Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
07ISLAMABAD3873
2007-09-06 17:00:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Islamabad
Cable title:  

THE NAWAZ FACTOR CONTINUED: RETURN SCENARIOS

Tags:  PGOV PK 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXRO0060
OO RUEHLH RUEHPW
DE RUEHIL #3873/01 2491700
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 061700Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1536
INFO RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT PRIORITY 0161
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 7491
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 1695
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH PRIORITY 5682
RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI PRIORITY 7261
RUEHLH/AMCONSUL LAHORE PRIORITY 3338
RUEHPW/AMCONSUL PESHAWAR PRIORITY 1779
RUMICEA/USCENTCOM INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 2914
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ISLAMABAD 003873 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/06/2017
TAGS: PGOV PK

SUBJECT: THE NAWAZ FACTOR CONTINUED: RETURN SCENARIOS

REF: (A) LAHORE 524 (B) ISLAMBAD 3819 AND PREVIOUS

Classified By: Anne W. Patterson, Reasons 1.4 (b),(d)

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ISLAMABAD 003873

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/06/2017
TAGS: PGOV PK

SUBJECT: THE NAWAZ FACTOR CONTINUED: RETURN SCENARIOS

REF: (A) LAHORE 524 (B) ISLAMBAD 3819 AND PREVIOUS

Classified By: Anne W. Patterson, Reasons 1.4 (b),(d)


1. (C) Summary. There are four scenarios regarding former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's return to Pakistan, which now seems likely September 10. (1) He could postpone his arrival because of Saudi persuasion or cold feet about his prospects. This seems the least likely option. (2) The government could allow him to enter Pakistan and move about the country freely. (3) The government could arrest him. (4) The government could deport him. All except the first have obvious uncertainties for the Pakistani government, for Musharraf personally, and for our policy in Pakistan. This cable attempts to lay out the scenarios. We do not know if the Chief Justice has become less hostile to Musharraf, which would affect our assessment. The downsides could be lessened if the government is able to reach a long-awaited deal with Benazir Bhutto. We will update the Department after meetings tomorrow. End Summary.


2. (C) Our contacts in Nawaz's party, the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N),confirm that the party is organizing a massive road caravan to escort Nawaz and his brother Shahbaz from the airport in Rawalpindi (where they intend to land on a commercial carrier) to their power base in Lahore. PML-N stalwarts hope to replicate the Chief Justice's triumphant cavalcades this summer and turn this four-hour trip into a prolonged celebration to challenge Musharraf's rule.


3. (C) The government is taking several precautionary measures against Nawaz's return. In the past few days the police have arrested approximately 200 PML-N organizers and plan to arrest several hundred more over the next few days. All those arrested are being held under the Maintenance of Public Order law, which gives the provincial government broad powers of preventive detention for up to thirty days. While this is legal and the leadership of the PML-N privately and cynically accepts it as the normal cost of politics here, it is not a step that enhances the reputation of the Pakistani government.


4. The press also reports that the government is pre-positioning a brigade to deal with expected crowds/demonstrations. The Accountability Court is poised to re-open three corruption cases against Nawaz; today, the government re-filed murder charges against his brother Shahbaz. Musharraf and his emissaries also reportedly continue to try and convince the Saudis to pressure Nawaz to remain outside of Pakistan.


Delay
--------------


5. (C) There are still those, like Pakistan Muslim League President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, who believe that Nawaz will not risk arrest or deportation and will find an excuse to stay away, at least until after the presidential election. Some in Nawaz's party are urging him not to come because he is more useful making statements in London than in jail or in Saudi Arabia. This post does not know if the Saudis have been persuasive. Nawaz may still get cold feet, but we believe he would lose credibility at this point if he did not return. But a stop for umrah in Saudi Arabia could still give him a fig leaf to avoid confrontation.

Unimpeded Return
--------------


6. (C) Some Musharraf advisors are urging that Nawaz be allowed to return unimpeded. They argue that PML-N's party structure has been deteriorating (Ref A). Even with a surge in media attention and whatever popularity he has gained from sticking to his anti-Musharraf platform, the PML-N is having trouble fielding electoral candidates. Legally, Nawaz's conviction makes him ineligible to run for elected office, so he would be restricted to political maneuvering.


7. (C) This would be the most difficult option for Musharraf to swallow. It would permit the man whom he believed tried to kill him return despite reneging on an agreement not to return or engage in political activity for ten years. Although we believe Musharraf's fears are exaggerated, many in Musharraf's party fear defections to PML-N and the impact of the charismatic Sharif brothers on popular opinion and on Musharraf's electoral prospects. Nawaz's presence could energize PML-N supporters and have a considerable impact in urban areas of the Punjab where the Sharifs have their largest following. As post has reported, the evaluation by Pakistanis of whether Nawaz can siphon votes from Musharraf's ruling party also depends on who wins and who loses in the Benazir deal.

Arrest
--------------


8. (C) Nawaz has been convicted on hijacking and corruption charges; there are additional pending cases against him and his brother. Fearing a less than sympathetic court, the government has not requested re-affirmation of these charges, but it certainly could arrest either or both Sharifs upon their return. In the short-term, his arrest would again generate demonstrations and lead to violence if they are mishandled by the government. If the government acted within the law to pursue Nawaz, however, it could lessen sympathy for Nawaz.


9. (C) Musharraf's supporters fear that arrest might turn Nawaz into “another Mandela.” However, PML-N is equally concerned that arresting Nawaz would reduce his utility even more than deporting him. At least abroad, he would be able to continue to make political pronoucements and engage the Pakistani press.

Deportation
--------------


10. (C) The media and virtually all of our sources indicate that the government is planning to deport the Sharifs on arrival. This will put the government in contempt of the Supreme Court, which will respond, but we do not know how. Yesterday, the Chief Justice gave hints that he did not want to encourage general instability in the country. Deportation certainly will generate short-term protests in Rawalpindi, Lahore, Islamabad and Faisalabad. These demonstrations would be a combination of pro-Nawaz protesters and those opposed to Musharraf flaunting the Chief Justice. Lawyers' associations and civil society will join in the demonstrations.


11. (C) The degree of street violence would depend on how well the government controls its police/security forces and avoids clashes under the eyes of the media. Our judgment is that demonstrations would be messy but are unlikely to result in a loss of life as they did in Karachi in May. An important question for us is Nawaz's ability to mobilize supporters in the street if he were not personally on the scene. While there are similarities with the Chief Justice issue, the Chief Justice was personally leading demonstrations and had made himself into a symbol of much that is unpopular in Pakistan. Nawaz also had a reputation for corruption when he was Prime Minister. Demonstrations that undermine public support for the government, however, could speed defections from Musharraf's party to PML-N or PPP candidates in the general election.

12 (C) Comment: We believe that a public announcement of a Musharraf-Bhutto deal would go a long way toward lessening the downsides of Nawaz's return and deflate whatever political influence he might have. We will keep Washington advised as the situation develops.
PATTERSON