Pakistan Security Brief - November 26, 2012

U.S. aims to keep 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after 2014; Scholars say U.S. should keep 30,000 troops in Afghanistan post-2014; Human rights groups condemn Obama administration’s drone rulebook; TTP suicide bomber kills 23 in Rawalpindi; 13 killed in TTP bombings in D.I. Khan; Shia Muslims received death threats over text; Pakistani government suspends cell phone services over the weekend; 110 Army units deployed to sensitive areas during Ashura holiday; TTP says no peace talks with government; Militants kill three police personnel near Peshawar; IED kills one and injures three in Karachi; TTP kills two anti-Taliban militia men in Bara district; Seven alleged terrorists arrested in Lahore and Sargodha; Gunmen shoot at car, kill five in Peshawar; Geo TV anchor survives assassination attempt; Suicide bomber killed before hitting target in Lakki Marwat; Tribal elders, Taliban join forces against criminals and target killers in N. Waziristan; Bajaur agency tribesmen ban poppy cultivation in region; Gen. Kayani, Imran Khan say no to army operation in Karachi; Sindh police propose new arms license policy; Rangers’ special powers extended for next three months; India claims Pakistan violated border ceasefire; Ahmadinejad says Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline will be completed on time.

Afghanistan

  • According to a Wall Street Journal article, the Obama administration plans to keep around 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after the 2014 withdrawal. The administration has emphasized that it is not looking for permanent bases in Afghanistan, and that the remaining forces’ purpose will be to train Afghan forces and to conduct counterterrorist operations.[1]

  • The New York-based Human Rights Watch group said on Monday that Afghan authorities should not “provide Taliban insurgents with immunity from prosecution in return for peace talks.” They said that after the Taliban had committed numerous crimes and human rights abuses, to provide immunity for the group would be against international law.[2]

  • According to defense strategy analysts Kimberly and Frederick Kagan, the U.S. ought to keep about 68,000 troops in Afghanistan through 2014, and approximately 30,000 troops post-2014 if it is to maintain the gains it has made against the Taliban and al Qaeda over the last 11 years. The Kagans argue that exclusive use of drones and special operations forces would be ineffective without bases in Afghanistan, and that relying on munitions dropped from aircraft would not be an accurate way to target militants. The Kagans highlight the necessity of maintaining bases in Jalalabad, Khost, and Kandahar to enable infiltration into militant-held territory, as well as the need for full aircraft ground crews and special mission support crews.[3]

Drone Rulebook

  • According to sources interviewed by the New York Times, the Obama administration is in the process of drafting a formal rulebook that establishes guidelines and standards concerning the use of drones to conduct targeted assassinations. Allegedly the administration was working to put together the rulebook before November 6 in order to establish a clear set of drone-use guidelines for a new head of state in the event that Obama did not get re-elected president. Human rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Code Pink have strongly condemned the rulebook, arguing that the administration is flouting international law with its drone program and calling the development of such a rulebook “disgusting.”[4]

Ashura Violence Against Shia Muslims

  • A Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) suicide bomber blew himself up in Rawalpindi, killing at least 23 people and injuring another 62 people on Wednesday. The bomber targeted a Shia Muslim procession at a mosque near the city center. The TTP also claimed responsibility for two bombings targeting Shias in Karachi on Wednesday that killed one and injured 15.[5]

  • An improvised explosive device (IED) was detonated in Dera Ismail Khan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa on Saturday. Eight were killed while 30 were injured in the attack which targeted a Shia religious procession. TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told AFP that the TTP claimed responsibility for the attack. Approximately 31 Shias were killed in targeted attacks between Wednesday and Sunday.[6]

  • A TTP suicide bomber blew himself up on Sunday killing five people and injuring at least 70 others in a second bombing in Dera Ismail Khan. According to the Provincial Information Minister, “the bomb was planted inside a closed cycle workshop near a bakery in Commissionery Bazaar near Mohallah Qasaban.” After claiming responsibility for the attack, TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said that regardless of the security measures taken by Interior Minister Rehman Malik, “the Taliban would succeed in hitting their targets.”[7]

  • In the lead-up to the Ashura holiday weekend, Shia Muslims across Pakistan received death threats via text message from anonymous senders. Hardline groups such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and al Qaeda often target Shias, and human rights groups say that over 300 Shias have been killed in sectarian conflict in the last year.[8]

  • The Pakistani government suspended mobile phone services in different areas of Pakistan numerous times over the weekend. The suspensions were part of a strategy to beef up security during Shia Muslim processions marking Ashura. Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that the measure was necessary because “more than 90 [percent] of bomb blasts have been carried out through mobile [SIM cards].” Earlier in the week, however, TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan dismissed government cellphone blockages as useless because, he claimed, the TTP does not use mobile phones as explosives detonators. He accused Malik of blocking cellphones for his own personal agenda, and said that “the Taliban cannot be stopped by jamming mobile phone services.”[9]   

  • More than 110 units of the Pakistan Army were deployed to sensitive areas to head off threats of terrorist attacks during the Ashura holiday weekend. Military troops were deployed in Kohat, Hangu, Orakzai and Kurram agencies for extra security  on Friday. Troops were also present in Karachi, Lahore, Quetta, Peshawar, Jhan, Gilgit, Skardu, Parachinar, and Rawalpindi. Military officials declined to specify the exact number of troops sent to such areas, though they affirmed that the units would be able “to reach a troubled spot within minutes.” According to another security official, all of the Muharram processions were “monitored by gunship helicopters.”[10]

  • Private schools in Peshawar closed down between Thursday and Sunday due to security threats in the lead-up to the Ashura holiday weekend. President Khwaja Yawar Naseer of the Private Educational Institutions Management Association said that road blockages were causing problems for school buses, and that a police presence near the schools was cause for concern given that law enforcement agents were easily targeted by militants.[11]

Militancy

  • TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said on Monday that the TTP has ruled out any possibility of peace talks with the Pakistan government. He said that the government was a group of “secular rulers imposed by foreign forces to rule an Islamic country,” claiming that his group would continue to fight until an independent state was established in Pakistan that was “governed by Islamic Sharia law.”[12]

  • Three police personnel were killed and three were injured on Thursday when militants attacked two separate police checkposts near Peshawar. Unidentified gunmen shot and killed two policemen at a checkpost near Maloot Chowk, Khyber Agency. The second attack took place in Paharipura area, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa where unknown militants killed one policeman and injured three others with a hand grenade. The Bomb Disposal Unit detected and defused two bombs on a flyover in the Gul Bahar area of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.[13]

  • An (IED) exploded in the Malir area of Karachi on Monday, killing one person and injuring another three people. Police said the bomb was meant to explode earlier but was “detonated on Monday due to the closure of mobile phone services.” Karachi police allegedly thwarted a terrorist attack when they recovered a large amount of explosives and arms in a raid in Karachi’s Manghopir area on Sunday. One of the accused terrorists was killed by the police in the raid.[14]

  • A roadside IED killed two anti-Taliban militia men in the Bara sub-district of Khyber agency on Friday. The bomb destroyed the militiamen’s vehicle as it detonated alongside a road in the Qamber Khel area. TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan confirmed that the Pakistani Taliban was responsible for the attack.[15]

  • Two major terrorist plots were thwarted when law enforcement agencies captured seven militants in Lahore and Sargodha on Thursday. Two militants were arrested in Lahore in a raid where two suicide vests and explosive material was recovered. Police say that the two men arrested were planning to target a Shia procession. Five alleged terrorists were arrested in Sargodha, Punjab in a similar raid. Police said that the five men arrested were planning “to carry out terrorist attacks in Muharram.”[16]

  • Unidentified gunmen opened fire on a vehicle in Peshawar on Saturday killing five people. A child was among the five killed.[17]

  • A prominent Pakistani journalist for Geo TV, Hamid Mir survived an attempt on his life on Monday. Mir’s car had a bomb planted under it in Islamabad and the bomb disposal squad was able to defuse it before it exploded. Mir was one of many journalists criticized by the TTP for his coverage on the shooting of Malala Yousafzai.[18]

  • A suicide bomber was shot and killed by police in Lakki Marwat, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa before he was able to reach his target on Friday. Police cornered him in an alley and killed the young man when their bullets triggered his suicide vest. Police say that the suicide bomber’s target was the residence of a prominent Shia leader.[19]

Local Defense

  • Tribal elders belonging to the Uthmanzai sub-tribe of the Wazir tribe as well as members of the local Taliban led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur in North Waziristan declared on Thursday that they would establish a militia of 100 men to punish agents sabotaging regional peace through kidnappings and other attacks. The militia is to patrol various areas in North Waziristan in search of improvised explosive devices (IEDs); they also have the authority to take action against criminals, kidnappers, and target killers. Additionally, Bahadur reiterated that a peace agreement signed in 2007 with the Pakistani government was still intact, and added that government security forces should respect their peace agreements with tribesmen as well.[20]

Poppy Cultivation

  • Members of the Utmankhel tribe in Bajaur agency on Thursday implemented a ban on poppy cultivation in the region and affirmed their commitment to maintaining peace and government law in the agency. Bajaur’s Political Agent Syed Abdul Jabar Shah declared at the Thursday meeting that poppy cultivation was detrimental to regional stability as well as Pakistani “pride and dignity in the international community,” and as such it ought to be banned immediately.[21]

Domestic Law and Order

  • Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on Thursday rejected the notion that a military operation was necessary to rein in pervasive violence in Karachi. Kayani lauded Rangers forces for the work they were doing to control the law and order situation in the city and said that the Army did not need to intervene. Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan said the same day that calling in the Army would not be an effective solution to Karachi’s security problems. He urged the people of Pakistan to support a neutral police force and reject any party that had militant wings.[22]

  • In light of Karachi’s degenerating security situation, the Sindh police on Monday proposed a new arms license policy before the Supreme Court that would forbid the sale of firearms to anyone under 25 years of age. Additional Chief Secretary of Sindh Interior Department Waseem Ahmad added that licenses would be issued solely by the department or deputy commissioner.[23]

  • The Sindh government has ordered the extension of Rangers security forces’ special powers for the next three months. The special powers allowance to carry out raids and arrest and interrogate terrorist suspects was reportedly due to expire on November 23.[24]

  • During a visit to the Kharadar area of Karachi on Sunday, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah said that there were no differences between Shia and Sunni Muslims in Karachi, and that a “third group” was behind the violence in the city. He did not name the “third group.”[25]

  • On Thursday, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Chief Syed Munawar Hassan criticized the government for failing to protect Pakistanis and demanded that Interior Minister Rehman Malik resign immediately. Hassan decried the law and order situation throughout Pakistan, declaring that the entire country had been “turned into a veritable slaughterhouse” as a result of government incompetence.[26]

Indo-Pakistani Relations

  • India claimed that Pakistan violated the ceasefire when Pakistani troops allegedly fired over 6,000 rounds of heavy weaponry on ten Indian posts along the border in Poonch district, in the disputed region of Kashmir. Indian Army troops retaliated with fire of their own, but overall “there was no loss of life or property.” Indian security officials claimed that Pakistani troops had violated the ceasefire last month in Uri sector, saying that these constant violations are “meant to assist infiltration of terrorists from Pakistan.”[27]

Iran-Pakistan Relations

  • Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday that Iran and Pakistan would complete their gas pipeline on time. Ahmadinejad dismissed claims of U.S. pressure on Islamabad to abandon the pipeline deal saying that “America cannot affect this project…God willing this project will be completed soon and gas will reach Pakistan.” Iran plans to grant Pakistan a $500 million loan for the project, though Iranian authorities are first seeking a promise from the Pakistani government that Pakistan will remain committed to fulfilling its responsibilities in the agreement. [28]

  • In a Thursday interview, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad advocated for a joint gathering of ulema (Islamic religious scholars) from Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan to develop a collaborative strategy to combat regional terrorism. Ahmedinejad urged Muslims to look beyond sectarian lines and understand that all Muslims believe in the same God, and as such they should stop killing each other. Regarding sectarian conflict and terrorism in Pakistan, Ahmedinejad commented that “western powers do not want Pakistan to progress. Iranians are with the people of Pakistan and will not leave them alone.”[29] 

Egypt-Pakistan Relations

  • Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi on Friday cancelled a visit to Pakistan, one day after granting himself expansive powers that sparked riots and protests in Egypt. While no reason was immediately offered to explain the cancellation, it is likely that Morsi refrained from visiting Pakistan to focus on addressing the widespread unrest in Egypt after his power expansion on Friday.[30]

Japan-Pakistan Relations

  • Speaking at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Thursday, Japanese ambassador Hiroshi Oe said that Pakistan has a better business environment than India because of the “strong workers union culture in India.” He said that many big Japanese investors are planning to make investments in Pakistan as it is a country that “has great potential for the future.”[31]

                         


[1] “US aims to keep 10,000 troops in Afghanistan: WSJ report,” AFP, November 26, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/11/26/us-aims-to-keep-10000-troops-in-afghanistan-wsj-report/
[2] “Rights group urges no amnesty for Afghan Taliban,” AFP, November 26, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/11/26/rights-group-urges-no-amnesty-for-afghan-taliban/
[3] Fred and Kimberly Kagan, “Why U.S. troops must stay in Afghanistan,” The Washington Post, November 23, 2012. Available at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-us-troops-must-stay-in-afghanistan/2012/11/23/e452bb92-3287-11e2-9cfa-e41bac906cc9_story.html.
[4] Scott Shane, “Election Spurred a Move to Codify U.S. Drone Policy,” The New York Times, November 24, 2012. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/25/world/white-house-presses-for-drone-rule-book.html; Karen McVeigh, “Obama ‘drone-warfare rulebook’ condemned by human rights groups,” The Guardian, November 25, 2012. Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/25/obama-drone-warfare-rulebook.
[5] “Taliban bomber kills Pakistan Shia marchers,” BBC, November 22, 2012. Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-20425510; Asif Shahzad, “Taliban suicide bomber kills 23 in Pakistan,” AP, November 22, 2012. Available at:  http://www.boston.com/news/world/asia/2012/11/22/taliban-suicide-bomber-kills-pakistan/0gzSmVbIBu0TtdYHcLEJoO/story.html.
[6] “Eight killed in blast near DI Khan Muharram procession,” AFP, November 24, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/11/24/blast-in-dera-ismail-khan-kills-three/; “Pakistan bomb tied to Taliban,” New York Times, November 25, 2012. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/26/world/asia/taliban-claim-responsibility-for-fatal-bombing-in-pakistan.html?_r=0.  
[7] Zahir Shah Sherazi, “Blast near Ashura procession in DI Khan kills five,” Dawn, November 25, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/11/25/blast-heard-in-di-khan/
[8] “Pakistani Shias receive death threat text messages,” Reuters, November 22, 2012. Available at: http://dawn.com/2012/11/22/pakistani-shias-receive-death-threat-text-messages/.
[9] “Pakistan suspends mobile networks over fears of attacks,” BBC, November 23, 2012. Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-20469493; Zahir Shah Sherazi, “Jamming cell phones will not stop us: Taliban spokesman,” Dawn, November 23, 2012. Available at: http://dawn.com/2012/11/23/jamming-cell-phones-will-not-stop-us-taliban-spokesman/.
[10] “Army deployed in Kohat, Hangu, Kurram Agency,” Geo, November 23, 2012. Available at http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=76759; “Beefing up security: Army on standby in volatile areas,” Express Tribune, November 23, 2012. Available at: http://tribune.com.pk/story/469990/beefing-up-security-army-on-standby-in-volatile-areas/.
[11] “Private schools announce 4-day closure in Peshawar,” Dawn, November 22, 2012. Available at: http://dawn.com/2012/11/22/private-schools-announce-4-day-closure-in-peshawar-2/.
[12] Zahir Shah Sherazi, “Pakistani Taliban reject peace talks with govt,” Dawn, November 26, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/11/26/ttp-reject-peace-talks/
[13] “Peshawar police under attack: Militants kill three cops at checkposts,” Dawn, November 23, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/11/23/peshawar-police-under-attack-militants-kill-three-cops-at-checkposts-2/
[14] “Blast in Karachi’s Malir area kills one, injures three: police,” Dawn, November 26, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/11/26/blast-in-karachis-malir-kills-one-injures-three-police/; “Terror attack bid foiled in Karachi: police,” Dawn, November 25, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/11/25/terror-attack-bid-foiled-in-karachi-police/ 
[15] Zahir Shah Sherazi, “Blast in Khyber kills two anti-Taliban militiamen,” Dawn, November 23, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/11/23/blast-in-khyber-kills-two-anti-taliban-militiamen/
[16] “Seven alleged militants arrested from Lahore, Sargodha: officials,” Dawn, November 22, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/11/22/seven-alleged-militants-arrested-from-lahore-sargodha-officials/
[17] “Gun men kill five in Peshawar,” Geo, November 24, 2012. Available at http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=76896
[18] “Senior journalist Hamid Mir escapes bid on life: report,” Dawn, November 26, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/11/26/senior-journalist-hamid-mir-escapes-bomb-attack-reports/
[19] Ghulam Mursalin Marwat, “’Suicide bomber’ killed in shootout,” November 23, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/11/24/suicide-bomber-killed-in-shootout/
[20] “Taliban, elders join hands against ‘criminals’ in N. Waziristan,” Dawn, November 23, 2012. Available at: http://dawn.com/2012/11/23/taliban-elders-join-hands-against-criminals-in-n-waziristan-2/.
[21] “Poppy cultivation,” Dawn, November 23, 2012. Available at: http://dawn.com/2012/11/23/poppy-cultivation/.
[22] “Army operation not needed in Karachi: COAS Kayani,” Geo News, November 22, 2012. Available at: http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=76628; “Army no solution to Karachi problem: Imran Khan,” Geo News, November 22, 2012. Available at: http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=76623.
[23] “Sindh govt presents new arms licence policy in SC,” Express Tribune, November 26, 2012. Available at: http://tribune.com.pk/story/471095/sindh-govt-presents-new-arms-licence-policy-in-sc/.
[24] “Sindh govt extends Rangers powers for 3 months,” Geo News, November 22, 2012. Available at: http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=76643.
[25] “No differences between Shia and Sunni: CM,” Geo News, November 25, 2012. Available at: http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=77002.
[26] “Resign if can’t protect people, JI to rulers,” Geo News, November 22, 2012. Available at: http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=76637.
[27] “India claims Pakistan violates ceasfire again, targets 10 posts,” CNN Top News, November 26, 2012. Available at http://cnntopnews.com/india-claims-pakistan-violates-ceasefire-again-targets-10-posts/
[28] “Ahmadinejad vows to complete Pakistan gas pipeline by 2014,” AFP, November 22, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/11/22/ahmadinejad-vows-to-complete-pakistan-gas-pipeline-by-2014/; Zafar Bhutta, “IP gas pipeling: Iran wants assurance that Pakistan is ‘all in,’” Express Tribune, November 26, 2012. Available at: http://tribune.com.pk/story/470696/ip-gas-pipeline-iran-wants-assurance-that-pakistan-is-all-in/.  
[29] “Ahmadinejad for Ulema conference against terrorism,” Geo News, November 22, 2012. Available at: http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=76581.
[30] “Egyptian president cancels state visit to Pakistan,” Reuters, November 22, 2012. Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/23/us-egypt-pakistan-idUSBRE8AM02320121123.
[31] “Japanese envoy says business environment better in Pakistan than India,” Dawn, November 23, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/11/23/japanese-envoy-says-business-environment-better-in-pakistan-than-india/