Ambassador, DCM and Economic Counselor met with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz at his request at his residence July 24.
7/25/2007 2:03:00 PM
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ISLAMABAD 003224
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/24/2017 TAGS: PGOV, PREL, ENRG, PK
SUBJECT: PRIME MINISTER: GOP COMMITTED 200 PERCENT TO FIGHTING TERRORISM
Classified By: Anne W. Patterson, reasons 1.4 (b), (d)
1. (C) Summary: Ambassador, DCM and Economic Counselor (notetaker) met with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz at his request at his residence July 24. Aziz took Ambassador to task over recent statements by U.S. officials regarding terrorist threats emanating from Pakistan. Aziz stressed to Ambassador that these statements make the job of fighting terrorism far more difficult for his government, which is "committed 200 percent to fighting terrorism." Ambassador said that she understood the statements had provoked a negative reaction in the Pakistani press, but that they reflected wide concern about the situation in Pakistan. Ambassador added that she would report what Aziz had said. Aziz also urged greater efforts in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), pointing to the considerable resources Pakistan is devoting, and reiterated that the government will abide by the Supreme Court ruling on the Chief Justice case. Ambassador emphasized U.S. support for the government's efforts in the FATA. Aziz said that the India-Pakistan-Iran pipeline is a part of Pakistan's energy supply strategy. End Summary.
U.S. statements over the weekend
2. (SBU) Ambassador, DCM and Economic Counselor (notetaker) met with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz at his request at his residence July 24. Foreign Minister Kasuri, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Additional Secretary Zamir Akram, Principal Secretary Halid Saeed, and MFA Director General-Americas Sohail Mahmood (notetaker) also participated.
3. (C) Aziz told Ambassador that the Pakistani government has already expressed its views on the various U.S. statements about Pakistan's efforts to fight terrorism and would not react to individual statements from U.S. officials. He criticized these statements for making the government's job far more difficult and giving a boost to the religious parties, especially outside Islamabad. While Pakistan will not allow its territory to be a safe haven, it will not permit foreign troops to operate here either. Aziz stressed that the government is committed to cooperation on counter-terrorism activities. Aziz particularly emphasized intelligence cooperation as a major asset. He pointed that while the government has no information that Osama bin-Laden is in Pakistan, he could be anywhere along Pakistan and Afghanistan's 1400 mile border. However, if there is intelligence that he is in Pakistan, the government will find him. "Pakistan is committed 200 percent to fight terrorism," Aziz stated. The counter-terrorism fight is in our national interest and we "fight out of conviction."
4. (C) Aziz added that more U.S. statements will have an unwelcome effect on certain sectors of the Pakistani public. He said these statements made it more difficult to fight terrorism because the Pakistani government was seen as doing this at the behest of the Americans. Ambassador said she recognized that the statements had played badly in the Pakistani press -- every single Urdu newspaper monitored in the embassy had had an editorial expressing its strong defense of Pakistani sovereignty -- but the statements reflected U.S. concern about the developments in the FATA. When she commented on the Urdu language press, Aziz replied that the press does not fully convey the extreme public reaction, and stories on the street about American intervention are worse. Ambassador said that she would report what he said but as a practical matter, which Aziz understood after his many years living in our country, U.S. officials would continue to speak about whatever topic they wanted.
5. (C) Aziz then said that many reporters were telling him that there was a purposeful campaign of leaks by "American intelligence officials" against Pakistan. He said he had heard this fact a number of times from American reporters who called him for comment on these allegations. Ambassador agreed that leaks were very damaging and that in her experience they seemed particularly bad in Pakistan's case -- she mentioned as an example the conclusions of the highly classified National Intelligence Estimate which had leaked immediately to the press -- but again, there was little she or anyone else could do about them. She emphasized that the official statement of U.S. government policy was the
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President's Saturday radio address which had unusually been devoted to Pakistan and was very positive about the relationship. Aziz said they had read this carefully and were appreciative of the President's remarks.
Red Mosque fallout
6. (C) Aziz described the decision to intervene militarily in the Red Mosque as one of the government's most difficult and was made after a long debate involving President Musharraf. The government's strategy to limit casualties and get the majority of the hostages out worked, with only 77 casualties. He said that he will attend prayers at the mosque on July 26 prior to reopening to the public the following day. Violent reactions to the incident did not surprise the government, but he felt that, on the whole, public opinion about the government's actions was positive.
7. (C) As a result of the Red Mosque incident, the government is now putting into place a series of schools to supplant the madrassa system. While acknowledging the role of religious education, Aziz explained that the government needs to win "hearts and minds." He had spoken with some of the young 16 to 18 year olds displaced from the Red Mosque's madrassa and was struck by their lack of contact with the outside world. All of these students came from the northern provinces; a sizeable number were orphans. At these new schools, students can either board or attend day school; will be taught by relatively well-paid, qualified teachers; and each orphaned student will receive 1000 rupees per month while parents of students will receive 2000 rupees per month.
Events in the north
8. (C) Aziz emphasized that the government will show zero tolerance for any attacks, and had begun to move additional troops to the north several weeks ago. However, the area is still under-policed and the government is hiring additional officers. At one point, there were only 160 government forces engaged in a pitched battle against 8200 insurgents. Ambassador assured U.S. support, pointing out that the U.S. is delivering equipment and constructing a training center. She and Aziz agreed that additional assistance needs to be put in place quickly, in much the same way that the earthquake assistance was deployed. DCM added that the earthquake example of using senior officials to disburse aid would be effective in the FATA as well. Ambassador added that significant international donor support for FATA activities is emerging.
Supreme Court verdict
9. (C) Echoing his public statements about the Chief Justice issue, Aziz said that the government "would move on" after the Supreme Court verdict in the Chief Justice case.
Pakistan's energy concerns
10. (C) Aziz segued into Pakistan's energy needs. He said that the economy continues to grow, making energy supplies a major concern. He noted that sales of fans and air conditioners are growing at 16 percent annually, twice the economic growth rate. Aziz made the case for purchasing energy from Iran and for the India-Pakistan-Iran pipeline. Characterizing the Iranians as tough negotiators and unafraid to backtrack, Aziz could not predict whether work on the the pipeline would begin in months or years, but commented that it is moving ahead more quickly than expected. Describing Iranian gas as an essential part of Pakistan's diversification and energy strategy, Aziz said he did not anticipate any Pakistani investment in Iran or vice-versa. He added that Pakistan is looking at domestic exploration and other sources, but he did not hold out much hope for Turkmen gas, given the situation in Afghanistan. Ambassador reiterated U.S. government opposition to the pipeline and said she understood that talks had been underway since 1993, so perhaps a deal was not imminent.
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11. (C) Aziz was well aware that there was a difference of opinion on a number of issues covered, but delivered his views in a low-key self-assured manner. He gave the impression that the government is firmly in control of current events, deliberating carefully over next steps, and will proceed normally with the electoral schedule.