Ghulam Nabi Fai, Executive Director- Kashmir American Council and/ or Kashmiri Centre, shot into the limelight with the news of his arrest on Tuesday, 19th July 2011 in Virginia, USA. Why is this news so important that it is playing out in Indian media like an unending symphony? Obviously, it’s coming handy to serve many objectives, both overt & covert. Like in any murder mystery, it is always a good starting point to begin investigation by asking: Who gains? Or who loses? Or what agendas are served? But, before taking up these interesting questions, let us first understand, why should a man unknown to most Indians matter so much?
The answer to that question lay in the fact that Fai is a Kashmiri Muslim, for long US citizen, and was at the centre of organizing conferences for nearly decades on Kashmir in US. FBI filed a 43 page affidavit in " connection with the indictment of two United States citizens on charges that they failed to register with the Justice Department as agents of Pakistan, as required by law. One of the men, Zaheer Ahmad, is in Pakistan, but the other, Syed Fai, lives in Virginia and was arrested on Tuesday. – NYT ". The affidavit further states, "the activities by the group, also called the Kashmiri Center, are largely financed by Pakistan’s spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, along with as much as $100,000 a year in related donations to political campaigns in the United States. Foreign governments are prohibited from making donations to American political candidates ". Lobbying legislatures & executive is a legitimate activity in the United States. The first amendment enshrines that right, "Congress shall make no law . abridging . the right of the people peaceably . to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. – The Free Dictionary", in US constitution. Technically, foreign governments cannot directly lobby in USA, though, this is a minor irritant that is easily subverted with US agencies turning a blind eye. The most powerful lobby in USA is of Israeli government. But there are others: "Foreign funded lobbying efforts include the Israel lobby, Saudi Arabia lobby, Turkish lobby, Egypt lobby, Pakistan lobby, Libya lobby and China lobby – Wikipedia". India’s name doesn’t figure here, but we too have lobbyist firms: "India has two lobbying firms keeping watch over its interests in Washington, according to government records, each earning $700,000 a year for their services. The BGR Group, a firm founded in 1991 by Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, has represented the embassy of India since 2005. Late last year, the embassy hired the Podesta Group, the records show. – Charlotte Observer". Our own Indian Express is not unaware of this: "With the US holding key to a vast number of issues affecting India and its corporates, the Indian government and companies together spent over USD 1.5 million last year on lobbying in the American power corridors – IE". Was Fai the only lobbyist working on behalf of Pakistan? No! "The lobbying firm Locke Lord Strategies is officially registered to represent the embassy of Pakistan in Washington. Pakistan has been a Locke Lord client since May 2008, and the firm has paid close to $3 million, according to records filed with Congress and the Justice Department. Pakistan is Locke Lord’s biggest client . – Charlotte Observer ". Now, let us take stock of the situation.
Is lobbying illegal in USA? No! In fact, it is legitimate & considered vital for informing US policy.
Do foreign governments and companies hire firms to lobby on their behalf in US? Yes!
Then, Why Fai has been singled out? Fai has been arrested because he had not registered himself with Justice Department as the law requires. But, FBI has known of Fai’s activities for decades. Fai has been in breach of US laws also for decades. So why has FBI chosen to arrest Fai now on a technicality known to it before, when it was bound by law to have done it immediately? Why no one is asking this legitimate question?
Before we turn our attention to solve this mystery let us note a point in passing. Indian laws do not permit *Lobbying*. It is a bad word. Nira Radiia’s firm operated on behalf of Indian corporates not as a *lobbyist* but under a euphemistic title of "Public Relations Firm". Foreign lobbyist were banned long back after they gained notoriety in the wake of Bofor Scandal, wherein Win Chaddha’ role as an agent came under scanner. Foreign weapons’ manufacturers have to enclose a sworn affidavit along with their offers declaring that they have no Indian or foreign agents working on their behalf. If this is so, what does one make of a report published in Silicon India in 2008: "Washington: With India being one of the world’s biggest markets for the global defence industry , a top US lobbying firm headed by former defence secretary William S. Cohen has announced an expansion of its India practice. The Cohen Group announced it was taking on its rolls Ingrid Belton Henick, an India expert, ahead of the Defence Expo in New Delhi Feb 16-19 ". May be this is something for our IB and CBI to put under the scanner .
Often intelligence agencies and law enforcement machinery keep strategic information they learn in the course of their operations under wraps for future use so as to have maximum impact on current affairs at chosen time to suit the wishes of their masters. Ghulam Nabi Fai’s arrest is linked to another man’s fate, Dr. Shakil Afridi . Afridi is a CIA agent, who on behalf of the agency conducted a *vaccination campaign* in Abbottabad in an effort to pick up DNA samples of Osama Bin Laden. This news was reported in Strategic Pages on 19 th July while informing about the talks between CIA’s Penetta and ISI’ Shuja Pasha. They *reached understanding* on most issues, most of them freshly triggered by OBL-Raid, except the release from ISI custody of Dr. Shakil Afridi, detained on charges of spying. The arrest of Fai was not known to me when I wrote the post on 20 th July concerning Hillary’s visit to India; but it is crystal clear now it is linked to impasse over Afridi’s continued detention- CIA has used a small expedient called pressure tactic. This explains the timing of arrest that was done to suit US interests. But it has another dimension.
Wikileaks had demonstrated the interest US Embassy takes routinely in what is happening in India. When Secretary of State is visiting India, the embassy must have feverishly put together a detailed note about current pot-boilers in India -2G scam/ CWG scam/ POSCO agitation/ Corruption and Jan Lokpal Bill/ Anti-Nuclear activists getting active after Fukushima and Jaitapur to Haripur planned agitations/ Bombay bomb blasts/ supreme court judgement in Salwa Judum case- and their impact on US interests in India. Hillary must have concluded a) she is meeting a government under siege & therefore ineffectual, b) it needs help. FBI’s arrest of Fai must have received the stamp of approval from the secretary of state, who has to see that foreign governments act in ways that help serve US interests first and foremost (Clinton was in the Indian capital when the Justice Department announced charges against Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai for allegedly trying to influence U.S. officials about Kashmir.- Charlotte Observer). Now, how can a lame-duck Indian government serve US interests? Fai’s arrest, Hillary must have shrewdly concluded, would help break the logjam faced by her Indian friends. This may sound intriguing but luckily we have an obliging help from unexpected quarter – Shekhar Gupta.
Editor of Indian Express wrote on 23 rd July, "National Interest: The Arresting Moment," giving his take on Fai’s arrest. The Indian Express has unleashed a barrage in its pages before and after this article.
J&K interlocutor Padgaonkar one of Fai’s guest speakers .
Are they just ‘useful idiots’? S Gurumurthy mentions these names in his list of useful idiots: "Justice Rajinder Sachar, author of the famous Sachar Committee Report on the state of Indian Muslims; Harish Khare, the media adviser to the prime minister; Rita Manchanda, the India/Pakistan Local Partner for Women Waging Peace; Ved Bhasin, editor, Kashmir Times; Harinder Baweja, editor (investigations) Headlines Today; Gautam Navlakha and Kamal Chenoy, human rights activists, and; Praful Bidwai, well-known columnist ".
After Fai in DC, it’s Tramboo in Brussels, Shawl in London
Arrest of Fai long overdue: Home Secretary. "India today said the arrest of Kashmiri separatist leader Ghulam Nabi Fai in the US was long overdue as there has been suspicion for a long time that he was getting funds from Pakistani agencies."
Maoist sympathisers under lens . Through an unnamed official of Ministry of Home Affairs Indian Express links "Maoists" to Fai and thereby to ISI: "As far as his association with Maoist sympathisers is concerned, we had long suspected that Maoists had been receiving help from foreign countries ".
This was just a taste of what looks like a well-orchestrated campaign in IE, but surprisingly we find no mention of Kuldeep Nayar – a regular columnist in the paper- though he too has attended conference organized by Fai. If this has not made clear by now the intent of Hillary’s complicity in Fai’s arrest, then Gupta leaves no doubt in anybody’s mind what the game is. Before we turn to our main task, one thing Gupta said was unexceptionable: "This week’s argument, however, is not so much about the merits of accepting business-class tickets and hospitality from any such characters. It is, in fact, surprising that so many are running around claiming they had no idea who Fai was, and if they did, they would never have accepted his hospitality. A more honest – and morally totally convincing – answer would have been the straight one. That as an intellectual or, in case of some, as a civil society activist, you were fully within your rights to go and speak at any forum, even if it was funded or organised by the Pakistanis and that just the fact of accepting a free ticket and a tiny per diem would not have compromised your integrity. That nobody – except Gautam Navlakha, activist of the radical left – has had the honesty to say this underlines to us the fact of how shallow the intellectual establishment is in our country. And how quickly it loses nerve." Here again, while seemingly paying a compliment to Gautam Navlakha, Gupta doesn’t fail to call him an Activist of The Radical Left – there by insinuating that the radical left is some kind of a party or an organization. Those who are following the events know that it is a crude attempt to link him to CPI(Maoist) in totally unconnected topic.
Like India’s home secretary, Gupta too confirms that Ghulam Nabi Fai’s activities and sources of his funds were known to him for long. This is important because what R P Singh and Shekhar Gupta knew surely FBI knew too. Fai "was a constant presence on the South Asian conference circuit in Washington, and specially sought out Indian speakers. would not fool you about who he exactly was, and what precisely he was after. He was a Pakistani lobbyist for "their" Kashmir cause, leading a very cleverly constructed overground support base for the malevolent movement that was picking strength in the early nineties. You would have to be utterly nuts, delusional or smoking some awful prohibited substance to not figure this out. Would you have known he was funded by the ISI? Again, you had to be from another planet to believe anything else, although, two decades back, the CIA was considered about as hostile to India as the ISI and I do remember one of the most able members of our almost all-woman diplomatic team in DC elbow me in my side at one of these conferences to whisper, dekha, yeh inki company ke logon ki sewa mein hai (see, he serves their "company" here). Company was the usual euphemism for CIA. In DC those days, CIA would look more like the usual suspect." One cannot get a more clear indictment of what Indian Government knew exactly about Fai & his sources of funds. When Gupta says Fai worked for the Company (we thought that was a word reserved for Dawood Ibrahim’s network) -i.e. CIA, then what the Indian government knew most obviously US government knew too. Fai is serving ISI, and ISI is serving CIA, then isn’t he working for the larger cause of CIA? Then why is there so much brouhaha drummed about such a stale story? In case of USA, it is clear to us. CIA wants to browbeat its recalcitrant spouse, ISI, into meek submission. Let us not worry about this *marital discord*, because this couple is known to stage public spats to make gullible onlookers swallow the drama, only to make them fall flat on their faces by reuniting shortly . What interests us here is the purpose this disclosure serves at this time in the Indian context. Gupta says, "Till reports last came in, none of these worthies, the leading lights of the liberal establishment, had shown that much honesty and courage which, indeed, would have put a quick end to the controversy ".
Now let us gather what all Gupta has said in different places together. These persons "as an intellectual", "as a civil society activist", or as "the leading lights of the liberal establishment" are "utterly nuts, delusional or smoking some awful prohibited substance" or had to be "from another planet" or lack that "much honesty and courage". One cannot abuse "civil society" better without giving appearance of doing so. So, by insinuating against the few, who attended Fai’s conferences, in one majestic brushstroke Gupta has attempted to discredit the entire movement, which he and government derogatively call "civil society".
This is what Indian Express did with Hazare’s anti-corruption fast – see Cracking Anti-Corruption "Coalition" the Express way & MPK : The Disdainful Crusader against "Secular Fatwas" . This is what IE is falling over itself to do in case of Supreme Court’s Salwa Judum verdict . This is what IE did when Comptroller & Auditor General brought out inconvenient facts about Reliance’s gold plating of Krishna Godavari’s CAPEX or when Security Exchange Board of India ordered against the Sahara Group- see "Corruption Subverts Regulation, Oversight and Lokpal Bill" & "Murali Deora Resigns, feels left out undefended". The institutions of CAG, SEBI have done much painstaking work to bring to light the malfeasance of this government. The people want to hold government accountable for this totally unacceptable conduct. They want Indian government to work in the interests of Indian people, not their foreign or local masters. This is what hurts Indian Government. This is what hurts Indian corporates. This is what hurts US interests. The reprehensible bomb blasts in Mumbai served to distract attention from real issues facing Indian people. Instead of condemning those attacks in no uncertain terms and girding itself to catch the diabolic perpetrators of the act, the atmosphere has been vitiated by insinuating that Muslims have committed them. Verdict by media is out even before anyone has done any meaningful work to nab the culprits. This distraction was probably considered not enough. The so called "civil society" was not maligned & discredited. That is why FBI helped Indian Government through Fai’s arrest. That is how Indian Express & mainstream media carpet bombs the media landscape with tailored and hostile news to discredit the movement of people to bring government to account. That is what the "Journalism of Courage" has come to mean. That is how logjams are solved.