129270 11/8/2007 12:38 07ISLAMABAD4793 Embassy Islamabad CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN 07ISLAMABAD4789 "VZCZCXRO1448 OO RUEHLH RUEHPW DE RUEHIL #4793/01 3121238 ZNY CCCCC ZZH O 081238Z NOV 07 FM AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3096 INFO RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 7730 RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 6664 RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 2170 RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI PRIORITY 7948 RUEHLH/AMCONSUL LAHORE PRIORITY 3982 RUEHPW/AMCONSUL PESHAWAR PRIORITY 2508 RUMICEA/USCENTCOM INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY 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 004793
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/08/2017 TAGS: AEMR, AMGT, CASC, KFLO, PGOV, PINR, PK, PREL SUBJECT: NSA AZIZ ASKS USG TO CONVINCE BHUTTO TO CALL OFF RALLY
REF: A. ISLAMABAD 4789
B. ISLAMABAD 4739
Classified By: Anne W. Patterson, Reasons 1.4 (b), (d)
1. (C) Summary: National Security Advisor Tariq Aziz confirmed press reports that President Musharraf has decided to hold elections before February 14 and to resign as Chief of Army Staff as soon as the newly reconstituted Supreme Court rules on his own election. We do not yet have Pakistan People's Party (PPP) leader Benazir Bhutto's reaction. At this point, it seems as if Bhutto will proceed to hold a PPP rally tomorrow in Rawalpindi and that the government will attempt forcibly to prevent it.
2. (C) NSA advisor Tariq Aziz called the Ambassador November 8 to solicit the USG's urgent help in persuading Benazir Bhutto to call off tomorrow's planned rally. Ambassador recounted her conversation with Bhutto November 7 (ref A), in which Bhutto indicated she had been pushed into a corner. Aziz said that such a rally would be ""dangerous"" and the GOP would prevent Bhutto ""from leaving home"" to take part in the rally. Ambassador said that Bhutto seemed determined to proceed, but that both she and the UK High Commissioner had expressed concern for Bhutto's safety. She stressed that putting Benazir Bhutto under house arrest would cause an international outcry. Ambassador said the situation could be defused if Musharraf announced a date for elections: Aziz said he might do so after today's national security meeting. Ambassador called Bhutto to relay the conversation, express concern for her safety, and encourage direct contact. Bhutto said they had suspended talks with the government until elections were announced and Musharraf agreed to take off his uniform. End Summary.
3. (C) National Security Advisor Tariq Aziz called November 8 to confirm press reports that President Musharraf has decided to hold elections before February 14 and to resign as Chief of Army Staff as soon as the newly reconstituted Supreme Court rules on his own election. Previously, Aziz had called Ambassador to urge the U.S. to use its influence with PPP leader Benazir Bhutto to get her to cancel tomorrow's rally in Rawalpindi. NSA Aziz sounded unusually agitated and stated that Bhutto's rally would be ""dangerous."" NSA Aziz went on to say that the GOP could not ensure Bhutto's safety during the event.
4. (C) Responding to Ambassador's question about whether the GOP intended to arrest Bhutto, NSA Aziz said that the GOP would put Bhutto under house arrest if she did not call off tomorrow's scheduled demonstration. Aziz said that Musharraf was ""very upset"" about Bhutto's plan to demonstrate against him. Aziz also said Friday's rally would undermine his personal credibility since he brokered last month's Bhutto-Musharraf deal. Aziz went on to say that any rapprochement between Musharraf and Bhutto would be ""thrown out the window"" if she went ahead with tomorrow's rally. He stressed the USG involvement in brokering an arrangement between Benazir and Musharraf and said it would all be wasted.
5. (C) Following Aziz's request for U.S. assistance, Ambassador told Aziz that in recent conversations with Bhutto, the PPP leader noted an improved atmosphere with Musharraf (ref B). Ambassador told Aziz, however, that Musharraf had not yet responded to Bhutto's requests to set a date for elections, resign from his Army post, lift the state of emergency, and reconstitute the Election Commission. Ambassador told Aziz it was not the USG's place to ask Bhutto to cancel the rally, but she (and the UK High Commissioner) had certainly expressed concern about her safety and security, and urged her to take this into account. Ambassador also relayed that Bhutto felt as if she had been excoriated by the Pakistani press, and she and her supporters had few remaining political options.
6. (C) Ambassador stressed that Musharraf might diffuse the situation by announcing a date for elections. NSA advisor responded by saying that even if such a date were announced, ""it might slip,"" but said Musharraf might do so after today's National Security Council meeting. Aziz said he would be back in touch.
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7. (C) Ambassador called Bhutto to recount the conversation and urge direct contact with the government. Bhutto said that a number of PPP activists were being arrested throughout the country and that the party had advised her to cut off contact with the government until elections were announced and Musharraf resigned from the Army. Bhutto replied to Ambassador's concerns about her safety by saying that she was going to hold a rally, not a procession, and that the Pakistan Muslim League leader and Chief Minister of the Punjab holds large rallies frequently and without impediment. She said she needed jamming equipment from the government and that there was no reason she could not hold a rally safely if the government were cooperative. She said (as she did the previous night) that she had been backed into a corner politically and had no choice but to proceed. Ambassador recounted to Bhutto that Aziz had told her that an announcement of elections might be forthcoming, but she did not know what it would say. Bhutto thanked President Bush for his statement November 7.
8. (C) Comment: We do not yet have Bhutto's reaction to Musharraf's decision. As of now, it appears as if Bhutto is planning to proceed with the rally and that the government is planning to block it by force, including prohibiting Bhutto from leaving her home, to prevent it. She, too, is playing a dangerous game, but she has been criticized in the local press and by her party for being too close to the USG and for being too much in bed with Musharraf. Ambassador asked Tariq Aziz if the government would get to a scenario in which the Army would have to be called out to quell unrest and he said ""no, not the Army"" with some disquiet in his voice.