the table” but vowed that the government “would not compromise” on the status of Taliban prisoners. [AP] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • U.S. Assistance: National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar held talks on “the framework of the new bilateral security cooperation” between Afghanistan and the United States with his U.S. counterpart H.R. McMaster by videoconference on Wednesday.
  • Attacks and Operations: At least 29 people were killed when a suicide car bomber struck a crowd of Afghan soldiers and government employees queuing outside a New Kabul Bank branch in the Helmand provincial capital of Lashkar Gah on Thursday; 60 people or more were wounded. No immediate claim of responsibility has been reported. On Wednesday evening, unidentified gunmen attacked a mosque in Logar province’s Surkhabad area, killing a former Hezb-e-Islami commander and at least one other man. [Guardian] [WAPO] [Reuters] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Guardian] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • UN Review: Speaking before the UN Security Council on Wednesday, UNAMA special representative Tadamichi Yamamoto expressed concern that “political fault-lines that emerged” after attacks in Kabul earlier this month “are increasingly along an ethnic basis”, and warned that “without changes in governance practices we are likely to face future crises that might be more difficult to contain”. [UN Quarterly Briefing Report (pdf)]
  • New Civil Service Appointees: On Wednesday, Pres. Ghani announced the appointment of eight new members of the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission, warning against any interference in the commission’s work.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Afghan Military Uniform Choice Unnecessarily Cost U.S. $28 Million, SIGAR Reports [WAPO] [SIGAR (pdf)]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistani Military Begins Border Fencing in FATA; Refugees Minister Warns Against Repatriations

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Topline

  • Pakistan’s military announced Tuesday that it had begun fencing portions of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in the Bajaur, Mohamand, and Khyber Agencies, in order to curtail cross-border militant infiltration. The Afghan interior ministry protested the move.
  • Speaking on World Refugee Day on Tuesday, Afghan Minister of Refugees and Repatriation Sayed Hussain Alimi Balkhi said that around 194,000 Afghan refugees had returned to the country in the past three months, but that “the current situations in Afghanistan are not suitable for the expulsion of Afghan refugees”. Chief Executive Abdullah also called on host nations not to furce refugees’ return.
  • Pakistan has reportedly shot down an Iranian surveillance drone in the Panjgur district of Balochistan; details are otherwise limited.
  • Pakistani foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz insisted that Pakistan would remain neutral in the Gulf crisis, but said that former Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif had taken command of the Saudi military alliance in his “personal capacity” and so could not be recalled.
  • Speaking on Tuesday, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford reiterated that the Pentagon had not made a final decision on U.S. troop deployments in Afghanistan and that the administration’s strategy review would be completed by mid-July.
  • The NYT notes that the U.S. has reduced the use of Afghan guards at the Bagram military base following a suicide attack there last November; a group of eight guards, who were commuting home unarmed, were killed on Monday evening.
  • Pres. Ghani met with religious scholars on Tuesday evening, pledging that Afghanistan would not be split along sectarian lines despite attacks by groups like the Islamic State on the Shia minority.

Pakistan — Security

  • Border Fencing with Afghanistan: Pakistan’s military spokesman announced Tuesday that the army had begun fencing portions of the Afghan-Pakistan border in the Bajaur, Mohmand, and Khyber Agencies, focusing in “infiltration-prone” areas; ultimately, the army said it intends to fence the entirety of the border, as well as construct additional border posts. A spokesman for the Afghan interior ministry protested the move, saying Pakistan “has no right to fence or construct any building along the border with Afghanistan”, and warned of retaliatory action. The ambassadors of Pakistan and Afghanistan shared the stage at an event in Washington on Tuesday, at which Pakistan’s Ambassador Aizaz Chaudhry decried the “blame game” over insecurity in Afghanistan, and Afghanistan’s Ambassador Hamdullah Mohib was pointed in his criticism of Pakistani claims of cooperation. The Nation reports that Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi is set to visit Islamabad and Kabul beginning June 24th, with the goal of reducing bilateral tensions between the two countries. [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Iranian Drone Shot Down: Pakistan Air Force jets shot down an Iranian surveillance drone in Balochistan’s Panjgur district on Monday, officials report; details are limited. [ET]
  • Saudi Alliance: Speaking before the senate committee on foreign affairs on Wednesday, advisor Sartaj Aziz said that former chief of army staff Raheel Sharif had taken command of the Saudi military alliance “in his personal capacity” and thus could not be asked to return to Pakistan. Aziz nonetheless said that Pakistan would maintain a neutral position in the Gulf crisis. [The Nation]
  • Army Chief Visits Turkey: Chief of Army Staff Bajwa visited Ankara on Tuesday, where he met with his counterparts Gen. Salih Zeki Çolak and Gen. Hulusi Akar and discussed regional security issues and defense cooperation; Bajwa was subsequently awarded the Turkish Legion of Merit. [ET] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Investigation: During hearings on Tuesday, Supreme Court judges holding hearings on the investigation into the Panama Papers complained of leaks of court and investigation proceedings, criticizing the government for seeking to influence public opinion rather than argue its case before the court. [The Nation]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • CPEC Project: In an announcement of China’s “Vision for Maritime Cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative” on Tuesday, Chinese officials voiced support for linking the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project to the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor and the China-Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor. The document did not provide details; India has objected to CPEC, which passes through disputed territory in Kashmir.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Two Militant Suspects Killed in Tank District [Dawn] [ET]
  • Interior Ministry Seeks to Ban Public Sale of Military Uniforms [The Nation]
  • Four Workers Critically Injured at Lahore Orange Line Metro Project [Dawn] [ET]
  • NEPRA Orders Refunds for Karachi, Hyderabad, and Sukkur Customers [Dawn] [ET]
  • Commentary: Pakistan’s Anxieties Are Incurable, So Stop Trying to Cure Them – “Not only can the United States not address Pakistani anxieties, but U.S. efforts to do so have undermined vital U.S. interests in the region.” [Christine Fair, War on the Rocks]

Afghanistan — Security

  • U.S. Force Levels: Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford reiterated that the Pentagon had not made a final decision on troop numbers for additional U.S. forces to be deployed to Afghanistan, and that the administration’s broader regional strategy review would be completed by mid-July. [TOLO]
  • Bagram Base Attack: The NYT notes that the victims of an attack on Afghan guards serving at Bagram on Monday night were unarmed and had been commuting home from the base following recent restrictions on the use of Afghan guards at the facility after a suicide bombing attack at Bagram last November. The number of Afghan workers at the base has declined from 3,000 to 1,500 since then, with economic impact on the surrounding area.
  • Attacks and Operations: The commander of the Afghan National Army’s 201st Corps told reporters on Wednesday that 44 ISIS fighters had been killed and 22 wounded during operations to retake control of the area around Tora Bora in Nangarhar, which defense officials announced they had recaptured over the weekend. Officials in the Darzab district in Jawzjan claim to have killed 20 ISIS fighters after attacks on checkposts over the past two days; provincial police officials say six Afghan soldiers were killed. An explosion was reported in Jalalabad on Wednesday, following a bombing the day prior that killed a local judge; no casualties were reported in the latest incident. One person was wounded in a separate bombing in Kabul on Wednesday; the bomb was reportedly planted on a vehicle, but details are limited. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Refugee Repatriation: Speaking on World Refugee Day on Tuesday, Chief Executive Abdullah called on nations hosting Afghan refugees not to force their return; Minister of Refugees and Repatriation Sayed Hussain Alimi Balkhi said that around 194,000 Afghans had been repatriated in the past three months, but that “the current situations in Afghanistan are not suitable for the expulsion of Afghan refugees”. The UNHCR estimates that around two million Afghan refugees remain in Pakistan.
  • Ghani Meets Religious Scholars: Pres. Ghani met with a gathering of religious scholars on Tuesday evening, telling them that “there is a need that our scholars use their strong voice against ignorance, seduction and misguidance” and vowing that insurgent groups would fail to provoke a sectarian split in Afghan society through attacks on Shia mosques.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Former Ministry of Urban Development Officials Sentenced and Fined in Corruption Case [Khaama Press] [TOLO]
  • ID Card Fraud Widespread in Herat [Pajhwok]
  • Report: Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan – “The ANDSF are at a critical point in the fight against the insurgency. The plan to modify the force structure and develop into a more agile and lethal force is underway, but 2017 is a year of setting conditions to build momentum.” [US Department of Defense (pdf)]
  • Commentary: New Alignments, Old Battlefield: Revisiting India’s Role in Afghanistan – “The only solution to the Afghan conflict is a political one. An open-minded approach by India vis-à-vis regional cooperation can help secure the gains of the previous fifteen years, and inch closer to an end to the Afghan conflict.” [Avinash Paliwal, Carnegie India]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Trump Admin Considering ‘Hardened’ Approach to Pakistan; Police Clear Kabul Protest Camp by Force

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Topline

  • Reuters reports the Trump administration is considering measures to “harden its approach” to Pakistan, including an expansion of drone strikes, cuts to U.S. assistance, and the removal of major non-NATO ally status. No final decisions have been made.
  • Afghan security forces cleared out the last major protest camp in Kabul over Monday night, clashing with demonstrators; at least one protestor has been killed, and several arrested. Chief Executive Abdullah professed shock over the action on Tuesday and called for an investigation.
  • The Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered an investigation by the Federal Investigation Agency into allegations by the Joint Investigation Team in the Panama Papers case that officials with the Securities and Exchange Commission had altered records sought in their investigation into money laundering charges against the Sharif family.
  • The NYT confirms that the Afghan government and intelligence services are supporting the breakaway Taliban faction affiliated with Mullah Mohammad Rasool, providing financing and arms in Helmand’s Gereshk district and Herat’s Shindand district.
  • Eight Afghan guards working at the U.S. base in Bagram were killed in a Taliban attack on Monday night while en route to work at the base.
  • Two Pakistan Navy sailors were killed and three wounded in an attack in the Gwadar district on Monday; the Balochistan Liberation Army claimed responsibility.
  • Pres. Ghani inaugurated a new air cargo service linking Afghanistan and India in Kabul on Monday; a second flight is scheduled to depart from Kandahar next week.

Pakistan — Security

  • Trump Administration Review: Anonymous U.S. officials tell Reuters that the Trump administration is considering options to “harden its approach” to Pakistan, including expanded drone strikes, reductions in assistance, or downgrading Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally; other sources are more skeptical, and no final decision has been made.
  • Navy Sailors Killed: Two Pakistan Navy sailors were killed and three wounded in a driveby shooting in the town of Jiwani in Balochistan’s Gwadar district on Monday; the Balochistan Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the attack. [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Mashal Khan Lynching: Anti-terrorism court hearings began on Monday for 57 suspects charged in connection to the lynching of Abdul Wali Khan University student Mashal Khan in April; hearings are expected to be transferred to another district in response to Khan’s father’s petition to shift the case out of concerns for his family’s security. [The Nation]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Investigation: At hearings on Monday, the Supreme Court ordered the Federal Investigation Agency to investigate allegations by the Panama Papers Joint Investigation Team that records had been tampered with by the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan and the Intelligence Bureau. The court also warned the government against using the Intelligence Bureau to harass members of the JIT. On Tuesday, the court dismissed a petition from Hussain Nawaz to bar the use of video recordings during JIT investigations. Separately, former PML-N senator Nehal Hashmi submitted a reply to court hearings on contempt charges against him for remarks made against the JIT, arguing he was taken out of context. [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Dawn Leaks: Former information secretary Rao Tehsin, who was removed from his position following an inquiry into the leak of accounts of disputes between military and civilian officials to Dawn News, has petitioned the Islamabad High Court for a copy of the investigation report, which has not been made public. [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: Imran Khan failed to file a response with the Election Commission on Monday in a contempt of court case against him dating back to allegations made in January that the ECP was biased in favor of the government; the ECP set a July 4 deadline for a response. Speaking at a Karachi press conference on Monday, Khan vowed to defeat both the PML-N and PPP in the next general elections. Speaking at the inauguration of a highway section in Karachi on Monday, PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that Khan’s promises of change had been “limited to social media”, and touted the PPP government’s development work. On Tuesday, the ECP disqualified Punjab assembly member Raja Shauakat Aziz Bhatti of the PML-N for holding a fake educational degree; Bhatti has been facing charges over the issue since 2008. The JUI-F will convene a general council on July 7 to discuss the party’s political strategy. [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Officials Report 832 Deaths from Kashmir Ceasefire Violations [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Islamabad High Court Refuses to Suspend Inquiry Against Judge Who Acquitted Axact CEO [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • WAPDA Officials Say China Offering Financing for Diamer-Bhasha Dam Through CPEC [ET]
  • Senate Forms Panel to Investigate Quetta Land Occupation by Military [ET]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Begins Revising Textbooks [ET]
  • IMF Overstates Pakistan’s Foreign Currency Reserves [ET]
  • Prime Minister Sharif Performs Umrah [The Nation]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Taliban Divisions: The NYT reports that the Helmand provincial government and the NDS intelligence agency have been providing support to the breakaway Taliban faction affiliated with Mullah Mohammad Rasool in the Gereshk district who have battled with the main Taliban force for the past week, leaving at least 21 dead on both sides. The government is also reported to be backing the Rasool faction in the Herat district of Shindand.
  • Bagram Guards Killed: Taliban gunmen attacked a group of security guards traveling to work at the U.S. airbase in Bagram late Monday night, killing at least eight and wounding two, provincial officials reported. [TOLO]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: As many as six policemen were killed in a roadside bombing on the Lashkar Gah – Kandahar highway in Helmand on Tuesday. A Jalalabad anti-corruption court judge was killed when a bomb was planted on his vehicle on Tuesday; three other civilians were also wounded. No claim of responsibility has been reported. Taliban fighters attacked Afghan forces in the Khawaja Ghar district in Takhar on Monday; officials say six insurgents were killed. [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Police Forces Clash with Protestors: Afghan security forces moved to clear the main Kabul protest camp over Monday night and into Tuesday morning, clashing with demonstrators; at least one protestor has reportedly been killed. Protest leaders tell Khaama Press two were killed and 27 injured, and that at least 11 protestors had been arrested; the Post reports that leaders have called for renewed demonstrations, but that the camp has currently been dismantled. Chief Executive Abdullah said that the incident had “shocked us all” and called for an investigation into the move. Meanwhile, the Attorney General’s Office continues to investigate clashes between police and protestors earlier this month; a spokesman suggested that investigation would be “finalized soon”. [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [AP]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Indian ‘Air Corridor’ Inaugurated: Pres. Ghani officially inaugurated the first flight of a new air cargo service linking Afghanistan and India on Monday, with a shipment of 60 tons of Afghan medicinal plants bound for India valued at about $5 million. Another flight from Kandahar is scheduled to depart next week. [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Opium Use Booms in Afghanistan, Creating a ‘Silent Tsunami’ of Addicted Women [WAPO]
  • Three Former Ministry of Housing and Urban Development Officials to Be Tried in Anti-Corruption Justice Center Appeal Court [Khaama Press]
  • Russian Envoy Says Moscow a ‘Key Partner’ to Kabul [TOLO] [Ariana News]
  • National Procurement Commission Approves Ten New Contracts [Khaama Press]
  • Afghan De-Miners Cling to Hard But Much Needed Jobs [AP]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Shehbaz Sharif Appears Before Panama Papers JIT; Eight Wounded in Balkh Insider Attack

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Topline

  • Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif appeared before the Joint Investigation Team in the Panama Papers case on Saturday, emphasizing his family’s cooperation with investigations in contrast to other leaders. The Supreme Court will hold hearings on Monday on allegations of interference in the JIT’s investigations; a spokesman for the prime minister’s office alleged that the JIT was tapping the phones of witnesses.
  • Seven Americans and one Afghan soldier were wounded in an insider attack at a joint base in Mazar-e-Sharif on Saturday; the gunman, an Afghan special forces commando, was killed.
  • Two Pakistani diplomats working in the Jalalabad consulate have gone missing since departing to travel by road to Pakistan on Friday, the Pakistani foreign office said in a statement on Sunday; investigations into their whereabouts are ongoing. Separately, a foreign national — some reports identify him as an American and others as a Kenyan — working on a World Bank project with the ministry of agriculture was reportedly kidnapped in Kabul on Sunday.
  • Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has set a July 31 deadline to complete the review of 36 pending registration applications from international NGOs; 66 have been registered and ten rejected thus far.
  • Afghan security forces announced that they had retaken control of the Tora Bora area in Nangarhar from the Islamic State, which had taken control of the area from the Taliban last week. The Taliban carried out a complex attack on an Afghan police base in Paktia on Sunday, which killed at least six people.
  • Prime Minister Sharif and President Hussain traveled separately to Saudi Arabia on Sunday to perform Umrah and meet with Saudi officials; Sharif will reportedly travel on to London afterwards for a medical checkup.
  • Pres. Ghani met with members of parliament and civil society representatives on Saturday and Sunday, during which he called for protestors to end their sit-ins in Kabul. Protestors say they have withdraw all sit-ins except one main camp, and reiterated their demands for the removal of security officials in response to multiple high-profile attacks over the past month.
  • In remarks at the National Defense University on Saturday, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa called for a “trust based coordinated response” to terrorism, chiding unnamed countries in the region “closing eyes to one’s own responsibility and resorting to throwing blame outside”.

Pakistan — Security

  • NGO Crackdown: At a briefing for Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Friday, interior ministry officials reported that 66 international NGOs had been registered with the government, and the applications of ten rejected. Decisions are still pending on 36 applications; Chaudhry Nisar set a deadline of July 31 to complete the registration process.
  • Border Tensions with Afghanistan: In remarks at the National Defense University of Pakistan on Saturday, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa warned that “terrorism cannot be defeated by closing eyes to one’s own responsibilities and resorting to throwing blame outside as being done by a few players in the region”, calling instead for “a trust based coordinated response rather than a blame game or unwarranted skirmishes”. Paramilitary Frontier Corps forces repelled two cross-border attacks by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan militants in the Kurram and Mohmand Agencies on Friday and Saturday, the Express Tribune reports. On Saturday, police in Chaman reported the arrest of an Afghan man accused of plotting multiple bomb attacks in Balochistan. [The Nation] [ET]
  • Border Tensions with Iran: Officials in Balochistan’s Panjgur district reported Sunday that Iranian forces had fired several mortars across the border near the town of Prom; no casualties were reported.
  • Rocket Strikes BNP Leader’s Home: A rocket struck the gate of the home of Balochistan National Party leader Sardar Akhtar Mengal in the town of Wadh on Sunday; he was not present at the time of the attack, and no casualties or claim of responsibility were reported.
  • Karachi Attack Disrupted: Four Lashkar-e-Jhangvi militants were arrested in Karachi by the Sindh Rangers on Saturday; the group was reportedly planning to carry out attacks on the Shia community’s Youm-e-Ali processions. [The Nation] [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Investigation: Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif spoke before the Joint Investigation Team in the Panama Papers case on Saturday; speaking to reporters afterwards, he said “we have proven that our family has respect for the law, unlike the military rulers who usurped power at gunpoint”, and reiterated that the family had committed no wrongdoing. The Supreme Court is due to hold hearings on Monday on reports from the JIT that its investigation was being interfered with. In a separate response to the Supreme Court on Saturday, the head of the Intelligence Bureau acknowledged “collecting information” on members of the JIT, but maintained that this was routine and denied that they had hacked their social media accounts. Earlier on Friday, spokesmen for the prime minister’s office accused the JIT of wiretapping the phones of witnesses. Imran Khan accused Prime Minister Sharif of threatening the JIT in remarks on Friday, pledging to rally in the streets if the government did not accept a verdict from the judiciary; on Saturday, Khan said that both Sharif brothers would soon be jailed. He also announced that the party would henceforth boycott the Jang-Geo media group, accusing it of “biased, one-sided coverage of the ongoing investigations into Panamagate case”. Meanwhile, The Nation reports that the National Accountability Bureau representative on the JIT, Irfan Mangi, is under investigation by the NAB for an improper appointment. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Gulf Diplomacy: Prime Minister Sharif and President Hussain traveled separately to Saudi Arabia on Sunday; Sharif’s visit, his second to the kingdom in the past two weeks, will include Umrah in Mecca and will reportedly be followed by a trip to London for medical checkups. Hussain met with King Salman bin Abdulaziz, as well as Yemeni and Kuwaiti leaders. [Dawn] [ET] [The Nation]
  • US Relations: Speaking during a Congressional hearing on Thursday in response to call from Representatives Rohrabacher and Poe — two leading critics of U.S. assistance to Pakistan — Secretary of State Tillerson said that the administration was “beginning an interagency policy review towards Pakistan” and that no decisions would be made until it was completed. He provided no further details.
  • Other Political Activity: Speaking at a party gathering in Khyber Paktunkhwa on Friday, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari ruled out an electoral alliance with any other parties in the next general elections, predicting that the party would sweep to victory in the province. Former PPP minister Imtiaz Safdar Warraich quit the party to join the PTI on Friday; he is the fourth major PPP leader to flip in the Gujranwala division in the last month. Jamaat-e-Islami leader Liaqat Baloch told journalists on Saturday that discussions on an opposition alliance would begin after Eid. The Pakistan Awami Tehreek did not organize a large protest on Saturday, the anniversary of a 2014 clash with Punjab police that left 14 party activists dead, but opted instead for a prayer ceremony at which party leader Tahir-ul Qadri vowed to take revenge. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • IMF Review: In a statement on Friday following the conclusion of talks with Pakistani finance officials, the IMF said that the outlook for Pakistan’s economy was “favorable”, projecting medium-term growth GDP rates of around 6%. The IMF noted concerns over the fiscal and current account deficits, however.
  • Budget Debates: On Friday, the Sindh provincial assembly approved the government’s budget for the forthcoming fiscal year, over the objections of the MQM-led opposition.
  • Energy Crisis: Dawn notes that increases in power generation capacity as projects currently under development are completed may bring surplus generation to as much as 3,000 megawatts, which would nonetheless require capacity payments from the government. Currently, however, three natural gas-fired power plants are unable to operate at capacity due to the lack of available pipeline volume; pipeline construction delays have in turn pushed back development of a new LNG import terminal. On Friday, the Asian Development Bank and French Development Agency pledged $623 million in loans to support energy sector reforms and banking access. Sindh has added roughly 477 megawatts of wind power to its grid so far this financial year. [The Nation]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Visa Revoked for Korean Teacher Linked to Kidnapped Chinese Teachers [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Reuters]
  • Journalists in Pakistan Under Fire from Many Sides [AP]
  • One Killed, Six Injured in Washuk Bombing [ET]
  • Punjab Rangers Arrest Three Suspected Terrorists; Two Killed in Lahore [ET] [The Nation]
  • CPEC Pushes US Aside in Pakistan [WSJ] [ET]
  • Interpol Seeks Details on MQM Leader’s Status in UK After Pakistani Request [ET]
  • Sindh Police Recommend Steps to Improve Criminal Justice System [Dawn]
  • Senate Panel Considers Army Proposal to Relocate Headquarters to Islamabad [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Ulema Council Remains Split Between Ahsrafi and Qasmi [ET]
  • Pakistan Hindu Council Seeks Supreme Court Action on Forced Conversions [ET]
  • Shahid Mehmood Appointed New Federal Finance Secretary [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • US Strategy: The NYT overviews the Trump administration’s delegation of decision-making authority to the Pentagon on any increase troop levels in Afghanistan, a decision which Pentagon officials say has not yet been made. A broader strategy review, which includes aspects of the U.S. relationship with Pakistan and the region, remains underway.
  • Insider Attacks: Seven Americans and one Afghan soldier were wounded when an Afghan soldier opened fire at a joint base in Mazar-e-Sharif on Saturday, the same site as an attack that killed hundres of Afghan soldiers earlier in April. The attacker, a member of a commando unit, was killed. Al Jazeera reports the attack came after a training exercise and that the attacker used a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. It is the second insider attack targeting U.S. forces in Afghanistan within the past week; in the most recent incident, the Taliban praised the attacker but did not explicitly claim responsibility for instigating the attack. [Reuters] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Kidnappings: Pakistan’s foreign ministry issued a statement on Sunday saying that two Pakistani diplomats based in the Jalalabad consulate had gone missing on Friday while traveling by road to Pakistan; the statement said that Afghan officials were cooperating in an investigation into their disappearance. Separately, the AP quotes Kabul police officials who say that a Kenyan national working as an assistant to the ministry of agriculture had been kidnapped on Sunday; earlier accounts in the Afghan press identified the man as an American national working on a World Bank contract for the ministry. [ET] [Reuters] [AP] [Khaama Press]
  • Security Forces Retake Tora Bora: Acting Afghan Defense Minister Tariq Shah Bahrami announced at a press conference on Saturday that Afghan forces had retaken control of the Tora Bora area in Nangarhar’s Pacher Agam in Nangarhar from the Islamic State, after ISIS forces seized control of the area from the Taliban last week. Bahrami claimed that 22 ISIS fighters had been killed in the operations, and that more than 2,500 had been killed in operations in Nangarhar since the start of the year. On Friday, the U.S. military command in Afghanistan reported that Jawad Khan, identified as a senior ISIS media official and link to the group’s leadership in Syria, had been killed in an airstrike that took place in the Achin district on June 3. [TOLO] [AP] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: At least six Afghan police officers were killed and more than a dozen were injured when the Taliban carried out a complex attack on a major police headquarters in the Paktia capital city of Gardez on Sunday; Afghan security forces battled with six gunmen throughout the day after an initial suicide attack breached the gates. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. On Sunday, Ministry of Interior officials reported that two senior Haqqani network commanders had been killed in an airstrike in the Orgun district in Paktia. On Monday, unidentified gunmen killed the district governor of Nimroz’s Chighansor district in a driveby shooting; no claim of responsibility has been reported. In Helmand, provincial government officials claim to have killed 75 Taliban fighters in operations in in the Marjah district over the past week; U.S. airstrikes in the district on Friday were reported to have killed as many as twent insurgents. The head of a police anti-crime unit in Logar was killed on Saturday; no claim of responsibility was reported. Four civilians were killed in a roadside bombing in Laghman province’s Alingar district on Friday. [NYT] [WSJ] [WAPO] [WAPO] [AP] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Government Seeks to Contain Protests: Pres. Ghani met with a delegation of Afghan lawmakers on Sunday, and was quoted calling for protestors to end their sit-in camps, citing obstructions to city traffic and commercial activity. Ghani met with civil society representatives on Monday and pledged to reopen the roads. Protestors tell TOLO they have removed all but one camp, but will continue until their demands for the removal of security officials are met; the parliamentarians also met with leaders of the Jamiat-e-Islami on Saturday. Mohammad Mohaqiq, the second deputy to Chief Executive Abdullah, criticized the government for failing to stop attacks like the one on a Shia mosque in Kabul last Thursday after meeting with the families of victims on Saturday. On Sunday, top security officials appeared before the Meshrano Jirga to testify on recent attacks in Kabul and around the country; National Directorate of Security chief Masoom Stanekzai denied charges that insiders within the government were supporting those attacks, warning that “inappropriate remarks and spread of rumors could take the country towards a crisis.” [TOLO]
  • Gulf Diplomacy: The ambassador of Egypt and charges d’affaires of Saudi Arabia met with former Pres. Karzai on Sunday to seek his support for sanctions on Qatar; his office said in a statement that he had “called on unity among the Muslim nations but declared his support against any nation supporting or having links with the terrorism”.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Dozens of Draft Bills Await Presidential Approval [TOLO]
  • Ulema Council Vows Unity Following Attack on Shia Mosque [TOLO]
  • Hundreds of Development Projects Remain in Limbo [TOLO]
  • Afghanistan-India Air Freight Service Begins Monday [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Contract Signed for Design of New Dar-ul-Aman Administrative Complex [Khaama Press]
  • Commentary: For Peace in Afghanistan, Talk to Pakistan – “‘Sticks’ are unlikely to change Pakistan’s behavior, because its existential concerns are tied to broader regional priorities. To get Pakistan to alter its approach in Afghanistan, the United States must understand and address Pakistan’s strategic anxieties.” [Stephen Hadley and Moeed Yusuf, NYT]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: DOD Reportedly Planning Deployment of 4000 US Troops; Govt Agencies Deny Interference in JIT

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Topline

  • The AP reports that the Pentagon plans to announce the deployment of around 4,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan to join the advisory missions there, potentially as soon as next week; a Pentagon spokesman said that no decision had been made, however.
  • A suicide bomber attacked a Shia mosque in Kabul on Thursday evening, killing as many as six people; the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.
  • In a response to the Supreme Court on Friday, the government agencies accused of interfering in the Joint Investigation Team’s investigation into the Panama Papers denied those accusations. A two-member JIT delegation is reportedly seeking to visit Qatar to interview prince Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani in connection to the Sharif family’s purchase of London real estate.
  • The NDS announced the findings of its investigation into the January attack on the Kandahar governor’s guesthouse, which killed the UAE ambassador and wounded the governor; the report blames the guesthouse chef for carrying out the attack on the Taliban, and suggests the ambassador was deliberately targeted. The Taliban issued a statement on Friday denying any involvement in the attack.
  • Chinese political advisor Yu Zhengsheng called for greater Sino-Pakistani military-to-military cooperation during a visit by Joint Chiefs Chairman Zubair Mahmood Hayat.
  • Pakistan’s attorney general told reporters on Thursday that the International Court of Justice had rejected an Indian petition to delay proceedings in the case of Kulbhushan Jhadav until December.

Pakistan — Security

  • Chinese Military Cooperation: During a meeting with visiting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Zubair Mahmood Hayat, Chinese political advisor Yu Zhengsheng called for greater military-to-military cooperation between China and Pakistan.
  • Peshawar Police Killed: Three police officers were killed in a driveby shooting in Peshawar on Thursday evening; no claim of responsibility has been reported. [ET]
  • Social Media Crackdown: The Federal Investigation Agency has arrested two sons of the head of the PPP’s Sialkot chapter on charges of distributing “hate content” on social media, The Nation reports.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Investigation: Speaking after his appearance before the Panama Papers Joint Investigation Team on Saturday, Prime Minister Sharif insisted that he had “accounted for every penny”, adding that “these conspiracies and spectacles have cost this country a lot. It’s time for the truth to be upheld.” Imran Khan dismissed Sharif’s appearance before the JIT, saying he had not provided any new exculpatory evidence. The prime minister’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz, and federal minister of state for information Marriyum Aurangezb both touted Sharif’s appearance as having “set an example for all institutions” by cooperating with the investigation. In a response to the Supreme Court on Friday, attorney general Ashtar Ausaf Ali said that all departments accused by the JIT of interfering in the investigation had “vehemently denied” those accusations. A two-person JIT delegation is reportedly seeking to visit Qatar to interview prince Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani regarding his previous letters documenting financial ties to the Sharif family. [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Tensions with India: Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Pakistan’s attorney general Ashtar Ausuf Ali said that the International Court of Justice had rejected an Indian request to delay hearings in the case of accused Indian spy Kulbhushan Jhadav until December. Speaking at a ceremony in Beijing on Thursday welcoming India and Pakistan as members in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Chinese assistant foreign minister Kong Xuanyou said he believed “both the countries will abide by the charter of the organisation” and avoid tensions. [The Nation]
  • Asset Report: The Election Commission released its report of parliamentarian asset declarations for 2016; both Prime Minister Sharif and Imran Khan, who are the assembly’s two richest members, reported declines in their assets.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Punjab Rangers Disrupt ‘Major Terrorist Activity’ in DG Khan [ET]
  • 12 Karachi Central Jail Staffers Arrested After LeJ Jailbreak [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Parliamentary Committee on National Security Warns Against Taking Sides in Gulf Conflict [The Nation]
  • Peshawar High Court Seeks Replies on Transfer of Mashal Khan Case [ET]
  • Judge Behind Axact Officials’ Acquittal Faces Inquiry [Dawn]
  • International Monitoring Board Praises Pakistani Polio Efforts [ET]
  • State Bank of Pakistan Foreign Currency Reserves Drop to $15.3 Billion [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Pentagon Reportedly Planning to Send 4000 US Troops: The AP reports that the Pentagon plans to send roughly 4,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, with an announcement potentially to be made as soon as next week; a Pentagon spokesman tells Reuters, however, that “no decisions have been made”. Decision-making authority was transferred from the White House to the Pentagon earlier this week. Previous reports have indicated that DOD proposals have been considering between 3,000-5,000 U.S. troops to supplement the training and assistance mission. Testifying before the House Defense Appropriations committee on Thursday, Sec. Mattis said that “we’re not looking at a purely military strategy” and that “our job is to end [the war] as quickly as possible without losing the very mission that we’ve recognized, through several administrations, that was worth putting those young Americans on the line for.” Speaking after a briefing session with Vice President Pence and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, Senators McCain and Graham praised the administration’s as yet-unannounced broader strategy. [Bloomberg]
  • Kabul Mosque Attacked: As many as six people were killed in a suicide bombing attack on Shia ceremonies at the al-Zahra mosque in Kabul on Thursday evening; the attack coincided with the 21st day of Ramadan, an important holiday for Shia to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Ali. A prominent local businessman was among the dead, as well as at least one policeman. The Islamic State claimed responsibility through its Amaq News outlet; Pres. Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah, and others have condemned the attack. [Khaama Press] [WSJ] [Guardian] [Reuters] [TOLO]
  • Investigation into Kandahar Governors Compound Attack: On Thursday, the National Directorate of Security announced the findings of its investigation into the bombing at a Kandahar guesthouse, which wounded the governor and killed the UAE ambassador, among others. NDS officials laid blame on Sayed Mahboob Agha, the chef at the guesthouse, for carrying out the attack on behalf of the Taliban, and said that the ambassador had been deliberately targeted in the blast. NDS chief Masoom Stanekzai said that Afghanistan had demanded that Pakistan hand over three suspects believed to have organized the attack from Quetta. In a statement on Friday, the Taliban rejected the report, saying they had no role in the attack. [Khaama Press] [Pajhwok]
  • ISIS in Afghanistan: Nangarhar NDS chief Gen. Abdul Saboor Sabit accused “Pakistani militias” of fighting alongside the Islamic State in the province, calling on local residents to defend the districts from encroachment. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Commentary: Dereliction of Duty in Afghanistan – “Trump turning over the highest duty of his office – to protect the American people and determine matters of war and peace – to the military will only further hamper U.S. efforts in Afghanistan.” [Michael Fuchs and Hardin Lang, US News and World Report]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Sharif Appears Before Panama Papers JIT; ISIS Take Control of Tora Bora from Taliban

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Topline

  • Prime Minister Sharif appeared before the Panama Papers Joint Investigation Team on Thursday, reiterating his innocence in remarks to reporters afterwards and cautioning his rivals that “there will also be a larger JIT next year comprising 200 million people and they will decide who has worked for the betterment of the country”. Officials with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Federal Board of Revenue, and Law Ministry denied charges that they had interfered in the JIT’s investigation.
  • Islamic State fighters appear to have taken control of the area around the Tora Bora cave complex in Nangarhar’s Pachir Agam district from the Taliban; on Thursday, the provincial government announced new operations against ISIS in the area.
  • The Pentagon confirmed earlier reports that Pres. Trump has delegating decision-making authority on U.S. troop deployments in Afghanistan to Secretary Mattis, who pledged that a new strategy would ensure Afghanistan would not “become a launching point for attacks on our homeland or our allies”.
  • A spokesman for the Afghan ministry of defense said that seven soldiers had been charged with facilitating an attack on the 209th Corps army base in Balkh in April; 34 personnel were sentenced earlier this week on negligence charges.
  • Chief of Army Staff Bajwa visited the Peshawar Corps commander on Wednesday, issuing a statement warning that drone strikes were “counterproductive”.

Pakistan — Security

  • Army Chief Says Drone Strikes ‘Counterproductive’: In a statement on Wednesday during a visit to the Peshawar Corps command, and following reports that a U.S. drone strike had targeted a Haqqani network commander in the Hangu district on Monday, Chief of Army Staff Bajwa said that drone strikes were “counterproductive and against [the] spirit of ongoing cooperation and intelligence sharing being diligently undertaken by Pakistan”. Bajwa also voiced support for “mainstreaming FATA through reforms”. [The Nation]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Sharif Appears Before JIT: Prime Minister Sharif made an appearance before the Joint Investigation Team investigating the Panama Papers case on Thursday; following nearly two hours of questioning, he told reporters that he had submitted all financial documents and reiterated that he and his family were innocent of any corruption charges. Sharif added that “people should not forget that there will also be a larger JIT next year comprising 200 million people and they will decide who has worked for the betterment of the country”, saying “we will not let our opponents turn back the wheel of progress”. The prime minister and party supporters emphasized his cooperation with the investigation, with Sharif suggesting no other political family in Pakistan had undergone comparable scrutiny. Reuters cites an anonymous PML-N who says that the party does not intended to call early elections in the event that Sharif is ousted following the investigation. At Supreme Court hearings on Wednesday, judges ordered a response from the attorney general into charges by JIT members that government agencies were interfering in their investigation; the Securities and Exchange Commission, one of the agencies accused of doing so, denied any wrongdoing and accused the JIT of coercing witnesses; the Ministry of Law and Federal Board of Revenue also rejected allegations against them. Speaking the national assembly on Wednesday, Finance Minister Dar said that the JIT’s complaints were made “out of some frustration to make the process suspicious”, denying any interference by the government. The Lahore High Court Bar Association reiterated calls for Sharif’s resignation before appearing before the JIT and plans to hold a protest today. [AP] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: Dawn reports that the PTI has yet to sign on to an opposition party alliance against the PML-N in Punjab. The PML-F has agreed to back the PTI’s candidate in the PS-114 by-elections in Sindh. [The Nation] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Budget Debates: The Azad Jammu and Kashmir government presented its draft budget on Thursday for the next fiscal year, totaling Rs 94.41 billion in outlays, including Rs 23.38 billion in development spending. The Gilgit-Baltistan legislative assembly presented its budget on Wednesday, totaling Rs 54 billion, including Rs 18.3 billion for development projects. The Express Tribune notes that the government has amended its definition of public debt, reducing the official tally by Rs 2 trillion. [ET]
  • Energy Investments: The Shanghai Electric Power Company has reaffirmed its intentions to acquire K-Electric, utility officials said Wednesday, despite reduction of tariff rates by the National Electric Regulatory Authority. Dawn reports the government has delayed four LNG cargo shipments until October as construction of a second port terminal to receive them has been delayed. [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Two Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Militants Escape from Karachi Jail [Dawn] [ET]
  • Aitzaz Hasan’s Family Seeks Government Security After Taliban Threats [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Welcomes Russian Mediation with India [ET]
  • Russian Helicopter for Balochistan Government to Be Delivered Next Week [Dawn]
  • Chief of Naval Staff Meets with Sri Lankan Leaders [APP]

Afghanistan — Security

  • U.S. Strategy: In a statement on Wednesday, the Pentagon confirmed earlier reports that Pres. Trump had delegated decision-making authority on troop deployments to Afghanistan to Sec. Mattis; in the statement, Mattis said that “this administration will not repeat the mistakes of the past” and “cannot allow Afghanistan to once again become a launching point for attacks on our homeland or our allies”. No decision on troop levels has been announced, and the statement suggested that a “broader strategy we are developing that addresses our role in Afghanistan and beyond” would be presented “in the coming weeks”. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Islamic State Takes Tora Bora: Local government officials reported Wednesday that Islamic State forces had taken control of the Tora Bora cave complex in Nangarhar’s Pachir Agam district from the Taliban, who had previously held the area; local commander and parliamentarian Hazrat Ali tells the NYT that roughly a thousand ISIS fighters had gathered in the area. Some accounts conflict as to whether the caves themselves, at one point used by Osama bin Laden as he fled Afghanistan following the U.S. intervention, were under the Islamic State’s control; the Taliban denied that the area had been taken by ISIS, and accused the U.S. of carrying out airstrikes in support of the group. On Thursday, a spokesman for the provincial governor said that a special operation targeting ISIS forces had been launched in Pachir Agam and the Chaparhar district. [Reuters] [TOLO] [TOLO]
  • Balkh Army Base Attack: A spokesman for the ministry of defense said Thursday that seven Afghan army personnel had been arrested on charges of facilitating the attack on the 209th Army Corp’s base in Mazar-e-Sharif in April; 34 personnel received prison sentences earlier this week on negligence charges.
  • American University in Kabul Faces Threats: The Washington Post notes continued threats against the reopened American University of Afghanistan in Kabul; following the Afghan government’s blame of the Haqqani network for the bombing in the capital earlier this month, in which one of the school’s adjunct professors was a victim, the Taliban issued a threat alluding to the two former AUA professors being held hostage since last August.
  • Other Attacks and Operations: The ministry of interior claimed Wednesday that as many as 43 Taliban fighters had been killed in an airstrike in the Marjah district in Helmand province. Badakhshan police officials say they have cleared the Tagab district of Taliban fighters after a weeklong operation, and that the insurgents have now fled to the Warduj district. Explosives planted inside two motorcycles killed at least four people and wounded seven in Paktika’s Jani Khel district on Wednesday; the target was reported to have been a local Afghan Local Police commander. [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • UN Chief Visits: Speaking at a press conference in Kabul on Wednesday, visiting UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres offered to mediate tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan, adding that “my message to any country that supports terrorism anywhere in the world is that this is the wrong thing to do”.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Presidency Seeks Rationale for Saleh Resignation [TOLO]
  • Kabul Metro Bus Project to Begin Work [Khaama Press]
  • Report: NGO Presence and Activity in Afghanistan 2002-14: A Provincial-Level Dataset – “This article introduces a new provincial-level dataset on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Afghanistan.” [Stability Journal]
  • Report: Processing Peace in Afghanistan – “Linking all the themes is the recurring concern that contextual understanding should be central to designing an appropriate peace architecture for Afghanistan.” [Anna Larson, Accord]