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Fai jailed in US over Kashmir lobbying charge

March 30, 2012

WASHINGTON, March 30: A US-based Pakistani who allegedly concealed his true role while lobbying American politicians for decades over Kashmir was sentenced on Friday to two years in jail, justice officials said.

Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai was arrested in July and charged with conspiracy for using at least $3.5 million from the Islamabad-based government to lobby US lawmakers to support Pakistan’s goal of self-determination for Kashmiris.

He pleaded guilty in December to conspiracy and tax violations linked to the scheme, which involved the Kashmiri American Council, a Washington-based non-governmental group founded in 1990 whose Washington office he directed.

The Justice Department said in a statement that the 62-year-old was “being held accountable,” for hiding the fact that the government of Pakistan was secretly funding his efforts to influence US policy on Kashmir.

“Mr Fai spent 20 years operating the Kashmiri American Council as a front for Pakistani intelligence,” said Neil MacBride, US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

“He lied to the Justice Department, the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) and many political leaders throughout the United States as he pushed the ISI’s propaganda on Kashmir.”

Pakistan has accused the US of ‘slander’ over the Fai case and his jailing comes at a critical time in diplomatic relations almost a year after bilateral ties plunged after a clandestine raid by US commandos killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil.

Under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, it is illegal for agents of foreign governments to seek to influence US policy or law without fully disclosing their identity and any underlying information.

Mr Fai, who lives in the state of Virginia close to the US capital, could have been sentenced to as much as five years behind bars.

He admitted in court that, from 1990 until July 2011, he conspired with others to obtain money from officials employed by the government of Pakistan, including the ISI, to operate the Kashmiri group in the United States.—AFP