Pakistan Security Brief
Report by Bureau of Investigative Journalism claims U.S. drone strikes target “rescuers” and “mourners;” Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani travels to Qatar; CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus says Afghan forces should not enter Pakistan; Police arrest suspected Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) commander in Karachi; Islamabad receives another terrorist threat from TTP; Al Qaeda linked militant killed in Kurram agency is identified; U.S. congressional hearing to take place Wednesday on Balochistan issue; Banned militant organizations in Pakistan reportedly receiving renewed funding; Clash between Lashkar-e-Islam and a Zakhakhel tribal militia kills four; Explosion occurs at tribal elder’s house in Peshawar, killing four; Pakistani Supreme Court suspends membership of 28 parliament members.
- A report by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism claims that the CIA’s drone strikes on suspected militants in Pakistan have allegedly targeted civilians who rushed to help after a strike and who attended subsequent funerals. According to the report, which is based on interviews with witnesses of strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas, at least 50 “rescuers” and 20 “mourners” have been killed. The findings were published Sunday, just days after President Obama announced that drone strikes are “a targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists,” which “have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties.”
- The U.S. Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will convene a congressional hearing on Wednesday to discuss the issue of Balochistan, particularly the topic of an independent Balochistan and the ongoing violence that includes targeted killings, kidnappings and human rights violations. Pakistan has treated Balochistan as an internal matter and has kept the U.S. at a distance by refusing to grant Washington permission to open a consulate in Quetta.
- Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani arrived in Qatar on Monday for a three-day official visit. Gilani, who told reporters on Sunday that Pakistan will support an “Afghan-led” peace process in the interest of a “stable Pakistan,” is expected to meet with the country’s emir and prime minister to discuss the U.S.-Taliban peace talks hosted by Qatar. His visit is also aimed at strengthening ties with Qatar and opening up opportunities for cooperation in multiple areas, including the import of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to resolve Pakistan’s energy crisis.
- At a Kashmir convention marking Kashmir Solidarity Day on Sunday, Prime Minister Gilani said that Pakistan wants to resolve the long-standing dispute over the region through “dialogue, diplomacy, prudent policy and national consensus.” “A peaceful settlement” of the dispute that “accords fully with the aspirations of the Kashmiri people is essential for peace and prosperity in the region,” said Gilani.
- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Afghan President Hamid Karzai are expected to visit Pakistan on February 16 for a trilateral summit aimed at strengthening “regional peace, stability and the Afghan-led conciliation process.”
- CIA Director General David Petraeus told a congressional committee that although Taliban leaders’ safe havens in Pakistan pose a significant threat, he believes that Afghan forces should not enter Pakistan to destroy them, because “they probably have sufficient fights on their hands without invading the soil of another country.” Petraeus also told the committee that it is very important for the U.S. to further develop a northern supply route for U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, since Pakistan has closed its NATO routes indefinitely.
- Acting on a tip, law enforcement agencies carried out a raid on a suspected militant hideout in Karachi and arrested three suspected members of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) along with an alleged commander, Mullah Hakeem. Hakeem was involved in over 100 cases of blowing up schools in Swat, said anonymous sources.
- According to intelligence agency sources, Islamabad received another terrorist threat on Friday from TTP militants. Stringent security measures including Rangers check posts, police and paramilitary patrol teams and extensive search operations have been put into place to counter the threat, said Inspector General Police Bini Ameen.
- An al Qaeda linked militant killed in Kurram agency on February 1 has been identified as Aslanov Zaur, an Azerbaijani national. According to his passport, documents and photographs retrieved by security forces, Zaur was a key commander who played a significant role in attacks on Pakistani troops in the tribal areas. The documents also revealed that after entering Iran in 2009, Zaur went underground and allegedly entered Afghanistan and then Pakistan through secret routes.
- A British news agency reported that according to Pakistani spy agencies, several banned militant organizations in Pakistan are back in action after receiving renewed funding. The agencies alleged that these organizations have opened new bank accounts under different names, and they are transferring funds through these accounts within the country and also overseas.
- Militants detonated a bomb and then opened fire on a military convoy, killing one security official and wounding 12 others in lower Kurram agency on Sunday.
- Unidentified gunmen opened fire on a vehicle in Landi Kotal, Khyber agency on Saturday, killing the eight-year-old cousin of a former federal minister and member of the National Assembly.
- Three Lashkar-e-Islam (LI) militants and one volunteer from a Zakhakhel tribal militia were killed on Friday in a clash between the two groups in the Tirah Valley, Khyber agency. Zakhakhel tribesmen managed to destroy an LI hideout being used as a bomb-making factory, which LI militants abandoned two days earlier due to fear of a possible attack. In a separate incident in Tirah Valley on Friday, members of LI blew up a mosque in an area populated by the Ziauddin sub-branch of the Zakhakhel tribe. There were no casualties in the explosion, since locals had abandoned the mosque for fear of an attack.
- On Friday, local police responded to an explosion on Achini Road in Sarband and after an extensive search, found and defused a second bomb.
- Two policemen, Head Constable Nadeem Abbasi and Constable Mohammad Sajid, were killed on Friday, when gunmen opened fire on their vehicle in an area near Manghopir Road in Sultanabad. Police had arrested suspected members of TTP in the same area a few months ago, based on a lead given to them by Abbasi.
- Four people were killed and several others injured in an explosion at the house of tribal elder Astana Gul in the Peshtakhara area of Peshawar on Friday evening. Lashkar-e-Islam (LI) claimed responsibility for the blast, which seemed to be targeting Gul, a former member of LI who left and joined its rival, Ansar-ul-Islam. Gul was not at home at the time of the explosion and thus escaped injury.
- According to Transparency International Pakistan (TIP), Pakistan has lost more than 8,500 billion rupees ($94 billion) in “corruption, tax evasion and bad governance during the last four years of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s tenure.” TIP advisor Adil Gillani said that Pakistan would not need “a single penny” of foreign aid, if it effectively checked the corruption running rampant within the country.
- Two people were killed and four injured during a strike by supporters of the Baloch Republican Party (BRP) in Sibi district on Saturday. The demonstrators, protesting the January 31 targeted killing of a minister in the Balochistan Provincial Assembly, Mir Bakhtiar Domki’s wife and daughter, blocked the Sindh-Balochistan Highway and refused to let security forces through, prompting the troops to fire at them. Another member of the assembly, Nasreen Khetran, resigned from her provincial ministry on Monday to protest the murders, saying that the incident was “deplorable,” and women were never killed in “cases of personal enmity” in Baloch culture.
- On Monday, the Supreme Court of Pakistan suspended the membership of 28 members of Parliament (MPs) who were elected through by-polls after the passage of the 18th amendment to the constitution. Once the government passes the 20th amendment, giving the MPs constitutional protection, they will be reinstated, said the court. The court also rejected Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Imran Khan’s request to stop by-elections until the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) provides new and accurate electoral rolls. According to the court, the National Database and Registration Authority assured the court that it would be able to provide new voters lists to the ECP by the February 25 deadline.