76514    8/29/2006 12:36    06ISLAMABAD17014    Embassy Islamabad    CONFIDENTIAL    06ISLAMABAD16944    "VZCZCXRO4591 PP RUEHDBU RUEHLH RUEHPW DE RUEHIL #7014/01 2411236 ZNY CCCCC ZZH P 291236Z AUG 06 FM AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8930 INFO RUEHTA/AMEMBASSY ALMATY 9568 RUEHAH/AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT 1053 RUEHEK/AMEMBASSY BISHKEK 3772 RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 0878 RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 1606 RUEHDBU/AMEMBASSY DUSHANBE RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL 6051 RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 6989 RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 9163 RUEHNT/AMEMBASSY TASHKENT 1737 RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI 2554 RUEHLH/AMCONSUL LAHORE 9936 RUEHPW/AMCONSUL PESHAWAR 7936"    "C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ISLAMABAD 017014

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/29/2016 TAGS: PK, PREL, PGOV, KTER SUBJECT: REACTION TO DEATH OF NAWAB BUGTI SHIFTS FROM MILITARY TRIUMPH TO MARTYRDOM

REF: ISLAMABAD 16944

Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Peter W. Bodde, Reason 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (C) SUMMARY: From Sunday's ""we've got him"" triumphialism, the government's position on the death of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti has evolved to a denial that the Baloch tribal leader was the victim of a targeted assassination.  The back pedaling follows growing criticism of the security operation that resulted in Nawab Bugti's death.  The harshest criticism has come from Baloch politicians; most violent protest to date has been limited to cities in Balochistan (Quetta, Gwadar,and Kalat), although most of the province and much of interior Sindh remains shut down in a ""wheel jam, shutters down"" general strike. Politicans from outside the province have joined the attacks on the government, that the action ""martyred"" a Pakistani patriot working for the restoration of the constitution.  Press commentators have followed this same line, making it difficult to predict how long the wave of bathos and recrimination will wash over the government.  Only three days after Bugti's demise, his death has been transformed from a military victory over an insurgent tribal leader into the killing of a political leader, the specter of which cuts close to the bone of Pakistan's political class. END SUMMARY.

2. (C) The government's triumphant announcement Sunday of the death of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, sardar of Baloshistan's Bugti tribe and leader of an intermittent insurgency against the Government of Pakistan (reftel), quickly yielded to fallback explanations distancing the government from accusations of extra-judicial murder.  Government sources quoted in Tuesday's papers claimed that the Bugti hideout was attacked after a GOP helicopter responded to ground fire; that the collapse of the cave in which the Nawab and his men were hiding was the result of structural weakness; and that the incident was the result of betrayal at the hands of another Baloch tribe, the Marri.  (Note:  For a more expansive take on the government's evolving tale, post recommends the August 29 ""The News"" article entitled ""Bugti's killing in Marri area intriguing,"" by Muhammad Saleh Zaafir, a journalist thought to be close to the military at www.thenews.com.pk.  End note.) The government has stopped short of pleading ignorance that Nawab Bugti was hiding in the cave attacked by GOP forces on August 26.  Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, announcing the dispatch of earth-moving equipment to recover the bodies still buried in the cave, said the government did not know if the Nawab's grandsons (and possible heirs) were also killed in the attack.

3. (SBU) The new spin on Nawab Bugti's death was driven largely by reactions from Pakistan's political class.  All opposition parties condemned the action, staging an ad hoc ""mourning session"" in the National Assembly to pay tribute to the ""martyr"" who died in an ""extra-judicial murder."" Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy (ARD) Chairman (and Pakistan People's Party leader) Amin Fahim characterized the Nawab as a supporter of parlimentary democracy and called the incident ""murder of democracy.""  Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders condemned the government for ""killing politicians after declaring them traitors"" and promised the issue would be addressed at an All Parties Conference convened by the ARD on August 31.  Both PML-N and the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) bench, consisting of an alliance of six religious parties, have declared that they may tender their resignations from the Assembly to protest the death of the Nawab.  The MMA has threatened to play the mass resignation card before, but only ""at an opportune time.""

4. (SBU) Some in the governing coalition have distanced themselves from the incident.  The Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) characterized the death as an ""extrajudicial killing."" MQM member of the Assembly Syed Haider Abbaz Rizvi said the party opposed the use of state force in Balochistan ""from day one.""  MQM leader-in-exile Altaf Hussain condemned the incident as well, while Farooq Sattar, convener of the party, explained that the incident would not prevent the party from supporting the government over the opposition.

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5.  (SBU) Politicians of all stripes are distraught by the scenario of one of their own -- a former provincial chief minister and national minister and parliamentarian -- dying at the hands of the military, even if the deceased led or encouraged insurrections in his home province over the past 50 years.  Some in the Pakistan People's Party have gone so far as to likening Nawab Bugti's death to that of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto at the hands of the Zia government in 1979.  Even government ministers have public expressed their regret for the circumstances surrounding Bugti's death.

6. (C)  Comment:  The evolving hagiography in some press accounts portray Nawab Bugti as one of the last bulwarks against the Talibanization of the border region.  Like many Baloch, the Nawab had no tolerance for militant Islamists, but he also relished his status as a tribal lord answerable only to himself.  Efforts to recast the Nawab as a standard bearer for democracy are little more than revisionist portraiture, as anecdotes depicting his penchant for flaunting his powers and prowess abound.  Even in death, Nawab Bugti continues to bedevil the government in Islamabad: post's contacts say that opposition parties debating the no confidence motion against PM Shaukat Aziz in the National Assembly today are brushing over the corruption charges that were to be the crux of their case, instead devoting their floor time to excoriating the government for resorting to violence to subdue amn iconic political rebel.  End comment.

7.  (U)  Consulate staff in Lahore and Karachi contributed to this cable.

BODDE BODDE "?