|07ISLAMABAD1354||2007-03-26 12:01:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Islamabad|
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ISLAMABAD 001354
1. (U) Ambassador paid his farewell call on President Musharraf on March 24. The meeting was front-page news in most Pakistani papers, with many articles emphasizing Musharraf's promise to "fight the war on terror to the end." The press coverage highlighted the strength of the U.S.-Pakistan strategic relationship; the significant number of Pakistanis studying under the Fulbright program; and Musharraf's promise to address the "roots of terrorism" -- an allusion to his Federally Administered Tribal Areas development strategy.
GOVERNMENT INSTIGATING ATTACKS AGAINST FOREIGNERS IN FATA
2. (C) Musharraf said he remains fully committed to the war on terror. Two brigades have completed their deployment to North and South Waziristan as part of the process of asserting government control. The government has successfully instigated tribesmen against the Uzbeks in South Waziristan, with over 200 killed; Musharraf wants to encourage similar action in North Waziristan and elsewhere.
While the government will need to proceed carefully to insure that the population is with the government and against the foreigners, Musharraf stressed that there will be no hesitation in going after al-Qaida targets.
FATA and JIRGAS
3. (C) Musharraf expressed appreciation for the Administration's commitment to provide USD 150 million in FY
07 to begin funding Tribal Area development. Musharraf understood that success with this tranche of money was key to securing additional funding in the out years. He said Pakistan was working to implement a fully coordinated approach between Islamabad institutions (federal ministries, the military, the parliament) and provincial institutions (the NWFP Governor, the FATA Secretariat, and the FATA Development Authority.)
4. (C) Musharraf agreed that the Pak-Afghan jirga process had great potential to improve cross-border cooperation, to improve security conditions, and to reduce tension between the two countries. The Ambassador urged that the two sides move quickly to conclude arrangements for a jirga and asked Musharraf to make this a priority. Musharraf said he would.
CHIEF JUSTICE CONTROVERSY
5. (C) Musharraf confided that the Government of Pakistan had made a mess of handling corruption accusations against the Chief Justice. He took personal responsibility for not having developed a "what if" plan -- referring, among other things, to the lack of consideration of what would happen if the Chief Justice refused to resign after learning of the reference against him. Musharraf emphasized that he believed the Chief Justice was corrupt and had damaged judicial institutions. Something had to be done, he said, though he admitted his government had handled the problem badly.
6. (C) Musharraf was personally directing damage control.
He had provided very specific orders to the police and other agencies, telling them to leave the media alone and not to engage protesters head on. Musharraf added that the two weeks of incidents had proven that the police needed greater training, discipline, and effective control. He committed himself to working on those shortcomings.
7. (C) Musharraf said he had personally ordered all relevant institutions to allow the Chief Justice unfettered movement around Pakistan. At the same time, he was working with business leaders to emphasize that allowing the controversy to continue at a fevered pitch would not be in Pakistan's interests. The President hoped that the PPP also would continue its relatively restrained public posture.
(Note: The Friday Times -- the favored publication of Pakistan's intelligentsia -- this week highlighted the argument that street demonstrations in the Muslim world historically bring Islamist regimes to power, while free elections support moderate democrats. End Note.)
8. (C) While describing next steps in the controversy, Musharraf concurred with Ambassador that Law Minister Wasi Muhammad Zafar, whose profane rant on VOA had offended many Pakistanis, had exacerbated the Chief Justice controversy.
Although he was a "loyalist," Zafar was a liability and Musharraf said he was going to fire him. Musharraf also would fire the head of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Agency, whose heavy handed interventions throughout the controversy -- including shutting down Geo television for 20 minutes and demanding that stations remove rolling news tickers about the controversy -- had been both unhelpful and wrong.
9. (C) Musharraf offered that, while Information Minister Durrani had been overwhelmed by the crushing international media attention since the controversy began, the President had no plans to remove him. Instead, Pakistan would strengthen the ministry by hiring a professional public relations consultant.
10. (C) A discussion of the upcoming Arab League Summit is being reported Septel.