Consulate Lahore, US DoS. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d) 1. (C) Summary: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) leader and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham December 6 he is convinced Pakistanis were involved in the Mumbai attacks and he would push for strict action against the responsible extremists. Sharif pointed out that he had concluded the Lahore Declaration in 1999 with Indian Prime Minister Atal Vajpayee, and the PMLN has refrained from making India a political issue. McCain noted the enormous political pressures Indian leaders faced and urged Pakistan action against Mumbai attacker, Sharif said he recognized that Pakistan faced the same enemy and committed to work against the extremists. End Summary. Nawaz Sharif Upset About U.S. Support for Musharraf 2. (C) Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) leader and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham December 6 that his party has acted responsibly with the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) to fight terrorism. He recounted that former President Pervez Musharraf had exiled both him and PPP leader Benazir Bhutto, and he was “amazed when President Bush provided his support for a dictator.” His party had supported the PPP government until President Asif Zardari failed to honor his commitment to restore the judges dismissed by Musharraf, at which point the PMLN withdrew from the national government.
3. (C) Nawaz Sharif contrasted his approach to India, in which he had signed the Lahore Declaration with Indian Prime Minister Atal Vajpayee to establish a peaceful path to normalization, to Musharraf’s strategy, which brought on the confrontation at Kargil, “the biggest blunder he committed,” Sharif said. He boasted that his party has refrained from using India as a political tool. “We strongly condemned what happened in India, and want the issue to come to an end,” he stated. “If there is any concrete evidence, we must take action.” McCain Urges Pakistan to Respond Quickly
4. (C) Senator John McCain underscored that the evidence from the Mumbai attacks indicates the perpetrators came out of Pakistan. “These are facts,” he stressed. He described his recent visit to New Delhi, in which he found public opinion “never more aroused.” “Unless some concrete steps besides condemning the attacks are taken, you will see concrete action from India,” he warned. Specific action from Pakistan, such as dismantling the training camps, will allow the U.S. to help defuse the rapidly escalating tension between the two countries and relieve the pressure on India to respond militarily, he offered.
5. (C) Turning to Afghanistan, McCain noted that the U.S. has achieved “some degree of success against these warring elements.” He worried about the viability of the government in Kabul and President Hamid Karzai’s lack of popularity and acceptance throughout the country, and recognized that violence has increased because of the sustained presence of the Taliban. He urged Sharif to support Pakistan to work closely together with the U.S. to confront a “common enemy.” Sharif Says He Recognizes Terrorist Threat to Pakistan
6. (C) Sharif recounted that during his stints as Prime Minister he offered Pakistan’s support for the Gulf War and discussed in great detail with President Clinton how to deal with extremist forces in Afghanistan. “Who could be more committed to fight against terrorism?” he asked. The December 5 bomb in Peshawar and the blast at the Marriott Hotel proved that Pakistan also faced a threat. He was aggrieved over the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and he himself had dodged bullets at election rallies. “The people responsible for Bombay are also operating in Pakistan — we face those forces here,” he said. He underlined his commitment to help the government “eradicate this menace.”
7. (C) Regarding India, Sharif acknowledged the country’s anger, but criticized the Indian media for its “indecent haste” in blaming Pakistan. But he described how he had listened to the phone call made by one of the attackers and even though the individual claimed he was Indian, Sharif heard a Pakistani accent. “The people involved were from this country — I am convinced,” he stated. “We must take strictest action against those elements.” Once India produces concrete evidence, “we should proceed whole hog,” he declared. McCain Urges Action
8. (C) McCain reiterated that Pakistan must take “specific steps to calm the situation.” He explained that because India’s government answers to the people, it must respond to the voters’ demand to take action. He pointed out that economic development and military assistance to Pakistan is essential to help the country fight terrorism. “I do not want to see a movement in Congress to take measures to reduce assistance,” he cautioned. Graham Stresses Rule of Law
9. (C) Senator Graham praised the lawyers movement, and said that he saw an “opportunity for the rule of law to take center stage.” He offered that the international community would look favorably on Pakistan if it took decisive action against the terrorists. “If India believes that its neighbor is a safe haven for the people who slaughtered its citizens, it cannot sit on the sidelines,” he observed. Instead of working on the Kashmir issue through the Lashker-e-Taiba, he urged Pakistan to use legal measures to defeat the terrorists. Assimilating the tribal areas legally might also help eliminate a source of tension within Pakistan, he thought. On Afghanistan, he noted that President-elect Obama intended to win the war, and he emphasized that the U.S. considered Pakistan a long-term partner. PMLN Party Members Question Evidence
10. (C) Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudry Nasir Ali Khan recalled that by asserting Pakistan’s sovereignty during the presidential campaign, McCain had reversed the impression in Pakistan that he would prolong President Bush’s policies. Chaudry Nasir highlighted the need for the U.S. to sway public opinion and clarify its stance on the restoration of the judiciary. “You must decide whether the U.S. wants to fight through cronies or genuine friends,” he stated. The U.S. has compromised Pakistan’s sovereignty and signed a nuclear treaty with India, which has turned sentiment in Pakistan away from the U.S. “There is an across the board consensus on action, but not until proof is put forward,” he said. Nasir emphasized that the government can’t move without popular support. Senator McCain agreed that public opinion is key. – – – McCain Stresses Action
11. (C) McCain said that he would urge the Indian government to turn over any evidence it has found. “We are in a race against time,” he pressed, and warned that military action would cause even greater loss of life. “The purpose of those attacks was to cause armed conflict between India and Pakistan, and they could succeed,” he counseled.
12. (C) Comment: Importantly, the Sharifs did not push back against Senator McCain’s assertions that the Lashkar-eTaiba was responsible for the Mumbai attacks. The issue will be whether he can take the high road and support a government crackdown on LeT as he did in private.