Pakistan Security Brief – March 1, 2012

Majid Shoukat Khan pleads guilty to terrorism charges in plea bargain; U.S. Secretary of State Clinton threatens Pakistan with sanctions; Senior Pakistani officials meet to discuss U.S.-Pakistan relations; Secretary Clinton says “Pakistan has ‘no basis’ for detaining” Shakeel Afridi; Pakistan’s Supreme Court scolds Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence; Mansoor Ijaz testifies that there was “serious threat” of military coup in Pakistan; Pakistani Interior Minister says perpetrators of recent Shia killings have been identified; Pakistani military jets bomb militant hideouts in Orakzai; Pakistani Taliban claims responsibility for killing Chinese woman; Egyptian authorities mistakenly arrest wrong man; Five NGO workers kidnapped; Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency asks Interpol to issue warrant for Pervez Musharraf; Abbottabad Commission questions Pakistani Air Chief; Pakistani government announces it will phase out import restrictions on India.

 

U.S.-Pakistan Relations

  • On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton threatened Pakistan with sanctions if the country’s leadership continues with its plans to build the Iran-Pakistan natural gas pipeline. Responding to questions by Congressman John Lewis, Secretary Clinton stated that “beginning the construction of such a pipeline either as an Iranian project or as a joint project would violate [U.S.] Iran sanctions law…it would be particularly damaging to Pakistan because their economy is already quite shaky.” Secretary Clinton recognized the energy deficit that Pakistan faces, and claimed that the U.S. is working to find alternative solutions to the deficit that do not necessitate the building of the proposed pipeline. Despite U.S. pressure on Pakistan to scrap the pipeline project, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar announced that the Iran-Pakistan pipeline would continue, and “reiterated the stance that Pakistan would not allow anyone to use its territory against others.”[1]

  • President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Ambassador to the U.S. Sherry Rehman attended a high-level meeting on Wednesday to discuss U.S.-Pakistan relations, particularly Secretary Clinton’s threat of sanctions, if Pakistan continued with the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline.[2]

  • Majid Shoukat Khan, a Pakistani who lived in the U.S. for several years, pled guilty on Wednesday to “conspiracy, murder and attempted murder in violation of the laws of war, and to material support for terrorism and espionage.” Khan reached a plea deal with the U.S. government whereby he “will face a maximum sentence of 19 years in a military prison starting Wednesday if he cooperates with the government, in addition to the almost nine years he has already been detained.”  According to prosecutors with the U.S. military commission, Khan “plotted with the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attack, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, to blow up fuel tanks in the U.S., to assassinate former Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and to provide other assistance to [al Qaeda].” Khan is the first “high value” detainee to reach a plea bargain and the seventh Guantanamo prisoner “to be convicted of war crimes.”[3]

  • At a congressional committee hearing on Wednesday, Secretary Clinton fielded a question by Senator Jim Webb, asking if the U.S. “has developed a firewall in the financial aid going into Pakistan, so that they do not directly or indirectly assist in expansion of their nuclear [program].” Clinton responded by saying that a firewall has been constructed, but that there is still a serious concern surrounding the potential for diversion of funds intended for infrastructure development. Also at the hearing, Secretary Clinton stated that “Pakistan has ‘no basis’ for detaining” Shakeel Afridi, the doctor who assisted the U.S. in locating bin Laden. She also claimed that Pakistan has “no justification” for holding Dr. Afridi’s staff either.[4]

Domestic Politics

  • On Thursday, Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry scolded Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate and Military Intelligence (MI) for their replies to the court’s request in the matter of the missing civilians detained by the agencies for over a year. On Feb. 13, the court told the ISI and MI chiefs, the Judge Advocate General, and the Chief Secretary of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to submit reports describing the details of the detention, including how and why the prisoners were detained and why their health conditions were deteriorating. The court claimed that the replies “do not justify” the detentions, or clarify under which laws the civilians were detained. Chaudhry also stated that the ISI and MI have become the “’biggest violators’ of the country’s law and order,” and reminded them that they “are not ‘above the law.’” Referring to the alleged abuses by the intelligence agencies in Balochistan, Chaudhry called the organizations arsonists that have “set Balochistan on fire.” Despite their criticisms, Chaudhry and the court “expressed satisfaction over the report submitted by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa chief secretary about the health condition of the prisoners.” The Supreme Court adjourned the case until March 16.[5]

  • Pakistan’s National Assembly Standing Committee on Defence asked the ISI and MI on Wednesday “not to overstep their authority.” The parliamentary panel held a meeting to discuss the security concerns in Balochistan at which the ISI and MI chiefs were scheduled to brief the committee, although neither appeared. In the past, the ISI and MI have been blamed by Baloch insurgents and human rights groups for killings and disappearances in Balochistan, but the agencies have always denied the accusations.[6]

  • Special Prosecutor Mohammad Azhar Chaudhry of Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) confirmed that the FIA sent a formal request to the Director of Interpol in Pakistan to issue a warrant for the arrest of former president and retired army chief Pervez Musharraf. According to Dawn, a Rawalpindi court issued warrants against Musharraf for his alleged role in the murder of Benazir Bhutto. Once the warrant is issued by Interpol, Musharraf could be arrested “anywhere in the world.”[7]

Memogate

  • During cross-examination via video link in the Pakistani High Commission in London on Thursday, Pakistani-American businessman and key witness in the “memogate” case Mansoor Ijaz said that there was a “serious threat” of a military coup in Pakistan following the Osama bin Laden raid in May 2011. Ijaz stated that Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha met with leaders of different countries to get their support for the coup.[8]

  • British telecommunications company Red Rock ICT Limited verified  Mansoor Ijaz’s testimony in the memogate testimony, in which Ijaz stated that he had phone conversations with Pakistan’s former Ambassador to the U.S. Hussain Haqqani and former U.S. National Security Adviser General James Jones on May 9, 10 and 12 of 2011. The News reported that this contradicts General Jones’s affidavit, which states that he received a call from Ijaz a few days before May 9.[9]

Militancy

  • On Wednesday, Interior Minister Rehman Malik announced that the perpetrators responsible for Tuesday's sectarian killings in which 18 Shia Muslims were gunned down in Kohistan district had been identified and would soon be “produced before the nation.” The perpetrators stopped a convoy of busses traveling on Karakoram Highway on Tuesday, removed all Shias from the bus, and shot each of them. Jundullah, a local anti-Shia terrorist group, claimed responsibility for the attack. Chief Minister Syed Mehdi Sha announced that the relatives of each victim would be compensated with one million rupees and offered employment in the government.[10]

  • Eighteen militants were killed and 26 others were wounded on Thursday when Pakistani military jets bombed militant hideouts in Orakzai agency. The strikes destroyed four militant hideouts in Bermela, Samarbazar, Barlas, and the Kurram-Orakzai border area.[11]

  • In an audio recording posted on the Internet on Wednesday, al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri stated that “the reduction in the U.S. Department of Defense’s budget” is “one of the latest signs of [the U.S.’s] shrinking (power).” According to an Afghan diplomat, Zawahiri said that the U.S.’s efforts to engage in peace talks with the Afghan Taliban, “which it used to consider as a terrorist group that must be annihilated,” are further evidence of the U.S.’s decline.[12]

  • Egyptian authorities mistakenly arrested a man on Wednesday who they thought was Saif al-Adel, a senior member of al Qaeda who briefly served as bin Laden’s security chief, and who is on the FBI’s most-wanted list. Mohammed Ibrahim Makkawi, the man arrested at Cairo International Airport, is actually a former Islamist militant who sought political asylum in Pakistan after fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s, said security officials. Makkawi did an interview with pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat in May, stating that he had been surprised to find that his “name and history had been placed underneath the image of another Egyptian, under the false name ‘Saif al-Adel’ as part of a list of 22 of the most wanted terrorists issued by the FBI, even though [he had] no connections to al-Qaeda or its operations.”[13]

  • Five NGO workers working for the governor’s development program were travelling to Frontier Region Tank to visit a development project site, when gunmen intercepted their vehicle in Maghzai village and kidnapped them.[14]

  • The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for killing a Chinese woman in Peshawar’s Kohati Bazaar on Tuesday. Taliban spokesman Mohammad Afridi said on Thursday that “the woman was targeted to avenge…atrocities carried out by Chinese security forces” in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, which has a large Muslim population.[15]

  • Twelve people, including seven militants, were injured in armed clashes between Lashkar-e-Islam and the Fazalkhel tribe in Tirah Valley, Khyber agency on Wednesday.[16]

  • In Matani on Wednesday, militants from Darra Adam Khel attacked members of an anti-militant body, and killed the nephew of the laskhar’s founder.[17]

  • Six mortar shells, allegedly fired by NATO forces in Afghanistan, landed in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan, wounding six people, including four children, said security officials.[18]

Osama bin Laden

International

  • The Pakistani government announced on Wednesday that it will phase out the majority of current import restrictions on India by December 2012. Prior to this announcement, Pakistani traders could only import roughly 2,000 items from India due to the restrictions. Soon Pakistani traders will be allowed to import almost anything from India, with the exception of 1,200 items that have been placed on a "negative list.” India’s Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna “thanked Pakistan for deciding to gradually scrap the ‘negative list’ that prevents the export of hundreds of items from India.” Trade between the two countries is currently worth approximately $2.7 billion per year, but Indian Trade Minister Anand Sharma said that India and Pakistan plan to increase trade to $6 billion per year over the next three years.[20]                  



[1] Anwar Iqbal, “Tough US warning on Iran gas pipeline,” Dawn, March 1, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/01/tough-us-warning-on-iran-gas-pipeline.html
Tom Wright, “U.S. Threatens Pakistan: Drop Iran Pipeline,” The Wall Street Journal, March 1, 2012. Available at http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2012/03/01/u-s-threatens-pakistan-drop-iran-pipeline/
“Pakistan rejects US pressure on gas project,” Dawn, March 1, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/01/pakistan-rejects-us-pressure-on-gas-project.html
[2] Syed Irfan Raza, “Meeting at Presidency discusses Pak-US relations,” Dawn, March 1, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/01/meeting-at-presidency-discusses-pak-us-relations.html
[3] Ben Fox, “Guilt Plea From ‘High Value” Guantanamo Prisoner,” Time, February 29, 2012. Available at http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2107950,00.html
Scott Shane, “Testimony on Al Qaeda is Required in Plea Deal,” The New York Times, February 29, 2012. Available at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/01/us/majid-khan-pleads-guilty-to-terrorism-plots-in-military-court.html?_r=2
“High-value detainee: Gitmo detainee pleads guilty to terrorism charges,” The Express Tribune, March 1, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/343792/high-value-detainee-gitmo-detainee-pleads-guilty-to-terrorism-charges/
Peter Finn, “Guantanamo detainee Majid Khan pleads guilty, promises cooperation,” The Washington Post, February 29, 2012. Available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/guantanamo-detainee-majid-khan-pleads-guilty-promises-cooperation/2012/02/29/gIQAVuIaiR_story.html
[4] “Clinton: Pakistan has ‘no basis’ to hold doctor who helped US ahead of bin Laden operation,” Associated Press, February 29, 2012. Available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/clinton-pakistan-has-no-basis-to-hold-doctor-who-helped-us-ahead-of-bin-laden-operation/2012/02/29/gIQASnriiR_story.html
“US expresses concern over Pakistan diverting aid money for other purposes,” The Economic Times, February 29, 2012. Available at http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2012-02-29/news/31110633_1_firewall-pakistan-financial-aid
[5] Azam Khan, “Adiala missing inmates: ISI, MI not superior to civilians, says SC,” The Express Tribune, March 1, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/343944/adiala-missing-inmates-isi-mi-not-superior-to-civilians-says-sc/
“SC not satisfied with ISI, MI replies in missing person case,” Dawn, March 1, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/01/sc-not-satisfied-with-isi-mi-replies-in-missing-person-case.html
[6] Kamran Yousaf, “Balochistan unrest: Spy agencies asked to not overstep authority, The Express Tribune, March 1, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/343838/balochistan-unrest-spy-agencies-asked-to-not-overstep-authority/
[7] Malik Asad, “Request for Musharraf warrant sent to Interpol,” Dawn, March 1, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/01/request-for-musharraf-warrant-sent-to-interpol.html
[8] “Ijaz reiterates ‘threat’ of coup after Abbottabad operation,” Dawn, March 1, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/01/ijaz-reiterates-threat-of-coup-after-abbottabad-operation.html
[9] Ansar Abbasi, “UK phone company confirms Mansoor Ijaz’s claims,” The News International, March 1, 2012. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=95388&Cat=2
[10] Farooq Ahmed Khan, “Perpetrators of Kohistan killings traced, claims Malik,” Dawn, March 1, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/01/perpetrators-of-kohistan-killings-traced-claims-malik-2.html
[11] “Jet strikes kill 18 militants in Orakzai,” The Express Tribune, March 1, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/343921/jet-strikes-kill-18-militants-in-orakzai/
“Militant hideouts pounded in Kurram, Orakzai; 18 killed,” Dawn, March 1, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/01/militant-hideouts-pounded-in-kurram-orakzai-18-killed.html
[12] “Zawahiri calls US talks with Taliban, defence cuts a show of weakness,” Reuters, March 1, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/343856/zawahiri-calls-us-talks-with-taliban-defence-cuts-a-show-of-weakness/
[13] “Egypt arrests man mistakenly thought to be al-Qaeda chief,” The News International, March 1, 2012. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=12849&Cat=13
[14] Iftikhar Firdous, “Restive frontiers: Five NGO workers abducted from Tank,” The Express Tribune, March 1, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/343775/restive-frontiers-five-ngo-workers-abducted-from-tank/
[15] “Pakistani Taliban says it killed Chinese woman,” AP, March 1, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/01/pakistani-taliban-says-it-killed-chinese-woman.html
[16] “12 hurt in Tirah clashes,” The News International, March 1, 2012. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=95384&Cat=2
[17] “Ex-nazim’s nephew killed in Matani attack,” The News International, March 1, 2012. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=95367&Cat=7
[18] “Cross border shelling injures six in NW,” Agencies, March 1, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/01/cross-border-shelling-injures-six-in-nw.html
[19] “Air chief Rao Qamar Suleman appears before OBL commission,” Geo, March 1, 2012. Available at http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=37718
[20] “Pakistan phases out most Indian import restrictions,” BBC, February 29, 2012. Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-17209815
“India praises Pakistan’s efforts to normalize trade ties,” AFP, March 1, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/01/india-praises-pakistans-efforts-to-normalise-trade-ties.html