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Lobbyist hired for $50,000 to campaign for PTI in United States

LONDON/ISLAMABAD: A leading Pakistani-American supporter of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has signed an agreement with another US-lobbying firm LGS LLC headed by Stephen Payne — an American lobbyist who also was lobbied for former military dictator Pervez Musharraf in 2001.

The documents available , show that prominent PTI supporter Pakistani-American Fayaz Quireshi of Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FDP) hired a lobbying firm LGS LLC in Washington DC initially for 45 days from January 16 to March 1, 2024. The firm will be paid $50,000 against its services of which $35,000 has already been paid in two installments on January 11 and 17.

Stephen Payne had also worked for Musharraf as a lobbyist in 2001. Quireshi has hired him to meet with Congressional offices on its behalf. The lobbying firm will endeavour to bring congressional awareness surrounding the current and ongoing issues facing members of the PTI party in Pakistan.

A PTI USA source said that Quireshi is a physician and he has hired the lobbying firm on instructions of PTI leadership in Pakistan to “raise awareness about human rights abuses in Pakistan and to campaign against the state oppression to get the US government to get tough on Pakistan”.

Friends of Democratic Pakistan has told the US authorities in its submission that FDP’s is hiring the lobbyist to help PTI Pakistan. It says that FDP’s “work may benefit a foreign political party as its goal is to support the interests of PTI, a political party from Pakistan”. Documents say that the lobbying is funded by the US citizens of Pakistani origin led by Quireshi.

The lobbying contract with Stephen Payne has been signed just days after Imran Khan blamed the US government yet again for causing the fall of his government in an alleged conspiracy run by the US diplomat Donald Lu through General Bajwa. PTI has come under question for hiring US lobbyists to help it out against the very government it accuses of removing it from the power and especially so that Imran Khan has told his followers he’s fighting to liberate Pakistan from the US influence.

PTI’s latest lobbyist Stephen Payne is the same Republican lobbyist who worked for Pervez Musharraf’s dictatorship, soon after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Payne was caught on video telling a politician from Kazakhstan he could arrange meetings with high-ranking Bush administrations officials in exchange for a large donation to Bush’s presidential library fund. Payne was one of several Bush supporters who made up a firm known as Team Eagle, which signed a $180,000-a-year contract with the Musharraf government on October 13, 2001, according to a government database maintained under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

The firm was also known as Team Barakat, according to FARA documents.

In a letter dated January 21, 2006, Musharraf thanked Payne’s Worldwide Strategies. Musharraf wrote to Payne: “It gives me great pleasure to thank you for playing such an important role in strengthening US Pakistan ties. The challenges faced by both our countries in the aftermath of September 11th, brought us even closer, in which you played a pivotal role.”

It is important to note here that three weeks ago, PTI US leader Atif Khan had confirmed that the party has hired a new public relation and a new lobbying firm to monitor Pakistan’s general elections and to engage with the US and international media.

Atif, who was recently appointed PTI Core Committee member along with Sajjad Burki by former PM Imran Khan, said the PTI USA has signed a three-month contract with a PR firm to monitor and observe elections in Pakistan which are scheduled to take place on 8 February 2024. He said the PR firm will work with the mainstream US media to highlight any irregularities.

Atif said that, separately, a new lobbying firm has been hired for “election monitoring and human rights violations’’. He said: “We have signed a contract with the lobbying firm. We are working closely through our overseas volunteer workers. We will make the happenings in Pakistan a worldwide news. Unfortunately, the US State Department sits on the fence when it comes to human rights violations in Pakistan.”

The PTI had previously hired an American consultancy firm headed by Robert Laurent Grenier, the ex-CIA station chief in Islamabad. While in power in July 2021, Robert Laurent Grenier’s firm called Grenier Consulting LLC was recruited to lobby for the party. The contract was signed secretly by Iftikhar Durrani with the firm in July 2021 under the “supervision of senior [PTI] party officials and under the direction of Pakistan government officials” for $25,000 per month. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Law and Justice Ministry said later on that the contract was signed without their involvement despite the fact that the dues in the contract were to be paid by the government of Pakistan.

Grenier is a CIA veteran who worked as the spy agency’s top counter-terrorism official from 2004 to 2006.

He was also the CIA station chief in Islamabad during the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. After the removal of PTI government in April 2022, the PTI-USA Inc., a subsidiary of PTI, hired another lobbying firm Fenton/Arlook to provide “public relations services, including but not limited to distributing information to and briefing journalists, placing articles and broadcasts, arranging interviews with representatives or supporters of PTI, advising on social media efforts and other such public relations services.”

The firm contacted hundreds of the US and western media organisations and was able to secure several interviews for Imran Khan and news stories highlighting PTI’s narrative. PTI’s spokesman Raoof Hassan and Chairman Barrister Gohar Ali didn’t respond to questions.