Pakistan Security Brief - March 21, 2012

Opposition parties demand more time to study PCNS recommendations on U.S.-Pakistan relations; Al Qaeda acknowledges death of Ilyas Kashmiri; Heads of ruling coalition parties meet to discuss PCNS report; Pakistani Foreign Minister says Pakistan wants “lasting” partnership with U.S.; Pakistan’s Ambassador to U.S. says parliamentary review process is “success for democracy;” Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf calls PCNS report a “farce;” U.S. State Department to wait for “outcome of the full parliamentary debate;” Mullah Nazir-led Taliban faction claims its ranks are swelling; Bomb blast kills two policemen in Peshawar; Brother of Osama bin Laden’s widow challenges criminal charges against his sister; Balochistan Home Department reports that ethnic Baloch are primary targets of violence in province; World Bank approves two projects in Pakistan totaling $1.09 billion; India plans to route iron ore through Pakistan.

PCNS Report on U.S.-Pakistan Relations

  • On Tuesday, the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan demanded more time to study the Parliamentary Committee on National Security’s (PCNS) report before a debate on the proposals began. Khan complained that members of the opposition should have been given copies of the report in advance, so that they could have come to the session prepared to debate the proposals. He pointed out that the government had not implemented recommendations in the past, and he sought assurances that it would actually implement these new recommendations. Giving into Khan’s demand for more time, the government adjourned the joint session of Parliament until March 26.[1]

  • President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani chaired a meeting of the heads of the ruling coalition parties on Tuesday. They discussed the PCNS report regarding U.S.-Pakistan relations, which was presented at a joint session of Parliament earlier that day.[2]

  • In an interview with MSNBC, Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said that Pakistan wants to build a partnership with the U.S., “which is lasting, which has the ownership of the people of Pakistan, and of course the parliament of Pakistan.” Khar stated that the two countries should be able to “achieve results which are considered to be in the joint interest of both Pakistan and the United States and of course the NATO members, who are operating in Afghanistan.”[3]

  • Pakistan’s Ambassador to the U.S. Sherry Rehman spoke to the media in Washington DC on Wednesday and said that Pakistan’s parliamentary review process, was a “success for democracy,” because all Pakistani institutions were speaking with “one voice.” Rehman said she expected Parliament to complete its review to by late March or early April.[4]

  • On Wednesday, the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) party rejected the PCNS report, calling it a “farce and an insult to the wishes of the people to extricate themselves” from the “U.S.-backed war on terror which has become a war on terror for Pakistanis.” The PTI also stated that it would not accept any compromise on the issue of drone strikes or the issue of reopening NATO supply routes.[5]

  • The Express Tribune reports that the U.S. was not shocked by the PCNS’s recommendations, which called for an end to U.S. drone strikes and demanded an apology from the U.S. for the November 2011 NATO border attack.  According to a U.S. diplomat, there was “nothing really surprising” about the report. During Tuesday’s daily press briefing, U.S. State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland refused to comment on the report, saying that the state department would wait to “see the outcome of the full parliamentary debate and let their process go forward.” Nuland added that the U.S. has always thought that its relationship with Pakistan “should be grounded on the basis of mutual respect and common interest.”[6]

Militancy

  • In a video eulogizing a former Afghan Taliban deputy, which was posted on jihadist forums on March 13, the head of al Qaeda’s media and preaching in Pakistan seemingly acknowledged for the first time that senior al Qaeda leader Ilyas Kashmiri had been killed in a drone strike in Pakistan.[7]

  • The Mullah Nazir-led Taliban faction distributed a pamphlet on Tuesday, in which it admitted that three of its militant commanders, Shamsullah, Amir Hamza Tojikhel and Qari Haleemullah, were killed in a March 13 drone strike in Birmal sub-district, South Waziristan agency. According to the pamphlet, the group vowed to avenge the death of its commanders, and stated that contrary to popular belief, their ranks are swelling into the “thousands.”[8]

  • During armed clashes between security forces and militants in Kurram agency on Wednesday, at least five militants were killed and two security personnel and eight militants were injured.[9]

  • On Tuesday, a bomb planted in a rickshaw was remotely detonated as a police patrol passed by the Kohat Road area of Peshawar, killing two policemen and wounding four people, including two other policemen.[10]

Domestic Politics

  • Pakistan’s Supreme Court resumed hearing Prime Minister Gilani’s contempt case on Wednesday. Gilani’s counsel, Aitzaz Ahsan, reiterated that the prime minister cannot comply with the court’s order to write a letter to Swiss authorities asking them to reopen corruption cases against President Zardari, because the president is immune from prosecution. According to Ahsan, Zardari “enjoys immunity in 198 countries according to Article 248 of the Constitution.” Ahsan said the “harsh language” used in the court’s January 10 order made it seem as though the court had already decided to punish the prime minister, but the seven-member bench made it clear that their minds were “not already made up.” Ahsan also argued that it was wrong to hold the prime minister solely responsible for contempt, when both the former attorney general and law secretary had advised Gilani against writing the letter. The court adjourned the hearing and decided to conduct daily hearings beginning Thursday.[11]

Osama bin Laden

  • The brother of Osama bin Laden’s widow, Amal Abdulfattah, filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court on Tuesday, challenging the criminal charges alleging that his sister and her children illegally entered and lived in Pakistan. After a brief hearing of the case on Wednesday, the court adjourned the case until Thursday.[12]

Balochistan

  • According to an official report published by the Balochistan Home Department, the ethnic Baloch people are the primary targets of the violence in Balochistan. The report stated that “218 of the 308 bodies found in 2010 and 2011 were of the ethnic Baloch people.” Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid Member of National Assembly from Balochistan Mir Hamdan Khan Bugti claimed that “more than half of the bodies found in the province were the work of ‘local sardars,’” who were “killing innocent Baloch people to sabotage the government’s peace efforts.” The report found that Baloch separatist groups including the Balochistan Liberation Army, the Balochistan Republican Army, the Baloch United Liberation Front and the Baloch Liberation Front, were responsible for most of the violence across the province, and many of the groups often worked “in tandem with banned religious outfits.”[13]

  • At the Balochistan Assembly proceedings on Tuesday, lawmakers stated that “kidnapping for ransom has become a lucrative business in Balochistan,” with “as many as 1,047 people hav[ing] been kidnapped during the past four years.” According to a provincial agriculture minister from Balochistan National Party-Awami, the government allocated billions of rupees for the Frontier Corps and the police, “but they failed to maintain public order.” The lawmakers urged the law enforcement agencies to do something to improve the situation in Balochistan, “where people are kidnapped in broad daylight on a daily basis.”[14]

International Relations

  • The World Bank announced on Wednesday that it has “approved two projects totaling $1.09 billion aimed at supporting Pakistan’s growth agenda for reducing poverty.” The $840 million Tarbela IV Extension Hydropower Project will add a “power generation capacity of 1,410 megawatts” and “will use the existing dam, tunnel, roads and transmission line for generating additional electricity.” According to World Bank Country Director for Pakistan Rachid Benmessaoud, the “direct beneficiaries” of this project “will be millions of energy users, including industries, households and farmers who would get more electricity at a lower cost and suffer fewer blackouts.” The Express Tribune reported that the second project, the $250 million Punjab Irrigated Agriculture Productivity Improvement Program Project, will aim to get “maximum productivity out of each drop of the irrigation water” by introducing modern methods of irrigation such as drip and sprinkler irrigation systems. The World Bank’s Lead Water Specialist Masood Ahmad said that the high efficiency systems will promote water conservation and increase crop yields.[15]

  • According to the Chairman of the Steel Authority of India CS Verma, India has committed to developing an $11 billion project involving the Hajigak mines in Afghanistan. The Hajigak mines, which contain an “estimated 1.8 billion tons of ore, with an iron concentration” estimated to be “61 percent to 64 percent” are “a gold mine,” said Verma. India plans to turn to Pakistan to resolve the challenge of transporting the ore out of landlocked Afghanistan. Verma told Reuters that moving the ore along Pakistani supply routes will prove beneficial for both Pakistan and India’s economic interests, which “far outweigh[s]” the “political hostility between the two countries.”[16]

      

 

 


[1] Zahid Gishkori, “Reconfiguring foreign policy: Opposition seeks time to dissect 40-point proposals,” The Express Tribune, March 21, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/352868/reconfiguring-foreign-policy-opposition-seeks-time-to-dissect-40-point-proposals/
[2] “PCNS recommendations discussed at allies’ meeting,” APP, March 20, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/20/pcns-recommendations-discussed-at-allies-meeting.html
[3] “US-Pak relations must have ownership of Pakistanis: Khar,” Agencies, March 21, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/21/relations-with-us-must-have-ownership-of-pakistani-people-khar.html
[4] Huma Imtiaz, “Parliamentary review a success for democracy: Sherry Rehman,” The Express Tribune, March 21, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/352977/parliamentary-review-a-success-for-democracy-sherry-rehman/
[5] “PTI rejects PCNS report aimed at reordering ties with US,” The Express Tribune, March 21, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/352990/pti-rejects-pcns-report-aimed-at-reordering-ties-with-us/
[6] Kamran Yousaf, “Response: US diplomats not surprised … but waiting,” The Express Tribune, March 21, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/352869/response-us-diplomats-not-surprised--but-waiting/
“Daily Press Briefing,” U.S. Department of State, March 20, 2012. Available at http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2012/03/186096.htm
[7] “Al-Qaeda’s Pakistan Media Head Gives Eulogy for Deceased Taliban Official,” SITE Intelligence Group, March 13, 2012. Available at SITE.
[8] “Mullah Nazir-led Taliban confirm death of commanders,” The Express Tribune, March 21, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/352865/mullah-nazir-led-taliban-confirm-death-of-commanders/
[9] “Military kills five militants in Kurram,” Dawn, March 21, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/21/military-kills-five-militants-in-kurram.html
[10] “Two police killed in Peshawar bomb blast: officials,” AFP, March 20, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/20/blast-kills-one-injures-four-policemen-in-peshawar.html
[11] “PM never denied following court orders: Aitzaz Ahsan,” The Express Tribune, March 21, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/352940/supreme-court-resumes-hearing-of-pm-contempt-case/
“Gilani’s contempt of court hearing adjourned till Thursday,” Dawn, March 21, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/21/pms-contempt-of-court-continues.html
[12] Malik Asad, “Criminal case against Osama’s widow, children challenged,” Dawn, March 21, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/21/criminal-case-against-osamas-widow-children-challenged.html
[13] Zahid Gishkori, “Home dept report: Ethnic Baloch still the chief target in Balochistan,” The Express Tribune, March 21, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/352851/home-dept-report-ethnic-baloch-still-the-chief-target-in-balochistan/
[14] Shehzad Baloch, “Kidnappings for ransom: ‘Over 1,000 abducted in past four years,’” The Express Tribune, March 21, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/352849/kidnappings-for-ransom-over-1000-abducted-in-past-four-years/
[15] Shahbaz Rana, “World Bank approves $1.1b for agro projects in Pakistan,” The Express Tribune, March 21, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/352911/world-bank-approves-1-bn-for-projects-in-pakistan/
[16] “India eyes Pakistan for access to Afghan mine bonanza,” Reuters, March 21, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/353047/india-eyes-pakistan-for-access-to-afghan-mine-bonanza/