Shaken by Benazir Bhutto’s assassination in December 2007, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had approached the US for advice and technical expertise to ensure his own security, reveals a US diplomatic cable dated January 2, 2008 accessed by Indian newspaper The Hindu through WikiLeaks.
The request was made about seven weeks before the February 2008 general elections.
Sharif’s appeal came at a juncture when several conspiracy theories were in circulation on Benazir’s violent death, including suspicion that elements within the establishment were part of the plot.
Besides the general fears triggered by Benazir’s murder, Sharif had another reason to be worried. The Sharif clan, which went into exile in December 2000 under a pact with General Musharraf, had chosen to return to Pakistan in November 2007 against the wishes of his hosts in Riyadh and the Pakistani government.
Sharif’s decision to knock on the US government’s doors for advice on his security and safety, and that of his brother and Chief Minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif, also reflected lack of faith and confidence among sections of the political elite in Pakistan in the military in general and the local agencies in particular.
It is not unusual for the Pakistani elite to seek help from the US government either directly through its Mission in Islamabad or other consulates.
Conversations between Pakistani politicians and US diplomats are replete with references on how effective such intervention had proved to be.
In response to Sharif’s request, US Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W. Patterson agreed to send the Embassy’s Regional Security Officer (RSO) to Lahore on January 3, 2008 to adviseSharif’s security team. RSOs attached to American Missions are responsible for providing physical, procedural, and personnel security to US diplomatic facilities and personnel. In this instance, it is not known whether the US Mission informed the Pakistan government of Sharif’s plea.
“Nawaz Sharif’s office contacted [Consul General] Lahore January 2 to request consultations on security for Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif. They did not request [United States government] assistance in providing security but wanted to discuss with our RSO what equipment and technical experts they should employ. Ambassador will send Embassy RSO to Lahore January 3 to provide Nawaz’s security team with our advice,” it noted.
The Pakistan Cables are being shared by The Hindu with NDTV in India and Dawn in Pakistan
Published in The Express Tribune, May 23rd, 2011.
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