Pakistan Security Brief - November 27, 2012

Govt ready to grant militants amnesty if they renounce terrorism; Interior Minister announces $2 million for info on TTP spokesman; 2013 general elections to be held in May; ECP registers 19 new political parties; Religious, political parties forging electoral alliances; $922 million untraceable from July-September in Pakistani account books; TTP threatens to kill eight kidnapped men; TTP claims responsibility for attempted attack on TV anchor; IED kills one and injures three in Karachi; One killed and three injured by gunmen in Kolab Jeeal; IED injures three in Peshawar; Two kidnapped and killed in Kandhkot; Twelve mortars fired from Iranian territory into Balochistan; Turkey seeking broader defense industry ties with Pakistan; KP information minister discusses bilateral ties with U.S. envoy; Human rights group urges Pakistani judges to stop censoring media criticism of the judiciary; Pakistani web domains targeted in hacking attack.

Amnesty for Militants

  • Speaking at a press conference in Islamabad on Monday, Interior Minister Rehman Malik announced that all banned terrorist organizations, including the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), would be offered a general amnesty as long as they renounced terrorism. He called upon Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the TTP, to give up killing innocent people, and said that “the enemies you are working for will kill you too, one day.” He claimed that if these groups did not give up terrorism then the government would be forced to act against them.[i]

Bounty on TTP Spokesman

  • On Tuesday, Interior Minister Rehman Malik announced an Rs200 million (approx. $2 million) award for information leading to the capture of TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan. Malik accused Ehsan of conspiring with “foreign elements,” and said that TTP militants were defaming Islam and Sharia law for money.[ii]

2013 General Elections

  • On Tuesday, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira stated that the 2013 general elections would occur in May. Though no other government officials have confirmed this, Kaira said that “nothing can postpone the schedule of the next general election but some natural catastrophe.” Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said that the date had not yet been finalized, although he did reiterate that March 17 would be the last day of the current administration.[iii]

  • The Electoral Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has registered 19 new political parties in the lead-up to the 2013 general elections, and is currently deciding which symbols each political party will have.[iv]

  • According to Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) Chief Sahibzada Fazal Karim, the SIC has reached “an understanding with regard to seat adjustment for the polls” with the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q). Both Karim and PML-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat hinted that they would be open to establishing political alliances with other parties as well. Shujaat commented that “no party alone can see this country through, all the political as well as religious parties will have to join their hands together to row the boat out of troubled waters.”[v]

  • In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the Awami National Party (ANP) is in talks to forge an electoral alliance with Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI). Provincial ANP President Senator Afrasiab Khattak also expressed his willingness to work with all parties in establishing electoral alliances before 2013.[vi] 

Missing Money

  • On Monday, Pakistan’s Finance Ministry released a summary of fiscal operations from July to September of fiscal year 2012-13 that fails to account for a sum of Rs88.7 billion (about $922 million), approximately one tenth of the total expenditures incurred between July and September. The missing sum has been described in the report as a “statistical discrepancy,” meaning it is untraceable in the account books.[vii]

Militancy

  • A video was released by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on Tuesday of eight kidnapped men begging for the government’s help. The men are employees of the Gomal Zam Dam project and they were kidnapped by the TTP on August 15. In the video, one of the men begs for the government to accept the TTP’s demands or else they will all be killed on December 3. The demands of the TTP are unknown.[viii]

  • TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told Dawn on Tuesday that the TTP was responsible for yesterday’s attempted attack on Geo TV news anchor Hamid Mir. He claimed that the reason Mir was targeted was because he “was following a secular agenda and was helping those who were working against the principles of Islam.”[ix]

  • An IED exploded in the Malir area of Karachi on Monday morning killing one person and injuring three others. Security forces conducted a raid in Karachi’s Orangi Town on Tuesday where they arrested a suspected TTP member. In a separate raid, police arrested a suspected target killer in the SITE area of Karachi thought to be “involved in more than 50 incidents of target killing.” Police arrested one other target killer in the Mauripur area of Karachi who “confessed to killing at least one person in Liaquatabad.”[x]

  • Unidentified gunmen opened fire on four men sitting outside of an Imambargah in Kolab Jeeal town near Khairpur, Sindh on Sunday. The gunfire killed one man on the spot and injured the other three. The family of the deceased protested the attack on the main road in the town until the police confirmed that their demands would be met.[xi]

  • An improvised explosive device (IED) injured three policemen when it detonated in Peshawar on Monday. Police sources say that the IED was targeting a police patrol van on Achini road.[xii]

  • Two people were kidnapped and killed in Kandhkot, Sindh on Monday. Police say that the kidnappers shot and killed the two victims three hours after kidnapping them.[xiii]

Cross-Border Fire from Iran

  • Balochistan Home Secretary Akbar Durrani said Monday that twelve mortars were “fired from Iranian territory into [Chagai] District on Sunday night.” Although no casualties occurred in the incident, Durrani said that Pakistani authorities have “recorded an official protest with their Iranian counterparts.”[xiv]

Turkish-Pakistani Relations

  • According to a senior official “responsible for foreign relations at Turkey’s under secretariat for Defense Industries (SSM),” Turkey is trying to deepen its defense industry links with Pakistan. This desire is being complicated by Pakistan’s poor financial situation which disables it from being able to complete large-scale deals. Turkey’s defense industry is pushing to sell its T-129 ATAK helicopter gunships to Pakistan, pointing out that they would be vital in Pakistan’s operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). China’s CAIC WZ-10 helicopter is Pakistan’s alternate option, and the SSM official conceded that China would better be able to offer “a very generous economic package.” According to the SSM official however, the Chinese helicopter is “new and untested, and not developed from a combat-tested design, such as the T-129.”[xv]

U.S.-Pakistan Relations

  • Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain spoke with U.S. Consul General Robert A. Reed on Monday, discussing the improvement of relations between Pakistan, the U.S., and border coordination with Afghanistan. He said that the “restoration of peace in the province was a great challenge,” and that the three countries had to be on the same page to be able to defeat the challenge. He also said that if Pakistan was not helped in the war against terror then things would get much worse.[xvi]

Media Censorship

  • Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently criticized the Pakistani judiciary for threatening to punish some media executives and journalists with contempt of court charges for publishing stories critical of the judiciary. HRW said that judges in Pakistan have been threatening to censor the media for the last two months; the most recent censorship order occurred last week when the Islamabad High Court directed the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) not to air programs critical of Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. HRW’s Asia director Brad Adams stressed that “judges have no special immunity from criticism…unless they want to be seen as instruments of coercion and censorship, they should immediately revoke these curbs on free expression.”[xvii]

Hacker Attack

  • Almost 300 websites with Pakistani domain names including Google, Apple, eBay, and Yahoo were hit in a recent hacking attack that targeted websites with domain names such as .com.pk, .pk, and .org.pk. Users of these sites were redirected to an anonymous page depicting two penguins and the slogan “Pakistan Downed.” The motive behind the attack is unclear, though some technicians suggest it may simply have been carried out to reveal flaws in systems administered by PKNIC, the organization that maintains .pk domains. The hackers appear to be of both Turkish and Pakistani origin, and allegedly sent an email to technology blog ProPakistani explaining how they conducted the attack.[xviii]

           


[i] Syed Irfan Raza, “Malik offers amnesty to banned groups,” Dawn, November 26, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/11/27/malik-offers-amnesty-to-banned-groups/.
[ii] “Malik announces Rs200 million for information on Ehsanullah Ehsan,” Dawn, November 27, 2012. Available at: http://dawn.com/2012/11/27/rehman-malik-announces-rs-200-million-for-information-on-ehsanullah-ehsan/
[iii] “Confusion over election schedule as Kaira, Babar give conflicting statements,” Dawn, November 27, 2012. Available at: http://dawn.com/2012/11/27/confusion-over-election-schedule-as-kaira-babar-give-conflicting-statements/.
[iv] “Election Commission registers 19 new political parties,” Geo News, November 27, 2012. Available at: http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=77255.
[v] “Sunni Ittehad Council, PML-Q in seat adjustment deal for polls,” Geo News, November 27, 2012. Available at: http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=77248.
[vi] “ANP, JUI-F in talks for electoral alliance,” Dawn, November 26, 2012. Available at: http://dawn.com/2012/11/27/anp-jui-f-in-talks-forelectoral-alliance/.
[vii] Shahbaz Rana, “All hands in the cookie jar: Billions of rupees of taxpayer money untraceable,” Express Tribune, November 27, 2012. Available at: http://tribune.com.pk/story/471298/all-hands-in-the-cookie-jar-billions-of-rupees-of-taxpayer-money-untraceable/.
[viii] Zahir Shah Sherazi, “TTP threaten to kill eight Gomal Zam Dam employees by Dec 3 if ‘demands’ not met,” Dawn, November 27, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/11/27/ttp-threaten-to-kill-eight-gomal-zam-dam-employees-by-dec-3/.
[ix] Zahir Shah Sherazi, “TTP accepts responsibility of attack bid on Hamid Mir,” Dawn, November 27, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/11/27/ttp-accepts-responsibility-of-attack-bid-on-hamid-mir/.
[x] “One killed in Malir explosion,” Dawn, November 26, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/11/27/one-killed-in-malir-explosion/; “Suspected Taliban member arrested in Karachi,” Dawn, November 27, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/11/27/suspected-taliban-member-arrested-in-karachi/.
[xi] “Man killed in attack outside Imambargah,” Dawn, November 27, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/11/27/man-killed-in-attack-outside-imambargah/.
[xii] “Three cops hurt in Peshawar blast,” Dawn, November 27, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/11/27/three-cops-hurt-in-peshawar-blast-2/.
[xiii] “Two killed shortly after being kidnapped in Kandhkot,” The News, November 27, 2012. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-2-145169-Two-killed-shortly-after-being-kidnapped-in-Kandhkot.
[xiv] “Pakistan protests Iran over cross-border mortars,” Dawn, November 26, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/11/27/pakistan-protests-iran-over-cross-border-mortars/.
[xv] Usman Ansari, “Turkey, Pakistan seek better ties,” Defense News, November 24, 2012. Available at http://www.defensenews.com/article/20121124/DEFREG04/311240002/-1/7daysarchives/Turkey-Pakistan-Seek-Better-Ties.
[xvi] “Iftikhar, US envoy discuss KP security,” Dawn, November 27, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/11/27/iftikhar-us-envoy-discuss-kp-security/.
[xvii] “Rights group urges Pakistan judges to stop censoring media,” Reuters, November 27, 2012. Available at http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/27/us-pakistan-media-idUSBRE8AQ0B620121127.
[xviii] “Google and Apple among hundreds hit in high-profile Pakistan hack,” BBC News, November 26, 2012. Available at:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-20495389.