Pakistan Unleashes Teams of Lobbyists on Washington

| Tue Nov. 6, 2007 10:54 AM EST

Talk about hired guns. The Politico reports on Pakistan's lobbyists roaming the halls of Congress to try to preserve US foreign aid to Pakistan -- some $10 billion mostly in military aid since 9/11.

"The focus is on the Hill right now," said Mark Tavlarides, a former national security aide in the Clinton administration whose firm, Van Scoyoc Associates, is paid $55,000 a month from the Musharraf government — a significant boost from the $40,000 the firm earned before July.

Other Pakistani entities have retained other firms:

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Just last month, the Pakistani Embassy hired Cassidy & Associates for a whopping one-year, $1.2 million contract. Heading up the account is Robin Raphel, a former assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs in the Clinton administration. The firm declined to comment on its lobbying activities on behalf of the embassy. ...

Meanwhile, the Pakistani opposition party, led by [former Pakistani prime minister Benazir] Bhutto, has retained public relations giant Burson-Marsteller and its affiliates, the lobbying firm BKSH & Associates, and the polling firm Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates. The firm declined comment on its activities, which it is charging an initial $75,000, to be followed with monthly payments of $28,500.

The contract filed with the Justice Department does, however, give some insight into what all of the money buys. Among the promised services: surveys of "100 American political, journalistic, and business elites in Washington, D.C., and New York"; an "internal brainstorming session"; and setting up meetings for Bhutto in Washington "with an eye towards convincing U.S. officials that Prime Minister Bhutto is still relevant to further the democratic process in Pakistan."

A former US government source I interviewed says Bhutto is hobbled by the perception in Pakistan that she is America's Chalabi. "The reality is that America is so hated in Pakistan and by the Pashtun people, and this is the key thing."

Update: And on the same topic, "Putting Lipstick on a Dictator."