Pakistan Security Brief - November 16, 2012

U.S. report says no evidence Pakistani gov’t knew bin Laden’s whereabouts; Pakistan has released leader of Tora Bora Mahaz militant group affiliated with Taliban; New U.S. Afghanistan Commander outlines American strategy after 2014; Man  hanged in Pakistan for the first time in four years; Police arrest two suspected terrorists, recover material for over 60 suicide vests; Mortar attack kills one, injures two in Bara; Zhob vehicle blast kills two FC personnel; Policeman killed in Islamabad; Security forces to conduct air, ground surveillance in “sensitive” districts on Ashura holiday; Sindh High Court rejects Interior Ministry’s ban on motorcycles in Karachi; Rehman Malik says there was information on terrorists using motorcycles; Cell phone services suspended in Karachi and Quetta; PM Ashraf tells Egyptian President Morsi that Pakistan will support Palestine in the UNSC; FM Khar says human rights abuses rampant in Kashmir; Punjab’s former Finance Minister disqualified for holding dual nationality; President Zardari says there is a strategy to overturn former PM Gilani’s disqualification; YouTube to be unblocked.

Abbottabad Raid

  • On Thursday, Navy Admiral William H. McRaven stated that a U.S. post-raid assessment concluded that there was no evidence that the Pakistani government was aware of Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts in Abbottabad before the May 2011 raid that killed him. McRaven affirmed that “we have no intelligence that indicates the Pakistanis knew he was there.”[i]

Afghan Taliban Prisoner Release

  • According to family relatives, Pakistan has released Taliban leader Anwar-ul Haq Mujahid as part of efforts to encourage sustainable Afghan reconciliation. Mujahid is the son of deceased Afghan resistance leader Maulvi Yunus Khalis, and was the leader of the Tora Bora Mahaz militant group affiliated with the Afghan Taliban.[ii]

New Afghanistan Commander

  • President Barack Obama’s pick to be commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan spoke about America’s role in the country after 2014 on Thursday. An assistant commander of the Marine Corps, and a former director of combat forces in Iraq, General Joseph Dunford said “the two main missions would be counterterrorism and assisting and advising Afghan forces.” He said that 1,000 troops in Afghanistan would be an insufficient number, and that a bilateral security agreement ensuring legal protection for American soldiers remaining in Afghanistan must be reached by May 2013.[iii]

Militancy

  • Police conducted a raid in the Tanda area of Gujrat, Punjab on Friday and arrested two terrorist suspects affiliated with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Mehsud group. The men confessed to involvement in previous attacks on an army checkpost and a police checkpost in Gujrat. Police recovered five suicide vests and enough material to make 60 more in addition to firearms and 75kg of explosives.[iv]

  • One soldier was killed and two others were wounded on Thursday when a mortar shell struck a military checkpost in the Qambarabad area of Bara sub-district, Khyber agency. In another Thursday attack in Tank district, a government primary school in Nandor village and a cell phone shop in Imakhel village were blown up in two separate incidents. It is unclear who was responsible for these attacks.[v]

  • Two Frontier Corps (FC) personnel were killed in a vehicle blast in Zhob district, Balochistan early Friday morning. Frontier Corps personnel had arrested two militant suspects from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region the day before and were driving them to FC headquarters for questioning when explosives inside the suspects’ belongings detonated. It is unclear what happened to the suspects.[vi]

  • Unidentified assailants killed a policeman and injured three others in the Karachi Company area of Islamabad on Friday. Police have allegedly arrested one suspect though two others are still at large.[vii]

Holiday Safety Issues

  • After Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa police labeled the districts of Peshawar, Hangu, Dera Ismail Khan, Tank, Bannu, and Mansehra particularly “sensitive” and susceptible to violence during the Islamic holy month of Muharram, security forces will reportedly conduct air surveillance as well as extensive on-the-ground surveillance of these areas on November 24, the holy day of Ashura. A spokesman for the provincial police confirmed that Frontier Reserve Police, Elite Force, Frontier Constabulary, special police forces, and ex-servicemen would all be deployed during Muharram. He added that security forces had warned local imams against “delivering provocative speeches in sermons, misusing loudspeakers, distributing and displaying hate material, chalking on the walls and shouting sectarian slogans [or pain of] strict action.”[viii]

  • The Sindh High Court (SHC) confirmed its Thursday order to suspend Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s notification to ban motorcycles in Karachi on Friday. Malik reportedly issued the ban in the city “because there was a threat of terrorism.” However, the court said that the ministry should have countered the terrorist threat in a different way, saying that the ban would have affected millions of people trying to commute to work. The ban on motorcycles was also issued in Quetta, and the Balochistan High Court is set to hear a petition on that order on Monday.[ix]

  • In a Senate Session on Friday, Rehman Malik criticized the parliament for failing to pass through the legislature a ban on motorcycles in Karachi for the first day of Muharram. He said that while he “respected the decision of the Sindh High Court,” he said the decision to ban motorcycles was the right one “in view of information received that a motorcycle would be used as a bomb on the first day of Muharram in Karachi.” Malik told the parliament that he would appeal the SHC’s decision in the Supreme Court. Senator Raza Rabbani told the minister that the parliament had not failed, and “could not give a stamp of approval on weak legislature.” Malik later told the media that the security situation in Punjab was getting worse every day adding that “after Karachi and Quetta terrorists were turning their attention towards Lahore.” [x]

  • The Pakistani government suspended cell phone services in Karachi and Quetta on Friday “in light of security concerns.” Rehman Malik also announced that Karachi and Quetta’s markets would be closed at 5 pm. These security measures are part of an attempt to disrupt possible terrorist threats on the first day of Muharram. The measures are also part of a response to a report by police saying that 500 people have been killed in Karachi since September.[xi]

Egypt-Palestine-Pakistan Relations

  • Egyptian President Muhamed Morsi called Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on Friday after rising tension the Gaza-Israel conflict. Morsi urged the Prime Minister to pledge Pakistan’s support for the Palestine issue when it is brought up in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), in which Pakistan is a non-permanent member. He said that Israel’s action is “a grave violation of international law and all humanitarian norms.” Ashraf said that until the Palestinian issue is solved, “peace in the Middle East will remain elusive.” Ashraf then assured Morsi that Pakistan will support the issue in the UNSC.[xii]

Kashmir

  • In a Thursday statement presented before the 39th Session of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers in Djibouti, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar stated that human rights abuses and Muslim persecution were prevalent throughout Indian-administered Kashmir. She expressed hope that Pakistan and India would be able to resolve the Kashmir situation peacefully. Khar also reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to supporting and promoting the well-being of the global Muslim community.[xiii]

Former Soldier Hanged

  • For the first time in four years, Pakistan’s military hanged a former soldier named Muhammad Hussain Haral, convicted of stabbing a superior officer while on post in Okara cantonment, lifting an unofficial moratorium on capital punishment. He made several pleas to have his case appealed to the President and the Chief of Army Staff, but was denied. Human Rights activists around the world have condemed the execution.[xiv]

Domestic Politics

  • Punjab’s former finance minister Rana Asif Mehmood was disqualified from office by the Lahore High Court (LHC) for possession of dual nationality on Friday. Mehmood had previously resigned from his post after being accused “of possessing Canadian citizenship along with his Pakistani nationality.”[xv]

  • Visiting former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in Multan on Friday, President Asif Ali Zardari said that the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has devised a strategy to Challenge Gilani’s disqualification. During the meeting, Pakistan Seraiki Party’s President Barrister Taj Muhammad Langah reportedly told Zardari about the different legal clauses he could use in challenging the Supreme Court’s order to disqualify Gilani.[xvi]

  • According to a statement by the Chairman of Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) on Thursday, YouTube will be unblocked in Pakistan in the next 15-20 days. YouTube was blocked by Pakistan’s government in September as a security measure after the release of the anti-Islam video. The chairman said that PTA had been in talks with Google about blocking blasphemous content.[xvii]

              


[i] “Pakistan was unaware of bin Laden’s location, US assessment concludes,” APP, November 16, 2012. Available at: http://tribune.com.pk/story/466739/pakistan-was-unaware-of-bin-ladens-location-us-assessment-concludes/.
[ii] “Family confirms release of Taliban leader by Pakistan,” Geo News, November 16, 2012. Available at: http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=75747.
[iii] “Obama pick for Afghanistan commander describes US role beyond 2014,” Associated Press, November 15, 2012. Available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/obama-pick-for-afghanistan-commander-describes-us-role-beyond-2014/2012/11/15/21fc24fe-2f3d-11e2-af17-67abba0676e2_story.html
[iv] “Terror plot foiled as police arrest two in Gujrat,” Dawn, November 16, 2012. Available at: http://dawn.com/2012/11/16/terror-plot-foiled-as-police-arrest-two-in-gujrat/.
[v] “Soldier killed in Bara checkpost attack,” Dawn, November 15, 2012. Available at: http://dawn.com/2012/11/16/soldier-killed-in-bara-checkpost-attack-2/.
[vi] “Balochistan unrest: Bomb blast in Zhob kills two FC personnel,” Express Tribune, November 16, 2012. Available at: http://tribune.com.pk/story/466677/balochistan-unrest-bomb-blast-in-zhob-kills-two-fc-personnel/.
[vii] “ASI gunned down in Islamabad,” Geo News, November 16, 2012. Available at: http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=75721.
[viii] Ali Hazrat Bacha, “Air surveillance of ‘sensitive’ districts on Ashura,” Dawn, November 15, 2012. Available at: http://dawn.com/2012/11/16/air-surveillance-of-sensitive-districts-on-ashura/.
[ix] “SHC maintains order against motorcycle ban notification,” Dawn, November 16, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/11/16/motorcycle-ban-in-karachi-hearing-begins-in-shc/
[x] “Parliament has failed, declares Rehman Malik,” Dawn, November 16, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/11/16/parliament-has-failed-rehman-malik/; “Terrorists turning towards Lahore: Rehman Malik,” Geo, November 16, 2012. Available at http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=75760
[xi] “Mobile phone services suspended in Karachi and Quetta,” Dawn, November 16, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/11/16/mobile-phone-services-suspended-in-karachi-and-quetta/; Augustine Anthony, Khurrum Anis, “Pakistan suspends mobile services in Karachi, Quetta on threats,” Bloomberg, November 16, 2012. Available at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-11-16/pakistan-suspends-mobile-services-in-karachi-quetta-on-threats.html  
[xii] “Morsi discusses Gaza situation with PM Ashraf,” APP, November 16, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/11/16/morsi-discusses-gaza-situation-with-pm-ashraf/
[xiii] “Kashmir a source of constant Indo-Pak conflict: Khar,” AP, November 15, 2012. Available at: http://dawn.com/2012/11/16/kashmir-a-source-of-constant-conflict-between-pakistan-india-khar/.
[xiv] Khursheed Anwar Khan, “Former soldier hanged,” Dawn, November 15, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/11/16/former-soldier-hanged/
[xv] “Dual nationality: LHC disqualifies Rana Asif,” Dawn, November 16, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/11/16/dual-nationality-lhc-disqualifies-rana-asif-over/
[xvi] “Strategy to challenge Gilani disqualification planned: Zardari,” Express Tribune, November 16, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/466748/strategy-to-challenge-gilani-disqualification-planned-zardari/
[xvii] “Youtube will be opened in 15-20 days: PTA,” Geo, November 15, 2012. Available at http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=75623