Pakistan Security Brief - December 11, 2012

New Afghan peace deal would put Pakistan in charge of arranging direct Taliban negotiations; Pentagon report says Pakistan undermining Afghan security; U.S. Defense Secretary praises Pakistan’s willingness to address terrorist havens; Afghan President Karzai to present evidence to Pakistani President Zardari that Asadullah Khalid attack was plotted in Pakistan; Pakistan seeks upgrade from USTR “Priority Watch List;” Pakistan Air Force fleet suffering from aging and outdated technology; Facebook shuts down TTP page; Cellphone tower blown up in Mohmand agency; Eight killed in Karachi on Monday; Government to grant tax evaders 90-day amnesty; President Zardari pledges $10 million to UNESCO for girls’ education.

Post-2014 Afghanistan

  • A new peace plan in talks between Afghan, Pakistani, and U.S. officials would put Pakistan in charge of arranging direct meetings with Taliban militants in the reconciliation process. Additionally, the Afghan government may grant the Taliban political control of southern and eastern strongholds under the agreement. The plan sees a diminished role for the U.S. but would still grant it an important say in the development of negotiating terms, however. Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Great Britain would also play a part in the agreement. The new plan aims to end the war in 2015 with a ceasefire, followed by a Saudi- and Pakistani-led initiative to choose Taliban and other militant leaders to participate in negotiations with the Karzai administration. The United States would also work with Afghanistan and Pakistan in this regard, and would play an important role in removing Taliban negotiators’ names from the U.N.’s terrorist list.  The report predicts that by 2015, militant groups will give up their arms, become legitimate political parties, and actively participate in Constitutional process.[i]

  • A Pentagon report released on Monday said that “Pakistan’s continued acceptance of sanctuaries for Afghan-focused insurgents and failure to interdict (explosive) materials and components continue to undermine the security of Afghanistan and pose an enduring threat to US, coalition and Afghan forces.” It did, however, also note that Pakistan had simultaneously contributed to some U.S. interests and that relations between the two countries had been improving recently.[ii]

  • According to U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Pakistan has said it is ready to address the problem of terrorist havens in its restive tribal regions. He mentioned that Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had expressed “a willingness to try to put more pressure on safe havens,” and that the U.S. was very encouraged by it. Panetta stated his opinion that Pakistan was better equipped to deal with terrorist havens as “they understand the kind of threats they should deal with.”[iii]

Afghan-Pakistani Relations

  • On Tuesday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai is due to present Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari with evidence that a bomb plot against Afghan intelligence chief Asadullah Khalid was allegedly hatched in Quetta, Pakistan. While the Taliban have already claimed responsibility for the attack, Karzai and his spokesman Siamak Herawi say that “bigger hands are involved” and that the Taliban did not plan the attack alone.[iv]

U.S.-Pakistani Relations

  • According to Hameed Ullah Jan Afridi, the chairman of Pakistan’s Intellectual Property Organisation (IPO), Pakistan has made concerted efforts to address U.S. authorities’ complaints regarding intellectual property (IP) rights violations in Pakistan in the hopes of being upgraded from the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) “Priority Watch List” to its “Watch List” in 2013. The USTR has previously voiced concern over the counterfeiting and piracy of books and CDs in Pakistan.  Afridi stated that Pakistan could come under U.N. sanctions and other trade restrictions if it remains on the priority list.[v]

Aging Air Force

  • A special AP report highlights increasing aircraft crashes in the Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) fleet due to aging and the PAF’s inability to afford upgraded equipment. Thirteen PAF aircraft have crashed in the last year and a half; many planes in the fleet are almost 50 years old. While the PAF has sought aid from the U.S. and China in upgrading its aircraft, economic problems have plagued its efforts. Not only does the age of the aircraft concern officials, but a former air force pilot said the problems raised questions about maintenance procedures as well. Senate defense committee head Mushahid Hussain said the air force was doing what it could with the equipment it had, but that the recent failures “[were] linked to use of technology that is fast becoming outmoded and obsolete.”[vi]   

Militancy

  • On Tuesday, Facebook shut down a Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Facebook page calling for new submissions to a quarterly jihadi magazine to be published by the organization. The page had over 270 “likes” before it was removed.[vii] 

  • Unidentified militants destroyed a private cellphone company’s tower using an improvised explosive device (IED) in Halimzai sub-district’s Mian Mandi area on Tuesday. No casualties were reported; Frontier Corps personnel launched a subsequent search operation and arrested numerous tribesmen and two journalists upon whose property the tower had been built.[viii]

  • Eight people were killed in Karachi on Monday, including two Rangers personnel and one traffic warden in Sohrab Goth. Unknown gunmen shot two men in Gulbahar and Garden area. Additionally, a bullet-ridden body was found in Martin Quarter.[ix]

Tax Evasion Amnesty

  • Due to its alarming lack of revenue, the Pakistani government has offered over three million tax evaders a 90-day amnesty period to pay a fine or be vigorously pursued by relevant authorities under an ambitious finance improvement plan. The plan stipulates that each tax evader will be allowed to pay a one-time sum of $413 on undeclared income and assets worth up to $51, 450. If the evaders do not comply, a senior official in Pakistan’s Federal Board of Revenue threatened that the Board would “cripple their lives.”[x]

Girls’ Education

  • President Asif Ali Zardari pledged $10 million to UNESCO on Monday to promote girls’ education, stating that “I have no doubt that our resolve to provide education to all, in particular to the millions of schoolgirls, is the best strategy to defeat the forces of violence.” He did not elaborate upon the education fund nor where the money would come from.[xi]

                       


[i] Jonathan S. Landay, “Afghanistan peace plan would increase Pakistan’s role,” McClatchy, December 8, 2012. Available at: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/12/08/176825/afghanistan-considering-peace.html; Rob Crilly, “Taliban ‘could govern parts of Afghanistan’ under new peace deal,” The Telegraph, December 10, 2012. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/9735539/Taliban-could-govern-parts-of-Afghanistan-under-new-peace-deal.html.
[ii] Elisabeth Bumiller, “Pentagon Says Afghan Forces Still Need Assistance,” The New York Times, December 10, 2012. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/11/world/asia/afghan-army-weak-as-transition-nears-pentagon-says.html?_r=0; “US report faults Pakistan over Afghan war,” AFP, December 10, 2012. Available at: http://dawn.com/2012/12/11/us-report-faults-pakistan-over-afghan-war/.
[iii] Gopal Ratnam, “Pakistan Tells U.S. It’s Ready to Deal With Safe Havens,” Bloomberg, December 11, 2012. Available at: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-12-11/pakistan-tells-u-dot-s-dot-it-s-ready-to-deal-with-safe-havens.
[iv] Jonathon Burch, “At Turkey summit, Karzai to confront Pakistan over spy attack,” Reuters, December 11, 2012. Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/11/us-turkey-afghanistan-pakistan-idUSBRE8BA0AH20121211.
[v] Kalbe Ali, “Pakistan likely to be on USTR ‘watch list,’” Dawn, December 10, 2012. Available at: http://dawn.com/2012/12/11/pakistan-likely-to-be-on-ustr-watch-list/.
[vi] “Pakistani air force planes crashing at an alarming rate, raising concerns about aging fleet,” AP, December 11, 2012. Available at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/pakistani-air-force-planes-crashing-at-an-alarming-rate-raising-concerns-about-aging-fleet/2012/12/11/4331db4c-435a-11e2-8c8f-fbebf7ccab4e_story.html.
[vii] “Facebook shuts down Taliban account: Report,” Express Tribune, December 11, 2012. Available at: http://tribune.com.pk/story/478205/facebook-shuts-down-taliban-account-report/.
[viii] Zahir Shah Sherazi, “Cellphone company tower blown up in Mohmand,” Dawn, December 11, 2012. Available at: http://dawn.com/2012/12/11/cellphone-company-tower-blown-up-in-mohmand/.
[ix] “Karachi violence death toll rises to 8,” The News, December 11, 2012. Available at: http://www.thenews.com.pk/article-79117-Two-Rangers-among-8-killed-in-Karachi-violence.
[x] Haris Anwar and Augustine Anthony, “Pakistan Offers 3 Million Tax Cheats Amnesty as Revenues Wilt,” Bloomberg, December 10, 2012. Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-10/pakistan-offers-3-million-tax-cheats-amnesty-as-revenues-wilt.html.
[xi] Alexandria Sage, “Pakistan’s Zardari pledges cash for girls’ education,” Reuters, December 10, 2012. Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/10/us-france-pakistan-education-idUSBRE8B90VH20121210