Pakistan Security Brief - September 15, 2011

U.S.-Pakistan tension in wake of Haqqani Network attack; Pakistan says it maintains commitment to counterterrorism efforts; U.S. says Zawahiri still in Pakistan; U.S. and Pakistan to meet for “substantial discussions”; U.S. and Pakistan continue energy dialogue; Pakistani Taliban target funeral, killing 31; Pakistan Army to launch anti-Taliban offensive; Police arrest militant commanders in Swat valley; Police fight off militants, foil potential terror attack in Peshawar; Karachi violence to “end” with Supreme Court verdict; Supreme Court orders written statement from Karachi police; Rangers granted special police power for 90 days; Rangers detain JSQM Chairman in Karachi raid; Prime Minister Gilani calls for national unity during crises; ISI takes over Taseer kidnapping case; Abbottabad Commission continues investigation; Pakistan sees rise in religious extremism after 9/11; Oxfam calls upon international community for flood relief.

 

U.S.-Pakistan Relations

  • U.S. officials publically blamed the Haqqani Network for the 20-hour assault waged against the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul.  The attack, which began on Tuesday evening and spilled over into Wednesday, killed 16 Afghans, but did not result in any U.S. casualties.  The alleged involvement of the Haqqani Network, based in Pakistan’s tribal regions, has heighted tensions between the U.S. and Pakistani governments.  In the wake of the Kabul attack, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, announced that the U.S. would “do everything we can” to defend U.S forces from Pakistani-based militants.  Panetta added, "Time and again we've urged the Pakistanis to exercise their influence over these kinds of attacks from the Haqqanis. And we have made very little progress in that area.”  Panetta refused to comment on the steps the U.S. would take to protect its forces, but reemphasized that allowing the Haqqanis to flee to safe haven in Pakistan was unacceptable. [1]

  • The Pakistani Foreign Ministry announced that Panetta’s comments undermine the important counterterrorism partnership between the two countries. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tehmina Janjua stated, “We believe these remarks are not in line with the cooperation that exists between the two countries.” In a separate statement, a senior Pakistani military official emphasized that the U.S. had never presented conclusive evidence of Pakistani ties to the Haqqani Network. Pakistani officials have further alleged that it is the responsibility of the U.S. forces to crack down on militants when they enter Afghanistan.  Another senior official claimed that Pakistan was heavily reliant on U.S. aid and therefore was doing everything within its power to prevent militants from crossing over into Afghanistan. [2]

  • The U.S. announced on Wednesday that it believed the new al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri is still operating the terrorist network from within Pakistan because the U.S. had “no information to indicate that [Zawahiri was] anywhere else.”  This statement came days after the 9/11 ten year anniversary when a video of al Zawahiri was released featuring footage of deceased al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.[3]

  • U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen and Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani are scheduled to meet in Seville for NATO’s Chiefs of Defense conference on September 16 and 17. Spokesmen for both leaders have suggested that the meeting will involve “substantial discussions”. A focal point of the discussion will center on a negotiation to increase in U.S. military aid to Pakistan in exchange for Pakistan allowing the return of U.S. military trainers. Following May’s U.S. raid on the bin Laden compound, Pakistani cut the number of U.S. trainers in the country from 130 to four.[4]

  • The U.S. Special Envoy for International Energy Affairs, Carlos Pascual, pledged U.S. support of Pakistan’s efforts to remedy its energy crisis. His announcement occurred at the fourth U.S.-Pakistan energy dialogue which was held in Islamabad on Wednesday.  At the dialogue, Federal Minister for Water and Power, Syed Naveed Qamar, praised Pascual’s pledge as a means to enhance U.S.-Pakistan cooperation and an important step in bolstering Pakistan’s energy sector. According to the article, U.S. investment is expected to provide an important role in developing Pakistan’s production of hydropower, coal, and liquefied natural gas (LNG). [5]

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

  • At least 31 people were killed and 35 wounded in a suicide attack in Lower Dir district during the funeral prayers of a pro-government tribal elder.  The Pakistani Taliban have been known to carry out attacks in the region, which is near the Afghan border, and militants have recently launched a series of attacks on other pro-government Pashtun tribes. The attack comes two days after a bomb attack in the same district killed a local leader in the province’s ruling party.[6]

  • The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government and Pakistan Army have reportedly been gearing up for an anti-terror and anti-Taliban campaign following intelligence reports that the Taliban, particularly the group loyal to former TTP Swat commander Mullah Fazlullah, are preparing to launch a “new wave of terrorism” in Pakistan, especially in Pakistan’s tribal border regions.  Intelligence officials quoted by The News believe that the Tuesday targeting of children on a school bus may have been part of a new strategy adopted by militants in Pakistan, and particularly in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.  According to the report, the Pakistan Army has dispatched a “fresh ‘brigade’” to Dir district in an attempt to prevent militants from “re-uniting, re-grouping and re-mobilizing their resources and supporters.” [7]

  • Police apprehended two “wanted militant commanders” during an anti-terrorist operation in the Hunza area of the Swat valley on Wednesday.  The militant commanders were identified as Gul Yar and Qari Ismail and were wanted for their connection in regional “criminal activities.”[8]

  • A police station in the Mattani area of Peshawar was attacked by unidentified militants on Wednesday.  Police engaged the militants in a firefight and were able to call in reinforcements.  No casualties were immediately reported. Later in the day, Peshawar police foiled a possible terrorist attack after arresting a suspected terrorist, Nasarullah, in a car filled with explosives.  Nasarullah was stopped at a checkpoint outside of Peshawar leading to the discovery of 140 sticks of dynamite, 90 detonators, and 500 feet of prima-cord hidden inside his vehicle.[9]

Karachi Violence

  • During the latest special hearing by the Supreme Court on violence in Karachi on Wednesday, Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry reported that the “government was not aware of what was happening in Karachi.” He claimed, however, that matters in Karachi would be resolved once the court had reached a verdict on the case.  Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) lawyer Babar Awan warned the court that in light of the “calamities, epidemics, and international disturbances” currently facing Pakistan, there would be “serious repercussions” if the court failed to achieve a verdict, and that “a country with nuclear assets could not be termed a failed state.”[10]

  • The Supreme Court reserved its verdict on the suo moto case investigating the violence in Karachi on Thursday.  The court ordered Wajid Durrani, the Inspector General of Sindh Police, to keep the bench informed of the situation in the city. Similarly, three DIGs of the Karachi police were ordered to submit a certificate acknowledging responsibility to end the prevalence of extortion in the city.  Chief Justice Iftikhar voiced his dissent with the court’s opinion and suggested that the situation in Karachi was worsening. He announced that the court would withdraw its suo moto notice only if it was guaranteed in writing that the violence in Karachi was under control.[11]  

  • Special police powers have been granted to the Rangers in Karachi for an additional three months to “bring [the] Karachi situation under control and maintain peace,” according to government officials.  The extension of power grants the Rangers “special powers of search and arrest” for a limited amount of time, and powers cannot be granted on a permanent basis without the amendment of Pakistani law.[12]

  • Rangers detained Bashir Khan Qureshi, the chairman of a local Sindhi nationalist party, Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM), in addition to Qureshi’s guards, during a search operation in Karachi aimed to “restore peace and arrest those behind [the] target killings in the city.”  Rangers also arrested several other suspects of target killings throughout the city. [13]

National Unity

  • In an address in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani encouraged citizens to begin identifying themselves as “Pakistanis” rather than “Punjabis, Sindhis, Pakhtuns, Seraikis and Baloch.” He called on Pakistanis to unite while the country was encountering massive flooding, a dengue epidemic, and continued terrorism.  He also appealed to politicians to resist “politicking over…issues of national importance.”[14]

Taseer Kidnapping

  • The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has assumed control of the kidnapping case involving Shahbaz Taseer , the son of slain Punjab Governor Salman Taseer.  The ISI has been tight-lipped about the investigation following the release of misinformation on the kidnapping case of American aid worker Dr. Warren Weinstein but is reportedly following leads on Taseer’s whereabouts.  The ISI allegedly has reason to believe that Taseer is being held in the FATA, making a recovery operation tricky.[15] 

Abbottabad Commission

  • The Abbottabad Commission continued its investigation into the May 2 U.S. Special Operations Forces raid on bin Laden’s compound. The commission received statements from various government officials and army personnel and ultimately seeks to record the statements of nearly 500 people who witnessed the U.S. raid. The Chief Justice of the commission, Javed Iqbal, claimed that the inquiry was extremely important and vowed to make the commission’s findings part of the public record. [16]

Religious Extremism

  • Since 9/11, religious extremism within Pakistan has significantly increased, and “terrorism-hit Pakistan” has seen an acceleration of “social and religious conservatism that is…socially corrosive” that has provided many followers with a “gateway to radicalism, says an article in Christian Science Monitor.  While many Islamic preachers claim to be “nonpolitical,” their beliefs have increasingly served as an “ideological ground [for] militant outfits.” CSM also acknowledges that the vast majority of clerics and preachers have not been subject to international scrutiny as have many militant groups, allowing extremists to proliferate in society.[17]

Flooding

  • The international aid organization, Oxfam, announced its launch of an emergency flood relief program to help flood victims in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province.  According to Oxfam, flooding has affected 5.3 million people and more than 200 have been killed due to the floods. The agency has been providing water and sanitation to thousands in the area and called on the world community to act. Oxfam has cautioned that shoddy repairs to river embankments damaged in last year’s floods have rendered the region extremely vulnerable.[18]

 


[1] King, Laura. “Taliban offshoot blamed for assault on U.S. Embassy in Kabul” LA Times, September 14, 2011. Available at http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-afghan-attack-aftermath-20110915,0,4596711.story
Stewart, Phil. “U.S. warns Pakistan after suspected Haqqani attack,” Reuters, September 15, 2011. Available at http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/15/us-usa-pakistan-panetta-idUSTRE78E05V20110915
[2] Haider, Zeeshan and Nauman, Qasim. “Pakistan says U.S. warning on militants hurts ties,” Reuters, September 15, 2001. Available at http://old.news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110915/wl_nm/us_pakistan_usa
[3] “Al-Qaeda leader Zawahiri in Pakistan, claims Pentagon,” The News, September 15, 2011. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=8822&Cat=13
[4] Baqir Sajjad Sayed, “Kayani and Mullen to meet in Spain” Dawn, September 15, 2011. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/09/15/kayani-and-mullen-to-meet-in-spain.html
[5] “Fourth dialogue begins; US to help Pakistan in energy sector,” Dawn, September 15, 2011. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/09/15/fourth-dialogue-begins-us-to-help-pakistan-in-energy-sector.html
[6] “At least 31 killed in blast in Lower Dir,” Dawn, September 15, 2011. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/09/15/blast-in-lower-dir-during-funeral-prayers.html
[7] Tufail, Mazhar. “Army, KP prepare for bigger Taliban terror offensive,” The News, September 15, 2011. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=67720&Cat=2
[8] “Police arrest two militant commanders in Swat,” Express Tribune, September 15, 2011. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/252706/police-arrest-two-militant-commanders-in-swat/
[9] “Miscreants attack police station in Peshawar,” Express Tribune, September 14, 2011. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/252430/miscreants-attack-police-station-in-peshawar/
“Police foil terrorist attack, detain explosive-laden vehicle,” Express Tribune, September 15, 2011. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/252666/police-foil-terrorist-attack-detain-explosive-laden-vehicle/
[10] Khurshid, Jamal. “1,310 killed in Karachi yet govt claims it has not failed: CJ,” The News, September 15, 2011. Available at  http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=8808&Cat=13
[11] “SC reserves verdict on Karachi violence case,” Dawn, September 15, 2011. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/09/15/suo-motu-notice-to-be-withdrawn-if-assured-of-end-to-target-killings-sc.html
[12] “Rangers to get regular extension in additional powers,” Geo, September 15, 2011. Available at http://geo.tv/9-15-2011/86243.htm
[13] “Rangers arrest JSQM chairman during operation in Karachi,” Express Tribune, September 15, 2011.  Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/252925/target-killer-among-several-suspects-arrested-in-karachi/
[14] “PM calls for provincial unity to overcome national challenges,” Dawn, September 15, 2011. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/09/15/pm-calls-for-provincial-unity-to-overcome-national-challenges.html
[15] Butt, Tariq. “ISI shuts out Punjab govt in Taseer kidnapping case,” The News, September 15, 2011. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=67717&Cat=2
[16] “May 2 raid: Abbottabad commission records statements of officials” Express Tribune, September 15, 2011. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/252657/may-2-raid-abbottabad-commission-records-statements-of-officials/
[18] “Pakistan floods: Oxfam launches emergency aid response,” BBC, September 14, 2011. Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-14923154