Pakistan Security Brief
Pakistan Security Brief – August 12, 2010
Fresh waves of flooding expected to threaten new areas in Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa; World Food Program declares $150 million necessary to feed Pakistani flood victims; President Zardari visits flood-hit areas amid harsh criticism; U.S. Special Envoy Holbrooke says upcoming international conference to focus on Pakistan flood aid and reconstruction; U.S. Defense Secretary Gates announces more helicopters dispatched to assist Pakistan in flood relief efforts; terror suspects with alleged links to TTP and Haqqani network arrested in Lahore; more than 1,000 killed in seven months of Karachi violence.
Flooding continues to cause devastation in areas of Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and Gilgit-Baltistan as new areas are becoming threatened. Authorities warned that fresh rainfall in the north has triggered two more waves of flooding which are expected to reach more densely populated areas in the days to come. Around 300,000 people were evacuated from the Thul and Karampur areas, where the water level at the nearby Sukkur Barrage has not dropped for the past three days. Elsewhere, government officials have said that the army, irrigation department, and the National Highways Authority have successfully plugged all of the breaches in the Tulhairy canal in Muzaffargarh, though an official from the city said that the area was not yet safe for the return of residents.
On Wednesday, the World Food Program indicated that $150 million is required to provide sufficient food for the millions of Pakistanis who have fled flood-hit areas throughout the country. Agricultural officials in Pakistan say that the flooding has destroyed more than 500,000 tons of wheat and has also affected significant portions of the country’s crops of cotton and sugar. The extreme shortage of food and water has caused many Pakistanis to lament the holy month of Ramadan, which began on Wednesday. According to one flood victim, “we have nothing to eat, nothing to live in. We've been starving for days, so the start of Ramadan doesn't bring any joy.”
President Asif Ali Zardari has made his first visit to the flood affected areas following public outcry at his handling of the relief effort and a storm of violent protests from flood victims angry at the government’s failure to provide aid. Speaking in Sukkur, adjacent to some of the worst affected areas in southern Sindh, Zardari told the nation that the government was “here with you and will do everything to get you resettled as soon as possible”. He personally assisted in distributing relief supplies at a nearby camp for flood victims. In order to cope with the massive cost of flood relief and reconstruction, the government is preparing to impose a new tax which will “be in the shape of a ‘surcharge on imports and local production of goods and services” which will generate an estimated Rs 100 billion.
A top Afghanistan Taliban commander claims that the flooding in Pakistan has cut off the supply line for U.S.-led NATO forces in Afghanistan and says that these routes are unlikely to be restored anytime soon. Qari Zia-ur Rehman, a Taliban commander from Kunar province said that he was “extremely saddened by the loss of precious human lives and the colossal economic losses because of [the] devastation caused by floods in Pakistan” but also said that he was “very happy because it is immensely beneficial for [the Taliban] keeping in view the effects of floods on the Nato supply line through Pakistan.”
Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke said on Wednesday that while the rising influence of extremists in Pakistan is still of “great concern,” the current focus should be on “relief and getting assistance to the people.” Holbrooke also announced that the U.S. plans to change the upcoming Friends of Democratic Pakistan conference in Brussels into a meeting devoted to the post-flood rehabilitation process in Pakistan. The U.S. has raised over $72 million dollars for flood assistance in Pakistan so far.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced on Wednesday that the U.S. will deploy an amphibious assault ship capable of deploying three times the amount of helicopters that the U.S. has currently dispatched to assist Pakistan in its flood relief efforts. The U.S.S. Peleliu has 19 helicopters aboard which will help with rescue and aid operations in Pakistan while the six U.S. helicopters currently deployed there will return to Afghanistan.
A senior official of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan has indicated that the Taliban command and control system is operating out of the Pakistani city of Quetta. The official said that “some clues, including their financial traffic and emails suggest that they are in Pakistan but their exact location is difficult to tell” while also admitting that the precise location of top-level al-Qaeda and Taliban leadership is still uncertain.
- Police and intelligence agencies in Lahore have arrested ten suspected terrorists with ties to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Haqqani network. Authorities say the initial investigation revealed that the suspects had been instructed by the TTP to attack several targets throughout the country including the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) office in Multan, the Prime Minister’s house, the Taunsa Barrage and the Ghazi Ghat bridge in Dera Ghazi Khan. Among those arrested was Muhammad Saeed alias Talha, one of the TTP’s commanders in south Punjab.
- According to Karachi’s Capital City Police Officer Waseem Ahmed, more than 1,000 people have been killed in violent incidents across the city over the past seven months and over 300 localities are still declared sensitive. Out of the 1,000 killed, Waseem said that approximately 200 were victims of “target killings.”
- A mortar shell struck a house in the Safi sub-district of Mohmand Agency on Wednesday, killing a woman and seriously wounding her three sons. The house was located in the Sagi Bala area on the border with Bajaur Agency. No information was available on where the mortar shell was fired from.