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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
07ISLAMABAD2402
2007-05-31 13:32:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Islamabad
Cable title:  

PRESS COVERAGE OF BAN ON LARGE GATHERINGS MISSES

Tags:   PREL  PTER  ASEC  PK 
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VZCZCXRO1252
PP RUEHDBU RUEHLH RUEHPW
DE RUEHIL #2402 1511332
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 311332Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9439
INFO RUEHAH/AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT PRIORITY 2480
RUEHTA/AMEMBASSY ASTANA PRIORITY 0171
RUEHEK/AMEMBASSY BISHKEK PRIORITY 4217
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO PRIORITY 1324
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA PRIORITY 2091
RUEHDBU/AMEMBASSY DUSHANBE PRIORITY
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 7149
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU PRIORITY 8352
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 1035
RUEHNT/AMEMBASSY TASHKENT PRIORITY 3212
RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI PRIORITY 6165
RUEHLH/AMCONSUL LAHORE PRIORITY 2442
RUEHPW/AMCONSUL PESHAWAR PRIORITY 0796
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 2393
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHWSMRC/USCINCCENT MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
						C O N F I D E N T I A L ISLAMABAD 002402 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/31/2017
TAGS: PREL PTER ASEC PK
SUBJECT: PRESS COVERAGE OF BAN ON LARGE GATHERINGS MISSES
THE POINT

Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Peter W. Bodde, reasons 1.4 (b),(d)



1. (C) On May 30, the Islamabad district administration
issued an official Section 144 order banning "all kinds of
gatherings of five or more people" inside Islamabad for two
months. Breathless press reports described the order as a new
and dangerous decision, but in reality the document merely
renewed an order that had been in effect in Islamabad for
over two months. (Note: The existence of such an order has
not curtailed public protests in Islamabad during this
period. Anti-government protests in front of the Supreme
Court, some attracting up to 10,000 persons, have been a
regular feature of Islamabad life since the Chief Justice
controversy began on March 8. End Note.)



2. (C) On May 31, Islamabad Chief Commissioner Khalid Pervez
told PolOff that Section 144 bans were a "routine affair" and
were regularly renewed. He stressed that the local magistrate
had the authority to and frequently did issue such bans.
However, Pervez stressed that groups could apply for
exemption permits that allowed specific gatherings, including
protest marches. He indicated such exemptions were routinely
approved.



3. (C) Senior Superintendent of Police (Security) told press
that enforcing the Section 144 ban allowed police to close
streets around the protests and to monitor "suspected
elements" at check points. Check points have become
particularly crucial as the frequency of suicide bombings
increased, noted the Superintendent.



4. (C) Comment: Government of Pakistan officials seemed
surprised when international media coverage of the section
144 renewal exploded on May 31. We continue to remind
officials that the world is watching Pakistan's human rights
performance and that it should be sensitive to even the
insinuation of potential crackdowns. Of course, it appears
that in this case, the insinuation was much worse than the
reality. End Comment.

BODDE