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Kashmiri separatists may be questioned over Fai links

IANS  New Delhi, July 21, 2011
First Published: 21:36 IST(21/7/2011) | Last Updated: 21:39 IST(21/7/2011)

Indian security agencies would study the charges brought up against Ghulam Nabi Fai, an alleged Pakistani agent, who was arrested in the US for illegal lobbying to tilt the American stand on Kashmir in line with Islamabad's position.

According to sources in the home ministry, the charges against Fai, said to be a frontman for Pakistan's spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), are being studied before any decision on possible questioning of some human rights activists and Kashmiri separatist leaders here who had links with him. 

Fai, originally a Kashmiri who migrated to the US in early 1980s, was arrested Tuesday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The US probe agency found that he had clandestinely received millions of dollars in the last two decades from the Pakistani government to lobby in the US for its Kashmir policy.

While lobbying is not illegal in the US, the law requires that  the source of funding be disclosed. 

Fai's group, Kashmir American Council, is best known for organising an annual Kashmir peace conference on Capitol Hill in the US, for which he would invite participants -- separatist leaders, activists, academicians, journalists -- from India and Pakistan.

The home ministry sources said after studying the FBI charges, they would be able to take the decision on questioning the participants, particularly Kashmiri separatist leaders, who were regulars at his conferences.

Among the regulars at Fai's meetings were moderate Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. He faces possible questioning from the security agencies for suspected links with Fai.

Others who have enjoyed Fai's fully-paid trips to Washington at least once include head of the government-appointed panel of interlocutors for Kashmir Dileep Padgaonkar and veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar.

Nayar told IANS that he "never suspected Fai, otherwise a rich man, to be an ISI spy".

"I have attended his conference long time back. The accomodation he provided to the participants was modest. But at the seminar, also attended by Pakistanis, there was nothing like anti-India voices. I also spoke freely whatever I wanted to," said Nayar.

Nayar, a former Indian high commissioner to the UK, said he was "rather surprised with the timing of his arrest. They say he has been working for the ISI for the last two decades. Why arrest him now? That too when the honeymoon between the US and Pakistan is getting over."

Padgaonkar had attended one conference in 2005. He said he had "no idea" about Fai's background and that had he known about his antecedents, he would never have been to the US on his invitation.

Ved Bhasin, founder and head of a prominent media house, Kashmir Times, in Jammu and Kashmir, was also among the regulars at his conferences.


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