Pakistanis in US take initiative to bolster ties amid Afghan turmoil

Published July 6, 2021
Pakistanis in the United States have stepped up efforts to maintain a close relationship between their adopted homeland and the country of their origin amid apprehensions that the US exit from Afghanistan can also jeopardise bilateral ties. — Reuters/File
Pakistanis in the United States have stepped up efforts to maintain a close relationship between their adopted homeland and the country of their origin amid apprehensions that the US exit from Afghanistan can also jeopardise bilateral ties. — Reuters/File

WASHINGTON: Pakistanis in the United States have stepped up efforts to maintain a close relationship between their adopted homeland and the country of their origin amid apprehensions that the US exit from Afghanistan can also jeopardise bilateral ties.

Recently, a Washington public relations firm Fenton/Arlook registered for a Pakistani American group under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) to “inform American and international media about the Council on Pakistan Relations’ desire for productive diplomatic and economic relations between Pakistan and the United States”.

Adnan Jalil, a former congressional liaison for Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, also registered his firm Alpha Strategies as a lobbyist for the council, a Washington nonprofit group started by Michigan-based Pakistan-American healthcare entrepreneurs Mohammad Ashraf Qazi, Adil Jamal Akhtar and Iqbal Abdul Nasir.

They are lobbying for the passage of a proposed legislation for setting up export promotion zones in tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Read: Unfair of Western powers to pressure Pakistan to take sides, downgrade relations with China, says PM Imran

The Pakistan-Afghanistan Economic Development Act is a bipartisan bill from two Democrats, Senators Chris Van Hollen and Maria Cantwell, and Todd Young, a Republican. The bill calls for the establishment of Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s border regions to allow textile and apparel goods from these areas to enter the United States duty-free.

“As American troops leave Afghanistan, we have a strong interest in encouraging all parties to achieve a peaceful settlement and political reconciliation that can bring stability to this war-torn and war-weary area,” Senator Van Hollen said in a statement. As a member of the House of Representatives, Mr Van Hollen, a Karachi-born American, authored similar legislation that passed in 2009.

The firm Fenton/Arlook was incorporated this March in Washington and is co-owned by Fenton Communications founder David Fenton and Fenton advocacy campaigns chief Ira Arlook. According to the registration, Fenton/Arlook has a six-month verbal agreement with the council for $25,000 per month plus out of pocket expenses such as travel.

According to the FARA filing, the firm’s activities will be limited to communicating with the US and global media on the importance of positive diplomatic and economic relations between Pakistan and the US.

“This will include dissemination of background materials to journalists, writing Op-Eds, placing spokespeople in media, and normal public relations activities,” it said.

The Council on Pakistan Relations is an American 501(c)(4) non-profit organisation advocacy group that promotes improved relations between the United States and Pakistan. The Council has been active on various fronts, including humanitarian relief efforts in response to the 2010 monsoon floods that devastated Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2021

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