Shahbaz noted that Zardari appealed to the PML-N to avoid mentioning allegations that former Chief Justice Hamid Dogar had arranged preferential treatment for his daughter's school admission
7/24/2009 12:45:00 PM
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 LAHORE 000154
E.O. 12958: DECL: 7/21/2019 TAGS: PTER, PREL, PGOV, PHUM, PK SUBJECT: ICE MAY HAVE CRACKED, BUT SHARIFS STILL DISTRUST IN ZARDARI
CLASSIFIED BY: Matthew Lowe, Acting Principal Officer, Consulate Lahore, U.S. Department of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d) 1. (C) Summary: Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif told Acting Principal Officer July 21 that although the July 17 meeting between Nawaz Sharif and President Asif Zardari "melted the ice," the Sharifs still distrust Zardari's track record. Regarding the withdrawal of the Punjab government from the Hafiz Saeed prosecution, Shahbaz explained that he had become frustrated with the lack of commitment from the federal government, but Punjab has since rejoined the case against Saeed. He expressed concern about the "dangerous" increase in protests against power failures. He offered to support efforts to reconcile India and Pakistan at the provincial-state level, and suggested that Indian Chief Ministers visit Pakistan Punjab. On security, Shahbaz asked to follow up Ambassador Holbrooke's offer to facilitate Turkish training of law enforcement. End Summary.
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Ice Melted, Distrust Remains
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2. (C) In a July 21 meeting with Acting Principal Officer (A/PO), Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif related that the July 17 Raiwind summit between President Asif Zardari and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Nawaz Sharif had started "melting the ice." However, Shahbaz cautioned, "we are aware that Zardari has a bad track record." He recounted that the discussion ranged from foreign policy to internal security to the IMF package, and affirmed that the PML-N would continue to refrain from political attacks on the Pakistan People's Party (PPP)-led government. He dismissed the commitment heard from Zardari on the Charter of Democracy: "we have heard that before," he quipped. Asked whether Zardari brought up the possibility of a coalition government, Shahbaz recalled that the President had made a "passing remark, but he could not muster the courage" to ask the PML-N to join.
3. (C) Shahbaz noted that Zardari appealed to the PML-N to avoid mentioning allegations that former Chief Justice Hamid Dogar had arranged preferential treatment for his daughter's school admissions. In the course of describing his request, Shahbaz claimed, "he lied to my face in my own house."
4. (C) Shahbaz praised the July 17 court ruling that acquitted Nawaz Sharif of conducting a coup. He saw the judgment as "constitutionally significant" in discrediting rulings by judges who took the oath under Musharraf (known as PCO judges). Moreover, he contended, because the ruling refused to recognize Nawaz's actions as a "coup," the courts have dismissed the notion of a "counter-coup" conducted by Musharraf. "This makes it more difficult for the Army to take over," Shahbaz underlined.
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Punjab Back In the Hafiz Saeed Case
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5. (C) Shahbaz explained that the federal government had used the Punjab government to prosecute Jamaatud Dawa leader Hafiz Saeed without providing any evidence or support. Although Punjab's Advocate General took on the case, Attorney General Latif Khosa sent his deputy to court, Shahbaz recalled. Shahbaz said that he requested evidence from Interior Minister Rehman Malik. "'We have no evidence,'" Malik responded. Shahbaz's frustration peaked when, after Malik promised that the Attorney General would show up in court, he failed to appear the next day. "At that point I ordered the withdrawal of the case," he stated.
6. (C) Malik telephoned immediately, he related, and pleaded with Shahbaz for Punjab to rejoin the prosecution for a few more days. "Malik hoped to drag on the case several more days until after the completion of the Sharm-el-Sheikh meetings," Shahbaz opined. "But what kind of government is that that plays around with a serious crime? Do they not think we will not meet Manmohan Singh again?" he wondered. Shahbaz noted that Punjab has since returned to the case, and he hoped that the confession from Ajmal Kasab would yield more evidence.
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Security Still Hazy, More Training Needed
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7. (C) Shahbaz described the recent arrests of an alleged
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terrorist in Dera Ghazi Khan and the owner of the house that blew up in Mian Channu over the past week as "lucky." He noted that as the Army moves to Waziristan, more militants may return to Punjab. He inquired about the status of Ambassador Holbrooke's offer to facilitate law enforcement training in Punjab by Turkey, which he thought would help the provincial government quickly build on plans for the 1,000-strong Counter-Terrorism Force.
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Better Relations with India Could Start with Punjab
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8. (C) Shahbaz reflected that although the meetings in Sharm-el-Sheikh went well, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh "went back on his word" when he addressed the Indian Parliament. However, Shahbaz added, he believed that both countries want better relations. A/PO ruminated that the Punjabs of both countries share many traits, and wondered whether the Shahbaz's government might support better links between Punjab province and the Indian states across the border. Shahbaz offered to host any of the Indian Chief Ministers from "eastern Punjab" and noted the economic benefits of building bridges on the "long Punjab border."
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"Very Dangerous" Loadshedding Protests
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9. (C) As the lights flickered, Shahbaz highlighted the growing protests against the power outages (known as "loadshedding"). He observed that they have "diversified" and spread throughout the province. Although he acknowledged that the people have directed their anger towards the federal government, he also recognized that protesters have blamed the provincial government as well. "This is very dangerous," he warned. He asked for the international community to help the government fix the loadshedding problem soon.
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Joseph Francis Jailed
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10. (C) A/PO mentioned that the Punjab police have jailed a consulate contact and prominent human rights activist, Joseph Francis, which has attracted attention from the U.S. Congress. Shahbaz called an aide to note down the particulars of Joseph Francis' case, and promised to look into the details and his welfare.
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Comment: Nawaz-Zardari Meeting Barely Thaws Frosty Personal Relations
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11. (C) Despite the apparent success communicated in the Joint Statement, the July 17 summit appears to have had little impact on Shahbaz's feelings towards Zardari. He played down the areas where the two sides agreed, and harped on the friction generated when Zardari raised former Chief Justice Dogar. But at the same time, Shahbaz echoed PML-N sentiment in having little inclination to pose a challenge to the government. He reiterated that political games would harm the country, and recognized that the PML-N gains significant status overseas by holding its fire while President Zardari deals with one crisis after another.