President Zardari receives medical treatment in Dubai; Pakistan continues to block NATO supply routes; Obama administration defends aid to Pakistan; Pakistan-based militant group claims responsibility for Tuesday Kabul attack; Malik thanks Taliban and security forces for role in Ashura peace; Pakistan’s “militant violence” in decline; Washington Post reports on security situation in Kashmir; Peace militias clash with militants in Khyber agency, killing three.
- On Tuesday evening, President Asif Ali Zardari was flown to an American hospital in Dubai “following symptoms related to his pre-existing heart condition,” according to the Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani’s media office. Zardari’s “routine” medical trip to Dubai has fueled speculation over his possible resignation, while Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has declared that elements within Pakistan are attempting to overstate the cause of trip to “create unrest in the country.” Foreign Policy previously reported that the U.S. government had received notice of Zardari’s “minor heart attack” and potential resignation on Monday, according to an unnamed former U.S. official; however, Zardari’s top aides maintain that the Pakistani President will not step down.
- Pakistan upheld its Afghanistan-Pakistan border blockade to NATO supply trucks and oil tankers for a twelfth day on Wednesday, as the U.S. military made efforts to reroute its supplies through “alternative countries.” U.S. officials maintained, however, that the blockade, a response by Pakistan to the November 26 NATO raid which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, would have “no appreciable impact” on the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the U.S. expressed hope that Pakistan would return its troops to posts along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border after the Pakistan Army temporarily recalled all of its troops from border posts on Tuesday. Pakistan has disputed the magnitude of the recall, claiming that troops were only removed to receive training on how to improve Pakistan-NATO “coordination.”
- In response to recent opposition raised by U.S. politicians over the country’s continued military and civilian aid to Pakistan, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Tuesday that the Obama administration was of the mindset that U.S. aid to Pakistan would “provide dividends for the American people” by strengthening Pakistan’s “democratic institutions” and “economy.”
- The Pakistan-based anti-Shia militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al Almi, a splinter group of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), claimed responsibility for three terrorist attacks on Tuesday in Kabul, Kandahar, and Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan that killed at least 60 Shia Muslims on Ashura. The Taliban immediately condemned the attack, which was the first of its kind by the al Qaeda-linked LeJ al Almi in Afghanistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai responded to the attack by demanding “justice” from Pakistan, after Afghan security officials learned that one of the suicide bombers may have been from Kurram agency and had connections to the terrorist group Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP). Afghan officials are currently investigating the attacks and have not ruled out Afghan Taliban or Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) involvement.
- On Tuesday, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Rehman Malik voiced appreciation to Pakistani security forces and the Taliban for their roles in “maintaining peace” during Shia Ashura processions. Later, Malik reportedly welcomed Cameron Munter, the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, to his residence in Islamabad to discuss “subjects of mutual interest.”
- The Associated Press reports that Pakistan’s “militant violence” has declined over the past year, pointing to “a combination of military operations against the Pakistani Taliban…U.S. drone attacks…and better law enforcement in Pakistan’s main cities,” as well as a rumored peace agreement between the Pakistani military and Pakistani Taliban, as possible explanations for the decline. Nonetheless, AP reports that Pakistanis remain fearful of “terrorist” and “insurgent” attacks, which have claimed the lives of over 1,700 Pakistanis already this year.
- The Washington Post reports on a reduction of insurgent violence in India-administered Kashmir but notes that despite the decline, Indian troops continue to occupy Kashmir out of fear of a resurgence of “Islamist insurgen[ts] backed by neighboring Pakistan.”
- Militants clashed with a local peace militia in Landi Kotal, Khyber agency on Wednesday, resulting in the death of three militants.