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Viewing cable 09ISLAMABAD284, PRESIDENT ZARDARI DISCUSSES AQ KHAN RELEASE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09ISLAMABAD284 2009-02-09 12:12 2010-11-30 21:09 SECRET Embassy Islamabad
Appears in these articles:
http://www.spiegel.de
VZCZCXRO6265
OO RUEHLH RUEHPW
DE RUEHIL #0284/01 0401253
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 091253Z FEB 09
FM AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1394
INFO RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 9794
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 9619
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 4420
RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI PRIORITY 1034
RUEHLH/AMCONSUL LAHORE PRIORITY 6731
RUEHPW/AMCONSUL PESHAWAR PRIORITY 5655
RUEHUNV/USMISSION UNVIE VIENNA PRIORITY 0111
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUMICEA/USCENTCOM INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 ISLAMABAD 000284

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/09/2034
TAGS: PREL PGOV PK KNNP PARM
SUBJECT: PRESIDENT ZARDARI DISCUSSES AQ KHAN RELEASE

REF: (A) ISLAMABAD 267 (B) ISLAMABAD 280

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

1. (S) Summary: President Zardari assured the Ambassador on
February 8 that A.Q. Khan would remain under house arrest and
not engage with the media. Minister of Interior Rehman Malik
also insisted that Khan would be prohibited from talking to
the press and politicians, and his movements would be
curtailed. Zardari and Malik speculated to the Ambassador
that Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) party leader Nawaz
Sharif was about to run A.Q. Khan for the Senate on his
party,s slate. The Pakistani Government claims that they
were trying to establish a legal basis for Khan,s detention,
as he had been restrained previously by the Ministry of
Defense "for his own security." However, the timinig of the
court decision obviously took Zardari by surprise, reflecting
the GOP,s persistent lack of coordination and message
control. Now the government is trying to catch up. End
Summary.

2. (S) President Zardari assured the Ambassador on February 8
that A.Q. Khan would not talk to the press and would remain
under strict control. Ambassador conveyed that the release
of A.Q. Khan, the world's most serious nuclear proliferator,
aggravated by Khan,s press conference on his front lawn
thanking Zardari and Interior Minister Rehman Malik for his
release, was a very unfortunate signal to send to the world.
For the United States, it was particularly unsettling coming
on the eve of Ambassador Holbrooke,s visit and as the U.S.
Congress considered assistance and trade bills for Pakistan.
The U.S. was seeking a commitment that A.Q. Khan would stay
out of the press and his movements would be restricted as
before. Zardari argued that referring Khan,s detention to
the Islamabad High Court was designed to prevent Khan from
receiving a Senate ticket from PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif.
"Where would I have been then?" Zardari said. Zardari said
he would be sure that the police who were stationed at
Khan,s house would not "pamper him."

3. (S) Minister of Interior Rehman Malik also reassured the
Ambassador and DCM in several phone calls and meetings that
A.Q. Khan would be kept under wraps; he would not talk to
reporters or politicians, and his movements would be strictly
controlled. Malik reported that President Zardari, who
heard about the court decision from the Ambassador and then
Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S. Haqqani and not his own
ministers, had been annoyed about being blindsided. Malik
told us that there had been no previous legal basis for the
Khan detention. (Note. This is true. The head of
Pakistan,s nuclear "Strategic Plans Division" Lt. General
Kidwai has often told us that there was no legal basis for
the Khan detention except to provide for his own security.
End Note) Malik said repeatedly that the press conference
had "gotten out of hand" and the press had rushed to Khan,s
house even before the decision was announced. xxxxx End
Note.)

Media Reaction
--------------
4. (U) Unsurprisingly, Khan's press conference was widely
covered by the electronic and print media. All papers ran Dr.
Khan's "triumphant" photograph above the fold showing him
waving to the media and public supporters at his residence.
Stories included the international reaction with particular
emphasis on the U.S., U.K., France, and India expressing
"concern" about the decision and declaring Khan "a danger for
world peace." Articles and editorials questioned how free
Khan actually was and speculated on the contents of the
secret Annex A. The Urdu press noted that "people came out on
the roads, raised slogans in favor of Dr. Khan, and
distributed sweatmeats." Urdu editorials unanimously praised
the decision and protested the "Hue and Cry Over Release of
Dr. Khan" (Islam), "Pakistan's Rejection of Charges of
Nuclear Cooperation" (Jang), and "Maltreatment of Dr. A.Q.
Khan at U.S. Behest Does not Befit Us" (Jang). Dr. Khan,s
gratitude toward the Government of Pakistan was underscored
in a widely reported quote that he is "grateful to the
President, the Prime Minister, and the Interior Advisor
Rehman Malik."

Islamabad 00000284 002 of 002



5. (U) FM Qureshi and the MFA issued the official reaction
for the GOP; their remarks were aimed at minimizing foreign
reaction by repeating all that Pakistan has done to recover
from Khan's misdeeds: dismantle his network, assist the IAEA,
build up its export controls, and strengthen its nuclear
security. Qureshi noted that the government maintains the
right to appeal the court's decision. The English Daily
Times editorial on Sunday argued that Khan's release will not
make the government more popular and may cause problems with
the international community. English language Dawn suggested
the real proliferation problem was not Khan's network, but
the discriminatory nature of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty.

6. (S) Comment: The Islamabad High Court is firmly under the
control of the government, so it would appear that this was a
planned move by some government element, probably Rehman
Malik in a too clever by half move that was not coordinated
with Zardari. Malik, who has aspirations to become Deputy
Prime Minister (or even Prime Minister) often has good
political judgment, but he failed badly this time. There was
not even a hint publicly that Nawaz Sharif ever intended to
nominate A.Q. Khan for a Senate seat. Moreover, the new court
decision would not make Khan's nomination any less probable.
This fiasco demonstrated yet another example of amateur,
uncoordinated governance in Islamabad, and Nawaz will waste
no time in exploiting this misstep. We will continue to
monitor Khan's freedoms to determine if the GOP is
implementing the restrictions that they promised to continue
imposing on Khan.
Patterson