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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06ISLAMABAD9704
2006-05-25 11:52:00
SECRET//NOFORN
Embassy Islamabad
Cable title:  

FREE, FAIR, AND ISI: THE PML ELECTION STRATEGY

Tags:   PGOV  KDEM  PREL  PTER  MOPS  PK  AF  IR 
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VZCZCXRO7517
PP RUEHCI
DE RUEHIL #9704/01 1451152
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 251152Z MAY 06
FM AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9542
INFO RUEHTA/AMEMBASSY ALMATY 9442
RUEHAH/AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT 0600
RUEHEK/AMEMBASSY BISHKEK 3634
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 0748
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 1492
RUEHDBU/AMEMBASSY DUSHANBE
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL 5374
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 6523
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 8485
RUEHNT/AMEMBASSY TASHKENT 1269
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL CALCUTTA 0794
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI 3132
RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI 1051
RUEHLH/AMCONSUL LAHORE 8844
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI 3507
RUEHPW/AMCONSUL PESHAWAR 6699
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
						S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 ISLAMABAD 009704 

SIPDIS

NOFORN
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/25/2016
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PREL PTER MOPS PK AF IR
SUBJECT: FREE, FAIR, AND ISI: THE PML ELECTION STRATEGY

REF: ISLAMABAD 9472

ISLAMABAD 00009704 001.2 OF 003


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



1. (C/NF) Summary: According to PML Secretary General
Mushahid Hussain, the party's goal in the upcoming elections
is a plurality in the National Assembly. He identified urban
areas in central Punjab (Lahore, Gujranwala, Faisalabad) as
the chief battlegrounds, predicted a strong PML victory in
Balochistan, anticipated a PML draw with the Awami National
Party (ANP) and the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Fazlur Rehman
(JUI-F) in NWFP, and conceded Sindh to the Muttahida Quami
Movement (MQM) and the Pakistan People's Party (PPP).
Despite assurances that the PML wanted a free and fair
contest, Mushahid made clear that use of development
resources, presidential campaigning, and research by the
intelligence agencies were, in his view, legitimate tactics
available to the PML. Mushahid argued that the PML's winning
strategy was a close relationship with Musharraf coupled with
denigration of the PPP and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz
(PML-N) historic governance record. Mushahid admitted that
inflation and the deteriorating situation in Waziristan posed
domestic problems for the party. He called on the United
States to refrain from provocative action in Iran and to do
more to improve Pak-Afghan relations, claiming that both
could be exploited by Islamist parties during the election.
End Summary.

Electoral Strategy



2. (C/NF) In a May 25 meeting, PML Secretary General Mushahid
Hussain provided a preview of his party's electoral strategy
to Acting PolCouns and Poloff. Mushahid stated that at this
stage he believed that the PML would be running without a
formal supporting coalition and that its national strategy
would, therefore, focus principally on capturing a plurality
of seats in the National Assembly. In Punjab, Mushahid
predicted that the PML would do well in rural areas and in
nothern urban centers. The chief battleground would be the
central urban districts where the party would face strong
opposition from the PPP and PML-N. Winning these districts
would be a priority, as they would likely determine the
balance of power in the next Assembly. In Balochistan,
Mushahid predicted a strong PML showing in the center and
south due to its close relationship with most sardars (save
the rebellious troika of Bugti, Marri, and Mengal). The
party was prepared to cede northern constituencies to the
JUI-F, which he believed could be bought into a coalition.
In Sindh, Mushahid predicted a weak PML showing. The
provincial party was divided, and despite its proactive Chief
Minister, there was little hope of dividing PPP from its
rural base or MQM from its urban supporters. In NWFP,
Mushahid predicted an even race and possible seat adjustments
between PML, ANP, and JUI-F. The goal was to divide the

Islamist coalition and build a new PML-led provincial
government.



3. (C/NF) Mushahid's emerging campaign strategy for the PML
would place primary emphasis on the party's close ties with
President Musharraf. The objective was to capture
pro-Musharraf voters (youth, liberal middle class, and
women), which strongly supported the President but not
necessarily the party. In this vein, the PML would stress
the stability that Musharraf had brought to Pakistan and the
differentiation between his regime and the corruption-laden
governments of the PPP and PML-N. Mushahid predicted that
the PML would run a campaign that is one-third positive
(focused on Musharraf's policies) and two-thirds negative
(focused on the PPP and PML-N regimes' failures). Mushahid
would welcome the return of these parties' leaders, Benazir

ISLAMABAD 00009704 002.2 OF 003


Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, as both were easy targets for
criticism. However, he predicted that neither had any real
desire to return to Pakistan. Asked about potential
electoral issues facing the PML, Mushahid cited inflation and
the situation in Waziristan. Mushahid was convinced that
price controls on basic commodities and Gen. Orakzai's
appointment as governor in NWFP would be sufficient to
redress these problems.



4. (C/NF) Mushahid predicted that well-publicized differences
within the PML were, in fact, transitory. Party members,
including the dissidents, recognized that their political
futures were inextricably tied to the PML and Musharraf.
Divides would be quickly repaired once the candidate
selection process was formally underway, and dissidents
sought tickets from the party leadership, which would control
the allocation process. According to Mushahid, PML tickets
would be awarded based upon "electability." The party was
looking for candidates with strong ties to their district;
feudal lords and tribal leaders would be strong contenders.
Approximately 70 percent of the PML assembly delegation had
won solid majorities, and most, save a few "troublemakers,"
would receive tickets. Those with slim margins of victory
could be replaced.

Free and Fair Elections



5. (S/NF) Mushahid stressed that the PML wanted a free and
fair contest. Its leaders were prepared to negotiate rules
of the game with opposition parties and the Chief Election
Commissioner (CEC). A credible electoral process was
necessary to provide the new government with the popular
mandate required. Several statements, during other parts of
the conversation, however, called this commitment into
question. For instance, Mushahid stated that the PML would
use development funds to support candidates in marginal
districts; the President would actively campaign on behalf of
the PML; and intelligence services would continue to conduct
polling of PML and PML candidate popularity in key
constituencies. (Note: All are clear violations of election
law and regulations. End Note.)

Iran



6. (C/NF) Mushahid raised concern about the current stalemate
with Iran. He asserted that hostile American action against
Iran would provide Pakistan's Islamist parties with an
attractive election plank, possibly swaying the NWFP contest
in their favor as the Afghanistan invasion had done in 2002.
Mushahid recognized that rhetoric and actions by the Iranian
presidency were not helpful in resolving the nuclear impasse.
For this reason, he and others in the GOP were reaching out
to more moderate elements inside Iran including the Foreign
Ministry with a view to influencing positively its conduct.
He cautioned the USG not/not to view the Iranian government
as a monolith or to assume the current President is firmly in
control.

Afghanistan



7. (C/NF) Mushahid expressed grave concern about the
"deteriorating" relationship between Pakistan and
Afghanistan. In his view, this could be exploited by
extremists on both sides to derail the constructive
engagement policy which he and others had tried to build with
the Karzai government. Mushahid called on the USG to do more
to strengthen cooperation and contacts between the countries'
intelligence services and political leadership, as we had
done on the military side.


ISLAMABAD 00009704 003.2 OF 003


Comment



8. (C/NF) Mushahid provided a realistic look at internal PML
dynamics and planning as it approaches the upcoming national
elections. His analysis of the PML's strengths and
weaknesses with the electorate largely track with our own. A
strategy emphasizing President Musharraf, without question,
plays to the PML's strongest campaigner and most popular
figure. Direct presidential involvement in the party's
campaign remains a risky strategy, as it violates
constitutional prohibitions on partisan activity by the
President. Opposition parties, as they have already done,
will continue to seize on such involvement to claim an unfair
electoral process, to highlight their supposed democratic
credentials, and perhaps ultimately to woe the liberal middle
class vote that the PML's strategy is designed to capture.
End Comment.
CROCKER