Pakistan Security Brief - March 3, 2011

 

Investigation into Bhatti assassination opened; Eighteen suspects arrested in relation to killing; The News: Gilani offers resignation; Geo News: Bhatti’s position to be offered to family member; Fears over Rehman’s safety; Increased security for federal ministers; Christians rally in protest; Davis trial to proceed; Mattis claims U.S. responsibility for militancy in Pakistan; Ahmadzai Wazir tribesmen meet with military officials; Six khasadars killed in Khyber; Nine killed in Hangu blast.

 

Bhatti’s Assassination and Fallout

  • An investigation has been opened into the March 2 assassination of the Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti. Thirty bullet wounds were found on the minister’s body, including some in his skull. The News reports that eighteen suspects have been arrested in relation to the killing. In addition, a sketch of one of the attackers has been released, using eyewitness accounts from Bhatti’s driver and other witnesses.[i]

  • The News reports that Prime Minister Gilani offered his resignation on Wednesday, following the assassination of Bhatti. Gilani announced that, “We must fix responsibility for the offence as whose negligence has showed us the day. The responsible head has to be rolled since it is our collective responsibility to find the culprits. If nobody is prepared to come forward, I am tendering my resignation and taking the responsibility for the same.” The paper reports that Gilani was subsequently stopped by his cabinet colleagues from resigning. In a separate statement, President Zardari acknowledged that Pakistan is in an “ideological war” against terrorists working to “defame” Pakistan by committing extremism.[ii]

  • Geo News reports that Bhatti’s vacant position of Minister for Minorities would be offered to one his family members. President Zardari announced the decision while speaking to Sindh Assembly members belonging to the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).[iii]

  • In the hours after Bhatti’s assassination, fears have been raised over the safety of Sherry Rehman, one of three Pakistani politicians who have publicly denounced the blasphemy laws. Following the assassination of Governor Taseer, Rehman has largely stayed out of the public light. The Guardian reports that Rehmanflies to Islamabad discreetly, but does not appear in parliament for fears of safety. Interior Minister Rehman Malik has additionally called for increased security for federal ministers with the provision of two additional personnel from the Capital Police and two from the Frontier Constabulary. In a statement to the media, Malik reported that Bhatti had chosen to leave his security escorts behind while staying at his mother’s residence.[iv]

  • Christians across Pakistan have rallied in protest against Bhatti’s killing, despite an announced “three days of mourning” which has closed all Christian institutions. Demonstrations asking for justice have been staged in both Rawalpindi and Multan. Members of the international community have also condemned the assassination, with statements having been issued by Secretary Clinton, Senator John Kerry, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter, and The Vatican, among others.[v]

 

U.S.-Pakistani Relations

  • On Thursday, a Pakistani court said that the murder trial of CIA contractor Raymond Davis would proceed, despite his lawyer’s insistence that he could not be prosecuted because the issue of diplomatic immunity is pending in Lahore High Court. The lawyer representing the two men shot by Davis affirmed that, “The court passed an order today saying that he (Davis) had failed to produce any legitimate document proving his diplomatic immunity.” The New York Times reports that the murder trial will be delayed until March 8 so that Davis’ lawyers may have more time to prepare for the case. On March 14, the Lahore High Court will rule on whether Davis is eligible for diplomatic immunity.[vi]

  • At a congressional hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, General James Mattis, commander of the US Central Command, said that the U.S. is partly responsible for the militancy problem within Pakistan. Mattis told Senator Levin that, “Part of the reason these groups exist is together with Pakistan we helped create some of them.” Senator Levin spoke of the current reality of the security situation in Pakistan, stating that, “While US-Pakistan military cooperation has improved in some respects, the Pakistani army has not yet gone after the sanctuaries for the Haqqani Network in North Waziristan or the Afghan Taliban in and around Quetta.”[vii]

 

FATA

  • On Wednesday, Ahmadzai Wazir tribal elders met with senior officials of the Pakistan Army to discuss the promotion of peace and development in South Waziristan Agency.  The tribesmen requested the restoration of all suspended political privileges as well as the establishment of colleges at Karikot and Azam Warsak. In addition, they appealed for reparations for human and property losses sustained by them since 2007. In return, the political agent asked for the tribes to take proper measures to maintain order in South Waziristan.[viii]

  • Six tribal policemen were killed by unidentified assailants on Thursday in Khyber. The khasadars were on patrol in Alam Gudar area when the militants opened fire on their vehicle. An investigation into the attack has been opened.[ix]

 

Blast in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

  • At least nine people were killed and thirty injured by a bomb blast at a security checkpoint in Hangu on Thursday. A local police official issued a statement that said “Four policemen are among the dead. [The blast] also killed five people in cars driving past.” No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.[x]

 



[i] Umer Nangiana and Zia Khan, “Blasphemy law victim: One more silenced,” The Express Tribune, March 3, 2011. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/126757/blasphemy-law-victim-one-more-silenced/
[ii] Muhammad Saleh Zaafir, “PM offers to quit but stopped by colleagues,” The News, March 3, 2011. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=4352&Cat=13
[iii] “Bhatti’s post to be offered to his family: Zardari,” Geo News, March 2, 2011. Available at
[iv] Declan Walsh, “Sherry Rehman next on Pakistan militants' hitlist, friends fear,” Guardian, March 2, 2011. Available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/02/sherry-rehman-pakistan-blasphemy-laws-hitlist
[v] “Christians across Pakistan protest Bhatti’s killing,” Dawn, March 3, 2011. Available at
[vi] “Court rejects Davis’ plea for diplomatic immunity,” Dawn, March 3, 2011. Available at
[vii] “US partly responsible for militants in Pakistan: Pentagon,” The News, March 3, 2011. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=4356&Cat=13
[viii] “Army, Ahmadzai Wazirs agree on promotion of peace,” The News, March 3, 2011. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=34037&Cat=7
[ix] “Gunmen kill six tribal policemen in Khyber,” Dawn, March 3, 2011. Available at
[x] “Nine killed, 30 injured in Hangu explosion,” Dawn, March 3, 2011. Available at