Pakistan Security Brief - March 2, 2011

Shahbaz Bhatti assassinated; Bhatti video released; Clinton warns against cutting aid to Pakistan; LHC considers allowing media reports in Davis case; Rehabilitation aid to Kurram; Four Khasadar Force officers kidnapped; Man in Tirah Valley killed; High-profile terrorist arrested; Blast in Karachi; HRCP coordinator killed; Gilani: Balochistan insurgency “fueled by external elements;” Flood surcharge to be imposed.

 

Assassination of Federal Minster

  • Shahbaz Bhatti, Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs, was assassinated on Wednesday morning by armed assailants in Islamabad. Bhatti, the only Christian minister in the Pakistani government, was shot eight times when militants stopped his car as it was leaving his home. Pamphlets left behind by the militants warned against alterations to Pakistan’s blasphemy law, and “bore the imprint of the Taliban and al Qaeda.” A Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP) spokesman told BBC Urdu, “This man was a known blasphemer of the Prophet [Muhammad]. We will continue to target all those who speak against the law which punishes those who insult the prophet. Their fate will be the same." Bhatti had previously campaigned on behalf of changes to the blasphemy laws, but had increasingly become isolated within his own party over the issue. Bhatti’s aides stated that he had feared an attempt on his life and had asked for security guards, though none were with him at the time of the attack.[i]

  • Bhatti had recorded a video four months ago, to be shown in case of his death. In the video, he vowed to continue campaigning on behalf of the rights of minorities. Bhatti said, "I will die to defend their rights. These threats and these warnings cannot change my opinions and principles." World leaders have stepped forward in condemning the attack, while the Pakistani government has opened an investigation into the murder. [ii]

 

U.S.-Pakistani Relations

  • On Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Congress against cutting aid to Pakistan, in response to concerns raised by House members over the incarceration of Raymond Davis. She declared that, “We are working to deepen our partnership and keep it focused on addressing Pakistan’s political and economic challenges as well as our shared threats. Alongside our military offensive, we are engaged in a major civilian effort that is helping to build up the governments, economies, and civil societies of both countries and undercut the insurgency.”[iii]

  • The Lahore High Court (LHC) is to consider a petition which requests the court to allow media reports regarding Raymond Davis to be included in the record. Petitioner Advocate Muhammad Azhar Siddique stated that media reports related to Davis’ diplomatic status should be made a part of the record so that the court “takes various aspects of the case into consideration,” referring to media reports on the U.S. government’s intention to withdraw from an optional protocol in the Vienna Convention.[iv]

 

FATA

  • On Tuesday, Prime Minister Gilani announced the allotment of $11 million (Rs 1 billion) for the remainder of 2011 and $8 million (Rs 700 million) in next year's budget for the welfare of 32,000 people who had to leave their homes in Kurram Agency due to prolonged instability. Gilani also praised the efforts of members of the National Assembly, elders, and members of the jirga for negotiating peace in Kurram Agency.[v]

  • Four members of the Khasadar Force in Khyber Agency were kidnapped on Monday night from Ghalanai check post. Meanwhile, a man in Bara was beheaded by militants for allegedly providing intelligence to the U.S. to conduct drone attacks in Tirah Valley.[vi]

 

High-profile Terrorist Arrested

  • Interior Minister Rehman Malik has announced that security forces have arrested a high-profile terrorist who had planned to attack Islamabad with rocket launchers from the Margallah Hills. Malik said that soldiers also arrested fellow criminals who had coordinated with the militant.[vii]

 

Blast in Sindh

  • A bomb detonated in Karachi on Tuesday. The blast occurred at Shah Lateef town near National Highway. It is believed that the militant carrying the bomb had intended to assault railway tracks in the area. The militant carrying the bomb was killed, but no other casualties have been reported.[viii]

‘Target Killing’ in Balochistan

  • A coordinator of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in Balochistan was killed in Khuzdar on Tuesday. Unidentified men riding a motorcycle opened fire on Naeen Sabir while he was sitting in a shop. A local political activist said that the murder was a case of a ‘targeted killing’ of a high-level Baloch leader, though no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.[ix]

  • Prime Minister Gilani claimed that the government has evidence that the insurgency in Balochistan is being fueled by external elements. He declared, “Foreign forces are involved in deteriorating the situation in Balochistan and taking advantage of it.” Gilani subsequently reiterated the Pakistan Peoples Party’s offer to hold talks with political groups within the province in order to integrate them “into the mainstream of the national life.”[x]

 

Internal Politics

  • On Tuesday, the Pakistani government decided to impose a 15 percent flood surcharge on income tax as well as increase the special excise tax by 150 percent. The moves, intended to contain Pakistan’s growing budget deficit, will provide additional revenue of $538 million (Rs 46 billion) this year.[xi]

 


[i] Jane Perlez, “Gunmen Kill Pakistani Cabinet Minister,” New York Times, March 2, 2011. Available at
[ii] “Pakistan minister Shahbaz Bhatti shot dead in Islamabad,” Guardian, March 2, 2011. Available at
[iii] Anwar Iqbal, “Hillary cautions Congress not to cut Pakistan aid,” Dawn, March 2, 2011. Available at
[iv] “Davis case: LHC admits petition on media reports for hearing,” Dawn, March 2, 2011. Available at
[v] “PM announces Rs1.7b for Kurram people rehabilitation,” Frontier Post, March 2, 2011. Available at http://www.thefrontierpost.com/News.aspx?ncat=ts&nid=1885&ad=02-03-2011
[vi] “6 killed, khasadars abducted in Fata,” Dawn, March 2, 2011. Available at
[vii]“High-profile terrorist arrested: Malik,” The News, March 1, 2011. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/NewsDetail.aspx?ID=11918
[viii] “Suicide blast on National Highway in Karachi,” GEO, March 1, 2011. Available at http://www.geo.tv/3-1-2011/78876.htm
[ix] “HRCP official gunned down in Balochistan,” Daily Times, March 2, 2011. Available at http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\03\02\story_2-3-2011_pg1_5
[x]Zia Khan, “Baloch insurgency funded from abroad: PM,” Express Tribune, March 1, 2011. Available at
[xi] Khaleeq Kiani, “Govt falls back on taxpayer for funds,” Dawn, March 2, 2011. Available at