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U.S. India PAC Presses Congress on Pakistan

An Indian-American advocacy group called on Congress on Wednesday to hold hearings to determine what Pakistani authorities knew about al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts.

“The Pakistani government has been disturbingly silent since the operation that eliminated bin Laden, but it needs to answer how he could live in Pakistan for five years without the knowledge of the [Inter-Services Intelligence agency] or the Pakistan Army,” Sanjay Puri, chairman of the U.S. India Political Action Committee, said in a news release.

He added in a phone interview that bin Laden’s killing was “the conversation du jour” among Indian-Americans. He questioned how bin Laden was living “a nice suburban life” in Pakistan without officials there knowing about it.

USINPAC, which is based in Chantilly, Va., raised and spent more than $100,000 in the last election cycle, according to a CQ MoneyLine analysis of Federal Election Commission filings. It has given $199,000 to Democrats and $152,000 to Republicans since 2002.

Puri said he had not coordinated his activities with the Indian government, which has long been at odds with Pakistan.

The Indian government spent almost four times as much as Pakistan on lobbying in Washington over the past five years, and it employs some of the biggest players on K Street, including BGR Group, Patton Boggs and the Podesta Group, according to Foreign Agents Registration Act filings with the Justice Department.

Jeff Birnbaum, the president of BGR Public Relations, said the firm’s lobbyists have been monitoring Congressional reaction to bin Laden’s death, “including what is being said about Pakistan.” But “they are not lobbying on India’s behalf on the matter,” he said in a statement.

Mark Siegel, a longtime lobbyist for Pakistan who works for Locke Lord Strategies, suggested that he was not surprised that an Indian-American group was critical of Pakistan’s handling of the situation.

“Obviously Indians are trying to take advantage of the situation,” he said. But Siegel, who has lobbied on behalf of Pakistan since 1984, said U.S. relations with the two countries don’t have to be “a zero-sum game.”

Alex Knott contributed to this report.

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