Pakistan Security Brief
U.S. drone strike in Pakistan kills four militants; American funds aid extremist Pakistani Muslim group; Husain Haqqani’s wife writes op-ed in Washington Post; Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani fires Defense Secretary; Supreme Court forwards National Reconciliation Ordinance case to larger bench; Interior Minister publicizes pardon agreement between Pervez Musharraf and Nawaz Sharif; Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan leader Abdul Qayyum confesses to killing Information Minister’s son; Explosion at a market in Landi Kotal injures seven.
- On Tuesday, the U.S. carried out its first drone strike in Pakistan after a nearly two month hiatus. According to a local intelligence official, at least four militants were killed when the drone struck a house near Miram Shah in the North Waziristan tribal area. To avoid worsening relations with Pakistan, the CIA had suspended drone strikes in late November following an American airstrike that killed two dozen Pakistani troops.
- The U.S. gave money to an anti-extremism Pakistani Muslim group that has since changed direction, says an American diplomat at the U.S. embassy in Pakistan. According to American government website usaspending.gov, The Sunni Ittehad Council received a grant of $36,607 from the U.S. in 2009. The council’s members are politicians and clerics from Pakistan’s Barelvi Muslim movement, who are often referred to as “theological moderates” within the country. Formed in 2009 to counter extremism, the council used the U.S. funds to organize highly publicized nationwide demonstrations against militancy and suicide bombings. However, in 2011 and as recently as this month, the council led rallies in support of Punjab governor Salman Taseer’s killer, a Barelvi, who murdered Taseer on January 4, 2010 for speaking out against Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws. Leading members of the council deny receiving any American money, and insist that they are “against extremism,” but they support the governor’s killer, “because he did a right thing.”
- Speaking after briefing the Parliamentary Committee on National Security, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar stated on Tuesday that there was “no proposal under consideration to link transfer of civil nuclear technology with the resumption of NATO supply.”
- A spokesman for the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) denied a report published Tuesday by British newspaper The Sun, claiming that the Pakistani military was planning to destroy Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad hideout using rocket-propelled grenades. An ISPR spokesman called the report “totally baseless” saying that the head of the ISPR had never spoken to The Sun, as the report claims.
- In the latest showdown between the government and the military, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Wednesday fired his defense secretary, Khalid Naeem Lodhi, whom many see as being closely tied to the military. According to an official statement by Gilani’s office, Lodhi was dismissed for “gross misconduct and illegal actions, which created a misunderstanding between state institutions.” The dismissal came just hours after the army warned Gilani that his recent criticisms of military leaders could have "serious ramifications with potentially grievous consequences."
- The Supreme Court of Pakistan threatened to dismiss Prime Minister Gilani, if he continues to disregard court orders to reopen corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari. On Tuesday, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa led a five-member panel of the Supreme Court, which ruled that the government was guilty of “willful disobedience,” and Gilani was “dishonest” for failing to comply with the court’s orders. In its final ruling, the court laid out six options including the initiation of contempt of court charges, dismissal of the prime minister, formation of a judicial commission and the taking of action against the president for violating his constitutional oath.” The case is being forwarded to a larger bench of the Supreme Court. The seven-member bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Nasirul Mulk, will hear the case and review the six options beginning January 16.
- An op-ed written by Farahnaz Ispahani, a Pakistani parliament member and the wife of former Pakistani ambassador Husain Haqqani, was published in the Washington Post on Tuesday. Haqqani resigned in November after being implicated in the “memogate” controversy and returned to Pakistan to face a judicial inquiry. Haqqani’s case is not merely a legal issue in which a person has been “wrongly accused and denied due process,” writes Ispahani. It is, instead, part of a broader issue, she says: “the systematic elimination or marginalization of every intellectual and leader in Pakistan who has stood up to the institutionalization of a militarized Islamist state.” She adds that it is imperative for Americans to stand up for Haqqani, someone who worked tirelessly to “improve U.S.-Pakistani relations.”
- At a meeting in Islamabad with parliamentary leaders and coalition partners on Tuesday, President Zardari said that he was prepared to step down if his party [the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)] and its coalition partners so desired. Zardari also called for a National Assembly session on January 12.
- Interior Minister Rehman Malik made public the pardon agreement between former president Pervez Musharraf and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz chief Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday. According to Malik, Sharif and his family went into exile after making a deal with Musharraf to secure their safe exit from Pakistan. Malik showed media representatives the agreement carrying the signatures of Sharif and other members of his family. He stated that other political parties aside from the PPP have taken greater advantage of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), and that Sharif and his family, not the PPP, were the ones who signed the NRO.
- Jamshed Dasti, a member of the National Assembly from Muzaffargarh, announced on Wednesday that he was leaving the PPP. Dasti said he would run in the next general election as an independent candidate against Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, who he claims is interfering in his constituency matters.
- A key commander of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Abdul Qayyum Mehsud, who was arrested earlier this month, confessed during interrogation to his involvement in the murder of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Mian Iftikhar’s son.
- On Wednesday, Pakistani military jets targeted areas in upper Orakzai, reportedly killing at least 11 militants, wounding six and destroying four suspected hide-outs. In another military operation involving heavy shelling in central Kurram, eight militants were injured and two safehouses were destroyed.
- Unidentified gunmen killed Haji Kaleem, commander of the Aka Khel peace committee for the Margat Khel area. In a separate incident, unknown militants blew up a government school in the Zakha Khel area, damaging four rooms of the school.
- An explosion at a market in Landi Kotal, Khyber agency injured seven people and damaged several shops. A passerby was killed in the crossfire, when criminals attempting to steal a car exchanged gunfire with security personnel at Mian Mandi Bazaar in Mohmand Agency. Security officials managed to capture three of the carjackers.
- Three children were critically injured in the Spin Qabar area when a mortar shell landed in a playground. One of the children died after reaching the hospital. In another incident involving mortar shells, two women in the Akhakhel area were injured when two mortar shells fell on their houses.