Friday, October 14, 2022
ISLAMABAD: Iftikhar Durrani — former special assistant to the prime minister — privately signed an agreement with an American consultancy firm headed by an ex-CIA station chief to lobby and provide advice on Pakistan-US relations on May 1 of this year.
The agreement was signed without the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' involvement despite the fact that the dues in the contract were to be paid by the Government of Pakistan.
Durrani, who was not in any government position when he signed the contract, represented the then-ruling party PTI. And the Government of Pakistan had to pay the firm as per the agreement.
This raises the question that how could a party office-bearer sign an agreement on behalf of the government. It also raises the question of whether the government funds were channelled for political purposes as the agreement was signed between a political party office-bearer and the contractor.
As per the agreement, the Government of Pakistan had to pay a fixed monthly amount of $25,000 to the lobbying firm in addition to the one-time service fee or expense retainer of $5,000. Although the agreement was signed on behalf of the PTI office-bearer, the amount as per the terms and conditions of the contract was to be paid by the government.
Section 11 of the agreement, a copy of which is available with The News, says, “Mr Durrani is supervised by the senior leadership of the party, which is currently the party in government power. As Mr Durrani is supervised by senior party officials, he is effectively under their direction, and under the direction of Pakistan government officials, as well. As some of his activities are supervised, directed and financed by officials of the government of Pakistan, Mr Durrani is effectively under their control as well. Mr Durrani disburses funds from the government of Pakistan.”
Well-placed sources informed The News that Durrani had misstated the facts as mentioned in the agreement. The Foreign Ministry or Law and Justice Ministry were not taken into the loop for the signing of the agreement.
“Probably in order to avoid any regulatory processes in the US, Durrani had misrepresented the facts and gave the government’s cover for the agreement,” commented the sources.
As per the agreement, “the consulting firm will maintain contacts with US government officials of both the executive and legislative branches, as well as with think tanks and other informed individuals, in addition to consulting with the client and the client’s associates, to determine how the scope of constructive relations between the US government and the government of Pakistan might be enhanced, and will advise his Pakistani client and the client’s associates accordingly, both through verbal and written communications.”
On the one hand, PTI Chairman Imran Khan blames the United States for the regime change in Pakistan but, on the other hand, his party has a history of involving lobbying firms to build its positive image in the US.
Recently, after Imran Khan was ousted from his government, PTI USA Inc hired a lobbying firm Fenton/Arlook to provide its services for public relations in the US.
The News contacted former SAPM Iftikhar Durrani for his version but he did not respond to the calls. He was also sent a questionnaire on his WhatsApp but he did not respond to the queries.