Pakistan Security Brief - January 18, 2013
Pakistan says it will release all Afghan prisoners including Mullah Baradar; Long march concludes in Islamabad, Qadri makes deal with government over influencing interim administration; Qadri’s political party may take part in elections; Pakistan, India soften stances on Kashmir issue, float possibility of talks; Investigator examining PM’s corruption allegations found hanged; Court saddles Pakistani ambassador to U.S. with blasphemy charges; Terrorism case against Florida imam dropped; LeT facilitator sentenced to prison.
Pakistan and Afghan Reconciliation
Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Jalil Jilani announced on Friday that Pakistan would be releasing “all Afghan prisoners still in its detention,” including former Taliban deputy chief Mullah Baradar. Jilani’s statement came following a meeting with U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan David Pearce and Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Luddin in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. Afghanistan has long requested the release of Baradar. Regarding the release, the Afghan deputy minister said “Steps have been taken forward in an environment of cooperation and shared concerns…2013 is a very crucial year and we agreed we need to maintain the momentum.”
Long March Concludes
Cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri’s long march came to an end in Islamabad on Thursday with a “Long March Declaration” agreed upon by Qadri and a delegation of government representatives. The agreement reportedly grants Qadri none of his principal demands but does grant his party a say in the makeup of the interim government that will oversee elections later this year. The effects of Qadri’s efforts were reportedly minimized by several factors, including a smaller-than-expected turnout, a lack of support from other opposition political parties, and a lack of overt support from the judiciary and army, both institutions that Qadri praised highly. While Qadri called the terms of his exit “a victory,” the deal was referred to in the Pakistani media as merely “face-saving.” Among the deal’s concessions to Qadri are the promise to include his party in a “consultative role” in choosing a caretaker prime minister and a renewal of vows to vet parliamentary candidates for corruption. Many Pakistani analysts’ responses have reportedly been to congratulate civilian lawmakers on uniting against the “threat” posed by Qadri and ensuring that the upcoming elections and transfer of power go ahead in May as planned.
Representatives from Qadri’s political party have indicated that the party might take part in upcoming elections, though Qadri himself reportedly has no aspirations of being Prime Minister and is ineligible to run for public office owing to his dual Canadian nationality. Qadri and his party have also promised to hold another street protest if the government does not abide by the terms established in the Long March Declaration.
Pakistan’s representative to India on Thursday urged the Indian government to scale back the “Pakistan bashing” over a series of border clashes that have so far left two Indian and three Pakistani soldiers dead. Pakistani High Commissioner Salman Bashir commented on the importance of cooling tensions and returning to “normal business.” India’s Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid said on Friday that India would not let the recent border clashes “derail the peace process with Pakistan,” indicating at the possibility that India was considering Pakistan’s offer for high-level talks to address the crisis. 
Investigator Probing PM’s Corruption Found Dead
In a complication of the corruption case against Prime Minister Raja Parvez Ashraf, an employee of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Kamran Faisal was found dead in the hostel in Islamabad where he lives. Mr. Faisal had been working on the corruption case against Mr. Ashraf until he requested reassignment. Mr. Faisal died by hanging and, although the death appears to be a suicide, several NAB employees believe Faisal was murdered because a window in the room was ajar when he was found. Police are planning on conducting a post-mortem examination.
A petition filed in court in Islamabad on Thursday accused Pakistan’s Ambassador to the U.S. Sherry Rehman of blasphemy, a crime which carries the death penalty in Pakistan. The Supreme Court ordered police to probe the charges. The man who brought the petition said he had been trying to get a blasphemy case registered against Rehman since 2010 but was only now successful in moving the court.
A judge in Florida on Thursday dismissed terrorism and conspiracy charges against a Muslim cleric accused of sending money to the Pakistani Taliban “citing weak evidence.” The trial against the cleric’s 77-year old father continues as the judge said the case against the older man was much stronger.
Chicago businessman and terrorist facilitator Tahawwur Hussain Rana was sentenced to 14 years in prison by a Chicago court on Thursday. Rana was convicted in 2011 of providing support to Pakistani terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba in supporting a plot to attack a Danish newspaper. Mr. Rana was cleared of more serious charges alleging that he helped the group plan the 2008 Mumbai attacks.