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Cablegate: Reaction to Alleged Drone Attacks in Bannu

VZCZCXRO7529
OO RUEHLH RUEHPW
DE RUEHIL #3677/01 3290127
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 240127Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0316
INFO RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 9444
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 9141
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 4069
RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI PRIORITY 0666
RUEHLH/AMCONSUL LAHORE PRIORITY 6398
RUEHPW/AMCONSUL PESHAWAR PRIORITY 5251
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHWSMRC/USCINCCENT MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUMICEA/USCENTCOM INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ISLAMABAD 003677

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/31/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER PK
SUBJECT: REACTION TO ALLEGED DRONE ATTACKS IN BANNU

REF: ISLAMABAD 3654

Classified By: Anne W. Patterson for reasons 1.4 (b), (d).

1. (C) Summary: According to local press, the alleged U.S.
strike in Bannu on November 19 marked the first such attack
in the settled areas of the Northwest Frontier Province,
outside of the tribal areas. The strike drew a new round of
condemnation by Prime Minister Gilani, coalition political
parties, opposition leaders, and the media. According to
Pakistani press, the strike killed four people, including a
senior Al-Qaida member, and injured five others. The first
strike within "Pakistan proper" is seen as a watershed event,
and the media is suggesting this could herald the spread of
attacks to Peshawar or Islamabad. Even politicians who have
no love lost for a dead terrorist are concerned by strikes
within what is considered mainland Pakistan. As the gap
between private GOP acquiescence for U.S. action and public
condemnation grows, Pakistani leaders who feel they look
increasingly weak to their constituents could begin
considering stronger action against the U.S., although we
have yet to see any indication that such a decision is on the
table. End Summary.

GOP RESPONSE
------------

2. (C) President Zardari did not issue a public response.
However, speaking to the National Assembly on November 20,
Prime Minister Gilani condemned the alleged strikes as
"intolerable" and said he hoped the incursions would stop
with the change of administration in Washington. He refuted
the accusation that the GOP had a secret agreement with the
United States (as has been reported by the Washington Post).
He repeated that the issue of drone strikes was being taken
up with the U.S. government at various levels. (Note:
Ambassador was convoked by the MFA on November 20, see
reftel.) Gilani has also called into action a special joint
parliamentary committee to follow up on the October 22 joint
resolution against extremism.


PARLIAMENT PROTESTS
--------------------

3. (C) On November 20 in the National Assembly, Pakistan
Muslim League-N (PML-N) Opposition Leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali
Khan criticized the GOP's inability to stop alleged U.S.
incursion and asked that the matter be taken to the United
Nations. PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal cited the Bannu attack as
evidence that the GOP must have a secret agreement with the
U.S. Other parliamentarians claimed that they have seen
drones hovering over Swat, and warned that future attacks
could spread to Peshawar and Islamabad.

4. (C) Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman also
made an impassioned speech during the Assembly session
against alleged U.S. action in Bannu calling it "U.S.
aggression and violation of Pakistan's territorial
integrity." Rehman's party will hold a secret meeting to
discuss their future actions in response to the continued
drone strikes, according to contacts within the party. The
Bannu attack is particularly significant for Fazlur because
he represents the Bannu district.

5. (C) Even vehemently secular Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM)
Deputy Parliamentary Leader Haider Rizvi shared with Polcouns
that, although MQM supports the killing of terrorists, his
party can not withstand the popular sentiment against
continued U.S. attacks. He described the growing popular and
political pressure on the government that, in his view, will
translate to pressure on the USG mission. Rizvi stressed that
the people of Pakistan had not made their peace with drone
attacks in the tribal areas, and a shift into mainland
Pakistan was even more inflammatory. Rizvi, who is a member
of the Joint Parliamentary Committee following the issue,
said it planned to convoke PM Gilani, Chief of Army Staff
General Kayani and perhaps former President Musharraf to
explain GOP policy toward these attacks.

6. (SBU) Chairman of the Joint Committee Raza Rabbani told
the press November 21 that Pakistan had the option of taking

ISLAMABAD 00003677 002 OF 002


the strikes to the UN, but he questioned whether the UN would
be effective in stopping them. "Friendly countries are being
asked to help Pakistan in convincing the U.S. to respect
Pakistan's sovereignty," he said. All papers noted that UN
Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon had expressed "concern" about
the U.S. attacks but noted that this was a bilateral issue
between the U.S. and Pakistan.

NWFP RESPONSE
--------------

7. (C) Awami National Party leaders Asfundyar Wali Khan and
Afrasiyab Khattack both condemned the strikes, saying such
attacks could further weaken the harmony among the people of
Pakistan and the U.S. Former NWFP Chief Minister and Bannu's
provincial assembly representative Akram Khan Durrani
appeared on several Pakistani TV news channels condemning the
strikes. He also told fellow politicians that though he is a
well-wisher of the U.S., attacks within the settled areas
were going to push moderate political and religious forces
"up against the wall." As the attacks spread into settled
districts, he warned that politicians are losing face among
their constituents and many "more people are willing to pick
up arms rather than listen to us."

8. (C) There also were several student protests in Peshawar
November 21 against the strikes. Anecdotal sources in Bannu
report that though local people do not care about the death
of Arabs or other foreigners, they are largely
business-minded and do not want further instability. Bannu
residents are worried about the panic created by drones
hovering overhead. The city was further shocked by several
militant rocket attacks on November 20, which were in
response to the drone strikes.

9. (C) Comment: Pakistani politicians of all stripes,
including those from the most ardently anti-terrorist
parties, are facing growing political pressure to condemn
U.S. attacks. As the gap between private GOP acquiescence
and public condemnation for U.S. action grows, Pakistani
leaders who feel they look increasingly weak to their
constituents could begin considering stronger action against
the U.S., even though the response to date has focused
largely on ritual denunciation.
PATTERSON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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