Cablegate: Codels Levin and Casey Discuss Border Security and Aid with Pm Gilani
O 051431Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7256
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C O N F I D E N T I A L ISLAMABAD 002051
SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/05/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER ECON PINR PREF PK
SUBJECT: CODELS LEVIN AND CASEY DISCUSS BORDER SECURITY AND AID WITH PM GILANI
Classified By: Anne W. Patterson, Reasons 1.4 (b), (d)
1.(C) Summary: PM Gilani met May 25 with Senator Levin and Senator Casey to discuss border security, counterterrorism efforts, development assistance and improving relations with Afghanistan. Gilani described his recent meeting with President Bush and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai at the World Economic Forum. He urged the senators to support measures that would strengthen Pakistan's shaky economic situation and support development in the impoverished Pakistan-Afghanistan border area that serves as a incubator for militants. Gilani assured the senators that Pakistan was committed to the war on terror and suggested more people-to-people engagement to improve relations between the U.S. and Pakistan. End Summary.
2.(C) Flanked by nine members of his cabinet, including his new Foreign Secretary, National Security Advisor, and Ministers for Interior and Defense, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani began by thanking Senator Carl Levin and Senator Robert Casey for the U.S.'s support for democracy in Pakistan. He stressed Pakistan's commitment to combating terrorism, pointing out that his party - the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) - had lost leader Benazir Bhutto to terrorism. Referring to the February elections, Gilani pointed to the success of secular parties in conservative border areas like the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) and Balochistan as evidence the communities in those areas had rejected extremism and expressed support for moderate, centrist government. Gilani also observed that the Awami National Party (ANP), the NWFP government's ruling party, had excellent relations with Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai, a relationship he believed would promote improved cross-border cooperation.
3.(C) Gilani described his meeting with President Bush and President Karzai in Sharm el Sheikh on the margins of the recent World Economic Forum. Gilani noted that it was the first time he had left the country in nine years; he had been on the "no exit" list by the Government of Pakistan (GOP) for his political activities. Gilani said that in addition to security issues, he also discussed Pakistan's food shortages and asked the President for food commodities. CROSS-BORDER SECURITY
4.(C) In response to inquiries from Senator Levin and Senator Casey regarding cross-border attacks, PM Gilani said he had discussed this issue with President Bush, pointing out the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area is a vast area, marked by rugged, inhospitable terrain and difficult to guard. Gilani had offered to discuss a border fence with Karzai and noted Pakistan's attempt to use biometrics screening at some border crossings, which was ultimately thwarted by the Afghan government's inability to match the technology. Gilani also explained that Pakistan had more than 900 border posts to Afghanistan's 100 and suggested that NATO/ISAF needed to do more to control the space on the Afghan side of the border.
5.(C) Gilani stated the Pakistan military had not withdrawn from troubled areas, but it was redeploying for greater effectiveness. He outlined the government's three-pronged counterinsurgency strategy in the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) and other border areas - political dialogue, economic/humanitarian development and the use of force when necessary. Gilani said people in the impoverished border areas were losing hope, and it was critical to move beyond assistance to establish sustainable economic infrastructure. He said Pakistan needed trade and greater access to markets more than aid. The PM said his government was committed to providing greater access to health care, education and job training in these areas. Additionally, he wanted to see more livelihood and microbusiness projects. Gilani urged the senators to support passage of "reconstruction opportunity zone" (ROZ) legislation before Congress. He also encouraged the senators to consider a "peace dividend" for Pakistan, bearing in mind his country was on the front line of the global war on terror.
6.(C) PM Gilani noted that relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan were generally improving. He had a good exchange with President Karzai at Sharm el Sheik. Karzai had invited Gilani to Kabul to address the Afghanistan Parliament and suggested convening a jirga in near future. Gilani also noted Afghanistan had asked for wheat, and Pakistan, suffering from its own food shortages, had sent 50,000 metric tons of wheat as a goodwill gesture.
7.(C) Gilani turned to the issue of the 2-3 million Afghan refugees still residing in Pakistan. These refugees have been in Pakistan so long that many have married and established ties here, Gilani observed. He stressed that there needed to be some mechanism to create jobs for these refugees in Afghanistan to allow them to return in a "dignified manner." He appealed to the international community to launch an effort to create an environment that would support refugee repatriation
. STRENGTHENING U.S.-PAKISTAN RELATIONS
8.(C) Senator Levin asked Gilani how to improve the negative view that many Pakistanis held of the U.S. Gilani replied that more people-to-people contact would build confidence and suggested seeking more venues for engagement between American and Pakistani officials. Responding to a question on madrassa reform, Gilani said that the new government had already registered 14,000 madrassas and planned to pursue this effort vigorously.
9.(C) Senator Levin asked if the GOP had any information on whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. Gilani answered in the negative, referring to Defense Minister Kamran Rasool, who reminded the senators that the U.S. had photographed a man who it thought might be bin Laden and asked Pakistan to capture him. Pakistani forces had followed suit, but the man was not bin Laden. The point, noted Rasool, was that Pakistan had acted swiftly and successfully when given the information by the U.S.
10.(U) CODELS Levin and Casey did not clear this cable. PATTERSON