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Lies have Limits!

04 April, 2006

By Ayesha Ahmad

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The impression that a senior official of the Foreign Office has attempted to give before Parliament's Public Accounts Committee's Sub-Committee is that, somehow, our General-Ambassador in Washington, DC has done wonders by manipulating US policy in favour of Pakistan through extensive lobbying at the US Capitol Hill. Given that, as the official contends, any money spent in the embassy's lobbying effort, even if it runs into millions of dollars of Pakistani tax- payers' money, should not be audited by the office of Auditor-General of Pakistan.


The ground reality, however, tells us a different story, in terms of the outcome of the lobbying by some 75 'hired' US Senators or members of the House of Representatives at the Capital Hill. India, through extensive lobbying in the US Congress by its own Caucus at the Capitol Hill, whose membership runs around 100 members of the US Senate and the House of Representatives, has effectively turned the tide against Pakistan in US foreign policy with the conclusion of the strategic Indo-US nuclear deal.

This is beyond doubt a gigantic development in US policy on South Asia, whose implications for Washington's longer run relationship with Islamabad would be equally gigantic. If this is not the failure of Pakistan's lobbying at the Capitol Hill then what it could be.

The Pakistan Caucus at the Capitol Hill was inaugurated by President General Pervez Musharraf in September 2004. Its co-chairs are Texas Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee and Indiana Republican Dan Burton. One Shafiqur Rehman Siddiqui, director of the Pakistani American Liaison Center, (PALC), had assisted ambassador Karamat in creating and building the Congressional Pakistan Caucus.

On the eve of the Caucus's inauguration, however, representatives of the Pakistani community had expressed reservations, in a Pakistan Post report (September 11, 2004) that Pakistani embassy in Washington, DC was trying to project one individual, Mr Siddiqui, whose PALC is registered as a Washington-based public education group. A few years before, Shafquat Chaudhary and other distinguished Pakistani Americans based in New York City had reportedly formed a Pakistan Caucus, comprising some 20


In a special report, Weekly Pulse (March 3-9) had reported from Washington, DC about the pitiable state of Pakistani lobbying effort at the Capitol Hill. Here are a couple of paragraph extracts from this report, which clearly contrast with the contention of the senior official of the Foreign Office in his briefing before the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee's Sub-Committee past week.

The Pulse report stated: "The Pakistan embassy claims to have secured the support of 75 Congressmen, but whenever any meeting is called, only a handful of members of Congress are present-mostly, Black Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee would be present. Then, many of the Congressmen listed in the Pakistani Caucus are also part of the Indian Caucus. This is scandalous. But who would bother about it?

"Pakistani Ambassador Jehangir Karamat hardly comes to the embassy. Even when the General comes, he stays there only for a while. His predecessor ambassador Jehangir Qazi, now serving as a UN envoy for Iraq, also had a similar habit, but at least he could speak out before the media and at think-tank forums. Ever since the former army chief has occupied this most important ambassadorial position, Pakistani diplomacy in the US capital has only shown greater inactivity."

In retrospect, therefore, it is difficult to believe that our General-ambassador's daily schedule at the embassy includes 9:30 and lunch time phone calls to some 75 lobbyists with the sole intention of tilting Congressional opinion in favour of Pakistan. A follow-up insight in the affairs of the Pakistan Caucus by this magazine also reveals that Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who is the co-chair of the Pakistan Caucus, is simultaneously also a member of the Indian Caucus.

Therefore, the question that strikes our minds is how could we expect from a person who is a member of both the Caucuses to do full justice with either. After all, if the Indians at all are paying half a million US dollars more than us to their respective lobbyists, would it not make sense if we presume that the co-chair of our Caucus could potentially toe the Indian line just because they are offering her more than us?

All said and done, the single most important criteria of judging any lobbying effort is what US foreign policy outcomes it eventually produces. If the end result is the conclusion of a strategic nuclear deal between Washington and New Delhi, then should we not be justified in smelling a rat in the whole lobbying affair?

Among the justifications that the senior official of the Foreign Office has given before the Sub-Committee for not allowing any governmental auditing of the amount spent on lobbying, is that Pakistan Caucus was instrumental in turning the 9/11 Commission report in Pakistan's favour. The point is that the said report was published months before the Caucus was formally inaugurated by President Musharraf.

Even if such a Caucus, including, say, half of the Congressional members, as compared to the Caucus's current strength, did exist while the Commission's members were still busy in Congressional hearings, then why were many of conclusions reached by the Commission critical of Pakistan's conduct vis-à-vis jihadi extremism in Afghanistan and Kashmir? The 9/11 Commission's Report, that runs into hundreds of pages is available for all and sundry to see on the Internet and learn the opposite to what the said official from the Foreign Office has contended before the Sub-Committee.

We are not trying to say that somehow Pakistan should abandon Congressional lobbying, or the entire project of the Pakistan Caucus should be abandoned, given its utter failure or scandalous nature. Lobbying is an essential feature of the foreign policy making process in the US political system. What is important is not how many Senators and members of the House Representatives members a country can include in its respective Caucus at the Capitol Hill, but whether they are influential in securing the respective country-specific policy outcomes in the US Congress.



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