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Pro-Pakistan American lawmakers in trouble

July 21, 2011

In this photograph taken on May 24, 2011, US citizen Ghulam Nabi Fai, 62, talks during the International Kashmir Conference in Muzaffarabad. US officials charged two suspected Pakistani agents Ghulam Nabi Fai and Zaheer Ahmad over an alleged decades-long effort that funneled millions of dollars to Washington to lobby the Kashmiri cause in the corridors of power. – Photo by AFP

WASHINGTON: A day after US federal authorities arrested a Kashmiri leader for allegedly lobbying for Pakistan, US lawmakers who supported Pakistan or the Kashmir cause find themselves in trouble.

The US media — from The New York Times to obscure small town newspapers — highlighted some US lawmakers’ alleged links to Pakistan, claiming that they too had received funds from Ghulam Nabi Fai who was arrested in Virginia on Tuesday for allegedly lobbying for Pakistan.

The media quoted the US Federal Elections Commission databases as showing that Mr Fai gave more than $20,000 in campaign contributions over the past two decades. The bulk of his donations went to two recipients: the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Congressman Dan Burton, a Republican who favours Pakistan’s position on Kashmir and other issues. Mr Fai made smaller contributions to Democrats as well, including to Congressmen James P. Moran of Virginia, Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio and Gregory W. Meeks of New York.

He also gave $250 to the 2000 and 2008 presidential campaigns of Al Gore and Barack Obama. Mr Fai gave over $10,000 to Mr Burton between 1990 and 2010.

He also gave $250 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, $250 to the DNC Services Corp and $6,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

The media pointed out that for at least 15 years, Congressman Burton has been a champion for Kashmiri causes in Congress, appealing to Presidents Bill Clinton and Obama to get more involved in attempting to mediate a settlement between India and Pakistan over Kashmir.

He has also endorsed allowing the Kashmiri people to vote on their own fate.

Contacted by the media, Congressman Burton said he was “deeply shocked” by the arrest of Mr Fai, because he had known him for 20 years and “in that time I had no inkling of his involvement with any foreign intelligence operation and had presumed our correspondence was legitimate”. He said he would donate the funds provided to his campaign to the Boy Scouts of America. Congressman Joe Pitts, a Pennsylvania Republican, also allegedly received donations from Mr Fai and his group. Mr Pitts visited South Asia in 2001 and 2004, where he met Pakistani and Indian leaders and called for a ceasefire. He also introduced a resolution in 2004 calling for President George W. Bush to appoint a special envoy to help negotiate peace.

A spokesman for Mr Pitts said he had donated $4,000 — an amount equal to the donations his campaign received from Mr Fai’s group — to local charities in Pennsylvania on Tuesday.

The US media, however, focused on Congressman Burton who also played a key role in the formation of a Kashmir caucus in Congress.

Media reports included quotes from the speeches he made in Pakistan, saying in one such speech that “since 1948, the people of Kashmir have been offered and promised a plebiscite and that's something that has not happened.... Here we are 61 years later, and we are still hoping that one day there will be peace and tranquillity in that beautiful part of the world”.

In another speech, highlighted in the US media on Wednesday, Mr Burton noted that India had deployed hundreds of thousands of troops in Kashmir who were “keeping everything under wraps, patrolling the streets and there are still some horrible tragedies that are taking place. I heard of gang-raping of young women, I've heard of murders and tortures”.

Mr Burton was also quoted as chiding the Obama administration for failing to engage in the region.

“During the presidential campaign President Obama pledged to appoint a special envoy on the region and declared that solving Kashmir crisis was one of his critical tasks. So far this has been a promise unfulfilled,” Mr Burton said.