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Pakistan Observer - - IN­TER­NA­TIONAL -

United States at a time of de­te­ri­o­rat­ing re­la­tions be­tween the al­lies, two gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials told Reuters on Tues­day.

Ties have been par­tic­u­larly strained fol­low­ing a US un­manned air­craft strike that killed top Afghan Tal­iban leader Mul­lah Akhtar Man­sour in Balochis­tan, which the gov­ern­ment protested was a vi­o­la­tion of its sovereignty.

Re­la­tions have also been tense since a plan to buy eight F-16 fighter jets from the United States fell through this May af­ter the US Congress re­fused to ap­prove the deal.

The deal, val­ued at $699 mil­lion, came un­stuck af­ter Congress re­fused to au­tho­rise the use of US gov­ern­ment funds to pay for the air­craft un­der the For­eign Mil­i­tary Fi­nanc­ing pro­gramme.

“Pak­istan used to have lob­by­ists in Wash­ing­ton … Now we want to re­launch the ef­fort,” said a se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial, who asked not to be iden­ti­fied, as he was not au­tho­rised to speak to the me­dia on the record.

Islamabad dropped its of­fi­cial lob­by­ing ef­forts dur­ing the 1999-2008 mil­i­tary rule of Gen­eral Pervez Mushar­raf, the of­fi­cial said, adding that the gov­ern­ment had now de­cided it needed help sell­ing its im­age.

“Look at In­dia and other coun­tries, and how ag­gres­sive their pub­lic re­la­tions is,” of­fi­cial added. “In light of this, and most re­cently, of course, the whole episode with the F-16s, Pak­istan has de­cided that it has to step up its lob­by­ing ef­forts in D.C.”

A sec­ond gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial in the prime min­is­ter’s me­dia team con­firmed the de­ci­sion, say­ing it aimed at step­ping up ef­forts to “sell Pak­istani in­ter­ests and im­prove its im­age in the United States”.

The of­fi­cial added, “We are fight­ing this war on ter­ror at great cost to lives and our econ­omy.

Yet we keep hear­ing that we have to do more. Clearly there is a pub­lic re­la­tions gap.”

Nei­ther of­fi­cial would name the lob­by­ing firms Pak­istani of­fi­cials are talk­ing to.

Pak­istan was short­list­ing prospec­tive lob­by­ing firms, for­eign pol­icy chief Sar­taj Aziz on Mon­day told a Se­nate meet­ing on de­fence and for­eign af­fairs.

Some jets in Pak­istan’s fleet of F-16s are due to be de­com­mis­sioned in the next few years and the gov­ern­ment says it needs the air­craft to fight mil­i­tants in re­mote moun­tains near neigh­bour­ing Afghanistan.

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