Exclusive: Pakistan hires Republican lobbyist for US ties

The Pakistan government has entered into an agreement with a Republican lobbyist, Stephen Payne, to provide “strategic consulting services in support of Pakistan’s diplomatic goals” in the US.

As the world prepares for a new order post Covid-19, Pakistan — China’s all-weather ally — has roped in a controversial political lobbyist to improve its ties with the United States, documents reviewed by India Today show.

The Imran Khan government, papers reveal, has entered into an agreement with a Republican lobbyist, Stephen Payne, to provide “strategic consulting services in support of Pakistan’s diplomatic goals” in the US.

The move is seen in the context of a possible weakening of China’s influence in the post-pandemic world.

The agreement was signed by the Houston-based lobbyist, Payne, and Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, Asad Majeed Khan, on April 15.

Activities like “planning and meeting with government and non-government representatives and public relations services” are listed as part of the contract, the document accessed by India Today show.

The lobby group’s activities on the US soil have been identified as “political” in nature.

The term of the signed contract lasts six months, from April 16 to October 16 this year.

According to diplomatic sources, Pakistan’s hurried tie-up with a Republican lobbyist amidst the Covid-19 pandemic signals Islamabad’s desperate attempt to save itself from possible global alienation because of its over-dependence on China.

Agreement shows Pakistan as a Client State

Nature of work covered under the contract

Covert Funding

Even though the agreement is signed by Pakistan’s ambassador, it explicitly mentions that no money will be directly paid by the government of Pakistan to the US consultant.

In fact, the contract details covert ways of payment on behalf of the Pakistan government to the lobbyist in the US – through nonprofit groups.

According to the papers, an undisclosed amount of money is to be paid by “US-based Pakistani-American diaspora organisations” for the services offered by the lobbyist group, which involve “specifically improving relationship between the United States and Pakistan”.

India Today earlier investigated the role of the Houston-based Pakistani-American diaspora organisations’ covert anti-India campaigns.

Diplomatic sources have told India Today that they expect such “anti-India campaigns to increase on the US soil with the latest developments”.

Also, Pakistan is among the poor countries eligible to receive debt repayment relief announced by G-20 countries following the global outbreak of coronavirus. Its prime minister, Imran Khan, has been requesting the developed world to “do more” in order to help nations like his hit by the pandemic.

Agreement describes covert compensation process

Signatures of Pakistan Ambassador to US Asad Majeed Khan on Agreement

The Lobbyist’s Chequered Past

Payne is no stranger to controversy as he had to resign from his position in the Advisory Council of the US Department of Homeland Security after he was caught in a “cash-for-access” sting by a UK newspaper.

In 2008, he was accused of offering access to top White House figures in exchange for donations towards then President George W Bush’s private library.

Payne used to accompany Bush and then Vice-President Dick Cheney on their foreign visits.

As the US moves towards presidential elections due later this year, the involvement of a Pakistan-hired Republican lobbyists could be a matter of concern for India, diplomatic sources say, citing Payne’s past record.

The lobbyist worked for Pakistan during the Musharraf regime after the 9/11 terror attacks, a period during which Islamabad earned a major non-NATO-ally status and received multi-billion dollars in aid from the US government.

Last year, Payne signed a deal with the Libyan National Army, resulting in a surprise phone call between President Donald Trump and Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Libyan army.


Article originally published at India Today