Sunday, August 10, 2014

Musharraf spokesperson introduced Christine O'Donnell to 'well-connected' Texas socialite Joanne Herring

UPDATES: In late 2007, Musharraf declared "virtual martial law" in Pakistan, meanwhile his allegedly unpaid spokesperson gave $4,300 to Biden's and McCain's POTUS campaigns, and $4,600 to Hillary Clinton; Dr. Raza Bokhari's wife gave $2,300 each to Biden and McCain campaigns, plus $2,300 to Mitt Romney; 6 days after Musharraf's spokesman gave him $2,000 donation, Biden "applauded" coup leader for stepping down; In 2011, Dr. Bokhari paid $175,000 for retainer to hire US lobbying firm to lobby US Congressmen after Musharraf was hit with charges of alleged treason and for his alleged involvement in the assassination of a former Pakistani Prime Minister

At his Twitter account, Raza Bokhari's profile describes himself as "President Musharraf's International spokesperson & North American Point of Contact". Since hooking up with the former military coup leader in 2001, Bokhari not only helped hook Musharraf up with many US congressmen, he also apparently helped a Tea Party activist pursue Vice President Joe Biden's vacated United States Senate seat by introducing her to a "well-connected" Texan socialite and fundraiser.

According to a biography at his eponymous personal website, Dr. Raza Bokhari "has a Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Punjab, Rawalpindi Medical College, and an Executive MBA from Temple University, Fox School of Business & Management."

"Raza currently serves as the Managing Partner of RBx Capital, LP, a private equity fund in formation that is focused on investing in all segments of the US laboratory testing market, including pharmacogenomics enabled personalized medicine. Raza also volunteers his time as President Musharraf’s North American Point of Contact. He was elected as the National President for the Pakistani American Public Affairs Committee (PAKPAC) for the years 2006-07. He currently serves on the Board of Temple University’s Fox School of Business and Management, as Chairman of the Executive Advisory Committee. He is also Vice Chairman of the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia and a Trustee of the esteemed Foreign Policy Research Institute. Raza also served as a Trustee of the prestigious Franklin Institute for the years 2007-2012."
While Dr. Bokhari claims he "voluntarily and on his own initiative, began assisting" Musharraf "without compensation" in "the summer of 2010", he did support him publicly in the past, such as in this December 19, 2007 press release, arguing that "President Musharraf's abrupt departure from the center stage is neither in the best interest of us in the United States nor in the best interest of the people of Pakistan," since "[h]e is a pivotal anchor for moderate forces and various stakeholders, such as the armed forces, intelligence agencies, secular and religious political parties, and global allies to foster a consensus toward building a secure, stable and a democratic Pakistan."

"It is a mistake for us not to recognize that agitation against President Musharraf and his policies on the streets of Pakistan directly demonstrate agitation and opposition against the interest of United States in the region," Dr. Bokhari wrote, while serving as the president of the Pakistani American Public Affairs Committee (PAKPAC). "Suggestions of curtailing economic and military assistance to Pakistan by some presidential candidates and legislators are not wise at this time, and will serve only to fuel these agitations and jeopardize U.S. interests."

Bokhari maintained, "We must and should continue to support President Musharraf to lead the way in fighting terrorism and restoring civilian rule in Pakistan,"

In her book "Troublemaker: Let's Do What It Takes to Make America Great Again", conservative activist Christine O'Donnell referred to an alleged chance encounter with Bokhari as one of "two serendipitous tipping points in [her] decision to finally seek the 2010 Republican nomination for U.S. Senate - the bright, neon signs [she'd] been looking for that would shine unmistakably and irrefutably as the answer to [her] prayers."

"As I was preparing for [a trip to Houston, Texas for her "first major fund-raiser"] the day before, a friend casually suggested I try to meet up with Joanne Herring, a prominent Texas socialite, while I was in Houston. This was easier said than done. Joanne Herring was a well-known, well-connected political activist, and had a assumed a significant role in foreign affairs. Julia Roberts portrayed her in the movie Charlie Wilson's War...."
While sitting on the plane reading an article in The Wall Street Journal about "President Obama's new plan to stimulate the economy and help the environment by creating green jobs," which "really set [her] off" causing her to make "furious notes in the margins", O'Donnell "made eye contact with the man seated next to [her]. He smiled and said, 'You read the paper quite passionately.'"
"We both laughed, and struck up a conversation. Soon, we'd moved from politics in general to the Delaware U.S. Senate race. My seatmate turned out to be Raza Bokhari, a well-connected political consultant himself, and he knew a good deal about our race back home. After a while, he said, 'You know, you should really meet Joanne Herring.'

I told him he was the second person in two days to bring up her name.

He said, 'There's a reason for that. She's a lot like you. She's passionate about the same things you are.'"
O'Donnell continued, "As it happened - and here's the serendipity part - Raza had a lunch meeting scheduled with Joanne that very afternoon, to talk about the situation in in Pakistan, and he invited me to join them. We went directly to her house from the airport, and we hit it off immediately. Raza was right, and so was my friend back home. Joanne and I were passionate about many of the same things, and I had to marvel at the happenstance that led to that unlikely visit, and that she would take the time to meet with me, clear out of the blue. Even more exhilarating was her pledge to help my campaign, in what ways she could. She was instrumental in some of my earliest fundraising efforts, introducing me to several key donors. She also introduced us to Mitt Romney and paved the way for his later endorsement, so it really was an invaluable meeting for our campaign.'"

O'Donnell's book never mentions Musharraf, but Troublemaker's Chapter Notes do link to Raza Bokhari's biography at his website, which notes, "Raza also volunteers his time as President Musharraf’s North American Point of Contact."

According to this CNN timeline, O'Donnell's meeting with Bokhari occurred about five months after "Pakistani officials announce that Musharraf faces arrest if he returns to Pakistan," and around four months before Pervez "announces on CNN that he plans to re-enter Pakistan politics."

"Since Christine had put in such a strong showing against Joe Biden in 2008, the Delaware Republican Establishment, solidly behind Mike Castle, began circulating a file of lies about Christine to local reporters in January of 2010," Senior Contributing Editor Gary H. Johnson wrote for Tea Party Tribune in October of 2011. "O’Donnell had not even officially announced her entry in the race when false reports began to surface about her. According to one false charge, Christine had lost her house in foreclosure even though she had chosen to sell the house to pay off the loan."

"As the slanderous, demonstrably false accusations began to fly, Christine’s campaign was in start-up mode. She traveled to Houston, Texas for a fund-raiser. A chance encounter with a political consultant name Raza Bokhari presented Christine with an opportunity to secure the support of a well-connected, prominent socialite named Joanne Herring, whose support would eventually earn her the endorsement of Mitt Romney."
O'Donnell defeated former Governor Michael Castle in Delaware's September 2010 GOP primary, but she lost to Democratic candidate Chris Coons in the general election. Since her loss, O'Donnell has remained in the public eye by doing reports for the Fox News Channel and CNN.

According to a December 2009 Philly Mag story, "Musharraf sampled local fare during a leisurely 11 days in September and October with his buddy Raza Bokhari, a Villanova doctor turned businessman.

"Bokhari met Musharraf in 2001, at a Pakistani embassy event in NYC. 'I told my wife I was going to get to know him,' Bokhari recalls, 'and she said, ‘How are you going to do that?' Bokhari, who developed and sold two cancer diagnostic companies and is now raising money for economic development in Pakistan, got involved with the U.N.'s Millennium Development, which put him into small meetings with then-President Musharraf. A friendship bloomed.

When Musharraf came to the U.S. for a 43-day, 25-city lecture tour, he stayed at Bokhari's home on Spring Mill Road before and after the tour; Bokhari hosted a dinner that included radio host Michael Smerconish and basketball coaches Jay Wright and Fran Dunphy. Conversation with the general floated from the problems of terrorism to the bloated serving sizes in American restaurants to movies—Musharraf likes Westerns. One night, Villanova police showed up: 'I think,' Bokhari says, 'the music was a little loud.'"
In September of 2011, Bokhari signed an agreement for $175,000 between Musharraf and US lobbying firm, Advantage Associates International, which is "owned by former congressman Bill Sarpalius from Texas." A few months later, Politico noted that Dr. Bokhari paid for the retainer.

"The Advantage Ltd will work with Mr Bokhari to 'develop a strategy to represent the interest of Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf in the US' and the firm will assist Mr Bokhari 'in any other area that would be of benefit to Gen (retd) Musharraf,'" Pakistan's Daily News reported in 2011.

"It is known that almost everyone in this firm is an ex-congressman, [Pakistan's Daily News] added," Pakistan news outlet reported in October of 2011.

[More on this lobbying effort, which occurred after Musharraf was hit with charges for alleged treason and his alleged involvement in the assassination of a former Pakistani Prime Minister will be explored in a future article.]

From 2006 to 2008, Dr. Raza Bokhari contributed money to the US presidential campaigns of three candidates from both major political parties.

On June 19, 2006, Bokhari gave $2,000 to Arizona Republican Senator John McCain's Straight Talk Express political action committee, and followed that up with $2,100 to John McCain 2008 Inc. on January 5, 2007 and - a month later - $200 on February 7th.

Bokhari wrote two checks for $2,300 each to the Hillary Clinton for President campaign on June 26, 2007, but - for unknown reasons - was refunded $2,300 from the Democratic New York Senator's campaign on August 28, 2008, two months after she bowed out of the race and endorsed Senator Barack Obama. However, since both Bokhari and his wife attended the $2,300 per person luncheon, and had their pictures taken with the presidential contender, the second check may have been meant to be a donation from his wife. Clinton ended up becoming Secretary of State after the Democratic senator from Illinois beat McCain for the presidency in 2008.

"Raza is the Past President of the Pakistani American Public Affairs Committee (PAKPAC), a national, membership-based, not-for-profit lobbying organization," according to Bokhari's website. Working with PakPac, Bokhari hosted a luncheon for Hillary Clinton on June 26, 2007. Other guests included Congressman Bennie Thompson, Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security for the 110th Congress; Congressman Al Green, another member of that Committee; and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, the Chairperson of the Sub-Committee on Homeland Security and a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittees on the Middle East and South Asia. It cost $2,300 per person to attend the VIP Reception, which included a "seat at [the] head table, luncheon, acknowledgment & picture with the Senator."

Dr. Bokhari's wife also gave money to three candidates from the two major US political parties during the 2008 election cycle. But, instead of Senator Hillary Clinton, Sabina Bokhari donated $2,300 on November 27, 2007 to a Republican candidate: former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's campaign. At his website, Raza Bokhari posted a picture of Romney posing with him and his wife. The dentist also gave $2,100 to John McCain 2008 Inc. on January 5, 2007 and an additional $200 on February 7, 2007.

[Dr. Raza Bokhari also met President Barack Obama at least twice, which I will explore in a future story.]

"In what is a virtual martial law, President Pervez Musharraf, acting as army chief, on Saturday imposed a state of emergency throughout Pakistan, suspended the Constitution and replaced superior courts in a move that could put the country’s political future into disarray," Dawn reported on November 7, 2007.

"The move, greeted with immediate condemnation at home by opposition parties, lawyers and human rights groups and concern from 'war on terror' allies like the United States and Britain, came only 12 days before the expiration of General Musharraf’s presidency and the present assemblies and while an 11-judge bench of the Supreme Court was in a weekend recess in its hearing of challenges to his election for another five-year presidential term mainly on grounds of his army office.

General Musharraf seemed to have run out of other political and constitutional options as he took one of the most extraordinary steps by a ruler in 60 years of Pakistan’s life, putting aside not only the Constitution but also his own sweeping powers as president and preferring to act as Chief of the Army Staff."
Another article at DAWN reported, "Shortly before the declaration of the state of emergency on Nov 3, the government had used its influence over local cable operators to pull the plug on all domestic and foreign news channels. These included Dawn News, Aaj, Geo, Ary One World, as well as BBC World, CNN and Al-Jazeera."

"This was perhaps the biggest news blackout in the history of Pakistan as for nearly two weeks viewers were deprived of all independent news on private television channels, with only the state-run Pakistan Television being allowed to beam news," the article continued.

In his press release defending Musharraf published on November 19, 2007, Dr. Bokhari argued, "The recent extra constitutional steps taken by President Musharraf resulting in the imposition of a state of emergency in Pakistan remain a continued target of criticism by U.S. presidential candidates, legislators and policy makers. While it is true that such extreme measures are rarely popular, it is quite troubling that there is no note of recognition that the head of a nation has a fiduciary responsibility to make tough decisions in the interest of national security in order to preserve and protect the nation and its citizens."

"Even before September 11, 2001 , several U.S. presidents had declared national states of emergency in response to various situations. During the American Civil War, President Lincoln suspended civil liberties to save the Union. In 1995 President Clinton declared a limited state of emergency to deal with the threats of disruption of the Middle East peace process; he expanded this national emergency in 1998 to order a strike against Osama Bin Laden."

"Since September 11 , President Bush has taken several steps through executive orders and the U.S. Congress has passed laws, notably the NSA warrant-less surveillance program and Military Commission Act of 2006, which infringe on civil liberties in the interest of national security. In addition, U.S. presidents historically have resorted to extra constitutional measures by issuing Signing Statements when enacting laws in an attempt to nullify parts of the legislation passed by the Congress."
"While pursuit of perfection is an unfinished business and President Musharraf can and must do more, he has nonetheless been a reliable U.S. partner in fighting terrorism, promoting enlightened moderation, empowering women, catalyzing economic growth, fostering permanent peace in the sub-continent, and is speedily working toward restoring complete democracy and civilian rule," PakPAC president Dr. Bokhari wrote in 2007. "For the past seven years he has adeptly walked a very fine line that has resulted in the people of Pakistan beginning to realize the universally essential value of better relations with the United States."

Two days after Musharraf lifted the State of Emergency, on December 17, 2007, Bokhari donated $2,300 to future Vice President Joe Biden - while his wife contributed another $2,300 - and another $2,000 to the Democatic Senator from Delaware's presidential campaign on August 12, 2008.

The 2007 donation to Biden appears to be the same day he criticized Musharraf on the radio, while campaigning in New Hampshire.

"Senator Biden says the United States should support the country of Pakistan, not President Pervez Musharraf, who has just relaxed harsh restrictions on press freedom and judges," WDEL reported on December 17, 2007. "Speaking in New Hampshire this morning, Biden said he has told Musharraf there will be consequences if the elections scheduled in Pakistan next month are not fair and open."

The article added, "Speaking on New Hampshire Public Radio, Biden said he is lagging in the polls because he hasn't been able to raise as much money as his rivals. Biden said the others are wedded to special interests and can out-raise him."

This came a month after Biden vowed to block military sales to Pakistan after speaking to Musharraf on the telephone. "During a 25-minute phone conversation with Musharraf on Tuesday, Biden said, he told the Pakistani leader that he needed to move quickly to end the state of emergency and step down as head of the Army," Kevin Whitelaw reported for US News on November 8, 2007. "According to Biden, Musharraf admitted that he was reacting to an impending Supreme Court ruling that would have barred him, along with every other serving government official, from running for election until two years after they left government."

"I do not believe Musharraf can maintain this dictatorship for three, four, five, six years from now," Biden said. "If he engages in a permanent crackdown, a suspension of the Constitution, and a permanent dictatorship, that is not a recipe for stability."

Biden later bragged in a campaign ad, "When Pakistan erupted in crisis, I spoke to Musharraf before Bush did."

"Indeed, Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, spoke with Musharraf on Nov. 6, according to a statement from his office that day and wide news coverage of contacts with Musharraf," Politifact confirmed. "In the statement, Biden described it as 'a very frank and detailed discussion. I told President Musharraf how critical it is for relations between our two countries that elections go forward as planned in January, that he follow through on his commitment to take off his uniform and that he restore the rule of law to Pakistan.'"

"President Bush spoke with Musharraf on Nov. 7, one day after Biden did. At a press availability that day at Mount Vernon, Bush's remarks were very similar to Biden's the day before. 'My message was that we believe strongly in elections, and that you ought to have elections soon, and you need to take off your uniform,' Bush said. 'You can't be the president and the head of the military at the same time. So I had a very frank discussion with him.'"

It's not clear why Bush didn't speak with Musharraf until after Biden, but the records indicate that Biden's claim is True."
Months later, bragging that he's "known him for a long time," Biden spoke softer about Musharraf after the Pakistani president's party suffered huge losses in the election the military coup leader had attempted to block. But this came after Biden told CNN, "If Musharraf's party beats all odds and ends up being the winner here, I think it will be viewed as a totally discredited undertaking," as the AFP reported

On February 19, 2008, Jonathan S. Landy reported for McClatchy Newspapers. "Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, apparently handed a huge defeat in elections for his country's national assembly, accepts the results and may be willing to assume a largely ceremonial role, Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., said Tuesday."

"The results are clear, we lost. The outcome isn't going to change,' Biden quoted Musharraf as telling a delegation of three American senators that included Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. 'I've known him for a long time . . . He seemed like reality had set in.'"
"Biden told McClatchy that he believed that Musharraf, who assumed power in a military coup in 1999, would ask one of his opponents to form a new government," Landy reported. "Whether he would then step into the background 'will depend on how the coalition government is formed and how he is treated personally.'"

Despite the first Bokhari donation, Biden took a harsher tone against Musharraf in an op-ed published in the New York Times on March 2, 2008, claiming, "When President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan concluded that we were not serious about finishing the job in Afghanistan, he began to cut deals with extremists in his own country."

"As a result, the border area remains a freeway of fundamentalism: the Taliban and Al Qaeda find sanctuary in Pakistan, while Pakistani suicide bombers wreak havoc in Afghanistan," Biden added. "The recent Pakistani elections gave the moderate majority its voice back and gives the United States an opportunity to move from a Musharraf policy to a Pakistan policy."

On June 26, 2008, PAKPAC held a luncheon for Senator Biden, and the Bokharis were members of the host committee. The "VIP Reception cost $1000 per person, and included the "luncheon, acknowledgment & picture with the Senator." PAKPAC's website noted, "Please make personal checks payable to 'Citizens for Biden.'"

But less than a week before Obama selected Biden as his running mate, and after Bokhari made the second check for Biden (which appears to be related to the luncheon, since it was for Citizens for Biden), the Democratic senator released a statement "applauding" Musharraf for stepping down. Biden's August 18, 2008 press release was issued six days after Bokhari's donation.

"I congratulate the people of Pakistan on the peaceful resolution of their political crisis, and I applaud the decision of President Musharraf to give up his office for the good of his nation," Senator Biden stated five days before teaming up with Obama.

"The two major parties in the governing coalition – the PPP and the PML-N – worked together to bring about a change in government through constitutional and nonviolent means," Biden added. "This transition represents the first time in Pakistani history in which a president installed by the military has been removed by constitutional political action."

Biden continued, "I urge Pakistan's leaders to focus now on the pressing challenges of the future and resist the temptation to settle scores of the past. President Musharraf made the right choice in stepping down. I hope his resignation marks the end of the political turmoil that has immobilized the Pakistani government in recent months."

In 2009, Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said, "US Vice President-elect Joseph Biden had played a major role in getting former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to doff his uniform," India Express reported. "Justifying his government's decision to bestow one of the country's highest civilian honours on Biden, a move that has been criticized by opposition and Islamic hardline parties, Gilani said Biden is 'pro-Pakistan' and 'has given a lot of support for Pakistan and democracy.'"

"During Biden's visit in Pakistan last week with a bipartisan Congressional delegation, President Asif Ali Zardari had conferred the Hilal-i-Pakistan award on him," the article added. "The citation for the award said Biden was being recognized for his 'consistent support for democracy and socio-economic development in Pakistan and for his outstanding contribution to the strengthening of US-Pakistan relations.'"

While attending an Army versus Navy football game in December of 2011, Vice President Biden briefly greeted Musharraf, as the former dictator was avoiding arrest for constitutional crimes. "The Vice President was visiting wounded warriors during halftime at the Army-Navy game," an unnamed Biden spokesperson told Politico. "Former President Musharraf was sitting in a neighboring box. Vice President Biden said a brief hello to President Musharraf and his party. They had no substantive conversation."

A press release published at Musharraf's website on December 13, 2011 - which claims that it was "distributed by Raza Bokhari, an agent on behalf of President Pervez Musharraf" - states, "Former President of Pakistan and Chief of All Pakistan Muslim League, General Pervez Musharraf wrapped up a six day private visit to United States."

President Musharraf also attended the 112th annual Army Navy football game at FedEx Field in Maryland. During the game, the former President met with several serving and retired military personnel, business and political leaders, including Vice President Joe Biden."
Before Musharraf was arrested in 2013 for alleged constitutional crimes and his alleged involvement in the December 28, 2007 assassination of former Pakistan prime minister turned opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, former US Congress members working for Advantage Associates lobbied many current Congress members to discuss and support the "President's return to Pakistan," according to one filing with the US government. The document "Advantage Associates International, LTD., through Raza Bokhari Foreign Agents Registration Act filing" can be viewed at this link.

Musharraf is currently on trial in Pakistan - and has connections to an alleged "soft coup" that might be taking place in Pakistan which I've been reporting on. The US media is - once again - mostly ignoring Musharraf's trial.

On July 9, 2014, Bokhari tweeted a picture of himself with Musharraf [see above] recently in Karachi.

In response, Musharraf tweeted, "I was happy to see Nomi, my rep in #Houston, Tx and Raza, my International spokesperson in my home in #Karachi."

In February of 2011, I reported how the "the US media has practically ignored stunning news regarding another former ally in the global war on terror."
"'A Pakistani court issued an arrest warrant for ousted military leader Pervez Musharraf on Saturday over allegations he played a role in the 2007 assassination of an ex-prime minister and rival,' the Associated Press reported over the weekend, although no major US newspaper seems to have followed up. 'It was a major setback for the onetime U.S. ally, who was plotting a political comeback from outside the country.'

Musharraf 'seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999' and resigned in 2008 after impeachment charges were finalized against him by the newly elected government. After returning from self-imposed exile, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated at a campaign rally on December 27, 2007.

But with an arrest warrant now issued for Musharraf --- a very close partner for much of the last decade in the U.S. 'War on Terror' --- involving the assassination of a former Prime Minister, the U.S. corporate media has been curiously quiet, or otherwise extraordinarily sympathetic to Pakistan's former dictator..."
[Also, see my follow-up article - US, UK Media Ignore Musharraf Arrest Warrant in Bhutto Assassination Sent to Britain in March of of 2011.]

In future articles I'll cover Musharraf's curious relationship with Michael Smerconish, his ties to Pakistani opposition cleric Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadr and how his Texas rep, Nomi, helped raise millions of dollars for the Obama campaign.