The $1.5 billion Pakistan receives in US aid per year has helped the country become well-connected inside the corridors of power in Washington, DC. Based on lobbying records, the Pakistani Embassy paid the law firm Locke Lord Strategies more than $1 million in 2010. According to The Hill, “the firm’s lobbying team for Pakistan has been led by Mark Siegel, a veteran Democratic Party operative, Carter White House aide and close friend to Benazir Bhutto, the former Pakistani prime minister."
Politico Influence reported that in March and April Locke Lord “accompanied the Pakistani ambassador on meetings with House Speaker John Boehner, Sen. John Kerry and Reps. Buck McKeon, Mike Rogers and Kay Granger,” as part of a bid to “effectively deliver messages regarding the role Pakistan plays as an important strategic partner of the US”
That partnership, of course, has frayed in recent days, as US lawmakers are questioning whether Pakistan knew if Osama bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan. The New Yorker’s Steve Coll, an expert on bin Laden, wrote earlier this week that circumstantial evidence suggested “that bin Laden was effectively being housed under Pakistani state control.”
In the coming weeks, the US Congress is certain to probe this matter. “I think that the Pakistani army and intelligence have a lot of questions to answer, given the location, the length of time and the apparent fact that this facility was built for bin Laden, and its closeness to the central location to the Pakistani army,” said Carl Levin (D-MI), chair of the Senate Armed Services committee. New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) believes the US should re-examine the $3 billion in aid scheduled for Pakistan in President Obama’s 2012 budget. “Before we send another dime, we need to know whether Pakistan truly stands with us in the fight against terrorism. Until Congress and the American public are assured that the Pakistani government is not shielding terrorists, financial aid to Pakistan should be suspended,” Lautenberg said.
Expect Pakistan to mount an aggressive lobbying campaign to defend itself. “We have some education to do on the Hill,” Mark Siegel admitted. “We don’t want this speculation to end up being considered as fact.” He’s got quite a task ahead of him.