Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai’s alleged crime of lobbying the US over Kashmir for Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI pales in comparison to that of his accomplice, the moneybag at the other end of the phone, Zaheer Ahmad.
Ahmad is understood to have met Osama bin Laden in August 2001, just a month ahead of 9/11, in the company of a nuclear scientist, according to ProPublica, a news organization.
Could Fai have known? Or connived in this too, in some way?
The FBI is not taking questions on the case as a grand jury investigation continues and Fai’s lawyer, Nina Ginsberg, did not immediately reply to an email request for comment on the new information.
Fai, who ran Kashmiri American Council for many years in DC, stands accused by the FBI of working on behalf of the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI without declaring himself a foreign agent.
He was arrested and released, but committed to house arrest and electronic monitoring, with the help of a device clamped around an ankle. He can receive visitors, Umer Mirwaiz Farooq among them, but closely supervised.
Ahmad has also been named as a suspect in this case, but he remains at large in Pakistan. He told ProPublica he won’t discuss the case till it’s over. And it can be dangerous, he warned the reporter, ominously.
Ahmad is accused by the FBI of passing on to Fai money from his handlers in the ISI, directly and indirectly through donors who were reimbursed. The two were in frequent phone and email touch, the FBI has said.
A Pakistani-American physicist Gul Chugtai, who told ProPublica that he has been talking to the FBI, knows both Ahmad and the nuclear scientist who met bin Laden, but had kind of forgotten the name of the scientist.
And then it came back to him one day, urged on by the FBI agent in touch with him. And the scientist was called Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, former head of nuclear power at Pakistan’s Atomic energy Commission.
At the meeting that took place in Afghanistan, where bin Laden was then based, as the guest of the Taliban government, and was looking around for nuclear weapons. Ayman al-Zawahiri too attended this “campfire” meeting.
Former CIA director George Tenet talks about this meeting and Mahmood in his chapter on the taking down of the nuclear walmart assembled by Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of the Pakistani nuclear bomb.
Citing a source, who had said such a meeting had taken place just weeks before 9/11, Tenet wrote, “There, around a campfire, they discussed how al Qaeda should go about building a nuclear bomb.”
Present at the meeting were bin Laden, Zawahiri, Mahmood, another prominent Pakistani nuclear engineer Chaudiri Andul Majeed, and now, according to Chugtai and the FBI, Fai’s friend and accomplice Ahmad.
How much did Fai know of Ahmad’s al Qaeda links, if at all?