August 01, 2011

ISI's network in USA

Pakistan’s spy agency ISI in the doghouse of the international community for its nefarious activities which include providing safe havens to terrorists like Osama bin Laden, funding and training terrorist outfits and even helping some like Lashkar-e-Taiba to carry out strikes such as the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

Pakistan’s relations with America have been strained in recent times.

They took a turn for the worse with the arrest of Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, a Kashmir lobbyist from Virginia, on July 18 by America’s FBI for secretly working as an agent of Pakistan’s notorious spy agency, the ISI in the US and driving Pakistan’s Kashmir agenda.

Fai ran a Washington-based non-profit organization called the Kashmiri American Council – better known as Kashmir Center – for decades using, said an FBI affidavit, money routed to him through the hawala network by the ISI.

The affidavit also maintains that Pakistan has spent at least $4 million since the mid-1990s lobbying the U.S. Congress and the White House through Fai and the Kashmir Centre, where Fai served as executive director.

The high-flying Kahsmiri activist donated generously to the campaign of some US lawmakers.

Fai, who is now under home detention under round-the-clock electronic surveillance, portrayed himself as the face of the “Kashmir issue” in the US.

The ISI’s move to influence American policy on Kashmir has added to existing tensions in the US-Pakistan relationship.

LISA CURTIS Senior Research Fellow, The Heritage Foundation, USA says “ It’s also going to have a damaging impact on Pakistan’s position on the Kashmir issue. I think that Washington policymakers, particularly representatives from Capital Hill will be much more careful in with whom they are dealing with and there will be more skepticism, I think, towards anybody who is pushing really hard line on the issues particularly focusing on human rights which of course Dr. Fai was charged with doing. I think, these will be seen now as Pakistani propaganda because that’s what Fai was focusing on here in the U.S.”

XENIA DORMANDY Senior Fellow, U.S. International Role, Chatham House said “ The effort of foreign governments to conduct intelligence operations in the U.S. is something that everybody does. So, it’s not where we shouldn’t take it out of proportion. In that sense what the Pakistani ISI is doing within the U.S. is no more part of government to government relations. But, generally speaking the intelligence officers in other countries register themselves, making themselves, aware to the government. This is something not done. This is increasingly also the concern of some of the actions of members of the ISI within US threatening American citizens. “

The US has turned the heat on Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI for spying on the Pakistani diaspora in America and intimidating them.

Mohammad Tasleem, who works as an attaché in the Pakistani consulate in New York allegedly spied on Pakistani dissidents in America, in what some analysts suggest, may be payback for Pakistanis outing CIA operative and harassing CIA assets in Pakistan.

LISA CURTIS Senior Research Fellow, The Heritage Foundation, USA says “ I think the US is increasingly unhappy about the ham-handed ISI activities that seen to intimidate anyone who may have a different opinion of ISI or the military. So, I think the US is trying to demonstrate that the ISI is certainly now above the US law and they are not invincible. And, so the US is in a way trying to protect some of these individuals who are following under increasing ISI intimidation. And again I would come back to the alleged murder of the journalist Saleem Shahzad and the other information which is pointing to in an increasingly intimidating ISI approach to anyone, you know, spells a view that was contrary to the ISI or the Pakistani military.”

More than anything, the Fai case highlights how, after years of U.S. officials publicly treating the ISI like a close ally in the war on terror, their relationship has fallen apart.

Since the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden in early May, which the United States pointedly did not coordinate with the ISI or the Pakistani military, the United States has publicly criticized the ISI several times.

The trial of Tahawwur Rana, accused of playing a role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, ended up also focusing on the role of a serving ISI officer in those attacks.

In July 2011, the United States withheld about $800 million in military assistance to Pakistan.

Unnamed American officials have also linked the ISI to the death of a Pakistani journalist. And now, the ISI has mentioned at least 25 times in the affidavit in the case against Fai.

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