Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai
|Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai
سید غلام نبی فائی
|Born||April 1949 (age 67)
India, Badgam district, Jammu and Kashmir
|Criminal charge||Conspiracy to defraud the US by violation of Foreign Agents Registration Act|
|Criminal status||Convicted sentenced to two years imprisonment|
Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai (Urdu: سید غلام نبی فائی), is an American citizen of Kashmiri origin, born in Kashmir. He was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on 19 July 2011, for concealing transfer of USD 3.5 million from Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to fund his illegal lobbying efforts and influence the US government on the Kashmir conflict in violation of Foreign Agents Registration Act. His arrest came at a time when relations between Pakistan and the United States were already strained in the aftermath of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, and while US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was on a visit to India. On 7 December 2011, Fai pleaded guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion (both charges and faces five or more years in Federal prison. In March 2012, Fai was sentenced to two years of imprisonment by a US court for "conspiracy to defraud the US" by concealing transfer of funding from Pakistan's ISI for his illegal lobbying efforts on Kashmir.
Fai was born in the Wadwan village of Badgam district in Jammu and Kashmir, which forms the part of Kashmir administered by India. He completed his graduation from Srinagar's Sri Pratap College. He then did MA from Aligarh Muslim University before studying on a scholarship in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. He then moved to the United States in 1977 and read towards a PhD in mass communications from Temple University, Pennsylvania on Television in Saudi Arabia. He became a US citizen in 1990. He was a member of Jamaat-e-Islami during his college days. During his childhood he was friends with Hizbul Mujahideen leader, Muhammad Yusuf Shah, better known by his nom-de-guerre, Sayeed Salahudeen.
Kashmiri American Council
Fai was the executive director of the Kashmiri American Council (KAC), an organisation based in Washington, D.C., at the time of his arrest. The KAC was formed by some members of the Kashmiri diaspora, and revealed, in July 2011, per an FBI investigation to be an illegal front for the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency of the Pakistani Military.
Fai started the KAC, with ISI funding, in 1990 around the time armed insurgency supported by Pakistan started in Jammu & Kashmir. According to FBI Kashmiri American Council, a nonprofit organisation would arrange seminars, conferences and lectures on Kashmir. Officially KAC denies getting any foreign grants. Prosecutors allege Fai was paid between $500,000 to $700,000 per year by the Government of Pakistan. KAC is best known for annual holding a so-called "Kashmir Peace Conference" in Washington, D.C. which was presented as an "independent forum" for Indian and Pakistani voices. However, Justice department officials alleged that Pakistani government approved the list of speakers and gave Fai talking points to highlight, with some 80% of his talking points and speeches being provided by the ISI. According to the FBI affidavit a confidential witness told FBI investigators "ISI created the KAC to propagandize on behalf of the government of Pakistan with the goal of uniting Kashmir."
In July–August 2011, London's The Daily Telegraph reported that Fai had secretly been serving as a Director of a Kashmiri lobbying group in the UK named the Justice Foundation Kashmir Centre (JFKC), which too is under joint investigation by the FBI and MI5 for being clandestinely funded by the ISI in Pakistan. The JKFC, which has lowered its profile since the arrest of Fai in July 2011, was founded by the late Ayub Thakur.
Before his arrest in July 2011 and subsequent electronically monitored house arrest in Virginia, USA, he was a regular visitor to Pakistan and met regularly and openly with the highest levels of the political, bureaucratic and military establishment, including the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). In the US, Fai's access has extended to various mid-level officials in the State Department, as well as a variety of backbenchers including non-ranking Congressmen and a handful of Senators. Typically, his access was limited to those Congressmen to whose election funds the Kashmir American Council (see above) had donated monies, including Joe Pitts (R-Pennsylvania) and Dan Burton (R-Indiana). Fai has never had a meeting with any Secretary of State or with a serving US Ambassador or equivalent rank of official.
Since forfeiting his Indian citizenship by taking US citizenship in 1990, he has been denied visas to visit India on account of his now publicly reported ties to the Pakistani Military, in particular the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). He has never had a meeting in any third country with any Indian elected official or any senior diplomat.
Fai was charged along with a Pakistani American associate named Zaheer Ahmad for getting illegal funding for the KAC from Pakistan. Fai was arrested at his home in Fairfax, Virginia. According to Neil MacBride, the United States Attorney at United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia "Mr. 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." According to prosecutors he was directed by ISI and was in touch with them 4000 times in the last 3 years. The prosecutors also alleged that Kashmiri American Council was run by elements of Pakistani government including ISI and had Fai had received at least $4 million from Government of Pakistan. If convicted Fai faces up to 5 years in prison. Zaheer Ahmad was not arrested and was thought to be living in Pakistan. On 8 October 2011, it was reported that Ahmad had died in Islamabad at the age of 63 due to brain haemorrhage.
At his initial court appearance prosecution claimed that after his arrest Fai had admitted to receiving money from ISI but said that he maintained an independent viewpoint on Kashmir issue. FBI agent Sarah Linden stated that previously Fai had denied knowing anyone from ISI. Fai himself said nothing at the trial. He was granted bail and placed under house arrest. Passports of both him as well as his wife were confiscated and Fai was forbidden from any contact with any foreign government or witness.
On 7 December 2011, Fai pleaded guilty in the court of conspiracy and tax evasion. As part of his guilty plea, Fai signed an 81-paragraph "Statement of Fact" cataloguing his crimes, with specific details as to the instructions and payments he received from his ISI handlers. Court documents reveal his primary ISI handlers to have been Javeed Aziz Khan (alias "Brigadier Abdullah ('Khan')"; Major-General Mumtaz Ahmad Bajwa, later became head of the ISI's Security Directorate that oversees Kashmiri militant groups, Lieutenant-Colonel Touqeer Mehmood Butt, and Sohail Mahmood (alias "Mir"). An attorney submitted in a foot-note to a US district court in Alexandria, Virginia, that Fai misled about possessing a doctorate degree. In March 2012 he was sentenced to two years in prison.
Sentence Reduction and Release
On November 15, 2013, the Assistant US Attorney who had prosecuted Fai moved the moved the court to reduce Fai's sentence to 16 months time served. The motion was granted by the original sentencing judge on November 22, 2013, and Fai was released from the Federal Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland.
The Embassy of Pakistan in Washington, D.C. issued a statement after the arrest claiming that "it had no knowledge" of Fai's alleged ties with the Pakistani establishment, though he was a regular visitor to the Embassy. However an unnamed Pakistani official told The Independent that Fai was getting funding from ISI as he was unable to raise money from the Pakistani American community. The Pakistani government lodged its concern over the arrest and accused the US of embarking on a "slander campaign" against Pakistan. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan released a statement lauding the "contributions made by the Kashmiri American Council and Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai for the cause of Jammu and Kashmir." It further commented that "upholding fundamental rights of Kashmiris is the fundamental responsibility of the international community and all conscientious people who value human rights and values" and added that "campaigns to defame the just cause of the Kashmiri people will not affect its legitimacy."
A Statement released by Home ministry of India said "The arrest of Ghulam Nabi Fai was long overdue. We had fair degree of suspicion that the money which he received was given by the agencies in Pakistan."
Fai donated money to his friend Congressman Joseph R. Pitts over the years. After finding out about Fai's arrest, Pitts donated the same amount to charity. Pitts denied knowing his friend had external financings. In a letter published in Intelligencer Journal Pitt wrote "Clearly, much more was going on. Dr. Fai will get his day in court. Before long, we will learn exactly what he was doing behind the scenes. Whatever the ISI hoped to accomplish, it didn't work."
U.S representative from Indiana Dan Burton who frequently supports Pakistan's position on Kashmir was a major recipient of contributions from Fai. Expressing shock at his arrest Burton admitted to having known Fai for more than 20 years and stated "in that time I had no inkling of his involvement with any foreign intelligence operation and had presumed our correspondence was legitimate". He said that funds he received from Fai would be donated to Boy Scouts of America.
His arrest was condemned by separatist Kashmiri leaders including Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and also (Mirwaiz central Kashmir Mawlana Latief Bukhari) who also condemned his arrest.
His arrest was welcomed by the Kashmiri Pandit community. According to Lalit Koul, the President of the Indo-American Kashmir Forum, "It was always clear that this (Fai's) group was following the official Pakistani version of the Kashmir story. In all instances, the truth was obfuscated by misinformation provided by our opponents masquerading as Kashmiri freedom fighters."
- India–United States relations
- Kashmir conflict
- Pakistan lobby in the United States
- Pakistan–United States relations
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- Matthew Barakat, Kashmir activist sentenced to 2 years in Va., Associated Press, 30 March 2012.
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- Two Charged with Conspiring to Act as Unregistered Agents of Pakistani Government, FBI Press release
- United States of America v. Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai and Zaheer Ahmad
- Kashmiri American Council
- U.S. Representative Dan Burton's comments on Fai's arrest
- U.S. representative Joseph Pitts letter about Fai published in Intelligencer journal
- Profile: Ghulam Nabi Fai, BBC
- Nabi-Fai, Ghulam: The people of Kashmir must be allowed to vote on their own future, The Guardian, 2010-08-31
- Edward Hasbrouck: Kashmiri-American leader charged with failing to register as a "Foreign Agent"