Pakistan

Pakistan by Alistair Galloway

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Pakistan not to execute Kulbhushan Jadhav, an Indian citizen, on charges of espionage until the Court is able to investigate the case further. India summoned Pakistan’s ambassador to demand Pakistan take action over the alleged killing and mutilation of two Indian soldiers by Pakistani special forces on 1 May. Pakistan denied the claim. Prime Minister Sharif travelled to Beijing to attend the Chinese One Belt, One Road (OBOR) Forum. Pakistan and China signed agreements amounting to $500 million extra Chinese investment in Pakistan at the forum. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told Sharif that China hopes Pakistan will improve its efforts in protecting and ensuring the safety of Chinese personnel and assets relating the CPEC in Pakistan after unknown gunmen killed 10 construction workers in the port city of Gwadar who were working on linking the surrounding area to the port that will form a key hub of CPEC. Prime Minister Sharif and former Pakistani Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) Raheel Sharif were not given an opportunity to speak at the 2017 Riyadh Summit. The Saudis and United States (US) President Donald Trump appeared to dominate the Summit. King Salman apologised to the participants who were not able to address the summit. Sartaj Aziz, Prime Minister Sharif’s foreign affairs adviser, wrote to the United Nations (UN) claiming that India is attempting to change Kashmir’s demographic by converting the Muslim majority in Kashmir into a minority. Pakistani and Afghani troops exchanged fire along their border on 5 May, leading Pakistan to close the Chaman border crossing. At least 15 people were killed in the fighting. Further clashes occurred on 7 May, with the Pakistan army claiming it had destroyed five Afghan checkpoints near the border resulting in at least 50 Afghan and 2 Pakistani deaths. Pakistan later reopened the Chaman border crossing with Afghanistan citing the decision to be based on humanitarian grounds. A roadside bomb outside a girls’ school in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province injured 4 people on 8 May. Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for a suicide attack that left 25 people dead in the province of Balochistan on 12 May. On 20 May assailants threw grenades at a school and four homes in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province resulting in 15 people being injured. Also on 20 May 4 policemen were killed when their vehicle, returning from an operation in the Kamal Khel area, was rushed by militants from Jamaat-ul-Ahrar. In a third attack on 20 May, 2 members of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi riding motorcycles opened fire on a police van in Karachi, killing 2 policemen and injuring another. On 22 May a roadside bomb killed 5 volunteers from a government-backed militia in the Tirah Valley. Pakistani military courts convicted and hanged 6 men for being members of the Pakistan Taliban, 2 of whom were involved in the 2014 Peshawar school massacre. The Indian army destroyed multiple Pakistani army posts on 9 May claiming they were being used to help militants cross the LoC and stating that it was retaliation for the beheading of two Indian soldiers on 1 May. Pakistani and Indian troops shelled one another on 13 May resulting in the deaths of 2 Indian civilians. Pakistani officials claimed that UN military observers were fired on by Indian troops but were not hurt. Pakistani jets reportedly violated Indian air space and were swiftly escorted out. Indian officials disputed this claim, however, stating that the jets had merely flown near to the Siachen Glacier. On 28 May, Indian and Pakistani forces exchanged fire once more, resulting in the death of an Indian army porter. An Iranian delegation visited Pakistan on 3 May to press Pakistan to capture and punish Jaish-al-Adl militants who had killed 10 Iranian border guards on 26 April before fleeing to the Pakistani side of the border. On 8 May the head of the Iranian armed forces stated that if Pakistan fails to stop the terrorists and capture the perpetrators then the Iranian armed forces will attack safe havens within Pakistan. On 21 and 27 May mortar shells fired from Iran landed in Balochistan Province resulting one Pakistani civilian death. Protests erupted across Pakistan as electricity shortages left 100 000s of people without power resulting in 1 person dying after police opened fire on protesters. Pakistan welcomed $15 billion of Chinese investment in 12 new coal-fired power plants as part of their plan to boost energy generating capacity. Pakistan and Japan signed a $24m agreement for the implementation of the second phase of the Islamabad-Buchanan Transmission Line Reinforcement project. Pakistan’s Finance Minister presented a $50 billion budget for 2017-18 marking a 4.3 per cent increase in government spending. The budget promises a 7 per cent increase in military spending, a growth rate of 6 per cent, inflation to be kept below 6 per cent over the next year, and the fiscal deficit being reduced from 4.2 per cent to 4.1 per cent. The budget set $20 billion aside for development across the country and gave the corporate sector a 30 per cent tax cut. The World Bank (WB) forecast Pakistan’s growth in 2017 to climb to 5.2 per cent, 5.5 per cent in FY18 and 5.8 per cent in FY19. Pakistan’s economy surpassed $300 billion on 18 May. The private sectors of Pakistan and Scotland formed a joint business council (JBC) to enhance trade between the two countries. The Chairman of the Pakistan-Scotland Business Council, stated that the JBC would further cement trade relations with Pakistan during a time when Brexit has provided the United Kingdom (UK), and so Scotland, an opportunity to develop greater ties with the Commonwealth. 

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Pakistan by Alistair Galloway

India put the upcoming Indus Water talks on hold claiming that it needs more time to have further discussions about the technicalities involved in redesigning further hydropower projects before it is ready to discuss the issue. Pakistan’s former Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) General Raheel Sharif was appointed as head of a Saudi-led military coalition. Pakistan resumed the repatriation of Afghan refugees sending back nearly 1200 people, some of whom have lived in Pakistan for over 25 years. The Pakistani military announced that the construction of a fence along the entire border with Afghanistan is coming along well. The Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled that there was insufficient evidence to remove Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from office as part of the ‘Panama Papers Leaks Case’. Four missiles fired by a militant group from Afghanistan destroyed a mosque and a shop in Kurram Agency leaving no one injured. The Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Lahore that left five soldiers and two civilians dead. Four soldiers were killed when a roadside bomb detonated on the Iranian border with no militant group claiming responsibility. A roadside bomb was remotely detonated in Kurram Agency, killing 14 people. Pakistani counter-terrorism officers were ambushed by the Pakistan Taliban resulting in 10 of the militants dying. Military and paramilitary forces raided a militant hideout in Dera Ghazi Khan district resulting in 10 militants and three soldiers dying. Clashes between India and Pakistan along the Line of Control (LoC) continued in April with five instances being reported of mortar fire, larger artillery fire, and small arms fire being exchanged indiscriminately. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) completed its Article IV mission stating that the country is in a good position to build of reforms to further improve economic growth. Pakistani government announced it will miss its deficit reduction target of 3.8 per cent this year, with the deficit expected to be 4.1 per cent instead. The central banks of Pakistan and Iran signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to provide a trade settlement mechanism for exports and importers in both countries.China further increased its investment in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to $62 billion. China also provided $1.2 billion in loans to Pakistan to help it pay back older loans made in foreign currencies. Pakistan’s foreign currency reserves have been largely depleted in recent months and will feel greater strain as the country pays the contractors and suppliers involved in CPEC. 

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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. 

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Pakistan by Alistair Galloway

Pakistani government officials warned the United States (US), that it will reduce co-operation in the fight against Islamist militants if the country is added to President Donald Trump’s visa-ban list. The Supreme Court of Pakistan recommenced the Panama Papers leak case against Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family. Accused orchestrator of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, was placed under house arrest on 30 January. The Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled to include the option to label oneself as transgender in the sixth national census, to be held on 15 March. Pakistan returned an Indian soldier who had crossed the Line of Control in September 2016 and 219 Indian sailors who had strayed into Pakistani waters. Pakistan successfully launched the country’s first nuclear-capable submarine-based cruise missile, and tested a new nuclear-capable surface-to-surface missile on 24 January. Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for a bombing in the market town of Parachinar, leaving 25 dead. Reports have emerged that Islamic State (IS) are ramping up recruitment in Pakistan. The State Bank of Pakistan decided to keep the policy rate unchanged at 5.75 per cent, and announced that the current account deficit grew to $3.6 billion in the first half of 2017. Pakistan repaid China $500 million that was given as aid in 2009 to help it deal with the financial crisis. The Planning and National Reforms Minister dismissed concerns that Pakistan will fall into a debt trap resulting from Chinese loans related to China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The government is targeting a 5.7 GDP growth in 2017, and believes CPEC could boost growth to seven per cent in the future. The Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) reached a new record high in January.

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Pakistan by Alistair Galloway

The Sixth Ministerial Heart of Asia Conference was held in Amritsar, India from 3 to 4 December. The World Bank announced on 12 December that it was pausing both its arbitration and the appointment of a neutral expert in the dispute between Pakistan and India regarding the Indus River system. Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali retired on 30 December, resulting in the Supreme Court of Pakistan adjourning the proceedings in the Panama Papers leaks case until early January as he was head of the bench. Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa visited regional hotspots endorsing the use of full force against any violations by India or terrorists. He declared that the change in military command would not impact the extensive operations in Karachi that aim to create stability and security. General Qamar Javed Bajwa appointed Lieutenant General Naveed Muhtar and Lieutenant General Bilal Akbar to the roles of chief of Inter-Services Intelligence and Chief of General Staff, respectively. The decisions may represent his pledge to strengthen national security. Seven Pakistani crew members were reportedly killed in a missile attack off the coast of Yemen, near the Houthi controlled Hodeidah port. The Pakistan Navy contested the claim, calling it unverifiable. Twelve suspected militants were killed and several hideouts destroyed on 4 December by Pakistani Air Force air strikes in the Tirah valley. A senior anti-terrorism police officer was killed in Peshawar with Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan claiming the attack. Pakistani and Indian forces exchanged fire on 16 December along the Line of Control in Kashmir, killing one man and injuring eight schoolchildren on the Pakistani side. The Pakistan Navy assembled a special task force to protect the port of Gwadar, a key hub in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Pakistani and Chinese delegations met as a part of the Sixth Pak-China Joint Co-operation Committee (JCC) on CPEC in Beijing on 29 to 30 December. China reportedly agreed to include three new infrastructure projects in CPEC. Earlier in December, China pledged to finance a different three infrastructure projects under CPEC. Pakistan's fourth nuclear power plant went online on 28 December. WB decided to cancel a $100 million loan to Pakistan for a natural gas efficiency project citing a lack of interest amongst Sui Southern Gas Company, the company to be contracted. The Pakistan Stock Exchange (KSE) enjoyed a largely positive December setting multiple record highs. Equities in Pakistan have benefitted from an improving macroeconomic environment, with the KSE index gaining 40 per cent in 2016 alone, and 400 per cent since 2009. A Chinese-led consortium signed a $85 million deal to purchase a 40 per cent stake in the KSE.

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Pakistan by Alistair Galloway

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi referenced Pakistan as the mothership of terrorism at the eighth BRICS Summit. China defended Pakistan against the comments. China extended its hold on India’s bid to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to take action against Masood Azhar, founder of Pakistani based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed. The National Assembly of Pakistan passed legislation attempting to tackle honour killings. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was given notice by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in the Panama Papers leaks case. Leader of the opposition party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf announced a plan to hold a protest sit-in in Islamabad on 2 November. Supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf clashed with police on 28 October. Sixty-one police cadets were killed after heavily armed suicide attackers assaulted a police academy in Quetta on 25 October. Five Shia Muslims were killed in a sectarian attack by terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Pakistani and Indian border tensions in the Kashmir region intensified throughout October with exchanges of fire on multiple days. Intelligence Bureau found that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is under threat from potential sabotage attempts by terrorist groups and Afghani and Indian intelligence agencies. The Chinese embassy called on Pakistani politicians to resolve their differences over CPEC. The World Bank (WB) stated delay in the project could hamper investment and growth. WB published a report highlighting Pakistan as one of ten countries to have made the biggest improvements to their business regulations in 2016. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) urged Pakistan to continue reforms and reduce public debt. Pakistan Finance Minister announced foreign exchange reserves were at $24.5 billion on 14 October. The Finance Minister announced the successful issuance of a five-year $1 billion sukuk bond on 6 October.

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Pakistan by Alistair Galloway

Relations between Pakistan and India soured after a terror attack in Uri which killed 18 Indian soldiers. Indian Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi referred to Pakistan as a ‘factory of terrorism.' Imran Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party organised a march towards the city of Raiwind on 30 September to assert pressure on the government to investigate Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for his alleged corruption and ownership of offshore companies. Pakistan’s government enacted a long-debated Hindu Marriage Bill at the latest Parliamentary session. The PTI and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) announced they ‘noticed’ the large protests held by Punjabi farmers’ outside the Punjab Assembly. The European Union (EU) threatened to impose sanctions on Pakistan on 24 September for ongoing human rights violations in Balochistan province. A terror attack on a Sunni mosque on 16 September killed 28 worshippers and injured 30 others. An attack by militants from Pakistan on an army base in Uri, Kashmir, on 18 September killed 18 Indian Army soldiers. Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report on 26 September that alleged Pakistan police are illegally executing thousands of individuals in ‘encounter killings.' Pakistan became the most recent nation to sign up to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) initiative to combat tax avoidance and evasion. On 28 September, an official announced that Pakistan is prepared to launch $500 million in Islamic bonds to raise money for foreign exchange reserves. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) approved loans of $320 million to energy projects to minimise power shortages in Myanmar and Pakistan, $300 million of which will directly fund the expansion of a hydropower project in Pakistan.

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Pakistan by Lewis McKinnon

Pakistan’s parliamentary delegation met with President Erdogan on 18 August to demonstrate support for recent incidents in both countries. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif provided an open invitation for Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah to visit Pakistan to discuss combating terror in the region. Muhammad Masood Khan said his oath to become President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir on 25 August. Turkey and Pakistan signed a deal for healthcare cooperation and collaboration in the future, and the former also gifted Pakistan a warship tanker for their Independence Day. A new cyber law received immediate backlash from digital rights activists, who claimed that innocent citizens will be fined or jailed after the law is enacted because of its extensive prohibitions. A suicide bombing in Quetta killed 74 civilians, including many lawyers. The attack was claimed by the Taliban splinter group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar. China announced they will provide Pakistan with eight new submarines by 2028. Seven people were killed by unknown gunmen in Baluchistan province on 25 August, and 7 terrorists were arrested there two days later. One hundred and seventy five terror suspects were arrested in Punjab province simultaneously, in response to the Quetta hospital bombing. Pakistan’s military claimed they killed 14 militants near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, and destroyed nine hideouts. A woman was killed by her husband of 15 years, and a pregnant woman was killed by her former fiancé, on 7 August in Lahore. An employee of former dictator Pervez Musharraf, Mehndi Hassan, was abducted from his home on 28 August. Pakistan strengthened security after a warning of a terror attack by the Taliban at a crossing point on the India-Pakistan border. Hundreds of Pakistanis stranded in Saudi Arabia received cheques from the government as compensation after their identity cards expired. Pakistani MP Abdup Karim Bakhesh warned that Iran is attempting to form a military presence in Pakistan. The Pakistan air force took part in combat training exercises in the United States on 15 August. Ambassador to the United Nations Maleeha Lodhi announced Pakistan’s economy is rapidly strengthening after a positive national environment, in a recent visit to the NASDAQ building in New York City. The Asian Development Bank will provide an $810 million multi-tranche loan to improve Pakistan’s power transmission system and boost the quantity and quality of energy. The Pakistan Stock Exchange (KSE) closed down 0.68 per cent after losses in the cement and fertiliser sectors. On 22 August the KSE fell again to 39,457.95. Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves settled at $18.1 million. 

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Pakistan by Lewis McKinnon

Officials from Pakistan and Iran met on 25 July to confront the threat from the Islamic State (IS). The leader of Tehreek-e-Insaf party, Imran Khan, spoke out against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government and was accused of promoting a military coup against Sharif. Posters calling for a military takeover appeared in 13 different cities across Pakistan, resulting in two arrests. After Burhan Wani was killed in Kashmir, relations between India and Pakistan became tense. Farooq Haider Khan was elected Prime Minister of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir region. Officials from the United States (US) visited Pakistan and met with General Raheel Sharif to discuss border security and improving relations with Afghanistan. Tensions between the US and Pakistan rose this month after a US congressman gave a controversial presentation that questioned Pakistan’s loyalty. Pakistani Taliban leader Umar Narai was killed in an air strike in Afghanistan. The son of the Sindh High Court Chief Justice was rescued on 19 July. Four people were killed in supposed honour killings in July, inspiring the Pakistani Parliament to approve a new draft of legislation that closes a loophole for permissible honour killings. China’s People Liberation Army and Pakistan held a joint border patrol near Kashmir to display their joint security efforts and positive relations. A new gate at the Torkham crossing will open for traffic on 1 August. At least 16 civilians were killed in roadside bomb attacks, and 18 militants were killed and several terror attacks foiled throughout July. Flash floods have killed 82 people so far according to the Disaster Management Agency. Pakistan and China signed numerous trade and investment agreements. China’s foreign direct investment into Pakistan is constantly increasing in accordance with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated that Pakistan’s currency is overvalued by as much as 20 per cent. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar announced that foreign exchange reserves reached an all-time high of $23 billion. Pakistan announced plans to auction onshore oil and gas blocks later in the year. The Pakistan Stock Exchange was labelled the fifth-best performing stock globally. Oil and gas stocks fell at the end of July after global crude oil prices fell, but refinery stocks rose with investor interest. 

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Pakistan by Lewis McKinnon

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif faced charges of corruption after the leaked Panama Papers. The small group of Islamic clerics Tanzeem Ittehede-i-Ummat ruled in a fatwa that transgender individuals (called hijra) can marry and be buried with other Muslims, making the group the the first Muslim clerical organization to make such a change. The current Pakistan People’s Party leader Hina Rabbani Khar argued that Pakistan and India must enhance diplomatic relations to lessen tensions and enhance trust between the two countries. The Pakistani Supreme Court analysed the cases of 12 individuals who had been tried in military tribunals and convicted, to determine if their constitutional rights had been violated. A government advisor announced that border management mechanisms are the next step for Pakistan to secure its border with Afghanistan. Pakistan is constructing check points which will be connecting points for the future fence. The Torkham crossing was the location of clashes between guards on both sides, which resulted in two deaths, multiple injures, and travel restrictions on those entering Pakistan. Three Islamic State (IS) members were arrested for plans to attack government buildings. The son of Chief Justice Sindh disappeared and was likely abducted on 21 June, but authorities reached a wall in their investigative efforts. A Qawwali singer was murdered as he drove through Karachi on 22 June. Stocks rose slightly by the end of June 2016, after the promise of the first tranche of a $6.2 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF.) The Oil and Gas Development Company, Ltd., discovered oil and gas reserves in Sindh Province, which resulted in gains for several natural resource company’s stocks. 

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