Pakistan’s government changes ties on K Street

The newly elected Pakistani government is seeking to change its lobbying ties in Washington.

With the party of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto now in power, several lobbying contracts signed under President Pervez Musharraf’s government will be terminated.

One of Washington’s top lobbying firms, Van Scoyoc Associates , will see its contract with the Pakistani Embassy end on May 22. Public relations giant Ogilvy will also see its contract canceled in coming weeks.

The change is expected because new administrations almost always change their representation in Washington.

In a statement to The Hill, Pakistan’s embassy said that the termination of the contract with Van Scoyoc “is part of the prerogative of the new government in Pakistan to undertake a review of the means at its disposal to present Pakistan’s point of view to U.S. decision and opinion makers.”

Embassy officials said that the termination is not a reflection of the representation work under Van Scoyoc.

“The embassy acknowledges the professionalism, capability and competence of the team led by Mark Tavlarides that Van Scoyoc had deputed and the manner in which they carried out their responsibilities,” said Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, first secretary at the embassy.

Tavlarides represented Pakistan for the past three years. Pakistan’s government paid Van Scoyoc more than $1.2 million over the three years.

“It has been an honor to represent the government of Pakistan for the last three years,” said Tavlarides. “The restoration of democracy presents an excellent opportunity to improve U.S. relations with Pakistan. We wish the people of Pakistan, and their outstanding embassy team led by Ambassador [Mahmud Ali] Durrani, all the best as they embark on a new chapter in the life of their country.”

Meanwhile, the embassy paid Ogilvy $45,000 a month since November 2007 to improve the Pakistani government’s image during a period of crisis before the new elections.

“Our six-month assignment called for us to support the Embassy of Pakistan surrounding the recent parliamentary elections and the nation’s transition to civilian rule,” said Ogilvy’s Michael Law. “Free, fair and peaceful elections have been held and the country continues on its path to democracy.”

Musharraf last November suspended Pakistan’s constitution and assumed emergency powers under a provisional order, which also required the country’s judges to take a new oath of office. When the chief justice refused to do so and was joined by seven of his colleagues, Musharraf appointed his own justices.

The resulting political turmoil took a sharp turn for the worse in December, when Bhutto was killed in a suicide attack.

Her party, now led by her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, won the majority in the February election. Since the election swept Musharraf’s allies from power, the question remains how long the former general will stay on as president. Musharraf, who seized control in a 1999 military coup, gave up the post of army chief in November.

Even before the February elections, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had been represented in Washington by Burson-Marsteller and BKSH & Associates . That connection is likely to stay. The embassy may also resort to a well-known player among the PPP, Mark Siegel, who was a close friend of Bhutto. Siegel, a longtime Democratic Party activist, had been Bhutto’s man in Washington for decades, serving as an unofficial adviser.

Meanwhile, current ambassador Durrani is set to become the new national security adviser in Pakistan and will be leaving his D.C. post in May. His likely replacement is Husain Haqqani, but his appointment has not yet been officially announced. Haqqani is a professor and the director of the Center for International Relations at Boston University. He has already been appointed ambassador-at-large.

Kevin Bogardus contributed to this article.