Pakistan Security Brief - May 17, 2012

President Zardari to deliver speech at Chicago summit; Pakistani and U.S. negotiators struggle to agree on new transport fee for NATO supply route; Religious party threatens to “occupy” supply route if reopened; ISAF Commander in Afghanistan says mission was not affected by blockade of route; Twenty-seven officials suspended due to Bannu jailbreak; PIA flight delayed due to bomb threat; Target killings continue in Karachi; Two police officials killed on routine patrol in Quetta; Unidentified assailants open fire at tribal assembly in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa; Human Rights Watch urges President Zardari to revise bill on formation of human rights commission; Collision between two Pakistan Air Force planes.

NATO Summit

  • On Thursday, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari officially announced that he will be attending the NATO summit in Chicago on May 20-21. President Zardari will be accompanied by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani. The Afghan war will be a leading topic at the summit, and President Zardari is scheduled to “deliver a speech to the countries that make up the fighting force there.” Pakistan hopes to use the summit as a means of easing “international isolation,” and boosting its leverage over Afghanistan’s future. According to a Pakistani official, President Zardari is expected to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and U.S. President Barack Obama at the summit. The three presidents have previously met on several occasions to “coordinate efforts to reach out to the Taliban,” but have never held a meeting at the summit level. The official stated that their talks will likely be focused on “new initiatives to seek a peaceful end to the Afghan conflict.”[1]

NATO Supply Route

  • Negotiations between Pakistan and the U.S. regarding the conditions for reopening of the NATO supply route continued on Thursday. Pakistani negotiators proposed a fee of approximately $5,000 per shipping container and tanker that travels the NATO supply route. According to U.S. and Pakistani officials, this figure was proposed after Pakistan calculated the costs of enhanced security and damaged infrastructure, primarily the wear and tear of roads. Pakistani officials also reported that they considered the current cost NATO incurs from using the Central Asian route, which by their estimates is “at least double” their proposed fee. One U.S. official said that the U.S. has not yet agreed with Pakistan on a price, and the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan “declined to comment on the status of the negotiations.”[2]

  • On Thursday, senior leader Amirul Azeem of religious party Jamaat-e-Islami stated that its supporters would “soon launch a movement to occupy NATO supply routes,” due to the failure of the U.S. to comply with demands of Pakistan’s parliament. Chiefly, those demands included an unconditional apology from the U.S. for the November 26 airstrike and an end to drone strikes in Pakistan.[3]

  • International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Commander in Afghanistan Gen. John Allen stated that “the ISAF mission was not affected” by the blockade on the NATO supply route. Gen. Allen also commented on the possible reopening of the route, stating that it will have positive effects on the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, which is vital to bringing peace to the region. Lastly, Gen. Allen lauded Pakistan for its commitment to the War on Terror and recognized that the country has suffered a loss of more lives in two years than ISAF has lost in ten years.[4]

  • A number of Western embassies in Pakistan—in particular, those belonging to Britain, France, and Australia—received letters containing “suspicious powder and threats to poison supplies for NATO soldiers in Afghanistan.” The letters came in response to Pakistan’s potential lifting of a six-month blockade on NATO conveys carrying food and equipment into Afghanistan. Though the powder posed no risk to embassy officials, the incident comes three months after an envelope containing anthrax was sent to Prime Minister Gilani’s office.[5]

Bomb Threat

  • A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) passenger flight, departing from Lahore to Dubai, was delayed following a bomb threat made by an anonymous caller to the airport. No bomb was found. The incident comes on the heels of the April 20 crash of a Bhoja Air plane that left 127 people dead, and the forced grounding of a PIA jet leaving Karachi following a passenger’s threat to hijack the plane. AFP reported that PIA, a state airline, is on “the verge of going bust.”[6]

Bannu Jailbreak

  • In a press conference addressing the April 15 Bannu Jail attack, Pakistani Minister of Information Mian Iftikhar Hussain announced the suspension of 27 officials, including senior officers, prison staff, paramilitary soldiers, and policemen belonging to the provincial and federal government. Following the release of an inquiry report about the jailbreak and a special meeting of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government, Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti ordered the suspension of prison officials and recommended official inquiries against them. Additional parties assigned responsibility for the jailbreak included the Home Department, which permitted the shifting of prisoner Adnan Rashid from Punjab to Bannu without receiving permission; intelligence agencies, which “failed in giving proper information about the incident”; and the army.[7]

Militancy

Human Rights Watch

  • On Thursday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged President Zardari not to sign a bill authorizing the formation of a National Human Rights Commission in Pakistan until the bill is revised to “authorize investigations of the military and the intelligence agencies for human rights violations.” Pakistan’s National Assembly had passed a bill for the formation of the commission on May 4, but the bill requires the president’s approval before it goes into effect. According to HRW’s Asia director, Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies “have a long and well-documented history of serious and systematic abuses,” and one of the primary reasons to create a national human rights commission should be to hold these agencies accountable for their actions.[13]

Energy

  • On Thursday, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani stated that printing currency notes will not be used as a method to end load shedding in Pakistan. According to Prime Minister Gilani, “all available resources except for printing currency” will be utilized to overcome the country’s power crisis. Gilani’s comments were meant to address an earlier statement he made in which he suggested that printing additional currency could provide much-needed capital to the energy sector so that the country could prevent unannounced load shedding.[14]

Pakistan Air Force Collision

Afghan Refugees

  • Afghanistan’s Minister for Refugee Affairs Mohammed Jamaheer will meet with Pakistani officials in Islamabad to discuss the status of Afghan refugees in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province following the provincial government’s call for unregistered Afghan refugees to leave. Discussions already took place between the Afghan delegation and Pakistani officials on May 2 during an international conference held in Geneva. Estimates place the number of Afghan refugees in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa at 800,000, with the province’s capital housing over 400,000 illegal Afghans.[16]



             



[1] Kamran Yousaf, “In Chicago: Zardari, Obama, Karzai to discuss Taliban peace talks,” Express Tribune, May 17, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/380078/in-chicago-zardari-obama-karzai-to-discuss-taliban-peace-talks/
“Zardari will attend Chicago summit: FO,” AFP, May 17, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/380238/zardari-will-attend-chicago-summit-fo/
“President Zardari to attend Chicago summit,” AP, May 17, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/05/17/president-zardari-to-attend-chicago-summit/
[2] Richard Leiby and Karen DeYoung, “Pakistan seeks $5,000 transit fee for each NATO container,” Washington Post, May 16, 2012. Available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/pakistan-seeks-5000-transit-fee-for-each-nato-container/2012/05/16/gIQAU8gkUU_story.html
“Pakistani president to attend NATO summit amid signs country will reopen supply route,” Associated Press, May 17, 2012. Available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/pakistani-president-to-attend-nato-summit-amid-signs-country-will-reopen-supply-route/2012/05/17/gIQAB8uTVU_story.html
[3] “President Zardari to attend Chicago summit,” AP, May 17, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/05/17/president-zardari-to-attend-chicago-summit/
[4] “Isaf mission unaffected by Nato supply closure: Gen John Allen,” Dawn, May 17, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/05/17/nato-supply-resumptionencouraging-signs-from-pakistan-gen-john-allen/
[5] Emmanuel Giroud, “Threats sent to embassies in Pakistan: police,” AFP, May 16, 2012. Available at http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jiCX1c-kIsF0jcoBsp6BFdGfKHNA?docId=CNG.588169cc45fa8f9c32473f938822fa54.941
[6] “Bomb threat on Pakistan flight to Dubai: Officials,” AFP, May 17, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/380236/pia-plane-evacuated-after-bomb-threat-officials/
[7] Zulfiqar Ali, “KP cabinet takes up inquiry report Top officials suspended over Bannu jailbreak,” Dawn, May 16, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/05/17/kp-cabinet-takes-up-inquiry-report-top-officials-suspended-over-bannu-jailbreak-2/
“KP cabinet suspends officials over Bannu Jail break,” Dawn, May 16, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/05/16/kp-cabinet-suspends-officials-over-bannu-jail-break/
[8] “Drive-by shootings: As 10 more people die, CM gives families compensation,” Express Tribune, May 17, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/379982/drive-by-shootings-as-10-more-people-die-cm-gives-families-compensation/
[9] Shehzad Baloch, “Targeted: 2 police officials killed, 2 injured in Quetta,” Express Tribune, May 17, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/380191/targeted-2-police-officials-killed-2-injured-in-quetta/
[10] “Assault On Eaters: Pishin hotel firing leaves four injured,” Express Tribune, May 17, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/380086/assault-on-eaters-pishin-hotel-firing-leaves-four-injured/
[11] “Attack On Anp District Chief: Two killed in attack on jirga,” Express Tribune, May 17, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/380024/attack-on-anp-district-chief-two-killed-in-attack-on-jirga/
[12] Riaz Ahmed, “One killed, one injured in Peshawar blast,” Express Tribune, May 17, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/380188/one-killed-in-peshawar-blast/
[13] “HRW urges Zardari not to sign Human Rights Commission bill,” Dawn, May 17, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/05/17/hrw-urges-zardari-not-to-sign-human-rights-commission-bill/
[14] Peer Muhammad, “Gilani backtracks on printing currency to end loadshedding,” Express Tribune, May 17, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/380253/gilani-backtracks-on-printing-currency-to-end-loadshedding/
[15] “Two Pakistani air force planes crash on training mission; 4 pilots killed,” Washington Post, May 17, 2012. Available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/two-pakistani-air-force-planes-crash-on-training-mission-4-pilots-killed/2012/05/17/gIQAfbCHVU_story.html
“4 killed, 10 injured in PAF training aircraft collision,” Express Tribune, May 17, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/380180/4-killed-3-injured-in-paf-training-aircraft-collision/
“Pakistan air collision kills 4 pilots on training mission,” Straits Times, May 17, 2012. Available at http://www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/Asia/Story/STIStory_799877.html
“Four dead in a second Pakistan Air Force crash in a week,” BBC News, May 17, 2012. Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-18100498
[16] Zulfiqar Ali, “Return of illegal Afghan refugees: Kabul not ready yet,” Dawn, May 15, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/05/16/return-of-illegal-afghan-refugees-kabul-not-ready-yet/.