Pakistan Security Brief - May 22, 2012
Top U.S., Pakistani, and NATO officials remain optimistic about reaching NATO supply route deal; President Zardari reportedly snubbed at NATO summit; Pakistani officials maintain stance on U.S. apology; Pakistan Navy court-martials officers for negligence during PNS Mehran base attack; National Assembly Speaker directs Prime Minister Gilani to file response regarding contempt conviction; Afghan government reaches “understanding” with Taliban on TAPI pipeline; Turkish Prime Minister addresses joint session of Pakistani parliament; Gunmen open fire on rally in Karachi; Lashkar-e-Islam attacks Zakhakhel Peace Committee bunker; Deputy Attorney General resigns during missing persons case.
NATO Summit and Supply Lines
- Though the NATO summit in Chicago failed to produce a deal on the reopening of the NATO supply routes, top U.S., Pakistani, and NATO officials remained optimistic that an agreement would be reached. President Obama stated, “we are actually making diligent progress on it,” while NATO Chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen expressed “some optimism.” Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, during a news conference, called Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari’s attendance at the NATO summit a positive sign, adding, “We still have a way to go, but I think the good news is that we are negotiating and that we are making some progress.”
- President Obama’s failure to include Pakistan on the list of NATO summit countries he thanked on Monday was labeled a “snub” by AP, revealing continued rifts in the U.S.-Pakistani relationship. Obama’s annoyance that a deal on NATO supply routes had not yet been reached came through at an end-of-summit press conference when he issued a “pointed warning” to Pakistan, saying it would be “consumed” by extremists should it fail to work with the U.S. The two countries’ diplomatic standoff was apparent during the summit as well, when Obama refused to have a one-on-one meeting with Zardari unless a deal on NATO supply routes was reached, and when he and Secretary Panetta singled out for praise Russia and the Central Asian countries’ replacement of Pakistan’s supply routes.
- In an interview with Express News, Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar expressed optimism about Pakistan’s participation at the NATO summit. She described Pakistan as an important neighbor to Afghanistan, a responsible regional player, and a country with the highest stakes among those that participated in the summit. She called the summit an opportunity for Pakistan to engage extensively “with the rest of the world” and indicated that the ongoing negotiations over the NATO supply route were not a U.S.-Pakistan issue but a NATO-Pakistan one. Furthermore, she reiterated that U.S. drone strikes were “unlawful, illegal and counterproductive” and that Pakistan would continue discussions with the U.S. without compromising on the country’s national interests.
- On Monday, Pakistani officials reiterated the country’s demand for an apology from the U.S. for the Salala border strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. At a joint press conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani noted that Pakistan was forced to close the NATO supply routes and the Shamsi airbase due to the Salala attacks. Zardari’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar clarified that the president’s appearance at the NATO summit in Chicago was not simply to announce the reopening of the NATO supply route, and that the president was bound by the Pakistani parliament’s demand for an apology. Pakistan’s Ambassador to the U.S. Sherry Rehman added that Pakistan’s stance on an apology was firm. Speaking in New York while on a visit aimed at normalizing U.S.-Pakistani relations, Pakistan People’s Party co-chair Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said “Pakistan deserves an apology,” urging President Obama to show “some courage” and calling for an end to drone strikes inside Pakistani territory, which he said violated Pakistani sovereignty, irritated the Pakistani population, and hampered Pakistan’s ability to fight extremism.
- On Monday, both the United Nations and NATO weighed in on Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan’s future. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, following a meeting between Zardari and Ban at the NATO summit, asked the Pakistani president “to help as much as possible with Afghanistan’s reconciliation process.” Meanwhile, NATO leaders urged Pakistan to reopen a key supply route into Afghanistan as soon as possible, while expressing gratitude that Russia and the Central Asian countries had permitted NATO supply convoys through their territories.
- President Zardari, in an expanded meeting of the International Security Assistance Force, said a “peaceful, prosperous and stable Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s national interest.” While expressing Pakistan’s support for a peaceful transition in Afghanistan, Zardari also called for a long-term commitment from NATO countries.
- On Tuesday, the Rawalpindi Bench of the Lahore High Court admitted a petition seeking to prevent the reopening of NATO supply routes. The petition claims that supply routes cannot be reopened until the parliament, the senate, and the national assembly vote on the matter; that the Defence Cabinet Committee does not have the authority to reopen supply routes; and that if routes are reopened, the U.S. must provide assurances that another Salala incident does not occur. Judge Khwaja Ahmed is waiting on replies from relevant government secretaries before beginning the hearing.
- A spokesman for Pakistan’s Navy said Tuesday that the navy has court-martialed three officers for “negligence” in connection with the May 22, 2011 Taliban attack on the PNS Mehran base in Karachi. According to the spokesman, the three officers were punished for "negligence in their duty performance," but there was no evidence that they were connected to the militants or that they helped the militants attack the base. The spokesman did not disclose the details of the officers’ punishment, but depending on the severity of the verdict, military officers who are court-martialed in Pakistan can be demoted in rank, or completely stripped of their rank and dismissed from the military.
- Dawn reported on Tuesday that Speaker of the National Assembly Fehmida Mirza has directed Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to file a response with the Supreme Court regarding his contempt conviction. Mirza is expected to announce her decision on the question of Prime Minister Gilani’s disqualification this week.
- An Afghan government official told the Express Tribune that the Afghan government has reached an “understanding” with the Afghan Taliban, and the Taliban has assured the government that it will not “sabotage” the multi-billion-dollar Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project. The official also said that the Afghan government will “deploy troops to ensure the security of the pipeline.” Afghanistan, Pakistan and India are scheduled to meet in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan on Wednesday to sign the Gas Sales Purchase Agreement and finalize the transit fee.
- Dawn reported that Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan addressed a joint session of Pakistan’s parliament on Monday and brought “political balm” to a “stormy parliament.” Pakistan’s opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which has recently staged noisy protests and walkouts of parliament against Prime Minister Gilani, was in attendance to hear Erdogan’s speech. Erdogan said that Pakistan’s parties should “demonstrate shoulder-to-shoulder politics,” because despite recent hardships, Pakistan’s multi-party system was an “asset.” Erdogan stated that “democracy needs constructive opposition,” and that it was the opposition’s job to “not only criticize but also see what has gone wrong and correct it.” According to the Express Tribune, in an effort to mend ties between Pakistan’s ruling party and the opposition, Erdogan has decided to hold a meeting with PML-N Chief Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday.
- Prime Minister Gilani and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan co-chaired the second meeting of the High-Level Cooperation Council at the Prime Minister House on Monday and agreed to enhance “bilateral relations in all sectors.” Prime Minister Gilani said that “Pakistan would warmly welcome” greater Turkish investments in several sectors including energy, construction, communication, urban development and agriculture. Gilani also stated that Pakistan was considering setting up a “special incentives package” and establishing an “exclusive investment zone for Turkish entrepreneurs and businesses.”
- In a meeting with the outgoing High Commissioner of Canada, Ross Hynes, Prime Minister Gilani emphasized the importance of bilateral ties between Pakistan and Canada and stressed the need for the two countries to “exploit the potential of cooperation in the fields of energy, agriculture and trade.”
- Six people were killed and 23 were injured when unknown gunmen opened fire on a rally organized by the Awami Tehrik and the banned Peoples Amn Committee (PAC) in Karachi on Tuesday. The Awami Tehrik and the PAC organized the rally to protest against the proposed creation of a new Mohajir province and the government security operation in Lyari.
- Members of Lashkar-e-Islam (LI) attacked a bunker of the Zakhakhel Peace Committee in the Bukarh area of Tirah Valley on Monday. Two LI members and one Zakhakhel volunteer were killed and five others from both sides were injured in the resulting gunfight, which lasted several hours.
- A government-run primary school for girls in the Barakhel area of Mera Risalpur, Nowshera district was severely damaged in an explosion on Tuesday morning after unidentified assailants planted two bombs inside the school.
- During Tuesday’s hearing of the missing persons case in Balochistan, Deputy Attorney General Malik Sikander walked out of court and resigned from his position. Sikander’s resignation came in response to Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry’s refusal to give him more time to follow the court’s orders and summon the defence secretary, interior secretary and the prime minister’s principal secretary.