Pakistan Security Brief - February 17, 2012

At trilateral summit, President Asif Ali Zardari says Pakistan will not assist U.S. if it attacks Iran; President Zardari denies involvement of Pakistan’s military in Afghan insurgency; Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad blames regional problems on foreign interference; Suicide bomber kills 26 in Shia-majority neighborhood; Tensions flare between Afghan and Pakistani leaders; Taliban spokesman says Taliban not in negotiations with Afghan government; Obama Administration considers formal apology over NATO strike; Pakistan’s foreign minister says Afghan leadership has “ridiculous” expectations; Pakistani leaders assure Iranian president of commitment to Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline; Protestors set fire to oil tankers in Karachi; Afghan army gives ultimatum to soldiers with ties to Pakistan.

Trilateral Summit

  • Geo reported that at Friday’s trilateral summit, President Asif Ali Zardari assured Iranian leadership that Pakistan would not assist the U.S. in the event of a U.S. attack on Iran. Specifically, Zardari said that Pakistan “would not provide the U.S. with airbases to launch an attack on Iran.”[1]

  • President Zardari denied the notion that Pakistan’s armed forces are “directly or indirectly involved” in the insurgency against U.S. and NATO troops fighting the “war on terror.” However, Zardari also stated that he “cannot deny” the possible existence of Pakistani insurgents, as that is a “world problem” that does not pertain to Pakistan alone.[2]

  • On Friday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that “all problems in the region were the result of foreign interference.” Ahmadinejad claimed that the issues facing Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan were due to outside forces who “don’t want to allow our nations to develop.” He said that the summit talks allowed the three states to “solidify cooperation,” and “move towards removing the problems.”[3]

  • During Thursday’s meeting between Afghan and Pakistani leadership, Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s “language and tone flared to such an extent” that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called the meeting to a halt. According to the Guardian, Karzai’s frustrations with Pakistani officials are centered on his belief that they are preventing him from meeting with Afghan Taliban officials in Pakistan. Afghan leaders met with Pakistani civilian and military officials on Thursday, discussing bilateral issues for nearly three hours.[4]

  • On Thursday, Afghan President Karzai met with Prime Minister Gilani to “secure help” in facilitating peace talks with Afghan Taliban leaders in Pakistan. However, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid announced late Thursday that they have “not decided to negotiate with the Karzai regime.”[5]

  • On Thursday, the Afghan ambassador to Pakistan Umar Daudzai clarified a Wall Street Journal report that the Afghan Taliban had begun talks with U.S. and Afghan officials, claiming that only “exploratory contacts” had been made. Corroborating Daudzai’s statement, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid also said that the Taliban had “had not held talks with the [Afghan] government.”[6]

  • Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar told Afghan leaders Friday that it was “‘preposterous’ to think that Pakistan could deliver Taliban chief Mullah [Mohammad] Omar to the negotiating table as Afghanistan has asked in the past.” Khar said that the Afghan leaders had “ridiculous” expectations as to the extent Pakistan could help in Afghan-Taliban peace negotiations, and that the process going forward is uncertain.[7]

  • Pakistani President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani met with Iranian President Ahmadinejad Thursday, and assured him that Pakistan is committed to the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline and electricity import projects “despite international sanctions” on Iran. At the meeting, President Ahmadinejad offered to “enhance bilateral trade” with Pakistan to $10 billion over the next few months. Additionally, the leaders discussed the possibilities of a currency swap and barter trade arrangement in order to “circumvent the US sanctions for doing business with Iran in the dollar.”[8]

U.S.-Pakistan Relations

  • According to a National Journal article, the Obama Administration is currently considering a formal apology or “expression of contrition” to Pakistan for the death of 24 Pakistani soldiers in the November 26 NATO incident. The article reports that the White House is “mulling the language and timing of such a statement. Reportedly, U.S. officials are waiting to release a statement until after the Pakistani parliament releases its committee report outlining its strategy for future U.S. relations.[9]

  • On Thursday, the U.S. State Department issued a press release stating the following: “Lashkar-e-Taiba, and its front group Jamaat-ud-Dawa (Jud), is internationally sanctioned because of its associations with al Qaeda.” However, The Express Tribune reported that JuD has been active in Pakistan as a religious and charity organization. The leader of JuD, Hafiz Saeed, is an active leader in the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC), which held a rally in Karachi on Sunday. Jamaat-e-Islami senior leader Liaquat Baloch stated that the DPC opposed the sanctions as certain organizations had “been wrongly banned by a dictator.”[10]

Militancy

  • On Friday, a suicide bomber killed at least 26 people and injured approximately 36 others outside a mosque in the town of Parachinar in northwestern Kurram agency. A protest ensued after the bomber detonated his explosive vest in the Shia-majority neighborhood. Police shot at the protestors and killed three people. The leader of a breakaway faction of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan Fazal Saeed claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that the Shia community in Parachinar was targeted “because they were involved in activities against us.” Saeed, who is said to have close ties to the Haqqani Network, warned the political administration of Parachinar to “stop siding with the Shia community in all our disputes.”[11]

  • Unidentified assailants set fire to four oil tankers of the National Logistics Cell (NLC) in the Port Qasim area of Karachi on Friday. The Express Tribune reported that members of the All Pakistan Oil Tankers Association committed the arson to protest the National Refinery’s decision to stop supplying oil to the association and start supplying it to the NLC. Traffic was suspended on the National Highway as a result of the attack. There was an exchange of gunfire as police opened fire in an attempt to disperse the crowd, and protesters returned fire.[12]

  • On Thursday, a low-intensity blast occurred during a historic festival, the Sibi Mela, at the Chakar Khan Stadium in Balochistan, when an improvised explosive device planted near the entrance to the stadium exploded. No one was injured in the explosion, said security officials.[13]

  • Five militants and three militia members were killed in the Spindand area of Khyber agency on Friday during an armed clash involving Pakistani troops, a local government-sponsored militia and the anti-state militant group Lashkar-e-Islam.[14]

  • Three people were killed and nine others injured, when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the District Coordination Office in the Upper Dir district, where a Qaumi Lashkar (tribal army) rally was underway.[15]

  • The secretary general of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F)’s Quetta chapter, Abdul Sadiq Norzai, was kidnapped Thursday by a group of armed men on Saryab Road in Quetta. JUI-F activists have been holding demonstrations and strikes to protest the kidnapping.[16]

  • Law enforcement officials recovered explosive material and two mortar shells from a car parked near the Excise Office on Saryab Road in Quetta.[17]

  • During a routine check on Thursday, Frontier Corps (FC) troops intercepted a truck, en route to Quetta from Chaman, seized a large quantity of explosive materials, and arrested three suspects.[18]

International Relations

  • In an effort to rid the Afghan army of Taliban militants and sympathizers, the Afghan military has created a policy requiring soldiers with families in Pakistan to either move their relatives to Afghanistan or leave the army. According to Afghan officials, the catalyst for creating the policy was a number of recent incidents where Afghan soldiers secretly working for the Taliban launched attacks against NATO or Afghan forces. The Afghan Defense Ministry has not yet approved the policy, but Afghan officials have already compiled lists of soldiers with ties to Pakistan and have begun implementing the policy in some areas. The officials are still considering whether or not to apply the policy nationwide, in which case it could affect several thousand soldiers. Afghan commanders stressed the need to act, saying that “the connection between sleeper agents and time spent in Pakistan is well documented,” and when the soldiers are in Pakistan, “they can be influenced and intimidated by the enemy.”[19]

  • Reko Diq, an untapped copper and gold mine in Balochistan, was meant to be the source of a huge foreign investment from Tethyan Copper Company (TCC), yielding “revenues of at least $60 billion over the 56-year life of the mine.” According to TCC, the Balochistan government abruptly refused to grant TCC a mining license last year, with no explanation whatsoever. A local government official said that TCC was “cheating” Balochistan by “under-valuing the worth of the copper and gold.” The case is currently before Pakistan’s Supreme Court, and TCC has sought international arbitration.[20]

 

[1] “Pakistan will not help US attack on Iran: Zardari,” Geo, February 17, 2012. Available at http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=35717
[2] “Pakistan denies armed forces playing double game,” Dawn, February 17, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/02/17/ahmadinejad-complains-of-outside-interference-in-region.html
[3] “Trilateral summit: Zardari denies army involved with militants in Afghanistan,” The Express Tribune, February 17, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/337834/resumption-of-nato-supplies-will-benefit-both-afghanistan-pakistan-karzai/
[4] Saeed Shah, “Hamid Karzai confronts Pakistan leadership,” Guardian, February 16, 2012. Available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/feb/16/hamid-karzai-confronts-pakistan-leadership
[5] Alex Rodriguez and Laura King, “Afghan leader Hamid Karzai seeks Pakistan help in Taliban talks,” Los Angeles Times, February 17, 2012. Available at http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-afghanistan-pakistan-20120217,0,7908066.story
[6] Serena Chaudhry, “U.S.-Taliban talks only ‘exploratory’-Afghan envoy,” Reuters, February 17, 2012. Available at http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/02/16/afghanistan-taliban-idINDEE81F01720120216
[7] “Pakistan warns Afghanistan against ‘ridiculous’ expectations on Taliban peace talks,” Associated Press, February 17, 2012. Available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia-pacific/afghan-leader-asks-for-pakistan-help-in-ending-war-ahead-of-summit-with-iranian-leader/2012/02/16/gIQAlc3jIR_story.html
[8] Baqir Sajjad Syed, “Ahmadinejad gets assurance: Gas, power projects to go ahead,” Dawn, February 17, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/02/17/ahmadinejad-gets-assurance-gas-power-projects-to-go-ahead.html
[9] Michael Hirsh, “An Alliance Means Having to Say You’re Sorry,” National Journal, February 16, 2012. Available at http://nationaljournal.com/nationalsecurity/an-alliance-means-having-to-say-you-re-sorry-20120216
[10] Huma Imtiaz, “US expresses concern over Hafiz Saeed’s public appearances,” The Express Tribune, February 17, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/337705/us-express-concern-over-hafiz-saeeds-public-appearances/
“Difa-e-Pakistan Council Rally in Karachi,” U.S. State Department, February 16, 2012. Available at http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2012/02/184060.htm
[11] Ali Afzaal, “Suicide bomber kills 26 in NW Pakistan, ignites protest,” Reuters, February 17, 2012. Available at http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/17/us-pakistan-bombing-idUSTRE81G0NY20120217
“Pakistan suicide bombing leaves many dead,” Aljazeera, February 17, 2012. Available at http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia/2012/02/201221711501857202.html
“26 killed, 36 injured in Parachinar blast,” The Express Tribune, February 17, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/337852/5-killed-in-parachinar-suicide-blast/
[12] “Four NLC oil tankers torched in Karachi,” The Express Tribune, February 17, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/337866/four-nlc-oil-tankers-torched-in-karachi/
[13] “Small IED explosion at Sibi Mela causes stampede, no injuries,” The Express Tribune, February 16, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/337487/many-injured-in-sibi-mela-explosion/
[14] “Eight killed in clash in Khyber,” AFP, February 17, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/02/17/eight-killed-in-clash-in-khyber.html
[15] “Three killed in suicide attack near Dir DCO office,” Daily Times, February 17, 2012. Available at http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\02\17\story_17-2-2012_pg1_4
[16] “JUI-F leader kidnapped in Quetta,” Daily Times, February 17, 2012. Available at http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\02\17\story_17-2-2012_pg7_2
[17] “FC foils terror bid in Balochistan,” Daily Times, February 17, 2012. Available at http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\02\17\story_17-2-2012_pg7_10
[18] “FC foils terror bid in Balochistan,” Daily Times, February 17, 2012. Available at http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\02\17\story_17-2-2012_pg7_10
[19] Kevin Sieff, “Fearing infiltration, Afghan army gives soldiers with ties to Pakistan an ultimatum,” The Washington Post, February 16, 2012. Available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/aghan-army-resorts-to-tough-measures-to-combat-taliban-infiltration/2012/02/16/gIQA7SFcIR_story.html
[20] Chris Allbritton, “Fool's Gold? Pakistan mine rift exposes investor risk,” Reuters, February 17, 2012. Available at http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/02/17/us-pakistan-goldmine-idUKTRE81G06E20120217