Pakistan Security Brief - March 15, 2012

Kidnapped Swiss couple freed from TTP captivity; Suicide attack kills Police Superintendent; NATO forces arrest Pakistanis at Afghanistan-Pakistan border; Abbottabad Commission report contradicts U.S. account of bin Laden raid; Pakistani leaders to bring NATO supply route reopening to Parliament; Chief of Army Staff will not meet with U.S. CENTCOM Commander Gen. Mattis; Brig. Ali Khan “unlawfully shifted” to undisclosed location; Prime Minister Gilani refuses to violate constitution; Secretary Clinton says U.S. “will continue to engage” with Pakistan; National Assembly discusses issue of “forced conversions” of Hindu girls; Prime Minister Gilani and German Defence Minister discuss “cooperation and military collaboration;” Reporters Without Borders may add Pakistan to “Enemies of the Internet” list in 2013.

Militancy

  • On Thursday, Swiss tourists Olivier David Och and Daniela Widmer were freed after being held hostage by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) for approximately eight months. Och, a Swiss police officer, and Widmer, a former Swiss police officer, were abducted at gunpoint from their vehicle in the Loralai district of Balochistan on July 1 while driving from India to Switzerland “in a private capacity.” The TTP claimed responsibility for the kidnapping in July and released a ransom video in October featuring the married couple. The TTP demanded $3.3 million for their freedom, along with “the release of 100 imprisoned Taliban fighters” and Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist currently serving 86 years in a U.S. prison for “attempting to shoot an American soldier in Afghanistan in 2008.” According to Pakistani security officials, Och and Widmer reported that they escaped the custody of their captors before heading to the military checkpoint in Miram Shah, North Waziristan. However, a spokesman for the TTP said that the couple was “released after a council of elders was convened.” There is also speculation that Och and Widmer were released in exchange for a ransom. In a video released last week, another Taliban captive, Ajmal Khan, the vice-chancellor of a university in Peshawar, claimed the Swiss government had agreed to pay “millions of rupees” and free 100 prisoners in exchange for the Swiss couple.[1]

  • A suicide attack in Pishtakhara Square near Bara, Khyber agency killed Superintendent of Police Kalam Khan and injured five others on Thursday morning. According to Deputy Superintendent of Police Rahim Shah, “the suicide bomber [strapped with six kilograms of explosives] targeted the vehicle in which Khan was traveling” and “struck the side of the car where Khan was seated.” Police official Tahir Ayub reported that Khan has been involved in several anti-Taliban operations and had previously survived at least three assassination attempts in the last three years.[2]

  • Five Pakistanis from the Chagai district, Balochistan were returning home from Afghanistan’s Helmand province on Wednesday, when NATO forces opened fire on their vehicles near the border village of Bibi Jan. One Pakistani man was killed, and NATO soldiers arrested the other four and took them across the border.[3] 

  • Dr. Azra Fazl, a Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) member of the National Assembly, spoke to the assembly on Thursday about the issue of Hindu girls, such as Faryal Shah, who are being forcibly abducted and kept in madrassas in Sindh and then forced to convert to Islam and marry Muslims. Fazl told the assembly that there is an urgent need for legislation to protect minority rights and end “forced conversions.”[4] 

  • Unidentified militants blew up a government primary school in Taru Jabba’s Wapda colony in Nowshera district, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Wednesday. No casualties were reported. According to the News, this is the 19th school that militants have blown up in Nowshera district.[5]

Osama bin Laden

  • A member of the Abbottabad Commission has completed his findings on the May 2 U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden. According to the report, the findings are based on statements from bin Laden’s family, his neighbors, and the government officials who inspected the area after the raid. The report, which will be Pakistan’s first official version of the events on May 2, contradicts some of the details in the U.S. version of events. According to media reports, one of the most confusing details in the commission’s report is the finding that only a single bullet-casing and bullet-mark were found in the room that was allegedly filled with several of bin Laden’s armed companions. Other than the mark from the bullet that killed bin Laden, no other bullet casings or marks were found in the compound, even though the commission found more than a dozen Kalashnikov rifles near the dead bodies. According to the U.S. version of events, not a single soldier was hit by a bullet. The Pakistani commission questions why there appears to be no evidence of bin Laden’s companions firing back at U.S. soldiers storming the house.[6]

Military

  • On Wednesday, Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani told reporters that he “will not hold a meeting with any senior U.S. military officer including CENTCOM Commander Gen. Mattis before the joint session of Parliament scheduled for March 17.” Kayani also defended the Pakistan Army and intelligence agencies in allegations surrounding their involvement in the missing persons’ cases in Balochistan. Kayani stated that “only 47 people are missing in Balochistan,” and that the army’s activities have helped to “improve the standard of living for the people of Balochistan.” Kayani also noted that neither the army nor intelligence agencies are “above criticism,” but warned reporters that they should be careful to “not undermine national institutions.”[7]

Domestic Politics

  • On Tuesday, Advocate Colonel (retd) Inamur Rahim, the defense lawyer for Brig. (retd) Ali Khan who is facing a court martial for treason and mutiny, said that his client was “unlawfully shifted” from the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC). Khan was being treated for heart problems at the AFIC under orders from the Lahore High Court when he was reportedly relocated to an “undisclosed location” on Monday night. However, the medical authorities at the AFIC reported that they had “no record” of Khan ever being received at their facility.[8]

  • Addressing a gathering of Islamia University students in Bahawalpur, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said that he will not obey the Supreme Court’s order to write a letter to Swiss authorities asking them to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, because it would “be a violation of the constitution.” Gilani said that he would rather be convicted of contempt of court, which carries a punishment of six months, than violate the constitution, which is an act of treason and which carries the death sentence.[9]  

U.S.-Pakistan Relations

  • On Wednesday, top political and military leaders in Pakistan agreed to take the decision of reopening NATO supply routes to a joint session of parliament that is likely to be held on March 19. According to Dawn, the Parliamentary Committee on National Security will be charged with recommending the terms of the supply routes, which could include “levying transportation charges on vehicles and goods” once they are reopened.[10]

  • During Tuesday’s Opening Session of the Global Chiefs of Mission Conference in Washington, DC, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Pakistan “is vital to our [U.S.] counterterrorism, economic stability, and regional cooperation goals for the region.” The U.S. “will continue to engage” with Pakistan, even in areas where there are “legitimate concerns and disagreements,” said Clinton. Commenting on Clinton’s remarks, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the U.S. Sherry Rehman said she “appreciate[d] Secretary Clinton’s words of engaging despite differences.”[11]

International Relations

  • On Wednesday, the nine-member Pakistani judicial commission investigating the 2008 Mumbai attacks arrived in India to obtain evidence needed for the prosecution of seven alleged conspirators in the case. According to India's Home Ministry spokeswoman Ira Joshi, the commission’s mandate is to “record statements of those who investigated the 2008 case.” However, AFP reports that the Indian government says it “has already handed over enough evidence to convict the accused,” and blames “Pakistani militants from the Lashkar-e-Taiba group for training, equipping and financing the attack with support from ‘elements’ in the Pakistani military.”[12]

  • On Tuesday, Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani met with German Defence Minister Dr. Thomas de Maiziere to discuss “cooperation and military collaboration” between Germany and Pakistan. At the meeting, which took place at the Prime Minister’s House in Pakistan, Gilani stated that his country was committed to supporting an “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned” peace process in Afghanistan. Gilani also highlighted the importance of Pakistan’s relationship with the U.S., “adding that the new rules of engagement, pending approval of Parliament, would be formulated soon, and would help achieve clarity” in U.S.-Pakistan relations. The German Defence Minister applauded the democratic process in Pakistan, as well as the country’s efforts to strengthen regional ties, and stated that Germany would “play a role in Afghanistan beyond 2014.”[13]

  • President Zardari told Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt on Wednesday that Pakistan values its relationship with Sweden and wants to further the “broad-based, substantive and long-term relationship” between the two countries. Zardari also spoke of the need to expand bilateral trade and promote investment aside from people-to-people contacts.[14]

Internet

  • In its 2012 report on countries that are “Enemies of the Internet,” Reporters Without Borders stated that Pakistan may be added to its list in 2013 for the Pakistani government’s “attempt to set up a nation-wide internet filtering system.” Along with Reporters Without Borders, “a number of other local and international groups…have also issued statements against the internet filtering system.” Earlier this week, Chairwoman Zohra Yusuf of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan requested that Pakistan put the proposed filtering system “on hold,” in order to ensure that internet censorship and surveillance is not institutionalized in Pakistan.[15]            

 

 

 

 


[1] “Swiss hostages escaped Taliban captors: army,” Dawn, March 15, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/15/pakistani-taliban-release-swiss-hostages-army.html
Rob Crilly, “Kidnapped Swiss tourists ‘escape’ clutches of Pakistani Taliban,” The Telegraph, March 15, 2012. Available at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/9144924/Kidnapped-Swiss-tourists-escape-clutches-of-Pakistani-Taliban.html
Declan Walsh, “Taliban Release 2 Swiss Hostages in Pakistan,” The New York Times, March 15, 2012. Available at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/16/world/asia/taliban-realses-swiss-hostages-in-pakistan.html?_r=2
[2] Riaz Ahmad, “SP Kalam Khan dies in Peshawar suicide attack,” The Express Tribune, March 15, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/350368/sp-kalam-khan-dies-in-peshawar-blast/
“Suicide bomber kills Pakistani police commander,” AFP, March 15, 2012. Available at http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5joH7zaTB8KrZWAwfTNaltLFVNNXA?docId=CNG.9dd505868d1fff6cc64be74ba2bf48a4.b1
[3] Saleem Shahid, “Pakistani dies in firing by Nato forces,” Dawn, March 14, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/15/pakistani-dies-in-firing-by-nato-forces.html
[4] Zahid Gishkori, “‘Hindu girls being forcibly kept in Sindh madrassas,’” The Express Tribune, March 15, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/350431/hindu-girls-being-forcibly-kept-in-sindh-madrassas/
[5] “19th school blown up in Nowshera,” The News, March 15, 2012. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-2-97789-19th-school-blown-up-in-Nowshera
[6] “Abbottabad commission findings contradict US version: report,” Dawn, March 15, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/15/abbottabad-commission-findings-contradict-us-version-report.html
[7] Tanveer Qaiser Shahid, “Rare public statement: Kayani deflects criticism over missing persons,” The Express Tribune, March 15, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/350294/rare-public-statement-kayani-deflects-criticism-over-missing-persons/
[8] Mudassir Raja, “Court martial proceedings: Brig Khan shifted to undisclosed location,” The Express Tribune, March 14, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/349694/court-martial-proceedings-brig-khan-shifted-to-undisclosed-location/
[9] “Imprisonment better than writing to the Swiss, says Gilani,” Agencies, March 15, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/15/parliament-to-decide-nato-supply-fate-gilani.html
[10] Syed Irfan Raza, “Nato supply route: Parliament’s decision to be final,” Dawn, March 15, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/15/nato-supply-route-parliaments-decision-to-be-final.html
[11] “Remarks at the Opening Session of the Global Chiefs of Mission Conference,” U.S. Department of State, March 13, 2012. Available at http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2012/03/185675.htm
“US, Pakistan exploring terms of engagement,” Dawn, March 15, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/15/us-pakistan-exploring-terms-of-engagement.html
[12] “Pakistan team in India for Mumbai carnage probe,” AFP, March 14, 2012. Available at http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iXdsTDLEPIIFSxZ7qKWlycU7hJig?docId=CNG.132fb791216c2b96ddd3a57979183eef.9e1
[13] “Reboot of relations will help achieve clarity with US: PM,” APP, March 14, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/349751/reboot-of-relations-will-help-achieve-clarity-with-us-pm/
[14] “Pakistan, Sweden keen to broaden bilateral ties,” The News, March 15, 2012. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-13-13185-Pakistan,-Sweden-keen-to-broaden-bilateral-ties
[15] “Pakistan may become Enemy of the Internet, 2013,” The Express Tribune, March 15, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/350422/pakistan-may-become-enemy-of-the-internet-2013/
“Rights activists say Pakistan is moving toward Internet censorship,” Los Angeles Times, March 14, 2012. Available at http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2012/03/human-rights-activists-criticize-pakistani-move-toward-internet-censorship.html