Pakistan Security Brief - June 22, 2012

Raja Pervez Ashraf elected prime minister; Peshawar High Court grants seven-day protective bail to Shahabuddin; PTI chairman says new prime minister will be ‘manservant’ of President Zardari; U.S. Secretary of Defense Panetta rules out apology over Salala border incident; State Department report notes increase in Pakistani government obstruction of U.S. diplomatic operations; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Secretary of State James Baker say severing relationship with Pakistan not in U.S. interests; U.S. intelligence officials discuss covert ground operations into Pakistan; U.S. Secretary of Defense Panetta notes that only ‘small handful’ of targeted al Qaeda leaders remain;  Militants ambush checkpost in Balochistan; Four killed by landmine in Quetta; 17 militants surrender to Pakistani security forces in Bajaur agency.

Prime Minister’s Disqualification and New Candidates

  • The Pakistani Parliament elected Raja Pervez Ashraf, the candidate of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), as prime minister with 211 votes versus 89 for the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) candidate Sardar Mehtab Abbasi during a National Assembly session on Friday evening. Senior party official Syed Khursheed Shah named Raja Pervez Ashraf as the PPP candidate for the prime ministerial election earlier that morning. Though a large faction of PPP members opposed the choice, President Asif Ali Zardari’s support of the choice on Friday ensured that Ashraf would be the party’s nominee. Opposition politicians have blamed the former Minister for Water and Power for taking lucrative kickbacks from private power projects and playing a large role in causing the current energy crisis that has led to violent protests throughout the country. Should Ashraf become the new prime minister, the court will most likely renew demands that the prime minister request that Swiss authorities reopen a 2010 corruption investigation against President Zardari.[1]

  • Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman withdrew his candidacy for prime minister on Friday after initially refusing to drop his candidacy earlier that morning. On Thursday, a PPP delegation had come to his residence to try to convince him to withdraw in favor of Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. Speaking to the media on Friday, Rehman announced his withdrawal and noted that his party would not participate in the election process.[2]

  • On Friday, the Peshawar High Court (PHC) granted a seven-day protective bail to Makhdoom Shahabuddin after an Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) magistrate issued a warrant for his arrest on Thursday. The seven-day protective bail will allow Makhdoom Shahabuddin, the ruling PPP’s initial choice for the party’s prime ministerial candidate, to contest elections in the lower house of parliament on Friday evening. Addressing the media after the bail request was accepted, Shahabuddin noted that the charges were baseless in the first place, saying “I have been given protective bail but let me tell you, if I had not been nominated for the premiership, I would not have been nominated in the case.”[3]

  • Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan said the appointment of a new prime minister will have no effect on the course of national politics in Pakistan. Speaking to reporters at Karachi airport on Thursday, the PTI chairman noted that “the new prime minister will be another manservant of Zardari, planted just to protect his property of Rs 6 billion in the Swiss banks.”[4]

U.S.-Pakistan Relations

  • Speaking to Reuters on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta ruled out an apology over the Salala border incident, a demand several Pakistan government officials say is required before negotiations over reopening NATO supply lines can continue. While Panetta noted the difficulties in the relationship between the two countries, he said “if we keep beating up each other based on past differences, we’ll never get anywhere.” Panetta added that “past expressions of regret and condolences were enough” to revive talks on reopening the NATO supply routes into Afghanistan.[5] 

  • According to the State Department inspector general in Pakistan, the Pakistani government is increasingly engaging in systematic harassment and obstruction of U.S. diplomats at the U.S. embassy in Islamabad and at consulates in Karachi, Peshawar, and Lahore. The inspector general’s report, focusing on the period between January and mid-February, cited delays in visa processing, blocked shipments for aid and construction projects, denials of in-country travel requests, and interference with contractors and personnel as the principle factors behind complaint. The report added that the “new levels of intensity” in regards to deliberate obstruction by Pakistani government officials are “significantly impairing” the operations of U.S. diplomats in the country.[6]

  • Speaking to the Associated Press, U.S. officials said military and intelligence officials are considering launching joint U.S.-Afghan covert raids into Pakistan to root out militants, specifically those connected to the Haqqani network. Officials claim that senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan Gen. John Allen and top CIA and special operations officials have been engaging in discussions over several possible clandestine operations and overt tactics such as invoking the military principle of “hot pursuit,” allowing U.S. forces to pursue militants carrying out attacks in Afghanistan up to 6.2 miles into Pakistani territory. Navy Cmdr. Brook DeWalt, Gen. Allen’s spokesman, however, urged that Allen “has not and does not intend to push for a cross-border operation.” According to officials, the negotiations have not produced any results as the White House consistently rejects using raids to pursue militants in Pakistan due to fear of diplomatic blowback from a Pakistani government that repeatedly accuses the U.S. of violating its sovereignty.[7]

  • In an interview on Wednesday, current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Secretary of State James Baker stated that severing ties with Pakistan would not be in the U.S.’s interest. Despite the U.S.’s diplomatic row with Pakistan, Clinton stressed the need to “better direct and manage that relationship.” Clinton also touched upon other topics in the bilateral relationship, noting that there was no evidence of Pakistani involvement in Osama bin Laden’s residence in Abbottabad; that Dr. Shakil Afridi, the CIA informant who helped locate bin Laden, should not be treated as a “criminal”; and that militancy in Pakistan was already undermining the country’s sovereignty.[8]

  • Commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan Gen. Allen claimed the Pakistan-based Haqqani Network was behind an attack on a popular hotel in Kabul that resulted in the death of 20 people on Thursday. In a statement released on Friday, Gen. Allen noted that “Afghan National Security Forces and coalition military sources acknowledge that this attack bears the signature of the Haqqani Network, which continues to target and kill innocent Afghans and blatantly violate Afghan sovereignty from the safety of Pakistan.”[9]

Drone Strikes

  • During an interview with Reuters on Thursday, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta noted that only a “small handful” of individuals on the original list of al Qaeda leaders remained on the battlefield, and credited the U.S. strategy of targeting al Qaeda’s leadership with impacting the group’s “command and control in terms of operations.” Panetta also spoke about his meeting with a Saudi deputy interior minister, who told him that “young people are no longer attracted to al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia.” Meanwhile, at a conference in Geneva, UN Special Rapporteur Christof Heyns said U.S. drone strikes threatened 50 years of international law and, in some cases, could constitute “war crimes.” Also at the conference was Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN Zamir Akram, who called the U.S.’s use of drones “totally counterproductive.”[10] 

  • On Wednesday, the White House asked a federal court to reject lawsuits under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requesting documents pertaining to the CIA’s covert drone program. Government lawyers filed a brief asking the New York district court to dismiss the lawsuits, brought by the New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), on the grounds that release of the information would hurt national security. The brief, however, refused to admit the existence of a “targeted killing” program.[11]   

Militancy

  • A roadside bomb planted near Bazay Mountain in South Waziristan’s Ladha sub-district killed one Pakistan Army officer and injured another six soldiers on Thursday. The bomb struck the military force’s vehicle during a search operation in which the soldiers, backed by jets, targeted militant hideouts in the Pasthi and Manzai areas.[12] 

  • On Thursday, ten to fifteen militants in Washuk district’s Naagh area ambushed a checkpost manned by the Balochistan Levies Force, killing two personnel and injuring another. Prior to fleeing, militants captured weapons and wireless sets from the post.[13]   

  • A landmine planted near a Frontier Corps checkpost in the Bugti tribal area of Quetta, Balochistan killed four people on Thursday. Meanwhile, in the Tump area of Quetta’s Kech district, near Turbat, unidentified gunmen killed one civilian.[14]

  • On Thursday, eight civilians were killed in Karachi following incidents of violence and “target killing.” In separate cases, firing by armed men killed five civilians in the Gulistan-e-Jauhar, Kunwari Colony, Kala Maidan, Qatar Morr, and Taif Farm House Road areas. Two additional bodies were found near the Liaquatabad Bridge and in Qasba Colony. By early Friday, three more bodies, two at Abul Hasan Asfahani Road and another at a graveyard, were recovered by authorities.[15]      

  • Seventeen militants surrendered to Pakistani security forces on Thursday in Nawagai sub-district’s  Charmang valley in Bajaur agency.[16]        


[1] “Raja Pervez Ashraf declared new Pakistani PM,” Dawn, June 22, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/06/22/parliament-begins-new-pm-election/
Declan Walsh, “Pakistan’s Ruling Party Nominates New Candidate for Prime Minister,” New York Times, June 22, 2012. Available at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/23/world/asia/pakistans-ruling-party-nominates-new-candidate-for-prime-minister.html
“Raja Pervaiz Ashraf nominated for PM of Pakistan,” AFP, June 22, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/06/22/raja-pervez-ashraf-declared-as-the-new-pm/
[2] “Fazl withdraws from PM election,” Geo Pakistan, June 22, 2012. Available at http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=55560
“PPP fails to convince Fazl,” Dawn, June 22, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/06/22/should-have-been-consulted-before-ashrafs-nomination-fazlur-rehman/
[3] Umer Farooq, “Ephedrine case: PHC grants 7-day protective bail to Shahabuddin,” Express Tribune, June 22, 2012. Available at  http://tribune.com.pk/story/397673/ephedrine-case-phc-grants-7-day-protective-bail-to-shahabuddin/
[4] Samia Malik, “New PM will be another Zardari minion: Imran,” Express Tribune, June 22, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/397474/new-pm-will-be-another-zardari-minion-imran/
[5] Phil Stewart, “Pentagon chief all but rules out apology for Pakistan,” Reuters, June 22, 2012. Available at http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/22/us-usa-panetta-pakistan-idUSBRE85L05720120622
[6] Matthew Lee, “Harassment of U.S. diplomats rises in Pakistan,” AP, June 21, 2012. Available at http://militarytimes.com/news/2012/06/ap-harassment-us-diplomats-rises-pakistan-062112/
[7] Kimberly Dozier, AP Intelligence Writer, “AP source: US mulls new covert raids in Pakistan,” AP, June 22, 2012. Available at http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iyTqIqkE1L5oAJA1i9R2G2dYW29A?docId=fe6b798c8e9040b283b23010e92cdb15
[8] “Not in US interests to cut off relations with Pakistan: Clinton,” APP, June 22, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/397539/not-in-us-interests-to-cut-off-relations-with-pakistan-clinton/
[9] “Nato commander blames Kabul attack on Haqqani network,” Reuters, June 22, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/06/22/nato-commander-blames-kabul-attack-on-haqqani-network/
[10] Phil Stewart, “Strikes on al Qaeda leave only ‘handful’ of top targets,” Reuters, June 22, 2012. Available at http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/22/us-usa-panetta-saudi-idUSBRE85L05320120622
Owen Bowcott, “Drone strikes threaten 50 years of intenational law, says UN rapporteur,” Guardian, June 21, 2012. Available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jun/21/drone-strikes-international-law-un
[11] “Freedom Of Information: US refuses to lift lid on drone strikes,” AFP, June 22, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/397533/freedom-of-information-us-refuses-to-lift-lid-on-drone-strikes/
Paul Harris, “Drone strikes: Obama moves to block release of files on kill programme,” Guardian, June 21, 2012. Available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jun/21/obama-blocks-drones-kill-list-release
[12] Irfan Burki, “Soldier killed in SWA IED blast,” The News, June 22, 2012. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-7-115946-Soldier-killed-in-SWA-IED-blast
“Search operation: Security official killed, 6 injured,” Express Tribune, June 22, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/397478/search-operation-security-official-killed-6-injured/
[13] “Two Levies personnel killed in Washuk,” Daily Times, June 22, 2012. Available at http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\06\22\story_22-6-2012_pg7_8
[14] “Four killed in landmine blast, firing,” Daily Times, June 22, 2012. Available at http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\06\22\story_22-6-2012_pg7_7
[15] “Eight fall prey to target killing, violence in metropolis,” Daily Times, June 22, 2012. Available at http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\06\22\story_22-6-2012_pg12_15
“Two men gunned down, body of another found,” PPI, June 22, 2012. Available at http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=55521
[16] “17 militants surrender,” The News, June 22, 2012. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-2-115986-17-militants-surrender