Pakistan Security Brief
MQM announces it will rejoin ruling coalition; Police officials suspended as government begins formal investigation into the murder of Governor Salman Taseer; At 5 least five militants killed in latest U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan; 46 militants captured during raid in Kurram.
In a move that will restore the ruling government’s parliamentary majority in the National Assembly, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) announced on Friday that it would be returning to the coalition government of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s Pakistan’s People Party (PPP). The MQM’s decision to rejoin the coalition government comes one day after the Pakistani government announced that it would reverse a nine percent fuel price hike announced on January 1, and would not immediately seek the implementation of economic reforms mandated in an 11 billion loan package Pakistan received from the Internal Monetary Fund (IMF). Raza Haroon, a senior MQM party member explained his party’s decision to rejoin the ruling government, “in a gesture of goodwill, for the promotion of democracy and in the face of critical condition of the country will again sit on the treasury benches.” The MQM also cautioned today that while it intends to rejoin the coalition, the party would not do so immediately because it is still negotiating further concessions from the federal government.
A new report by the Wall Street Journal warns that the Pakistani government’s decision to reverse increases in the cost of fuel will “further widen” the country’s substantial budget deficit and possibly “derail” economic reforms initiated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The Journal cautions that while the reversal of fuel taxes helped ease political pressure on the government of Pakistani President Zardari, the decision will make “it more difficult for the government to stem inflation…furthering economic strife” in the long-term. In Washington yesterday, both IMF officials and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton offered “misgivings” about the Pakistani government’s reversal. Secretary Clinton told reporters that the United States “think[s] it is a mistake to reverse the progress that was being made to provide a stronger economic base for Pakistan and we will continue to express that opinion.”[2
Governor Assassination and Fallout
Two police officials were suspended on Friday, while the Superintendent of Police (SP) for Rawalpindi was asked to explain why he ignored a letter from police officials in Lahore that warned Mumtaz Qadri was not fit for VIP security duty. A three member investigative team convened by the Punjab government arrived in Islamabad today to begin the government’s formal investigation into Tuesday’s assassination of Punjab governor Salman Taseer. The team is set to interrogate the alleged assassin as well as other members of the Governor’s security detail.
At least five militants were killed on Friday in the latest U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan. Local security officials report that drone aircraft fired four missiles at a vehicle and a house being used by militants in the village of Ghar Laley in the tribal agency’s Datta Khel sub-district. Witnesses reveal that after the strike, fellow Taliban militants arrived on scene to comb the rumble and remove the bodies of those killed. Pakistani security officials are working to identify if any high-value targets were among today’s dead.
46 suspected militants were arrested in a raid by security forces in Kurram tribal agency on Friday. The operation occurred in the Durrani area of the tribal agency and targeted nine suspected militant hideouts. In addition to capturing the militants, security forces seized 1,800 bags of fertilizer used to make explosives.
An anti-Taliban tribal lashkar killed six militants, including three commanders, in clashes on Thursday in Orakzai tribal agency. Pakistani news media report that the clashes broke out when the tribal lashkar attacked suspected militant hideouts in the Saifal Dara area of the tribal agency. After an intense firefight, the anti-Taliban forces managed to successfully capture the hideouts being used by militants.
Three people were killed in separate attacks in Karachi on Friday. All three of the dead were victims of targeted killings and they all belonged to various religious and political parties known to operate in the city. The three separate attacks occurred in the Surjani Town, New Karachi, and Korangi areas of the city.