The spy who used ISI ‘Brylcreem’ to sway US (Washington Newsletter)

December 11th, 2011 - 2:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Dec 11 (IANS) The exposure of yet another spy from Pakistan who used lots of “Brylcreem” (money) from “the library in Islamabad” (an ISI office) to peddle the Kashmiri separatist cause has put US-Pakistan ties on a slippery slope.

If confessed Pakistani-American Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative David Coleman Headley trained with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to prepare for the Mumbai terror attacks, Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai did the notorious spy agency’s bidding for 21 long years.

At the behest of ISI, the poor villager born in Indian Kashmir set up its front Kashmiri American Council in 1990 to become a Washington insider who rubbed shoulders with the likes of former president Bill Clinton and his 1996 Republican rival Bob Dole.

Fai, 62, last week pleaded guilty to funnelling at least $3.5 million from Pakistan’s government and ISI to influence US policy on Kashmir by funding high-profile conferences and giving donations to US lawmakers. Records show that some of the millions from Pakistan were spent on travel and Capitol Hill conferences about Kashmir that drew at least a dozen US politicians. Fai visited more than 40 countries and claimed to meet more than 1,000 ambassadors.

Some money also went to US political campaigns. ISI documents cited by the FBI budgeted as much as $100,000 a year for campaign donations, although the FBI identified only $4,000 in donations from ISI money.

That Fai turned out to a be an ISI spy came as hardly a surprise to knowledgeable Indian observers who thought his Kashmir council seemed too well funded to be run on contributions made by Pakistani-Americans alone. What is surprising is that it took US officials so long to find out.

Coming as it did amid strained US-Pakistan relations over the May 2 US commando raid to kill Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and the Nov 26 NATO airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, analysts wondered if it was intended to send a long-due signal to Islamabad.

The Pakistani embassy in Washington has denied that Fai had worked for the ISI, but the Pakistani government lodged its concern over his July arrest and accused the US of embarking on a “slander campaign” against Pakistan.

The Pakistan foreign ministry also lauded the “contributions” made by Fai and his council “for the cause of Jammu and Kashmir” and said that “campaigns to defame the just cause of the Kashmiri people will not affect its legitimacy”.

As part of the plea deal, Fai admitted taking directions from ISI handlers and giving his ISI contact annual strategy documents, which showed how he would lobby on behalf of Kashmir.

He also admitted disguising that the ISI was responsible for $774,345 in donations in annual tax filings to the IRS between 2004 and 2009, hiding those donations behind so-called “straw donors” through his alleged accomplice, Zaheer Ahmad, a Pakistani-American who ran Shifa International Hospital in Islamabad.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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