WASHINGTON   -  The Embassy of Pakistan and Holland & Knight signed a contract for lobbying services Friday afternoon in the presence of Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

A leading Republican from New York and former Congressman Tom Reynolds, who represents Washington’s top lobbying firm Holland & Knight, discussed ways to represent Pakistan’s interest effectively.

Reynolds will be supported by a team comprising former members of Congress, former senior administration officials, Capitol Hill veterans and other professional experts.

Despite pressing requirements of the unique political scene in the United States, the Pakistani Embassy in D.C. had no lobbyist during the past six years.

Noting the importance of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s upcoming visit in revitalizing the Pakistan-US bilateral relations, the foreign minister expressed the hope that Holland & Knight would be able to work efficiently with the embassy to advance Pakistan’s interests in the United States.

Reynolds thanked Foreign Minister Qureshi for reposing confidence in Holland & Knight and assured him of their full support in forging strong Pakistan-US bilateral relations based on mutual respect and mutuality of interests.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan, who will kickstart his three-day visit to the US today, is scheduled to address a record-setting gathering of the Pakistani community at a stadium in the downtown of the Washington DC.

The PM will address the Pakistani community at Capital One Arena with a seating capacity of above 20,000 persons most of which had been booked already with more people still registering themselves to attend the event.

The prime minister’s community address is distinctive in the way as previously, the visiting Pakistani leaders used to address the Pakistani expatriates in the community halls or closed-door rooms at hotels.

The address is scheduled at around 1600 hours of local time.

“The atmosphere we are witnessing this time was never seen in the past. The American Pakistanis are yearning to see and listen to Imran Khan and know the concept of Naya Pakistan and what message he has brought along to America,” Qureshi told media at Capital One Arena where he arrived to review the arrangements.

He said the community was extremely excited over the activity as summit level engagement was being held after a hiatus of five years. “You have seen this arena. There is seating capacity of around 20,200. So far, above 19,000 people have registered themselves and some time is yet remaining for the event,” he said, terming the response as encouraging.

“There is a unique excitement. There is an ambience of gala,” he remarked.

He hoped that this would be the biggest gathering in the history of Pakistani activities held in America.

Around one million Pakistani-Americans reside in the US which has also been a major source of remittances for Pakistan. During fiscal year 2019, remittances from the US stood at $3.13 billion indicating significant growth over $2.7 billion of the past year.

According to the Eventbrite, the website where the people are registering for the event, said the event would mark the playing of Pakistan’s national anthem, along with celebratory songs to be played throughout the event to celebrate Pakistan and the prime minister.

Senator Faisal Javed, who also arrived at the venue and hopefully would moderate the event too, told media that a ‘surprise package’ documentary of around 15-minute duration would also be played in the event encompassing the life and struggle of Imran Khan.

He said Imran Khan had a very old association with the overseas Pakistanis as they had been supporting Shaukat Khanum Hospital as well as the country through their remittances.

To a question, he said the friends of Imran Khan and expatriates were sponsoring the event as they had been doing for his gatherings in Pakistan.

Regarding the expected crowd, he said the Arena would stand filled to its capacity; however the management would install screens outside the venue to facilitate the people outside.

Qureshi said Pakistan would make a pitch for moving the ties away from 18-year long Afghan war to a place where the two sides focus on augmenting cooperation in wide-ranging mutually beneficial areas.

“We want a reset in the relationship,” he explained to members of the media, while noting that the equation has moved from coercion to cooperation and from isolation to invitation.