Pakistan Security Brief

PM “welcomes” army chief statement against coup, rebuffs rumors of plans to sack army, ISI chiefs; Zardari warns Supreme Court against “unconstitutional” measures; secret ISI letter on Bhutto assassination emerges; parliamentary committee to receive ISI briefing; Imran Khan rally draws 150,000 supporters; U.S. has “suspended” drone strikes in Pakistan; U.S.-Pak relations “too important to fail;” secret agreements with U.S. under parliamentary review; NATO supply chain halted for one month; CENTCOM commander wants greater trust, cooperation, sharing of maps; al Qaeda “nearly wiped out;” car bomb attack in Bannu; clashes in Orakzai and Kurram leave dozens of militants dead; new Indo-Pak confidence building measures.


Civil-Military Relations and Memogate

  • On Saturday, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani “welcomed” a statement by Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani disavowing any alleged army moves to overthrow the sitting government. “[The] clarification by the army chief is extremely well taken in democratic circles, and it will certainly improve the situation,” Gilani told reporters. Kayani made his statement following unprecedentedly terse warnings by Gilani the day before alluding to an army conspiracy against the government. Relations between the military and the government have been tense in the wake of the “memogate” scandal and the resulting Supreme Court inquiry into the matter that has pitted the army and government against each other. On Monday Gilani rebuffed “feverish speculation” that the government was planning to sack Kayani and the head of the Inter-Services Intelligence Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha. “It is wrong to spread such talk. If this was the case, I wouldn’t have given them extensions…. I am happy with his (army chief’s) work and I want to dispel this impression….Generals are not sacked in a state of war,” Gilani said. When asked to explain his comments alluding to the army as a “state within a state,” Gilani claimed his remarks were aimed at the Secretary of Defence, who had earlier made a statement claiming that “The ministry of defence has no operational control over the army and ISI and only looks after their administrative affairs.”[1]

  • Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday warned the Supreme Court against violating Pakistan’s constitution, a reference to the court’s inquiry into the memogate scandal that possibly threatens the future of Zardari’s presidency. The government has continued to oppose the court’s inquiry, saying a parliamentary committee was looking at the matter and that it fell outside of the court’s jurisdiction. The army supports the court inquiry. Zardari, speaking at a rally marking the fourth anniversary of the death of his wife and former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, “ warned Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry to respect the constitution, an indication he may be worried the judge will team up with the president's opponents to topple the government.”[2]

  • The day before the rally in Bhutto’s hometown, a Dawn report claims that a secret letter by the ISI indicated that the organization had intelligence six days before the attack on December 27, 2007 that al Qaeda-affiliated groups had plans to assassinate Bhutto. An excerpt from the letter reads “It has reliably been reported that a few extremist groups related to al Qaeda have made some plan to assassinate Mrs. Benzir Bhutto and her adviser Mr Rehman Malik on 21 December 2007.The exact plan of execution not known.”[3]

  • A parliamentary panel is due to visit ISI headquarters later this week to “discuss its role in anti-terrorism operations around the country.” According to members of the Standing Committee on Defence and Defence Production, “lawmakers will likely pose candid questions to ISI officials specifically on the agency’s role in the ongoing ‘war on terror’ and affairs related to state national security.” The move is apparently “an attempt by lawmakers to stabilize the government’s and the powerful military establishment’s uneasy ties” following recent tensions over the memogate scandal.[4]


Domestic Politics

  • On December 25, 100,000 to 150,000 people rallied in support of cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan, head of the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Isaaf (PTI) party at a rally in the southern city of Karachi. The rally, held on the anniversary of the birth of the country’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and one of the largest political rallies ever held in Pakistan, put increased pressure on the government and further solidified Khan’s standing as a new political force in Pakistan. Khan’s anti-corruption platform and strong opposition to U.S. drone strikes has tapped into a groundswell of resentment against corrupt politics and anti-U.S. sentiment. Successive large rallies by the PTI have encouraged a number of political heavyweights in Pakistan to defect and join the PTI including former Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) stalwart Javed Hashmi, who joined the PTI the day before the rally.[5]


U.S.-Pakistan Relations

  • According to a report in the LA Times, the CIA has suspended its drone strikes on gatherings of low-level militants inside Pakistan in order to reverse “a sharp erosion of trust between the two countries” in the wake of the recent NATO raid that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. The report claims the pause comes amid “an intensifying debate in the administration of President Barack Obama over the future of the CIA’s covert drone war in Pakistan.”[6]

  • U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said on Saturday that the U.S.-Pakistan relationship was “too important to be allowed to fail.” While refusing to be drawn into domestic Pakistani political wrangling over the memogate scandal, Toner stated that the U.S. supported the democratic process in Pakistan and desired a “closer, more productive relationship” with both the civilian and military leaderships.[7]

  • Pakistan’s Parliamentary Committee on National Security is currently reviewing “nine pacts” that the Musharraf government secretly signed with the U.S. in the wake of September 11 relating to cooperation between the two countries in the War on Terror. The committee is to deliberate on the pacts as part of a complete review of Pakistan’s relations with the U.S. being conducted by the Pakistani government following the chill in relations brought on by the NATO border raid.[8]

  • Monday marked one month since the November 26 NATO border raid that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and the retaliatory closure of Pakistani supply routes for NATO convoys into Afghanistan. The closure is the longest to-date. Also on Monday, Gen. James Mattis, the U.S. head of Central Command (CENTCOM), urged greater trust and communication between the U.S. and Pakistani militaries following the release of the CENTCOM probe into the border incident. Mattis stated “The strongest take-away from this incident is the fundamental fact that we must improve border coordination and this requires a foundational level of trust on both sides of the border.” Mattis also urged Pakistan to share a map of its border outposts and installations in order to help prevent a recurrence of such incidences. Mattis “Mattis told the allied commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, to take steps to prevent ‘friendly fire’ incidents and share them with Pakistan’s military ‘if possible,’ an apparent reference to continuing strains.”[9]


Militancy and Terrorism

  • According to a report in the Guardian, senior British officials believe that al Qaeda’s leadership in Pakistan has been nearly wiped out and that a “last push” in 2012 will likely completely destroy its remaining leadership in the region. “So many senior members of the organisation have been killed in an intense campaign of air strikes involving missiles launched from unmanned drones that ‘only a handful of the key players’ remain alive,” claimed one official. The report also claims, however, that a number of senior al Qaeda leaders are leaving the Pakistan border region and relocating to North Africa, particularly Libya, raising fears of an al Qaeda resurgence on the African continent. The report says “British and US intelligence sources” believe “there are less than 100 ‘al-Qaida or al-Qaida-affiliated’ militants in Afghanistan, of whom only ‘a handful’ were seen to pose a threat internationally to the UK or other western nations.”[10]

  • Four security officers were killed and 18 others wounded in a suicide car bomb attack on a paramilitary outpost in the northwestern town of Bannu on Saturday. The attack in Bannu, bordering North Waziristan agency, is the second major act of terrorism in the region in two days. According to accounts, a suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into an outpost of the Tochi Scouts, a unit of the Frontier Corps (FC). The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack. TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan released a statement saying “we claim responsibility for the attack, which was launched to avenge the killing of one of our commanders Taj Gul in a US drone strike in South Waziristan last month.”[11]

  • On Sunday, security forces killed at least 34 suspected militants in clashes across Kurram and Orakzai agencies in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Three soldiers were also killed in the fighting. Twenty-two militants were killed during clashes in Kurram, while 12 militants were killed and seven others injured in airstrikes by Pakistani aircraft in Orakzai. Security forces continued to shell militant positions in both Orakzai and Kurram on Monday, killing seven militants in Orakzai and eight in Kurram. Operations continued on Tuesday with security forces killing an additional 12 militants in Kurram when they bombarded suspected militant hideouts.[12]

  • Pakistani police killed two suspected militants in a standoff in Dera Ismail Khan district on Monday. Militants had kidnapped three government workers and were transporting them to South Waziristan agency in the FATA when police surrounded them. Two more militants reportedly blew themselves up. On Tuesday, a senior government official from the Intelligence Bureau (IB) was shot and killed by gunmen in the northwestern city of Peshawar. No group has claimed responsibility.[13]


Indo-Pak Relations

  • Pakistan on Monday proposed to India a new round of confidence building measures (CBMs) after a gap of four years that included the “deployment of artillery and mortars 30 kilometers away from the Line of Control.” The talks were the “first formal engagement between the two countries since Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s meeting with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the Saarc summit in the Maldives last month.”[14]

[1] “Gilani welcomes Kayani’s remarks,” Dawn, December 25, 2011. Available at
“Gilani rebuffs Kayani, Pasha removal rumours,” Dawn, December 26, 2011. Available at
“Gilani changes tack, praises army chief,” Dawn, December 27, 2011. Available at
[2] Asif Shehzad, “Pakistani President warns top court in scandal,” AP, December 27, 2011. Available at
[3] “Azaz Syed, “ISI’s top secret letter unfolds new dimension if BB murder case,” Dawn, December 26, 2011. Available at
[4] Zahid Gishkori, “Parliamentary panel to meet ISI officials,” December 26, 2011. Available at
[5] Ashraf Khan, “Pakistani cricketer draws over 100,000 to rally,” AP, December 25, 2011. Available at
[6] “CIA suspends drone missile strikes in Pakistan: report,” AFP, December 24, 2011. Available at
[7] Anwar Iqbal, “US for closer ties with Pakistan govt, army,” Dawn, December 25, 2011. Available at
[8] “Musharraf era pacts with US placed before PCNS” Dawn, December 25, 2011. Available at
[9] “NATO supply on halt since a month,” Dawn, December 26, 2011. Available at
“US military urges greater trust with Pakistan after probe,” AFP, December 26, 2011. Available at
“US urges Pakistan to share border-post map,” Reuters, December 27, 2011. Available at
[10] Jason Burke, “Al-Qaida leadership almost wiped out in Pakistan, British officials believe,” The Guardian, December 25, 2011. Available at
[11] “4 security men die in Bannu attack,” Dawn, December 25, 2011. Available at
[12] “Thirty four militants, 3 security men die,” Dawn, December 26, 2011. Available at
“Fifteen suspected militants killed in Kurram, Orakzai assault,” Dawn, December 26, 2011. Available at
“Twelve suspected militants killed in Kurram,” Dawn, December 27, 2011. Available at
[13] “Pakistani police kill 2 militants in standoff,” AP, December 26, 2011. Available at
“Mastermind behind killing intelligence officials arrested in Chakwal,” Dawn, December 27, 2011. Available at
Asif Shehzad, “Pakistani President warns top court in scandal,” AP, December 27, 2011. Available at
[14] “Pakistan and India resume conventional CBM talks,” Dawn, December 27, 2011. Available at
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