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July 12, 2012

Kashmiri American Council leader
begins two-year imprisonment

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai, the Executive Director of Kashmiri American Council, began a two-year prison term on July 10 for violating tax laws related to non-profit organizations. On March 30th he was sentenced to two-year imprisonment for conspiracy and violations of certain tax laws. He was initially charged with conspiring to violate the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) but the prosecution dropped these charges.

In an affidavit filed in court on July 18, 2011, the FBI said Pakistan has spent at least $4 million since the mid-1990s lobbying the U.S. Congress and the White House through Fai and the Kashmiri American Council. The FBI affidavit detailed the alleged scheme in which Fai's organization received up to $700,000 annually from Pakistan to make campaign contributions to U.S. politicians, sponsor conferences and other promotions. The FBI alleged that Dr. Fai lobbied at the Congress and the Administration on behalf of Pakistan without declaring himself as the a Pakistani agent. The FBI affidavit said Fai had denied that he had lobbied, saying instead he was involved in public relations.

In December last year, Dr Fai had pleaded guilty to two charges: 1.) “To falsify, conceal and cover up material facts he had a duty to disclose in matters within the jurisdiction of executive branch agencies of the US government”; 2.) “To defraud the Treasury Department by impeding the lawful functions of the IRS in the collection of revenue.”

On March 30, 2012, Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai was sentenced to two years in incarceration in a minimum security prison for not abiding by tax regulations during his campaign in support of the Kashmir cause.

Interestingly, Dr. Fai’s alleged accomplice, Dr. Zaheer Ahmad, a Pakistani-American doctor who ran Shifa International Hospital in Islamabad, died in early October after suffering a stroke in Islamabad.

Dr. Fai to continue work for the cause of Kashmir

Dr. Fai says during his incarceration at the minimal security Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Cumberland, Maryland, he will continue his work for the cause of Kashmir.

Addressing a forum on "self-determination for Kashmiris" on June 21, 2012 in Fremont, CA, Dr Fai said there is no restriction on him to continue his work for the cause of Kashmir. He pointed out that the prosecution had withdrawn charges initially leveled against him to be the agent of a foreign government.

 Liam O'Grady, while announcing  for two-year imprisonment had made it clear that "it's (sentencing) necessary, even though you have done some very moving things on behalf of the Kashmiri people and that your cause is a wonderful cause," Fai told the gathering. He quoted again Judge O'Grady as saying: "I sincerely hope that while you're at a minimal security facility like Cumberland, that I see no reason why you can't continue to advocate on behalf of the Kashmiri people and to write.”

Dr Fai stressed that no  to the 65-year-old Kashmir conflict that didn't command a consensus among the 17 million Kashmiri people could endure just as no solution to East Timor held a chance of success until the East Timor's  was consulted and a referendum on independence from Indonesia was held.

For too long, Fai pointed out, India's persecution of people of Kashmir has been buried under the of  "the world's largest democracy." "There is no democracy in Kashmir; only military rule and  of the gun. In fact the presence of more than 700,000 Indian military and paramilitary forces have made Kashmir the largest army concentration anywhere in the world."

Dr. Ghulam Nabi said he believes in the peaceful settlement of the Kashmir conflict through tripartite negotiations between Governments of India and Pakistan and the accredited leadership of the people of the State of Jammu & Kashmir.

During the hearing his attorney Nina Ginsburg stated: “Judge, I think (Assistant U.S. Attorney) Mr. Kromberg’s arguments to the Court are appalling.  [Federal investigators] have a lot of words that were captured in intercepts, 20 years of intercepts, hundreds of thousands of interprets, and Mr. Kromberg cannot stand in front of this Court with one example of a statement, a public statement by Dr. Fai, a writing by Dr. Fai, a position taken at a conference he sponsored, not one, not one word, that is anything that could be characterized as propaganda for the Pakistani government.” 

Fai himself said he frequently took positions at odds with those espoused by Pakistan. Most fundamentally, he said, he advocated for Kashmiri independence while Pakistan wants the territory annexed into its own country.

Ginsberg also took exception to the government's efforts to paint Fai as an extremist. She said they had been monitoring his email and phone calls surreptitiously for 20 years, and could produce no evidence to back up those assertions. As for his alleged links with the Muslim Brotherhood, she said Fai answered the government's questions truthfully - he knows many members of the group, which is prominent in many Muslim countries, but is not a part of the organization.

Dr. Fai is the founding chairman of the California-based World Peace Forum. He is the Chairman of the International Institute of Kashmir Studies. He is also the Chairman of the Kashmiri American Foundation & the London-based Justice Foundation. Dr. Fai is also the Member of the Board of Director of Istanbul-based the Union of the NGOs of the Islamic World.

During the trial, Dr. Fai was supported by people from all faiths. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, and even atheists wrote dozens of letters regarding Dr. Fai to the judge.  These were people from the Unites States, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Thailand, India, Pakistan, Canada, Bahrain, Qatar, Turkey, from both sides of the ceasefire line in Kashmir, and many other countries. 

On the day of sentence verdict, the courtroom was filled to capacity with people who came from places like California, Kansas, Illinois, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Washington DC, North Carolina, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and other states. 

Although initially charged under the FARA [Foreign Agents Registration Act] as an unregistered agent of Pakistan, Dr. Fai was never convicted on this allegation, which seemed clearly intended to support negotiations the U.S. and Hillary Clinton were engaged in with India at the time, according to  Director of United Progressives and the Director of American Affairs for the International Council for Human Rights and Justice.

Self-determination for Kashmiris

An array of American Muslim leaders and civil rights advocates also spoke at the "Self-determination for Kashmiris" held at the San Francisco Bay Area’s popular Chandni banquet hall in Fremont/Newark. The event was sponsored by the American Muslim Alliance (AMA) and the Islamic Society of North America. Among the speakers were Imam Zaid Shakir, Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California; Dr. Imtiaz Khan, Vice-President of the Kashmiri American Council, Dr. Hatem Bazian, Professor at the University of California, Berkeley; Dr. Agha Saeed, Chairman of the American Muslim Alliance (AMA); Dr. Mohammad Ahmadullah Siqqidui, Professor of Journalism and Public Relations at Western Illinois University, Macomb, Illinois; Naeem Beg, the Vice President of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA); Mark Hinkle, former chairman of the US Libertarian Party and Edward Hasbrouck, author and freelance journalist.

Naeem Beg, the Vice President of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) was MC of the Muslim leaders gathering held to support Dr. Fai and the right of self-determination for Kashmiri people. The program began with an address via Skype link by the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front leader, Yasin Malik, from Srinagar. He  spoke about the atrocities caused by the Indian forces. He said the basic reason of unrest in the state is the usurpation of our freedom and prolonging of solution to our political problems,” he said, adding that there will be peace once the Kashmir issue is resolved in accordance with the wishes and aspirations of its people. Yasin Malik said that at present the struggle of the Kashmiri people is a non-violent movement and if the global community did not give attention, this may be turned into a violent movement.

The plight of Pakistani neuroscientist, Dr. Afia Siddiqui, echoed at the gathering of American Muslim leaders when Dr. Afia’s brother Dr. Ahmed Siddiqui addressed the audience via phone. Dr. Afia is serving 86-year imprisonment. She was tried on charges of trying to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan in July 2008 and sentenced in September 2010.

Mrs Qadr Chang Fai

Mrs. Qadr Chang Fai made a very moving speech. She thanked everybody for supporting her husband at this critical moment and said life is a journey and each and every day or year is just like you peel an onion, it doesn’t matter how careful you are, it sometimes causes tears. She went on to say that “sometimes obstacles and difficulties let us know what is our weakness and it gives us a chance and opportunity to make us strong.”

I am sure when my husband returns, after two years vacation, he will come up fresh, strong and we will again work for the cause of Kashmir,” she said adding: “This chapter is over and together we flip the page and start a fresh new chapter of Kashmir’s history. We will make sure that we achieve the goal and the goal is that liberty bell rings at every corner of Kashmir which is the paradise on the earth.”

Dr. Hatem Bazian

Dr. Hatem Bazian, Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, was of the view that the second half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century entered into the post-colonial era but Kashmir and Palestine remain in the colonial era (i.e. India and Israel). He said both the people of Kashmir and Palestine are suffering at the hands of occupiers.

(There are many points of similarity between Kashmir and Palestine. Both are the result of the partitioning of a country (India in one case, Palestine in the other); both were formerly under British rule; and both were partitioned in 1947. It will not be too much to say that the year India and Israel celebrate their birthday is actually the birthday of these two conflicts, perhaps the two deadliest unresolved conflicts of our times.)  

Dr. Hatem Bazian said that sometime it is suggested that we should have non-violent movement, I say that we are non violent. Occupations are the most violent manifestations of the structure of violence. “Population is always act as non-violent, while the states which occupy set up violent structure.”

He said that Kashmir is on the global chess board. “The United States wants India to balance China, because if there is a conflict with China, we always like that the darker people fight our war and the more these people die is better for the officers because racism can be manifested across many sectors.”

On the other hand, he said, Israel has a periphery foreign policy which means where ever possible divert Muslim resources outside the periphery so that they cannot support the Palestinian struggle. He said it is India and Pakistan where most pro-Palestine sentiments prevail. He recalled that “in 1931 after the incident of the Wailing Wall, a conference was held by the Indian subcontinent Muslims and only 350,000 people showed up. Today if we have a gathering of 25,000 people, we are very happy. But the organizers of the 1931 rally apologized the Palestinian delegation that we are sorry that everybody didn’t show up.”

Alluding to Dr. Fai’s case, Dr. Bazian said that “in the post-9/11 era there is strategic and systematic process of targeting the Muslim leadership of organizational structures by eliminating the existing leadership that has developed over the last 40 years studying together, graduating together, you disrupt the civic political engagement in the country and second you allow infiltrators those who are on the pay role of government to  just cause disruption.”

He went on to say that Dr. Fai is targeted because he is successful. “It is because of his ability to transcend from this small area of his work and to reach out beyond the confines and be very effective in advocacy.”

Other speakers

Imam Zaid Shakir, Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California, in his speech spoke about the imprisonment of Dr. Fai and said that “they can imprison his body but cannot imprison his soul.”

Dr. Mohammad Ahmadullah Siqqidui, Professor of Journalism and Public Relations at Western Illinois University, Macomb, Illinois, argued that just like East Timor and South Sudan, Kashmir should be made an independent state. He said he was convinced one day Kashmir will become an independent entity.

Former chairman of the US Libertarian Party, Mark Hinkle, said that his party supports the right of self-determination of Kashmiri people.

Author and freelance journalist, Edward Hasbrouck, said he was looking forward to see an independent country and his passport is stamped with the visa of Kashmir.

Dr. Agha Seed, the American Muslim Alliance chairman, the strategist behind the Muslim leadership gathering was unable to speak because of his sickness. His message in support of Dr. Fai was read by his assistant, Hazem Kaira.

100,000 Kashmiris killed in the last two decades

Dr Imtiaz Khan, Vice-President of the Kashmiri American Council was another major speaker at the forum. In his speech Dr. Khan said that more than 100,000 Kashmiris have been killed by Indian military and paramilitary personnel over the last two decades.

He deplored the silence of the international community because of India's nuclear and economic strength. He said that the United Nations with a moral obligation to intervene on behalf of the people of Kashmir; and, that the United Nations should strengthen its monitoring force along the cease-fire line.

It may be pointed out that the UN Special Rapporteur’s report on India’s human rights violations was released the same day when Dr. Fai’s verdict was announced. The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns released an interim report at the end of his 12-day visit to Jammu & Kashmir and the states of Gujrat, Kerala, Assam and West Bengal, terming the Armed Forces Special Powers Act as a symbol of excessive state power that has resulted in consuming innocent lives in Jammu and Kashmir and Indian state Assam.

Christof Heyns told reporters in New Delhi that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act allows the state to override rights and has no role in a democracy. Under the law, troops have the right to shoot anyone suspected of being a rebel and to arrest suspected militants without a warrant.

“This law has been described to me as ‘hated,’ and a member of a state human rights commission has called it draconian,” said Heyns. The special powers law has been in force in different parts of the country since 1958 and is currently enforced in Indian-administered Kashmir and in the states of Manipur and Nagaland in the northeast, all battling separatist movements. In all three regions, human rights workers have accused Indian troops of illegally detaining, torturing and killing rebel suspects, sometimes even staging gun battles as pretexts to kill. The law also prohibits soldiers from being prosecuted for alleged rights violations unless granted express permission from the federal government. According to official documents, the state government in Indian Kashmir has sought permission to try soldiers in 50 cases in the last two decades, but the federal government has refused every one.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America.