NEW DELHI: Ghulam Nabi Fai, a convicted criminal and the ISI’s former points man in the United States, who was sentenced to two years’ prison for working as an agent of the Pakistan government in the US without disclosing his affiliation, has become active again. He is using his links in the Capitol Hill and with media influencers to further Pakistan’s interest vis-a-vis Kashmir.
Observers of Indian interest in the US believe that the barrage of anti-India noise in the Capitol Hill and in the media, which has become prominent in the past few months after the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), is linked to Fai becoming active again.
Fai, who was arrested in July 2011 from Virginia for concealing the transfer of $3.5 million from the ISI to fund his lobbying efforts, was sent to 24 months of prison sentence in March 2012. He began his incarceration from 26 June 2012 at the Federal Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland. However, he was prematurely released due to his “cooperation” with US officials, in November 2013.
After lying low for a couple of years following his release, the 70-year-old Fai, information reveals, restarted his activities and has now again started working as a well-connected anti-India lobbyist. “He has been appearing on audio-video mediums across US to highlight ‘Indian atrocities in Kashmir and against Muslims’, penning articles and collaborating with Indian influencers for the same purpose,” an intelligence official monitoring the developments told The Sunday Guardian.
Fai, information states, has resumed his interactions with members of the US Senate and the media and has become very active following the passage of CAA in India.
Fai is now the secretary-general of the Washington-based World Kashmir Awareness Forum (WKAF), which is headed by Ghulam Nabi Mir, president of World Kashmir Awareness Forum. WKAF is among the most aggressive anti-India voices in the US and openly calls
for Kashmir’s secession from India. Mir’s son, Aimem, who twice served as president of the youth wing of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), had worked in a top advisory position in the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a national security post in the Treasury Department, where he was appointed by President Barack Obama. Aimem’s appointment had led to a lot of controversy because of his close links with the ISNA, as it is known to be the most prominent Muslim Brotherhood group in the US.
Fai, in his statement to the Virginia court, after his arrest, following a plea bargain, on 7 December 2011, said he was given almost $500,000 (Rs 3 crore) in the year 2000 by the ISI to push Pakistan’s agenda. This included Rs 60 lakh for US Congress members, Rs 1.20 crore for organising conferences, Rs 35 lakh for media relations and Rs 18 lakh for organising Congress members’ trip to Kashmir. All these events were organised under the aegis of the Kashmiri American Council (KAC), which also goes by the name of “Kashmir Center”. The FBI found that the KAC is one of three “Kashmir Centers” that are actually run by elements of the Pakistani government, including Pakistan’s military intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI). The two other “Kashmir Centers” are in London and Brussels.
In 2001, the budget was revised to $455,000, $490,000 for 2005 and $719,000 for 2006. By the time he was arrested in 2011, Fai had a coffer of almost Rs 7.5 crore per year which he was spending on conferences, influencing members of the media and people at the Capitol.
Fai and the FBI special agent, Sarah Webb Linden, who investigated the case, identified Javed Aziz Khan, also known as “Brigadier Abdullah” as the ISI officer responsible for handling Kashmiri affairs in the mid-1990s.
ISI, Fai told the court, worked on three objectives: (1) persuade the administration that self-determination in Kashmir would advance the national interests of the United States; (2) influence Congress, with the House International Relations and the Senate Foreign Relations Committees being the centrepieces of KAC’s advocacy effort; and (3) capture media attention to influence the debate on Kashmir, including staging creative events that draw the press corps to the issue of Kashmir.
In April 2012, the Jammu and Kashmir state government had constituted a SIT to find out the organisations and individuals in the state who were on the payroll of Fai and ISI. The SIT was constituted under the leadership of Uttam Chand, a 2002 batch IPS officer, who was posted as SSP, Badgam. Chand is presently on a Central deputation in the Cabinet Secretariat. No one knows what the SIT found and what action was taken, if any, against individuals and organisations, who were working for Fai in India.
As per the government order, Chand was required to unravel Fai’s links in the state and find about the hawala funds that were reported to be received by various individuals, including separatists, journalists, intellectuals, NGOs etc., from Fai.
The findings of the SIT were expected to be the precursor to seek the extradition of Fai from the US. However, the matter was forgotten.
The SIT was headed by the Badgam SSP, as Fai was born in village Soibugh in Badgam district. A Public Safety Act (PSA) warrant issued against him by the then District Magistrate in Badgam in 1980 for his involvement in anti-national activities is still pending against him in police records. After the issuance of the PSA warrant, Fai had fled the Kashmir valley and reached Saudi Arabia from where he was sent to the US by the King Faisal Foundation which paid for his schooling and other expenses at Temple University in Pennsylvania.
The importance of people like Fai for Pakistan when it comes to Kashmir can be gauged from an October 2016 report prepared by a 13-member committee of the Pakistan Senate which recommended constitution of a Media Coordination Committee (MCC), which would have journalists plus representatives of the Foreign Office, Ministry of Information, Parliament and intelligence to prepare counter-propaganda campaign against India and to design and promote a media strategy for continually highlighting the Kashmir issue. The committee had also called for regular special briefings of foreign journalists for publicising the Jammu and Kashmir issue and had directed Pakistani officials to indulge in a “comprehensive outreach” exercise to those in India who are opposed to “Modi’s extremism and his anti-Pakistan policies, including political parties, media, civil society organisations and human rights groups”.