Pakistan Security Brief - May 24, 2012

National Assembly Speaker decides Gilani cannot be disqualified from office; U.S. officials angry at 33-year prison sentence for Osama bin Laden informant; Obama says NATO summit reset relations with Pakistan; PPP says politically acceptable formula needed before reopening NATO supply routes; Drone strike kills seven to ten suspected militants in North Waziristan; ISI announces creation of Naval Strategic Force Command for second-strike capability; Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Sami leader’s car explodes; Prime Minister Erdogan brings Pakistani parties to negotiating table; Pakistani and Indian Interior Secretaries meet to discuss bilateral visa policy; High-level Chinese delegation due to arrive in Islamabad May 29.     

Domestic Politics

  • Express News reported on Thursday that the Speaker of Pakistan’s National Assembly Fehmida Mirza has decided that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani cannot be disqualified from office. Mirza said that according to Article 63 of Pakistan’s Constitution, the question of the prime minister’s qualification “does not arise.” Mirza also said that since the Supreme Court did not bring up the issue of Gilani’s disqualification when it announced the contempt verdict, there is no need to forward the reference against Gilani to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). In reaction to the ruling, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, said that the speaker had abused her position and committed an injustice. Khan stated that the case should be sent to the ECP to be reviewed by the “neutral” ECP officials.[1]

  • Prime Minister Gilani has approved a draft of an appeal challenging his contempt verdict, which was prepared by his defense team. When asked if a final decision has been made over whether or not the appeal will be filed, Gilani’s counsel, Aitzaz Ahsan answered that “all options are open at the moment.”[2]

Osama bin Laden and Fallout

NATO Supply Lines

  • The brief meeting between President Obama, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the recent NATO summit constituted a resetting of U.S.-Pakistani relations, said Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes. Similarly, General John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said the U.S. was “having conversations with Pakistan we were not even having before,” calling it “real progress.” Allen noted that the closing of supply routes through Pakistan has not hampered NATO operations in Afghanistan, principally because of the availability of northern ground routes and air cargo flights.[4]

  • An official from the Pakistan Peoples Party said a deal on the reopening of supply routes was unlikely unless the U.S. and Pakistan could reach a politically acceptable formula, given the issue’s importance to Pakistanis as next year’s general elections near. On Wednesday, Maulana Fazlur Rehman of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) asserted that the NATO supply routes would not be reopened. In light of the Pakistani parliament’s joint resolution and the Parliamentary Committee on National Security’s recommendations concerning the U.S., Rehman said, “Any secret deals conducted in the past are now null and void” and that a reopening of supply routes would be “detrimental to the national interest of Pakistan.”[5]  

  • U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter, who announced on May 8 his intention to quit his post, returned to Pakistan on Wednesday following orders from the State Department. Munter, who had the option of extending his two-year appointment by an additional year, had planned to leave his post but will instead stay on until ongoing negotiations over the reopening of the NATO supply routes conclude.[6]

Drone Strikes

Sea-based Nuclear Deterrent

  • In an apparent acknowledgement of the existence of a “sea-based nuclear deterrent,” the Pakistani military’s Inter-Services Public Relations released a press statement on May 19 announcing the establishment of Pakistan’s Naval Strategic Force Command (NSFC). The NSFC “will perform a pivotal role in development and employment of the Naval Strategic Force,” and is “the custodian of the nation’s 2nd strike capability.” According to a specialist in Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programs, the statement is “all but specific confirmation of the widely speculated submarine-launched variant of the Babur/HATF-VII (Vengeance-VII) cruise missile.”[8]

Militancy

  • The car of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Sami (JUI-S) leader Maulana Syed Mohammad Yousaf Shah exploded in a bomb blast at a service station in Akora Khattak, Nowshera district, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. There were no reported casualties or injuries as a result of the explosion. In an earlier incident, JUI-F leader Maulana Mohsin Shah was killed by unidentified assailants in his seminary at Jamia Haleemia in Lakki Marwat district.[9]

  • The Adezai tribal militia, which has been fighting militants along the borders of Darra Adam Khel and Khyber agency of Pakistan’s tribal areas, was dissolved on Thursday. Chief of the Adezai Peace Committee Dilawar Khan said that “the continued lack of support from the government and refusal to provide assistance that was promised to the volunteers” forced the militia to quit. According to Khan, at least 105 members of the militia have been killed, while over 50 have been injured in the militia’s quest to combat militancy.[10]

International Relations

  • Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent visit to Pakistan reportedly successfully brought Pakistan’s coalition government and the opposition to the negotiating table at a time when “tensions had reached a boiling point.” The visit, a request from the PPP, the PML-N, and the army, produced discussion and agreement on a number of issues, including transition to a caretaker government, the stepping down of Prime Minister Gilani, and the Supreme Court’s autonomy in deciding Gilani’s fate. Furthermore, Turkey agreed to negotiate a $5,000 per NATO truck fee on behalf of Pakistan, while providing nearly $100 million to the Pakistani government to reduce its budget deficit. These moves, reported the Express Tribune, signal a shift in which Turkey is displacing Saudi Arabia as the “middleman” brokering deals between various Pakistani parties.[11]        

  • Pakistani Interior Secretary Khwaja Siddique Akbar and Indian Home Secretary RK Singh met in Islamabad on Thursday to finalize a more “liberal” bilateral visa policy, particularly for senior citizens and traders.[12]

  • Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, along with a high-level Chinese delegation, comprised of senior officials from China’s diplomatic corps and intelligence services, is expected to arrive in Islamabad on May 29 to hold talks with Pakistan’s civil and military leaders. According to a Pakistani official, the visit is seen as significant in light of the ongoing tension between Pakistan and the U.S. regarding the resumption of NATO supply routes. The Express Tribune reported that China is believed to have supported Pakistan’s stance on resetting relations with the U.S. according to the new terms of engagement approved by Pakistan’s parliament.[13]

Balochistan Law and Order

  • During Wednesday’s court hearing on the volatile security situation in Balochistan, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry warned that if the prime minister does not take steps to improve the law and order situation in Balochistan, then the judiciary will declare a state of emergency under the Constitution.[14]

TAPI Gas Pipeline



[1] “Gilani cannot be disqualified under Article 63: Speaker NA,” Express Tribune, May 24, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/383619/pm-contempt-na-speakers-forms-opinion-on-verdict/
Ferya Ilyas, “NA Speaker abused her position, says Nisar,” Express Tribune, May 24, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/383643/na-speaker-abused-her-position-says-nisar/
[2] Irfan Ghauri, “Contempt case strategy: After huddle with Aitzaz, Premier Gilani approves draft appeal,” Express Tribune, May 24, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/383474/contempt-case-strategy-after-huddle-with-aitzaz-premier-gilani-approves-draft-appeal/
[3] “US threatens to cut Pakistan aid following jailing of Osama bin Laden doctor,” AFP, May24, 2012. Available at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/al-qaeda/9286957/US-threatens-to-cut-Pakistan-aid-following-jailing-of-Osama-bin-Laden-doctor.html
“US says no basis to charge Pakistan doctor,” AFP, May 24, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/05/24/us-says-no-basis-to-charge-pakistan-doctor/
Ismail Khan, “Prison Term for Helping C.I.A. Find Bin Laden,” New York Times, May 23, 2012. Available at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/24/world/asia/doctor-who-helped-find-bin-laden-given-jail-term-official-says.html?_r=1&ref=world
“US should respect Pakistan’s decision to imprison CIA formant: FO,” Dawn, May 24, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/05/24/us-should-respect-pakistans-decision-to-imprison-cia-informant-fo/
“Shakil Afridi ‘in poor health’,” AFP, May 24, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/383596/shakeel-afridi-jailed-over-bin-laden-in-poor-health/
[4] Huma Imtiaz, “Obama reaffirmed revival of Pak-US relations: White House official," Express Tribune, May 24, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/383592/obama-reaffirmed-revival-of-pak-us-relations-white-house-official/
“General John Allen Sees progress in US-Pakistan relationship,” AP, May 23, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/05/24/general-sees-progress-in-us-pakistan-relationship/
[5] “Pakistan seeks face-saving formula in NATO talks,” Reuters, May 24, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/383624/pakistan-seeks-face-saving-formula-in-nato-talks/
“NATO supply lines will not be restored: JUI-F,” Express Tribune, May 24, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/383451/nato-supply-lines-will-not-be-restored-jui-f/
[6] “Munter back in Pakistan till conclusion of Nato supply talks,” Dawn, May 23, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/05/23/munter-back-in-pakistan-till-the-conclusion-of-nato-supply-talks/
[7] Salman Masood, “Pakistan Says U.S. Drone Strike Kills Suspected Militants,” New York Times, May 24, 2012. Available at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/25/world/asia/pakistan-says-us-drone-strike-kills-suspected-militants.html?_r=1
Zulfiqar Ali, “US drone strike kills 6 in North Waziristan,” Express Tribune, May 24, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/383552/us-drone-strike-kills-10-in-northwest-pakistan/
[8] Usman Ansari, “Pakistan Acknowledges Sea-Based Nuclear Deterrent,” Defense News, May 23, 2012. Available at http://www.defensenews.com/article/20120523/DEFREG03/305230004/-1/7daysarchives/Pakistan-Acknowledges-Sea-Based-Nuclear-Deterrent
[9] Muhammad Irfan, “Targeted: Car destroyed, JUI-S leader escapes unhurt in bomb attack,” Express Tribune, May 24, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/383583/targeted-car-destroyed-jui-s-leader-escapes-unhurt-in-bomb-attack/
[10] Zahir Shah Sherazi, “Tribal militia quits fight against Taliban over lack of govt support,” Dawn, May 24, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/05/24/tribal-militia-quits-fight-against-taliban-over-lack-of-govt-support/
[11] Abdul Manan, “The new Saudi Arabia?: Erdogan plays middleman between govt, opposition,” Express Tribune, May 24, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/383401/the-new-saudi-arabia-erdogan-plays-middleman-between-govt-opposition/
[12] “Pakistan, India begin talks on ‘liberal’ visa regime,” Express Tribune, May 24, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/383591/pakistan-india-begin-talks-on-liberal-visa-regime/
[13] Kamran Yousaf, “Diplomatic ties: Chinese team due amidst strained Pak-US ties,” Express Tribune, May 24, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/383452/diplomatic-ties-chinese-team-due-amidst-strained-pak-us-ties/
[14] Shehzad Baloch, “Balochistan unrest: Apex court issues ominous warning,” Express Tribune, May 24, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/383495/balochistan-unrest-apex-court-issues-ominous-warning/
[15] “US hails pipeline as boost for Asian integration,” AFP, May 24, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/383589/us-hails-pipeline-as-boost-for-asian-integration/