Pakistan lobbied illegally, FBI says
Interest group’s director arrested
WASHINGTON - For years, the Pakistani spy agency funneled millions of dollars to a Washington nonprofit group in a secret effort to influence Congress and the White House, the Justice Department said yesterday in court documents that are certain to complicate already strained relations between the United States and Pakistan.
FBI agents arrested Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, the executive director of the Kashmiri American Council, yesterday and charged him with being an unregistered agent of a foreign government. Under the supervision of a senior member of Pakistan’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, Fai donated money to political campaigns, wrote newspaper op-eds, organized congressional trips, and met with White House and State Department officials.
“I believe that Fai has received approximately $500,000 to $700,000 per year from the government of Pakistan,’’ FBI agent Sarah Webb Linden said in documents filed in federal court in Alexandria, Va.
Officially, the Kashmiri American Council had a much smaller budget and told the US government that it received no foreign grants, according to IRS documents.
The Pakistani Embassy quickly issued a statement saying the government had no knowledge of such an arrangement.
A second man, Zaheer Ahmad, was also charged. Prosecutors said he recruited people to act as straw donors who would give money to the Kashmiri American Council that really was coming from the Pakistani government. He is not under arrest and is in Pakistan, prosecutors said. Both men are US citizens.
Prosecutors said the Kashmiri American Council was being run in secret by the Pakistani government. Fai coordinated his activities with his ISI handlers and often communicated in coded e-mails, the FBI said. Pakistani officials allegedly reviewed Fai’s budget and told him what to do and with whom to meet.
“You are aware that we have been working together for the cause for over a decade now,’’ an e-mail attributed to Fai told a senior ISI official in 1995. “All these years, I have closely worked with you and others who came before you. It has taken us much time, energy, dedication, strategy and planning to achieve our common cause.’’
Fai, 62, appeared before a federal magistrate judge, who ordered him jailed until a detention hearing tomorrow afternoon. Prosecutor Gordon Kromberg said Fai faces up to five years in prison if convicted.
Fai is a leading voice in the debate over the future of Kashmir, the border area that India and Pakistan have fought over for years. He supports the pro-Pakistan viewpoint that Kashmiris should vote on whether to be part of Pakistan or India. India claims the territory as its own.
He is perhaps best known in Washington for organizing the annual Kashmir Peace Conference on Capitol Hill. The event is billed as an independent forum for Indian and Pakistani voices, but the Justice Department said the Pakistani government approved the speakers and gave Fai talking points to highlight.
Though the charges are not related to espionage, the arrest adds another strain to the already difficult relationship between the United States and Pakistan, which suffered after the United States found Osama bin Laden hiding inside Pakistan and killed him without telling the government there.
ISI has a complicated relationship with US intelligence. The agency is a crucial ally in the war on terrorism but also works against the United States at times.