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08ISLAMABAD1097 2008-03-12 08:49:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Islamabad
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1. (C) Summary: In a March 11 meeting with Ambassador,
National Security Advisor (NSA) Tariq Aziz indicated his
initial surprise at Pakistan People's Party (PPP) co-chair
Asif Zardari's deal with Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N)
leader Nawaz Sharif. But after talking to Zardari, Aziz did
not seem particularly alarmed. He said that he and others in
the government were staying out of the internal PPP debates
about the Prime Minister position. He reserved most of his
criticism for the PML-Q leaders, particularly Chaudhry Pervez
Elahi, who had still been predicting on election night that
the PML-Q would win over 100 assembly seats in Punjab alone.
End Summary.

2. (C) Ambassador spoke with NSA Tariq Aziz on March 11 to
hear the government's version of the ongoing discussions with
the PPP. Aziz said the March 9 PPP agreement with PML-N
leader Nawaz Sharif had taken them by surprise, with the only
notification being a text message from Zardari, saying "don't
worry." In the past few days, Aziz and ISI Director General
Nadeem Taj had met with Zardari (most recently until four in
the morning) and heard essentially the same message that was
conveyed by Zardari to post (see reftel): the PPP will not
seek to restore former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and
the PPP wants to work with President Musharraf. Aziz said
this view made sense to him, since Zardari's political
position is more secure with Musharraf as President. If
Musharraf stepped down, there would be multiple claimants for
the presidency, including the newly released and increasingly
strident head of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Aitzaz

3. (C) Aziz said Musharraf was not considering stepping down
but was sometimes discouraged. Aziz's impression of
Zardari's behavior so far was largely positive: Zardari is
sincere about working with the Musharraf government but the
jury is still out on whether Zardari can control Nawaz.
Zardari is easier to deal with than his late wife and seems
more practical, Aziz added. When asked about the government's
reaction to the elimination of Amin Faheem as a prime
minister candidate, Aziz described Faheem as "out" and said:
"we are staying out of this one." For Musharraf, there was
absolutely nothing to be gained by injecting his views into
an internal PPP struggle. Aziz repeated that any of the
major prime minister candidates probably would work fine with

4. (C) Aziz seemed particularly irritated with PML-Q leaders
Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, who
continue, in his view, to exercise too much influence on
Musharraf. Aziz recounted how he and now Chief of Army Staff
Kayani had pushed hard for Benazir Bhutto's return and an
alliance with the PPP, but the alliance predictably had been
"sabotaged" by the Chaudhrys. Aziz had told Musharraf that
the PML-Q would go down in flames, but Musharraf was
convinced by wildly optimistic scenarios from the Chaudhrys.
Aziz blamed the party's failure specifically on Pervez Elahi,
who had been so overconfident that he had played games with
the tickets and had moved aside many viable candidates. Aziz
said that even on election night, the PML-Q was still
predicting a win of 100 assembly seats in Punjab alone. Aziz
recounted that when he heard this, he was concerned that the
PML-Q would try to rig the elections even at that late hour.