Pakistan is scouting for a new lobbyist in the US after suffering two diplomatic setbacks when America refused to subsidise an F-16 deal and openly campaigned to induct India into the NSG, a media report said on Monday.
The ties between the two countries have plummeted over differences about how to deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan and allegation by the US that Pakistan failed to root out militants groups.
Nadeem Hotiana, Pakistan Embassy spokesman in Washington, confirmed the country was now looking for a paid lobbyist “but has not yet taken any decision”, the Dawn reported.
Earlier, Locke Lord Strategies was hired in 2008 to lobby for Pakistan but Islamabad failed to renew its contract with the firm in July 2013.
The group was hired by government of Pakistan People’s Party mainly because one of its partners, Mark Siegel, was a personal friend of the late prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
The embassy was paying USD 75,000 per month to this group, which is the lobbying arm of the law firm Locke Lord, but it failed to improve Pakistan’s image.
Pakistan’s main expectation from the firm was to promote its interests on Capitol Hill, where it often has to face angry lawmakers every time an issue related to the country is discussed. But the firm had little influence on the Hill.
It proved equally ineffective in lobbying the US media for Pakistan. There were occasions when the embassy’s press section managed to gather more senior journalists than did the firm for official briefings and for group or individual meetings with visiting Pakistani leaders.
To be fair to Locke Lord, some of the issues it had to deal with during this period (2008-13) were beyond its control. Even the most influential lobbyists would have found it impossible to plead Pakistan’s case on the Hill, in media or in Washington’s power corridors after Osama Bin Laden’s discovery in Abbottabad, the paper said.
Yet, there were other issues on which the firm could do better but it did not. This bitter experience and financial problems forced Pakistan to let its contract with Locke Lord expire. Instead of hiring a new lobbyist, the PML-N government decided to use Pakistani diplomats for the job, it said.
Pakistani diplomats did a decent job initially but then ties between the two countries began to deteriorate. The Obama administration, which was close to completing its final term, wanted some arrangement in Kabul that would allow it to say that it successfully ended America’s longest, and the costliest, foreign war.
By the time Pakistani officials started publicly acknowledging that they can try but cannot force the Taliban to join the reconciliation process, it was already too late.
Diplomatic observers in Washington say that in these circumstances, even the best lobbyist could only try to improve Pakistan’s image, particularly on the Hill, but cannot promise to deliver. “So Pakistan must think carefully before hiring a new lobbyist, as it costs money and a lot of it,” said one observer.