Viewing cable 08ISLAMABAD1998, CODEL SCHIFF MEETS WITH PPP LEADER ZARDARI:
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|08ISLAMABAD1998||2008-05-30 16:04||2010-11-30 21:09||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Islamabad|
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Friday, 30 May 2008, 16:03 C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ISLAMABAD 001998 SIPDIS EO 12958 DECL: 05/30/2018 TAGS PGOV, PK, PREL, PTER SUBJECT: CODEL SCHIFF MEETS WITH PPP LEADER ZARDARI: POLITICAL MOVES AND BALANCING AID Classified By: Anne W. Patterson, Reasons 1.4 (b), (d) ¶1. (C) Summary: On May 26, Codel Schiff -- U.S. Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) -- met with Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Zardari, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, NSA Ambassador Mahmud Ali Durrani and Ambassador-designate to the U.S. Husain Haqqani. Zardari thanked the Codel for USG support of credible national elections. As he has previously, he committed Pakistan to the war on terror, insisting this was Pakistan’s fight. He argued more needed to be done by the U.S. and international community to promote economic development in the frontier. Building on that point, Zardari suggested a new blend of USG assistance, increasing aid to “civilian forces” like the police and promoting civilian engagement. He warned that public opinion was unalterably against President Pervez Musharraf and that, for the sake of the new GOP, Musharraf needed to contemplate an “honorable exit.” End summary. “We are because of you.” ------------------------ ¶2. (C) Meeting May 26 in Islamabad, U.S. Representatives Schiff and Schwartz met with PPP leader Zardari and his foreign policy team. Zardari thanked the USG for its support of credible parliamentary elections, which brought his party to power: “We are here because of you.” Zardari noted that his late wife, Benazir Bhutto, maintained close relations with many of member of Congress, and he encouraged more codel visits to Pakistan to improve mutual understanding. Pakistan’s War -------------- ¶3. (C) As he has before, Zardari stressed that the Global War on Terror (GWOT) was “Pakistan’s war.” The fall of Bhutto’s second government was financed by Osama bin Laden, he claimed, noting that she and her father Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto were assassinated by religious extremists. But counterterrorism initiatives lacked popular Pakistani support, Zardari lamented, and terrorism fostered profiteers who had an interest in the struggle continuing. ¶4. (C) Zardari argued that Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) leader Nawaz Sharif had “walked into the vacuum” as opposition leader when Bhutto was assassinated just weeks before national elections. For stability, however, the PPP continued to cooperate with the PML-N at the federal and Punjab provincial levels. ¶5. (C) Zardari described the general distrust of the U.S. by the public and in political circles, “fearing you will leave us again.” Post 9/11, however, he believed this was no longer an option; the USG would have to make a commitment of decades, calling for a Marshall Plan for Pakistan. There were already success stories, noting that his progressive PPP even won a National Assembly seat from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). ¶6. (C) Zardari advocated attacking the root cause of radical insurgency: economic under-development. He lobbied the Representatives to quickly take up and pass reconstruction opportunity zone (ROZ) legislation. There should be U.S. tax breaks for companies producing “made in Pakistan” products, noting that Pakistan’s textile industry would be more competition to other countries than to U.S. manufacturers. Without creating more jobs, Pakistan just could not match the taliban’s reported USD 300 per month to tribals in the frontier regions. The tribals, though, wanted peace, Zardari claimed. A New Blend ----------- ¶7. (C) Asked if he felt USG assistance over the past seven years had been military heavy, Zardari noted that democracy promotion had been the smallest component of aid. He quickly added that military aid was still badly needed but more should also go to “civilian forces,” e.g., police. USG assistance should support social development, e.g., more higher education scholarships to Pakistanis studying in the ISLAMABAD 00001998 002 OF 002 U.S. All in all, he wanted to see more civilian engagement than military-to-military exchanges. Zardari also said he wanted the U.N. (with support from the U.S. and other western countries) to establish a compensatory fund for the families of the victims of terrorist acts. On Musharraf ------------ ¶8. (C) Transitioning, Zardari blamed President Pervez Musharraf for not taking enough responsibility for the GWOT in Pakistan; the public, instead, believed Pakistanis were dying for the U.S. Zardari then said, “Anti-U.S. feelings will go away when the old faces go away,” adding that the USG should no longer rely on just Musharraf in fighting radicalism. ¶9. (C) Zardari admitted that his public statements in the last week had been more anti-Musharraf. He was afraid that he and his party were losing popular support, while Nawaz was able to pretend to be the populist by supporting restoration of the pre-November 3 judges. “But he doesn’t want the Chief Justice (Iftikhar Chaudhry) back in, just Musharraf out.” Zardari revealed that he hoped to discuss privately with Musharraf the possibility of an “honorable exit” and believed Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Ashfaq Kayani would stay out of such political discussions. ¶10. (C) Zardari feared, however, that Musharraf was misguided by “smooth-talking advisors,” who were protecting their own personal interests. The public was against the President, the institution and the man, adding the PPP needed to “change the face of Pakistan” or it too would be kicked out of power. “We won’t act without consulting with you,” Zardari concluded. ¶11. (U) Codel Schiff did not clear this cable. PATTERSON