Pakistan Security Brief - January 25, 2013

Prime Minister embroiled in new political and judicial controversies; Supreme Court lodges new case against PM; NAB case against PM advances; U.S. designates new terror group; plots against religious processions in Pakistan foiled; Militant groups clash in Khyber; Four dead in Karachi twin bombings; Mortar attack in Peshawar; Tribesmen negotiating release of men kidnapped by TTP; Pakistani diplomats denied entry to Indian festival; Imran Khan confident of victory; Sen. Kerry opposes aid cuts to Pakistan; IDPs protest ration cuts in FATA; govt releases arrested tribesmen in Khyber; Headley convicted for Mumbai attacks.

Prime Minister Ashraf and Legal Controversies

  • Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has become involved in a second judicial controversy, in addition to the Rental Power Projects (RPP) case for which the Supreme Court is seeking his arrest. Prime Minister Ashraf reportedly asked on December 29, 2012 that the most severe murder charges be dropped against two brothers who owned a clothing factory in Karachi that burned down last year, killing 259 people. Unsafe conditions in the factory reportedly greatly increased the casualty count. On Wednesday, Minister of State for Finance Saleem Mandviwalla confirmed that murder charges would indeed be dropped, a decision contested by Sindh governor Dr. Ishratul Ebad, who approached the President and Prime Minister to request they reconsider the decision. After senior politicians and international human rights organizations condemned the decision, Prime Minister Ashraf’s press secretary released a statement saying that Ashraf had never sought to have murder charges dropped, only reconsidered and re-investigated. Legal experts have weighed in as well, saying the only way the murder charge can be dropped is with the consent of the victims’ families or if the prosecution does not have the evidence to prove it, and that any suggestions made by the Prime Minister have no legal value and can be considered interference. The court will hear the case on January 28.[1]

  • The Supreme Court has ordered another case against Prime Minister Ashraf, this one in connection to the embezzlement of Rs. 83 billion ($830 million) and subsequent escape from the country by former head of the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority, Tauqir Sadiq. Sadiq was also allegedly appointed “illegally” by Ashraf. The court has ordered the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to register cases against all involved, including Ashraf, by January 31. As of Thursday, NAB had named two officials responsible for helping Sadiq escape: Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Pakistan People’s Party senator Jehangir Badar.[2]

  • The ongoing investigation by the Supreme Court of the death of NAB official Kamran Faisal is uncovering new evidence that, according to the Supreme Court, points to a link between Faisal’s death and the RPP case he was in charge of investigating. More evidence has been called for, including CCTV footage of NAB’s office and the Federal Lodges where Faisal lived, transcripts of conferences, call records, and a post-mortem report. NAB officials and the Islamabad Police have also come forward with evidence that in November of 2012, Faisal had expressed concerns for his safety, saying that someone had tried to poison him and that his superior had been pressuring him to sign a backdated affidavit. Faisal also claimed that the chairman of NAB had quizzed him why he wanted to implicate Ashraf in the case.[3]

New Terror Designation

  • The U.S. has designated the Arab organization Abdullah Azzam Brigades as a terrorist group and imposed sanctions on it, citing its attacks on American and Japanese ships and a 2005 bombing in Egypt. The group is reportedly led by Saudi-born Abu Maryam al Zahrani, believed to be in Pakistan.[4]

Militancy

  • A terrorist plot to attack the main Eid-e-Milad-un-Nabi religious procession in Dera Ismail Khan was uncovered by police on Friday. Two people were arrested and weapons seized in a police raid. Security measures have been heightened and motorcycles and cellular services have been temporarily banned in the area.[5]

  • Four mortar shells fired from the Shalobar area of Bara sub-district landed in Peshawar on Thursday.[6]

  • Government representatives from North and South Waziristan are reportedly in the midst of negotiations with the Pakistani Taliban over the release of eight kidnapped dam workers. Originally the Taliban wanted a ransom and the release of 17 imprisoned militants, but has now dropped the latter demand and is negotiating the amount of the ransom.[7]

  • Two blasts in the Landhi area of Karachi killed at least four people, including two policemen, and injured at least ten on Thursday. The first explosion at a garbage dump killed no one, while the second targeted police and rescue officials who rushed to the scene.[8]

  • Police in Peshawar thwarted a terror attack possibly planned for Eid-e-Milad-un-Nabi by raiding a warehouse on Friday, recovering weapons, and arresting one, reportedly an Afghan citizen.[9]

  • A gunfight between two banned militant groups, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Ansarul Islam (AI) in Khyber agency on Friday killed at least 32. The casualty count is expected to rise as fighting continues over a contested base in Maidan village. Earlier, the TTP and affiliated militant group Lashkar-e-Islam attacked several tribes, killing at least 18 people, including women and children.[10]

  • Fayaz Leghari, Inspector General of Sindh Police, reported that Pakistan’s war on terror had affected his department, as 112 of his policemen have been killed in the past year.[11]

Indo-Pak Relations

  • Two Pakistani diplomats have been denied permission to visit the Indian city of Jaipur during the Jaipur Literary Fest, in which several noted Pakistani writers are participating. India’s External Affairs Minister claimed that the denial of permission had nothing to do with current tense relations between India and Pakistan.[12]

Domestic Issues

  • Speaking at the Word Economic Forum on Friday, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman Imran Khan said that he was optimistic about his chances in the upcoming elections. Citing his support base of young people and women and the country’s desire for change, he said he was confident he would become Pakistan’s next leader.[13]

  • Speaking to the media on Friday, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Mian Iktikhar Hussain highlighted the need for dialogue with the Taliban to ensure peace, and announced that such plans were in progress.[14]

U.S. Relations

  • U.S. Senator and nominee for Secretary of State John Kerry said while testifying in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he opposes cutting aid to Pakistan, citing Pakistan’s help in the war on terror and cooperation during the hunt for Osama bin Laden. In response to the critique that Pakistan was holding Dr. Shakil Afridi in jail, Kerry responded that while that was “repugnant,” cutting aid would be a “dramatic, draconian, and sledge-hammer measure.”[15]

FATA

  • As a goodwill gesture after negotiations between a tribal jirga and the political administration of Khyber agency, officials released 24 tribesmen who had been arrested in Bara as part of the ongoing military operation in the area. The jirga, formed after 18 people were killed by unidentified gunmen on January 15, believes the 24 to be innocent.[16]

  • Because of a scarcity of donations, the UN’s World Food Programme cut monthly flour quotas for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Jalozai camp, Nowshera district to 40 kg from 80 kg. IDPs refused to receive the 40 kg donations in protest, saying that their needs exceed that amount.[17]

Terror Conviction

  • American citizen David Headley was sentenced on Thursday to 35 years in prison for his role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks executed by militant organization Lashkar-e-Taiba. The sentence was in line with what Headley’s lawyers had asked for, given his cooperation following his arrest.[18] 



[1] Declan Walsh, “Pakistan’s Ashraf Intervenes in Fatal Fire Investigation,” The New York Times, January 25, 2013. Available at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/25/world/asia/pakistans-ashraf-intervenes-in-fatal-fire-investigation.html?_r=1&
Rizwan Shehzad and Sohail Khattak, “Baldia Town factory fire: Murder charges against factory owners dropped,” The Express Tribune, January 24, 2013. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/498374/baldia-town-factory-fire-murder-charges-against-factory-owners-dropped/
Sohail Khan, “SC asks NAB to file references against PM, Malik, Badr,” The News, January 25, 2013. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-13-20488-SC-asks-NAB-to-file-references-against-PM,-Malik,-Badr
Hafeez Tunio, “Factory fire case: PM’s office clarifies he asked murder charges to be re-investigated not withdrawn,” The Express Tribune, January 25, 2013. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/498869/factory-fire-case-pms-office-clarifies-he-asked-murder-charges-to-be-re-investigated-not-withdrawn/
Naeem Sahoutara, “Baldia fire case: Unless families agree, murder charges can’t be dropped, say Lawyers,” The Express Tribune, January 25, 2013. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/498805/baldia-fire-case-unless-families-agree-murder-charges-cant-be-dropped-say-lawyers/
[2] Azam Khan, “Tauqir Sadiq case: SC orders another case against PM Ashraf,” The Express Tribune, January 25, 2013. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/498906/tauqir-sadiq-case-sc-orders-another-case-against-pm-ashraf/
“Rehman Malik, Jehangir Badar helped Tauqeer Sadiq escape, NAB tells SC,” The Express Tribune, January 24, 2013. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/498482/rehman-malik-jehangir-badar-helped-tauqeer-sadiq-escape-nab-tells-sc/
[3] Sohail Khan, “Evidence shows Kamran’s death, RPPs case have link: SC,” The News, January 25, 2013. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-13-20489-Evidence-shows-Kamrans-death,-RPPs-case-have-link:-SC
Ansar Abbasi, “Kamran Faisal feared someone tried to poison him in November NAB chairman,” The News, January 25, 2013. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-13-20492-Kamran-Faisal-feared-someone-tried-to-poison-him-in-NovemberNAB-chairman
[4] “US sets terror sanctions on Arab militant group responsible for targeting US, Japanese ships,” The Washington Post, January 24, 2013. Available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/us-sets-terror-sanctions-on-arab-militant-group-responsible-for-targeting-us-japanese-ships/2013/01/24/6b7267c0-665f-11e2-889b-f23c246aa446_story.html
[5] “Police foil terror plot targeting Eid Milad procession in DI Khan,” The Express Tribune, January 25, 2013. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/498984/police-foil-terror-plot-targeting-eid-milad-procession-in-di-khan/
“Arms, ammunitions recovered in DI Khan,” Geo, January 25, 2013. Available at http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=85271
[6] “Four mortar shells fired at Peshawar,” The News, January 25, 2013. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-2-156380-Four-mortar-shells-fired-at-Peshawar
[7] Akhtar Amin, “Kidnapping of Gomal Zam Dam employees Talks with Taliban over ransom underway, PHC told,” The News, January 25, 2013. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-2-156370-Kidnapping-of-Gomal-Zam-Dam-employees-Talks-with-Taliban-over-ransom-underway,-PHC-told
[8] “Policemen among four killed in twin Landhi blasts,” The Express Tribune, January 24, 2013. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/498562/policemen-among-several-injured-in-twin-landhi-blasts/
“Two policemen among four killed in Karachi twin blasts,” Dawn, January 24, 2013. Available at http://dawn.com/2013/01/24/several-injured-in-twin-blasts-in-karachi/
[9] “Peshawar police foil terror bid,” Geo, January 25, 2013. Available at http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=85257
[10] Zahir Shah Sherazi, “Militant clash in Khyber tribal region kills 32,” Dawn, January 25, 2013. Available at http://dawn.com/2013/01/25/five-militants-killed-in-ttp-ansarul-islam-clash-in-khyber-tribal-region/
[11] “War on terror affected Sindh police: IG,” Geo, January 25, 2013. Available at http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=85217
[12] “Pakistani diplomats barred from Jaipur literary fest,” Dawn, January 25, 2013. Available at http://dawn.com/2013/01/25/india-says-no-pakistani-diplomats-at-literary-fest/
[13] Edith M. Lederer, “Imran Khan Predicts Victory in Pakistan Elections,” ABC News, January 24, 2013. Available at http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/imran-khan-predicts-victory-pakistan-elections-18302661  
[14] “Team to hold talks with Taliban in the making: Mian Iftikhar,” Geo, January 25, 2013. Available at http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=85274
[15] “John Kerry opposes cutting US aid to Pakistan,” Geo, January 25, 2013. Available at http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=85267
Anwar Iqbal, “Aid cut to Pakistan will be unkind, argues Kerry,” Dawn, January 25, 2013. Available at http://dawn.com/2013/01/25/aid-cut-to-pakistan-will-be-unkind-argues-kerry/
[16] Ibrahim Shinwari, “Tribesmen released on demand of Bara jirga,” Dawn, January 25, 2013. Available at http://dawn.com/2013/01/25/tribesmen-released-on-demand-of-bara-jirga/
[17] “IDPs refuse to receive reduced food package,” Dawn, January 25, 2013. Available at http://dawn.com/2013/01/25/idps-refuse-to-receive-reduced-food-package-2/
[18] “Mumbai attacks: American plotter sentenced to 35 years,” Dawn, January 24, 2013. Available at http://dawn.com/2013/01/24/mumbai-attacks-american-plotter-sentenced-to-35-years/