Did Pakistan influence the 9/11 Commission Report?
According to an FO official, "dramatic changes" were made in the final draft of the 9/11 Commission Report after Pakistani lobbyists convinced the commission's members to remove anti-Pakistan findings.
Pakistan gave tens of thousands of dollars through its lobbyists in the United States to members of the 9/11 inquiry commission to ‘convince’ them to drop some anti-Pakistan findings in the report. This was disclosed by Foreign Office officials to the Public Accounts Committee at a secret meeting held last Tuesday. Even more interesting was the revelation that Pakistan embassy officials in Washington did indeed manage to convince the commission to drop the information.
The 9/11 inquiry commission was constituted to look into the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States and make proposals to fight terrorism in the long run. A lengthy report of the commission has since been published in book form. This book, say FO sources, left out some information relating to Pakistan because the commission’s members were paid by Pakistan to prevent them from including damaging information. “The disclosure sheds doubt on the integrity and honesty of the members of the 9/11 Inquiry Commission and above all on the authenticity of the information in their final report,” said an insider.
Foreign Secretary Riaz Mohammad Khan and Special Secretary Sher Afgan were present at the meeting when an FO official, Sadiq, who was part of the secret negotiations with members of the US inquiry team and has just returned from Washington after completing a three-year tenure at the Pakistan embassy, revealed that a lot of money had been spent to ‘silence’ the members of the inquiry commission and induce them to go ‘soft’ on Pakistan.
According to the FO official, “dramatic changes” were made in the final draft of the inquiry commission report after Pakistani lobbyists arranged meetings with members of the Commission and convinced them to remove anti-Pakistan findings. This information is also given in the PAC records available with TFT and reveals that Pakistan won over the sympathies of 75 US Congressmen as part of its strategy to guard the interests of Pakistan in the United States. India, on the other hand, has its own influence in the US Congress through the 150-member India Caucus.
“The information given to PAC by FO reveals the effectiveness of lobbyists from Pakistan and India and how both spend millions of dollars to protect their interests,” an insider told TFT. “If this information is correct, then it is not only damaging for Pakistan but also for the US where some people publicly degraded Pakistan by saying that ‘Pakistanis will sell their mothers for a dollar’.”
The remark was made by the US attorney general about Pakistani officials who had allegedly played an important role in capturing Aimal Kasi, wanted in the USA for killing two CIA officials just outside the Agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia. “It seems that money can play an important role in buying powerful people everywhere, including the US. This is not something peculiar to Pakistan,” said an observer. Insiders, however, say the US Congress does not know about the fact that money was paid to the inquiry commission to silence it.
This information about Pakistani lobbyists influencing the inquiry commission was revealed when PAC member MNA Rai Mansab Ali started grilling FO officials about millions of dollars paid out to lobbyists around the world and the assignments they were given. He said the FO could not waste the hard-earned money of Pakistan by hiding behind the slogan of ‘national interests’.
Upon this, one FO official explained how the Pakistani embassy was working closely with lobbyists to achieve important targets, one of which had been the task of getting anti-Pakistan information out of the 9/11 Commission Report.
According to Sadiq, a few days before the completion of the inquiry report, US lobbyists told embassy officials that they had inside information that the inquiry commission had damaging findings on Pakistan’s role in 9/11. Meetings were hence arranged with commission members who were convinced to drop this information.
“The report that was finally published is sans the damaging information about Pakistan,” Sadiq told PAC members. “The US softened towards Pakistan only because of the efforts of the FO.”
FO Secretary Riaz Mohammad Khan said hiring lobbyists was an established practice and all countries had their own lobbyists in the US. However, he had no answers about the specific targets and goals set for these lobbyists.
“Our embassy in Washington says they need lobbyists so we hired some for them,” Riaz told the PAC. At this, MNAs present at the meeting complained that the FO had made a practice out of something whose utility and goals it could not explain. Riaz then admitted that the FO had no specific goals but that lobbyists were hired to improve Pakistan’s image.
“Influential people help Pakistani embassy officials approach politicians, Congressmen, journalists and top policy makers in the US. Contacts in that country are crucial,” he explained.
Sadiq also said that lobbyists inform the Pakistani embassy whenever there are any negative developments about Pakistan or any damaging issues raised against Pakistan in the US Congress. With the help of this inside information, embassy officials are much better prepared to deal with such issues, if and when they arise.
“You need to understand that we have to spend a lot of money on influential people in the US in order to protect our interests,” Secretary FO Riaz told PAC members.
Critics, however, have a different angle on the money that is thus spent. “There have been reports in the past about shady lobby firms hired by Pakistan. How do we know, on the authority of Mr Sadiq, that the lobbyists were indeed right about the damaging information in the report?” says a former senior official. Another source TFT spoke with said that it did not make any sense for Pakistan to spend millions after being told that the report contained some anti-Pakistan material. “Did anyone except the lobbyist see it? Did the embassy corroborate the information before dishing out the money? There are many questions here and I don’t think the FO is answering them,” he said.
© Copyright 2006 The Friday Times, Pakistan