79557 9/25/2006 11:38 06ISLAMABAD18917 Embassy Islamabad CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN 06ISLAMABAD16956 "VZCZCXRO8845 PP RUEHDBU RUEHLH RUEHPW DE RUEHIL #8917/01 2681138 ZNY CCCCC ZZH P 251138Z SEP 06 FM AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1208 INFO RUEHTA/AMEMBASSY ALMATY PRIORITY 9605 RUEHAH/AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT PRIORITY 1182 RUEHEK/AMEMBASSY BISHKEK PRIORITY 3803 RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO PRIORITY 0916 RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA PRIORITY 1648 RUEHDBU/AMEMBASSY DUSHANBE PRIORITY RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 6212 RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU PRIORITY 7123 RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 9340 RUEHNT/AMEMBASSY TASHKENT PRIORITY 1871 RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI PRIORITY 2875 RUEHLH/AMCONSUL LAHORE PRIORITY 0173 RUEHPW/AMCONSUL PESHAWAR PRIORITY 8211 RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY" "C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 ISLAMABAD 018917
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/23/2016 TAGS: KDEM, KWMN, PGOV, PHUM, PK SUBJECT: HUDOOD ORDINANCE AMENDMENTS: A BIG SLOPPY MESS
REF: A. ISLAMABAD 16956
B. ISLAMABAD 14095 C. ISLAMABAD 12517
Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Peter W. Bodde, Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
1. (C) Summary and Introduction: With President Musharraf on official travel in the U.S., the governing Pakistan Muslim League (PML) announced a tactical retreat in it beleaguered campaign to amend the Hudood Ordinance, the Sharia-based laws on criminalizing extramarital sexual relations and establishing often insurmountable evidentiary requirements for the prosecution of cases of rape. As reported previously (Ref A, B and C), the PML-led government initiated the drive to amend the Hudood Ordinance in mid-summer, following a savvy print and broadcast media campaign enlisting a cross section of respected journalists, Islamic scholars and policy analysts in support of the need to amend laws widely perceived by progressive Pakistanis, as well as many in the international community, as deeply prejudicial to women.
2. (C) Before introducing the bill to amend the Ordinance in the National Assembly on August 21, PML floor managers struck a deal with the opposition populist Pakistan People's Party (PPP) to move the bill to an all-party Select Committee for expedited review, with the goal of shielding the text from extensive revision by the opposition coalition of Islamist parties, the Muttadidda Majlis-e-Ammal (MMA). In this scenario, the Select Committee would consider the bill's Islamic credentials quietly, while the united opposition proceeded with an ultimately unsuccessful ""no confidence"" vote against Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz on August 29. (Ref C) External events -- most notably, the August 26 death of Balochistan nationalist Nawab Aktar Bugti Khan in a confrontation with Pakistani security forces and subsequent emboldening of the MMA -- derailed the PML's maneuvering to rush the Hudood Amendment through parliament before President Musharraf's September travel to Brussels, Havana and NYC/WashDC. What followed was two weeks of political mayhem, as an MMA threat to resign from the Provincial (NWFP and Balochistan) and National Assemblies spooked PML leaders into extra-parliamentary negotiations with MMA figures on regressive revisions to the proposed Hudood amendments, provoking bitter denunciations by PPP, MQM and human rights activists that the government was (again) caving in to the mullahs.
3. (C) A month after the government's Hudood amendments were first introduced into parliament, the drama has come full circle: PML President Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain announced on Sept 18 that having failed to to reach a compromise with the MMA, the PML would re-introduce the Hudood amendments for a National Assembly vote upon President Musharraf's return to Pakistan in early October. Senior officials at PML House and in the Office of the President have assured the Ambassador and PolCouns that this time around, the government will see the amendments through without further delay. End summary and introduction.
Death in Balochistan Opens Door for MMA --------------------------------------------- ------------ 4. (C/NF) At the close of the week following the government's introduction of the Hudood amendment bill into the National Assembly, it appeared that -- with the cooperation of coalition partner Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) and the opposition PPP -- the path for the bill's passage had been smoothly prepared for vote immediately following the August 29 no confidence vote. News of the violent death of Nawab Bugti on August 26, however, injected a shot of adrenaline into the August 29 debate, racheting up the anticipated dry opposition accusations of financial mismanagement against the Prime Minister into a passionate condemnation of the extrajudicial killing by a military government of a renowned civilian politician. The MMA one-upped calls by Baloch nationalists to withdraw from the provincial and national parliaments by declaring that its ISLAMABAD 00018917 002 OF 004 members would resign their seats if the government went forward with the proposed Hudood amendments.
5. (C/NF) The MMA's threat to resign caught the attention of top PML leaders. With a majority of seats in the NWFP Assembly and a coalition partner with nationalist parties in Balochistan, a united MMA has the clout to bring down both provincial governments, leaving the center little option other than imposing Governor's Rule; a walk-out of the MMA's 66 members in the National Assembly would leave the government vulnerable to calls for early parliamentary elections. Shaken by the MMA threat, PML President Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain agreed to set up an extra-parliamentary PML - MMA committee to discuss revisions to the Hudood amendments to make the bill acceptable to some, if not all, of the Islamist parties. Privately, Shujaat and other top PML leaders confided that they hoped to split the MMA, peeling Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam - Fazlur Rehman (JUI-F) leader Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman away from Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) Amir Qazi Hussain Ahmed. Publicly, however, the prevailing perception in both the press and political circles was that Musharaff and the PML were succumbing to public pressure by the Islamists. Media reports and cocktail party chatter through the first half of September were rife with speculation over MMA demands and government concessions on the text of the proposed amendments.