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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06ISLAMABAD6116
2006-04-11 12:56:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Islamabad
Cable title:  

A/S BOUCHER MEETS SENATE CHAIRMAN AND NATIONAL

Tags:   PGOV  KDEM  EAID  PK 
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ISLAMABAD 006116 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/06/2016
TAGS: PGOV KDEM EAID PK
SUBJECT: A/S BOUCHER MEETS SENATE CHAIRMAN AND NATIONAL
ASSEMBLY SPEAKER

ISLAMABAD 00006116 001.2 OF 002


Classified By: Derived from DSCG 05-01, b.



1. (C) Summary: In separate meetings with visiting Assistant
Secretary Richard Boucher, Senate Chairman Mohammedmian

SIPDIS
Soomro and National Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Amir Hussain
confirmed their support for the USAID legislative
strengthening project. Both leaders promised to secure a
site for the proposed Institute for Legislative Studies and
to support televising proceedings of their Chambers. They
cautioned, however, that other officials were involved and
could delay both projects. When Boucher questioned them on
democratic elections, both parliamentary leaders promised
free and fair elections in 2007, but were divided as to the
prevalence of past election irregularities, with the Speaker
giving all previous elections a clean bill of health. Both
leaders expressed strong support for an independent, activist
Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), noting that this was
already promised in legislation. Soomro noted that
democratization would also require democracy within political
parties and urged A/S Boucher to focus on this important
area. The leaders were open to the concept of a broad
coalition of moderate forces in advance of the 2007
elections. End Summary.

Legislative Strengthening Program



2. (C) A/S Boucher opened his meetings with Chairman Soomro
and Speaker Hussain by noting the important role that strong
legislative institutions must play in a democratic set-up and
promised continued support to strengthen parliamentary
institutions. Both leaders responded with thanks for the
work that USAID was already doing in this regard. The
Speaker praised the USAID decision to work directly with
parliamentary institutions in the current program rather than
through NGOs as in the past.



3. (C) A/S Boucher raised our interest in continuing such
support through construction of a Pakistan Institute for
Legislative Studies (PILS), but cautioned that USG support
was contingent on the parliamentary leadership's
identification of an appropriate parcel of land and agreement
to continue budgetary support. Both leaders promised ongoing
support to the PILS and agreed to work to obtain the
necessary parcel of land. Nothing currently in their
possession, however, was considered adequate. Soomro
explained that the process was delayed by the resignation of
the Minister of State for Interior who had been handling the
issue. While the leadership wanted to obtain land quickly,
several government agencies were involved, including the
obstructionist Capital Development Authority (CDA). The
Speaker promised to raise the issue with the Prime Minister
and have him press for a swift allocation within one or two
months. In the interim, both leaders requested that training

for parliamentarians continue using either the Parliamentary
Lodges or the old National Assembly building.



4. (C) A/S Boucher raised the important role that televising
legislative proceedings could play in raising public
awareness of legislatures' performance. Soomro immediately
agreed pronouncing himself "very keen" on the idea.
Televised proceedings would provide the public direct access
to legislative information, increase accountability, and help
voters judge legislator's performance. Hussain also
expressed strong support for televised proceedings and
promised that the process was moving forward. Both
cautioned, however, that numerous government agencies were
involved in the decision to proceed, making it a complex and
lengthy debate. Soomro cited the Minister of Information as
particularly problematic.

Elections



5. (C) A/S Boucher reiterated to both leaders the USG
position that free and fair elections must be held in 2007.
He pointed out that previous elections did not adequately
meet these criteria and that a strong, independent ECP was

ISLAMABAD 00006116 002.2 OF 002


vital to the process. While both leaders promised that the
2007 contest would be free and fair, the Speaker denied that
any fraud had occurred in previous elections. He argued that
those who lost alleged rigging to cover their own
deficiencies and that the allegations were baseless. The ECP
was already fully empowered and ensured that no improper
activity took place.



6. (C) Soomro had a more realistic view, admitting that
violations had occurred in the past and that the ECP would
need to be vigilant to prevent them in 2007. He believed
that the ECP powers were sufficiently extensive but argued
that a more conducive environment was needed. In this
regard, he argued that it was necessary to change Pakistan's
political culture. Victory in elections was, at present,
directly linked to a party's ability to obtain resources and
disburse patronage. As no transparent hiring process
existed, civil servants who administered elections were often
indebted to a party for their job and would tilt contests in
their favor. Until patronage and money were delinked from
election victory, parties would continue to do all they could
to violate the rules.



7. (C) Soomro further argued that a lack of internal
democracy within political parties contributed to systemic
weaknesses. Parties tended to select candidates and leaders
through appointment rather than democratic elections, leading
to ongoing internal divisions and personal animosities.
Soomro argued that all parties should be required to
introduce genuine democracy and suggested that perhaps
oversight of internal party contests by the ECP may be
necessary.



8. (C) A/S Boucher asked the parliamentary leaders about the
possibility of new political party coalitions developing in
advance of the 2007 elections. Both leaders were of the view
that shifting alliances were a regular part of Pakistani
politics. Hussain stated that the governing party was
prepared to work with any like-minded group, but that
cooperation would depend on the conduct of the opposition
parties. In the current, polarized environment, he did not
believe that differences could be easily overcome.

Anti-Money Laundering Law



9. (C) A/S Boucher pressed Speaker Hussain to seek the
release of the GOP's Anti-Money Laundering Law from the
Finance Committee. The Speaker made no comment and rapidly
switched the subject to thank the USG for its assistance in
earthquake relief.



10. (U) Assistant Secretary Boucher has cleared this message.
CROCKER