Pakistan Hires another Lobbying firm in the US - Making a Poor Country Poorer
* Former assistant secretary of state for South Asia to represent Pakistan for $1.2m
* Lobbying contract has a year’s validity
By Khalid Hasan: Daily Times, October 29, 2007
Washington: Pakistan has got itself yet another lobbyist at a yearly cost of $1.2 million, which brings the number of those it has been using to sell itself on Capitol Hill and in the corridors of the government to two, though there could be more.
The other firm representing Pakistan here is Van Scoyoc Associates, which is paid $55,000 a month. “We continue to represent the embassy and work with the ambassador and his team on a daily basis,” according to Mark Talvarides, vice president for Van Scoyoc and lead lobbyist on the contract.
Pakistan’s representative:The new lobbyist for Pakistan is a firm called Cassidy and Associates, and the person who would be carrying Pakistan’s flag will be former assistant secretary of state for South Asia, Robin Raphael. Raphael, who retired from the foreign service a few years ago, earned the permanent ire of the Indian government and the Indian-American community for questioning the authenticity of the instrument of accession allegedly signed by Maharaja Hari Singh, which, India maintains, put the seal of approval on the state’s accession to India. That is a position accepted neither by Pakistan nor the people of Kashmir, nor the United Nations for that matter. This correspondent was present at the press conference where the erstwhile assistant secretary made her observation, which caused an uproar in India. She was instructed never to repeat that bit again and she did not. The only other government Cassidy works for is Eqatorial Guinea
Year-long contract: According to records filed with the Justice Department, the contract with Pakistan has a year’s validity. However, other things being equal, there is every likelihood of its being renewed. Cassidy’s work will involve lobbying and public relations campaigns promoting Pakistan’s status as an “important strategic partner of the US”, according to The Hill, a small publication devoted to congressional coverage.
Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, fist secretary at the Pakistan embassy, told The Hill, “We thought we had some challenging issues and we thought we should add another lobbying firm.” Robin Raphel, who is also senior vice president at Cassidy, stressed Pakistan’s necessity as an ally for the American counter-terrorism strategy. “We need to recognise it is not easy what Pakistan is trying to do here in assisting us in the fight against the terrorism in the region,” she said. She said her job would be to make sure “all relevant parties have the facts”, adding, “I think it’s clear there is a less than perfect understanding of Pakistan here.”
Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party is represented by BKSH and Associates and its affiliate Burson-Marsteller LLC to promote fair elections in Pakistan. Pakistan Embassy first secretary Baloch told The Hill, “We believe there is common ground between her party and the government.”