ID: 197040    3/16/2009 12:11    09ISLAMABAD559    Embassy Islamabad    CONFIDENTIAL    09ISLAMABAD546|09ISLAMABAD547|09ISLAMABAD548|09ISLAMABAD551|09ISLAMABAD552|09ISLAMABAD553|09ISLAMABAD554    "VZCZCXRO0522 OO RUEHLH RUEHPW DE RUEHIL #0559/01 0751211 ZNY CCCCC ZZH O 161211Z MAR 09 FM AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE INFO RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 0007 RUEHPW/AMCONSUL PESHAWAR PRIORITY 5871 RUEHLH/AMCONSUL LAHORE PRIORITY 6944 RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI PRIORITY 1281 RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY RUMICEA/USCENTCOM INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY"    "C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ISLAMABAD 000559

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/16/2019 TAGS: PGOV, PREL, PK SUBJECT: LONG MARCH ROUND UP AS OF 1500 LOCAL TIME, MARCH 16

REF: A. ISLAMABAD 546 B. ISLAMABAD 547 C. ISLAMABAD 548 D. ISLAMABAD 551 E. ISLAMABAD 552 F. ISLAMABAD 553 G. ISLAMABAD 554

Classified By: Anne W. Patterson, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: Early in the morning on March 16 Prime Minister Gilani announced former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry's reinstatement and the GOP's intention to file a review petition on the Sharif brothers' case in the Supreme Court. Shortly thereafter, Nawaz Sharif announced that he was calling off the long march. News of these developments swept through the country, bringing lawyers and other long march participants into the streets of Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Islamabad for celebrations. The Karachi Stock Exchange is up, as is the mood in most corners of the country.

- - - - - Islamabad - - - - - Zardari -------

2. (C) President Zardari called the Ambassador about midnight March 15. Zardari said that his advisors were strongly encouraging him to restore former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and that he was going into a meeting with them to discuss the issue. Ambassador made clear we had no objections whatsoever to the former Chief Justice's reinstatement, despite rumors to the contrary. Both Prime Minister Gilani and the new Chairman of the Senate Farooq Naek also told the Ambassador March 15 that the government should bring back the former Chief Justice, as long as he takes a new oath. President Zardari also speculated that the notice of the pending Supreme Court review made it clear that there would be some political reconciliation between the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), making it clear to police and Punjab civil servants there was no reason to confront the Sharifs.

PM Gilani ---------

3. (SBU) In an early morning address to the nation Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani announced the GOP's decision to reinstate former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, who would be sworn in as Chief Justice, taking a new oath, on March 21, the day the current Chief Justice Abdul Hammed Dogar retires.

4. (SBU) Gilani also announced the GOP would file a review petition in the Supreme Court to seek a reversal of the order of disqualification against the Sharif brothers. This petition will allow the GOP to end governor's rule in the Punjab and reinstate Shahbaz Sharif as the acting Chief Minister until the review is complete. Gilani also ordered all provinces to lift Section 144 immediately, and release all arrested political workers detained during the long march.

Nawaz Sharif ------------

5. (SBU) In response to Gilani's statement, Pakistan Muslim League-N leader Nawaz Sharif publicly announced that he was calling off the long march.  He said the decision had been taken following discussion with lawyers and leaders of all allied political parties. Sharif also said that he hoped that Pakistan will &implement real democracy8 and &make the judiciary stronger and the parliament supreme.8 Nawaz Sharif returned to his home at Raiwind, and his brother Shahbaz Sharif also returned to Lahore. At the Lahore Airport, Shahbaz Sharif congratulated his party's activists and the lawyers, movement for achieving their political struggle.

6. (SBU) In response to the Sharif,s call, would-be protesters turned jubilant in the streets of Lahore, Quetta, and Islamabad. All detained protesters have been released. In Islamabad, there are celebrations in front of the Supreme Court and former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry's home. There were also peaceful celebrations by 300-400 Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) supporters. RSO Islamabad reports the Islamabad Police have started removing barriers and containers from the roads. The route to the airport will be cleared soon depending on the law and order situation. There are some reports that Nawaz Sharif may come to Islamabad today to congratulate Iftikhar Chaudhry.

Political Reaction ------------------

7. (C) Awami National Party (ANP) leader Asfundyar Wali Khan publicly congratulated the lawyers, movement and the Chief Justice. He said the ANP had been in favor of political reconciliation from the beginning, and that he was very happy that the decision was reached without violence. ANP Senator Zahid Khan told Poloff his party was relieved that the Long March was called off, and he predicted the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) and the PML-N would form a new coalition government at the Punjab provincial level. Moreover, Zahid Khan said the ANP hoped the government could now focus on terrorism, the economy, and law and order issues that were hurting Pakistanis, especially in the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP).

8. (C) JI leader Qazi Hussain Ahmed gave a public address congratulating Nawaz Sharif and Iftikhar Chaudhry. He called on the nation to hold former President Musharraf accountable for his dismissal of Chaudhry. In conversation with Poloff, JI Punjab president Liaquat Baloch expressed his thanks to USG leaders for pushing for the right decision. Baloch also said that all his party activists had been released from jail and protesters had only suffered minor injuries. He remained wary of how well the PPP government would implement this decision.

9. (C) The Sharif brothers' lawyer Akram Sheikh was less than thrilled by the decision. In conversation with Poloff, he was very cynical that the reinstatement of Iftikhar Chaudhry would make any difference. He believed the Supreme Court was still packed with pro-Musharraf and pro-Zardari judges, and one vote would barely make a difference. Sheikh said that lawyers, movement leader Aitzaz Ahsan was accepting the decision as victory, but he did not see this as such. Sheikh also clarified that the Supreme Court must make an affirmative decision to reinstate Shahbaz Sharif as Punjab Chief Minister pending its review of the disqualification decision.

- - - - Punjab - - - -

10. (SBU) Save the lawyers' celebration in front of the Lahore High Court, Punjab is quiet. Schools and government offices are closed and no demonstrations are planned in the province today. Nawaz Sharif and the senior leadership of the PML-N have returned to Raiwind, and their party workers have been released from detention.

- - - Sindh - - -

11. (SBU) The mood of many opposition parties in Sindh is jubilant. Karachi JI President Mohammed Hussain Mehenti told post that restoration of the Chief Justice is a “victory for the people.” JI members plan to visit the Court District and thank the attorneys for their efforts.

12. (SBU) Karachi Bar Association (KBA) President Mohammad Ali Abbasi was released from jail this morning. Sindh Minister Faisal Sabzari, who is also the Mutahidda Quami Movement (MQM) Deputy Parliamentary leader in the Sindh Provincial Assembly, complained that Zardari's mishandling of the current situation has now made Nawaz Sharif a hero. Sabzari expressed amazement at the PPP concession. He claimed that Sharif did not get major support in the other three provinces, only in his constituency, Punjab. Deputy Sindh Assembly Speaker Shahla Raza (PPP) claimed that PPP already planned to restore Iftikhar Chaudhry a week ago, but was waiting for the current Chief Justice's term to expire.

13. (SBU) The mood among opposition parties in Quetta was also upbeat. The nationalist Pakhtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) held the largest celebratory rally of the day, drawing an estimated 2,000 participants. Other political parties, including PML-N, the National Party (NP), and Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam Ideological (JUI-I), held rallies that drew from around 200 to 1000 participants. There were no reports of violence.

14. (SBU) The Karachi Stock Exchange index of top 100 companies, the KSE-100, gained 5.2 percent, or over 300 points, on the news that the political impasse had been resolved, reaching 6062.

- - - NWFP - - -

15. (SBU) In the morning, a few lawyers danced outside the Peshawar High Court, where for the previous two days they had demonstrated and marched. The lifting of Section 144, prohibiting political gatherings and marches, along with the release of many of those arrested in connection with the long march has added to the celebration.

- - - - - Military - - - - -

16. (C) None of the Pakistan Army units alerted to support civil authorities during the march were deployed, and all other Pakistani Army units were restricted to their cantonments throughout the protests. Pakistani military officials highlighted the fact that Army units, not placed on alert, were deliberately ordered to remain in their cantonments in an effort to telegraph the military's neutrality during the crisis.

17. (C) There is a growing consensus among mid-grade Pakistani military officers that the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Kayani, was the primary interlocutor responsible for convincing President Zardari to restore the Supreme Court judges, including the Chief Justice, and end governor's rule in Punjab Province, thus averting the potential chaos that would have resulted if the marchers had reached Islamabad. USDAO reporting also indicates that the COAS dispatched ISI officers to meet with Nawaz Sharif to explain the Army's role in mediating between the government and the PML-N and to advise him to call off the march if the President acquiesced to the PML-N's and lawyers' demands.

18. (C) ODRP discussed situation with Director General of ISI (Pasha) and DGMO (Javed Iqbal) and found that both were relieved at the outcome. Pasha remarked that there is still much to be done. When ask for his comment regarding winners and losers, he commented diplomatically that everyone won. When ODRP commented that it appeared Zardari had lost popularity, Pasha merely chuckled.

PATTERSON