Pakistan Security Brief – February 21, 2012

Afghan President asks Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam faction leader and cleric Maulana Samiul Haq to help mediate talks with Afghan Taliban; Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs lodges “strong protest” with U.S. Charge d’ Affaires Ambassador over U.S. Congress’ resolution on Balochistan; Officials report that Pakistani Taliban’s campaign of high-profile kidnappings is widespread; Interrogation video suggests al Qaeda has cut ties with Jemaah Islamiyah; U.S. pushes Pakistan to allow U.S. bases in Balochistan; Death toll rises to 41 in Friday’s explosion in Kurram agency; Difaa-e-Pakistan Council holds rally in Islamabad; Mansoor Ijaz to testify via videoconference before “memogate” commission on Wednesday; Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik reveals details of investigation into Benazir Bhutto’s murder; Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government and FATA Secretariat order 185 Afghan refugees to leave Pakistan; Foreign Minister Hina Khar to meet with British officials and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in London.

 

International Relations

  • On Saturday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai asked Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam faction chief and cleric Maulana Samiul Haq in Pakistan to “help mediate talks with the Afghan Taliban.” Haq, who has strong ties to the Taliban, agreed to Karzai’s request on the condition that the Afghan government had “specific offers and demands.” Haq relayed to Karzai the two central demands of the Taliban: the exit of all foreign troops from Afghanistan and the release of Afghan Taliban prisoners from U.S. detention centers. Haq also told Karzai that unless Pakistan changes its “pro-U.S. policy,” there would be no place for Pakistani leaders in the Afghan peace process.[1]

  • Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar arrived in the U.K. on Monday for three days of meetings with British officials, as well as a meeting in London on Thursday with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. According to Dawn, Khar plans to seek assistance from the U.K. in ending U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan. According to Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit, the purpose of Khar’s visit was to “hold dialogue on ‘enhanced strategic’ relations with the UK and to enhance bilateral cooperation in economy, trade and education.”[2]

  • On Sunday, Dawn reported that the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) Secretariat has ordered 185 Afghan refugees living in Pakistan and employed by the Afghan government to leave Pakistan within a month, or else legal action would be taken against them. The order comes after an announcement by Pakistani officials on February 5 that all illegal Afghan refugees must leave Pakistan by the end of 2012, or they will be deported. According to the Afghan Embassy spokesman, the decision was jointly taken by Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, because the current unrest in Pakistan is not conducive to hosting thousands of refugees.[3]

  • On Monday, Britain’s Court of Appeal accepted the U.S. government’s refusal to release a Pakistani man from a U.S. military prison in Afghanistan. Yunus Rahmatullah has been in U.S. custody for eight years, and won a writ of habeas corpus in December requiring British officials to bring him before the court. Rahmatullah was originally seized by British forces in Iraq in 2004, and subsequently turned over to U.S. forces at Bagram air base in Afghanistan. Clive Stafford Smith, director of legal rights group Reprieve, claims that men such as Rahmatullah “continue to be held in breach of the Geneva Conventions, with no one having been held accountable for the crimes committed against them.” Rahmatullah’s attorneys filed a complaint with Scotland Yard following the decision of the Court of Appeal.[4]

U.S.-Pakistan Relations

  • On Monday, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs lodged a “strong protest” with U.S. Charge d’ Affaires Ambassador Richard Hoagland regarding a resolution on Balochistan tabled in the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday. Pakistani officials asked Hoagland to convey their concern to the U.S. administration, stating that the resolution is contrary to the “spirit of friendly relations” and violates international law. In a televised statement on Saturday, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani claimed that the U.S. resolution violates Pakistan’s sovereignty. According to The Express Tribune, the bill “calls upon Pakistan to recognize the Baloch right to self-determination.” On Saturday, U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland stated that the “hearings don’t necessarily imply that the U.S. government endorses one view or another view,” adding that the U.S. “encourages all the parties in Balochistan to work out their differences peacefully and through a valid political process.” A resolution was filed in the Punjab Assembly secretariat in response to the U.S. bill, demanding U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter to appear before the house and provide an explanation.[5]

  • Security and diplomatic officials told The Express Tribune on Sunday that the U.S. has been pushing Pakistan for permission to establish bases near the Iranian border in Balochistan for intelligence operations against Iran. According to one of the officials, the February 8 U.S. Congressional hearing on Balochistan, and the proposed resolution tabled in the U.S. House of Representatives on February 17 for the “Baloch right to self-determination,” were being used as “pressure tactics.” However, Pakistan would “never allow” the U.S. to “use [Pakistan’s] soil against Iran,” said the official.[6]

Memogate and Mansoor Ijaz

  • Mansoor Ijaz, central player in the memogate scandal, is scheduled to record his testimony via video conference on Wednesday at the London High Commission. Mansoor stated that he will present the commission with a physical record of “BlackBerry and email conversations between himself and [former ambassador to the U.S.] Husain Haqqani,” as well as new evidence that “will shock many in the government.” Zahid Bukhari, counsel to Haqqani, will not appear before the judicial commission in London on Wednesday because he received his U.K. visa “too late.”[7]

  • Court documents recently surfaced showing that the New York State Supreme Court issued a judgment against “memogate” witness Mansoor Ijaz on September 25, 2010, ordering him to pay $1.47 million to Banca Sammarinese di Investimento (BSI) of San Marino, which had filed a lawsuit against Ijaz for recovery of a loan. BSI alleged that it opened credit lines for Ijaz and his companies, The Ijaz Group Inc. and Aquarius, which according to BSI, had no employees, never filed tax returns, and conducted no business against which the bank could recover money. In its complaint, BSI stated that Ijaz’s representation to the bank was “false, willful and fraudulent,” and he used the companies as a cover, so that he could use the lines of credit extended to the companies for his own personal needs, including paying his mortgages. According to BSI’s attorney, the bank is preparing to begin collection enforcement proceedings because Ijaz has not yet paid the $1.47 million.[8]

Domestic Politics

  • On Monday, the Difaa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC), or Defense of Pakistan Council, an umbrella party of religious extremist groups, held a rally in Islamabad where “speakers denounced U.S. intervention in Pakistan, and protesters chanted anti-American slogans.” Approximately 3,000 people attended the rally, many chanting “Death to America” and “No to NATO.” BBC reported that one speaker in particular called for “every child in Pakistan to join the jihad, or Holy War.” According to a Dawn article, the rally exposed rivalries between the group’s organizers. Several party leaders were booed by supporters of other parties, showing a lack of unity among followers of the roughly “40 parties and groups [that] form the DPC.”[9]

  • On Tuesday, Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik revealed the details of the investigation into former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s murder. Speaking to the Sindh Assembly, Malik blamed former president Pervez Musharraf for Bhutto’s death, claiming that the former president denied Bhutto the security she required. Malik told parliament that Bhutto’s murder was chiefly planned by Baitullah Mehsud, the Haqqani network, and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, although 27 terrorist groups assisted in the execution of that plan. Malik vowed to bring Musharraf to Pakistan, and said he would issue a red notice and involve Interpol’s assistance in Musharraf’s return.[10]

  • In an attempt to prosecute nearly 900 accused terrorists, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government is requesting that witnesses come forward to testify before the court. On Monday, K-P Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Barrister Arshad Abdullah stated that “security agencies are in the process of handing over around 700 to 900 prisoners to the provincial government.” Abdullah added that the government has publicly called for the support of witnesses because many are “unwilling to appear.”[11]

  • On Monday, Pakistan’s Senate unanimously passed a bill outlawing domestic violence against women and children. Under the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill, men found guilty of domestic violence will face up to six months in jail, accompanied by a fine up to $1,100. The bill was already passed by the National Assembly in August 2009, and will go into effect as soon as President Asif Ali Zardari signs it into law.[12]

  • Express News reported that 11 people, including a medical officer and several health workers were suspended from their duties on Sunday for allegedly conspiring with Dr. Shakeel Afridi, the Pakistani doctor who assisted the CIA in locating Osama bin Laden last year.[13]

Militancy

  • The Pakistani Taliban’s campaign of kidnappings for ransom, which started three years ago, has spread to every major city in Pakistan, say security officials. It targets high-profile victims such as wealthy businessmen, academics and foreign aid workers, or members of sectarian minorities such as Hindus, Shias and Ahmadis. The Pakistani Taliban says the “kidnappings earn valuable funds, offer leverage to free imprisoned fighters and are a political statement” against U.S. efforts to drive out al Qaeda. According to security officials, the business is run like a “mobster racket,” in which Pakistani and foreign militant commanders in Waziristan give the orders, while hired criminals and members of the “Punjabi Taliban” carry them out. Ransom demands typically range between $500,000 and $2.2 million, however the final price is often much less, and even though the government does not encourage payment of ransom, because it finances the insurgency, it often gives–in to ransom demands for lack of any alternatives. The Pakistani Taliban’s range is far-reaching, due to its alliances with groups such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni sectarian group, which dominates the Punjabi Taliban and has strong ties with al Qaeda.[14]

  • Alleged bomb maker Umar Patek, a top Indonesian terror suspect captured in Abbottabad four months prior to the raid by U.S. forces on Osama bin Laden’s compound, insists he was unaware of bin Laden’s presence in the city. The Associated Press obtained a 30-minute video of Patek’s interrogation by Indonesian police, in which he denies any association with the former al Qaeda leader. If Patek’s statements are true, this could indicate that Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asian terrorist movement responsible for the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings, is “now largely cut off from its long-standing [al Qaeda] sponsorship.”[15]

  • Acting on a tip, police raided a house in Thall sub-district of Hangu district on Saturday. The police arrested two suspected terrorists of Afghan nationality and seized explosive materials.[16]

  • Local police defused a 15-kilogram remote controlled bomb planted along the Jhandi-Darsamand road in Hangu district on Monday.[17]

  • The death toll rose for Friday’s suicide bombing outside a mosque in a Shia-majority neighborhood in Parachinar, Kurram agency rose to 41 over the weekend. On Monday, security forces destroyed three houses in lower Kurram agency belonging to Fazal Saeed, the militant commander who claimed responsibility for Friday’s bomb blast.[18]

  • On Saturday, a remote-controlled explosion targeting a paramilitary force convoy in Dera Bugti killed two security personnel and injured nine others. The Baloch Republican Army (BRA) claimed responsibility for the blast.[19]

  • Militants armed with automatic weapons attacked the Riaz Shaheed Police Post in Sarband village located on the boundary between Khyber agency and Peshawar on Monday, injuring a policeman.[20]

  • Three people were killed in two separate incidents of gunfire in Quetta on Monday night. In the first incident, unidentified assailants opened fire on a general store, killing its owner and one other person. The second incident involved a furniture store owner who was shot and killed by unidentified assailants as he was returning home from work.[21]

  • At least 11 people were killed and dozens injured in an armed clash between Lashkar-e-Islam (LI) and the Zakhakhel tribal militia over control of a checkpoint in the Nari Baba area of Tirah Valley, Khyber agency on Saturday.[22]



[1] Reza Sayah, “Cleric: Karzai sought help to mediate Afghan Taliban talks,” CNN, February 18, 2012. Available at http://edition.cnn.com/2012/02/18/world/asia/pakistan-afghanistan-karzai-taliban/ 
Tahir Khan, “Afghan peace: Taliban willing to talk are killed or arrested, says Karzai,” The Express Tribune, February 19, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/338600/afghan-peace-taliban-willing-to-talk-are-killed-or-arrested-says-karzai/
[2] Amir Wasim, “Khar to seek UK help against drone raids,” Dawn, February 19, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/02/20/khar-to-seek-uk-help-against-drone-raids.html
“UK visit: Khar expected to meet Clinton in London,” The Express Tribune, February 21, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/339492/uk-visit-khar-expected-to-meet-clinton-in-london/
“Quiet Hina-Hillary meeting in London on 23rd,” The News International, February 21, 2012. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=12591&Cat=13
[3] “KPK, Fata governments order deportation of 185 Afghan refugees,” Dawn, February 19, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/02/19/kpk-fata-governments-order-deportation-of-185-afghan-refugees.html
Qaiser Yousafzai, “Pakistan to expel illegal Afghans until end of 2012,” Pajhwok Afghan News, February 5, 2012. Available at http://www.pajhwok.com/en/2012/02/05/pakistan-expel-illegal-afghans-until-end-2012
[4] Robert Barr, “Bagram prisoner’s bid for freedom rebuffed in UK,” Associated Press, February 20, 2012. Available at http://articles.boston.com/2012-02-20/news/31080209_1_habeas-corpus-war-crimes-writ
Ian Cobain, “Yunus Rahmatullah case complaint lodged with Scotland Yard,” Guardian, February 21, 2012. Available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/feb/20/yunus-rahmatullah-complaint-scotland-yard?newsfeed=true
[5] “FO summons acting US ambassador over Balochistan bill,” The Express Tribune, February 21, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/339146/fo-summons-acting-us-ambassador-over-balochistan-bill/
“Sharp reaction: Pakistan erupts at US over Balochistan resolution,” The Express Tribune, February 19, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/338612/sharp-reaction-pakistan-erupts-at-us-over-balochistan-resolution/
[6] Zia Khan, “Eavesdropping on Iran: ‘US pressing for listening posts in Balochistan,’” The Express Tribune, February 20, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/338996/eavesdropping-on-iran-us-pressing-for-listening-posts-in-balochistan/
[7] “Ijaz’s testimony to be recorded tomorrow,” Dawn, February 21, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/02/21/counsel-of-haqqani-granted-visa-to-london.html
“Mansoor Ijaz’s testimony: Haqqani’s lawyer received UK visa ‘too late,’” The Express Tribune, February 21, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/339583/haqqanis-lawyer-receives-uk-visa-a-day-before-memo-commission-leaves/
Murtaza Ali Shah, “All set for Mansoor’s testimony in memogate,” The News International, February 21, 2012. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=93810&Cat=2
[8] “Mansoor Ijaz ordered to pay $1.4m to bank in fraud case,” Daily Times, February 18, 2012. Available at http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012%5C02%5C18%5Cstory_18-2-2012_pg7_16
“New York court ruled against Mansoor Ijaz in fraud case,” The News International, February 19, 2012. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=93490&Cat=2
[9] Kalbe Ali, “One-upmanship mars latest Defence of Pakistan rally,” Dawn, February 21, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/02/21/one-upmanship-mars-latest-defence-of-pakistan-rally.html
“Pakistanis hard-line groups stage Islamabad rally,” BBC News, February 20, 2012. Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-17098537
“Thousands shout ‘death to America’ in DoP rally,” BBC News, February 20, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/02/20/dpc-set-to-hold-rally-in-capital-despite-ban-on-members.html
[10] “Benazir assassination: Malik vows to bring Musharraf to Pakistan,” The Express Tribune, February 21, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/339639/benazir-assassination-rehman-malik-briefs-sindh-assembly/
“Malik says 27 terrorist groups involved in Benizar’s murder,” Dawn, February 21, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/02/21/benazir-murder-planners-still-at-large-says-malik.html
[11] Umer Farooq, “Witnesses wanted: Agencies to hand over 900 terror suspects to K-P govt,” The Express Tribune, February 21, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/339507/witnesses-wanted-agencies-to-hand-over-900-terror-suspects-to-k-p-govt/
[12] Myra Imran, “Senate unanimously approves,” The News International, February 21, 2012. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=93796&Cat=6
“Senate unanimously passes Domestic Violence Bill,” AFP, February 20, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/339308/senate-unanimously-passes-domestic-violence-bill/
[13] “Bin Laden informer: 11 accomplices of Dr Afridi suspended from duties,” The Express Tribune, February 19, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/338690/bin-laden-informer-11-accomplices-of-dr-afridi-suspended-from-duties/
[14] Declan Walsh, “Taliban Gaining More Resources From Kidnapping,” The New York Times, February 19, 2012. Available at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/20/world/asia/pakistani-taliban-turn-to-kidnapping-to-finance-operations.html?partner=rss&emc=rss
[15] Niniek Karmini, “Al-Qaida links with Southeast Asia fraying,” The Associated Press, February 19, 2012. Available at http://militarytimes.com/news/2012/02/ap-al-qaida-links-with-southeast-asia-fraying-021912/
[16] Saleh Din Orakzai, “Two Afghan nationals arrested with explosives,” The News International, February 19, 2012. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=93501&Cat=2
[17] “Bomb defused,” Dawn, February 20, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/02/21/bomb-defused-3.html
[18] “Houses of militant commander behind Parachinar blast demolished,” Geo, February 20, 2012. Available at http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=36257
“Parachinar suicide blast, firing toll soars to 41,” Dawn, February 18, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/02/19/parachinar-suicide-blast-firing-toll-soars-to-41.html
[19] Shehzad Baloch, “Two security personnel killed in Dera Bugti,” The Express Tribune, February 19, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/338317/blast-kills-two-security-personnel-in-dera-bugti/
[20] “Cop injured in check-post attack,” The News International, February 21, 2012. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=93822&Cat=2
[21] “Landmines, firing leave 7 dead in Balochistan,” The Express Tribune, February 21, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/339468/landmines-firing-leave-7-dead-in-balochistan/
[22] “11 Lashkar men, two militants killed in Khyber,” The News International, February 20, 2012. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=12583&Cat=13