Pakistan Security Brief - January 12, 2012
Prime Minister Gilani attempts to de-escalate civil-military crisis; President Zardari flies to UAE amid rumors of military coup; New commander appointed to head 111 “coup” Brigade; Senate elections to be held on March 2; Pakistani Supreme Court to hear Husain Haqqani’s petition in “memogate” matter; Second U.S. drone strike in two days; Parliament to restrict U.S. and NATO use of Pakistani airspace; Pakistan speeds up construction of natural gas pipeline from Iran; Pentagon declares U.S. will stay out of internal conflicts in Pakistan; Pakistan’s nuclear material ranked second least secure in the world; Fourteen Pakistani paramilitary soldiers killed by Baloch separatists; Sindh High Court advocate gunned down in Karachi; Pakistan cautions UN Security Council against premature action in Syria.
Domestic Politics and Military
- Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani made attempts to de-escalate the ongoing civil-military crisis following his sacking of the Defense Secretary, retired Gen. Naeem Lodhi, and emergency meetings held by the army top brass in response. Relations between the two have been fraught since the “memogate” scandal pitted the army and government against each other with the country’s judiciary appearing to take the side of the army. Gilani attempted to lower temperatures by saying that the army had apprised him beforehand of public statements it made strongly challenging accusations made by the Prime Minister against Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani and the army’s top spy Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha; Gilani said he had no objection to the statement’s release. The Supreme Court has complicated the issue by questioning Gilani’s honesty and competence and threatening to sack him for not fulfilling the oath of his office in reopening old corruption cases against the government. Fears that Gilani would try and fire Kayani and Pasha have prompted some private petitioners to file cases in the Supreme Court seeking to restrict the government’s ability to dismiss the top military and intelligence officials.
- Amid the civil-military crisis, President Asif Ali Zardari further inflamed rumors that a military coup was in the offing by flying to the UAE. According to some sources, Zardari had gone to the UAE for one day for a pre-scheduled wedding; other sources claimed the trip was for medical treatment. Zardari had previously sparked rumors of a coup when he flew to the UAE in early December, allegedly for medical treatment, during a period of intense civil-military strife.
- The Rawalpindi-based 111 Brigade of the Pakistan Army received a new commander on Wednesday in the person of Brigadier Sarfraz Ali. The 111 Brigade is “an infantry brigade of the Pakistan Army, notorious for its frequent involvement and fast response in military coup d’états.” While the brigade’s last commander had been recently promoted and was due to be rotated out, the timing of the announcement created a swirl of rumors due to the current tension between the Pakistani military and civilian government.
- On Thursday, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announced that Senate elections will officially be held on March 2. The ECP will be accepting candidate nomination papers on February 13-14. Candidates will have until February 24 to withdraw their name, at which time the candidate list will become finalized. The Senate, Pakistan’s upper house, is mostly elected by parliamentarians in the country’s provincial assemblies.
- On January 17, the review petition of former Pakistani ambassador to the U.S. Husain Haqqani, a central player in the memogate scandal, will come before the Pakistani Supreme Court. The hearing will be headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry who will lead the 11-member bench. In his petition, Haqqani has questioned whether or not the orders issued by the court in the memogate matter adhere to Pakistan’s Constitution.
- In Peshawar, authorities are planning to construct a “diplomatic enclave” in an effort to “upgrade security for foreign diplomats.” This enclave would reduce the risk of a terrorist attack attempting to disrupt diplomatic and sensitive missions. According to The Express Tribune, the Home and Tribal Affairs Department of Khyber-Pakhtukhwa (K-P) is attempting to secure remote offices and residencies for all UN officials. These measures are an effort to reduce the threat posed to foreign diplomats visiting the provincial capital city.
- Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) leader Syed Munawwar Hasan will lead a demonstration and sit-in protesting the administration’s “bad governance, corruption, price hikes and energy crisis” in Islamabad on January 15. JI Islamabad leader Mian Muhammad Aslam said that the protest “would be the start of a new phase of effective countrywide agitation to get rid of the corrupt government.” 
- Jamshed Dasti, a member of the National Assembly from Muzaffargarh, announced on Wednesday that he was resigning from the PPP. Thursday, after a meeting with Faryal Talpur, Dasti retracted his resignation and decided to stay with the party and the National Assembly.
- Two days after resuming drone strikes, a second U.S. drone strike killed five militants in the North Waziristan area of Pakistan on Thursday. According to an intelligence official, the missiles hit two cars travelling towards the Afghan border that were carrying several foreigners of unknown nationalities.
- The Pakistani Parliamentary Committee on National Security plans to deny U.S. and NATO forces the use of Pakistani airspace unless they secure the prior approval of Parliament. According to The News, the Parliamentary Committee has said that “all the overt and covert agreements with the United States would require validation of parliament or they wound have no validity.” The decision will be forwarded to the Speaker of the National Assembly and will await final approval from the two houses. The Parliamentary Committee has made 40 recommendations in an effort to reshape the U.S.-Pakistani relationship. Additionally, the Committee “said in unison that there was no room for any drone attacks inside the Pakistani territory.”
- Pakistan has decided to “fast-track the construction of a natural gas pipeline from Iran.” Pakistan’s decision was made despite objections by the U.S., which could ultimately lead to Pakistan violating the terms of U.S. sanctions on Tehran. McClatchy Newspapers reports that the demand for natural gas in Pakistan is twenty-five percent greater than the supply, which brought the economy to a near standstill in December 2011. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said that the decision to hasten the construction of the pipeline was made in part due to Pakistan’s need to strengthen ties with Iran, China, India, and Afghanistan because of the troubled Western economies. President Zardari emphasized that Pakistan’s “priority is the needs of its population of nearly 200 million people,” thus it “will not limit its commercial relations with any country because of the political whims of any outside power.” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland reiterated U.S. concerns about the deal, and claims that we “will continue to talk to Pakistan about it."
- A Pentagon spokesperson stated on Wednesday that it had “neither sought nor received assurances” that there would not be a coup in Pakistan in the coming weeks. The spokesperson claimed that the U.S. would not involve itself in the matter, and would let the Pakistani leadership resolve the conflict on its own. On Tuesday, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, spoke with Pakistani army chief Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. The details of the meeting have not been disclosed by the Pentagon. Similarly, on Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Sherry Rehman, the new Pakistani ambassador to the United States. According to State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland, the meeting was intended as a means to get the U.S.-Pakistan relationship “back on track in all of its elements in the New Year.” Ambassador Rehman is scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama on January 18.
- The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) ranked Pakistan’s nuclear material the second least secure in the world. The NTI is a project led by the Economist Intelligence Unit and former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn and ranks the security of nuclear material in “32 nations that possess at least one kilogram of weapons-usable nuclear materials.”
- On Wednesday evening, 14 paramilitary soldiers were killed near the Turbat area of Balochistan by at least two dozen Baloch separatists. Fighters from the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) fired rocket-propelled grenades at the military convoy and then opened fire on the Frontier Corps (FC) vehicles. Responding FC and local police engaged the attackers in a firefight shortly thereafter. It is still unknown if any of the BLF assailants were killed or injured in the firefight.
- On Wednesday, Sindh High Court Advocate Maqboolur Rehman was gunned down while in his vehicle in Karachi. Rehman, who had been working on a number of missing persons cases, had been suffering harassment and receiving death threats for years. He had informed the police about the threats and filed a petition with the High Court seeking security. Representatives of the legal fraternity are condemning the murder and holding a strike at the city courts on Friday.
- The head of militant group Jundul Khyber, Rafiq alias Akhlaq, was killed in a skirmish in Khyber Agency on Wednesday by members of the Ansarul Islam (AI). Akhlaq instigated the firefight with AI by throwing a hand-grenade and opening fire on the group. His actions led to an exchange of fire, which ultimately ended in his demise, and the capture of three Jundul Khyber militants.
- In an exchange of gunfire, four militants were killed and one security officer was wounded, when militants attacked a security forces’ check post on Thursday in the Orakzai tribal region. According to government sources, “ninety percent of the Orakzai tribal region has been cleared of militants,” and military operations in the area are still ongoing.
- Two unknown assailants on a motorcycle shot and killed Head Constable Sher Afzal from the Awami Colony police station outside his home in the Quaidabad area of Karachi.
- During a meeting of the UN Security Council on Tuesday, Pakistan’s representative to the UN Abdullah Hussain Haroon told the council that it must not act hastily in regard to the violent unrest in Syria. The Arab League monitors should have more time to observe the situation and obtain accurate figures on casualties, advised Haroon. He also emphasized that the council must not take any action that would “infringe upon the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria.”
- On Wednesday, Prime Minister Gilani stated that Pakistan “wanted to enhance strategic partnership with the United Kingdom and expand trade relations.” Gilani will be visiting the U.K. in April 2012 to meet with British leadership in the government and business community. Prime Minister Gilani and Prime Minister Cameron agreed in April 2011 that “all possible efforts would be made to increase bilateral trade between the two countries to 2.5 billion pounds by 2015.”