FBI arrests prominent Kashmir activist Fai receiving illegal contributions

Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence secretly pumped millions of dollars into a United States-based non-governmental organisation to influence politicians and opinion-makers on the Kashmir issue, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has said.

In a criminal complaint filed in a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, on Tuesday, the United States' Justice Department said the Kashmir American Council (KAC), based in Washington DC, had received up to $4 million in illegal contributions from the ISI.

Ghulam Nabi Fai, KAC's director and a prominent overseas Kashmiri activist, has been arrested on the charge of having violated laws which prohibit work for foreign governments without authorisation. The Justice Department has also charged a second man, Zaheer Ahmad, with recruiting dummy donors for the KAC, through whom the ISI routed the funds.

Government attorney Neil McBride said Dr. Fai was “accused of a decades-long scheme with one purpose — to hide Pakistan's involvement behind his efforts to influence the U.S. government's position on Kashmir.”

The Hindu's calls to the KAC's office, a few blocks from the White House, went unanswered; local journalists said on Wednesday that the staff had not come in to work after Dr. Fai's arrest.

FBI agent Sarah Linden's affidavit filed in support of the Justice Department's criminal complaint — the rough equivalent of a First Information Report — alleges that Dr. Fai reported to several ISI officials, identified as Brigadier Javed Aziz Khan, Brigadier Sohail Mehmood, Lieutenant-Colonel Tauqeer Mehmood Butt and the former head of the organisation's security directorate, Major-General Mumtaz Bajwa.

Intercepted phone calls and e-mail, the affidavit states, make clear the ISI directly controlled the activities not just of the KAC but also its sister institutions in Brussels and London.

Part of the funds routed to the KAC, Congressional records show, were used to directly influence key politicians. Both major parties in the U.S. received donations from Dr. Fai, as did President Barack Obama's campaign.

The biggest single beneficiary, though, was Dan Burton — a Republican Senator with a long history of hostility to India, who received at least $12,000.

The funds were also used to hold conferences attended by prominent figures from the U.S., India and Pakistan. There was no reason to believe that any of the individuals who attended the KAC events knew of the sources of its funding — but revelations that they may have received hospitality with ISI funds is likely to spark a considerable debate.