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Given the nature of lobbying work, it’s understandable that a bit of military jargon creeps into discussions of a foreign government’s policy goals. Usually that kind of talk is metaphorical. That’s not the case, though, when it comes to the government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, which recently has been forced to listen to the Bush administration and congressional officials bandy about the potential need for tactical strikes within its borders. President Pervez Musharraf’s regime has not received much good news in recent weeks. Its truce with militants and tribal leaders in North Waziristan collapsed in a spectacular and bloody fashion. Pakistan’s supreme court bucked the president’s authority, reinstating its chief justice. And the United States’ 2007 National Security Estimate described Pakistan as a “safe haven” for al-Qaida. But Pakistan faces more concrete challenges in Washington than worries about a hypothetical anti-terror strike, and for some of them, the country has turned to its lobbying team. “People have a lot of questions,” says Mark Tavlarides, a Van Scoyoc Associates lobbyist who represents the government. One big worry is H.R. 1, the Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007. Currently in conference, the House version of the legislation would require the president to certify Pakistan’s cooperation in fighting extremists before disbursing any military aid to the country. “Putting the name of an ally in legislation that is implementing the 9/11 Commission recommendations as a safe haven for terrorists, that is a very negative development,” says Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, a first secretary of political affairs for the Pakistan Embassy in Washington. Nearly as troubling, Baloch says, is the prospect that the Pentagon might cease to automatically reimburse Pakistan for the costs of military operations assisting U.S. forces in the region. These, combined with the threat of anti-Pakistan language in several appropriations bills, has created strains in relations, she says. And that’s a bitter pill for a country that considers itself among the United States’ staunchest allies in the war on terrorism. “It’s becoming increasingly difficult for Pakistanis as a nation to see the environment in Washington become so unfriendly,” Baloch says, suggesting that Pakistan has somehow ended up as America’s “fall guy.” FRIEND OR �FRENEMY’? This is where Pakistan’s considerable lobbying clout comes to bear. Recent registrations show the Islamic nation’s lobbying dollars currently split between two principal firms, with $80,000 a month going to Van Scoyoc Associates, which handles Pakistan’s political affairs, and just above $50,000 a month going to Hunton & Williams, which represents the Pakistani Department of Commerce. Although neither firm would speak about the specifics of its work, recent Foreign Agents Registration Act disclosures by Van Scoyoc show frequent contacts with staff on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as well as repeat discussions of the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan. Even lobbying for trade agreements has a significant security component, says Donovan Picard, the leader of the Hunton & Williams team. Along with seeking a bilateral trade agreement, Pakistan is pitching special economic zones as a financially savvy way to combat terrorism. “The idea of this one is that we would focus on the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Picard says, “so that some of the incentives for people getting involved in radical groups would be diminished.” For Tavlarides, reminding legislators of the natural alliance between the United States and Pakistan is the overarching goal. “Pakistan has made huge sacrifices, and they’re doing it for themselves,” he says. “They’ve lost more soldiers fighting the Taliban and al-Qaida than coalition forces have lost in Afghanistan.” Still, sharing enemies doesn’t guarantee a close friendship, and Pakistani Ambassador Mahmud Ali Duranni is still new to town, appointed only last June. With what the country sees as serious threats to its relationship with Washington moving through Congress, Baloch says, “we have been speaking to everyone who matters.” Unlike smaller countries, she says, Pakistan’s size and strategic importance means it rarely needs help from lobbyists to schedule meetings with legislators and administration officials. A wide range of visiting Pakistani officials � everyone from education czars to the governor of Balochistan � supplements the embassy and its permanent staff of 20 at meetings. But although the embassy is convinced home-grown diplomats are Pakistan’s best advocates, she says, it recognizes that lobbyists are closer to day-to-day operations on the Hill and better understand its Byzantine culture. “An American speaking to an American is a different thing,” she says. APR�S MUSHARRAF . . . ? One of Pakistan’s advantages, says one of the country’s former lobbyists, is that it’s an old hand at the Washington influence game. Aggressive lobbying has played a key role in Pakistan’s American strategy at least since Musharraf’s early days in office. In 1999, the same year it came to power, Musharraf’s fledgling government deployed lobbyist and former Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson’s firm in support of legislation permitting the president to waive military and economic sanctions. Despite being outspent by an adamantly opposed Indian government, Pakistan got the waiver. Nor is this the first time that Pakistan’s heard blunt public talk from the Bush administration and the Hill, says Brian Ettinger of Texas-based Team Eagle Consultants, which Pakistan paid $10,000 a month to push for improved economic and political relations. “At the time we came on, relations were not good,” he recalls of the tense period after Musharraf became head of state. “It was before [Pakistan] passed their constitution.” Despite some initial snubs, the government acted with all the professionalism and patience Ettinger says he could have wished for. “Their objectives were always within reason,” he says. Explaining the volatility of Pakistan’s domestic and international position in recent years is the greatest challenge for its advocates, says one experienced FARA lobbyist. “I have never represented a country that has as many different dynamics as Pakistan has going on,” says this lobbyist, who asked not to be named. “They’re challenged because no one travels there; they’re challenged because no one knows about it.” But that also leaves a lot of room to work. Making the pitch for cooperation with Pakistan doesn’t require being Musharraf’s apologist, he suggests, just making clear what Pakistan has done and what it can’t do without active U.S. support. “It’s incumbent on members of Congress to think through what the consequences would be without a strong ally like Musharraf,” he says. “This is �serious as a heart attack’ kind of stuff.” Gently reminding congressional and administration officials of such realities is what long-standing lobbying relationships are for, Ettinger says. “If he’s your horse, then you stay with your horse,” he adds.
Jeff Horwitz can be contacted at [email protected].

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