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Pak funds for US candidates

world Updated: Jul 21, 2011 23:07 IST

In September 2004, Republican Joe Pitts, Representative for Pennsylvania, received $2,000 from Zaheer Ahmad, who was active with a nonprofit Washington group known as the Kashmiri American Council.

The FBI now says that Ahmad was an unregistered agent of the government of Pakistan whose role included funneling money to U.S. politicians. He is listed in the group's records as a conduit for donations to lawmakers, including Pitts, the FBI says.

The episode shows how Pakistan's spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, allegedly sought to influence Kashmir policy in Washington over the past 20 years, according to federal court documents filed in Virginia this week. The FBI estimates that the Pakistani intelligence agency poured at least $4 million into campaign contributions, public relations campaigns and other efforts during that time.

Several weeks after the 2004 donation, Pitts introduced a resolution in the House urging the appointment of a special envoy to push for a peaceful resolution of the dispute in Kashmir, which has long been divided between Pakistan and India.

A Pitts spokesman said that there was no connection between the donation and the resolution and said the congressman was "very upset" by the allegations against the Kashmir council. "He had worked on Kashmiri peace before he ever met this group. He has also remained critical of the Pakistani government throughout his time in Congress," spokesman Andrew Wimer said.

The allegations have further strained tensions between the Obama administration and the government of Pakistan, which is angry about U.S. intelligence operations on its soil, including the May 2 raid that killed al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

On Wednesday, news of the case reverberated through Pakistan's military and intelligence apparatus, where many suspect the charges were in retaliation for recent expulsions and arrests of Americans in Pakistan.

"It seems that some elements in Washington are against the normal ties and whenever efforts are made to iron out the differences, then such sort of incident occurs," said one Pakistani intelligence official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. He added that Pakistan would protest the accusations as "baseless propaganda."

Federal prosecutors have charged two U.S. citizens in the case with failing to register as foreign agents: Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai of Fairfax, who is the Kashmir council's executive director, and Ahmad, who lists his address as Brooklyn in disclosure records but is thought to be at large in Pakistan. Fai is jailed pending a hearing.

Law enforcement officials said that more than a dozen warrants have been served in connection with the case this week and that more charges are possible.

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