New Delhi: To push its anti-India agenda on Capitol Hill, Washington DC, Pakistan has engaged two lobbying firms even as it struggles with a financial crisis at home and an image crisis abroad.
As per documents accessed by The Sunday Guardian, on 31 August, Dr Asad Majeed Khan, the Pakistani Ambassador to the United States, renewed the contract that they had entered into last year with Peter Brown, CEO of the New York headquartered advisory firm, BLJ Worldwide.
BLJ Worldwide had, in the past, represented among others Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Syrian leader Bashar-Al-Assad and an Iran based political group, Mujahedin-e-Khalq, whose main aim is to overthrow the government of Iran. The original contract between the two entities was entered into in June 2019. As per the contract, Pakistan will pay $50,000 (almost 80 lakh PKR) as retainer fee every month to BLJ Worldwide. This fee does not include the fee for “special services” that the firm will provide to its client. BLJ is also the advisor to the Chinese embassy in the US.
BLJ had hit the headlines after a news report, based on emails leaked by a whistle-blower, emerged stating that the advisory firm had carried out a four-month-long extensive campaign in 2010 by recruiting journalists, bloggers, high-profile public figures on behalf of Qatar to dent the bids made by US and Australia to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The method used by the firm was to use middlemen to approach journalists, and bloggers and plant negative reports to hurt the bids by rival countries in exchange of a “fee”.
Apart from BLJ, the Pakistan government has also engaged the Houston-based Linden Government Solutions (part of Linden Strategies), which is known for providing advisory services to Libyan National Army, for which it charged $275,000. Pakistan’s agreement with Linden is valid until January 2021.
As per the documents, the main objective of Linden will be to provide “strategic consulting services, advice, planning, arranging meetings with business, government and non-government representatives and public relations services in support of the client’s diplomatic goal”.
Linden, among its “achievements”, markets the role played by it in helping Pakistan reverse years of US sanctions and encouraging Pakistan to join the fight against Al Qaeda after 9/11. “During this period, the Linden team successfully assisted Pakistan in being designated a non-NATO ally by the U.S., obtaining over $3 billion in U.S. aid, and supported the purchase of F-16 fighter jets and other military equipment needed to support the War on Terror”, are recorded as Linden’s “achievements”.
Pakistan was earlier availing the service of the Washington-based Holland and Knight LLP, for which it was paying $88,500 (1.42 crore PKR) per month, excluding expenses apart from $10,62,000 (17 crore PKR) as a one-time fee.
Official documents accessed by The Sunday Guardian—which were part of a set of documents shared by Holland and Knight LLP with the Pakistani embassy to highlight the work that they have done after becoming their advisors—include articles published in BBC from India that had a pro-Pakistan tilt (the theme of the article was that Article 370 was removed to divert the world’s attention from atrocities in Kashmir), a 12 September 2009 letter written by four US Senators (Lindsey Graham, Todd Young, Benjamin Cardin and Chris Van Hollen) to then President Donald Trump seeking US intervention in Kashmir to end the “humanitarian crisis” and similar articles published in other media outlets, including the Economist and the New York Times.
Similar document sets, that had anti-India propaganda, were shared by Holland and Knight across various embassies and US departments. The same sets of documents were shared with various Senate committee heads “to keep committee members abreast of new and ongoing information regarding the situation in Kashmir” and included a press release from Pakistan’s press information department, which detailed Prime Minister Imran Khan’s actions to deal with India.