Pakistan Security Brief - January 3, 2012

Major changes expected in U.S.-Pakistan relationship; High-level reconciliation efforts underway between Pakistani militant group, attempts to refocus efforts against U.S. in Afghanistan; Al Qaeda “on the ropes;” U.S. to curtail aid to Pakistan; NATO wants Pakistan to unblock supply chain; NATO backlog congesting Karachi ports; Violence kills dozens in bombings, operations across the FATA, Balochistan; New Pakistani ambassador expected in DC; Haqqani’s lawyer quits to protest Supreme Court “memogate” decision; Pakistan joins UNSC; Pakistan, India exchange nuclear lists; Pakistan charges Iranian border guards with murder.

 

U.S.-Pakistan Relations

  • An article by the Associated Press examines major changes expected in the future of the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan. Most prominently, both sides are lowering expectations for cooperation and are “planning for a period of more limited contact.” The change is the result of a series of diplomatic crises over the previous year, culminating in the recent NATO border raid that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, that “strained an already difficult partnership based around the U.S. goal of stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan and a reduction in Islamic-inspired terrorism.” Pakistan is expected to foreswear some of the aid it receives from Washington, and the U.S. may receive less Pakistani help in ending the war in Afghanistan. Pakistan has already stopped billing the U.S. for anti-terror war expenses under the Coalition Support Fund, and Pakistani officials say they are now looking for a very “formal, business-like relationship” with the U.S. which may include less high-level diplomatic and military to military contact and see Pakistan start to levy additional tolls on the U.S. for the use of its transit routes for supplies heading to Afghanistan.[1]

  • President Obama has signed into law a bill that could see the suspension of large portions of the $1.1 billion in military aid slated for Pakistan. The bill, part of a “massive $662 billion defense spending bill,” contains provisions that “seek to suspend up to $850 million from the Pakistan Counter-Insurgency Fund,” but the money could be released if the Secretaries of State and Defense report to the House that Pakistan is “making progress in the war on terror and is cooperating with the US in curtailing the use of improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan.” One provision in the bill “could also affect Islamabad’s effort to build the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline as it places new restrictions on dealing with Iran’s central bank.”[2]

  • On Monday a NATO official expressed his hope that Pakistan would unblock supply routes to Afghanistan soon because “the 5-week closure is damaging the economies of both Afghanistan and Pakistan.” The routes have been closed since the November 26 NATO border raid. A NATO spokesman says the alliance has enough stockpiles to continue operations at their current pace even if the blockade remains in place, but said he hoped for the supplies to resume soon as NATO was “aware that the present situation on the border has a negative effect on both economies.” Afghan merchants are reportedly complaining that the price of domestic staples have been driven up the blockade.[3]

  • Karachi’s port is reportedly suffering from severe congestion problems as a result of a buildup of ships carrying U.S. military supplies and equipment, including “about 350 heavy vehicles” destined for NATO forces in Afghanistan. Two more large vessels are expected to enter port in the coming days, but the suspension of the NATO supply chain through Pakistan so far shows no signs of being lifted.[4]

  • New Pakistani ambassador to the U.S. Sherry Rehman is expected to arrive in Washington on January 9. She will occupy the post vacated by former ambassador Hussain Haqqani who was sacked due to his alleged involvement in the now infamous “memogate” scandal.[5]

 

Militancy

  • Dawn, Reuters, and the Associated Press are all reporting on a series of extraordinary meetings between militant groups in the FATA seeking to bring an end to months of bitter infighting that has recently plagued the movement. According to the different reports, members of al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban, including the Haqqani Network, have all been involved in trying to bridge differences between various factions of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), particularly those loyal to Hakimullah Mehsud, the group’s leader, and Wali-ur-Rehman, Hakimullah’s chief deputy and the head of the TTP in South Waziristan. Hakimullah and Rehman have been “at each other’s throats” of recent, according to militant sources quoted in the reports, sometimes to the extent of planning assassination plots against each other, although Rehman denies there are splits within the group. A pamphlet being distributed in North Waziristan agency is announcing the formation of new leadership council known as the Shura-e-Muraqba, a conglomeration of five different factions pledging loyalty to Mullah Omar, the head of the Afghan Taliban, and representing Rehman, Hakimullah, Maulvi Nazir of South Waziristan, Hafiz Gul Bahadur of North Waziristan, and the Afghan Haqqani Network. The council is geared towards reconciling differences among the various factions and attempting to reorient them towards focusing their efforts against NATO forces in Afghanistan. The Express Tribune, meanwhile, reports that “secret talks” between the Pakistani government and the Pakistani Taliban have entered a “decisive phase,” with both sides hoping to secure an agreement that would lead to some sort of peace deal between the two. Hakimullah’s faction, however, while agreeing to avoid killing innocent people and conducting kidnappings for ransom, has vowed to continue with “suicide attacks and fighting against Pakistan’s security forces.”A representative for Hakimullah further states that the TTP had not announced any ceasefire and had no plans to do so in the future. Prominent al Qaeda leaders, including Abu Yahya al Libi, are also reportedly participating in the reconciliation efforts.[6] 

  • An article in Newsweek profiles a young al Qaeda fighter and examines the decline of the al Qaeda movement inside Pakistan. The al Qaeda operative describes the al Qaeda flower as “wilting” and speculates that there may not be more than 40 to 60 operatives still alive on either side of the border. Those remaining are primarily focused on survival and most operational planning has ceased, according to the article. Drone strikes and the drying up of recruits and funding were primarily cited as reasons for the group’s decline.[7]

  • Two bomb blasts in the FATA killed at least four people on Saturday. The first blast, outside a tribal jirga in Khoga Khel, Khyber, killed two people and injured 12 more. In North Waziristan agency near the village of Boya, a roadside bomb attack on a security forces convoy killed two soldiers, according to intelligence officials.[8]

  • Five people were killed in a suicide attack during a military operation in the Khyber tribal agency on Sunday. Security forces responded to clashes between rival militant groups in the Landi Kotal and Karmna areas and one militant set off a suicide vest as soldiers approached, killing one soldier and four militants. On Monday, clashes between two militant groups in the Tirah valley area resulted in the deaths of four militants and one anti-Taliban militiaman. Separately, a remote-controlled bomb blast in Landi Kotal on Wednesday killed four people including a local law enforcement official. Five people were injured in the attack which targeted the security personnel’s vehicle. [9]

  • An anti-Taliban militiaman was killed in a bomb attack in Salarzai, Bajaur agency in the FATA on Sunday. Three others were also wounded in the attack.[10]

  • Security forces operating across Orakzai agency of the FATA destroyed a number of militant strongholds and killed at least 11 militants during aerial bombardments on Sunday. Six other militants were reportedly wounded in the airstrikes. On Monday security forces killed eight more militants in clashes in the Ghaljo area of the agency. One soldier was also wounded. Continuing clashes on Tuesday resulted in the death of nine more militants and the destruction of four militant hideouts in Upper and Central Orakzai.[11]

  • Two separate rocket attacks shook the city of Quetta, Balochistan on Saturday, a day after a bomb attack killed over a dozen people. While there were no casualties from the rocket strikes, the death toll from Friday’s car bombing rose to 16 as additional bodies were discovered following the blast. Separate attacks in Balochistan on Sunday killed three people. A bomb attack on a convoy in the Zain Koh area of Dera Bugti killed three security personnel and wounded two others, while in Quetta a grenade attack on a shop wounded nine people.[12]

  • Four people were injured in a hand grenade attack on a market in Karachi on Monday.[13]

  • Unknown gunmen attacked and killed a local leader of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal (JUI-F) political party in the northwestern district of Lakki Marwat on Monday.[14]

  • A bomb blast at an internet café killed two people in Peshawar, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa on Monday. The five kilogram bomb was reportedly planted on a motorcycle.[15]

  • Angry demonstrators torched buses in Karachi on Saturday after unknown gunmen opened targeted and killed two officials of a Shia organization. The attackers were also reportedly wounded in retaliatory fire.[16]

 

Domestic Politics

  • Asma Jehangir, a prominent lawyer and human rights activist and the defense attorney for former ambassador Hussain Haqqani in the memogate scandal, has quit as Haqqani’s counsel. Jehangir publicly stated her lack of confidence in the Supreme Court’s judicial commission to investigate the memogate scandal and criticized its decision to begin an inquiry into a matter in which she claims it has no jurisdiction. Jehangir accused the court of being “acolytes of the establishment.” She stated, “If nine judges of the Supreme Court can be (under [army] influence), then I am sorry to say I cannot have any expectations from the high court judges.”[17]

  • A jirga of tribal elders from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), sponsored by the regional Awami National Party (ANP) has called for the integration of the FATA with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. Representatives from all seven FATA agencies and six FATA Frontier Regions were present at the jirga.[18]

 

Indo-Pak Relations

  • On Sunday Pakistan and India swapped lists of their nuclear sites in accordance with a 1988 agreement that “prohibits the neighboring countries from attacking the locations.” The two countries have recently resumed bilateral talks on confidence building measures and nuclear weapons after a four-year hiatus, though “no major developments” are expected from the “high-level talks.”[19]

 

International Relations

  • Pakistan on Sunday assumed its seat as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC), filling the seat vacated by Lebanon at the end of its own two-year term. Pakistan will be serving at the same time as India, the fourth time the two countries’ terms have overlapped on the UNSC.[20]

 

Iranian Border Crisis

  • On Sunday Iranian security officers crossed into Pakistan, shot and killed one man and wounded another before taking both of the alleged smugglers back across the border. Pakistani border forcers retaliated by pursuing them into Iran, retrieving both men and detaining three Iranian border guards. The incident which occurred in a desolate and poorly marked part of the Pak-Iran border has raised tensions between the two countries. Iran is currently negotiating with the Pakistani government for the guards’ release, but Pakistan on Tuesday charged all three guards with murder following a written complaint from the father of the man the guards shot dead.[21]

 

Energy

  • Angry Pakistanis clashed with police and blocked highways between Islamabad and Rawalpindi for a second day on Tuesday as they protested against chronic gas shortages. Gas has been in short supply since winter set in and the cutbacks have “exposed the perilous state of the country's finances and the inability of the state to provide even basic services.” Protests took place in at least two other cities as well.[22]

 
 
 


[1] Kathy Gannon and Anne Gearan, “Pakistan, US assume less cooperation in future,” AP, January 2, 2012. Available at http://old.news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20120102/ap_on_go_pr_wh/us_pakistan_us
[2] Anwar Iqbal, “Restrictions on aid 0 new year US gift to Pakistan,” Dawn, January 2, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/01/02/restrictions-on-aid-new-year-us-gift-to-pakistan.html
[3] Slobodan Lekic, “NATO hopes for reopening of Pakistan supply route,” AP, January 2, 2012. Available at http://old.news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20120102/ap_on_re_as/as_afghanistan
[4] Parvaiz Ishfaq Rana, “Ship with Nato supplies berths at port,” Dawn, January 2, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/01/02/ship-with-nato-supplies-berths-at-port.html
[5] Anwar Iqbal, “Sherry due in Washington next week,” Dawn, January 3, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/01/03/sherry-due-in-washington-next-week.html
[6] Chris Albritton, “Exclusive: Pakistan Taliban commanders ‘at each other’s throats,’” Reuters, January 3, 2012. Available at http://edition.cnn.com/2012/01/01/world/asia/pakistan-violence/index.html?eref=edition_asia&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+rss%2Fedition_asia+%28RSS%3A+Asia%29&utm_content=Google+Reader
Sailab Mehsud, “Taliban factions regroup to fight US forces,” Dawn, January 3, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/01/03/al-qaida-taliban-ask-pakistani-militants-for-help.html
“Al-Qaida, Taliban commanders seek Pakistani militants’ help to fight US forces in Afghanistan,” AP, January 2, 2012. Available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia-pacific/al-qaida-taliban-commanders-ask-pakistani-militants-to-help-fight-us-forces-in-afghanistan/2012/01/02/gIQAxyg0VP_story.html?wprss=rss_asia-pacific
Mushtaq Yusufzai, “No halt to fight against Pakistani forces: TTP,” The News, January 3, 2012. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=11444&Cat=13
Zia Khan, “’Secret’ talks with Taliban reach decisive phase,” Express Tribune, January 3, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/315793/secret-talks-with-taliban-reach-decisive-phase/
[7] “Al Qaeda on the Ropes: One Fighter’s Inside Story,” Newsweek, January 2, 2012. Available at http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/01/01/al-qaeda-on-the-ropes-one-fighter-s-inside-story.html
[9] “Soldier, four militants killed in Khyber suicide blast,” Dawn, January 1, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/01/01/soldier-four-militants-killed-in-khyber-suicide-attack.html
“Orakzai, Khyber clashes kill 12 suspected militants,” Dawn, January 2, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/01/02/orakzai-khyber-clashes-kill-12-suspected-militants.html
“Four killed in Khyber explosion,” Dawn, January 2, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/01/03/four-killed-in-khyber-explosion.html
[10] “”Anti-Taliban fighter killed in Bajaur blast,” Dawn, January 1, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/01/01/anti-taliban-fighter-killed-in-bajaur-blast.html
[11] “Eleven militants killed in Orakzai operation,” Dawn, January 1, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/01/01/anti-taliban-fighter-killed-in-bajaur-blast.html
“Orakzai, Khuber clashes kill 12 suspected militants,” Dawn, January 2, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/01/02/orakzai-khyber-clashes-kill-12-suspected-militants.html
“Nine militants killed as clashes continue in Orakzai,” Dawn, January 3, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/01/03/nine-militants-killed-as-clashes-continue-in-orakzai.html
[12] “Rocket attacks rock Quetta; no casualties reported,” Dawn, December 31, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/12/31/rocket-attacks-rock-quetta-again.html
“Quetta blast toll rises to 16,” Dawn, January 1, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/01/01/quetta-blast-toll-rises-to-16.html
“4 killed as violence persists in Pakistan,” CNN, January 1, 2012. Available at http://edition.cnn.com/2012/01/01/world/asia/pakistan-violence/index.html?eref=edition_asia&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+rss%2Fedition_asia+%28RSS%3A+Asia%29&utm_content=Google+Reader
[13] “Four injured in blast near Karachi’s Hyderi market,” Dawn, January 2, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/01/02/two-injured-in-blast-near-karachis-hyderi-market.html
[14] “JUI-F leader Azeem Khan killed in Lakki Marwat,” Dawn, January 2, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/01/02/jui-f-leader-azeem-khan-killed-in-lakki-marwat.html 
[15] “Blast kills two in Peshawar,” Dawn, January 3, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/01/03/four-killed-in-khyber-explosion.html
[16] “Protestors burn buses after attack on Shias in Karachi,” Dawn, December 31, 2011. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/12/31/protesters-burn-buses-after-attack-on-shias-in-karachi.html
[17] Syed Irfan Raza, “Asma criticizes memo commission, quits as Haqqani lawyer,” Dawn, January 2, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/01/02/asma-criticises-memo-commission-quits-as-haqqani-lawyer.html 
[18] “Jirga seeks FATA merger with KP,” Dawn, January 2, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/01/02/jirga-seeks-fata-merger-with-kp-2.html
[20] Masood Haider, “Pakistan starts UNSC stint,” Dawn, January 2, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/01/02/pakistan-starts-unsc-stint.html
[21] Abdul Sattar, “Pakistan: Iranians crossed border, killed 1 man,” AP, January 1, 2012. Available at http://old.news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20120101/ap_on_re_as/as_pakistan_iran
“Iran seeks release of border guards in Pakistan,” AP, January 3, 2012. Available at http://old.news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20120103/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_iran_pakistan
“Pakistan charges Iranian border guards with murder,” AFP, January 3, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/01/03/pakistan-charges-iranian-border-guards-with-murder.html
[22] Munir Ahmed, “Pakistanis clash with police over has shortages,” AP, January 3, 2012. Available at http://old.news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20120103/ap_on_re_as/as_pakistan