The episode shows how Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, allegedly sought to influence Kashmir policy in Washington over the past 20 years, according to federal court documents filed in Northern Virginia this week. The FBI estimates that the foreign intelligence agency poured at least $4 million into campaign contributions, public relations campaigns and other efforts during that time.
Several weeks after the 2004 donation, Pitts introduced a resolution in the House urging the appointment of a special envoy to push for a peaceful resolution of the dispute in Kashmir, which has long been divided between Pakistan and India.
A Pitts spokesman said Wednesday that there was no connection between the donation and the resolution, and said the congressman was “very upset” by the allegations against the Kashmir council.
“He was astonished when he heard about this,” spokesman Andrew Wimer said. “He had worked on Kashmiri peace before he ever met this group. He has also remained critical of the Pakistani government throughout his time in Congress.”
The allegations have further strained tensions between the Obama administration and the government of Pakistan, which is angry about U.S. intelligence operations on its soil, including the May 2 raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
News of the case reverberated through Pakistan’s military and intelligence apparatus on Wednesday, where many suspect the timing of the charges was in retaliation for recent expulsions and arrests of Americans in Pakistan.
“It seems that some elements in Washington are against the normal ties . . . and whenever efforts are made to iron out the differences, then such sort of incident occurs,” said one Pakistani intelligence official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. He added that Pakistan would protest the accusations as “baseless propaganda.”
Federal prosecutors have charged two U.S. citizens in the case with failing to register as foreign agents: Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai of Fairfax, who is the Kashmiri council’s executive director, and Zaheer Ahmad, who lists his address as Brooklyn in disclosure records but is believed to be at large in Pakistan. Fai is jailed pending a hearing on Thursday.
Law enforcement officials said that more than a dozen warrants have been served in connection with the case this week, and that more charges are possible.
An FBI affidavit outlines a far-ranging effort by the ISI to set up a satellite of ostensibly pro-Kashmir groups to do its bidding, including similar organizations in London and Brussels. The Washington group, headed by Fai, was formed in 1990 and soon became well-known for its annual conferences on Kashmir and efforts to support friendly lawmakers with campaign contributions.