Pakistan Security Brief - March 7, 2012

CENTCOM Commander says getting troops out of Afghanistan will be “major challenge,” if supply routes in Pakistan remain closed; Court martial proceedings expose extremist coup plot in Pakistani military; International NGO’s report alleges Pakistan has up to “110 nuclear weapons;” Demoted TTP leader says he was given no notice or explanation; Secretary Nargis Sethi testifies at prime minister’s contempt of court hearing; TTP releases video of kidnapped Pakistani professor; Pakistan’s Supreme Court hears case on “Balochistan law and order situation;” Security forces shell militant hideouts in upper Orakzai; Chinese official says Pakistan will help China in its fight against militancy; Remote-controlled bomb kills child in Peshawar; Air Marshall Tahir Rafique Butt appointed new Chief of the Air Staff.

Coup Plot in Military

  • Brigadier (retd) Ali Khan is currently facing court martial proceedings for allegedly plotting to bring down Pakistan’s civilian government and attack its army headquarters. According to the testimony of prosecution witness Brigadier Amir Riaz, Khan told Riaz that he had friends in the banned group Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HuT), and he had met with HuT’s chief for the Palestinian territories. Riaz testified that Khan also told him that “HuT could establish a real caliphate,” which would “ensure good governance in Pakistan,” and that HuT had “prepared an alternative constitution and a shadow government which could take over anytime.” Khan believed that HuT could only establish the caliphate if the military handed over its power, but that was not possible until the current military officials were removed, stated Riaz. In his statement, Riaz said that Khan spoke of elements in the Pakistan Air Force that were loyal to HuT and that would mount an air attack on the headquarters. Khan asked Riaz to work with him, but according to Riaz, he turned down Khan’s offer, and so Khan tried to enlist other officers in his conspiracy.[1]

Militancy

  • Maulvi Faqir Mohammad, the deputy chief of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) who was recently demoted, told Reuters on Tuesday that he learned about the firing through the media, and he was never “given any notice,” or any explanation. According to Mohammad, he had no knowledge of the council, which included TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud, or of the meeting at which the council reportedly ousted him. Mohammad said that he has “held talks with the government of Pakistan,” but only “with the permission and advice of the TTP central leadership.” “When the Taliban in Afghanistan can talk to America, then why can’t we talk to the government of Pakistan,” questioned Mohammad.[2]

  • TTP militants released a video on Thursday of kidnapped professor Ajmal Khan, a close ally of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s ruling Awami National Party. In the video, Khan, who was kidnapped on September 7, 2011, appeals to the government to accept the militants’ demands and make his release possible.[3]

  • Security forces fired mortar shells on militant hideouts in several areas of upper Orakzai agency on Wednesday, killing at least 17 militants and a militant commander. According to security officials, six of the dead militants were foreigners, specifically Arabs and Tajiks.[4]

  • A remote-controlled bomb placed in a handcart exploded on Kohat Road in Peshawar, injuring four children. Sources said a military convoy had driven through the area five minutes before the explosion took place, but it is not clear if the convoy was the intended target.[5]

  • A child was killed and three others injured, when a remote-controlled bomb planted near a shop in the Scheme Chowk neighborhood of Peshawar exploded. The police arrested a man suspected of planting the bomb, but no group has claimed responsibility for the blast.[6]

  • Unidentified assailants opened fire on a vehicle on GT Road near Hajji Camp in Peshawar on Tuesday, killing one person and injuring two others.[7]

  • An explosion occurred near the home of a former employee of the Pakistan Air Force in Dheri Lakpani village in Mardan district, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa on Tuesday. No casualties were reported, but five houses were damaged in the explosion.[8]

International Relations

  • The Chief of U.S. Central Command General James Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that it will be a “major challenge” to get 23,000 troops out of Afghanistan later this year, unless the Pakistani government reopens the ground supply routes that were shut down in November 2011.[9]

  • The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) issued a report this week titled, “Don’t bank on the bomb.” The report alleged that Pakistan possesses up to “110 nuclear weapons,” and that it intends to double its supply within the next decade to achieve the goal of having “up to 350 weapons of varying yield.” The report also claimed that Pakistan allegedly spent “$2.2 billion” on its nuclear weapons program in 2011. In response to the report, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said it was "highly exaggerated and part of an insidious propaganda campaign." Basit insisted that “Pakistan’s strategic [program] was modest (and) aimed at maintaining a credible minimum deterrence to ensure national security,” and that "Pakistan was opposed to an arms race.”[10]

  • On Wednesday, the governor of China’s Xinjiang region, Nur Bekri, alleged that militants based in western China have ties to Pakistan-based militant groups such as the Pakistani Taliban. However, Bekri added that Pakistani officials “have said over and over again they oppose any violent activities directed against China and will maintain China’s national sovereignty and core interests.” According to Bekri, China and Pakistan are “all-weather friends,” and Pakistan supports China in its fight against militancy.[11]

Domestic Politics

  • Pakistan’s Supreme Court resumed hearing Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s contempt of court case on Wednesday. Defence and Cabinet Secretary Nargis Sethi appeared before the court to record her statement as a defense witness. Gilani’s counsel Aitzaz Ahsan brought Sethi as a character witness for Gilani, stating that “Nargis has worked with the prime minister, so she can provide the adequate proof of his character.” However, the court’s seven-member bench told Ahsan that it “did not understand the purpose” of his questions, and it observed that most of the hearing was “wasted” with Ahsan’s “irrelevant questions.” The court ordered Sethi to appear again and adjourned the hearing until Thursday.[12]

  • President Asif Ali Zardari approved the appointment of Air Marshal Tahir Rafique Butt as Chief of the Air Staff on Wednesday. Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman is expected to retire on March 18 after completing a three-year term.[13]

Balochistan

  • During a Supreme Court hearing in the “Balochistan law and order situation” case, Pakistan’s attorney general submitted sealed reports on behalf of Military Intelligence and the Inter-Services Intelligence. In a statement issued by the court, it “expressed dissatisfaction over the violence in Pakistan’s largest province,” and stated that the situation would not improve until the chief minister took action. The court adjourned the hearing until March 20.[14] 

 

 


[1] “Bigger plot: ‘HuT has formed a shadow govt for Pakistan,’” The Express Tribune, March 7, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/346598/bigger-plot-hut-has-formed-a-shadow-govt-for-pakistan/
[2] “Pakistan Taliban commander sacked 'for backing peace talks,'” The Telegraph, March 7, 2012. Available at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/9127789/Pakistan-Taliban-commander-sacked-for-backing-peace-talks.html
“Peace Negotiations: Ousted TTP deputy chief favours talks with govt,” Reuters, March 7, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/346593/peace-negotiations-ousted-ttp-deputy-chief-favours-talks-with-govt/
[3] “Taliban again releases video of kidnapped professor,” Dawn, March 7, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/07/taliban-again-releases-video-of-kidnapped-professor.html
[4] “Mortar shelling kills 18 militants in upper Orakzai,” The Express Tribune, March 7, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/346690/mortar-shelling-kills-17-militants-in-upper-orakzai/
[5] Riaz Ahmad, “Kohat Road blast injures four schoolchildren,” The Express Tribune, March 7, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/346703/kohat-road-blast-injures-four-schoolchildren/
[6] “Blast in Peshawar, kills one,” Dawn, March 7, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/07/blast-in-peshawar-kills-one.html
[7] “One killed, two injured in firing,” The News, March 6, 2012. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/NewsDetail.aspx?ID=38578
[8] “Blast damages 5 houses in Mardan,” The News, March 7, 2012. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=96415&Cat=7
[9] Andrew Tilghman, U.S. seeks to reopen key Pakistan supply routes,” Military Times, March 6, 2012. Available at http://militarytimes.com/news/2012/03/military-us-seeks-to-reopen-key-pakistan-supply-routes-030612w/
[10] “Pakistan possesses up to 110 nuclear weapons: Report,” The Economic Times, March 7, 2012. Available at http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/pakistan-possesses-up-to-110-nuclear-weapons-report/articleshow/12176771.cms
“Gilani contempt case: Nargis Sethi to appear again,” Geo, March 7, 2012. Available at http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=38668
[13] “Air Marshal Tahir Butt appointed new PAF chief,” APP, March 7, 2012. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/07/air-marshal-tahir-butt-appointed-new-paf-chief.html
[14] “'Balochistan violence suo moto case' hearing on March 20,” Geo, March 7, 2012. Available at http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=38674