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A cautionary tale on Kashmir

Washington, Sat, 23 Jul 2011 ANI

Washington, July 23 (ANI): The wings of Pakistan's notorious Inter-Services Intelligence are slowly being clipped by the US Justice Department, painstakingly and case by case.

 

The arrest of Kashmiri propagandist Ghulam Nabi Fai for acting as the frontman for Pakistan's spy agency and executor of its subversive agenda, is the latest strike from Washington against the ISI and its masters in Rawalpindi in their ongoing cold war.

 

But this time, the net has been cast wider and deeper. Apart from naming Fai's handlers, the FBI has openly stated that ISI's Security Directorate headed by Major Gen. Mumtaz Ahmad Bajwa "oversees Kashmiri militant groups" and for whom Fai was tasked to prepare a briefing in Washington 2009.

 

If ISI bigwig Bajwa controls militants who cause mayhem in Jammu and Kashmir and the ISI is a state arm, the case for Pakistan being a "state sponsor of terrorism" grows stronger.

 

L'Affaire Fai builds on the recent Chicago trial of Tahawwur Rana where the ISI was implicated in the 2008 Mumbai attacks. In addition, a case filed by the families of American victims of Mumbai is underway in New York in which the ISI chief has been named.

 

The legal noose around the ISI is tightening slowly but surely at least within the United States. These are blunt signals and Pakistan could find itself in the company of Iran, Cuba, Sudan and Syria on the dreaded list. Of course, it would be a political decision by the US government but the thinking generals in Rawalpindi might as well put their caps on to prepare for a less cozy future.

 

Pakistan is a haven as safe can be for proscribed terrorist groups, including those on the UN and US lists. It funds them, as David Headley revealed in the Chicago court and has been a facilitator of training and weapons. It has provided "critical support" to use the US definition. The Fai case is a big step in proving ISI's pernicious activities.

 

For India, the nailing of Fai's dubious operation only proves the obvious - that most of what is propagated abroad by the Kashmiri diaspora is in reality the agenda of the Pakistan's military-intelligence complex. Kashmir is but a cynical tool for the ISI to embarrass India in major western capitals.

 

The US move against Fai's Kashmiri American Council should prompt Brussels and London to investigate and shut down the two other big ISI-run outfits in their midst. They are called Kashmir Centers and are just as obvious in their modus operandi. They work to skew the reality on Kashmir and have no interest in a real resolution of the dispute.

 

Interestingly, Fai was arrested from his suburban home in Virginia as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was meeting top Indian officials in New Delhi. The timing was exquisite, the FBI case excruciatingly detailed, and the humiliation of the ISI complete.

 

The ISI is repeatedly named in the FBI affidavit with e-mails and phone numbers of Fai's handlers listed should anyone want to check. The FBI says Pakistan's intelligence services secretly funneled $4 million over the past 20 years through KAC to lobby Congress and the White House to skew US policy on Kashmir against the Indian position and manipulate the debate.

 

The FBI tracked 4,000 e-mails and phone intercepts to determine the money trail, the straw donors, the codes and the identity of his masters in Pakistan. Those named include Brig. Javed Aziz Khan, Brig. Sohail Mehmood, Lt. Col. Tauqeer Butt and a man code named "Abdullah."

 

According to a confidential witness quoted by the FBI, 80 percent of the material Fai distributed as a "concerned advocate" of the Kashmiri cause was generated by the ISI in Pakistan and channeled to Washington. If Fai came up with the remainder 20 percent, it was also pre-approved.

 

Fai made donations to some well-known India baiters such as Republican Congressman Dan Burton, who was a constant headache for Indian diplomats in the 1990s for standing behind all stripes of separatists from Kashmiris to Khalistanis and displaying gigantic, gruesome photos of alleged atrocities by Indian security forces in Kashmir and Punjab during stage-managed Congressional hearings. His efforts were so far-reaching, that even former U.S. President Bill Clinton is said to have written a letter to Fai tut-tutting about Kashmir that started with "Dear Ghulam."

 

Fai's ability to spring funds seemingly from nowhere for well-attended Kashmir conferences, was a dead giveaway to those of us condemned to "cover" them as journalists. Since respected speakers from India often came, there was an air of seriousness in the room but the large presence of Pakistan Embassy staff was always obvious.

 

I often thought how brazen, how easy and how convenient it all was - a room on Capitol Hill or a good hotel (prestige), a line-up of entertaining Pakistani speakers (Maleeha Lodhi or Mushahid Hussain) helpfully provided by the ISI, and a sprinkling of Indian liberals eager to prove their human rights credentials on Kashmir with nary a thought about sharing the podium with generals and bitter enemies of India. And some planted questions from the audience.

 

The one bright spot was good, oily Pakistani food, provided by some eager suburban Pakistani American looking for a favour back home. The smell often attracted random Congressional staffers who would stroll in, pretend to listen, nod a few times, grab a lunch box and leave.

 

Having watched Fai "grow" from a small, one-telephone operation in the late 1980s to a full-fledged office employing a secretary or two, I can say he seemed more an efficient office manager than a passionate advocate.

 

He also reminded me of a smarmy babu who knew that we knew that he was at least half-fake and half-baked. He never tried to push his line too hard on cynics like me, and only jokingly would remind me to attend another "event" on Kashmir as he escorted the Mirwaiz to meet a staffer in the White House.

 

But let us not fool ourselves into thinking that the US administration discovered suddenly that Fai was subverting the political system, trying to influence American policy. He has been brazenly visible and walking the corridors doling out money to US Congressmen for two decades.

 

Let us also not fool ourselves that his arrest was somehow a pro-India move made to correct the imbalance he may have created over the years by flooding Congressional offices with ISI-prepared position papers.

 

The Fai shop was shut down for one reason-to further squeeze the ISI and the army. The Obama Administration is running out of patience with Pakistan, and its refusal to see that terrorists are bad news for every country, including Pakistan. The Americans probably also had a wish to pay back in kind for Raymond Davis, the CIA operative arrested in Pakistan for shooting down two people but later released.

 

The Fai arrest is but a bomb lobbed in the cold war currently on between the allies. A recap of recent hiccups might help explain the tit-for-tat. Last year, US troops in Afghanistan mistakenly killed some Pakistani soldiers. Pakistan shut down the NATO supply routes, burnt some trucks and generally sent a message. Then the Pakistanis made the name of the CIA station chief public, forcing his abrupt departure.

 

Then came the Davis affair and the CIA had to pay "blood money" to extract him from a Pakistani jail and the rage on the streets. The next CIA station chief was ousted and relations kept worsening.

 

On May Day the US sent stealth helicopters and killed Osama bin Laden who was found living a comfortable life in an army town near Islamabad. The humiliation of the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment was complete. The Americans did not tell the Pakistanis about the impending raid.

 

Left with little to do, the growling Pakistani generals retaliated by throwing out US military advisers. So the Americans suspended $800 million in aid and accused the ISI of being involved in the torture and murder of Pakistani journalist Saleem Shehzad.

 

As the Pakistanis were thinking of their next big move, Fai was arrested.or India, it is collateral gain. By Seema Sirohi (ANI)

 

Attn: News Editors/News Desks: The views expressed in the above article are the author's - Seema Sirohi. She is a Washington-based Journalist and Analyst.

 


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