Cablegate: Pakistan's Parliament Begins Terrorism Debate

DE RUEHIL #3248/01 2870943
O 130943Z OCT 08



E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/13/2018

Classified By: CDA Jerry Feierstein, for reasons 1.4 (b)(d)

1. (C) Summary. The October 8-9 closed joint session of
parliament convoked by President Zardari to address the
security situation has been widely praised as a good first
step in convincing Pakistan's elected leadership to take
ownership of the fight against extremism; this effort now
should be extended to reach the general public. Director
General of Military Operations LtGen Pasha's briefing to the
group consisted largely of graphic video and other footage
demonstrating what one parliamentarian called the inhumane
and anti-Islamic nature of the militants. Pasha reportedly
blamed India, Russia and the UAE for supporting Baloch and
Taliban militancy and defended Pakistani sovereignty against
incursions by U.S. forces, but reportedly he also spoke
positively about what he termed the U.S. use of drones,
noting the vast majority of those killed in drone attacks
were foreign fighters or Taliban.

2. (C) The joint session has been extended by another four
days, beginning October 13 when Information Minister Sherry
Rehman will present the GOP's strategy to fight extremism.
The session increasingly promises to be a lively debate with
the Interior, Defense, Finance and Foreign Affairs Ministers
lined up to answer parliamentarians' questions. NSA Durrani
shared with Charge October 10 a draft of that presentation
that follows classic counter-insurgency strategy. It does
say the GOP has not given the U.S. a green light to do
cross-border operations, but uses that as a launching pad to
attack the presence of foreign militants and their violations
of Pakistani sovereignty. It goes on to call on the tribes
to eject the foreigners and support the government and offers
them development assistance if they come around.

3. (C) Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Nawaz
Sharif attended the briefing but left it to his Opposition
Leader Chaudhry Nisar to criticize the government, mostly on
procedural terms so far, by demanding that the civilian
government explain their strategy and how it differs from
that of the former Musharraf government. End Summary.

4. (C) President Asif Zardari convoked a joint session of
parliament on October 8 to be briefed by the military on the
current security situation. This was the third time in
Pakistan's history that a joint session of parliament was
formed as a committee of the whole to hear outside testimony
(the first was in 1974 to discuss religious riots; the second
was in 1988 to debate whether to sign the Geneva peace accord
on Afghanistan). Chief of Army Staff General Kayani attended
but newly promoted LtGeneral Pasha delivered the military's
brief as Director General of Military Operations (Pasha moved
over to become Director of Inter-Services Intelligence on
October 10).

5. (C) Lending a sense of urgency to the proceedings, on
October 9, suicide bombers attacked an Anti-Terrorism Unit of
Islamabad Police injuring a dozen and set off a roadside bomb
in Dir, Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) killing 12. Also
on October 9, a bearded man in a burqa was arrested at
Islamabad airport on suspicion of terrorism; across Pakistan
there have been numerous hoax bomb threats since the
September 20 Marriott bombing. On October 10, over 60 (the
death toll is still rising) members of an anti-Taliban jirga
were killed in Orakzai, Federally Administered Tribal Areas
(FATA), and in Bajaur, FATA, the Taliban beheaded four elders
of the Charmang tribe. Also on October 10, the Taliban blew
up the house of another Awami National Party leader in Dir
and kidnapped a nazim (mayor) in Swat, NWFP. Earlier in the
week, explosions at several juice shops in Lahore were
blamed, not on the Taliban, but on conservative groups
reportedly seeking to discourage "immoral" behavior (the bars
were allegedly trysting places for unmarried couples). These
attacks followed the October 2 suicide bombing targeting
Awami National Party leader Asfundyar Wali Khan in Wali Bagh,
NWFP, and the October 7 attack on a Pakistan Muslim
League-Nawaz parliamentarian in Bhakkar, Punjab. Overall,
there have been 40 suicide bombings in Pakistan so far in
6. (C) The joint session was held "in camera" without press
but parliamentarians have been providing bits and pieces of
information about the briefing, which was followed by a
question and answer session. The original Q&A session,

Islamabad 00003248 002 of 003

scheduled for 30 minutes, lasted over four hours. The
parliament then convened in joint session on October 9 to
continue questions; it agreed to meet for another four days
beginning October 13, when Information Minister Sherry Rehman
will brief the group on the Pakistan People's Party (PPP)
strategy to tackle terrorism.

7. (C) xxxxxxxxxxxx that Pasha's
briefing consisted in large part of videos and photos of
Taliban and other terrorist organization activities that
demonstrated the militants were both inhumane and un-Islamic.
At several points, xxxxxxxxxxxx said female parliamentarians asked
the Army to stop showing disturbing footage, including a gory
beheading. Members were told that India has established nine
training camps along the Afghan border, where they are
training members of the Baloch Liberation Army. According to
xxxxxxxxxxxx Pasha also claimed that India and the UAE (reportedly
due to opposition to construction of the Gwadar port) were
funding and arming the Baloch. Pasha also claimed that the
Russian government was directly involved in
funding/training/supporting the insurgency.

8. (C) xxxxxxxxxxxx said Pasha briefed members on what he termed
USG drone incursions and missile strikes. According to
xxxxxxxxxxxx , Pasha praised the U.S. for its support through these
methods and showed statistics to parliamentarians that
demonstrated the vast majority of those killed in these
attacks were either foreign fighters or Taliban. xxxxxxxxxxxx
believed that the military had made a good-faith effort to
portray USG activities as positive. According to xxxxxxxxxxxx
Pasha barely mentioned the threat from local Taliban leader,
Baitullah Mehsud.

9. (C) Other parliamentarians at a dinner hosted October 10
by Charge for SCA/PB Director Hartley, including Pakistan
People's Party (PPP) Senators Babar Awan and Enver Baig,
Pakistan Muslim League Assembly member Donya Aziz, Awami
National Party Senator Haji Muhammed Adeel, FATA
parliamentarians Shaukat Ullah and Munir Khan Orakzai and
Muttahdia Quami Movement (MQM) leader Farouq Sattar, were
less impressed by Pasha's brief. They all said the brief was
a good beginning, but characterized it as being largely
descriptive and adding little information they did not
already know. They noted that Pasha, unsurprisingly,
defended Pakistan's sovereignty against U.S. incursions.
They agreed that Pasha had defended Pakistan's relationship
with the U.S. but did not share details from the briefing
about foreign fighters killed in alleged U.S. drone attacks.

10. (C) Both the FATA parliamentarians and MQM said during
the Q&A session they pointed out that not all terrorists were
tribals and that the GOP needed to address growing extremism
in the Punjab. They noted that Punjabis increasingly are
moving to fight with militants in FATA and that there is
growing Talibanization of Karachi.

11. (C) Also attending the dinner was Pakistan Muslim
League-Nawaz (PML-N) Information Secretary Ahsan Iqbal.
Iqbal echoed comments made publicly by PML-N Opposition
Leader Chaudhry Nisar; both denigrated the briefing as being
merely descriptive and called for the civilian government to
explain its strategy to fight the militants. Nisar asked how
the GOP's strategy differed from that of the former Musharraf
government. Nisar told the press "It is noteworthy that no
suicide attack had taken place before the country became an
ally of the U.S. in the war on terror." PML-N leader Ishak
Dar told the press that it was imperative that a joint
session of parliament be apprised of all agreements executed
with the U.S. Interestingly, Nawaz Sharif, who attended the
joint session, did not comment on it publicly. Several
newspaper editorials criticized the PML-N leaders for jumping
the gun on their criticism before the session was complete.

12. (C) Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam leader Fazlur Rehman at a news
conference October 12 claimed his party had the vision to
lead the country of the present crisis. He blamed the entire
military leadership, not just former President Musharraf, and
demanded they explain the agreed-upon rules of engagement
with U.S./ISAF coalition forces in Afghanistan. He
reiterated his view that the U.S. presence in Afghanistan was
the root cause of Pakistan's problems in the tribal areas and
said foreign troops must leave Afghanistan for the sake of

Islamabad 00003248 003 of 003

peace in the region. He also said his party had serious
reservations about the ongoing military operations in Bajaur.

13. (C) The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) party and the Pukhtunkhwa
Milli Awami Party, both of which oppose use of force in the
tribal areas, boycotted the session. JI leader Qazi Hussain
has this week been leading a largely ignored "train march" to
protest GOP policies in the FATA.

14. (C) We expect Sherry Rehman will brief the now
established GOP strategy of: (1) political engagement, but
not with terrorists; (2) economic development; and (3) use of
force when necessary. National Security Advisor Durrani
provided Charge October 10 with a draft of the GOP's
presentation to the joint body, which follows classic
counter-insurgency strategy. It does say the GOP has not
given the U.S. a green light to do cross-border operations,
but uses that as a launching pad to attack the presence of
foreign militants and their violations of Pakistani
sovereignty. It goes on to call on the tribes to eject the
foreigners and support the government and offers them
development assistance if they come around.

15. (C) Comment: The long-promised joint session is a
welcome first step in bringing Pakistan's elected leadership
on board with the government's counter-terrorism strategy.
The session is being extended to accommodate a great deal of
pent-up opinion and emotion that has amassed over the past
few years when the leadership kept parliament in the dark on
security issues. The government understandably wants to keep
as much of that emotion contained in a closed-door session as
possible, and surprisingly little of the briefing content has
been leaked to the press. At some point, however, there
needs to be a public airing of views and concerns if the GOP
is going to increase public acknowledgment that this is
Pakistan's war.

16. (C) Comment cont'd: In other welcome developments, at
least one Pakistani group (perhaps bankrolled by the owner of
the bombed Marriott Hotel in Islamabad), Yeh Hum Naheen (Say
No to Terrorism) has been placing newspaper and TV ads in the
Urdu and English language press; the group's aim is to
collect the largest number of signatures ever on an
anti-terrorism petition. We understand the Information
Ministry is responsible for placing other anti-terrorism ads
in recent days. On October 11, Information Minister Malik
spoke at an anti-terrorism seminar organized in Lahore, again
as part of a long-promised outreach campaign by GOP ministers.

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