WASHINGTON, July 19: The US Department of Justice on Tuesday arrested renowned Kashmiri leader Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai and charged another with conspiracy to work for Pakistan, claiming that the ISI was using them to influence US policies on Kashmir.
“Foreign governments who try to influence the United States by using unregistered agents threaten our national security,” said FBI Assistant Director in charge James McJunkin while disclosing the details of the case. The action followed renewed tensions between the US and Pakistan over Islamabad’s reluctance to cooperate in the war against terror.
The action against the Kashmiri leaders also indicated that tensions between the CIA and ISI remained unresolved despite Lt-Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha’s talks in Washington last week to resolve the differences.
In a statement issued in Washington, the US Justice Department highlighted these leaders’ alleged link to the ISI, claiming that they received millions of dollars to promote the Kashmir cause in the United States.
Mr Fai, a US citizen and resident of Fairfax, Virginia, and Zaheer Ahmad, a US citizen and resident of Pakistan, were charged in a one-count criminal complaint in the Eastern District of Virginia.
Mr Fai was arrested on Tuesday morning. Mr Ahmad is in Pakistan. Both face a potential sentence of five years in prison if convicted.
“Mr Fai is accused of a decades-long scheme with one purpose: to hide Pakistan’s involvement behind his efforts to influence the US government’s position on Kashmir,” said US Assistant Attorney General for National Security Neil MacBride.
“His handlers in Pakistan allegedly funnelled millions through the Kashmir Centre to contribute to US elected officials, fund high-profile conferences, and pay for other efforts that promoted the Kashmiri cause to decision-makers in Washington.” Mr Fai is the director of the Kashmiri American Council, Washington, which was founded in 1990.
An affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint claimed that although the KAC held itself to be a Kashmiri organisation run by Kashmiris and financed by Americans, it was “one of three Kashmir Centres that are actually run by elements of the Pakistani government, including Pakistan’s military intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency”.According to the affidavit, a confidential witness told investigators that “he participated in a scheme to obscure the origin of money transferred by Pakistan’s ISI to Mr Fai to use as a lobbyist for the KAC in furtherance of Pakistani government interests”. The witness explained that the money was transferred to Mr Fai through Mr Ahmad.
A second confidential witness told investigators that “the ISI created the KAC to propagandise on behalf of the government of Pakistan with the goal of uniting Kashmir. This witness said ISI’s sponsorship and control of KAC were secret and that ISI had been directing Mr Fai’s activities for the past 25 years”.
The affidavit alleged that four Pakistani government handlers had directed Mr Fai’s US activities and that Mr Fai had been in touch with his handlers more than 4,000 times since June 2008. Mr Fai’s handlers had also allegedly communicated with Mr Ahmad regularly.
The US Justice Department noted that Mr Fai intended to secure US Congressional support in order to encourage the Executive Branch to support self-determination in Kashmir. He tried to do so by building new alliances in the State Department, the National Security Council, the Congress and the Pentagon.