Pakistan Security Brief
Pakistan rejects U.S. envoy Marc Grossman’s request to visit; Senators in Islamabad voice concerns over resumption of U.S. drone strikes; Tribal journalist is gunned down by Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP); Pakistan agrees to clear Afghan commercial cargo and to resume supply of jet fuel to Afghanistan; Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan says Gilani should comply with Supreme Court orders; Interior Minister Rehman Malik says Gilani “is not going to resign;” Sacked Defense Secretary Khalid Naeem Lodhi files petition, challenging his dismissal; Angry tribesmen shoot at drones flying over North Waziristan on Tuesday; Mansoor Ijaz is reportedly granted a Pakistani visa.
- A senior government official told Reuters on Wednesday that Pakistan had rejected U.S. Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Mark Grossman’s request to visit the country. Grossman will be visiting U.S. allies Afghanistan, Qatar and the UAE this week to gain support for peace talks with the Taliban. According to U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner, Pakistan wants to complete its parliamentary review of its relations with the U.S. and NATO before Grossman’s next visit.
- In a Senate meeting in Islamabad on Tuesday, senators voiced their concerns over the resumption of U.S. drone strikes. They asked the government to implement the decision supported by Parliament and the people to shoot down any unmanned aircraft violating Pakistan’s air space. They also called for the government to vacate U.S. forces from all air bases within the country. “The country’s soil and facilities must not be allowed to be used against its own people,” they said.
- Angry with the Pakistani government’s silence over U.S. drone strikes, tribesmen carrying Kalashnikov rifles and heavy machine guns began shooting at six drones flying at low altitude over various parts of North Waziristan Agency on Tuesday.
- On Tuesday, Pakistan agreed to clear commercial cargo bound for Afghanistan that has been piling up at its ports since Pakistan cut off NATO’s supply routes in November 2011. Afghan Finance Minister Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal said that the seven hundred containers stuck at the ports are carrying perishable items such as food and other domestic/commercial cargo under the Transit Trade Agreement and have nothing to do with NATO. The “delay in the clearance of food containers” is not only creating a food shortage in Afghanistan, but will also result in a revenue shortfall, if the containers do not arrive in time, said Zakhilwal. According to Secretary of Petroleum Ijaz Chaudhry, Pakistan has also agreed to resume the supply of jet fuel to Afghanistan, so that the country can meet its domestic commercial demands, however Pakistan will “continue the ban on supply of jet fuel to NATO forces.” In return, Afghanistan has given Pakistan’s “largest public sector oil marketing company” Pakistan State Oil (PSO), permission to set up offices and market oil products in Afghanistan.
- According to Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan, to avoid charges of contempt and a possible dismissal, Gilani should accept the Supreme Court’s order to write Swiss authorities, asking them to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari. Although Ahsan does not believe Gilani is guilty of contempt for not writing the letter, Ahsan sees no harm in complying with the court’s order, since Zardari “enjoys immunity in Pakistan and abroad as long as he is president.”
- In an interview with the Indian news channel, New Delhi Television, on Wednesday, Interior Minister of Pakistan Rehman Malik said that Prime Minister Gilani “is not going to resign,” because “the whole party has backed him yesterday and the people of Pakistan are behind him.” Malik refuted reports of a clash between civil and military institutions in Pakistan, saying it was a perception created by the media, and as far as he knows, “there is going to be no coup in this country.”
- Sacked Defense Secretary Lt. Gen. (retired) Khalid Naeem Lodhi filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court challenging his dismissal by Prime Minister Gilani. In the petition, he claimed his termination was illegal and unconstitutional and was “intended to clear the way to arbitrarily remove the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and the Director General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (DG ISI) for personal and political gains.” He also argued that “he had not been served any charge sheet or a show cause notice for his alleged misconduct, adding that no inquiry was held against him before terminating his service contract.”
- A central character in the “memogate” scandal, Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz has reportedly been granted a Pakistani visa and is expected to arrive in Pakistan on January 24 to testify before the judicial commission.
- Tribal journalist Mukarram Khan Atif was gunned down by Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants while praying in a mosque in Charsadda district on Tuesday. Atif had worked with a variety of media organizations during his fifteen-year career, and he was currently working with Voice of America’s Pashto radio service. TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said that Atif had not stopped his anti-Taliban propaganda in the foreign media, even after repeated threats, and he warned that there were several more media people on TTP’s hit list.
- One person was injured when a remote-controlled bomb exploded in front of a shop in the Sadu Khel area of Landi Kotal, Khyber agency on Tuesday.