Pakistan Security Brief - March 5, 2012

Pakistan Peoples Party is big winner in Senate elections; Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani dispels rumors of early elections; Balochistan High Court admits two constitutional petitions contesting Senate elections; Suicide bomber targets vehicle of former interior minister; TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud demotes “second-in-command;” Pakistani military successfully test-fires short-range ballistic missile; Five militants killed in suicide attack in Tirah Valley; Afghan president promises to stop “infiltration of militants from Afghanistan into Pakistan;” NGOs protests CIA’s use of fake vaccination scheme; Pakistan’s Interior Minister announces restrictions on Americans travelling to Pakistan; New rules to ban TV programming in Pakistan that is “against national interest;” Health professionals complain about brain drain in Pakistan.

Senate Elections

  • According to unofficial results, the Pakistan Peoples Party and its coalition allies won 32 of 49 possible seats in Friday’s Senate elections. President Asif Ali Zardari’s party has taken control of the upper house of Parliament and can exert considerable influence, even if it is defeated in the general elections scheduled for February 2013. Bolstered by the Senate election results, while addressing the inauguration ceremony of Air University’s new campus in Multan, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani dispelled rumors of early elections or the installation of an interim government, stating that “no caretaker…or chair-taker will come [in Pakistan].”[1]

  • The Balochistan High Court has admitted two constitutional petitions filed by Balochistan Assembly Speaker Aslam Bhotani and by National Party General Secretary Mir Tahir Bizenjo. Bhotani’s petition alleged that Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) Member of Provincial Assembly (MPA) Pir Abdul Qadir Ghani told the media that he had agreed to vote for Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) candidates in exchange for 260 million rupees from the government. The court ordered the government to stop the release of funds to MPA Gilani, and it also sought more information on the issuance of funds to members of the Balochistan Assembly. Bizenjo’s petition stated that “horse-trading” had taken place on a large-scale during the senate elections and called for a re-election. The court directed the Balochistan government and the chief election commissioner of Balochistan to reply to the petition by March 12.[2]

Militancy

  • On Saturday, a suicide bomber targeted the vehicle of former interior minister and Pakistan Peoples Party-Sherpao chief, Aftab Ahmad Sherpao, as he returned from a rally on the outskirts of Shabqadar town. A policeman was killed and eight others were injured in the attack, including Sherpao and a provincial assembly member. The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack, and a local TTP leader told AFP that they targeted Sherpao, because he “cooperated with the government” in an operation against the TTP in the tribal areas.[3]

  • On Sunday, TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud demoted Maulvi Faqir Mohammad, who was the Taliban chief in Bajaur district and the second-highest ranking Taliban leader, said a TTP spokesman. The spokesman added that the Taliban leadership was considering appointing Mohammad to another position within the group.[4]

  • The Pakistani military announced Monday that it had successfully test-fired a short-range ballistic missile with nuclear capabilities and a range of 180 kilometers.[5]

  • Three police officials, including a deputy superintendent of police were injured on Sunday, when a suicide bomber attacked a police patrol in the market area of Dera Ismail Khan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.[6]

  • Five militants were killed and six others injured on Friday, when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden jacket at a Lashkar-e-Islam checkpoint in the Nakai area of Tirah Valley, Khyber agency. The TTP chapter in Darra Adam Khel led by Tariq Afridi claimed responsibility for the attack.[7]

  • Unidentified assailants attacked a Frontier Corps (FC) convoy on a routine patrol in Sui in the Dera Bugti area of Balochistan. Three attackers were killed when FC troops opened fire in retaliation.[8]

  • Two unknown men on a motorcycle threw a grenade in Karachi’s Lyari area on Saturday, injuring four.[9]

  • The driver of a Pishtakhara police patrol vehicle was killed in Peshawar on Sunday, when unidentified assailants attacked the vehicle as it was conducting a routine patrol.[10]

Baloch Insurgency

  • Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said Sunday that Baloch Republican Party Chief Brahamdagh Bugti operated training camps in Kandahar, where he trained around 4,000 to 5,000 men to fuel the insurgency against the FC in Balochistan. According to Malik, Afghan President Hamid Karzai is working to dismantle the camps, and he has “promised to stop [the] infiltration of militants from Afghanistan into Pakistan.”[11]

U.S.-Pakistan Relations

  • InterAction, an alliance of 200 American NGOs, wrote to CIA Director General David Petraeus, protesting the use of a fake vaccination scheme run by Pakistani physician Dr. Shakeel Afridi as part of the effort to help find Osama bin Laden, arguing that the scheme has hindered their ability to fight the polio crisis in Pakistan. Polio is endemic in Pakistan, which had the highest number of polio cases worldwide in 2011. “The CIA’s use of the cover of humanitarian activity for this purpose casts doubt on the intentions and integrity of all humanitarian actions in Pakistan, thereby undermining the international humanitarian community’s efforts to eradicate polio,” wrote InterAction. The letter also stated that “the CIA’s actions” could “jeopardize the lives of humanitarian aid workers in Pakistan.” In response, a senior U.S. official said that “the vaccination effort was limited and real,” and “conducted by genuine medical professionals” who “planned to provide everyone with the full course of treatments.”[12]

  • On Sunday, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik announced that “no American citizen will be allowed to enter Pakistan without valid documents,” and Americans “will only be allowed inside Pakistan if they seek proper permission from the interior and foreign ministries.”[13]

Domestic Politics

  • The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) recently proposed new rules to ban TV programming that is “against the national interest,” criticizes “the organs of the state,” or undermines Pakistan’s “solidarity as an independent and sovereign country.” Minister of Information and Broadcasting Firdous Ashiq Awan said that “the whole nation,” and not the government, wants the rules, which will be for the people’s “own betterment.” Censorship critics argue that the purpose of the rules is to restrict coverage of the secessionist movement in Balochistan. On February 29, Interior Minister Rehman Malik asked cable news channels to stop inviting Baloch separatist leaders on their talk shows, because the rebels were “spreading propaganda about forced disappearances.”[14] 

  • Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir retired on Saturday after 36 years of service. Pakistan’s former ambassador to Belgium Jalil Abbas Jilani has arrived in Islamabad to take over the position.[15]

  • During a health seminar at the 22nd Biennial International Convention in Karachi on Saturday, leading health professionals criticized the “devolution of health to the provinces,” arguing that it contributed to the further deterioration of health facilities and the quality of healthcare provided in the provinces. They stated that Pakistan has become an “export processing zone,” where educated and qualified health professionals are leaving the country due to a lack of security, inadequate compensation, limited resources and an overall disregard for the health profession.[16]

         



[1] Declan Walsh and Salman Masood, “Pakistan Battles Militants, in Worst Fighting in Months,” New York Times, March 2, 2012. Available at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/03/world/asia/pakistani-soldiers-killed-in-clash-with-militants.html?_r=1
Owais Jafri, “Hometown glory: I’m here to stay, says Gilani,” The Express Tribune, March 3, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/344909/the-prime-minister-is-not-going-anywhere-gilani/
[2] Shehzad Baloch, “Senate elections: Balochistan govt directed to stop release of funds to MPA,” The Express Tribune, March 5, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/345748/senate-elections-balochistan-govt-directed-to-stop-release-of-funds-to-mpa/
[3] “Pakistan suicide attack kills policeman, wounds MP,” AFP, March 3, 2012. Available at http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5h6kVSgpbqYRKmufkA9Me1K10Z57g?docId=CNG.ccbdca9c1d32e1a2e21cc3ea00808e2f.741
[4] “Pakistan Taliban removes deputy head Maulvi Faqir Mohammad,” BBC, March 5, 2012. Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-17256129
[5] “Pakistan test fires short-range ballistic missile,” AFP, March 5, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/05/pakistan-test-fires-short-range-ballistic-missile.html
[6] Zulfiqar Ali, “Three policemen, including DSP, injured in DI Khan suicide attack,” The Express Tribune, March 4, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/345438/three-policemen-including-dsp-injured-in-di-khan-suicide-attack/
[7] Said Nazir Afridi, “Five militants killed in Tirah suicide attack,” The News, March 3, 2012. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=95739&Cat=7
[8] “FC convoy attacked in Dera Bugti,” Geo, March 5, 2012. Available at http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=38349
[9] Imran Ayub, “Four injured in grenade attack,” Dawn, March 3, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/04/four-injured-in-grenade-attack.html
[10] “Policeman killed in ambush,” Dawn, March 4, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/05/policeman-killed-in-ambush.html
[11] Zahid Gishkori, “Kabul helped dismantle Brahamdagh camps: Malik,” The Express Tribune, March 5, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/345631/baloch-insurgency-kabul-helped-dismantle-brahamdagh-camps-malik/
[12] Saeed Shah, “Aid groups protest to CIA over bin Laden scheme,” The Miami Herald, March 2, 2012. Available at http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/03/02/v-fullstory/2672433/aid-groups-protest-to-cia-over.html
[13] Zahid Gishkori, “Kabul helped dismantle Brahamdagh camps: Malik,” The Express Tribune, March 5, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/345631/baloch-insurgency-kabul-helped-dismantle-brahamdagh-camps-malik/
[14] Richard Leiby, “Pakistan proposes curbs on raucous media,” The Washington Post, March 3, 2012. Available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/pakistan-proposes-curbs-on-raucous-media/2012/03/02/gIQAh34poR_story.html
[15] “Change of Guard: With Salman Bashir retiring, Jalil Abbas Jilani steps up,” APP, March 4, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/345198/with-salman-bashir-retiring-jalil-abbas-jilani-steps-up/
[16] Haris Hanif, “‘Health dept devolution biggest mistake,’” Daily Times, March 4, 2012. Available at http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012%5C03%5C04%5Cstory_4-3-2012_pg12_5