When Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari stepped on to the podium to address the United Nations General Assembly last month, people in Pakistan expected him to put forth their concerns in front of the international community, but they had no idea that the four pages of his speech had actually cost them US $ 25,000.
Zardari's speech was actually prepared by Mark Siegel, the American lobbyist that the Pakistan government has appointed to promote it with the US leaders and Congress.
According to sources, Siegal charged about 25,000 dollars for the four pages that he wrote for Zardari. It would be apt to point out that the Pakistani government is already paying millions of dollars to Seigal for his lobbying efforts.
Siegal's influence is not only confined to writing the UN speech, which should have been prepared by the Foreign Office in consultation with the Pakistan Mission to the United Nations, but he receives the same 'red-carpet' treatment that Zardari enjoys while in US.
Siegel usually has a suite in the same super-luxury hotel-Barclay Inter-continental-where President Zardari stays during his visit to New York, The Nation reports.
Sources said it was only after Pakistan's Ambassador to the US, Hussain Haqqani's recommendation that Seigal got the assignment to write the speech. No wonder that the speech contained no vision, but was embedded in a language that was designed to please the United States and its western allies, a Pakistani Foreign Office official said.
"What can we do? This government talks of defending the country's sovereignty, what sovereignty ... we're no longer sovereign, but a US colony," he added.