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ISI funneled millions to influence US policy on Kashmir: FBI

Source: PTI
Last updated on: July 20, 2011 12:15 IST
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Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence funneled millions of dollars for more than two decades to influence the United States policy on Kashmir, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said after arresting a prominent Kashmiri separatist leader in Washinton for illegally lobbying for Pakistan.

An affidavit filed by the FBI in a US court in Alexandria, wherein separatist Kashmiri leader Ghulam Nabi Fai, 62, was produced hours after being arrested by the federal agency on Tuesday on charges of illegally lobbying for the spy agency ISI and Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir.

The 43-page affidavit was filed in connection with indictment of Fai and another US citizen Zaheer Ahmad, 63, as agents of Pakistan. Fai is the director of the Kashmiri American Council, a Washington-based group that lobbies for self-determination for Kashmir. Its activities, the affidavit said, is funded by ISI.

The money includes USD 100,000 given to political campaigns every year. Foreign governments are prohibited from making donations to American political candidates.

"The investigation has led me to conclude that Fai has acted at the direction and with financial support of the Government of Pakistan for more than 20 years. Although Fai has some latitude to decide his day-to-day activities, the Government of Pakistan long has directed and funded his lobbying and public relations in the US," said Sarah Webb Linden, special agent, FBI. The affidavit, filed before the US court on July 18 was made public after Fai was arrested.

Referring to a series of communication between Abdullah and Fai, the FBI said these exchange corroborates the information provided by the confidential witnesses, and shows that, as early as 1995, Fai acted at the direction and under the control of his handlers from the Government of Pakistan.

"While Fai had certain flexibility in carrying out his duties on behalf of the Government of Pakistan, the exchange regarding the public relations contract clearly demonstrates that Fai was not authorised to enter contracts or obligate funds without the prior approval of the government. Further, the exchange reflects Fai's admission that, as of 1995, he already had been working closely with Abdullah and his predecessors for more than 10 years," it said.

Federal Elections Commission databases showed that Fai has made more than USD 20,000 in campaign contributions over the past two decades. The New York Times reported that bulk of his donations went to two recipients -- the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Representative Dan Burton, a Republican from Indiana. Burton has been vocal on the Kashmir issue including urging presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama to play a greater role in resolving it. He has also called for a vote by the Kashmiris to decide their fate.

Burton told NYT that he was "deeply shocked" because he had known Fai 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." Burton said he would donate the funds provided to his campaign to the Boy Scouts of America.

In one of the footnotes, Linden clarifies that by the Government of Pakistan he means those mostly the ISI and the Pakistan Army. "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," Neil MacBride, the United States attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, said.

"His handlers in Pakistan allegedly funneled millions through the Kashmir Center 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," he added.

Pakistan, however, denied knowledge of the case. "Fai is not a Pakistani citizen and the government and embassy of Pakistan have no knowledge of the case involving him," said a spokesman of the Pakistani embassy in Washington.

Linden says that Fai had four handlers in Pakistan -- Abdullah, Javeed Aziz Khan aka Rathore, Nizami Mir, Touqeer Mehmood Butt and Sohail Mahmood. The chargesheet also named another US citizen Zaheer Ahmad, who lives in Pakistan, and was allegedly the main person through which the ISI funneled money to Fai to lobby at the Capitol Hill.

"I also know that Fai's handlers regularly communicate with Ahmad. For example, Ahmad's email account revealed contact information for Khan. Similar information was revealed from an examination of Ahmad's PDA upon his arrival to the US at Kennedy Airport in New York on July 8, 2009," Linden said.

"My review of telephone records shows that Khan called Fai numerous times from the same phone number that Ahmad had for Khan. Moreover, Khan and Butt both referred to Ahmad in conversations with Fai, either calling him 'the doctor' or 'Zaheer'," Linden added, noting that he believes that Fai has received approximately USD 500,000 to USD 700,000 per year from the Government of Pakistan, and that the Government of Pakistan has funded Fai's operations through Ahmad.

"I believe that the Government of Pakistan money is routed to Fai through Ahmad and a network of other individuals connected to Ahmad. I believe that much of this money is provided to Fai through contacts of Ahmad in the United States because Ahmad lives in Pakistan and is rarely in the United States," the affidavit said.

"The evidence shows that Ahmad arranges for his contacts in the US to provide money to Fai in return for repayment of those amounts in Pakistan. I believe that these other individuals assist Ahmad in routing money to Fai because doing so ostensibly enables them to take tax deductions for the amounts that they transfer to the KAC as charitable deductions," the FBI agent said.

According to the FBI agent's estimate, the total amount transmitted from the Government of Pakistan through Ahmad and his funding network to Fai and the KAC since the mid-1990s is at least USD 4,000,000. The FBI said while KAC received some legitimate donations, the majority of its receipts each year comes from a small network of individuals who are closely associated with Ahmad.

Based on records obtained during the physical search of the KAC office, this network has been in place and funding the KAC since at least 1993. Zaheer Ahmad, donated about USD 367,700 since 1993. The documents obtained from Fai's house, the FBI said, contained numerous references by Abdullah to "our embassy," by which the agent said he believed he meant the embassy of Pakistan in Washington, DC.

"Based on open source information, I know that the ISI officer responsible for handling Kashmiri affairs was identified as 'Brigadier Abdullah,' and I believe that the documents reflect Fai's contacts with that individual," the affidavit said.

"Among the documents found in the searches was a November 23, 1995 letter from Fai to Abdullah (ISI official), in which Fai submitted his expenses for reimbursement. The expenses totaled USD 42,981.45 and appear to have been incurred by Fai in connection with his escort of a visitor to the US and putting on a program at the United Nations" the agent said.


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