Pakistan / by Alistair Galloway

Pakistan reopened its border with Afghanistan after closing it in February. It was estimated that Pakistani exports to Afghanistan fell from $2.5 billion to $1.3 billion due to the month long closure. Pakistan is constructing a fence along its disputed border with Afghanistan to prevent future militant incursions. Delegates from twenty three Asian countries met in Pakistan to discuss forming an Asian regional block similar to the European Union (EU). India and Pakistan agreed to resume talks over the Indus Waters Treaty and related hydropower projects being built along the river system. One Indian project will be redesigned to alleviate Pakistani concerns, and there will be a subsequent meeting in April with the World Bank (WB) present to aid in negotiations. The Pakistani cabinet approved a plan to reform its tribal regions along the border with Afghanistan and bring them up to par with the rest of the country. The Pakistani National Assembly passed legislation to reinstate military courts; a subsequent Senate vote is still necessary for them to be reinstated. The Pakistan military launched a massive operation to crack down on militants, arresting over 1300 and killing over 100 in raids across the country. Pakistan suffered a number of terrorist attacks during March leaving at least 25 dead and 72 injured. A prominent Ahmadi activist, a minority community that has been subject to sectarian violence, was killed by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi gunmen. Pakistan and Indian continued to clash over the Line of Control (LoC) throughout March. The Pakistan army will send soldiers to Saudi Arabia to help defend its southern border from attacks mounted by Houthi groups in Yemen. The decision is contentious, as the Pakistani parliament voted against such a move in 2015. Pakistan hosted the 13th Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) Summit, using it as an opportunity to highlight the benefits of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in the hope members of the ECO will join. Pakistan signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with China to allow the holding of joint audit on a number of selected CPEC projects. Pakistan signed agreements with the WB containing $432.7 million of loans and grants. Minister of Planning and Development of Pakistan Ahsan lqbal announced that Pakistan was the fastest growing Muslim economy in world, with Standard Chartered Group Chief Executive Bill Winters predicting that the country has potential to grow by 7 per cent this year. The State Bank of Pakistan decided to keep the policy rate unchanged at 5.75 per cent.