Despite deteriorating relations, Pakistani lobby grows in D.C.

By Neil Munro

The Pakistan lobby in Washington is trying to expand, even as the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan deteriorates.

The leading Pakistani advocate in D.C. is Mark Siegel, at Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell LLP. He’s working alongside teams led by former Republican Rep. Vin Weber at Clark & Weinstock, and the PR experts at k-global, which is a subsidiary of National Strategies, a D.C.-based consulting firm. They’ve replaced a 2010 suit of lobbyists who are no longer working for Pakistani causes.

Paul Johnson, k-global’s CEO and a former vice chairman at Fleishman-Hillard, did not respond to inquires from TheDC.

Following the Abbottabad raid that successfully killed Osama bin Laden at his hideout deep inside Pakistan, “both sides have to reconstruct [U.S.-Pakistan] relations again,” said Shafqat Tanweer, who heads the New York-based Committee Supporting Democracy and Justice in Pakistan, and the U.S.-branch of the Pakistan People’s Party, which is run by the country’s president, Asif Ali Zardari.

Tanweer’s committee works with many groups of Pakistani-Americans who meet with U.S. legislators in D.C. and their home offices, he said. The groups – which reflect the bitter class and religious divisions within Pakistan – include the Association of Pakistani Physicians of America, the Pakistani-America Congress, and the Islamic Circle of North America, a controversial Muslim fundamentalist group.

Pakistani-Americans, Tanweer said, are concentrated in New York, Chicago and in Houston, which also contains the district of Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, the co-chair of the congressional Pakistan Caucus. The other co-chair is Republican Rep. Dan Burton, who chairs the Pakistan-related Eurasia panel at the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Both Burton and Jackson-Lee have received thousands of dollars from Pakistani-American advocacy groups, including the Pakistani Leadership Action Center.

The difficulty of the Pakistanis’ PR task is demonstrated by Taha Gaya, the director of the D.C.-based Pakistani American Leadership Center. The “concept that Osama bin Laden was hiding in plain sight was completely fictional,” he told TheDC. The American government “knew of the compound since August of 2010, and after eight months, while the compound was subjected to intensive security surveillance by the [intelligence agencies] President Obama said there was only a 55 percent chance that OBL was the individual in the compound,” he said.

Leon Panetta, the CIA chief, told Time magazine that the U.S. did not alert the Pakistani government because they feared bin Laden would be alerted to the impending raid.

The gulf in attitudes between the U.S. public and Pakistan public was shown in a new poll of 2,530 Pakistanis conducted by a Gallup affiliate. The results showed that 51 percent of respondents described their reaction to bin Laden’s death as “sad,” and 11 percent said they were “happy.” Also, 44 percent described bin Laden as a “shaheed,” or a jihadi martyr, while 28 percent described him as an “outlaw.” The population of Pakistan is 187 million, according to the CIA Factbook.


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