FBI allegations that diasporic Kashmiri protests were paid for by ISI plunge movement into crisis

Last summer, as bloody clashes broke out between police and protesters on the streets of Kashmir's cities and towns, Ghulam Nabi Fai had an impassioned message for the world.

“Kashmiris,” the chief of the Kashmiri American Council wrote wrote, “wish to emphasise that their land is not real estate which can be parcelled out between two disputants, but the home of a nation with a history far more compact and coherent than India's and far longer than Pakistan's.”

Those impassioned words, FBI documents filed in a Virgina court on Tuesday allege, were more likely than not authored by an officer of Pakistan's intelligence services — and almost certainly paid for in hard cash by them.

For decades, Dr. Fai was the most visible face of Kashmiri secessionism in the West: presiding over a succession of high-profile conferences for which delegates were flown in from across the world and flying from one world capital to the next rallying support for his cause.

Dr. Fai's arrest, and the damaging evidence the FBI has amassed, will plunge the diasporic Kashmiri movement he spearheaded into crisis.

“The voice of reason”

Born in April, 1949, Dr. Fai grew up in the affluent central Kashmir village of Wadwan — just a few kilometres from the home of his childhood friend and future political associate, the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen's Pakistan-based commander-in-chief Muhammad Yusuf Shah. Shah would become known as the menacing face of the Kashmir jihad; Dr. Fai was to be its voice of reason.

Dr. Fai's academic career was illustrious: he obtained a master's degree from Aligarh Muslim University, and then moved to Saudi Arabia in 1967. In 1977, he obtained a doctorate in mass communications from Temple University, Pennsylvania, and became a citizen of the United States 10 years later.

Less is known about Dr. Fai's political life. He joined the Jamaat-e-Islami as a college student and became a rukun, or full-time cadre. In Saudi Arabia, party sources told The Hindu, he helped raise funds.

Early in the course of the Kashmir jihad, Dr. Fai began to emerge as a spokesperson for Kashmiri secessionists in the United States. CW2, an FBI secret informant whose testimony it alluded to in documents filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, claims that the ISI had been operating Dr. Fai since the late 1980s, around the time the jihad in Kashmir began.

From 1995 or so, the FBI alleges, Dr. Fai was a paid agent — run by a shadowy ISI figure so far identified only by the code-name “Abdullah,” his deputy, Brigadier Javed Aziz Khan, Brigadier Sohail Mehmood, and Lt.-Col. Tauqeer Butt. Eight out of 10 of Dr. Fai's statements, ‘CW2' said, were written up by his intelligence handlers.

The ISI also run two sister institutions, the FBI alleges — Abdul Majeed Tramboo's Kashmir Centre-European Union in Brussels, and Nazir Ahmad Shawl's Kashmir Centre in London.

From the dozens of e-mail the FBI has made public so far, it appears clear that Dr. Fai and his associates knew they were engaged in a covert enterprise: in one case, a conversation about the transfer of $75,000 used the code-phrase “Brylcreem, 75 miligrams,” another, for $157,000, to a “157 pages draft.”

Dr. Fai claimed to be a figure of great gravitas: he proclaimed at a conference in Leicester, for example, to have been told by no less than the then U.S. President, Bill Clinton's security chief that the independence of Kashmir was imminent.

His ISI handlers, though, treated him like a minion. In April, 2008, Brigadier Khan had these instructions for the KAC's chief: “Following are the details of the 13.3 inch laptop bag. A picture of the bag is also attached with this e-mail. Kindly procure and sent it with someone as soon as possible.”

“ABDULLAH IS EATING MY HEAD,” the e-mail ended.