Parliament, said her experiences “concur almost exactly” with the findings of a Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) probe into the activities of the Kashmiri American Council in the US.
The FBI arrested the council’s director, Ghulam Nabi Fai, on Tuesday for working as an unregistered agent of Pakistan, with funding from that country’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).
Nicholson said Brussels-based lobbyists became active after she was appointed the parliament’s rapporteur on Kashmir in 2005. She said these lobbyists tried both to discredit her report and get her removed from her position.
“My evidence-based experience is that the fronts (in Belgium and Britain) were funded by the Pakistani government through the ISI,” Nicholson said. “The head of the front in Brussels openly boasted that the government of Pakistan had granted the centre an amount of 3 million euros. The ISI decided I shouldn’t be the person to write the Kashmir report and that I should be pushed out.’
“A highly funded campaign was launched against me and Islamabad was almost obsessively preoccupied with my report,” said Nicholson, an admirer of Indian democracy. “They tried to get me thrown out of the European Parliament, the British Parliament and to rubbish me globally.”
Published in May 2007, the Nicholson report was among the most extensive ever produced by the European Parliament. It criticizes Pakistan for human rights violation in the Pakistani part of Kashmir and, while appreciating India’s position on Jammu and Kashmir, urges it to prevent custodial killings and staged encounters in the state.
Pakistan’s millions proved useless as the report was voted through 522-6. It was seen as favourable to India. “The report said there was no question of a plebiscite in Kashmir as the situation had changed over the years. The thrust of the report, contested by Islamabad, was a ‘grow up and move on’ message,” says Rahul Roy-Chaudhury, analyst at the International Institute of Strategic Studies.
HT attempted to speak to the Brussels Kashmir Centre head, Majid Tramboo, but were repeatedly told he was busy. The office of London-based Nazir Ahmed Shawl, described by the FBI as “Fai’s government-controlled counterpart in the UK”, said he would not speak as the matter was sub-judice.
Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Britain, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, said his goernment does not support Kashmiri lobbyists in Britain. “The ISI doesn’t lobby for the Kashmir cause as such. The government does. Intelligence doesn’t waste money on these people.”
An Indian diplomat disagreed, "The existence and activities of these groups shows that unlike India, Pakistan maintains a strategy of intervening in British politics."
Such lobby groups are a declining influence even in Britain, home to a large number of people from Mirpur and other areas of Pakistani Kashmir. The lower house of the British parliament has an all-party group on Kashmir and its meetings are attended by lobbyists.
Baroness Nicholson said she would “like to see a continuation of the investigation into the way taxpayers’ money in Pakistan has been misused persistently by its government in trying to force a particular political view on democracies.”
“In the House of Lords, we are focusing on this massive growth of lobbying,” said Nicholson, who belongs to the ruling coalition’s Liberal Democrat party.