ID: 149905 4/15/2008 12:53 08ISLAMABAD1574 Embassy Islamabad SECRET "VZCZCXRO8463 OO RUEHLH RUEHPW DE RUEHIL #1574/01 1061253 ZNY SSSSS ZZH O 151253Z APR 08 FM AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6513 INFO RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 8449 RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 7704 RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI PRIORITY 9551 RUEHLH/AMCONSUL LAHORE PRIORITY 5300 RUEHPW/AMCONSUL PESHAWAR PRIORITY 4029 RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY RUMICEA/USCENTCOM INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY" "S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 ISLAMABAD 001574
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/15/2018 TAGS: PGOV, PINR, PK, PREL, PTER, SNAR, ASEC SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR'S CALL ON INTERIOR ADVISOR REHMAN MALIK
Classified By: Anne W. Patterson, Reasons 1.4 (b), (d)
1. (C) Summary: In an April 14 meeting with Ambassador, the new senior Advisor for Interior Rehman Malik repeatedly emphasized the new coalition government's commitment to fighting terrorism, his long-standing ties to American law enforcement, his closeness to Benazir Bhutto during the negotiations leading to her return in 2007, and his assurance that terrorist leaders would be apprehended. He described his familiarity with the tribal areas, where he had been stationed previously in his law enforcement career. The day before, he said he had already been involved in actions against extremists in Parachinar.
2. (C) Ambassador told him the USG strongly objected to the plans of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) to exchange some of the al Qaeda and Taliban-associated operatives for captured soldiers and for Pakistan's ambassador to Afghanistan. Malik replied that there was something “fishy” about the abduction of the Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan. Separately, Malik committed to working with the Embassy, the Regional Affairs Office (RAO) and ISI to find a legal solution for the ISI detainees of interest to the United States who are being held without charges in ISI custody. (See below). Embassy will brief him next week about our ongoing and planned assistance to Pakistan law enforcement and Frontier Corps, about which he knew very little. Malik also expressed concern about the Saudi influence in Pakistan and the Saudi Ambassador's alleged role in funding religious schools and mosques. Embassy recommends a Washington visit for Malik soon. End summary.
3. (C) Ambassador, accompanied by RSO, called on new “senior Advisor” for Interior Rehman Malik April 14. Malik is a cabinet-level advisor, instead of a minister, since he is not in the parliament, but he said he would be elected to the Senate in March 2009. Washington agencies should have information on his background, but Malik worked his way up from a policeman, to head of the Federal Investigative Agency (FIA), to advisor (and business partner) to Benazir Bhutto. He said he had been in partnership with a “son of the king” of Saudi Arabia but provided no additional details. Malik has a controversial reputation from his business dealings, but the Musharraf government has worked satisfactorily with him during the transition period. He has the advantage of a law enforcement background, a grudging respect from the Musharraf camp, street smarts, and closeness to Asif Zardari, co-chairman of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP).
4. (C) Malik repeatedly emphasized the new government was committed to fighting the war against terror. At the same time, PPP was committed to making the relationship between Musharraf and the new government a smooth one. This meant, Malik said, that Musharraf would not be impeached and the former chief justice would not be reinstated. Malik recounted his good relations with American law enforcement personnel when he was head of FIA. Malik also noted he was retaining Interior Secretary Kamal Shah, who has worked well with the Embassy.
5. (S) Ambassador raised with him the notification that ISI was planning to release a number of Taliban and al Qaeda related detainees in exchange for the Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan and sixty soldiers. Ambassador noted that the USG is vigorously opposed to the release of these detainees and has been engaging with ISI to prevent it. Ambassador also noted that during the last government, the Embassy would not have raised this issue with the civilians but were raising it now because the new government was in charge. Malik looked uncomfortable, but it was not clear whether he did not know about the exchange or did not want to discuss it.
6. (S) Malik suggested that “something fishy” was going on with the kidnapping of the Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan, but he was trying to work closely with Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Kayani and with Director General-ISI General Nadeem Taj on this issue. He added there had also been an effort to negotiate the release of suspects who had been indicted for the murder of Benazir Bhutto.
7. (C) Malik asked that the Embassy reach out to the new head of the Intelligence Bureau, who was “more professional” than his predecessor. He also noted that the replacement of Director of Military Intelligence, General Nadeem Ijaz (and nephew of Musharraf's wife) had been a positive development. He said the new government planned to exercise gradual control over ISI and did not want a confrontation with them. Malik said he had excellent personal relations with COAS Kayani and DG/ISI Nadeem Taj.
8. (S) Ambassador raised the broader issue of detainees of interest to American intelligence agencies in ISI custody. She pointed out that there were only a few dozen of these detainees of interest to American intelligence, not the hundreds reported in the press. She noted that Pakistan has many people awaiting trial and sentencing and many others simply lost in the cracks of the legal system. She said our governments needed to find a way to get the dangerous detainees charged in the legal system. Some were foreigners who could not be repatriated to their home countries, i.e. Somalis, and others were dangerous individuals who cannot be released. But we needed to get this issue resolved. Ambassador said that the ISI idea of setting up a military commission had been poorly conceptualized and poorly timed (days after the announcement of the November 3 proclamation of emergency), and to date, no one had been charged under the new process anyway.
9. (C) Malik instantly understood the central issue of converting intelligence information to evidence that could be used in a court, and he offered to set up a committee with ISI, IB, FIA and his ministry to see how this could be done. He said this implementation would be difficult because many of these individuals had been held past the legal arrest time, but he added that the Supreme Court could no longer take a “suo moto” motion (taking up a case without a referral from a lower court), so there was little danger of judicial release. (Note. While there may be a tacit agreement by the current Supreme Court Chief Justice not to pursue suo moto actions, legally the Supreme Court still has this authority.) Ambassador noted that the Embassy was requesting legal assistance on this issue from Washington.
10. (C) When Ambassador raised the U.S. mission's ongoing lack of success on counternarcotics issues, particularly with the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF), Malik said more focus should be put on working with the Frontier Corps Balochistan. Ambassador readily agreed. She told him the U.S. mission planned to cut off most assistance to the ANF's Sensitive Investigative Unit (SIU) due to lack of performance.
11. (SBU) Malik was unaware of our strategy in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to build up the Frontier Corps, the tribal levies, and other local militia. Embassy officers will brief him in detail next week.
12. (C) Malik said he was particularly concerned about the role of the Saudi Ambassador in funding religious schools and mosques and (implicitly) Nawaz Sharif, but he was going to try to work with him. Malik said that Musharraf had come close to “throwing him (the Saudi Ambassador) out of the country” but Malik said he knew the Saudi royal family well and would work with them.
13. (SBU) Ambassador also raised with him the case of AmCit detainee Dr. Sarki, which will be reported septel. 14. (SBU) Embassy recommends that Malik be invited soon to Washington. PATTERSON