Pakistan Security Brief – April 27, 2012

PPP to contest Prime Minister Gilani’s conviction; PM Gilani refuses to resign from office; U.S. and Pakistani officials meet for first time in five months to discuss bilateral ties; CIA shares intelligence with Pakistan recovered from bin Laden’s hideout; PML-N walks out of National Assembly to protest Gilani’s presence after conviction, lays out strategy to remove PM Gilani from office; Pakistani, Afghan, U.S. officials to arrange for “safe passage” for Afghan Taliban militants; Pakistan invites contractors interested in developing Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline; Security forces conduct targeted operation in Lyari; Clashes between Shia and Sunni sects in Khairpur district; PIA flight returns to Karachi after hijack scare.

 

Aftermath of Contempt Verdict

  • The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) announced that it will contest Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s conviction in the contempt case. President Asif Ali Zardari stated that Gilani stood by him and the PPP, and “now it is time for all of us to stand for him.” Earlier in the day, President Zardari met with coalition members to garner support for Gilani; the “the Pakistan Muslim League – [Quaid] (PML-Q), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Awami National Party (ANP) and parliamentarians from the tribal areas” all pledged their support for the prime minister. Zardari’s spokesperson declared that “an elected prime minister could only be removed in accordance with the procedure laid down in the constitution,” reaffirming the party’s support for Gilani and its refusal to accept his removal from office. Reportedly, PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain “advised the government to avoid confrontation with the Supreme Court and try to seek a fresh vote of confidence for the prime minister.”[1]

  • On Friday, Prime Minister Gilani refused to resign from his position as prime minister despite his conviction in the contempt case. Addressing the National Assembly, Gilani “rejected calls for his resignation from opposition leaders,” and reiterated that only parliament could disqualify him from his office. According to Aitzaz Ahsan, Gilani’s lawyer in the contempt case, Pakistan’s constitution stipulates that both a conviction and two year prison sentence are necessary requirements to remove a member of parliament from office.[2]

  • On Friday, members of the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) “walked out of the National Assembly session” to protest Prime Minister Gilani’s presence in parliament after his conviction. Gilani criticized the party members for their actions, and challenged Sharif to bring a no confidence motion against him. Gilani commented on the fact that his government is the first to accommodate the opposition to the degree that it has, declaring that the PPP allowed the opposition to receive “billions of rupees” in funds.[3]

  • The PML-N says it has laid out a strategy to remove Prime Minister Gilani from office. PML-N Chief Nawaz Sharif announced that the party would “not accept Gilani as the prime minister of Pakistan,” and therefore has agreed on a strategy to remove him from his position, that will be offered up for approval at the party’s upcoming high-level meeting. The first strategy would propose four options to the government: “Ask for the resignation of its premier; dissolve the assemblies; establish a care taker set up and announce the date for general elections.” Reportedly, the PML-N will use protests and constitutional deadlock to give their demands the necessary leverage. If the first strategy is unsuccessful, or it cannot be agreed upon by coalition partners, the PML-N will “initiate negotiations with the PPP,” primarily centered on replacing Gilani with another prime minister from the PPP.[4]

U.S.-Pakistan Relations

  • On Thursday, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman met with senior Pakistani officials, including Prime Minister Gilani and Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, to discuss U.S.-Pakistan relations. The meeting in Islamabad marks the first time Pakistani and U.S. leaders have sat down to discuss the relationship between the two countries in over five months. At the meeting, Prime Minister Gilani “reiterated that ties between the two states must move forward” in regard to the parliament’s recommendations. Grossman stated that the U.S. has “great respect for democracy in Pakistan,” and resolved to work with the country on restructuring bilateral relations. At a press conference after the meeting, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani announced that Pakistan considers “drones as illegal, non-productive and accordingly unacceptable,” and said that the country has yet to “work out new arrangements” regarding the reopening of the NATO supply routes. Although the U.S. was unable to secure a promise or timeline from Pakistan regarding the reopening of the NATO routes, Grossman stated that the U.S. is “ready for talks on re-opening supply lines.” The U.S. envoy also added that the Obama Administration shows “no signs of compromising” on the drone campaign.[5]

  • During Thursday’s meeting between U.S. and Pakistani officials in Islamabad, the CIA shared intelligence with Pakistan which had been recovered from bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad. The intelligence revealed that bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the new al Qaeda chief, were planning to “mount indiscriminate attacks on Pakistani soil.” This marked the first time that the U.S. had shared information regarding documents recovered in the Abbottabad raid with Pakistani officials. At the meeting, both Pakistan and the U.S. divided into small groups of experts to discuss counterterrorism cooperation between the two countries, among other issues. Grossman stated that both countries want to cooperate to make Afghanistan more secure and “get to work” on shared counterterrorism objectives. Foreign Secretary Jilani reiterated Grossman’s sentiments, saying that Pakistan has reaffirmed its commitment to “continue to strive for peace, security, stability and development in Afghanistan.”[6]

International Relations

  • Officials from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the U.S. said on Friday that they would explore ways to arrange “safe passage” and a “safe and confident” environment for Afghan Taliban militants to be able to “engage in peace talks without any consequence.” U.S. Special Envoy Grossman met with Pakistani and Afghan officials in Islamabad as part of an “initiative to revive stalled peace talks with the Afghan Taliban.”[7]

  • Reuters reported on Friday that Pakistan is going ahead with plans to build the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, despite strong opposition from the U.S. Inter State Gas Systems, a state agency set up in 1996 to oversee the development of the pipeline, has "issued a tender inviting contractors interested in the project for pre-qualification” and hopes to start construction on the pipeline by the end of 2012.[8]

Militancy

  • Security forces conducted a targeted operation in Karachi’s Lyari area on Thursday and arrested 20 suspects. Three people, including two policemen were killed, and ten others were injured when unidentified assailants retaliated by throwing hand grenades and firing rockets at the police. Nabil Gabol, a member of the National Assembly and the Pakistan Peoples Party, claimed that unidentified assailants threw a hand grenade at his car, but he escaped unhurt.[9]

  • The Express Tribune reported that at least ten people were injured in clashes between members of Shia and Sunni sects in Sindh province’s Khairpur district on Thursday night. A police official said that the clashes began when Shias burned down Sunni-owned shops in retaliation for a Shia-owned kiosk being set on fire. Members of a Shia sect also opened fire at a Sunni mosque while a sermon was in progress. A heavy contingent of Rangers and police was deployed in different areas of Khairpur to control the violence.[10]

  • On Friday, four suspected militants were killed and seven others were arrested during a search operation launched by the Frontier Corps in the Gigon area near Turbat, Balochistan.[11]

  • At least five policemen were injured on Friday, when a remote-controlled bomb planted near a bridge targeted a police van transporting a suspected criminal to the Rustam Police Station in Mardan district, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.[12]

Army

  • On Friday, Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani appointed Major Gen. Asim Bajwa as the new director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) and spokesman for the Pakistan Army. Bajwa will take over the position in June, when the current director general, Major Gen. Athar Abbas, retires.[13]

Hijack Threat

  • On Friday, a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane en route to Bahawalpur was forced to return and land in Karachi after a passenger told the staff that he could hijack the plane. The staff immediately informed the captain, who contacted the control tower and received permission to turn the plane around and return to Karachi. The passenger was detained and taken into custody by security personnel upon landing. PIA officials searched the plane, but found nothing to suggest that the passenger had been trying to hijack the plane.[14]

Osama bin Laden



[1] Zia Khan, “In Solidarity: President to stand behind Gilani,” Express Tribune, April 27, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/370693/in-solidarity-president-to-stand-behind-gilani/
[2] Shaan Khan, “Pakistani prime minister refuses to step down after conviction,” CNN, April 27, 2012. Available at http://edition.cnn.com/2012/04/27/world/asia/pakistan-politics-gilani/index.html
[3] Sidrah Moiz Khan, “After conviction: Gilani challenges Sharif to bring no confidence motion,” Express Tribune, April 27, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/370802/no-one-but-national-assembly-speaker-can-send-me-home-gilani/
[4] Abdul Manan, “Strategising: PML-N ready to play its trump cards,” Express Tribune, April 27, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/370678/strategising-pml-n-ready-to-play-its-trump-cards/
[5] Kamran Yousaf, “Apparent logjam: Pakistan stands firm on drones as Grossman visits,” Express Tribune, April 27, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/370648/apparent-logjam-pakistan-stands-firm-on-drones-as-grossman-visits/
“Gilani, US envoy discuss Pak-US ties,” Dawn, April 27, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/04/27/gilani-us-envoy-discuss-pak-us-ties/
[6] Baqir Sajjad Syed, “CIA alerts Pakistan to Al Qaeda plan,” Dawn, April 27, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/04/27/cia-alerts-pakistan-to-al-qaeda-plan/
[7] Chris Allbritton,“Pakistan, Afghanistan, U.S. Consider Safe Passage for Taliban Peace Talks,” Reuters, April 27, 2012. Available at http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2012/04/27/world/asia/27reuters-pakistan-afghanistan.html
[8] “Pakistan Seeks Bids for Iran Gas Pipeline, Despite U.S. Pressure,” Reuters, April 27, 2012. Available at http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2012/04/27/world/middleeast/27reuters-pakistan-iran-pipeline.html
[9] “Lyari violence: Nabil Gabol escapes attack,” Express Tribune, April 27, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/370797/1-killed-10-injured-in-lyari-operation/
[10] Sarfaraz Memon, “Sectarian clash: At least 10 injured in Khairpur crossfire,” Express Tribune, April 27, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/370824/sectarian-clash-at-least-6-injured-in-khairpur-crossfire/
[11] “4 suspected militants killed, 7 arrested near Turbat,” Express Tribune, April 27, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/370811/4-suspect-militants-killed-7-arrested-near-turbat/
[12] “Assailants target police van carrying suspect in Mardan,” Express Tribune, April 27, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/370839/assailants-target-police-van-carrying-suspect-in-mardan/
[13] “Asim Bajwa appointed as new DG ISPR,” Dawn, April 27, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/04/27/asim-bajwa-appointed-as-new-dg-ispr/
[14] “PIA flight returns to Karachi amid hijacking fears,” Express Tribune, April 27, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/370817/pia-flight-returns-to-karachi-amid-hijacking-fears/
“Hijack threat forces PIA plane to land after takeoff from Karachi,” AFP, April 27, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/04/27/hijack-threat-forces-pia-plane-to-land/
[15] Asma Alsharif, “Bin Laden's family deported to Saudi Arabia,” Reuters, April 27, 2012. Available at http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/27/us-pakistan-binladen-idUSBRE83P1AA20120427