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.
Sound and Fury, Signifying Virtually Nothing --------------------------------------------- ------------- 6. (C/NF) The chatter was not always off the mark. On September 12, Federal Information Minister Durrani shared the text of MMA revisions he said PML negotiators had accepted, including provisions that would have established parallel jurisdictions under the Hudood Ordinance and the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) in rape cases; injected Sharia-based standards of evidence in to the PPC for rape cases; and created a new ""lewdness"" offense into the PPC, essentially inserting the Islamic concept of ""zina"" (sex outside marriage) into the PPC. While European and U.S. diplomats and human rights activists scurried to discover what deals were being cut, PML leaders were slowly realizing that Fazl-ur Rehman was only engaged in political flirtation in the PML-MMA negotiations. Sources in the Office of the President and PML House told post that by mid-September, it was clear that efforts to neutralize constituent parties in the MMA on the Hudood amendments were pointless. National Security Advisor Tariq Aziz told the Ambassador that, after a week or more of political flirtation with Fazl-ur-Rehman, both he and Qazi Hussain Ahmed were adamant that the Islamist parties would remain united in their pledge to resign if the government succeeds in passing the Hudood amendments.
Re-Group and Try Again -------------------------------- 7. (C/NF) On September 19, Ambassador discussed the GOP's plans to resuscitate the battered amendments bill. NSA Tariq Aziz and PML Secretary General Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed said that PML President Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain has sent a memo to President Musharraf's traveling party outlining the state-of-play following the breakdown of negotiations with the MMA. Aziz and Hussain said that the government would re-introduce the amendments following Musharraf's return to Pakistan on/about October 1, presenting the text that emerged from the all-party Select Committee, with the addition of the PPC ""lewdness"" provision plus ""firewalls."" (Note: ""Firewalls"" are supplemental clauses crafted to ensure that rape remains severed from zina, such as language that would prevent a rape complainant from being charged with any other crime in connection with the complaint -- i.e., a woman's rape complaint could not later be used as a self-incriminatory confession leading to a zina or lewdness case -- and that would impose automatic perjury penalties on witnesses who testify in zina cases that that the courts determine are unfounded. End note.) The Government is confident that the PPP will vote for the Select Committee's text, and that the MQM can be brought on board. The Ambassador was firm in telling Aziz and Hussain that ISLAMABAD 00018917 003 OF 004 injecting the lewdness provision into the Penal Code will be perceived as a concession to MMA demands; the time has come for President Musharraf and the PML-led government to decide what principals they will stand on. (Note: The Ambassador's words clearly made an impression: in a Sept 21 conversation with PolCouns, Mushahid Hussain said that the party is now debating whether to push to move the lewdness provision into the Penal Code, a move he claimed to oppose personally. End note.)
Whither the MMA? ------------------------- 8. (C/NF) Despite MMA threats to walk out should the parliament pass the Hudood amendments, both Aziz and Mushahid Hussain are skeptical that the MMA would actually follow through with mass resignations from the Provincial and National Assemblies: MMA members in the provincial assemblies are enjoying the perks of their offices too much to want to leave prematurely. In the National Assembly, many MMA members (particularly those from JUI-F) are presently sitting under a sword of Damocles, as a Supreme Court hearing is scheduled for late September on whether madrassa-based education meet existing laws on the academic qualifications for elected officials. Most observers anticipate that when the Court finally issues a ruling, the decision will go against the MMA. This case has been on the Court's docket for almost four years, in tacit recognition of the government's desire to avoid a confrontation with the MMA on the credentials question. If the MMA does not go through with the threat to resign, the government can again signal the Court that further procedural delays are in order; alternatively, if the Islamic parties walk out, a Court ruling disqualifying significant numbers of MMA leaders from holding public office would not be long to follow.
Collateral Damage ------------------------ 9. (C/NF) The political battle between moderates and conservatives over the Hudood Ordinance amendments has already claimed one victim: on September 20, Dr. Javed Ahmed Ghamdi, a moderate member of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), resigned his position, saying that the government had undermined the CII, a constitutionally-established advisory body, when it formed the extra-parliamentary ""Ulema Committee"" to review the text of the proposed amendments with the MMA. If the government incorporates the revisions suggested by this committee, Dr. Ghamdi said to the Daily Times, it will preserve the status quo of laws that discriminate against women. Dr. Ghamdi's objections to the MMA proposed revisions, such as incorporating the lewdness offense and Sharia evidentiary requirements into the PPC, are themselves contrary to Islamic injunctions. (Note: Dr. Ghamdi's departure is a blow to President Musharraf's efforts to transform the CII from a bastion of fundamentalism to a force for enlightened moderation. A Musharraf- appointee, Ghamdi was the swing vote on the CII; behind the scenes. He worked closely with Attorney General Makhdoom Ali Khan on drafting the proposed Hudood amendments XXXXXXXXXXXX, approaching the issue as an Islamic scholar. Mushahid Hussain told PolCouns he was worried that the CCI chairman, Dr. Muhammad Khalid Masood, would be the next to resign. End note.)
Comment ------------ 10. (C/NF) The GOP's efforts to advance the Hudood Ordinance amendments bring to mind the analogy of legislation and sausage-making; nobody should have to see what goes into the finished product. This unseemly process has re-confirmed the worst suspicions of the Musharraf regime's many opponents that the President is not serious about ""enlightened moderation"" and that the PML-led coalition will always put its political interests before principal, caving into MMA fundamentalist demands even when it has the votes to move its legislation forward.
11. (C/NF) The ups-and-down of the Hudood amendments have ISLAMABAD 00018917 004 OF 004been dizzying to follow, but some truths have come home: other than a thin veneer of political and media progressives, the human rights community (and, of course, Western diplomats), there is no broad constituency in Pakistan clamoring to amend the existing Hudood Ordinance. A generation has come of age under General Zia's Hudood and, despite well-documented cases of abuse and injustice, this is not an issue that resonates deeply with either Pakistan's ruling elite or its socially conservative masses. It is not just the MMA who oppose amending the Hudood: both PML and PPP party whips have their work cut out for them, enforcing party discipline on parliamentarians who are not inclined totake up the cause of women's rights.
12. (C/NF) Post believes that the text that emerged from the National Assembly Select Committee represents significantprogress in remedying the worst evils of Zia's Hudood Ordinance, leaving open the possibility of additionalamendments in the future. As emboffs continue to monitor the bill's progress, post recommends that the USG takes its cue from the PPP, MQM and progressive parliamentary leaders: in the spirit of not allowing the perfect become the enemy of the good, if Pakistan's progressive politicians are satisfied that the proposed amendments enhance legal protections for women and back the government's bill, then so should we.