Pakistan Security Brief
Al Qaeda affiliates growing stronger as central command weakens; Pakistan excluded from secret U.S.-Taliban talks; terrorists trained in Afghanistan returning to Punjab; Search operation in Karachi arrests 20 more; Suicide bomber kills two in premature detonation; Judicial inquiry into Karachi killings starts; Call for Karachi to be de-weaponised; PPP distances itself from radical member, MQM condemns Mirza’s rant, ANP asks MQM to explain itself, British deny arresting MQM leader; Two arrested in minister murder case; U.S. considering aiding Pakistan dam project; School blown up in Swabi.
Al Qaeda and Affiliates
According to a report in the New York Times, al Qaeda’s affiliates have been growing stronger and more independent from the core al Qaeda network as a result of the killing of a number of the group’s top leaders. The network’s second in command, Atiyah Abd al Rahman was killed last Monday in a drone strike in Pakistan. The report says that al Qaeda’s central leadership may be no more than a dozen people and they are becoming increasingly marginalized, not only inside the network, but among the network’s affiliated movements such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. According to one analyst, following Rahman’s death “it’s increasingly likely that the Al Qaeda affiliate groups are just going to start doing their own thing.” The U.S. has stepped up attacks on top al Qaeda leaders in a bid to land al Qaeda a “knockout blow” while it is “still in turmoil” following bin Laden’s death.
Pakistan Excluded From Taliban Talks
According to a report by the Associated Press, the U.S. was making serious headway in secret peace negotiations with the Taliban before the talks were scuttled by the Karzai government out of fears they would undermine President Hamid Karzai’s authority. People knowledgeable about the secret talks further said that Pakistan had been deliberately excluded from the proceedings. One Afghan official with contacts in the Taliban claimed that the Taliban’s senior leadership had made the decision not to inform Pakistan about the ongoing negotiations.
According to intelligence reports by the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) in Punjab, a number of militants who had been trained or incarcerated in Afghanistan had recently surfaced in the Punjab and were involved in “terrorist activities.” The report said that “2,487 militants trained in Afghanistan and 566 returnees from Afghan prisons have been identified.” Punjab police have received directives from the home department to launch a crackdown on the “Afghan-returned” militants. The names of 2,120 suspects were also placed on special police watch lists and 170 seminaries in the Punjab were placed on a list of seminaries suspected of promoting extremism. 
Karachi Killings and Politics
A search operation being conducted in Karachi led to the arrest of 20 additional suspects. Raids also led to the recovery of large amounts of arms and ammunition. In Karachi’s Gulshan-e-Iqbal neighborhood, a suicide bomber on a motorcycle killed himself and a companion when his vest detonated prematurely.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court began its inquest into increased “target killings” in Karachi on Tuesday. The inquest opens a day after senior Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) politician Zulfiqar Mirza resigned as Sindh home minister on Monday over the launch of a law-enforcement operation in many parts of the city. Security officials on Monday stated their belief that much of the recent violence was due to an increase in ethnic tensions caused by the influx of thousands of Pashtun migrants to the city. A fact-finding mission by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), meanwhile, is exploring the causes of the violence but says it has heard with near-unanimity from political leaders it has spoken to their belief that Karachi be de-weaponised. An article by the AFP looks at how violence rooted in “murder gangs and ethnic politics” in Karachi has brought life for its residents to a standstill.
The leadership of the ruling PPP on Monday disavowed statements made by Mirza during his resignation speech that accused the interior minister Rehman Malik and Muttahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) party leadership of being behind the violence in Karachi. Mirza’s popularity has reportedly “skyrocketed” since he made his speech. The PPP called Mirza’s statements “‘unacceptable’ and ‘a violation of party discipline,’” but stopped short of taking action against him. The Pashtun-dominated Awami National Party (ANP) has, meanwhile, demanded that the MQM explain itself, especially with regards to Mirza’s allegations that the MQM is responsible for targeting Karachi’s Pashtuns. Finally, the British government on Monday denied rumors that they had taken into custody Altaf Hussain, the MQM’s London-based leader in exile. According to rumors, Hussain had been arrested while trying to leave Britain for South Africa.
Slain Minister Case
An anti-terrorism court on Monday issued arrest warrants for two suspects believed to have been involved in the murder of Pakistan’s minority minister Shahbaz Bhatti. The warrants were issued for two men believed to have fled to Dubai. The court said it would ask for Interpol’s help in securing their arrest.
U.S. Support for Pakistan Dam
An article in The Guardian profiles a U.S. effort to provide financial support to a $12 billion dam project in Pakistan in the hope of improving its image amongst the locals. According to the report, the Daimer Bhasha dam project , proposed for construction in northern Pakistan, would provide “enough electricity to end Pakistan's crippling shortages” and would be capable of storing so much water that it might have “averted last year's devastating floods.” The U.S. has not made a decision yet on whether to help finance the project. India is expected to object to the dam as it would be constructed in the disputed region of Kashmir.
Militants blew up a girls school in the northwestern district of Swabi on Monday. The school was badly damaged but no casualties were reported. No claims of responsibility have been made for the attack.
“Blast kills two in Karachi’s Gulshan-i-Iqbal,” Dawn, August 30, 2011. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/08/30/blast-in-karachi-two-dead.html
“Karachi bloodshed threatens havoc for Pakistan,” AFP, August 30, 2011. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/08/29/karachi-bloodshed-threatens-havoc-for-pakistan.html
“Muttahidda urged to explain position on killings,” Dawn, August 30, 2011. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/08/30/muttahida-urged-to-explain-position-on-killings.html
“Rumor mill: Britain scotches reports of Altaf Hussain’s arrest,” Express Tribune, August 29, 2011. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/241858/altaf-hussain-recovering-from-illness-in-london/