Pakistan Security Brief – August 29, 2011
Al Qaeda second in command killed in drone strike; 300 militants attack into Pakistan from Afghanistan killing 36, Pakistani government lodges formal protest with Afghanistan, threatens to redeploy troops north; Provincial minister resigns, rants against Rehman Malik, MQM, threatening political reconciliation; Karachi operation continues as 133 arrested, DG Rangers reinstated; Parliamentary committee on Karachi, Quetta formed, Supreme Court unhappy with government report, Karachi’s ethnic fault lines responsible for violence as Pashtuns flee; Five arrested in Shahbaz Taseer kidnapping, foreigners urged to register with police; Jihad Jane accomplice arrested; Balochistan train attacked; Musharraf property seized.
Al Qaeda No. 2 Killed
U.S. officials revealed over the weekend that al Qaeda’s second in command, Atiyah Abd al Rahman, had been killed in a drone strike in North Waziristan last Monday. U.S. officials called the news “‘a tremendous loss for al-Qaeda’ because the group’s new leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, ‘was relying heavily on him to help guide and run the organization, especially since bin Laden’s death.’” Libyan-born Rahman was considered a key al Qaeda figure and operational commander and, according to files gleaned from the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, was in constant contact with the late al Qaeda leader. Rahman was operationally extremely active and was involved in the Khost base bombing in December 2009 that killed several CIA operatives and several plots that put countries in Western Europe on high alert in late 2010. Analysts see Rahman as very hard to replace within the al Qaeda network as he was inside the network’s top “trusted core.” Some Pakistani officials have, however, denied reports of Rahman’s death, citing a lack of hard evidence. A senior Pakistani security official said that, after checking claims of Rahman’s death with infromers of the region, he “doubt[s] the authenticity of [the] news.” The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, reports on how the stepped up drone campaign in Pakistan has led to increasing strain upon the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. According to the report, the U.S. is “acing to deal a death blow to al Qaeda while the network is weakened, raising concerns for some U.S. officials that the campaign of drone strikes could become so politically damaging for Pakistan's leaders that they may seek to curtail them.”
Massive Cross Border Attack
Around 300 militants crossed the Afghan border into Pakistan’s northern Chitral district on Saturday and assaulted seven different military checkposts on Saturday morning. According to western reports, up to 36 soldiers were killed in the attacks but different sources inside Pakistan put the toll anywhere between 25 and 80. The military claims 20 militants were killed in the fighting. Locals claimed the militants crossed into Chitral from neighboring Kurar and Nuristan provinces. Sirajuddin, a close confidant of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Swat’s leader, Mullah Fazlullah, called the media to claim responsibility for the assault. The Pakistani military said the “inadequate presence” of NATO and Afghan forces along the border allowed militants to cross back and forth and launch attacks unhindered. The government lodged a formal protest with the Afghan government following the raid. The army claimed that militants from Swat, Dir, Bajaur, as well as militants from Afghanistan, were responsible for the attacks. Possibly further complicating relations with the U.S., Pakistan is considering redeploying a number of troops to its border with Kunar and Nuristan in response to an increase in cross-border infiltration by militants in Afghanistan.
Karachi Violence, Political Fallout
On Sunday Sindh’s home minister Zulfiqar Mirza publicly resigned his post before beginning a diatribe criticizing the federal interior minister Rehman Malik and the Muttahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) party. Mirza called Malik a “congenital liar” and the “biggest threat to Pakistan’s future.” Mirza further accused Malik and the MQM of involvement in violence in Karachi that has seen over 1,000 people killed this year. Mirza also alleged that the MQM was involved in a plot with the U.S. to “break up” Pakistan. The televised rant caused further political instability and threatened to undo a rapprochement between the MQM and the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), of which both Mirza and Malik are both members. The PPP and MQM both rejected Malik’s statement.
In Karachi, paramilitary Rangers personnel and police commandos continued carrying out operations in parts of the city wracked by the recent violence. A raid in the Lyari neighborhood by over 3,000 personnel reportedly uncovered two torture cells and resulted in the arrest of over 133 people suspected of involvement in recent violence in Karachi. In a little noticed story, the head of the Rangers was reinstated by the federal government following his dismissal by the Supreme Court during a recent trial in which Rangers personnel were accused of murdering an unarmed youth.
Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee was formed in order to look into violence in Karachi and Balochistan’s capital, Quetta. The Supreme Court also expressed its dissatisfaction with a recent report on the Karachi violence submitted to the court by the government, saying a lack of facts hindered any progress in the case’s development. In the report, law enforcement officials admitted that parts of Karachi were “no-go areas.” Dawn has reported on the city’s “ethnic fault lines,” saying they are responsible for much of the violence to have ravaged Karachi of recent. Another Dawn article reports that a number of Karachi’s Pashtuns, particularly those living in Urdu-speaking neighborhoods, have started fleeing the city in response to the recent violence. They claim they are being targeted due to their ethnic background.
Pakistani intelligence officials and the Lahore police have arrested five people in connection with the abduction of slain Punjab governor Salman Taseer’s son Shahbaz Tahseer. They have not made any breakthroughs in the case, however. Following a recent spike in kidnappings of high-profile individuals, including an American development expert earlier this month, the Pakistani government has issued a directive to all foreigners to register with local police and to keep authorities apprised of their movement in order to enhance their security.
Pakistani Held in Jihad Jane Case
A Maryland teenager of Pakistani origin is reportedly in U.S. custody on charges of participating in terrorist activities. The 17-year-old stands accused of soliciting funds and recruits to help a Pennsylvania woman better known by her internet nickname, “Jihad Jane,” of plotting attacks in the U.S. The teen and Jihad Jane reportedly met in a chat room in 2009.
Gunmen attacked a passenger train in Balochistan on Sunday killing three people and wounding 16 others. The attack took place 30 miles south of the provincial capital, Quetta. Intelligence officials blamed the attack on Baloch separatists.
Musharraf Property Seized
An anti-terrorism court on Saturday ordered the seizure of assets belonging to Pakistan’s former president Pervez Musharraf due to his failure to show up for his court date in the ongoing case on the murder of late prime minister Benazir Bhutto. The court has issued a permanent arrest warrant for Musharraf and declared him an “absconder” in the case.
Paul Cruikshank, “Bin Laden’s key deputy seen as very hard to replace for al Qaeda,” CNN, August 28, 2011. Available at http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/08/27/pakistan.rahman.profile/
Kamran Yousef, “Pakistan sceptical over al Qaeda leader’s death,” Express Tribune, August 29, 2011. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/241122/pakistani-officials-doubt-al-qaeda-operative-dead/
Adam Entonus and Siobhan Gorman, “CIA Strikes Strain Ties With Pakistan Further,” Wall Street Journal, August 29, 2011. Available at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904199404576536471230621138.html?mod=WSJ_World_LeadStory
“Protest lodged with Afghanistan over cross-border attacks,” Express Tribune, August 28, 2011. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/241049/protest-lodged-with-afghanistan-over-cross-border-attacks/
Gul Hamaad Farooq, “Militants from Afghanistan attack Pakistani posts,” Reuters, August 27, 2011. Available at http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/27/us-pakistan-violence-idUSTRE77Q0OK20110827
Zia Khan, “Cross-border attacks: Troops reinforcement likely on Kunar border,” Express Tribune, August 29, 2011. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/241502/cross-border-attacks-troops-reinforcement-likely-on-kunar-border/
“MQM assails Mirza, rejects all allegations,” Dawn, August 28, 2011. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/08/29/mqm-assails-mirza-rejects-allegations.html
“Federal Government restores DG Rangers Sindh,” Express Tribune, August 29, 2011. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/241433/federal-government-restores-dg-rangers-sindh/
Ahmed Jung, “Govt report on Karachi violence lacks facts: Supreme Court,” Express Tribune, August 29, 2011. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/241503/suo-motu-action-sc-to-hear-case-on-karachi-violence-today/
Imran Ayub, “Ethnic Fault Lines of Karachi,” Dawn, August 27, 2011. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/08/28/ethnic-fault-lines-of-karachi.html
Ali Hazrat Bacha, “Feeling insecure, Pakhtuns start leaving Karachi,” Express Tribune, August 28, 2011. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/08/29/feeling-insecure-pakhtuns-start-leaving-karachi-2.html
Zahid Gishkori, “Enhancing security: Foreigners asked to register with police,” Express Tribune, August 29, 2011. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/241450/enhancing-security-foreigners-asked-to-register-with-police/