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08ISLAMABAD1655 2008-04-23 14:30:00 SECRET Embassy Islamabad
Cable title:  

PAKISTAN'S NEW HEARTS AND MINDS CAMPAIGN

Tags:   PGOV PK PREL PTER 
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1. (S) Summary. There are multiple initiatives, some old
and some new, underway in Pakistan to negotiate an end to
violence with militants or separatists in the tribal areas as
part of a hearts and minds campaign. Many of these
initiatives involve a prisoner exchange/release of some kind,
but the true numbers and identities of those who may be
released remain unclear. Post has repeatedly stressed to GOP
officials our strong opposition to the release of al
Qaeda/Taliban detainees. We have been equally emphatic that
any new South Waziristan peace agreement must be enforceable.
We are not yet persuaded that this hearts and minds campaign
will succeed but agree that the new government believes it is
a necessary first step in formulating its own anti-terrorism
policy. Pakistani leaders continue to insist that they will
not release the 27 Taliban detainees the U.S. has identified
as problematic, but it is difficult to see how the GOP can
implement a peace deal without offering the release of some
militant detainees. End Summary.

The New Hearts & Minds Campaign


--------------------------



2. (C) Many Pakistanis believe that a newly elected
government with a popular mandate has an opportunity to
successfully convince the militant "reconcilables" to cease
supporting terrorism and extremism. The Pakistanis continue
to insist to us that they will not negotiate with al Qaeda or
the Taliban/Baitullah Mehsud and that their reconciliation
initiative is aimed at the tribal leaders who form the
support network for militants. Pakistan People's Party
Co-Chair Asif Zardari has made a conscious decision to hand
over implementation of this hearts and minds campaign to
Pashtun-based Awami National Party (ANP) leader Asfundyar
Wali Khan. If Wali Khan fails, Zardari has said "we have
other options." But there is a clear desire to try
negotiations first. Chief of Army Staff General Kayani
believes he needs political support to renew military
operations against the militants and has endorsed the
outreach strategy.

3. (C) The new coalition government led by Prime Minister
Gillani is proceeding with a number of initiatives under this
campaign. Some of these are new proposals; some are a
continuation of negotiations begun by the Musharraf
government. Overall, the new government sees a political
need to distance itself from the Musharraf era agenda, which
has been popularly characterized as a military-focused
approach implemented at the behest of the United States.
Because Musharraf did not regularly brief the parliament or
the general public on activities related to the war on
terror, the plans/rhetoric of many new ministers are not
based on full knowledge of the anti-terrorism agenda that
Musharraf tried, with varying success, to implement.

Multiple Initiatives:


--------------------------



4. (S) Post has repeatedly stressed our strong opposition
to the release of al Qaeda/Taliban detainees. We have been
equally emphatic that any new South Waziristan peace
agreement must be enforceable (reftels). It may be helpful
to describe the several, often confusing, overlapping
initiatives now underway.

Kidnapped Pakistani Ambassador


--------------------------



5. (S) On February 11, Tariq Azizuddin, the Pakistani
Ambassador to Afghanistan, was kidnapped in Khyber Agency
while driving from Peshawar to Kabul. It appears this began
as a simple crime for ransom, but the kidnappers may have
turned the Ambassador over to al Qaeda/Taliban terrorists.
Azizuddin appeared in a video April 19 conveying the
kidnappers' demands, which included the release of Taliban
leader Mullah Obaidullah and five or six others. We have
conflicting reports on where this negotiation stands and
which, if any, hostages would be released in exchange for the

ISLAMABAD 00001655 002 OF 003


Azizuddin.

Ladha Fort Negotiations


--------------------------



6. (S) The Army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) have
been negotiating for months with Baitullah Mehsud following
the militant attacks on Ladha Fort on January 10 and 22. This
negotiation includes a possible prisoner exchange to free the
approximately 60 captured Frontier Corps personnel from the
Fort.

27 Taliban Militants


--------------------------



7. (S) The Army and ISI also appear to have been
considering the release of 27 Taliban militants in connection
with the Ambassador's kidnapping and/or the Lahda Fort
negotiations. Zardari, PM Gillani and President Musharraf
have now assured us (Refs C, D) that these 27 militants will
not be released. However, we believe that a prisoner
exchange of some Baitullah Mehsud personnel is still under
discussion.

New South Waziristan Agreement


--------------------------



8. (S) COAS Kayani April 2 briefed the new government on
the status of a new South Waziristan accord, which the
Pakistanis insist is not with Baitullah Mehsud, but with
tribal leaders. It, too, involves a prisoner exchange of an
indeterminate number of militants. This initiative had been
underway for months before the election; Zardari appears to
have embraced it to prevent a clash with the military and
because it fits the government's new strategy in general.
Zardari has been at great pains to ensure the U.S. was
pre-briefed on the initiative, that it does not include a
prisoner swap and that it has enforceable conditions. (Refs
B, C)

Sufi Mohammad Released


--------------------------



9. (S) On April 21, with the support of the new coalition,
the leaders of the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP)
released Tehrik Nifaz Shariat-e-Muhammmadi (TNSM) leader Sufi
Mohammad (Ref A). Despite having once led forces across the
border to attack the U.S.-led coalition, he is now considered
by Pakistanis to be in the "reconcilable" category. Upon
release after six years in jail, the aging Sufi renounced
militancy and pledged to continue to support enforcement of
Sharia law, but through peaceful means. He said he would
respect the government and would not launch attacks against
government and security personnel. The NWFP government is
attempting to use his release to split the support base of
his son-in-law, Swat TNSM warlord Maulana Fazlullah. (Ref A)

Balochistan Outreach


--------------------------



10. (C) Separately, Zardari is also reaching out to
separatist extremists, mostly based in Balochistan, who for
years have been fighting government forces. The sanctuary
fleeing Baloch leaders reportedly have received in Kabul has
undermined Pak-Afghan relations. On April 22, the Sindh
provincial government dropped treason and other charges
against the President of the Balochistan National Party,
Sardar Akhtar Mengal. Zardari also announced formation of an
All Parties Committee to address ongoing Baloch concerns,
including revenue sharing over the region's coal and gas
reserves. A simmering insurgency has persisted in
Balochistan for several years, but the Baloch may not yet be
ready to be reconciled. The Baloch Liberation Army, which
has repeatedly targeted Punjabi-speaking professionals,
claimed credit for the April 22 assassination of the Vice
Chancellor of the University of Balochistan.

11. (S) Comment: We are not yet persuaded that the
government's hearts and minds campaign will succeed but agree
that they believe it is a necessary first step in formulating
their own anti-terrorism policy. To roll back a growing
insurgency, the GOP will need popular support, and if this
initiative creates the groundwork required for more robust

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military action in the future, it may be worth the effort.
However, we remain deeply concerned that militants will
continue to use the lull in military operations to regroup
and launch attacks into Afghanistan. We are even more
skeptical over the merits of another South Waziristan peace
deal and have made these concerns clear to the new GOP.
PATTERSON