Pakistan Security Brief

Joint session of Pakistan’s parliament to review relations with U.S. on March 20; NY Times reports that drones could be sticking point in U.S.-Pakistan relationship; President Zardari delivers “historic” address to parliament; Prime Minister Gilani offers to resign to resolve contempt issue; ISI receives new director general; Documents from Osama bin Laden’s compound reveal plot to kill President Obama; Pakistani court remands bin Laden’s family into judicial custody; Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri urges Pakistanis to follow example of Arab Spring; Politically influential family in Pakistan is target of repeated suicide bombings; “14 bullet-ridden bodies” discovered in Khyber agency; Pakistani fighter jets kill 26 militants; Pakistani government to export one million tons of wheat to Iran.

U.S.-Pakistan Relations

  • A joint session of Pakistan’s parliament will meet on March 20 to “discuss new terms of engagement with the United States,” Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s spokesman said on Saturday. According to the spokesman, parliament will review the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security, which was directed by the prime minister to review relations with the U.S. after a November 2011 NATO airstrike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. The committee completed its recommendations about a month ago, which will now be debated and voted on by parliament.[1]

  • According to the New York Times, as the U.S. and Pakistan attempt to renew their “troubled relationship…the difference could come down to drones.” U.S. drones are most commonly known for targeting senior commanders of al Qaeda and the Taliban, but they also serve an important role in combating cross-border infiltration from Taliban safe havens inside Pakistan. During interviews with militants in areas such as North Waziristan, militants said that drones have disrupted their operations and have driven them deeper into the mountains. The drone campaign remains as unpopular as ever amongst the majority of Pakistanis who are angry about civilian casualties. President Zardari will convene a special sitting of parliament on March 20 to review U.S.-Pakistan relations. U.S. officials hope that this will lead to “normalization of relations by early April, end a months-long blockade of NATO supply lines through Pakistan and boost faltering efforts to draw the Afghan Taliban into peace talks” – issues that are critical to U.S. plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in 2014. U.S. officials fear Pakistan’s parliamentary debate will instead focus on calling for an end to drone strikes which, they say, is not an option because drones “have become a central weapon in the Obama administration’s counterterrorism arsenal.”[2]

Domestic Politics

  • In a “historic” event for Pakistan’s democratically-elected government, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari gave an unprecedented fifth presidential address to parliament on Saturday. Leaders from all of Pakistan’s major political parties lavishly praised the address, calling it a “gleaming moment,” “a momentous milestone,” and a positive move on the path to democracy.” During the 35-minute address, President Zardari focused on what the Pakistan Peoples Party-led government achieved in its four difficult years. With regard to the U.S., he described 2011 as a “challenging year” in the “multi-dimensional and important” relationship between the two countries, and said that Pakistan seeks “to engage meaningfully with the U.S. on the basis of mutual interest and mutual respect.”[3]

  • Speaking to journalists on Sunday, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani offered to resign and leave office, if that would help resolve the issue over his refusal to write a letter to Swiss authorities asking them to reopen corruption cases against President Zardari. According to Gilani, however, the “core issue will remain,” and whoever replaces him “will have to face the same dilemma.”[4]

  • Prime Minister Gilani submitted his reply in the contempt case against him to Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Monday. Once again, Gilani stated that he would not write a letter to Swiss authorities, since it would be a violation of the constitution, because the president has immunity from prosecution. He requested that the court either go ahead with its earlier option of leaving the matter up to the judgment of the people, or refer the case to parliament. The Supreme Court will resume hearing the case on March 21.[5]

  • On Monday, Pakistan’s Supreme Court resumed hearing the case of the missing Adiala jail prisoners, who have been secretly detained by Pakistan’s intelligence agencies since 2010. The two-judge bench ordered the Islamabad police to present an investigate report within the next two weeks on one of the missing prisoners who was released. Omar Mahmood Wali Khan, who went missing on March 10 and was then found on March 17, appeared in court on Monday and admitted that he had no idea who his kidnappers were. The court stated that “it was illegal to detain people without any case and there was no reason to have held Omar for six days,” and it directed the attorney general to pass this information on to the intelligence agencies.[6]

Osama bin Laden

  • Senior Obama administration officials have spent months analyzing the thousands of documents that U.S. Navy Seals took from Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound following the May 2011 raid. One of the documents is a 48-page memo that bin Laden wrote to one of his deputies,  in which he expressed concern that U.S. drone strikes were making Pakistan’s tribal areas too dangerous for al Qaeda’s sanctuary in Waziristan. Bin Laden urged his followers to leave the tribal regions and go to safer, more remote areas in the Afghan provinces of Ghazni, Zabul and Kunar. The documents also revealed that bin Laden hoped to carry out an attack against President Obama and General David Petraeus. He referred to President Obama as the “head of infidelity,” and stated that killing the president would leave Vice President Biden in charge, which would work in al Qaeda’s favor, since “Biden is totally unprepared for that post.” Gen. Petraeus is the “man of the hour,” wrote bin Laden, and “killing him would alter the war’s path” in Afghanistan. According to the documents, bin Laden had chosen Pakistani terrorist Ilyas Kashmiri to carry out the attacks on Obama and Petraeus. Kashmiri was killed in a drone strike in June, and U.S. officials said Friday that the “Obama-Petraeus” plot was never a serious threat, since al Qaeda lacked the capability to execute such an attack.[7]

  • On Saturday, a district court in Islamabad remanded Osama bin Laden’s three wives and 11 children into judicial custody until March 26. Bin Laden’s family was arrested for illegally entering and living in Pakistan, and has been in detention since the May 2011 raid that killed bin Laden. To ensure the safety of bin Laden’s family members, the court declared the house in Islamabad where the family is being kept, a sub jail and heard the case there. The court directed officials to appoint an interpreter for bin Laden’s Arabic-speaking family for the next hearing on March 26, which will also be held in the sub-jail.[8]


  • In a 10-minute video posted on jihadist forums on March 16, al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri urged Pakistanis to follow the example of the Arab Spring and revolt against Pakistan’s government and military, who have allied themselves with the U.S. Zawahiri stated that the U.S.-led NATO airstrike against Pakistani soldiers in November 2011, demonstrates “that partnership with America only leads to loss in this world and the hereafter.” “By the grace of Allah,” said Zawahiri, al Qaeda has “captured the American Jew Warren Weinstein,” and “he will not return to his family…unti Aafia Siddiqui, Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, the family of Sheikh Osama bin Laden, and every single person arrested on allegations of links with al Qaeda and Taliban” has been released. Zawahiri called upon Pakistanis to follow in the footsteps of their “brothers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria who are standing up against oppression” and oust the “treacherous army and bribe-taking government” that has “plundered [their wealth…ruined [their] economy and destroyed [their] world.”[9]

  • Members of the Sherpao family, a politically influential family in Pakistan, have been the targets of several suicide bombings by suspected Taliban militants and other insurgents. The latest attack in early March was aimed at Sikander Sherpao, a provincial legislator, and his father, Aftab Sherpao, a member of the national assembly. The attack, which took place near Peshawar, was the third time in five years that the two have barely escaped death in a suicide bombing. According to the police, however, Sikander and his father have also been “targeted separately 14 other times.” Dozens of relatives, party workers and friends of the Sherpao family have been killed or injured in the bombings, which are done in retaliation for the family’s support of military and law-enforcement operations against Islamic extremists.[10] 

  • On Sunday, the Express Tribune reported that villagers found “14 bullet-ridden bodies” scattered around the Bara area of Khyber agency, an area where Pakistani security forces have been conducting numerous operations against militants. According to the villagers, the dead men belonged to “Sipah, Akahkhel, Shalobar and Malik Dinkhel tribes of Bara,” and they “were taken into custody by the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) a few days back.” An FC official said that the men may have been killed in an earlier military operation, but he had no knowledge of that, and he claimed that the men were never in the FC’s custody.[11]

  • According to a Pakistani official, fighter jets killed 26 militants, wounded 15 others and destroyed seven militant hideouts in different areas of Upper Orakzai and Kurram agencies on Sunday.[12]

  • Pakistani security officials said Sunday that “at least 25 militants and four soldiers” were killed, and “12 others were injured” in a week-long operation conducted by security forces against Lashkar-e-Islam (LI) in different areas of Bara tehsil, Khyber agency.[13]

  • On Sunday, four militants and one soldier were killed when militants attacked a security forces check point in Miram Shah, North Waziristan. In retaliation, the military fired shells at suspected militant hideouts on Monday, killing three civilians and wounding 15 others.[14]

  • The Zakhakhel peace lashkar (committee) publicly executed three alleged LI members in the Bara subdivision of Khyber agency on Saturday. The lashkar also arrested three other alleged LI members.[15]

  • Three girls were killed in a roadside explosion resulting from an improvised explosive device in the Sepah area of Bara tehsil, Khyber agency on Saturday.[16]

  • The bodies of three suspected militants were found in the Sheikhabad area of Bara tehsil, Khyber agency on Saturday. According to local sources, the faces and bodies of the three dead men “were beyond recognition.”[17]

Intelligence Agency

  • Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate received a new director general on March 18, when Lt. Gen. Zahirul Islam took over the position as Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha retired after a three-year tenure. Islam’s most recent post was in Karachi, where he served as the commander of V Corp. Between 2007 and 2008 Islam served as a deputy director general of the ISI and was responsible for the directorate’s internal security and counter-intelligence operations. According to analyst Brian Cloughley, a former Australian defense attaché to Islamabad, Islam is “one of the batch of seven outstanding lieutenant generals of his seniority now serving” with the Pakistan Army. Cloughley thinks the U.S.-Pakistan relationship is “so badly damaged…that the only way must be upward,” but he does not think Islam will necessarily be favorably inclined to the U.S.[18]

International Relations

  • According to a spokesman for Pakistan’s Ministry of Water and Power, the Pakistani government decided on Saturday “that it is going to export a million [tons] of wheat to Iran through the barter trade system.” A delegation will go to Iran next week or in the beginning of April to work out the details, said the official.[19]

  • Indian special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam told the media on Monday that the Pakistani judicial commission that was in India conducting an investigation into the Mumbai terror attacks, has completed its investigation. On Saturday, the commission recorded the statements of the chief investigative officer and two doctors who conducted the autopsies on the eight suspects.[20]




[1] Nasir Habib and Reza Sayah, “Pakistan debates future U.S. engagement,” CNN, March 18, 2012. Available at
[2] Declan Walsh, Eric Schmitt and Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud, “Drones at Issue as U.S. Rebuilds Ties to Pakistan,” New York Times, March 18, 2012. Available at
[3] Sumera Khan, “‘Historic, momentous’: Ruling, allied lawmakers hail fifth presidential address,” The Express Tribune, March 18, 2012. Available at
Raja Asghar, “Long on claims, short on promises,” Dawn, March 18, 2012. Available at
Nasir Habib and Reza Sayah, “Pakistan debates future U.S. engagement,” CNN, March 18, 2012. Available at
[4] Zulqernain Tahir, “I’ll quit if that helps resolve issue: PM,” Dawn, March 19, 2012. Available at
[5] “Gilani refuses to write letter to Swiss authorities, again,” The Express Tribune, March 19, 2012. Available at
[6] “No further illegal detentions, orders SC,” Agencies, March 19, 2012. Available at
[7] Peter Bergen, “Bin Laden's final days -- big plans, deep fears,” CNN, March 16, 2012. Available at
David Ignatius, “The bin Laden plot to kill President Obama,” Washington Post, March 16, 2012. Available at
[8] “In custody: Bin Laden’s family sent on judicial remand,” The Express Tribune, March 18, 2012. Available at
[9] “Zawahiri Urges Revolution in Pakistan, Support for Jihad,” SITE Intelligence Group, March 16, 2012. Available at
[10] Richard Leiby, “In Pakistan, surviving suicide bombings is part of a political family’s life,” Washington Post, March 19, 2012. Available at
[11] “Grisly discovery: 14 bullet-riddled bodies found in Bara,” The Express Tribune, March 19, 2012. Available at
[12] “Pakistan gunfights, airstrikes leave 50 dead,” AFP, March 18, 2012. Available at
[13] “25 militants, four soldiers killed in week-long Bara operation,” The News, March 19, 2012. Available at
[14] “Clashes in North Waziristan leave eight dead,” AFP, March 19, 2012. Available at
[15] “Strife in Bara: Militia publicly executes three ‘extremists,’” The Express Tribune, March 18, 2012. Available at
[16] Said Nazir Afridi, “Three girls die in Bara roadside blast,” The News, March 18, 2012. Available at
[17] Said Nazir Afridi, “Three girls die in Bara roadside blast,” The News, March 18, 2012. Available at
[18] Usman Ansari, “Pakistan’s Intelligence Agency Gets New Director,” Defense News, March 18, 2012. Available at
[19] “Pakistan approves wheat barter deal with Iran,” Reuters, March 19, 2012. Available at
[20] “Pakistan commission concludes Mumbai investigations,” Dawn, March 19, 2012. Available at


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