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Former US ambassador Richard Olson’s illicit relationship with Pakistani journalist comes to light

Olson, 63, is scheduled to be sentenced in U.S. District Court in Washington on Tuesday

Former US ambassador Richard Olson’s illicit relationship with British-Pakistani journalist Muna Habib comes to light!

The development comes as the ex-ambassador undergoes a trial in U.S. District Court in Washington.

Richard G. Olson Jr. retired from the State Department in 2016. His 34-year career included high-profile postings as the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates, as well as risky assignments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to Washington Post’s report, Olson, 63, is scheduled to be sentenced in U.S. District Court in Washington on Tuesday after pleading guilty last year to two misdemeanors.

The report blew up the lid of his illicit relationships with Pakistani women, and Pakistani-British journalist Habib’s name was top of the list.

As part of a broader investigation, the FBI also questioned him about his extramarital affair with a journalist working in Pakistan while he was serving as the U.S. ambassador in Islamabad, according to the documents.

Olson told the FBI that he had confided in the CIA’s Islamabad station chief about his dating habits, but court records indicate that he did not report his liaisons to U.S. diplomatic security officials in accordance with State Department counterintelligence rules.

Records revealed that Olson led a complicated love life that could have left him vulnerable to blackmail.

Olson’s legal and romantic problems started to take root after he reported to Islamabad as the U.S. ambassador in 2012.

While stationed in Pakistan from 2012 to 2015, Olson dated multiple women despite being married to another US diplomat, who was serving as the ambassador to Libya at the time.

His primary task was to soothe tensions with Pakistan’s powerful military and spy chiefs, and he also began dating Muna Habib, a television reporter, the report added citing court records.

They dated for two years but broke up in late 2014 after Muna Habib discovered that the ambassador had been cheating on both her and his wife, Olson’s lawyers acknowledged in court documents.

“Ms. Habib believed that they were dating exclusively, while Amb. Olson was not under that same impression,” the lawyers wrote.

Olson and Habib resumed contact a few months later. Muna Habib was admitted to the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2015 but could not afford the $93,000 she needed to attend. However, Olson agreed to help by introducing her to Imaad Zuberi, a Pakistani-American dealmaker with high-level business and political contacts in Pakistan, China, and the Middle East, according to court records.

The letter, which is part of the documents submitted to a US court in the District of Columbia — DDC 2003, Criminal No. 2022-0144 — said Ms. Habib “could not know anything about deals or stock” that he conducted and that she knew she was “innocent and there [was] no conceivable way that [she] could have known anything about anything”.

On the other hand, The Washington Post report has started a media trial of

In a brief conversation with the publication, Habib dismissed questions about her relationship with former ambassador Olson as “salacious gossip,” adding, “I’m sick and tired of it.”

Pakistani journalists in Washington are reported to have often met Mona Habib, now demonized in the press as the girlfriend of a former US ambassador, at media engagements.

She was then working for a Pakistani newspaper. Later, they learned from her that she had also worked for BBC in Islamabad.

Later, at a briefing at the then-ambassador Asad Majeed Khan’s official residence, they learned that she was married to Mr. Olson when he came to pick her up.

For many Pakistani journalists, The Washington Post report published on Saturday came as a shock as it detailed Habib’s relationship with the former ambassador.

The Washington Post report citing court records further added that Imaad Zuberi had never heard of Muna Habib before, but within days he offered to pay $25,000 to offset her tuition expenses and arrange a $50,000 loan. Records show that he sent a $20,000 check to Columbia University and $5,000 to Habib but never made good on his promise of a loan.

Political fundraiser Imaad Zuberi is accused of acting as an unregistered agent for Turkey. The allegation comes about a month after investigators probing his activities questioned a prolific Democratic Party donor who has ties to the administration of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, according to law enforcement records.

It is pertinent to mention here that Zuberi was sentenced in 2021 to a 12-year prison term in a separate case after he pleaded guilty to tax evasion, campaign finance violations, and other charges.

Olson pleaded guilty last year to two misdemeanors.

On the first charge, Olson admitted that when he was the ambassador to Pakistan he failed to disclose that he received an $18,000 first-class ticket to fly to London for a job interview with a Persian Gulf investment firm.

On the second charge, the former diplomate acknowledged that he illicitly lobbied U.S. officials on behalf of the government of Qatar in 2017, violating a federal “cooling-off” law that prohibited him from doing so for a year after his retirement from the State Department.

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