Pakistan Security Brief - April 25, 2012

Prime Minister Gilani to appear before Supreme Court for announcement of verdict; Pakistan Peoples Party says Gilani to remain in office “for at least five more months;” Pakistan successfully tests intermediate-range ballistic missile; 63 injured in Lahore railway station blast; U.S. and Pakistan reach stalemate on issue of public apology; Former NATO chief says illicit drugs and weapons “free-flowing” across Afghanistan-Pakistan border; Bomb defused on Peshawar-bound train; Diplomats from U.S., Pakistan and Afghanistan to meet on April 27; Pakistani military runs de-radicalization program. 

Domestic Politics

  • During a federal cabinet session on Wednesday, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani stated that he will appear in the Supreme Court on Thursday, when the court is expected to announce its verdict in Gilani’s contempt case. Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that the cabinet would accompany Gilani to court for the announcement of the verdict. According to the Express Tribune (ET), the Pakistan Peoples Party has “held exhaustive discussions” on the potential outcomes of Gilani’s contempt case and the consequences of those outcomes. ET stated that the one outcome that was commonly agreed on is that Gilani will remain in office “for at least five more months,” even if he gets a jail sentence, and the most likely candidate for the next prime minister would be Federal Minister for Petroleum Dr. Asim Hussain.[1]

Ballistic Missile

Militancy

  • On Tuesday evening, three people, including a child, were killed and approximately 63 others were injured in a blast resulting from six to eight kilograms of explosives placed in a bag near the Business Express waiting lounge at the Lahore railway station. Dawn reported that a group calling itself Lashkar-e-Balochistan claimed responsibility for the bombing and said it was in retaliation for the killing of innocent Baloch people in Karachi and Balochistan. The group’s spokesman, Lavong Khan Baloch, warned reporters that Islamabad and Rawalpindi would be the next targets if these killings did not stop.[3]

  • On Wednesday, the Bomb Disposal Squad defused a bomb on a Peshawar-bound train at the Attock railway station in Karachi. According to a police officer, the bomb was in a briefcase that was “lying unattended” in a coach on the Awam Express.[4]

International Relations

  • The Express Tribune reported on Wednesday that Pakistan and the U.S. have reached a stalemate on the issue of a public apology for the November 2011 NATO airstrike that killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers. A Pakistani diplomat said that the U.S. had recently shown a “willingness” to apologize, but President Obama’s poor ratings in an election year seem to have forced Washington to reconsider. The U.S. had planned to send Senator John Kerry to Pakistan to offer an apology, but Pakistan reportedly refused to accept his apology, saying it wanted an official apology from the White House.[5]

  • Major Gen. John Toolan, NATO's former Regional Command-Southwest Chief, told the media on Tuesday that the movement of illicit items such as drugs and weapons across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border is “free-flowing.” According to Toolan, the Taliban and al Qaeda enjoy relative freedom in Pakistan, which is “a source of frustration” for the U.S. He said that the U.S. realizes that Pakistan is worried about attacking the Taliban too hard, because it fears “the ramifications of major battles” inside Pakistan. Toolan advised Pakistani officials to reopen NATO supply routes, if they wanted U.S. forces out of Afghanistan by 2014.[6]

  • An Afghan diplomat said Tuesday that top diplomats from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the U.S. will meet in Islamabad on April 27 to discuss the “obstacles” in the peace process in Afghanistan.[7]

  • According to a senior government official, the Pakistani government is considering alternative plans to finance the $1.5 billion Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, since Russia has still not responded to Pakistan’s proposal and seems reluctant to provide funding, due to pressure from the U.S. to stop the project.[8]

  • Mirza Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer who is suing the CIA to stop its drone program in Pakistan, has been granted a visa to enter the U.S. Akbar will be a keynote speaker at a drone conference on April 28 in Washington DC.[9]

Nuclear Weapons

  • Physicians for Social Responsibility, an anti-nuclear non-profit organization, released research on Tuesday stating that even a small, regional nuclear war, such as one between Pakistan and India would have catastrophic consequences. The research stated that within the first few years following a nuclear exchange, U.S. production of grains and soy would decline to “80 percent of their current level,” while Chinese rice production would fall to “79 percent of its current level.” The decline in agricultural production would produce a famine that could potentially starve “over one billion” people.[10]

De-Radicalization

  • On Wednesday, Reuters reported on a program run by the Pakistani military, in which “military officers, trainers, moderate clerics and psychologists” teach three-month courses designed to de-radicalize people accused of aiding the Taliban. The “school” is run out of the Mashal de-radicalization center in Swat valley, and school officials said that 1,000 people have graduated since the program began two years ago, with only ten percent “not cleared for release.” Officials admitted that their “students” were not “hardened militants who killed,” but rather ones who had given the Taliban food, water or shelter, or beaten people.[11]

 

 

    



[1] “Contempt case: With cabinet in tow, Gilani to appear before SC,” Express Tribune, April 25, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/369698/contempt-case-with-cabinet-in-tow-gilani-to-appear-before-sc/
Abdul Manan, “PPP’s plans: Despite conviction, Gilani will continue as premier – Dr Asim is likely backup,” Express Tribune, April 25, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/369579/ppps-plans-despite-conviction-gilani-will-continue-as-premier--dr-asim-is-likely-backup/
[2] “Pakistan conducts ballistic missile test,” Al Jazeera, April 25, 2012. Available at http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia/2012/04/201242545255746331.html
Sebastian Abbot, “Pakistan tests missile days after India's launch,” Associated Press, April 25, 2012. Available at http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5helggsCFfClKJpW0Q_jHPsMK2iJA?docId=ddcb288557c44104a1eda96407098365
[3] “Lahore railway station blast: Death toll reaches 3 as minor succumbs to injuries,” Express Tribune, April 25, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/369686/lahore-railway-station-blast-death-toll-reaches-3-as-minor-succumbs-to-injuries/
Muhammad Faisal Ali, “Terror revisits Lahore; two die in railway station blast,” Dawn, April 24, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/04/25/terror-revisits-lahore-two-die-in-railway-station-blast/
[4] “Bomb on Peshawar-bound train defused at Attock railway station,” AFP, April 25, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/369675/bomb-aboard-peshawar-bound-train-defused/
[5] Kamran Yousaf, “Stillborn apology: Pakistan, US fail to break logjam,” Express Tribune, April 25, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/369513/stillborn-apology-pakistan-us-fail-to-break-logjam/
[6] John T. Bennett, “Pakistan's Border Control 'a Source of Frustration' for U.S. Forces,” U.S. News, April 24, 2012. Available at http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2012/04/24/pakistans-border-control-a-source-of-frustration-for-us-forces
[7] Tahir Khan, “Huddle in Islamabad: Trilateral forum to review ‘obstacles’ in Afghan peace,” Express Tribune, April 25, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/369588/huddle-in-islamabad-trilateral-forum-to-review-obstacles-in-afghan-peace/
[8] Zafar Bhutta, “IP pipeline: Govt considers alternative as Russia caves in to pressure,” Express Tribune, April 25, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/369493/ip-pipeline-govt-considers-alternative-as-russia-caves-in-to-pressure-business/  
[9] Shaun Waterman, “Pakistani drone critic granted visa for U.S. conference,” The Washington Times, April 24, 2012. Available at http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/apr/24/pakistani-drone-critic-granted-visa-for-us-confere/
[10] Shaun Waterman, “Report: Small nuclear war would inflict global woes,” The Washington Times, April 24, 2012. Available at http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/apr/24/report-small-nuclear-war-would-inflict-global-woes/
[11] “Michael Georgy, “Pakistan army uses bullets, and classrooms to fight militancy,” Reuters, April 25, 2012. Available at http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/25/us-pakistan-deradicalisation-idUSBRE83O08W20120425