Pakistan Security Brief – January 17, 2012

Supreme Court of Pakistan rules Prime Minister Reza Gilani in contempt of court; Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud reportedly killed in U.S. drone strike; President Asif Zardari and Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani meet to discuss civil-military crisis; Bomb explodes near Shia religious procession in Punjab, killing eighteen; Suicide bombers attack offices of district police in Dera Ismail Khan; Pakistan and Afghan governments agree to resume Taliban talks; Prime Minister Gilani refuses to retract criticism of military; President Zardari agrees to hold early elections; U.S. and Pakistan resume intelligence cooperation and work towards a “new normal;” Sixty-two percent of Pakistanis  think Supreme Court is “not overstepping its mandate,” reports Gallup Pakistan; Foreign Minister Hina Khar reiterates government’s commitment to Pakistan-Iran Gas Pipeline Project; International aid groups within Pakistan claim they are being sidelined by government.

Civil-Military Crisis

  • On Monday, Pakistan’s Supreme Court initiated contempt of court proceedings against Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. The contempt notice came after Gilani refused to follow court orders to reopen a money laundering and corruption case against President Asif Ali Zardari. Gilani ignored the court orders based on the government’s position that Zardari has constitutional immunity as president. The Supreme Court has ordered the prime minister to appear before it on Thursday to “explain his position.” Gilani stated that he would appear before the court on Thursday, and that he did “not want any confrontation with any institution including the courts.” If the Supreme Court rules against the Gilani he could be in danger of losing his position as prime minister and face possible jail time. One of Gilani’s aides has spoken out claiming that the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) “will continue to refuse to reopen the Zardari graft case” and is “mentally ready to nominate a new prime minister.” During a Monday night meeting of the PPP leadership, Gilani said that he was “willing to make a sacrifice for the sake of his country,” and proposed he step down from his position as prime minister. However, several party leaders and federal ministers said that they would continue to stand behind the prime minister “in adopting a stance that is correct, respectful and constitutional.” On Tuesday, Gilani’s attorney filed a petition against the contempt notice, claiming that “the prime minister enjoyed the same immunity as the president.”[1]

  • Pakistan’s Parliament passed a resolution on Monday that “backed the government's efforts to ‘strengthen democracy,’ but stopped short of criticizing the military.” The resolution, endorsed by the majority of the National Assembly, calls for the Army and Supreme Court to “remain within their constitutional limits,” supports “the efforts of the political leadership to strengthen democracy” and puts “full confidence and trust in them.” Gilani praised the resolution, referring to the votes as “a welcome day for democracy.”[2]

  • On Sunday, Prime Minister Gilani refused to retract or clarify his recent criticisms of Gen. Kayani and Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, claiming that he “will not answer to a person” and that he is only “answerable to parliament.” In an interview with Chinese media last week he criticized both men for the unconstitutional filings of court papers in the “memogate” case.  On Saturday, Gen. Kayani demanded that Gilani’s comments be retracted or clarified; a demand that Gilani has refused to meet. According to Reuters, the prime minister stated that “what [he] said was not an accusation…rules and procedures were not followed.”[3]

  • The Defense Coordination Committee met Saturday, allowing civil and military leaders to talk face-to-face for the first time in over a month since the civil-military crisis erupted. During these talks, Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani met separately with both President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani to discuss the “current security situation.” President Zardari told Pakistani television that the meeting would “improve the tense situation.” According to The New York Times, General Kayani is “being pressed by hard-liners inside his own ranks to take a tougher stance with Mr. Zardari.”[4]

  • Pakistan’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, Gen. Khalid Shameem Wynne, met with President Zardari on Monday as a follow-up to Zardari’s Saturday meeting with Gen. Kayani. While details of the meeting have not been released, according the Zardari’s office, “professional matters pertaining to the armed forces were discussed during the meeting.” Dawn reports that “knowledgeable sources contended that [the meeting] focused on finding a way out of the ongoing impasse.”[5]

Militancy

  • According to Pakistani intelligence officials, Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud was killed during a U.S. drone strike on January 12. Officials said they intercepted militant radio communications, in which Taliban members said Mehsud was killed while travelling to a meeting in North Waziristan. A senior military official said there has been no official confirmation of Mehsud’s death, and a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban denied that their leader was killed. Previous reports of Mehsud’s death, including claims that he was killed in a 2010 drone strike, have been proven false. Early this month, CIA officials cancelled a drone strike in the North Waziristan area, after they asked and were denied Islamabad’s permission for the strike. A week later, when the U.S. wanted to launch another drone strike in the area, the CIA reportedly informed Pakistan, but did not seek permission, and went ahead with two strikes. According to security analysts, the U.S. and Pakistan seem to have resumed intelligence cooperation and “joint counterintelligence operations by the CIA and Pakistan’s military spy agency.”[6]

  • A remote-controlled bomb exploded near a Shia religious procession in Khanpur, Punjab, killing eighteen people and wounding thirty others. Shia Muslims were celebrating the holy day of Chehlum, one of the major holy days in the Shia calendar. “No organization has claimed responsibility for the attack, but South Punjab is home to Pakistan’s deadliest Sunni militant group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which is notoriously anti-Shia,” said a BBC correspondent.[7]

  • Four suicide bombers wearing jackets filled with explosives and armed with hand grenades and automatic rifles attacked the offices of the District Police Officer (DPO) in Dera Ismail Khan district on Saturday. A policeman and three civilians were killed, while eight others, including seven police officers were injured. According to the Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police Syed Imtiaz Shah, the Quick Response Force and the Elite Force of the police along with an armored personnel carrier (APC) immediately engaged the bombers, killing all four of them.[8]

  • Six people were killed during a clash between security forces and armed militants in the Chamalang region of Quetta, Balochistan on Monday. According to official sources, security forces were setting up a check post when the militants attacked, and many of the attackers were killed or injured in the ensuing fight.[9]

  • Security personnel were injured when unknown militants detonated a roadside bomb targeting a food supply convoy near the Landi Kotal army camp in Khyber agency on Saturday. In another incident, unidentified gunmen opened fire on a police mobile van during a routine patrol in Charsadda district. There were no casualties, and the militants managed to escape after an exchange of gunfire.[10]

  • On Monday, two police officers were killed when unknown gunmen opened fire on their vehicle on the Kohat-Rawalpindi Road. The gunmen managed to escape after the attack.[11]

  • Police forces arrested four militants involved in the Thursday night attack on a security check post in Sarband during a search operation in the area. Two of the seven militants killed during the attack have been identified as leaders of the Khyber Agency-based militant group Lashkar-e-Islam.[12]

Domestic Politics

  • President Zardari and his administration have agreed to meet the demands of opposition parties and hold early elections. Zardari has agreed to “hold early national polls, but only after the separate election takes place in March for the Senate, the upper house of parliament.” The general election, originally scheduled for February 2013, is likely to take place in October 2012, according to a senior coalition member.[13]

  • On Tuesday, the Supreme Court temporarily suspended the legal license of Babar Awan, a former minister and current senator, for failing to submit “a reply in the contempt case against him.” Dawn reports that “Awan’s request for more time to file the reply was rejected by the court.” The court ruled that Awan had 15 days to submit the reply which, it claimed, was more than enough time to do so.[14]

  • Gallup Pakistan asked a “nationally representative sample” Pakistanis: “Some people think that Supreme Court is taking action by overstepping its mandate and it should not do this. In your opinion, is the Supreme Court taking actions that are in its mandate or is it overstepping its mandate?” Over 110 million Pakistanis, between Jan. 1 and Jan. 7 2012, answered that the “Supreme Court was not overstepping its mandate.” This represents approximately 62 percent of the Pakistani population, an increase of 5 percent when compared to the 2010 poll. This year, only 14 percent of respondents said that the “Supreme Court was overstepping its mandate.”[15]

U.S.-Pakistan Relations

  • During a call to Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar this month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “reiterated the Obama administration’s counterterrorism ‘red line’: The United States reserved the right to attack anyone who it determined posed a direct threat to U.S. national security, anywhere in the world.” Khar responded by telling Clinton that “Pakistan’s red line was the violation of its sovereignty,” and “any unauthorized flight into its airspace risked being shot down.” The conversation between Clinton and Khar was one of the few exchanges between high-level officials in both governments recently. According to a senior government official, the two countries are trying to work their way toward “a new normal,” somewhere between a strategic alliance and a more businesslike arrangement, while the Pakistani parliamentary committee’s review of the terms of cooperation between the two countries is still ongoing.[16]

International Relations

  • According to a government official, Pakistan and Afghanistan are willing to resume talks over the Taliban. Communication between the two countries broke down in September 2011, when Afghan President Hamid Karzai held Pakistan responsible for the assassination of Kabul’s chief peace envoy, Burhanuddin Rabbani. Gulbuddin Hekmetyar, the leader of Afghanistan’s main insurgent groups, Hezb-e-Islami, said in an interview on Sunday that he was “ready for ‘meaningful talks’ with all parties to end the decade-long war.” After talks with the governments in Kabul and Washington, however, Hekmetyar says he does not believe there is any “clear, acceptable and realistic plan” at the moment.[17]

  • On Monday, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar “reiterated the government’s commitment to go ahead on the Pakistan-Iran Gas Pipeline Project.” Khar noted that the project is in the national interest of Pakistan and it should be completed by 2014. Khar stressed the importance of the project to the country’s energy deficit and “brushed aside the apprehensions that U.S. sanctions on Iran would affect the project saying…[they] are primarily related to oil and not gas.”[18]

  • According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, international aid groups in Pakistan say they have been “sidelined” by the Pakistani government and are victims of increasing distrust by the Pakistani people.  According to the report, aid groups say they have felt unwelcome and rejected over the past year, with reports of some workers being harassed or even arrested by Pakistani police. Aid officials “believe that the Pakistani government's suspicions about the groups rose dramatically last year after the U.S. commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May.” A “fake” vaccination campaign conducted by the CIA to catch Bin Laden only heightened Pakistani skepticism of aid projects, fueling the distrust. According to the aid groups, the Pakistani government’s five-week delay in approving the response of foreign aid workers to the floods in the Sindh province last year is an example of the government’s distrust of the groups. A senior Pakistani official, requesting anonymity, claimed that “the allegations of a clampdown on the [international aid] groups” is not true, and that the government is there to facilitate the work of international NGOs, not prevent it.[19]

  • On Sunday, the three Iranian border guards that were arrested on January 2 for crossing the border and killing a Pakistani national in Balochistan, were released and deported. The men were pardoned on Saturday by the family of the victim after making arrangements for the payment of blood money, and were fined for crossing the border illegally. All three men were sent back to Iran following a court order for their release.[20]

Memogate

  • The attorney of Mansoor Ijaz, key player in the memogate scandal, told the memogate commission that Ijaz will “certainly appear before the court at the next date of hearing.” The commission has adjourned until January 24, but expects to meet with Ijaz at that time. If for any reason Ijaz fails to come to Pakistan to testify before the committee, the Supreme Court has authorized the commission to “go abroad to bring together the evidence.” The commission has also ordered Ijaz, Husain Haqqani, former Pakistani ambassador to the U.S., and Gen. Shuja Pasha, director of Inter-Services Intelligence, “to file their statements by January 23.”[21]

  • The Supreme Court has “indefinitely” adjourned the hearing of Haqqani’s petition challenging the court’s authority to investigate the memogate scandal. The petition challenges “the court’s order on formation of a commission, and appointment of chief justices of three high courts to investigate the scandal.”[22]

  • Dawn reports that according to a private TV channel, Research in Motion (RIM), the BlackBerry phone service provider based in Canada, has “refused to release data relating to exchange of messages on the [memogate] issue.” Responding to a letter from Pakistan’s attorney general, RIM claims that “its privacy laws strictly prohibited disclosure of a customer’s data to any other party without his consent.”[23]

Indo-Pak Relations

  • The third round of the Pakistan-India Parliamentarians Dialogue began Tuesday, marking the start of a two-day dialogue in Islamabad. The Indian representatives are comprised of a 15-member delegation, and will be discussing the topics of trade and economic relations with the Pakistani parliamentarians. The Daily Times reports that the purpose of the dialogue is to spark “parliamentary diplomacy that can increase mutual understanding and improve respective parliamentary scrutiny of governmental foreign policies. Parliamentarians from India and Pakistan can play a key role in facilitating the dialogue process and conflict resolution on mutually acceptable and advantageous considerations.”[24]



[1] Karin Brulliard, “Supreme Court rules Pakistani PM in contempt,” The Washington Post, January 16, 2012. Available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/supreme-court-faults-pakistani-pm-for-contempt/2012/01/16/gIQA5Kck2P_story.html
Sebastian Abbot and Zarar Khan, “Pakistani court clashes with weakened government,” Associated Press, January 16, 2012. http://old.news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20120116/ap_on_re_as/as_pakistan
“Contempt notice against Gilani challenged,” Indo-Asian News Service, January 17, 2012. Available at http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/Pakistan/Contempt-notice-against-Gilani-challenged/Article1-798485.aspx
“PPP core committee meeting held,” The News International, January 17, 2012. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/NewsDetail.aspx?ID=31196
“Coalition meeting: PM Gilani proposes to step down,” The Express Tribune, January 16, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/322278/agenda-finalised-for-national-assembly-session/
Qasim Nauman and Faisal Aziz, “Pakistan top court challenges PM on corruption cases,” Reuters, January 16, 2012. Available at http://old.news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20120116/wl_nm/us_pakistan_court
“Neither army nor judiciary can derail system: PM,” The News International, January 17, 2012. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=11793&Cat=13
[3] Qasim Nauman, “Pakistan PM won’t retract criticism of military,” Reuters, January 15, 2012. Available at http://old.news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20120115/wl_nm/us_pakistan
Qasim Nauman and Chris Allbritton, “Pakistan’s army chief calls PM’s criticisms ‘divisive,’” Reuters, January 14, 2012. Available at http://old.news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20120114/wl_nm/us_pakistan
[4] Declan Walsh and Salman Masood, “In Pakistan, Talks Aim to Ease Split,” The New York Times, January 14, 2012. Available at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/15/world/asia/pakistan-army-and-civilian-leaders-meet-amid-bitter-split.html?_r=2
Munir Ahmed, “Pakistan: president, army chief meet amid crisis,” Associated Press, January 14, 2012. Available at http://old.news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20120114/ap_on_re_as/as_pakistan
[5] Baqir Sajjad Syed, “Talks at Presidency to end govt-army impasse,” Dawn, January 17, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/01/17/talks-at-presidency-to-end-govt-army-impasse.html
[6] Zarar Khan, “Pakistan Taliban leader reported dead in U.S. strike,” Associated Press, January 15, 2012. Available at http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/jan/15/pakistan-taliban-leader-reported-dead-us-strike/?page=1
Jibran Ahmad, “Pakistan Taliban leader believed dead: intelligence officials,” Reuters, January 16, 2012. Available at http://old.news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20120116/ts_nm/us_pakistan_taliban_leader
Tom Hussain, “Analysts: US, Pakistan collaborating again on drone strikes,” Miami Herald, January 16, 2012. Available at http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/01/16/2592436/analysts-us-pakistan-collaborating.html
[7] “Pakistan bomb blast leaves 18 dead,” Guardian, January 15, 2012. Available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jan/15/pakistan-bomb-khanpur-18-dead
“Pakistan blast: Shias killed in Khanpur procession,” BBC, January 15, 2012. Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-16567052
[8] Qayum Nawaz and Javed Aziz Khan, “Eight killed as militants storm DPO office in DI Khan,” The News International, January 15, 2012. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=11760&Cat=13
[9] “Six killed in Chamaling armed clash,” The News International, January 17, 2012. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=11800&Cat=13
[10] “Security man injured in Landi Kotal blast,” Dawn, January 15, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/01/15/security-man-injured-in-landi-kotal-blast.html
[11] “Two policemen killed in Kohat ambush,” The News International, January 17, 2012. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=11811&Cat=13
[12] Ali Hazrat Bacha, “Militants involved in police post attack arrested,” Dawn, January 15, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/01/15/militants-involved-in-police-post-attack-arrested.html
[13] Saeed Shah, “Pakistan set to call early elections,” The Guardian, January 15, 2012. Available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jan/15/pakistan-early-elections
Tariq Butt, “The Memo Commission can travel abroad to collect evidence,” The News International, January 15, 2012. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=87688&Cat=2
[14] “SC suspends Awan’s licence,” Dawn, January 17, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/01/17/sc-suspends-awans-licence.html
[15] Farrukh Saleem, “110 million support the SC, except the PPP,” The News International, January 17, 2012. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=87973&Cat=7
[16] Karen DeYoung and Karin Brulliard, “As U.S.-Pakistani relations sink, nations try to figure out ‘a new normal,’” Washington Post, January 16, 2012. Available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/as-us-pakistani-relations-sink-nations-try-to-figure-out-a-new-normal/2012/01/13/gIQAklfw3P_story.html
[17] “Islamabad signals it is ready for Taliban talks,” The Express Tribune, January 16, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/321952/pakistan-seeks-afghan-talks-over-taliban-official/
[18] Pak-Iran Gas Pipeline Project to be completed by 2014: Khar,” Dawn, January 16, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/01/16/pak-iran-gas-pipeline-project-to-be-completed-by-2014-khar.html
[19] Alex Rodriguez, “Pakistanis’ distrust of foreigners impedes aid groups,” Los Angeles Times, January 14, 2012. Available at http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-pakistan-ngos-20120115,0,3526419.story
[20] “Pakistan deports three Iranian border guards,” AFP, January 15, 2012. Available at http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5h4XP56Vn8ev7pImvOgQjaY1LYPqg?docId=CNG.6d2b4e398b60e428cbfb646e78f9f629.7a1
[21] Faisal Karnal Pasha, “Memo commission gives Mansoor Ijaz until January 24 to show up,” The News International, January 17, 2012. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=11802&Cat=13
Qaiser Zulfiqar, “Memogate: ‘Mansoor Ijaz to appear before commission on Jan 24,’” The Express Tribune, January 16, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/322255/mansoor-ijaz-seeks-time-till-jan-25-to-appear-before-court/
[22] “Haqqani’s review petition: Hearing adjourned for indefinite period,” The Express Tribune, January 17, 2012. http://tribune.com.pk/story/322866/haqqanis-review-petition-hearing-adjourned-for-indefinite-period/
[23] “Blackberry firm refuses to share data,” Dawn, January 16, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/01/16/blackberry-firm-refuses-to-share-data.html
[24] “Pak-India parliamentary dialogue starts today,” Daily Times, January 17, 2012. Available at http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\01\17\story_17-1-2012_pg7_3