Pakistan Security Brief - November 30, 2012

U.S., Pakistan to resume strategic talks next week; Pakistan and U.S. trying strengthen economic ties; Pakistani official says maintaining ties with Afghan Pashtuns imperative; Afghan and Pakistani FMs meet to discuss reconciliation process; IMF tells Pakistan to reduce its subsidies and widen its tax base; Iran, Pakistan may have signed security accord; More Shias killed this year than any other year in Pakistan; Four dead, four injured in FATA violence; Five killed in Karachi; Two wounded in Quetta blast; Police vehicle targeted in Peshawar; Karachi firecracker attacks destroy several vehicles; Lawyers endorse Human Rights Watch’s concerns over the Supreme Court; Imran Khan says military should be deployed to polling stations; Punjab government appeals Lahore High Court’s acquittal of alleged mastermind of GPO Chowk suicide blast 2008; Ashraf gives cell phone companies three more months before unregistered SIMs are banned.

U.S.-Pakistan Relations

  • The United States and Pakistan will resume strategic talks next week after a year’s worth of stalling due to severe diplomatic strains between the two countries. The U.S. has already designated Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Thomas Nides as official interlocutor on its side.[i]

  • Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Thomas Nides and Pakistani Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh jointly published an article in Foreign Policy on Thursday in which they stressed that the future of the Pakistan-America relationship will be based on trade, investment, and private sector growth. Nides and Shaikh wrote that America already purchases “20 percent of Pakistan’s total exports—more than any other country in the world,” and that America also provides key funding to Pakistan’s energy, infrastructure, health, and education programs. It also stressed that Pakistan is improving its security situation, empowering its entrepreneurs, improving “access to finance for growing companies,” and expanding “government-to-government dialogue,” in order to increase economic ties between the two countries.[ii]

Afghan-Pakistani Relations

  • On Thursday, a senior Pakistani official commented that “retaining ties with the Pashtuns [in Afghanistan] is a crucial security imperative for us” in the Afghan peace process. Pakistan has traditionally favored the Pashtun ethnic group, of which the Taliban is a part, in its foreign policy in Afghanistan. Earlier in the year, there were reports that Pakistan was reaching out to non-Pashtuns in a conciliatory effort to engage them more in the peace process. According to the anonymous Pakistani official, however, “[the non-Pashtun elements in Afghanistan] are not forthcoming, they aren’t flexible” in negotiations.[iii]

  • In a Friday meeting, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul reaffirmed their commitment to working together to combat terrorism in the region. They discussed possible anti-narcotics measures and how to address cross-border firing incidents, as well as boosting trade. Rassoul said that both countries faced similar problems and had similar interests; he said Afghanistan would always support Pakistan in its struggle against extremism and Khar said the same regarding Afghanistan. According to Afghan officials, Rassoul also requested that Pakistan free more Taliban prisoners to aid the peace process. Securing the release of former Taliban number two commander Mullah Baradar remains a high priority for Afghan negotiators.[iv]

International Monetary Fund

  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) board said that the Pakistani government should reduce its subsidies and widen its tax base on Thursday. The IMF board said that reducing Pakistan’s fiscal deficit was “essential for restoring macroeconomic and external stability.” Pakistan’s new tax chief has plans for a program to give a 10-week amnesty to past offenders of tax evasion and then place a “small tax burden on participants in the first two years,” but the IMF said that Pakistan should reconsider the plan.[v]

Iran-Pakistan Relations

  • According to the Iranian state outlet Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), the Pakistani Federal Cabinet signed a security cooperation accord with Iran on Thursday, though no details have been publicized. Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira allegedly confirmed on Thursday that Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf had met with an Iranian delegation and approved the accord in a cabinet meeting. This meeting has not yet been confirmed by Pakistani news sources.[vi]

Militancy

  • According to an independent researcher, 456 Shias were killed in Pakistan this year, more than any other year in the existence of the country. 103 of the deaths occurred in Karachi and 120 occurred in Quetta. Unlike many other Middle-Eastern countries, Pakistan’s Sunni-Shia violence is one sided with the vast majority of those killed being Shias. Anti-Shia groups have been linking up with the Pakistan Taliban. The biggest anti-Shia group, “Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP), operates openly in Paksitan.”[vii]

  • Two militants were killed in Bara sub-district, Khyber agency on Wednesday during a clash with security officials. A group of 30 militants attacked a security checkpost in the Khurmatung area of the region and exchanged fire with security forces late Wednesday night.[viii]

  • Two people died in a landmine blast in Safi sub-district, Mohmand agency on Friday. A man and a child were also injured in the explosion. It is unclear who planted the mine.[ix]

  • Five people were killed in Karachi on Friday. A man was killed while his daughter was injured when unknown assailants opened fire on them in Shaheed-e-Millat. Another man was killed in Shah Faisal Colony while a woman’s body was discovered in Gulistan-e-Johar. Two men were shot dead on Hub River Road, and a news reporter was injured in Qayumabad.[x]

  • Four security personnel were injured in two back-to-back improvised explosive device (IED) blasts in the Sheikhwal area of Landi Kotal sub-district in Khyber agency on Friday. The blasts occurred when Levies forces were on patrol in the area; it is unclear who planted the IEDs.[xi]

  • Two children were wounded in a toy bomb blast along Shah Wakshah road in Quetta on Friday. The bomb exploded when the children reached out and touched it. It is unclear who planted it.[xii]

  • Unknown militants targeted a police vehicle with an IED in Badaber, Peshawar on Friday. The blast occurred on Inqelab Road. No casualties were reported, and police have launched a search operation.[xiii]

  • Unidentified men launched firecracker attacks in two different locations in Karachi on Friday and set fire to several vehicles. A car in Khwaja Ajmer Nagri burst into flames when it was hit with a firecracker, and a cracker explosion was reported in Orangi Town. Other attackers torched two buses in Gulshan-e-Iqbal and University Road. Police have allegedly arrested the suspects.[xiv]

Domestic Politics

  • Lawyers from the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) “endorsed Human Rights Watch’s concerns over the Supreme Court’s actions,” regarded as attempts to limit the media on Friday. Human Rights Watch recently urged Pakistani judges to stop censoring the media’s criticisms of the judiciary. Lawyers from the SCBA and PBC argued that the media should be independent and the judiciary should learn from the media’s criticisms.[xv]

  • Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan told journalists on Thursday that he thinks the military should be present inside polling stations in sensitive areas around the country. He said having soldiers deployed to the polling stations would ensure voting transparency. He also claimed that the PTI would never join a political alliance with Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) or Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).[xvi]

  • The Punjab government “filed an appeal in the Lahore High Court,” after a court acquitted the man alleged mastermind of the GPO Chowk suicide blast on January 10, 2008. The government claimed that it provided concrete evidence that linked the alleged Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) member to the attack and the court ignored it.[xvii]

  • After Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf vetoed Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s “deadline of Dec 31 to cellphone service providers to block unregistered Sims,” Malik said that Ashraf had not scrapped the plan; he had only given a three month extension to the cell phone companies. Rehman Malik’s plan to ban switching Sims from one network to another was scrapped by Ashraf as well.[xviii]

                  



[i] “US, Pakistan to resume strategic talks next week,” The News, November 30, 2012. Available at: http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-2-145747-US,-Pakistan-to-resume-strategic-talks-next-week.
[ii] Thomas R. Nides, Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, “The Ties That Bind,” Foreign Policy, November 29, 2012. Available at http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/11/29/the_ties_that_bind?page=0,1
[iii] Baqir Sajjad Syed, “Pakistan to remain aligned with Afghan Pashtuns,” Dawn, November 30, 2012. Available at:  http://dawn.com/2012/11/30/pakistan-to-remain-aligned-with-afghan-pashtuns/.
[iv] “Pak-Afghan FMs agree to increase anti-terror cooperation,” AFP, November 30, 2012. Available at: http://dawn.com/2012/11/30/afghan-fm-holds-talks-with-fm-khar/; “Afghanistan wants Pakistan to free more Taliban,” AP, November 30, 2012. Available at: http://dawn.com/2012/11/30/afghanistan-wants-pakistan-to-free-more-taliban/.
[v] “Pakistan needs broader tax base, fewer subsidies: IMF board,” Reuters, November 29, 2012. Available at http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/29/us-imf-pakistan-idUSBRE8AS12N20121129
[vi] “Pakistani cabinet approves security accord with Iran,” IRNA, November 29, 2012. Available at: http://english.irib.ir/subcontinent/news/top-stories/item/85206-pakistani-cabinet-approves-security-accord-with-iran.
[vii] Saeed Shah, “Anti-Shiite violence rises in Pakistan as Islam’s sectarian divide moves beyond the Middle East,” McClatchy, November 30, 2012. Available at http://www.kansascity.com/2012/11/29/3940453/anti-shiite-violence-rises-in.html.
[viii] “Two militants killed in Bara,” The News, November 30, 2012. Available at: http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-2-145825-Two-militants-killed-in-Bara.
[ix] “Two killed in Mohmand explosion,” Dawn, November 30, 2012. Available at: http://dawn.com/2012/11/30/blast-targets-police-van-in-peshawar-one-injured/.
[x] “Karachi violence claims 5 lives,” Express Tribune, November 30, 2012. Available at: http://tribune.com.pk/story/473214/karachi-violence-claims-5-lives/.
[xi] Zahir Shah Sherazi, “Blasts in Khyber injure four security personnel,” Dawn, November 30, 2012. Available at: http://dawn.com/2012/11/30/khyber-agency-blasts-injure-four-security-personnel/.
[xii] “2 children injured in toy bomb blast in Quetta,” Geo News, November 30, 2012. Available at: http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=77674.
[xiii] “Blast targets police mobile in Peshawar,” Geo News, November 30, 2012. Available at: http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=77628.
[xiv] “Vehicles torched, cracker attacks in Karachi,” Geo News, November 30, 2012. Available at: http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=77642.
[xv] “PBC, SCBA endorse HRW appeal against muzzling critics in media,” Dawn, November 30, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/11/30/pbc-scba-endorse-hrw-appeal-against-muzzling-critics-in-media/
[xvi] Irfan Ghauri, Zahid Gishkori, “Elections 2013: PTI wants soldiers deployed inside polling booths,” Express Tribune, November 30, 2012. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/473098/elections-2013-pti-wants-soldiers-deployed-inside-polling-booths/
[xvii] “Govt challenges blast accused acquittal,” Dawn, November 29, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/11/30/govt-challenges-blast-accused-acquittal/
[xviii] Syed Irfan Raza, “Malik claims PM did not scrap plan on Sims,” Dawn, November 29, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/11/30/malik-claims-pm-did-not-scrap-plan-on-sims/