Pakistan Security Brief
Pakistani civilian and military leaders make effort to mend ties; Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani retracts critique of military; “Memogate” commission says it won’t travel abroad to hear Mansoor Ijaz’s testimony; Six Pakistani soldiers and 17 Taliban militants killed in clash in Kurram agency; Three Shia lawyers gunned down; Afghan Taliban shares details of U.S.-Taliban talks with Pakistan; U.S. lobbies to lure Pakistan away from Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline; Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar to visit Afghanistan to begin re-engagement; UN Conference on Disarmament “in danger of sinking” due to Pakistan.
- The strained relationship between Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders seemed to be recovering on Tuesday, when Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani met with Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani and Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha. Sources said that both sides were realizing “that there would be no winners and only losers in a show of brinkmanship” and were thus making an effort to mend ties.
- On Wednesday, Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani seemed to be distancing himself from statements he made earlier this month critiquing the military. "I want to dispel the impression that the military leadership acted unconstitutionally or violated rules," said Gilani. According to political analysts, this was a move designed to defuse the recent tension between the military and the government that has sparked rumors of a coup. Both military and civilian leaders seem to “have realized that fighting will not serve anyone’s purpose,” say analysts.
- The judicial commission in the “memogate” case has said it will not travel abroad to hear testimony from Pakistani-American businessman and key witness Mansoor Ijaz. The commission has decided, however, to send the secretary of the commission to meet with Ijaz on board his flight to Pakistan. Advocate Zahid Bukhari, the counsel for Husain Haqqani, has asked the commission to file contempt charges against Ijaz for failing to appear despite several court orders. Adjourned until February 9, the commission will ask the Supreme Court to extend its January 28 deadline to finish the investigation.
- The Supreme Court of Pakistan began hearing a case on Wednesday regarding the killing of four prisoners in the custody of security agencies. The court issued notices to the Attorney General, the Secretary of Defense, and the chiefs of the Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence directorates.
- Six Pakistani soldiers and 17 Pakistani Taliban militants were killed on Tuesday night during a clash in Jogi village in Kurram agency. Pakistani troops were conducting a routine search operation as part of an offensive launched in July 2011 in Kurram to clear militants from the area when they were attacked by about 50 militants. The attack was repelled by the troops and helicopter gunships. Security forces claim that they have “taken control of the Jogi area.”
- On Wednesday, three lawyers from the Shia community were killed and another was wounded, when four gunmen riding motorcycles opened fire on their car near Karachi’s City Court. The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) announced that there will be a “nation-wide boycott of courts” on Thursday.
- Three people, including a Federal Investigation Agency official, were gunned down on Wednesday by unidentified men on McConghey Road in Quetta.
- In an unprecedented move, the Afghan Taliban has shared with Pakistan the details of its talks with U.S. negotiators in Qatar and has asked for feedback, said an Afghan leader. He added that the Taliban has also updated its deadliest Pakistan-based faction, the Haqqani network, on the U.S.-Taliban dialogue. Former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef stated that he supported the U.S.-Taliban talks, but he opposed the involvement of neighboring countries such as Pakistan. “If other countries enter the dialogue process at this stage, then the process would not produce tangible results, said Zaeef. After being excluded from the round of dialogues in Qatar, Pakistani and Afghan leaders recently agreed to renew their joint peace talks.
- The U.S. has increased its efforts to lure Pakistan away from the Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) imports from Iran by introducing the possibility of cheaper gas from the U.S. In a meeting last Tuesday with stakeholders from the power and energy sector, U.S. embassy officials stated that Iranian gas would cost “$12 per million British thermal units (mmbtu),” while LNG would cost “$18 per mmbtu,” making neither an affordable option for Pakistan. U.S. officials were concerned by Pakistan’s gas crisis and asked stakeholders how they could help, but according to Secretary of Petroleum Ijaz Chaudhry, they made no actual offers to provide LNG to Pakistan. Sources said that in a meeting at the petroleum ministry a few months ago, USAID officials suggested that LNG could be brought to Pakistan at “$4.5 per mmbtu.” The U.S. has the ability to begin exporting LNG in the next few years, and it might do so at a cheaper rate to persuade Pakistan to abandon the IP gas pipeline project, said an energy expert.
- During a meeting on Tuesday, civilian and military leaders in Pakistan decided to send Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar to Kabul to begin re-engagement with Afghanistan in regard to its ongoing reconciliation process.
- In a speech to delegates from 65 countries on Tuesday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned that the UN Conference on Disarmament was “in danger of sinking,” because member states such as Pakistan are reluctant to begin nuclear negotiations. Since the conference emerged in May 2009, Pakistan has been shying away from accepting a possible treaty that would ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, thus preventing the conference from going forward. Referring to national security concerns, Pakistani government officials have said they do not want to participate in negotiations on a treaty that “endorses an ‘asymmetry’ of nuclear power between Pakistan and its arch-rival India.”
- Energy ministers from India and Pakistan announced many initiatives to facilitate cooperation between the two countries in the oil and gas sector on Wednesday. They also said that both countries may work together in developing a gas field in Turkmenistan. According to Indian Oil Minister Jaipal Reddy, India is also considering a proposal to export petroleum products and gasoline to Pakistan, which currently bans Indian petroleum imports.