Pakistan Security Brief – August 31, 2011
Suicide bomber kills 11 in Balochistan on Eid; Supreme Court criticizes Sindh govt over Karachi violence; Security in Karachi ramped up for eid, Frontier Constabulary facing manpower shortages due to Karachi redeployment; Obama red team advised against bin Laden raid; Wikileaks document says Italian PM pushed for Pakistan policy changes; Developments in high-profile kidnapping case; Peshawar school bombed.
Suicide Bombing in Balochistan
A suicide car bomb attack in the city of Quetta killed 11 people and wounded over 20 others on Wednesday. The bomb exploded in a parking lot near a mosque as people were leaving after offering special Eid prayers. The victims were primarily Shia Muslims. Police officials say the suicide bomber detonated his explosives in the parking lot after security preparations prevented him getting any closer to the mosque. There has not been any claim of responsibility so far.
Karachi Violence and Politics
As the Pakistan Supreme Court’s judicial inquiry on violence in Karachi continued on Tuesday, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry lambasted the Sindh government for its impotence on the issue. Chaudhry asked why the government was “not waking up” to the problem, and lamented that citizens’ “fundamental right to security” was being violated. Another justice on the panel criticized the government’s decision to deploy the paramilitary Rangers force, telling the provincial government it should have built its own force instead of “borrowing it from the federal government.” A parliamentary committee set up to review the security situations in Karachi and Quetta declared its intention to meet on September 6. In a follow up to the political saga playing out in the wake of the Sindh home minister Zulfiqar Mirza’s tempestuous resignation, Mirza announced his retirement from politics and criticized the Muttahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), accusing them of engaging in corruption and dirty politics.
Security officials planned to ramp up security in Karachi for Eid celebrations beginning on August 31. Nearly 15,000 law-enforcement officials, including Rangers, will be on duty to monitor the 12,000 congregations planned in the city as part of the Eid festivities. CCTV cameras installed in sensitive parts of the city and 5,000 policemen on patrol also make up the security arrangements. An article in the Express Tribune reviews the federal government’s decision to deploy 500 men from the Frontier Constabulary (FC) to Karachi to help quell the violence. According to anonymous sources quoted in the article, the decision to undertake the redeployment had forced the FC to remove or lighten protection of a number of key sites and individuals in Islamabad, including some federal ministers and foreign dignitaries. The FC is reportedly facing severe manpower shortages as a result of the move.
Bin Laden Raid and Fallout
According to an article in The Telegraph, President Barack Obama had convened a special “red team” of terrorism experts in a bid to take a “fresh look at the evidence” regarding Osama bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan prior to the raid that finally killed the al Qaeda leader. The article says the team of experts expressed doubts that bin Laden was present in Abbottabad because “they didn’t believe he would take the risk of having as many visitors as he did.” After hearing the red team’s assessment, reportedly half of the raid planners advised President Obama against conducting the raid. Obama ordered the raid to continue as planned nonetheless.
According to a December 2008 U.S. embassy cable leaked by anti-secrecy organization Wikileaks, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi termed the 26/11 Mumbai attacks a result of Pakistan’s “flawed policy.” The cable further reveals that Berlusconi “advocated pushing international financial institutions to help Pakistan but only on condition that the government of Pakistan takes serious action against terrorist and extremist groups on its soil.”
High-profile Kidnapping Developments
Police officials in Lahore said on Monday that they had been able to trace three different cell phone numbers that had been used by the kidnappers of slain Punjab governor Salman Taseer’s son Shahbaz Tahseer just minutes before the abduction took place. According to police they had recovered a cell phone found by a “scavenger” that had been dropped by one of the kidnappers near the scene. The police are planning to conduct arrests based on data found in the phone’s calling records. The PPP, meanwhile, criticized the Punjab government for failing to recover Taseer and submitted a proposal to have the issue raised in the provincial assembly.
Disappearances in Pakistan
Amnesty International has appealed to the Pakistani government to end what it terms “the growing practice of disappearances enforced by the state.” The group says that the number of disappearances in the country had spiked since 9/11, and that “thousands” of people had “fallen victim to the practice.” Those detained and often tortured and killed include journalists, activists and students, and disappearances most frequently happened in Balochistan, where there is an ongoing separatist insurgency.
Militants in the Sher Din Banda area of Peshawar destroyed a school on Tuesday. A bomb planted in a girls school partially destroyed the facility. There were no casualties, and no claim of responsibility has been made for the attack.
Nasir Iqbal, “NA’s Karachi panel to meet on Sept 6,” Dawn, August 30, 2011. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/08/31/nas-karachi-panel-to-meet-on-sept-6.html
“Zulfiqar Mirza quits politics, lashes out again at MQM,” Dawn, August 30, 2011. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/08/30/mirza-quits-from-politics-lashes-out-again-at-mqm.html
Sohail Chaudhry, “Opportunity cost: Karachi secured at Islamabad’s expense?” Express Tribune, August 31, 2011. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/243076/opportunity-cost-karachi-secured-at-islamabads-expense/
“PPP requisitions PA to raise Taseer’s abduction,” Dawn, August 30, 2011. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/08/31/ppp-requisitions-pa-to-raise-taseers-abduction.html