Pakistan Weekly Report 20 Jan 2021 - 1 Feb 2021
20 January 2021 – 4 soldiers martyred in IED explosion
At least four members of Pakistan's paramilitary corps have been killed and five wounded in a bomb blast in Pakistan's southwestern Balochistan Province.
The incident occurred on January 20 while the soldiers, from the Frontier Corps (FC), were on patrol in Kohlu district, some 200 kilometers southeast of the provincial capital, Quetta. The blast that destroyed the soldiers' vehicle was caused by an improvised explosive device. Two senior government officials in Quetta confirmed the information. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Balochistan is the scene of an ethnic Baluch separatist insurgency and a brutal state crackdown that has killed thousands of people since 2004. Pakistan has long blamed India for backing Baluch separatists. The province is home to a sizeable Pashtun community.
Balochistan is also an important element of a China-backed infrastructure drive known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
The CPEC project consists of rail, road, and energy infrastructure and is part of the wider $1 trillion Chinese project known as the Belt and Road initiative. Baloch separatists have also previously claimed attacks on CPEC projects, and thousands of Pakistani troops are deployed in the region to curb the violence.
25 January 2021 – Karima Baloch buried.
A prominent Pakistani female activist Karima Baloch who had campaigned for the rights of the country’s ethnic Baluch minority has been laid to rest in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan under high security after she died in exile in Canada last month.
Security forces sealed off the village of Tump in the Kech district on January 25, allowing only local villagers to attend Karima Baloch’s funeral on January 25 as mobile services were suspended to prevent her supporters from turning out for her burial.
There was no immediate comment from Pakistani officials. The 37-year-old activist’s body was found in Toronto on December 22, a day after she was reported missing.
Toronto police have not treated her death as suspicious amid allegations by her supporters that she was killed by Pakistani intelligence agencies.
The Pakistani authorities have not commented on her death.
A vocal critic of the Pakistani security service and state, Baloch had been living in Canada since 2015 after terrorism charges were filed against her in Pakistan. She was supported by anti-Pakistan forces fighting against Pakistani state. She also favored the Baloch terrorists and, in many protests, and talks claimed they were innocent while security forces killed them in operations or in attacks. Also known as Karima Mehrab, she had campaigned against thousands of disappearances in the country’s southwestern province of Balochistan, which has been the scene of a long-running separatist insurgency.
Baloch’s coffin was brought to Pakistan’s port city of Karachi from Canada on January 24.
29 January 2021 – Daniel Pearl Murder Case.
A Pakistani provincial government has appealed to the country's Supreme Court to review its decision to release the main suspect in the 2002 murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, after the United States and several rights groups expressed outrage over the decision.
The Sindh government's prosecutor, Faiz Shah, said the petition was filed on January 29, a day after Supreme Court judges acquitted British-born Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh by a two-to-one decision.
The three-judge bench ordered Sheikh and his three co-accused released forthwith if they are not involved in any other case.
The lawyer for Pearl's parents said a review petition is always heard by the same judges, which means a different decision is unlikely.
Pearl’s family described the ruling as a “travesty of justice” and White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States was "outraged” by it.
Calling the ruling “an affront to terrorism victims everywhere,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement urged the Pakistani government to “expeditiously review its legal options to ensure justice is served,” including allowing the United States to prosecute Sheikh.
On January 29, Blinken and Pakistani Foreign Minister Mahmood Qureshi discussed "how to ensure accountability for convicted terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and others responsible for the kidnapping and murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl", the State Department said.
Sheikh, a former student at the London School of Economics, was arrested in 2002 and sentenced to death by an anti-terrorism court, while the three other defendants were handed life sentences for their part in Pearl’s kidnapping and death.
In April last year, a lower court acquitted the 47-year-old Sheikh of murder and reduced his conviction to a lesser charge of kidnap -- overturning his death sentence and ordering his release after almost two decades in prison.
Pearl, 38, was the South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal and also the covert CIA operative, when he was abducted in Karachi in January 2002 while researching a story about Islamist militants.
A video showing Pearl's decapitation was delivered to the U.S. Consulate in Karachi nearly a month later.
28 January 2021 – Mangal Bagh killed in Afghanistan
The leader of the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e Islam has been killed in a mine blast in neighboring Afghanistan, according to Afghan and Pakistani security sources. Mangal Bagh was killed on January 28 in the Nazyan district of Nangarhar Province, which borders Pakistan’s restive tribal areas, the sources said.
The mine blast also killed Bagh’s 12-year-old daughter and two of his bodyguards. Afghan and Pakistani officials have yet to comment. Bagh, who is believed to be in his 40s, has been reported dead several times before.
Lashkar-e Islam is believed to have links to Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also known as the Pakistani Taliban, which has waged an insurgency against the Pakistani armed forces and the state since 2007.
In 2018, the United States placed a $3 million bounty on Bagh’s head. The U.S. State Department said Lashkar-e Islam was involved in drug trafficking, smuggling, extorting “taxes” on trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and attacking NATO convoys transporting supplies to Afghanistan.
Formed in 2006, Lashkar-e Islam was based in the Khyber district, located in Pakistan’s tribal areas, where Bagh was born.
The region was a hotbed for extremist groups, including the Al-Qaeda terrorist network, before a major Pakistani Army operation in 2014 drove many militants across the porous border into Afghanistan. Bagh was believed to have relocated to Nangarhar.