Relations between U.S. and Pakistan grow more and more tense. In July, the FBI arrested Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, a Kashmiri-born activist accused of participating as an agent for the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in secret lobbying efforts inside the U.S.. Fai, an American citizen living in Fairfax (Virginia), was born in the Indian-administrated Kashmir to a Muslim family, amd moved to the U.S. to complete his PhD in mass communication in 1977. Along the years, he became a known Kashmiri separatist leader, allegedly advocating Pakistan's position. Kashmir is a region claimed by both Pakistan and India since it was partitioned in 1947. After his arrest on July 19, Fai was released on a $100,000 bond and is now in house detention, under electronic surveillance, pending trial. He faces up to five years in prison shoulkd the court decide to convict him.
In 1990, Fai founded a non-profit organization, the Kashmiri American Council (KAC), at the moment when Pakistan and India were at the verge of a war over Kashmir. He was charged along with Zaheer Ahmad, his American-Pakistani associate (who was not arrested and is believed to be in Pakistan), for obtaining illegal funding for KAC from Pakistan. The United States Attorney at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Neil Macbride, said that Fai is 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. His handlers in Pakistan allegedly funneled millions through the Kashmir Center to contribute to U.S. elected officials, fund high-profile conferences, and pay for other efforts that promoted the Kashmiri cause to decision makers in Washington."
FBI: KAC is run by elements of the Pakistani Government
The U.S.-based Indian newspaper, India West, reports that according to the 46-page FBI complaint, Fai was arrested for lobbying for a foreign government without registering with the Attorney General, as is required by the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act. The BBC reports that KAC received since it founding $4 million from the Pakistani government to influence the US position on the disputed territory of Kashmir. The Federal Election Commission reports that Fai provided almost $24,000 in personal contributions. According to the indictment, the Pakistani government paid the Kashmiri militant approximately $500,000 to $700,000 per year.
The Times of India, reports that the Fai/Kashmir/ISI/Pakistan case was investigated by the FBI's counterterrorism division. The "star of the FBI probe" is Special Agent Sarah Webb Linden, who is trained in "identifying terrorist activity directed at the US, as well as in identifying the support network for terrorists who seek to target the interests of the US and its allies."
In the FBI affidavit, Special Agent Linden, who was as well a professional staff member of the 9/11 commission, says the KAC is "run by elements of the Government of Pakistan." This investigation, she adds, "has revealed that elements of the Govt. of Pakistan, including the ISI, have been directly involved with activities of defendant Fai and that Fai has acted at the direction and with the financial support of those elements...including the ISI."
India West reports that FBI Special Agent Sarah Webb Linden stated in the complaint that Fai "had worked with Javeed Aziz Khan, who lists his employer as Pakistan's Ministry of Defense, to create a strategy and budget each year for the lobbyist's activities. Khan and Fai used the code word 'Brylcreem' – a hair-styling product - to represent $10,000 […]. 'Half a dozen Brylcreems,' thus meant a request for $60,000, according to court documents".
Pakistani government: Washington's "slander campaign" against Islamabad
The Pakistani government said that the arrest Fai is part of Washington's "slander campaign" against Islamabad. On the side, the U.S. Department of Justice says that in 2010 it sent a letter to Fai asking to register as foreign lobbyist. Fai answered that "KAC or I [sic] have never engaged in any activities or provided any service to any foreign entity. And KAC or I have never had written or oral agreements with Pakistan or any foreign entity. Therefore, this report categorically denies any connection to any foreign agent including Pakistan." However, as reported by India West, Fai's contributions to politicians through the KAC could not be all tracked, "since he was not registered as a lobbyist.".
For sure, Fai's arrest is not helping Pakistan's relations with the U.S. Some analysts are suggesting that the indictment is coming at a moment when Washington is getting tired of the ISI's double games in the war on terror.Fai's arrest has therefore been seen as Washington's payback for the ISI's behavior in putting obstacles in the way of the American policy in botj Pakistan and Afghanistan. According to the website Kashmir News Live, however, the FBI wanted to arrest Fai several times earlier this year but did not do so "following directions from the US State Department or the CIA as they feared it may further strain already frayed ties with Pakistan." The newspaper Asia Times suggests that after the latest attack on Mumbai in July, Washington is getting more frustrated, and Fai's arrest can be seen as a new Washington's "carrot and stick" approach towards the ISI. "It is however difficult," notes the Asia Times, "to estimate how far the carrot and stick approach deployed by the US will succeed in changing the hearts and minds inside Pakistan or the ISI."