Pakistan Security Brief – February 16, 2012

U.S. drone strikes kill at least 13 militants; Tenure of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence director set to expire in March; Prime Minister Gilani says the PPP forbids him from resigning; “Memogate” witness Mansoor Ijaz submits testimony to commission; Banned Islamist extremists lead right-wing political movement; Pakistan’s Ambassador to U.S. says U.S.-Pakistan relationship “burdened with too many expectations;" PTI Chairman Imran Khan rejects passing of 20th Amendment; Suicide bomber targets pro-government militia; Abbottabad Committee two months overdue in completing its investigation; Pakistan Army rejects allegations by Human Rights Watch report; PM Gilani discusses security issues with Afghan President Hamid Karzai; Pakistan and India sign three trade agreements.

 

U.S.-Pakistan Relations

  • Two U.S. drone strikes killed at least 13 militants in North Waziristan on Thursday. The drones fired missiles hours apart at two separate targets near the Afghan border. The first strike destroyed a compound in Spalga near Miran Shah, killing five militants who, according to a Pakistani official, were loyalists of Badar Mansoor and the Haqqani network. The second strike killed eight militants traveling in a vehicle east of Mir Ali. According to a Pakistani security official, the second attack may have killed up to 12 militants, all of whom were Uzbek Islamist fighters.[1]

  • Pakistan’s new ambassador to the U.S., Sherry Rehman, said the U.S.-Pakistan relationship is “burdened with too many expectations” at the U.S. Institute of Peace on Wednesday. Rehman called the November 26 NATO incident in which 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed, "an end-of-the-line trigger that called for a fundamental reset" in U.S.-Pakistan relations.[2]

Possible ISI Leadership Change

  • Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha’s tenure as Director General of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate ends on March 18. Dawn reported that Pakistan’s government can either extend Pasha’s tenure, which it has done twice before, or it can assign a new intelligence chief from among the four people currently under consideration. President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani are expected to make the decision soon after consulting with the military leadership. According to a Financial Times article, the Obama Administration is carefully monitoring the situation concerning the potential change in leadership. The article states that Obama “wants to convince the ISI to nudge its former Taliban protégés into talks to end the Afghan war.” U.S. officials hope that the new director will take a tough stance against extremist groups and repair ISI’s “frayed ties” with U.S. intelligence.[3]

Domestic Politics

  • Speaking with journalists on Wednesday, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said that he was prepared to tender his resignation if necessary, but his party, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), was forbidding him from doing so. Gilani also announced that there will be an all parties’ conference on Balochistan, so that all issues related to the province can be discussed and “resolved internally.”[4]

  • On Thursday, the counsel for key witness Mansoor Ijaz submitted Ijaz’s testimony before the judicial commission investigating “memogate.” In addition to the testimony, Ijaz’s lawyer submitted documents including, e-mails, the first draft of the alleged memo, records of calls and messages exchanged between Ijaz and Husain Haqqani, and Ijaz’s personal notes regarding his meetings with high-level Pakistani officials such as President Asif Ali Zardari.[5]

  • The Associated Press reported that a revived coalition of “banned” Islamist extremists calling itself the Difa-e-Pakistan Council, or the Defence of Pakistan Council (DPC), is leading a new right-wing political movement in Pakistan. On Sunday, the DPC held a rally in Karachi which was attended by a crowd of 20,000 to 30,000 people. A banner reading “Wake up, countrymen, break the shackles of American slavery,” hung over the stage as DPC leadership addressed the crowd. One of the main speakers was Hafiz Saeed, the leader of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a charitable front for the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba. On behalf of the DPC, Saeed demanded that “Pakistani rulers quit the alliance with America.”[6]

  • At a press conference on Wednesday, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan rejected the National Assembly’s passage of the 20th Amendment and “warned of a civil war if the forthcoming elections are not conducted in a free and fair manner.” Khan said he seeks an “all-party conference to form an independent and autonomous election commission.”[7]

  • The Abbottabad Commission, charged with the responsibility of investigating the May 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces, announced Wednesday that it is struggling to determine responsibility for bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad. According to The Express Tribune, an official familiar with the proceedings stated that the commission has not yet reached a conclusion because either it cannot determine who is responsible for bin Laden’s presence or it is not willing to place blame on any individual or organization for his presence. The commission was scheduled to complete its investigation by the end of 2011 – a deadline which is now nearly two months overdue.[8]

  • On Wednesday, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik wrote to the Abbottabad Commission declining to appear as requested “due to some other engagement.” Three weeks ago, the commission requested that Malik appear and give a “detailed presentation on the U.S. operation in Abbottabad, visa policy, and security issues.” According to Dawn, Malik invited the commission to the interior ministry for the presentation, instead of appearing as requested. At a convention in Anjuman Tulaba-i-Islam, Malik told reporters that he would brief the commission within a week at the ministry, and that he never declined a request to appear. Malik stated, “Whenever the commission will summon me I will appear before it.”[9]

  • On Thursday, a statement issued by the Pakistani army “rejected the allegations” leveled in a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released on January 30. The HRW report criticized the ISI and the commission responsible for investigating the May 2011 murder of journalist Saleem Shahzad. The army’s statement called the HRW report “extremely derogatory, biased and contradictory.”[10]

International Relations

  • On Thursday, Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani and Afghan President Hamid Karzai met in Islamabad to discuss bilateral issues and “efforts to seek reconciliation with the Taliban.” This meeting preempts the trilateral summit between the leadership of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran, which aims to promote cooperation and strengthen “peace and stability in the region.” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is expected to arrive in Islamabad on Thursday afternoon and the summit talks will officially begin Friday.[11]

  • The commerce ministers of Pakistan and India signed three trade agreements on Thursday, ending four days of bilateral trade talks. The two leaders laid the “groundwork for not only opening more land trade routes, but also bank branches in each other’s countries.” On Tuesday, Pakistan’s federal cabinet decided to “defer completion of the negative list that was to replace the existing positive one.” However, Pakistani leaders assured India that the list would be ready by the end of February.[12]

Militancy



[1] “Eight ‘foreigners’ killed in second N. Waziristan drone strike,” AFP, February 16, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/02/16/eight-foreigners-killed-in-second-north-waziristan-drone-strike.html
[2] Richard Solash, “Pakistan's U.S. Envoy Says Relationship 'Burdened' By Too Many Expectations,” Radio Free Europe, February 15, 2012. Available at http://www.rferl.org/content/envoy_says_us-pakistan_relations_burdened_by_expectations/24485484.html
[3] Matthew Green, “US monitors Pakistan’s choice of spymaster,” Financial Times, February 15, 2012. Available at http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/51b56788-57a6-11e1-ae89-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1mZ3GxgS1 “Government mulls over next ISI chief,” Dawn, February 15, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/02/15/government-mulls-over-next-isi-chief.html
[4] “Party stopping me from resigning, says Gilani,” Dawn, February 15, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/02/15/party-stopping-me-from-resigning-says-gilani.html Khawar Ghumman, “Gilani decides to hold APC on Balochistan,” Dawn, February 16, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/02/16/gilani-decides-to-hold-apc-on-balochistan.html
[5] “Ijaz’s testimony submitted to memo commission,” Dawn, February 16, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/02/16/ijazs-testimony-submitted-to-memo-commission.html
[6] Ashraf Khan, “In Pakistan, rightwing alliance is revived,” Associated Press, February 15, 2012. Available at http://militarytimes.com/news/2012/02/ap-in-pakistan-rightwing-alliance-is-revived-021512/
[7] “Imran rejects 20th Amendment, calls for APC,” Dawn, February 16, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/02/16/imran-rejects-20th-amendment-calls-for-apc.html
[8] Zia Khan, “Bin Laden in Abbotabad: Commission struggling in pinning blame,” The Express Tribune, February 16, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/337261/bin-laden-in-abbottabad-commission-struggling-in-pinning-blame/
[9] “Malik declines to appear before commission,” Dawn, February 16, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/02/16/malik-declines-to-appear-before-commission.html
[10] “Army rebuffs HRW report on Saleem Shahzad murder,” Dawn, February 16, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/02/16/army-rebuffs-hrw-report-on-saleem-shahzad-murder.html
[11] “Gilani, Karzai discuss regional peace,” Dawn, February 16, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/02/16/pakistan-to-host-afghan-iranian-leaders.html “Iran tensions could eclipse Pakistan summit, Reuters, February 16, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/02/16/iran-tensions-could-eclipse-pakistan-summit.html
[12] Shahbaz Rana, “Pak-India trade: New routes, bank branches emerge on the horizon,” The Express Tribune, February 16, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/337260/pak-india-trade-new-routes-bank-branches-emerge-on-the-horizon/ Mubarak Zeb Khan, “Negative list by Feb end, India told,” Dawn, February 16, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/02/16/three-trade-accords-given-final-shape-negative-list-by-feb-end-india-told.html
[13] “Suicide bomber kills one in Upper Dir,” AFP, February 16, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/02/16/suicide-bomber-kills-one-in-upper-dir.html
[14] “Grenade attack injures eight in Peshawar,” Dawn, February 16, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/02/16/grenade-attack-injures-eight-in-peshawar.html