Friends of Pakistan should have no place in India's public space
By KG Suresh
PAKISTAN’S nefarious covert and overt attempts to defame, denigrate and destabilise India have once again come to the fore with the recent arrest of Ghulam Nabi Fai, by US authorities for collaborating with the notorious Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), by funneling money to influence American policy on Kashmir.
Popularly known as “Doctor Sahib”, among the local Pakistani American Community, the 62-year old Fai was arrested by the US Federal Bureau Investigation (FBI) from his home in Fairfax, Virginia. According to the FBI affidavit, Fai established and ran the Kashmiri American Council (KAC) from Washington at the behest of ISI to lobby on Kashmir at Capitol Hill.
For almost 20 years the KAC has been organising several anti India activities including printing and circulating propaganda pamphlets and other literature on alleged human rights violation in Jammu & Kashmir, holding national and international seminars to which participants form several countries including India were invited, lobbying against the Indian government with the American government and lawmakers and on the sidelines of international human rights conferences as also appeasing US politicians by contributing to their election funds. The FBI document said 80 per cent of Fai’s public statements were provided by ISI “to repeat and disseminate verbatim.”
The other 20 per cent of the KAC’s messaging consisted of Fai’s ideas which have been pre-approved by the ISI but not provided by them” it said.
Fai, who has since been granted bail, faces imprisonment of upto five years if proved guilty.
Apart from being an ISI agent, Fai was also the points man for the separatist Hurriyat leaders in the United States. Fai not only fixed appointments with the US administration or with US law makers and think tanks whenever these leaders, particularly the so-called moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, visited the US, but also organised public events and receptions for them.
According to the FBI, in the past several years, Fai received more than USD 4 million to lobby on the issue of Kashmir on behalf of Islamabad before the US Administration and law makers.
Though Fai claimed that he represented the people of Kashmir, the FBI said that Fai worked for ISI and his ISI handlers in Pakistan determined what Fai was going to speak at conferences organised by KAC, what would be its agenda and even who to invite.
This Hurriyat-ISI nexus was amply reflected at a public lecture organised by Fai for Mirwaiz at the George Maison University early this year.
The practice of intelligence agencies running and funding non-governmental organisations particularly in foreign countries to propagate and lobby for their particular view point has been an existence since World War days and played a key role in the US campaign against the Communist Soviet Union. The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is itself known to have floated and funded several such agencies across the globe.
No wonder, then that speculations are rife on the timing of Fai’s arrest as his reputation as a Pakistani agent was known to the United State authorities over a long period of time. Some view Fai’s arrest as a bargaining tactic on Washington’s part to enable US agents to have free access in Pakistan, which is said to have been restricted following the killing of Osama Bin Laden in Abbotabad.
The revelation about Fai being an ISI agent also does not come as a surprise to most Indians as Pakistan has been engaged not only in such notorious anti-India propaganda but also proxy war against the country through terrorists, trained, armed and funded on its very soil.
However, what has come as a shock is the close proximity Fai enjoyed with several leading Indian journalists and intellectuals. They include Justice Rajinder Sachar , author of the Sachar Committee report on the state of Indian Muslims, Dilip Padgaonkar, one of the three Interlocutors on Jammu and Kashmir appointed by the UPA government, Kuldip Nayar, eminent journalist and former Indian High Commissioner to Britain, Ved Bhasin, Editor of Kashmir Times, Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal, Executive Editor, Kashmir Times and self-proclaimed peace activist, Harinder Baweja, Editor (Investigations) with Headlines Today, Gautam Navlakha, self-styled democratic rights activist and Editorial Consultant, Economic and Political Weekly, Kamal Mitra Chenoy, human rights activist, Praful Bidwai, noted columnist, Rita Manchanda, Programme Executive of South Asia Forum for Human Rights, and Professor GR Malik, Head of Dept, English at the Central University, Kashmir.
These journalists and intellectuals not only participated, some of them actively, in the seminars organised by Fai, but were part of even a jury for All India Level Essay competitions on Kashmir organised by the Kashmiri Action Council.
What is more, the Kashmir-born Fai, who was educated at the Aligarh Muslim University, was successful in including some of them in the drafting committee of his annual event called, ‘International Kashmir Peace Conference’. According to a press release issued by Fai on July 30, 2010, the five-member drafting committee.of the resolution adopted by the two-day conference from July 29th-30th, 2010 included Kuldip Nayar along with former Pakistan Ambassador to the United States, Maleeha Lodhi.
The conference, held in the prestigious Gold Room of the Rayburn House at the Capitol, was on “India-Pakistan Relations: Breaking the Deadlock over Kashmir”.
The resolution titled “Washington Declaration” said the participants “unanimously” expressed grave concern over the “deteriorating” human rights situation in Kashmir and urged the Indian government to withdraw its armed forces from civilian populated areas. It also sought an impartial commission to investigate “killings in a transparent manner.”
According to another press release issued by the Kashmiri American Council for its annual 2010 conference the participants included Justice Sachar and journalists Baweja, Bhasin and Navlakha.
Among others in the drafting committee as members for the 2009 resolutions were Bhasin and Navlakha. In both the drafting committees, Fai was mentioned as a member in his capacity as the host.
If the proximity of these so called intellectuals and thought leaders with the blatantly anti-Indian Fai came as a surprise to many, what was shocking was the naiveity and indifference with which they dismissed and defended this serious anti-national nexus. “Google was not available then” was the most simplistic response that Padgaonkar gave even as he insisted that he did not have the faintest of idea about Fai’s affiliation with ISI.
Reacting to Padgaonkar’s statement, his fellow Interlocutor on Jammu & Kashmir M M Ansari said, “If it is true that he has known the activities of some such activists (Fai) elsewhere and still he has been doing it, I would say that would be most unfortunate.”
“How can you join a conference without knowing the credibility of the individuals and the institutions?,” the former Central Information Commissioner asked.
While refusing to comment on his advocacy of an independent Kashmir state, Bhasin merely stated that he was not aware that ISI had any links with the conferences organised by Fai.
There cannot be a more specious argument about ignorance of basic facts by such eminent intellectuals who have a wide network of contacts worldwide.
In fact, way back in 1995 itself, separatist leader Hasim Qureshi had exposed Fai’s links with Pakistan’s ISI in his book ‘Kashmir: The Unveiling of Truth’. Qureshi, who hogged the headlines for hijacking an Indian Airlines plane in 1971 to Lahore, wrote that Fai and Ayub Thakur (now dead) were at the forefront of fund raising campaigns for Jamat-e-Islami and its militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen in US and UK respectively.
Messrs Padgaonkar, Bhasin and Co. could also have gathered information about Fai from the Indian mission in Washington as they were well aware of KAC’s nefarious activities. In fact, in its invitations sent to media before its 2010 annual conference, the KAC had listed the Indian Ambassador Meera Shankar among its invitees, but Indian Envoys never participated in these conferences as they not only knew who KAC was working for but also such conferences were always Pakistan centric and heavy with anti-India agenda.
Besides, many Indian journalists and intellectuals did not fall into the ISI trap. Siddharth Vardarajan, now the disputed Editor of The Hindu, who was listed as a panel speaker for the 2010 annual conference did not attend stating he was pre-occupied with another assignment. “I made some queries and decided not to attend”- he told media persons when asked why he skipped the event.
The question is if Vardarajan could make inquiries, why others could not and did not. Padgaonkar is not just another journalist but he is part of the UPA government’s peace process in Kashmir. No wonder then that the Panun Kashmir, a key organisation of Kashmir Pandits, demanded his resignation stating that “his continuance on the post will create mistrust, as he is dealing with the very important subject on Kashmir.” Is it possible to expect objectivity any impartiality from these people, is the million dollar question.
Justice Sachar dealt with a major issue like the status of Muslims and his recommendations including communal reservations have stirred a controversy in the country and served to further alienate the Muslim community from the mainstream. With such links with Pakistan and ISI, critics cannot be blamed if they doubt whether the report also has been influenced by friends from across the border.
While it may be unfair to attribute anti-national motives to all the participants, it is also hard to believe that all of these learned ladies and gentlemen were taken for a ride for free business class tickets and hospitality.
If it was the duty of these ‘naïve’ intellectuals to have looked before they leapt and made necessary inquiries before attending such conferences, the Indian mission on its part too clearly failed in its duty to inform and educate them about the background and motive of the organizer.
While Padgaonkar should undoubtedly step down as an interlocutor on Kashmir to maintain the neutrality of the panel, the Government too should order a high level comprehensive probe into Fai’s contacts in India and their activities. It is high time that these intellectuals and journalists realize that the freedom of speech and expression that they swear by can survive only if the nation survives. National interests are paramount.