Tazeen Akhtar
When I asked him ” What is the future of Afghanistan in your opinion? He replied rudely like a machine “Ask your Generals”. I just smiled and did not bother him further. It is our experience of decades in real journalism that the high officials including Ambassadors and Generals are doing many things right and wrong both on the sidelines of their line of duty. Lucky are those whose wrong doings do not float on the surface. Richard G. Olson Jr. Former US Ambassador to Pakistan is not that lucky. He is facing investigation on misuse of his powers, giving taking illegal favors, influencing the authorities, impressing the women and having extramarital affairs with more than one woman. This character was not spread over Pakistan only but to UAE and Qatar as well.
We the journalists , the working journalists, continuously working journalists, with no other task or target, hardly gather ourselves to ask something from high ups like Ambassadors , Ministers and Generals. I remember when I asked a General to reply me few questions , the General’s response was as he soon will blow on my face. Or may be it is from those who are wrong and actually they themselves are afraid of journalists.
Most of media outlets are highlighting Richard Olson’s love affairs more than his financial irregularities only to get cheap rating that is the ultimate goal of mainstream media now a days. Otherwise, what is a big deal for a US Ambassador to Pakistan or India if he have some women in his circles of friends. American Ambassador is considered Viceroy in the sub continent. It is routine here, women in the outfit of journalists, have always been favorit to our Politicians, Officials, Generals and Ambassadors. If Mona (Muna) Habib is for Richerd Olson, who Cynthia Ritchi was for here? For YRG and Rehman Malik only? or for some Generals as well?
As long as women are concerned, Olson is not to blame by the way. He was American ambassador and his own former President Bill even had a Dill (heart) to Fell into the Lap of Lewinsky. What if Richard the Great has spent some good moments with some beautiful ladies after hectic tiresome work of whole day?
Today , the court is about to fix the charges or convict the accused Guilty or not Guilty but I don’t see the charge of having love affairs with many women as the base of his conviction. It will be financial misconduct only.
He admitted in the U.S. District Court in Washington that :
1- Olson admitted that 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.
2- Olson 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.
Other charges that Olson has not admitted so far:
1- Olson failed to report a $60,000 gift of diamond jewelry to his mother-in-law from the emir of Dubai. In court filings, prosecutors called the emir’s jewelry “an exorbitant and obviously inappropriate gift” and accused Olson of lying to avoid accountability.
2- Olson asked a Pakistani American businessman to pay $25,000 in tuition bills that enabled the ambassador’s girlfriend to move to New York and attend the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. That businessman is now serving a 12-year federal prison sentence for illegal campaign donations and tax crimes. Name not disclosed, no reason why.
Olson served (if it can be said as service) in Pakistan from 2012 to 2015. He was married to another U.S. diplomat, who was serving at the time as the ambassador to Libya.Mona (Muna) Habib knew that as well as other women if any because their names are no where, that Olson is married and it means he has a wife and it further means that the women including Mona or Muna are culprits of looting the rights of another woman. That is why I say always that “Woman is the enemy of Woman and not the man.”Mona or Muna Habib
Here another interesting point is shifting of responsibility of dating dramas onto each other by the US Ambassador and CIA chief in Pakistan. Olson says he had taken into confidence the CIA but the CIA chief does not accept it. Love affair or whatever relation a man and woman form, if both of them happy with that , it is not a big deal as I mentioned earlier but at the same time it is not as simple as “Man Woman Razi tau kiya karey ga Qazi” ( Man Woman are Agree what the Judge will Disagree). When you are Ambassador or Minister or General , you are carrying the state emblem on your forehead and state secrets in your mind and memory. You can not wander here and there with women hardly known who actually are they?
Pakistanis have seen Ms Cynthia Ritchie in the near past. Who does not know that she was first introduced by the Military officers as a vlogger who is here to portray a good picture of Pakistan. Lastly , Finally she was blaming Rehman Malik the then interior minister as her RAPIST and Yousuf Raza Gilani the then Prime Minister as a THURKY. Very good Image she highlighted………….
If one can see both together , Richard and Ritchie – no doubt both are very very dashing. Both look like hero and heroin of Holly Wood. So I don’t blame any Pakistani Minister or General for Ritchie and same is true for Pakistani women including Mona or Muna Habib. Anyone can be allured by the dashing personalities. Especially when they are from USA and also possess some status let alone the Ambassador of USA = Viceroy of United India.
Very unfortunate point of this story is neither the Ambassadors or Ministers nor Generals can visualise their status nor the women that attract them can feel the damage they (the women) can do to them (officials) and the countries of both affecting badly the bilateral relations of two nations.
We have seen many cases in our two decades of work in diplomatic beat that some women somehow enter into the circle, have benefits from the Ambassadors and because soon the women are exposed , vanish from the scene as if they were never here around. We the real working journalists have seen the stories of Kristina Lamb and others. The officials, not only the Ambassadors, but Ministers and Generals, give importance to these women, send them gifts and favors out of the way, put their names in the foreign tours when they do not have proper work and knowledge and depth on their mentioned work. Finally , these officials are facing inquiries and blame games are on but the women are no where to rescue the officials.
As long as , USA is concerned, its relation with Pakistan has been like carrot and stick. Now Love factor has been added by above mentioned two cases. USA has been asking Pakistan to do more. Pakistan’s response has always been ” We have done more and more already, now it is US turn to do more.” Here we can see USA has also done more, even if it is in shape of extramarital affairs or love, if one can call it love and not lust only, lust of women on one side and lust of wealth on the other.
Richard and Ritchie have become two symbols of what is going on in our country and in between USA and Pakistan. Ambassadors are not Ambassadors actually and Journalists are not Journalists in reality. They are doing other things. What are these other things? Who knows? Because our safe hands are busy in fixing the politicians and dissent of opinion only. After the years even, no one bothered to tell the nation who was behind the launch of Cynthia Ritchie in Pakistan. I am sure , no one will do anything to see who this Mona or Muna and other women are and what they have been doing or reporting on and off the record to Richard. Only the press and media is supposed and expected to do more on the subject than to get rating only.
Here is the rest of the story published in US and Pakistani media
Olson’s legal and romantic problems began after he reported to Islamabad as the U.S. ambassador in 2012. U.S.-Pakistani relations were in tatters because of the U.S. military raid on the country a year earlier to kill al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden. Pakistan had also shut down U.S. ground supply routes for the war in Afghanistan in retaliation for a NATO airstrike that killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers.
While Olson’s primary task was to soothe tensions with Pakistan’s powerful military and spy chiefs, he also began seeing Muna Habib, a young television reporter working in the country, court records show. They dated for two years but broke up in late 2014 after Habib, who is a British citizen, 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.
They resumed contact a few months later. Habib was admitted to the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2015 but couldn’t afford the $93,000 she needed to attend. 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.
Zuberi had never heard of Habib before, the records show, 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. 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. An attorney for Zuberi did not respond to a request for comment.
In court filings, Olson’s attorneys said that he “merely made an introduction, a very common practice for a diplomat” and that there was nothing improper about the tuition payment because he was not dating Habib at that point.
But emails submitted to the court indicate that the ambassador and the journalist still had feelings for each other.
“Our break up has been one of the most difficult periods of my life,” Habib wrote on June 16, 2015, while the tuition deal was being sorted out. “I knew how you had behaved in all your previous relationships and I continued to see you. It didn’t matter to me because of how you made me feel loved, special, something that I had never experienced before.”
“Glad we’re still friends,” Olson replied. “I care deeply about you too.”
In a brief phone interview, Habib dismissed questions about her relationship with Olson as “salacious gossip,” adding, “I’m sick and tired of it.” She asked for a list of questions in writing but did not respond to them.
Olson reported his relationship with Habib to the CIA’s station chief at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad but “did not report his contact with Habib in any other way,” according to notes from a 2019 FBI interview with the ambassador. According to the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual, diplomats with high-level security clearances are required to report any “intimate/sexual contact” with foreign citizens to diplomatic security officials for counterintelligence purposes.
Olson’s attorney did not respond to questions from The Washington Post about whether he had properly reported his relationship with Habib or how many other women he dated while in Pakistan. Jennifer McKewan, a State Department spokesperson, declined to comment on Olson’s case.
While Olson was ambassador to Pakistan, he was also fending off a State Department investigation about a different matter.
In 2014, someone tipped off the State Department’s inspector general that 11 years earlier, while Olson was serving as the head of the U.S. Consulate in Dubai, the emir of the Persian Gulf city-state had delivered a velvet box to his office, records show. Inside were four diamonds set in white gold — a pendant, a ring and a set of earrings — that federal officials later valued at $60,000, according to court documents. They do not name the emir; Dubai has had two different two emirs since 2003.
Under the standards of the Foreign Gifts and Decoration Act in effect at the time, U.S. officials were required to report gifts with worth more than $285 and could not keep them unless they reimbursed the federal government for the fair-market value.
Olson did neither. He told State Department investigators that the emir had given the diamonds not to him but to his mother-in-law, who was living with him in Dubai, according to correspondence from State Department officials and other documents submitted to the court by his lawyers. He said the emir wanted to express gratitude to his mother-in-law for coming to Dubai to help care for the ambassador’s two children.
Olson’s then-wife, Deborah Jones, was based in Washington at the time as a senior State Department official, overseeing the Office of Arabian Peninsula Affairs. The department also placed Jones under investigation because she supervised U.S. policy in the region and had formerly served as the deputy chief of mission in the United Arab Emirates, records show.
In an interview with The Post, Jones defended the jewels as a legitimate gift to her mother and said neither she nor Olson did anything wrong by failing to report it. She recalled that State Department officials confronted her about the diamonds while she was serving as ambassador to Libya in 2014, and called the investigation “very offensive” and “very unpleasant.”
She said her mother considered the diamonds to be a genuine personal gift from the emir, adding, “I find it incredibly sexist that I was somehow pulled into this by virtue of being her daughter.”
The State Department closed the investigation without taking personnel action against Jones or Olson after they successfully argued that Jones’s mother was not their dependent for tax purposes and therefore not covered by the gift rules, records show. Even so, in a September 2016 letter, State Department lawyers asked the couple to voluntarily relinquish the diamonds, saying it was “extremely disappointing that you were not sufficiently concerned with the gift to seek guidance from the ethics office.”
In a November 2016 letter, Olson told the State Department that he couldn’t force his mother-in-law to hand over the diamonds, “which I think she would regard as robbery.” Jones told The Post that she also tried but failed to persuade her mother to part with the jewels. “I said, ‘Mom, look, these are really causing a problem, and they’re causing a problem to me.’ But she said they were hers.” Jones said that her mother died in December and that she’s not sure what happened to the diamonds. She and Olson filed for divorce in 2018, though she said they have a cordial relationship.
Around the same time, Olson rekindled his romance with Habib, who by then had completed her studies at Columbia University’s journalism school, according to documents filed by his attorneys. They married in June 2019 and now live in New Mexico.


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