Musharraf defends Pakistan spy agency
Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has defended Pakistan's national intelligence agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) against allegations that it funneled millions of dollars to a U.S. based group to lobby Congress and the White House.
On July 19, the Justice Department accused Pakistani intelligence services of secretly spending at least $4 million in the last 20 years to influence policy in Washington through a group called the Kashmiri American Council.
In connection with these allegations, two U.S. citizens were charged this week with being paid by Pakistan's spy agency in what the Justice Department characterized as a "long term conspiracy" to lobby lawmakers in Washington without being officially registered agents of Islamabad.
Speaking to RFE/RL in Washington after an appearance at Washington's Woodrow Wilson Center, Musharraf said lobbying is a normal practice for foreign governments and Pakistan is no different.
He characterized the two suspects' failure to register as foreign agents as personal mistakes, not evidence of a secret operation run by Islamabad.
"I think most of the countries concerned with themselves in the United States have lobbyists functioning here. They do spend money on lobbyists. Now, if Pakistan or the ISI also had lobbyists here, and they sent money -- or used money -- it is not at all banned here," Musharraf said.
"It is the lobbyists who has to register himself maybe, if he has not registered, it is not the fault of ISI or Pakistan, it is the fault of that lobbyist."
He added, "$4 million for over [20 years] is hardly any money, but the fact that unnecessary aspersions are being cast on [the] ISI or Pakistan is very unfair. One should just deal with the individual who may have violated laws by not registering."
Islamabad reacted to the Justice Department's move by accusing Washington of running a "slander campaign" against it.
The episode is just the latest in a string of events that have caused relations between the two countries to seriously deteriorate. They include Pakistan's arrest of an undercover CIA agent and Islamabad's anger over secret U.S. operations that led to the killing of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in his Abbotabad, Pakistan compound on May 2.
Pakistan has kicked out more than 100 U.S. military advisers in recent weeks, while the Obama administration has announced that it is delaying some $800 million in military aid to the country.