Pakistan Security Brief - December 20, 2011
Memogate scandal continues to fester; President to submit affidavit on Supreme Court’s urging; ISI Chief Pasha under pressure; report claims Afghan soldier conspired to cause U.S. raid on Pakistani checkpost; U.S. expands use of Northern Distribution Network, Pakistan route now only 30 percent of supplies; Pakistan no longer asking for counterterrorism funds reimbursements; push within U.S. gov’t to reduce secrecy on drones; gas protests paralyze capital.
On Monday, the Supreme Court of Pakistan delayed its decision on whether or not it would take up the “memogate” scandal case involving former Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S. Hussain Haqqani. The court asked for more details from the government and set its next hearing for Thursday. It also continued to urge President Asif Ali Zardari to issue his own affidavit for the case, warning the President that a failure to speak up could be seen as an admission to the charge that Zardari was complicit in the drafting of the memo. Zardari has thus far remained silent on the case, but he and his aides are reportedly considering submitting a response as the court has asked. The government, led by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, has submitted that the matter does not fall under the Court’s jurisdiction and has moved for the case to be dismissed. Pakistan Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Director General of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate, Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, have taken the opposite position and are insisting that the Court continue its investigation into the matter.
Pressure on ISI Chief
Jameel Ahmed, the head of the Communist Party of Pakistan, motioned the Supreme Court to dismiss ISI chief Gen. Pasha on the grounds that he was not fit to hold the position. Ahmed based his position on recent reports in the British press that Gen. Pasha had traveled to several Gulf countries in order to gather support for an army move to remove President Zardari from power. Adding to the pressure on the ISI chief, most of the witnesses interviewed by the Abbottabad Commission, set up to investigate the U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden, have recommended the removal of the top members of the Pakistani military “if it is proved that slain al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden conveniently lived in Pakistan for years….given that the incident points in the direction of either an intelligence failure or collaboration.”
A report in BBC Urdu claims that the recent attack on the Pakistani border that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers as saying that the attack was the fault of a plot hatched by a local Afghan military commander colluding with Indian intelligence agents. The claim is based upon the statements of an unnamed Pakistani officer involved in the Pakistani probe into the attack. Parts of the report have been shared with U.S. investigators, and while the report exonerates U.S. soldiers of wrongdoing, it claims that “an Afghan National Army (ANA) officer conspired with India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security in prompting the Nato airstrike.” The report claims the Afghans tried to deliberately draw Pakistani fire in order to justify calling in air support on the fixed positions.
Pakistan has reportedly stopped asking the U.S. to pay reimbursements as part of the Coalition Support Fund for counterterrorism operations it conducts. The military apparently stopped billing the U.S. after the bin Laden raid in May of this year. The unclaimed amount is currently estimated to be at least $600 million and is reportedly putting an increased strain on Pakistani finances.
A Washington Post article looks at the secrecy surrounding the U.S. drone program and its use in targeting top militants and terrorists in Pakistan and other conflict areas, as well as the heated debate within U.S. policy circles regarding the veil of secrecy that surrounds the program and its procedures. According to the article, recent criticism of the drone program invoking its alleged violations of international law have prompted the U.S. government, particularly in the State Department, to consider revealing more about the standards and procedures upon which the program is run, especially for strikes carried out by the CIA inside Pakistan.
A new report by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee looks at U.S. strategy in Central Asia and says that “American strategy is focused on Central Asia in part as a response to the challenges of transiting supplies through Pakistan for the Afghan war.” According to the report, the U.S. has expanded its use of the Northern Distribution Network (NDN) to deliver supplies to Afghanistan, and now only about 30 percent of supplies travel through Pakistan. The report is even more poignant given the current suspension of the Pakistan supply route following last month’s U.S. raid that killed several Pakistani soldiers.
Sometimes violent street protests caused chaos in Islamabad and Rawalpindi on Monday after people took to the streets to demonstrate against gas shortages. Protesters pelted policemen and cars with stones and at many points, traffic between the twin cities came to a standstill.
Simon Denyer, “Pakistan’s chief justice keeps up pressure on beleaguered Zardari,” Washington Post, December 19, 2011. Available at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/20/world/asia/decision-to-investigate-anti-army-memo-is-delayed-in-pakistan.html?_r=2&ref=world
Sumera Khan, “President, legal team mull reply to Supreme Court,” Express Tribune, December 20, 2011. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/309169/consultations-under-way-president-legal-team-mull-reply-to-sc/
“RAW collusion suspected: Probe faults Afghan serviceman for NATO air raid, says report,” Express Tribune, December 19, 2011. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/308841/afghan-commander-orchestrated-nov-26-attack-report/
Huma Imtiaz, “’Only 29% of US supplies go through Pakistan’: report,” Reuters, December 20, 2011. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/309163/only-29-of-non-military-us-supplies-go-through-pakistan-report/