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08ISLAMABAD764 2008-02-21 15:52:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Islamabad
Cable title:  

AMBASSADOR MEETS WITH PRESIDENT MUSHARRAF

Tags:   PGOV PK PREL 
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1. (C) Summary: Ambassador and DCM met with President
Musharraf, Principal Military Secretary Shafqaat Ahmad, and
DG ISI Nadeem Taj the afternoon of February 21. Musharraf
wanted to give Ambassador his assessment of the ongoing
government formation process. He indicated he was strongly
encouraging Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chair Asif
Zardari to form a coalition consisting of PPP, Pakistan
Muslim League (PML-Q), Awami National Party (ANP), Muttahida
Quami Movement (MQM), and a number of independent National
Assembly members. The President's reasoning was that such a
coalition would provide the PPP with the ability to lead a
coalition government at the federal level and in all four
provincial assemblies. Post believes that excluding Nawaz
Sharif from all the provincial assemblies as well as the
national government is not realistic. End summary.

2. (C) In a private meeting following a two hour briefing on
Mission Islamabad's Federally Administered Tribal Areas
(FATA) Development plan, Musharraf outlined his current
assessment of ongoing government formation. He opined that
the only solution that made sense for both the PPP and the
good of Pakistan was a large coalition of numerous parties
that explicitly excluded Nawaz Sharif's PML-N. He noted the
creation of such a coalition would allow the PPP to both rule
at the center and in all four provincial assemblies. He
noted that, leaving his personal feelings about Nawaz Sharif
aside, the PPP would be foolish to enter in any coalition
with the Sharif faction. He explained that any agreement
with the PML-N would be fraught with difficulties from the
first day, with PML-N party leadership doing everything
possible to undercut the PPP and its leadership. He added
that the policy objectives of the PPP and the other parties
were congruent and that over time any PPP association with
the PML-N would only fracture the PPP's base.

3. (C) Ambassador asked why Nawaz Sharif, who had a
significant victory, would agree to being excluded from the
National Assembly and from all the provincial assemblies.
Musharraf and Nadeem Taj said that Nawaz should get "nothing"
and, if PPP played its cards right, Nawaz could be excluded
from any leadership position. Ambassador and DCM replied
that this scenario, particularly the exclusion of Nawaz from
the Punjab assembly leadership, where his party was the
largest vote getter, was not very realistic.

4. (C) Musharraf claimed the MQM was already on board with
such a proposal, the PML-Q would support it, and the ANP and
the remaining independents could be convinced to join with
PPP. The real problem, he claimed, was that Zardari was
thinking tactically and not strategically. In his opinion,
Zardari still failed to understand how the PML-N would
undercut him, and just how great the difference is between
the parties' two platforms. Musharraf went on to note that
Zardari's hold on the party was nowhere nearly as firm as his
late wife's. If Zardari were to maintain control, he would
have to do more to ensure he did not alienate the party
mainstream. In response to a question from Ambassador,
Musharraf indicated that Zardari would be forced to make Amin
Faheem Prime Minister for two reasons: to have a Sindhi lead
the government and to maintain loyalty from within the party.
Musharraf agreed that Amin Fahim was not a strong leader and
had a reputation for laziness but argued that the regional
credentials would be more valuable than his managerial
ability.

5. (C) Comment: It remains unclear if the proposed coalition
members can coalesce into a workable government. While he is
no doubt correct that any PML-N/PPP coalition would be
fraught with backstabbing and subterfuge, Musharraf has yet
to absorb the extent of the PML-Q's loss. Musharraf,
however, was calm and gracious during the meeting and
appeared confident. We are less than 48 hours from the
election results having been officially announced. While all
the parties are eager to form a government, we expect it will
be days before every possible variation is raised and probed.
We will remain engaged and meet with all political
leadership. Even though Zardari has been roundly criticized
in the press for coming to the US Embassy the day after the
election, all the political players have reiterated their
interest in working with the US and in fighting terrorism.
While this is exactly what we would expect them to say, they

ISLAMABAD 00000764 002 OF 002


are actively seeking us out to convey this message. End
comment.
PATTERSON