Pakistan Security Brief - May 4, 2012

Combating Terrorism Center releases 17 letters recovered from Osama bin Laden’s compound; Bin Laden’s reveal his frustration with incompetent regional affiliates of al Qaeda; Pakistan willing to explore alternatives to drone strikes; Suicide bomber kills 20 in Bajaur agency; Investigation by Pakistani intelligence agency shows contact between prisoners and TTP; Afghanistan foils terrorist plot by Pakistani man in Kabul; Gilani says he will continue as prime minister; PML-N protests at National Assembly session; Interior Minister announces end of Lyari operation; Supreme Court frustrated by missing persons case in Balochistan; Program to resettle Afghan refugees receives international backing.

Osama bin Laden

  • On Thursday, the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point publicly released 17 declassified documents from among the thousands of documents seized during the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound. The 17 documents are letters in Arabic totaling 175 pages, dating from September 2006 to April 2011. In one of the letters from 2010, bin Laden ordered that two teams, one in Pakistan and the other in Afghanistan’s Bagram area, plan attacks on the aircraft of President Obama or General David Petraeus. In another letter dated October 2010 and sent to al Qaeda leader Attiyah Abd-al-Rahman, bin Laden addressed his “brothers in Waziristan” and told them to keep a “low profile” and take “necessary precautions.” According to analysts at West Point, the letters revealed that bin Laden was frustrated by the “incompetence” of many of al Qaeda’s regional affiliates such as the Pakistani Taliban, and by his inability to exercise control over these groups. He was also concerned about innocent Muslims, particularly women and children, being killed in al Qaeda operations. Al Qaeda leaders Attiyah and Abu Yahya al Libi wrote a letter to Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Hakimullah Mehsud in December 2010, in which they told Mehsud to stop attacking “marketplaces, mosques, roads, assembly places” and killing “normal Muslims” in Pakistan.[1]

U.S.-Pakistan Relations

  • During Thursday’s weekly briefing, Pakistan’s Foreign Office (FO) spokesman Moazzam Ali Khan indicated that while Pakistan will not “compromise” on drone strikes, it is “willing to explore other possibilities.” The FO spokesman said that Pakistan has not yet decided whether to attend the NATO summit in Chicago later this month. He also said that the Defence Committee of the Cabinet had started planning on how to effectively implement the recommendations for U.S.-Pakistan relations approved by parliament.[2]

Militancy

  • At least 20 people, including seven Levies personnel were killed and approximately 66 others were injured when a suicide bomber detonated himself  in a market area in Khar, Bajaur agency on Friday. The TTP claimed responsibility for the attack, and said that it was “very happy” to have achieved its target.[3]

  • The Express Tribune reported that a secret investigation carried out by a Pakistani intelligence agency showed that militants in prison continue to use cell phones to maintain contact with the outside world, particularly with militant organizations such as the TTP, to obtain financial support and plan more attacks like the Bannu jailbreak. Despite increased security efforts by authorities, the report revealed that scanning devices in various prisons across Punjab were out of order, walk-in gates were unmanned, and the prison guards’ arms and ammunition were not up-to-date and did not meet the basic requirements. According to intercepted phone calls between prisoners and TTP militants, the TTP is planning additional attacks on other prisons such as Adiala Jail Rawalpindi, Central Jail Faisalabad and Central Jail Kot Lakhpat, Lahore. The report declared the seven jails in Punjab that hold “nearly 250” militants the “most sensitive,” which prompted Punjab’s Home Department to demand assistance from the paramilitary Rangers force to help secure the facilities.[4]

  • On Thursday, Afghan intelligence claimed that it had foiled a major terrorist plot in Kabul, after arresting a Pakistani man who was driving a truck filled with 1,000 kilograms of explosives. An Afghan intelligence agency spokesman said that the man, a potential suicide bomber, was in his 20s and from the tribal areas of Pakistan.[5]

  • Two Russian-made rockets, fired from an unknown location in Khyber agency, landed in the University town area of Peshawar on Friday morning and damaged the gate of a private hostel. Officials said that the likely target could have been either the American Club or the Bacha Khan International Airport.[6]

  • Militants blew up a boys’ primary school in the Shabqadar district of Charsadda, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa on Thursday night. According to the education department, the number of schools blown up in Charsadda in the past two years has now reached 16.[7]

Domestic Politics

  • After the Senate and the National Assembly both passed resolutions supporting Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, the prime minister told the media that the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is not looking for a successor, and that “he will continue as prime minister.” Gilani also stated that his conviction was not for a criminal offense and does not disqualify him from his position.[8]

  • On Friday, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) boycotted the parliamentary debate on President Asif Ali Zardari’s recent address to both houses of parliament and refused to take part in the proceedings until Prime Minister Gilani resigned. The PML-N also protested against Gilani at Friday’s National Assembly session, compelling Deputy Speaker Faisal Karim Kundi to indefinitely postpone the session.[9]

  • Hours after the PPP passed a National Assembly resolution on Thursday calling for the formation of a new South Punjab province, the PML-N submitted a resolution calling for the formation of four new provinces – Bahawalpur, Federally Administered Tribal areas, South Punjab and Hazara provinces.[10]

Lyari

  • Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik announced that the security operation in Karachi’s Lyari area, which entered its eighth day on Friday, had ended. Malik said that the security forces “have been ordered to withdraw,” and the police and Rangers were now only surrounding the neighborhood.[11]

  • President Zardari met with Sindh cabinet members and Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah on Friday, and said that the government is focusing on maintaining peace and security in Karachi, particularly in Lyari. Zardari also stated that the government will take action against the criminals and devise a political solution to deal with them.[12] 

Balochistan

  • During Thursday’s Supreme Court hearing on a case involving enforced disappearances of several people in Balochistan, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said that Balochistan is on the verge of a “constitutional breakdown” as the case “drags on interminably.” At Wednesday’s hearing, the court had summoned Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani and Home Minister Zafarullah Zehri, but both ministers failed to appear. Despite the court’s order that all missing persons be brought before the court on Friday, law enforcement agencies have failed to produce any missing persons.[13]

International Relations

  • Officials from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Switzerland and the United Nations appeared at a conference in Geneva on Thursday to discuss a “$1.9 billion plan to help rebuild the lives of almost 9 million former and current Afghan refugees.” The program will initially focus on resettling the “5.7 million Afghans” who have returned to Afghanistan from Pakistan and Iran by creating schools, providing jobs, and meeting other basic needs.[14]





        



[1] Tabassum Zakaria and Mark Hosenball, “Bin Laden had disdain for al Qaeda affiliates: documents,” Reuters, May 3, 2012. Available at http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/03/us-usa-binladen-documents-idUSBRE8420RB20120503
Peter Baker, “Recovered Bin Laden Letters Show a Divided Al Qaeda,” New York Times, May 3, 2012. Available at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/04/world/recovered-documents-show-a-divided-al-qaeda.html?_r=1
Huma Imtiaz, “Bin Laden Letters: Al Qaeda told Mehsud to stop attacking Pakistan mosques, markets,” Express Tribune, May 3, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/373464/bin-laden-to-mehsud-stop-attacks-on-pakistani-mosques-markets/
[2] Kamran Yousaf, “Foreign office briefing: Govt ready to explore drone strike alternatives,” Express Tribune, May 4, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/373871/foreign-office-briefing-govt-ready-to-explore-drone-strike-alternatives/
Iftikhar Firdous and Mureeb Mohmand, “Suicide bomber kills 19, injures 66 in Bajaur Agency,” Express Tribune, May 4, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/373974/suicide-bomber-kills-17-injures-42-in-bajaur-agency/
[4] Asad Kharal, “Security breach: Distance terror planning from prison cells,” Express Tribune, May 4, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/373860/security-breach-distance-terror-planning-from-prison-cells/
[5] “Afghans capture Pakistani would-be suicide bomber: Official,” AFP, May 3, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/373665/afghans-capture-pakistani-would-be-suicide-bomber-official/
[6] Riaz Ahmad, “Rockets land in Peshawar, no casualties reported,” Express Tribune, May 4, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/374040/rockets-land-in-peshawar-no-casualties-reported/
[7] “Militants blow up boys school in Charsadda,” Express Tribune, May 4, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/373985/militants-blow-up-boys-school-in-charsadda/
[8] Irfan Ghauri, “After parliament nods, Gilani vows to continue as PM,” Express Tribune, May 4, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/373836/after-parliament-nods-gilani-vows-to-continue-as-pm/
[9] Zahid Gishkori and Qamar Zaman, “PML-N to boycott presidential address debate till Gilani's resignation,” Express Tribune, May 4, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/373991/pml-n-to-boycott-presidential-address-debate-till-gilanis-resignation/
[10] “Stepping up: PML-N calls for four new provinces,” Express Tribune, May 4, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/373908/stepping-up-pml-n-calls-for-four-new-provinces/
[11] “Lyari operation stopped, claims Malik,” Dawn, May 4, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/05/04/lyari-operation-enters-day-eight/
[12] “Lyari violence: No compromise on Karachi situation, says president,” Express Tribune, May 4, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/373988/lyari-operation-has-ended-rehman-malik/
[13] Shehzad Baloch, “Baloch missing persons: SC warns of action against home minister,” Express Tribune, May 4, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/373910/baloch-missing-persons-sc-warns-of-action-against-home-minister/
[14] “Countries agree on $1.9B Afghan refugee strategy,” Associated Press, May 3, 2012. Available at http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/05/03/un-conference-ends-with-afghan-refugee-strategy/