Kashmiri separatist leader arrested for being ISI agent

Washington: The FBI has arrested prominent Kashmiri separatist leader Ghulam Nabi Fai for allegedly being on the payroll of Pakistan`s ISI, which funnelled millions of dollars to him for over two decades, and illegally lobbying US lawmakers to influence the American policy on Kashmir.

62-year-old Fai, a US citizen, was arrested by the federal agency yesterday from his home in Fairfax, Virginia, on charges of being an ISI agent who lobbied for the Pakistani spy agency and army on the issue of Kashmir.

The agency filed a 43-page affidavit in a US court in Alexandria in connection with the indictment of Fai and another US citizen Zaheer Ahmad, 63, as agents of Pakistan.

Fai, popular as "doctor sahib" among the Pakistani-American community here, was produced before the court hours after being arrested by FBI,

Fai is the Director of the Kashmiri American Council (KAC), a Washington-based group that lobbies for "self-determination" for Kashmir. Its activities, the affidavit said, are funded by ISI. The money includes USD 100,000 given to political campaigns every year.

Foreign governments are prohibited from making donations to American political candidates.

"The investigation has led me to conclude that Fai has acted at the direction and with financial support of the Government of Pakistan for more than 20 years … although Fai has some latitude to decide his day-to-day activities, the Government of Pakistan long has directed and funded his lobbying and public relations in the US," said Sarah Webb Linden, Special Agent, FBI.

The affidavit, filed before the US court on July 18, was made public after Fai was arrested.

In one of the footnotes, Linden clarifies that by the Government of Pakistan he means those mostly in the ISI and Pakistani army.

Fai faces imprisonment of up to five years if proved guilty. His next court hearing is scheduled for tomorrow.

"Mr Fai is accused of a decades-long scheme with one purpose ? to hide Pakistan`s involvement behind his efforts to influence the US government`s position on Kashmir," Neil MacBride, the United States Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, said.

"His (four) handlers in Pakistan allegedly funneled millions through the Kashmir Center to contribute to US elected officials, fund high-profile conferences and pay for other efforts that promoted the Kashmiri cause to decision-makers in Washington."

Pakistan, however, denied knowledge of the case. "Mr Fai is not a Pakistani citizen and the government and embassy of Pakistan have no knowledge of the case involving him," said a spokesman of the Pakistani embassy in Washington.

The chargesheet also named Zaheer Ahmad, who lives in Pakistan and was allegedly the main person through which the ISI funneled money to Fai to lobby at the Capitol Hill.

"I believe that Fai has received approximately USD 500,000 to USD 700,000 per year from the government of Pakistan," Linden said in documents filed at the court.

Up to 80 per cent of the public statements made by Fai were provided by the Pakistani spy agency to "repeat and disseminate verbatim," according to the affidavit.

"The other 20 per cent of the KAC`s messaging consists of Fai`s own ideas, which have been pre-approved by the ISI but not provided by them," it said.

According to court documents, a confidential witness told the FBI the ISI selected Fai because he had no overt ties to Pakistan.