Lobbying for Pakistan in Washington has never been a simple affair. The PPP government hired Benazir Bhutto’s friend Mark Siegel who famously delivered $1.5 billion in annual US funding for Pakistan for five years (though most of those funds were never actually received) and helped smooth over relations during the Osama bin Laden fiasco.
Most other attempts to make Pakistan’s case in Washington have been handled by ISI through illegal and ineffective means whose only effects were to land their agents in jail and set back Pakistan-American relations. This week, however, Imran Khan decided to return to the practice of hiring professional lobbyists in Washington as Pakistan’s Ambassador Asad Mohammad Khan signed a contract with American lobbying firm Holland & Knight.
Holland & Knight is a global firm with a large lobbying practice. Though they do not appear to represent many foreign governments in Washington, instead being mostly business lobbyists, this could mean that Pakistan will receive more attention. Curiously, their website notes their “strong commitment to the state of Israel,” and the firm was hired earlier this year to represent Israel’s diplomatic mission in the United States. It is a curious partner for Pakistan, but is this a bad thing?
This is a bold move by PTI government, but certainly one that must have been taken with the full understanding of risks and rewards. And it is probably only Imran Khan and PTI that could be confident enough to set aside stereotypes and conspiracy theories to hire Israel’s lobbyists as Pakistan’s lobbyists also.