Tuesday September 26, 2023

PTI’s US lobbying firm highlights cases against leaders, supporters

The PTI hired the US-based lobbying firm that has been reaching out to Western media outlets and human rights bodies, focusing on the current political situation in Pakistan

August 28, 2022
Shahbaz Gill. File photo
Shahbaz Gill. File photo

WASHINGTON/LONDON: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) hired the US-based public relations and lobbying firm Fenton/Arlook LLC that has been reaching out to Western media outlets and human rights bodies, focusing on the current political situation in Pakistan, especially cases registered against PTI supporters, The News has learnt through contacts.

The firm hired earlier this month by PTI-USA to improve PTI’s relations with Washington has approached influential Western media organisations, highlighting basic rights violations against party leaders and supporters.

The documents filed with the US Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) state that the firm was to support “the Tehreek-e-Insaf party’s goals for good relations with the United States and the Pakistani diaspora in the US”.

The documents say that the PR firm would “contact journalists, editors, producers and columnists on behalf of PTI-USA to explain their views to the US media only. This may include arranging interviews, placing OpEds, and other standard media and public relations activities”. The emails sent from the firm to the UK dailies allege that abusive actions were being taken against PTI supporters by the current government of Pakistan in the Centre. The News has seen these emails. The emails essentially pitched that the PTI leaders should be interviewed to hear first-hand accounts on how human rights were being violated under the current Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) government.

In one email, the firm mentioned the case of Shahbaz Gill, former PM Imran Khan’s Chief of Staff, who was arrested a couple of weeks ago on sedition charges after he allegedly called for mutiny within the ranks of Pakistan armed forces. Gill has accused – and Imran Khan has supported the claim – that he was sexually abused and tortured after being arrested. Fenton/Arlook LLC asked the media to highlight the incidents of torture and abuse in its reporting and offered to provide comment, images and videos to establish that rights violation were taking place in Pakistan.

In a recent email, Fenton/Arlook LLC drew attention to the arrest of anchor and youtuber Jameel Farouqui. In the email titled “Pakistan--Another reporter jailed and beaten”, the Fenton/Arlook LLC executive wrote: “Another Journalist, Jameel Farouqui, abducted stripped and tortured. He is now in Islamabad police custody under terrorism charges. He did a programme on a private TV and spoke of heinous torture of Gill by Islamabad police. Police have denied the torture and arrested Jameel for spreading false news with charges of terrorism added.”

The email from the Fenton/Arlook LLC executive then offered: “Also, please let me know if you want photos of marks on Dr Gill’s body and of J. Farouqui—clear evidence of beatings.”

The News, in this regard, sent questions to Fenton/Arlook LLC but did not get any official response. However, a senior executive of the Fenton/Arlook LLC spoke to The News on the condition his name withheld. He confirmed that the firm was working to highlight the cases of human rights abuses in Pakistan with a focus on several cases registered against the PTI leadership and supporters.

The PTI has also confirmed that it had engaged Fenton/Arlook LLC, to support the party’s goal of developing good ties with the US and the Pakistani diaspora in the country. Hiring a lobbying or PR firm is a legal and routine practice in the US and the PTI has fulfilled all legal requirements to hire the firm. PTI chief Imran Khan has been repeatedly accusing the US for overthrowing his government through a conspiracy.

Former PTI minister Fawad Chaudhry has said that Fenton/Arlook LLC is not a lobbyist firm but a media relations firm that the PTI-USA has engaged to put its point across in the media. “It’s the job of these firms to develop a relationship between the media and the party.”

Fenton/Arlook LLC has been hired by the PTI-USA for a period of six months at the cost of $25,000 per month to manage its public and media relations. The agreement was signed on August 1 between David Fenton of the Fenton/Arlook and Salman Ravala, attorney for the PTI-USA. The agreement between the PTI-USA and Fenton/Arlook LLC states that the PTI-USA is not supervised, owned or controlled by any foreign political party but will “in certain instances” be “directed by the foreign political party in Pakistan”, therefore the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.

“Fenton/Arlook shall provide public relations services, including but not limited to distributing information to and briefing journalists, placing articles and broadcasts, arranging interviews with representatives or supporters of PTI, advising on social media efforts and other such public relations services,” the agreement signed between PTI and the PR firm stated.

It further states that “For this work Fenton/Arlook will charge a monthly retainer fee of $25,000 plus expenses. Payment of 2 months of fees in advance, or $50,000, plus an expense advance of $5,000 is due on or before August 10th, 2022, to cover work in August and September, 2022,” it further read.