Saturday, January 26, 2013

Pakistan Election Watch

Pakistan Election Forecast and Political Situation:

The elections later this year will mark the first time a civilian government has completed a full five-year term and transferred power through the ballot box in Pakistan. Past governments have been toppled in military coups or dismissed by presidents allied with top generals. Although few expect a coup this time, there is widespread unhappiness with the ruling Pakistan People's Party's performance at a time when the country is plagued by high unemployment, rampant energy shortages and frequent attacks by Islamist militants.

An estimated 40 million young Pakistanis will be voting for the first time in the upcoming elections, out of a registered electorate of 90 million, this presents an engine for change according to a number of leading politicians. That said there is likely to be an epic battle by the political class and parties that have a vested interest in preserving the current crumbling system and status quo to stop change. One exception to these elections however is the Army won’t be involved for the first time in a campaign.

With only a couple of months to go before the nation heads to the polls, tensions are palpable throughout the political parties.  Party defections have been reported as personal agendas take over from political objectives. And a number of prominent politicians have shifted allegiance over the past weeks.

As the government completes its term in mid-March, reports are surfacing that a caretaker government will be appointed to organize and conduct general elections scheduled for 17 May.

With the opposition parties still in disarray, the potential for joint campaigns against the leading party are becoming increasingly apparent. Unlike the previous general elections held in 2008, where a number of parties contested the elections on independent agendas, the upcoming elections present a fairly different picture this time round. It is believed that no single party will gain enough support to win the elections, so a coalition government will be formed following a period of negotiation on seat adjustment and power sharing agreements.

On the external front, the United States’ contemplated withdrawal from Afghanistan will also cast its shadows on who forms the next government in Pakistan. Subsequently, there seems to be a state propaganda campaign done deliberately by parties that want to tell the U.S. they are moderate, pro-western, and against extremism.

Although electoral reform remains a widely reported subject in the Pakistan media, the main concerns of the population remain with the deteriorating security situation, worsening economy, and the fear of physical intimidation from armed political activists during the polls.

A number of key trigger points have the potential to exacerbate the security situation over the coming weeks, which could theoretically see the elections fall into a period of sustained violence.

Those catalysts include an increase in clashes between ethnic political parties in Karachi; the two most prominent of which is the Muthidda Qaumi Movement – MQM and Awami National Party – ANP. Any significant increase in sectarian conflict in Quetta, Karachi and Gilgit, would also see a regression in the security environment. And increased terrorist attacks on political personalities could further ignite an already tense situation between political groups in the country.

Irrespective of these security issues, political tensions and an invasive militant threat are likely to galvanize the masses across the main cities heading towards the elections. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sunni militant group, Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandia, evolve in northern Iraq

JRTN are now visibily active across Mosul, Kirkuk and especially in Diyala where the nucleaus of their operations are based. I've been following this group with much interest since they targeted a car showroom in Muqdadiyah back in February 2011. The interesting point about JRTN is that they will not fight with other Jihadist groups, but will cooperate with them if they are dedicated to the same cause, (possibly resource linked). Now before an end to the SOFA, the group's strategy was to target US forces and any Iraqis working with the coaliton. After the US departure the group changed its goal and began targeting the Shiite-led government. All security or government actors where therefore considered a viable mark, which is where the nexus between these groups probably exists. They claim to be a nationalist alternative to AQI that has tapped into the Sunni Arab fears of a Shiite government and the country's Kurdish population. Accordingly, the group are very respected within the local government or very influential with their native communities and don't necessarily display their acts of terror on the streets, which makes it difficult to obtain warrants issued by the Iraqi court to arrest them.

The role that Izzat Ibrahim al Douri plays in the group is debatable. Some claim he is the leader, whilst others believe he lives outside the country providing financial assistance through fundraising (which JRTN are very adept at). Regardless, Saddam's former Vice President is a key personality within JRTN. On 05 Jan, a 53 minute video was released on YouTube in which al-Douri encouraged recent Sunni  protests in the provinces of Ninewah and Anbar against PM Maliki, saying that "the people of Iraq and all its nationalist and Islamic Forces support you until the realisation of your just demands for the fall of the Safavid-Persian Alliance'. This assertion will likely have been campaigning the existence of JRTN and other militant organsations in Iraq.

The Naqshbandi Order also have a strong propaganda campaign. It publishes a monthly magazine on the group's operations, promoting ideology through which it solicits donations. The magazine articles call upon Muslims to donate, stating that funding Jihad is equivalent to fighting and fulfilling one's Jihadi religious obligations. However, the amount of funding and its source is unknown. 

JRTN tactics include roadside bombings and small arms fire (much like many other militant organisations in the northern region such as Fatah al Islam and Ansar al Islam), however one device that has been linked to the group is the RKG-3 grenade. In 2011-2012, this device was widely used across the aboveforementioned cities. Of late there have been three reports of it coming back into circulation. The latest attack was in Mosul city on 03 Jan where militants targeted an IA convoy wounding three soldiers in the west of the city. The other two attacks occurred in Tikrit and Kirkuk. 

Other examples of the groups ongoing presence have been through arrest operations, again in Mosul, two JRTN commanders were detained with a cache of weapons in a safe house on the western peripheries of the city in Dec 12. Three JRTN affiliates were also captured in Hawijah, and threatening leaflets were distributed to Sahwa affiliates in the north of Baquba on 12 Jan who had failed to heed the advice of the group and denounce the government whilst crossing back over to the insurgency. Security officials contend that thousands of Sahwa affiliates who are upset by Maliki's failure to absorb them into the military, are being recruited by JRTN and will pose a threat to stability in the region.

AQI attempting to exacerbate political tensions

Three car bombs exploded in and around the peripheries of the capital on 22 Jan. In the town of Mahmudiyah, south of Baghdad, a car bomb exploded killing five people and wounding 14 others including two army soldiers. To the north of the capital a car bomb exploded killing seven people and wounding 20 others, both attacks appear to have been targeting Iraqi Army checkpoints. In the northwestern suburb of Shula, a Shiite impoverished area of the capital, a third car bomb exploded at a popular market killing five people and wounding 15 others. No group has claimed responsibility for the bombings although mass casualty attacks are emblematic of al-Qaeda operations in Iraq. Tuesday's violence comes four days after a spate of attacks claimed by AQI affiliate group, the Islamic State of Iraq, left at least 88 people dead.
Yet again this month, Iraq has been subjected to a round of high lethality and seemingly coordinated attacks. The total death toll now reaching 25 dead and 46 wounded according to a number of Iraqi media sites. In terms of perspective and/or analysis, the violence and troubles come with barely three months to go before the provincial elections. Iraq’s first polls in three years, and a key barometer to gauge the popularity of PM Maliki and his rivals. Provincial elections are supposed to take place in April. Yet with violence increasing, and no change to the swelling size of anti-government demonstrations, it seems the Maliki administration is in a zero sum situation, either re-start dialogue with the Sunni and Kurdish leaders (thus re-establishing some government credibility), or face greater civil unrest and the possibility of more violence as AQI attempt to further ignite the political crisis in Iraq.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Media Release- Unity Resources Group Appoints New Crisis Leader

Unity Resources Group, a leading and trusted provider of operational solutions in complex, challenging and fragile environments, has newly appointed Simon Baker as their Vice President of Crisis Management. Simon will lead Unity’s kidnap for ransom, extortion & illegal detention (KRED) practice as well as the Company’s wider crisis management planning and response.
Simon is a highly experienced and renowned crisis leader, who has uniquely served at all levels of the crisis continuum including as a deployed consultant, an operational manager of crisis teams  and, since 2003, as an Executive designing and leading overall crisis response capabilities. He has personally deployed on the most complex of political cases, high profile incidents and piracy events.
Simon comes to Unity from ASI Global, a FrontierMEDEX company where he led and supported their crisis response services.

In 2010, Simon ran the kidnap and ransom business for G4S as well as developing the operational infrastructure for G4S Risk Management’s security consulting business.

From 1994 to 2010 Simon worked for Control Risks Group. The last seven years of which saw Simon as the Director, Confidential Response Services and a member of their Executive Committee. In this role he led the team of 20 staff in responding to crises during a period of unprecedented change in the quantity, type and location of kidnap and related cases.

Simon’s previous roles included: General Manager for the Andean Region, based in Bogotá; Operations Manager; and as a Crisis Management and Response Consultant where he advised clients facing live kidnap and extortion incidents, as well as other types of coercive crimes, and provided pre-incident training to clients on the complexities of such incidents should they face them.
Earlier in his career Simon was also a Detective Inspector in the Royal Hong Kong Police Force (1987-1991) specifically targeting organized crime, and the UK Metropolitan Police (1983 to 1987).
Unity’s crisis management and crisis response practice provides governments, corporations, international organizations and private individuals with abduction, kidnap for ransom, extortion and illegal detention services worldwide. This includes specific risk identification and treatment strategies, prevention, training and response.

Gordon Conroy, Unity’s Founder and Executive Chairman stated, “We are extremely pleased to welcome Simon onto our Senior Management Team. Simon’s reputation in the industry is exceptional. He has travelled extensively and his supervision of some 740 cases since 1998 will be valuable experience for Unity and our clients. Simon will bring tremendous leadership expertise in designing and leading both our preventative and response solutions for clients”.

Simon Baker is attracted to Unity in what he sees as, "Unity’s real commitment to clients operating in complex market segments. I look forward to also growing Unity's new relationship with HCC  Specialty and our shared commitment to supporting clients living and working in challenging environments with a first class, ethical service".

Simon holds an Honors Degree in Law from the University of Exeter giving him an exceptional insight into the legal and public interest issues surrounding the resolution of kidnap cases facing the  private sector. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Unity Commence the Provision of Crisis Response Services to HCC

Unity Resources Group are delighted to announce that HCC Speciality (NYSE: HCC), the leading US insurance underwriter, has selected Unity to provide crisis response services globally to HCC policyholders. Our services will be focussed on preventive and response solutions to kidnap for ransom, extortion and illegal detention threats and incidents worldwide.

Our Crisis Response practice will be supported by our Risk Advisory Services consulting practice, which remains focussed on identifying and reducing operational risks for clients.

Services commenced to HCC policyholders on 1 January 2013.

- For more information please contact: