Pakistan Security Brief - March 29, 2012

Top military commanders from Pakistan and the U.S. meet for first time since November; Parliamentary debate on U.S.-Pakistan relations stalls; Pakistani delegation to visit Russia to seek funding for Iran-Pakistan pipeline; Assistant Secretary of Defense says U.S. has “given up” on trying to change Pakistan’s views on India; Lawmakers raise concerns about recent violence in Karachi; Violent protests against load shedding continue in Punjab; Afghanistan reportedly drops out of TAPI pipeline project; JuD chief calls for referendum on U.S.-Pakistan relationship; Two UN workers and five members of Hazara community killed in Quetta; Supreme Court extends term for “memogate” commission investigation; Former Pakistani and Indian leaders to hold conference in New Delhi to discuss “strategic relations;” Widow says bin Laden was living in Pakistan since 2002.

U.S.-Pakistan Relations

  • Top military commanders from Pakistan and the U.S. met for talks at the Pakistan Army’s General Headquarters in Rawalpindi on Wednesday. The meeting between Pakistan Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, CENTCOM chief Gen. James Mattis, and ISAF Commander Gen. John Allen was the first meeting between U.S. and Pakistani military leadership since the November 26 NATO airstrike which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. A statement issued on Thursday by the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad reported that “the generals discussed militant networks and frontier cooperation.” According to the Express Tribune, at the meeting Allen and Mattis “offered a new mechanism to operate drones inside the country’s tribal belt to take out ‘high-value’ targets associated with the al Qaeda and the Taliban.” The U.S. commanders also discussed the possibility of reopening the NATO supply routes to Afghanistan. According to one Pakistani military official, Pakistan is “not only seeking to impose additional taxes on [NATO] goods but also asked the U.S. to pay compensation for the damage caused to [Pakistan’s] infrastructure by the [NATO] containers.” The two U.S. generals also met separately with Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff General Khalid Shamim Wynne and, according to an Inter-Service Public Relations statement, discussed “bilateral matters of professional interests, and the emerging geo-strategic situation of the region.” Commenting on the Wednesday meetings, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said that he has “spoken with the Pakistan Army chief at least five times” since the November incident, and the U.S. wants “to rebuild the trust and confidence between [the U.S. and Pakistani] militaries.” [1]

  • Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict Michael Sheehan told lawmakers at a recent Congressional hearing that Pakistan has “an addiction to playing around with militia groups to achieve certain interests, particularly vis-à-vis India,” which “gets them in all kinds of trouble.” Sheehan said the U.S. has been having conversations with Pakistan on this issue, but without much success, and so the U.S. has virtually “given up” trying to change Pakistan’s views on India. “It’s the way they view the world,” said Sheehan, and the U.S. must “understand the way they view the world and try to work through it.”[2]

  • Pakistani nuclear scientist Dr. Samar Mubarak Mand said on Wednesday that Pakistan has not had “a single incident” in which the country’s nuclear material has been proliferated. “Pakistan’s nuclear assets are in safe hands and well protected,” said Dr. Mand.[3]

Domestic Politics

  • On Thursday, Pakistan’s Supreme Court extended the term of the “memogate” commission for an additional six weeks so that it may conclude its investigation. The Supreme Court was scheduled to hear the petition of former Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S. Hussain Haqqani, who has refused to travel to Pakistan due to security concerns, and has requested that he be able to testify via video link instead. However, the court did not hear arguments for the petition because Asma Jehangir, counsel to Haqqani, was absent from the hearing, and is scheduled to “be back by April 17.” On behalf of Jehangir, advocate Chaudhry Akhtar Ali requested that the court “extend the deadline of the commission,” which the court granted.[4]

  • During a joint session of Parliament on Wednesday, lawmakers raised concerns about the recent violence in Karachi instead of debating U.S.-Pakistan relations. Leaders from all political parties such as Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Awami National Party (ANP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) urged the government to take a “clear stand” and “concrete steps” to save Karachi from the ongoing violence. Interior Minister Rehman Malik blamed the violence on a “conspiracy of banned militant groups who were receiving weapons from Afghanistan,” and he voiced the hope that the police and Rangers would control the situation in the next few days.[5]

  • The debate on the recommendations for U.S.-Pakistan relations in the joint session of Pakistan’s Parliament that started a week ago has stalled as political parties such as the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and the MQM try to distance themselves from the matter. MQM members walked out of Tuesday’s session, saying they were more concerned about domestic issues, such as the recent violence in Karachi. According to the Express Tribune, however, the U.S. and Pakistani armies conveyed the message to the Pakistani government that “if they fail to get approval of a unanimous resolution from the joint session,” then they will continue the NATO supply under the cover of Afghan transit trade, a process that has already covertly begun.[6]

Militancy

  • Hafiz Saeed, chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), the charity front for terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba, called parliament to “break from party policy” and to keep “Pakistan’s future in mind” when deciding how to reshape Pakistan’s relationship with the U.S. In a letter to the members of parliament, the JuD chief called for a referendum on the U.S.-Pakistan relationship to “understand what Pakistan’s people want,” and warned parliament of the dangers of reopening the NATO supply routes, claiming that it could “damage relations with China.” Saeed also warned that if the routes are reopened, and attacks on NATO supply containers continue to occur, U.S. and NATO forces could use those attacks “as a pretext to send [their] forces into Pakistan.” The letter also warned parliament that continued U.S. drone strikes in the country “will lead to suicide attacks in Pakistan.”[7]

  • Two local UN workers were killed and one was injured when unidentified assailants on a motorcycle opened fire on a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) vehicle while it was en route to Mastung from Quetta, Balochistan.[8]

  • On Thursday, five people were killed and six others were injured when a group of armed men opened fire on a van carrying members of the Hazara community near Killi Mubarak in Quetta, Balochistan. A senior official said that the incident could be a “sectarian target killing,” since “all the people belonged to the Hazara community,” which is made up of Shia Muslims. The attack sparked protests in different parts of the city, as protesters blocked roads and forced shops to close down.[9]

  • Zianul Abideen, an Awami National Party (ANP) worker of Patel Para area, was killed and two of his companions were injured when unknown assailants opened fire on them near the Matric Board Office in Karachi’s Nazimabad area on Wednesday. Violence erupted after the killing, as people torched vehicles and opened indiscriminate fire on different areas of Karachi. Three people were gunned down and two bodies were recovered in the ensuing mayhem.[10]

  • Two policemen were injured on Wednesday when a bomb planted in a vehicle parked near the Police Line and Agricultural office in Pishin district, Balochistan exploded.[11]

  • Police officials killed a suspected kidnapper and apprehended his two accomplices in Lakki Marwat district, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa on Wednesday. Police also recovered tribal elder Haji Ameer Hamza Khan Shinwari, who had been kidnapped from Quetta on March 14.[12]

  • Security forces destroyed a Lashkar-e-Islam (LI) compound in the Bara subdivision of Khyber agency on Tuesday.[13]

International Relations

  • Former Pakistani and Indian military and civilian leaders will hold a two-day conference in New Delhi on March 29 and 30 to discuss “the current level of strategic relations between the two countries.” According to one participant, “the conference is a part of US-sponsored backchannel diplomacy,” with the purpose of making “specific recommendations to their respective governments” and “facilitate civil society to review some major issues, such as Afghanistan, Kashmir, terrorism, nuclear issues and water.”[14]     

Energy

  • On Thursday, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abdul Basit announced that “Pakistan’s technical delegation will visit Moscow early next month” to discuss Russian funding for the Iran-Pakistan (IP) natural gas pipeline project. According to Basit, “the Pakistan team will hold talks with relevant officials and different companies, including Russian gas giant Gazprom.” Additionally, an official from the Pakistan’s Petroleum Ministry “confirmed that Russia was a possible source of funding” after the original financing agreement with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China fell apart “over fears it could be hit by sanctions.” While the U.S. has pressured Pakistan to abandon the IP project, Pakistani leaders maintain that the 2010 agreement with Iran is “is vital in helping to overcome a debilitating energy crisis.”[15]

  • Violent protests against electricity load shedding continued across Punjab province as blackouts also continued across the province for the sixth straight day. Protesters in Faisalabad staged sit-ins outside the residences of the PML-N’s Members of National Assembly (MNAs) and Members of Provincial Assembly (MPAs). In another incident, roughly 200 protestors “attacked the Lesco Customer Service Centre in Kot Lakhpat area of Quaid-e-Azam Industrial Estate Police Station,” chanting slogans, breaking doors, and destroying official records.[16]

  • On Wednesday, Pakistan’s Petroleum Secretary Ejaz Chaudhry announced that Afghanistan has opted out of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline project.  According to Chaudhry, 500 million cubic feet of gas per day “will be distributed between Pakistan and India.” The final round of talks regarding TAPI is scheduled for April 19 in Kabul.[17]

Osama bin Laden

  • During an interrogation by a civil and military joint investigation team, bin Laden’s widow Amal Ahmed Abdulfattah revealed that “bin Laden moved to Pakistan in 2002, a few month after [the] U.S. started large-scale air strikes on Afghanistan.”  Abdulfattah told investigators that “after 9/11 she was reunited with her husband in Peshawar in 2002.” Bin Laden subsequently moved to Swat for nine months, followed by two years in Haripur, and finally Abbottabad. According to Abdulfattah, bin Laden’s family scattered after 9/11, and she went to live in Karachi for eight to nine months, moving between six or seven residences during that time. Abdulfattah reported that Saad, bin Laden’s eldest son, “was coordinating all the things.” The interrogation report did not mention that any government or military officials had knowledge of bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan. On Thursday, Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi urged Pakistan “to free one of Osama bin Laden’s injured widows, saying Yemen-born Amal Al-Sadeh and her four children were not guilty of any crime.”[18]

  • On Thursday, Shakil Afridi, the doctor who assisted the U.S. in locating bin Laden in Abbottabad, was “terminated from his job by the health department” of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. A number of other women also involved in Afridi’s fake vaccination campaign were also fired. Afridi is currently in police custody, “and a panel investigating the bin Laden raid has recommended that he be put on trial for treason.”[19]

     

 

 


[1] Kamran Yousaf, “Resolving impasse: US commanders offer ‘new proposals,’” Express Tribune, March 29, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/356829/resolving-impasse-us-commanders-offer-new-proposals/
Tom Wright, “U.S. and Pakistani Military Commanders Move to Mend Pakistan Rift,” The Wall Street Journal, May 29, 2012. Available at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303404704577308922457428282.html
Salman Masood, “Pakistan: A Summit of Generals,” The New York Times, March 29, 2012. Available at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/29/world/asia/pakistan-a-summit-of-generals.html
“Spoke with Kayani at least five times, says key US General,” Dawn, March 29, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/29/spoke-with-kayani-at-least-five-times-says-key-us-general.html
[2] “Pakistan addicted to using militants against India: Pentagon,” The Times of India, March 29, 2012. Available at http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Pakistan-addicted-to-using-militants-against-India-Pentagon/articleshow/12452129.cms
[3] “Pakistan’s N-programme in safe hands: Dr Samar,” The News, March 29, 2012. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-13-13525-Pakistans-N-programme-in-safe-hands:-Dr-Samar
[4] “Memogate: SC extends commission’s term for six weeks,” Express Tribune, March 29, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/356905/memogate-sc-extends-commissions-deadline-for-six-weeks/
[5] Raja Asghar, “Karachi violence overwhelms parliament debate,” Dawn, March 29, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/29/karachi-violence-overwhelms-parliament-debate.html
[6] Abdul Manan, “Behind closed doors: Govt, opposition agree to leave resolution pending,” Express Tribune, March 29, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/356840/behind-closed-doors-govt-opposition-agree-to-leave-resolution-pending/
[7] Saba Imtiaz, “Pakistan-US relations: JuD chief wants referendum,” Express Tribune, March 29, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/356946/pak-us-relations-jud-chief-wants-referendum/
[8] Shehzad Baloch, “5 Hazaras, 2 UN workers killed in Balochistan,” Express Tribune, March 29, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/356917/firing-incident-woman-among-five-killed-in-quetta/
[9] Shehzad Baloch, “5 Hazaras, 2 UN workers killed in Balochistan,” Express Tribune, March 29, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/356917/firing-incident-woman-among-five-killed-in-quetta/
“Pakistan shootings: Seven killed in Balochistan,” BBC, March 29, 2012. Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-17545806
[10] “Karachi: 3 killed, 2 bodies recovered,” The News, March 29, 2012. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/article-42056-Three-killed,-two-bodies-recovered-in-Karachi
[11] “Pishin Incident: Two policemen injured in explosion,” Express Tribune, March 29, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/356649/pishin-incident-two-policemen-injured-in-explosion/
[12] “Outlaw killed; abducted elder recovered,” The News, March 28, 2012. Available at  http://www.thenews.com.pk/article-41973-Outlaw-killed,-two-arrested,-abducted-tribal-elder-recovered
[13] “Security operation Forces destroy LI compound in Bara,” Express Tribune, March 29, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/356772/security-operation-forces-destroy-li-compound-in-bara/
[14] Arif Rana, “Backchannel diplomacy: Pak-India civil societies to set the agenda for peace,” Express Tribune, March 29, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/356767/backchannel-diplomacy-pak-india-civil-societies-to-set-the-agenda-for-peace/
[15] “Pakistan eyes Russia for controversial gas project,” AFP, March 29, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/356944/pakistan-eyes-russia-for-controversial-gas-project/
[16] Shamsul Islam and Rana Tanveer, “Power riots: Protestors turn fury on Punjab lawmakers,” Express Tribune, March 29, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/356794/power-riots-protesters-turn-fury-on-punjab-lawmakers/
[17] Zeeshan Javaid, “Afghanistan decides to quit TAPI project,” Daily Times, March 29, 2012. Available at http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012%5C03%5C29%5Cstory_29-3-2012_pg5_1
[18] Azaz Syed, “Osama widow lived in Karachi for months,” Dawn, March 29, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/29/osama-widow-lived-in-karachi-for-months-2.html
“Yemen urges release of Bin Laden’s widow,” Reuters, March 29, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/356708/yemen-urges-release-of-bin-ladens-widow/
[19] S.H. Khan, “Pakistan sacks doctor who helped track down bin Laden,” AFP, March 29, 2012. Available at http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jNgcVYsEN5DsuwjiXWkSVE3tLOAQ?docId=CNG.5bba548bbefdc22a21bbb7b6c36d505a.281
“Bin Laden informer: Dr. Shakil Afridi sacked,” Express Tribune, March 29, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/356927/bin-laden-informer-dr-shakil-afridi-sacked/