Pakistan Security Brief
Al Qaeda claims responsibility for Weinstein kidnapping; U.S. claims it received “go-ahead” from Pakistan prior to raid, Kayani authorizes troops to fire if U.S. or NATO forces cross into Pakistani territory; Karzai initiative seeks to relocate Taliban families; Pakistan decides to boycott Bonn Conference “in interest of national security”; Ijaz ready to appear before Supreme Court; Jahangir to represent Haqqani; Police arrest four TTP terrorists and murderer in Karachi; Afghan militants mount cross-border attack; Three police officers killed in Multan; India arrests IM terrorists, one Pakistani national; BBC reports on increase of British Asian kidnappings in Pakistan; Malik attempted to obstruct London murder case.
On Thursday, al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri claimed that al Qaeda was responsible for the August 13 kidnapping of American international development expert Warren Weinstein from his home in Lahore. In an online video, Zawahiri enumerated “eight conditions for Weinstein's release” including an end to U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen and Gaza, the release of Muslim and al Qaeda prisoners and family members of Osama bin Laden, the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and an end to Israel’s blockade of Gaza strip. Zawahiri acknowledged that Weinstein had been targeted for kidnapping due to his history of involvement in the U.S. international aid industry and called on the U.S. to pressure President Obama into meeting al Qaeda’s demands to garner Weinstein’s release. Zawahiri also acknowledged the death of al Qaeda operative Atiyah Abd al Rahman in a U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan in August.
On Thursday, the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, offered his condolences to the Pakistani people and government for the NATO attack in Mohmand agency that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on Saturday. New reporting of the incident by the Wall Street Journal asserts that U.S. officials had contacted Pakistani military officials via a “joint border control center” before conducting the raid and that the Pakistanis gave the “go-ahead,” noting that no Pakistani troops were in the area. Meanwhile, Pakistan argued that the U.S. had given it incorrect information regarding the strike and that the Pakistani military had suffered from a “breakdown of communication” which prevented it from responding militarily during the attack. In response to the attack, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani reportedly authorized Pakistani troops along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to fire on any NATO troops or aircraft that enter Pakistani territory without needing to seek approval from higher-ups. Kayani said that all future acts of aggression by the U.S. or NATO would be met with Pakistan’s “full force, regardless of [the] consequences” and that the Pakistan Army was contemplating a change in military strategy “with the focus shifting from fighting militants to ensuring security of the border.” Kayani’s order was supported by a Senate resolution passed on Friday which condemned the NATO attack and stated that Pakistan would “stand united for the country’s defense” if attacked in the future. Protests continued to grip the country in opposition to NATO’s “violation of Pakistan’s territorial sovereignty.”
War on Terror
In recent months, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been pursuing an initiative to move Taliban family members to safe areas within Afghanistan. The plan seeks to foster peace talks with the Taliban free of Pakistani influence. Currently, most families of Taliban leaders live in Pakistan where they are under virtual house arrest by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). According to one Afghan official, “It is a deliberate policy of ISI, who cannot trust people to fight unless they bring their family to Pakistan.” Karzai’s initiative stalled following the assassination of Afghan peace envoy Burhanuddin Rabbani by a Taliban suicide bomber. However, U.S. officials have continued communicating with the Taliban and have kept details of the process secret to avoid Pakistani interference.
On Friday, Pakistan convened a joint session of Parliament to vote on Pakistan’s decision to boycott next week’s Bonn Conference. After the meeting, Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan announced that Pakistan would not be attending the conference, while Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani suggested Pakistan’s decision was “in the interest of national security.”
Mansoor Ijaz, the whistleblower in the “memogate” scandal, announced that he was ready to appear before the Pakistani Supreme Court’s inquiry into the memo affair on Friday. On Thursday, the Washington Post provided a detailed account of Ijaz’s frequent forays into international politics. Additionally, Syed Salahuddin, leader of the militant group Hizbul Mujahideen (HuM), which operates in Indian-administered Kashmir, told the BBC that Ijaz had met with him twice in 2000. According to Salahuddin, Ijaz pushed him to promote an extended ceasefire in the Kashmir valley and claimed to be speaking on behalf of President Bill Clinton.
On Thursday, former President of the Supreme Court Bar Association Asma Jahangir announced that she would represent Pakistan’s former Ambassador to the U.S., Hussain Haqqani, in the “memogate” case. Sources close to Jahangir suggest that her argument will concentrate on whether the memogate petition was “maintainable.”
Police arrested four would-be Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) suicide bombers in Karachi on Thursday and confiscated “suicide jackets, arms, and ammunitions.” The TTP militants were reportedly planning to launch attacks against the Shia community during the first month of the Islamic New Year. In a separate operation, police arrested a man involved in the murder of 30 people in Kharadar area.
On Friday, Afghan militants launched an assault on Pakistani border security forces in Chitral, injuring five soldiers. Pakistani security forces killed seven militants in retaliatory fire.
On Wednesday, Indian police announced the arrest of six members of the Indian Mujahideen (IM) terrorist group responsible for a series of terrorist attacks in India last year. One of the men, Mohamed Adil, a Pakistani citizen with links to the terrorist group Jaish-e-Muhammad, was reportedly sent to India by the Karachi-based IM leaders Iqbal and Riyaz Shahbandri, according to the Indian government.
BBC reports that the number of British Asians kidnapped in Pakistan has steadily increased in recent years. Data from the Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA) reveals that kidnappers targeted 22 British Asians in Pakistan last year, up from only 8 percent in 2006. SOCA officials added that the actual numbers could be much higher as many families are afraid to report kidnappings to authorities and prefer to deal with ransoms on their own.
Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik contacted Lord Nazir Ahmed, a British peer of Pakistani origin, in an attempt to prevent former Karachi Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza from providing London police with new evidence relating to last year’s murder of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Imran Farooq. London police have long suspected that rival MQM members were responsible for Farooq’s murder last September in London, but the case was recently kick-started when Mirza offered to provide telephone transcripts implicating MQM party members in Farooq’s murder. According to Lord Ahmed, Malik phoned him before he was due to escort Mirza to meet with London detectives and requested he cancel his meeting with the police to prevent creating tensions between the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the MQM.