JANUARY 2017

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PAKISTAN: News Briefs

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Government-TTP direct peace talks begin in FATA: Direct peace between the Government and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Orakzai Agency of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) started on March 26. The talks were mainly focused on an extension in the ceasefire and release of non-combatant detainees.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nawaz (PM) Sharif on March 30 said the talks with the TTP are moving forward in the right direction and the nation will soon be given good news. The PM hoped that the dialogue process with the TTP would bring about the desired results. The News, March 27, 2014; The News, March 31, 2014.

US has not announced an end to drone attacks, says Prime Minister's Advisor on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz: Prime Minister's Advisor on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz on March 28 said that the United States (US) has not formally announced to stop drone attacks in Pakistan. The US officials had not informed Pakistan about as to how long the drone attacks would not be launched, he said. The News, March 29, 2014.

Punjab recorded highest number of kidnapping-for-ransom cases across country, says Federal Minister for Interior Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan: The Federal Minister for Interior Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on March 26 informed the National Assembly that Punjab recorded the highest number of kidnapping-for-ransom cases that were registered over the past one year among all Provinces and territories. According to details, Punjab was followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Sindh, while Gilgit Baltistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) ranked at the bottom. Tribune, March 27, 2014.

People are dying in Balochistan while the Provincial Chief Secretary is visiting the US, complains Supreme Court: A two-member bench of the Supreme Court (SC) while hearing the cases on the law and order situation in Balochistan, missing persons and the Khuzdar mass grave case on March 26 observed that Balochistan Chief Secretary was visiting the United States (US) while people in the province were dying. The Supreme Court gave these remarks after being informed that the meeting of the Balochistan Chief Secretary, the counsel for the Frontier Corps (FC) Irfan Qadir, the Crime Investigation Department (CID) and Balochistan Advocate General Nizamuddin could not be held as the Chief Secretary had proceeded on a visit to the US. The News, March 27, 2014.

Army is with us to make talks a success, claims TTP dialogue committee head Maulana Samiul Haq: Head of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) dialogue committee Maulana Samiul Haq on March 18 said "the Army is with us for the success of talks and the TTP have not yet put up their demands". He said both TTP and Government committees are in contact to mark out a "peace zone" for the sake of continuation of talks.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Government negotiators on March 22 agreed on an undisclosed location to hold direct peace talks with the Taliban soon to find a way to end the decade-long insurgency. "The process of talking directly to the Taliban will start in two to three days, both sides have agreed on the venue", Samiul Haq, a negotiator for the TTP, said, adding the location would be declared a "peace zone" but did not reveal what would be the exact venue of the shura or council meeting. The News, March 19, 2014; Business Standard, March 22, 2014.

Five Pakistanis remain in detention in Guantanamo Bay prison, says Foreign Office: The Foreign Office on March 20 revealed that there were at least five Pakistanis who were being detained at US' Guantanamo Base in Cuba. The Foreign Office Spokesperson, Tasnim Aslam Khan, revealed that a two member delegation that had visited the facility in August 2006, had found six Pakistanis among the 164 people detained at the facility. One of the six detainees had been released, but five still remain in detention. Tribune, March 21, 2014.

No Pakistani 'boots on the ground' in other countries, says Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif: Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif on March 20 said that Pakistan was not sending its military troops to other countries. The PM dismissed the impression that some countries have asked Pakistan's Armed Forces for operations on their land. Daily Times, March 21, 2014.

ISI Chief General Ahmed Shuja Pasha knew whereabouts of Osama bin Laden's hideout, reveals The New York Times: According to The New York Times, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Chief Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha knew where the slain al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was hiding. The Newspaper states that a Pakistani official stated that United States had direct evidence about the ISI Chief knowing Bin Laden's presence in Abbottabad at the time. Tribune, March 20, 2014.

Federal Government to lodge FIR against army officials in missing persons' case, Attorney General of Pakistan informs Supreme Court: The Federal Government on March 19 decided to register a case against Army officials allegedly involved in the illegal removal of 35 undeclared inmates from an internment centre in Malakand Agency of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Salman Aslam Butt told this to a three-judge bench headed by Justice Jawwad S Khawaja which resumed the hearing. Tribune, March 20, 2014.

30 civilians and 15 militants among 45 persons killed during the week in Sindh: Three people were killed in separate incidents in Karachi, the provincial capital of Sindh, on March 14.

28 persons, including 19 civilians, were killed in gang war clashes in different parts of Karachi city on March 12.

Seven persons, including a Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) activist, were killed in separate incidents of violence in Karachi on March 11.

Five people were found dead in the Brohi Mohalla area of Mawach Goth area in Baldia Town of Karachi on March 10. Daily Times; Dawn; The News; Tribune; Central Asia; Nation; Frontier Post; Pakistan Today; Pakistan Observer, March 11-17, 2014.

11 persons killed in suicide blast in Peshawar: At least 11 persons were killed and 45 others were injured in a suicide attack targeting Policemen in the Sarband area of Peshawar (Peshawar Disrict), the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, on March 15. Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP-city) Banaras Khan said the blast appeared to have targeted Police mobile van and was carried out by a suicide bomber. Dawn, March 16, 2014.

10 persons killed in bomb blast in Balochistan: At least 10 persons, including nine civilians and one trooper were killed and 35 others were injured in a bomb explosion targeting Frontier Corps (FC) vehicle at Science College Chowk area of Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, on March 14. The target of the blast was FC vehicle that narrowly escaped the attack. Dawn, March 16, 2014.

Karachi operation to continue until peace restored, says Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif: On March 14, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that the operation in Karachi will continue and that he would himself monitor it. "Karachi operation will continue. The sacrifices rendered by our security agencies are invaluable. Karachi operation is not a routine issue for the government and I will regularly monitor and supervise operation and will help the provincial government in resolving their issues," the Prime Minister said. Daily Times, March 15, 2014.

ISI confirms threat to former President General (retired) Pervez Musharraf's life: The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) on March 13 confirmed the seriousness of the threats that former President General (retired) Pervez Musharraf's lawyers claim he is facing. A representative of the ISI said that it had intercepted a phone call on the night of March 12, 2014, which confirmed that Musharraf was susceptible to attack. Tribune, March 14, 2014.

TTP peace process enters 'decisive phase', claims Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Affairs Irfan Siddiqui: Adviser to Prime Minister on National Affairs, Irfan Siddiqui, on March 13 said that the talks with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had entered a crucial stage and the-two member TTP talks committee would give a report about its talks with the Taliban leadership after its return from Miranshah in North Waziristan Agency of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) within two days. He said that after the report from the Taliban committee, a decision would be taken on how to take forward the talks process. Daily Times, March 14, 2014.

No Pakistani civilians killed by US drones in 2013, says UN Investigator Ben Emmerson: No Pakistani civilian was killed by United States (US) drones in 2013, said United Nations (UN) Investigator Ben Emmerson while presenting his latest report on drone strikes to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva on March 12. The total number of recorded strikes in 2013 was down to 27 from a peak of 128 in 2010, he said, adding, "But perhaps most significantly, for the first time in nine years there were no reports of civilian casualties during 2013 in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) area of Pakistan.. Tribune, March 13, 2014.

Sectarian death toll much higher, Federal Interior Ministry informs Senate: A total of 1,710 people have been killed in sectarian strife across the country since 2008, the Federal Interior Ministry said on March 7 in a written reply to a question in the Senate. The figures covering all provinces and collated year-wise from 2008 to February 15, 2014, seem to be missing a number of high profile killings, according to opposition members in the upper house. Tribune, March 8, 2014.

Al Qaeda continues to operate from FATA, says Commander of US Central Command General Lloyd J Austin: Al Qaeda continues to operate from Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Commander of the United States (US) Central Command General Lloyd J. Austin said on March 6 in his testimony before House Armed Services Committee. The News, March 7, 2014.

Operation can be launched on ceasefire violation, says Defence Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif: A full-scale military operation against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the tribal areas near the Afghanistan border can be launched as early as this month in case of violation of ceasefire by the militants, Defence Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif said on March 7. The Minister said, "It will not take months now… If we are attacked, the state is attacked, civilians are attacked, military personnel are attacked, we will retaliate. We will retaliate in kind."

The Government and TTP negotiators resumed peace talks on March 5 and said they were ready to move to a decisive "second phase" even as a militant attack killed six military personnel in Hangu District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). A joint statement read out after the meeting in Akora Khattak, 50 kilometers east of Peshawar that the talks had entered a "crucial stage". The News, March 8, 2014; Daily Times, March 5, 2014

39 militant outfits operating in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: Senior officials on March 3 briefed Parliamentary party leaders about the law and order situation and said 39 militant outfits were operating in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while 20 other groups functioning in the garb of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) were involved in extortion, kidnapping for ransom and other criminal activities. Inspector General of Police (IGP) Nasir Durrani and Home and Tribal Affairs Secretary Akhtar Ali Shah briefed political leadership about the Provincial Government's counter terrorism strategy. Dawn, March 4, 2014.

HRCP denied permission to visit 'mass graves' in Balochistan: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on March 3 expressed concern over Government's refusal to allow right activists and media personnel to visit Totak area where human bodies were found in unconventional graves. "Concerns and apprehensions of human rights organisations and civil society have increased after the discovery of mass graves in Totak and denial to these institutions to visit Totak and quake-hit areas of Awaran," the meeting of the HRCP Presided over by its Balochistan Chapter Chairman Tahir Hussain Khan observed. Dawn, March 4, 2014.

42 militants and 12 SFs among 55 persons killed during the week in FATA: In response to the militant attack on a polio team in the Lashora area of Jamrud tehsil (revenue unit) in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) which left at least 13 persons dead on February 1, Security Forces (SFs) launched a assault on February 2-morning on militant hideouts in parts of Bara tehsil and killed five militants.

At least three militants were killed and three others were injured in an exchange of fire between SFs and militants in Shalobar area of Khyber Agency on February 27.

Pakistani fighter jets and gunship helicopters bombarded hideouts of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants in the North and South Waziristan Agencies on February 25 killing at least 30 militants.

Asmatullah Shaheen Bhittani, a senior 'commander' of TTP and supporter of peace talks with the Government, was killed along with his three accomplices on February 24 in Darga Mandi village near Miranshah in North Waziristan Agency. Daily Times; Dawn; The News; Tribune; Central Asia; The Nation; Frontier Post; Pakistan Today; Pakistan Observer, February 25-March 3, 2014.

TTP announce one-month 'unconditional' ceasefire in 'national interest', says TTP 'central spokesman' Shahidullah Shahid: The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on March 1 announced a month-long 'unconditional' ceasefire in 'national interest'. "Following a positive response from the Government, an appeal from religious scholars, in honour of the representative committee and in the greater interest of Islam and Pakistan, we have decided not to carry out any activities for one month," TTP 'central spokesman' Shahidullah Shahid said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government on March 2 announced to suspend airstrikes in the tribal areas that have left more than 100 terrorists dead so far. "After the positive announcement yesterday [March 1] by the TTP, the Government has decided to halt the air strikes which were continuing for the past few days," Nisar Ali Khan said in a statement. However, he warned, "Government and the Army reserve the right to effectively respond to any act of violence." Daily Times, March 1-2, 2014.

[Source: SATP]

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