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Cablegate: Pm Links Pakistan to Afghan Mission; Media Comment

VZCZCXRO2330
OO RUEHGA RUEHHA RUEHIK RUEHPOD RUEHPW RUEHQU RUEHVC RUEHYG
DE RUEHOT #2326/01 3651300
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 311300Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY OTTAWA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7086
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNCAN/ALL CANADIAN POSTS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 1329
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD PRIORITY 0807
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 0154
RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI PRIORITY 0010
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM PRIORITY
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE PRIORITY 0110
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0367
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 0861
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 OTTAWA 002326

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL MOPS MARR PK AF CA
SUBJECT: PM LINKS PAKISTAN TO AFGHAN MISSION; MEDIA COMMENT


1. (U) Summary: Prime Minister Harper joined other world
leaders on December 27 in condemning the murder of Benazir
Bhutto, stressing that Bhutto's death "cannot be allowed to
permit any delay in the return of Pakistan to full
democracy." Harper expressed concern about the implications
of Bhutto's death on regional stability, and specifically on
Afghanistan and the effort Canadian troops are making in
Kandahar. News of Bhutto's assassination dominated the
Canadian press, with commentary emphasizing the need to shore
up democracy in Pakistan through elections. End summary.

PM CONDEMNS BHUTTO KILLING, EXPRESSES CONCERN ON REGIONAL
STABILITY
--------------------------------------------- -------------

2. (U) On December 27, Harper joined President Bush and other
world leaders in condemning Benazir Bhutto's assassination.
Harper emphasized that Bhutto's death "cannot be allowed to
permit any delay in the return of Pakistan to full democracy,
something the people of Pakistan have been waiting for far
too long." The prime minister told reporters the world
community has two roles to play in the aftermath of Bhutto's
assassination -- to "offer our support and cooperation with
the government of Pakistan and the authorities" and to
"continue to press the government to continue on the path of
restoring full democracy." Speaking to reports in Calgary,
Harper also expressed concern about regional stability and
its impact on "the valiant efforts" Canadian forces are
making in Afghanistan, saying the government has been
concerned about events "undermining democracy and stability"
in Pakistan for several months. In November, Canada joined
with other Commonwealth countries to suspend Pakistan's
membership in the organization in response to President
Musharraf's imposition of emergency rule and jailing of
opponents.

CANADIAN PRESS COMMENTS ON BHUTTO MURDER
----------------------------------------

3. (U) All major Canadian newspapers dedicated their key
editorials to the situation in Pakistan. The centrist Globe
and Mail comments that Bhutto's assassination could give Mr.
Musharraf the "pretext he needs" to again declare marshal
law, but urges that "the election should proceed, and Ms.
Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party should demand nothing less."
The editorial stresses that the election scheduled for
January 8, "damaged though it may be, represents an act of
defiance against those who would lead Pakistan into
darkness."

4. (U) The left-of-center Toronto Star argues that delaying
the election "by weeks, not months" would be justified if
more time is needed to establish the conditions necessary to
hold a democratic election. The newspaper comments that,
just like in Afghanistan, "there is no pure military
solution" along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. It
emphasizes that a political solution requires the legitimacy
of a democratic government in Pakistan.

5. (U) The National Post, a conservative national daily,
Q5. (U) The National Post, a conservative national daily,
comments that Bhutto's death cast a "dark cloud over
Afghanistan" where Canadian troops are "locked in a
protracted war." The Post says the fact that Bhutto's "voice
has now been silenced will not only make democratic reform in
her own country more difficult, but in Afghanistan, too."

6. (U) The Ottawa Citizen underlines that world leaders must
make it clear that they will not tolerate President Musharraf
using Bhutto's assassination to "justify his police state" or
"exploit, for personal political gain, the death of his
rival." The daily remarks that "we in the insulated West" do
not "have the luxury" of ignoring Pakistan. Pakistan is
"teetering," the editorial states, and "if it falls the
pieces will come flying in our direction."

COMMENT

OTTAWA 00002326 002 OF 002


-------

7. (SBU) With analysts suggesting that Pakistani instability
could embolden extremists on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border
and further endanger Canadian troops in Afghanistan,
developments in Pakistan will likely weigh on Canada's
national debate and upcoming parliamentary vote on whether to
extend its mission in Kandahar from February 2009 to 2011.
While regional instability could make Canada's NATO allies
less likely to deploy troops to southern Afghanistan,
bolstering assertions that Canada should not extend its
mission as it is sharing too much of the burden in
Afghanistan, Pakistani volatility could also strengthen the
conservative government's argument that it is imperative that
Canadian troops stay the course in Afghanistan.

Visit Canada,s Economy and Environment Forum at
http://www.intelink.gov/communities/state/can ada

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