Tuesday, 2 August 2011
With impeccable political connections, deep pockets and a reputation for impartiality, Syed Fai was for almost 30 years the leader of a campaign to resolve the dispute in Kashmir.

But the director of an influential British pressure group is now accused of being a secret agent for Pakistani military intelligence amid suggestions that he is the victim of a dispute with the CIA.

Dr Fai is a managing director of the Justice Foundation Kashmir Centre, which this year paid for two MPs and a peer to visit Pakistan. Another peer was until recently the centre’s vice-president.

American prosecutors have claimed that the Kashmir Centre is secretly funded by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI). Dr Fai is alleged to have been under the control of the ISI for 25 years.

The FBI and US Department of Justice have accused him of masterminding attempts by Pakistan covertly to influence America’s diplomatic position on Kashmir, which is at the centre of a border dispute with India.

Along with an alleged accomplice based in Pakistan, Dr Fai was arrested and charged in Virginia with conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign principal without registering with the attorney-general and to “falsify, conceal and cover up material facts” that they had a duty to disclose.

Prosecutors claim that Dr Fai has received at least $4 million (£2.5 million) in covert payments from the Pakistan Government. They say that Kashmir Centres in Washington, London and Brussels are “run by elements of the Pakistani Government, including Pakistan’s military intelligence service”.

Records at Companies House show that Dr Fai is one of two directors of the Justice Foundation based in Holborn, Central London. Dr Fai, 62, who describes himself as a public relations expert, was appointed in 2004, a year after the Kashmir Centre was founded.

In 2006 he addressed a two-day International Kashmir Peace Conference held at the Houses of Parliament and at a London hotel that was attended by MPs from all parties. The Kashmir Centre has since organised several meetings at the Houses of Parliament, most recently in December.

In March the Justice Foundation helped to fund a trip to Kashmir by Lord Ahmed, a Labour peer, Andrew Griffiths, the Conservative MP for Burton, and Simon Danczuk, the Labour MP for Rochdale. They were accompanied by Richard Harrington, the Tory MP for Watford, who paid his own costs.

The trip was organised by Lord Ahmed, chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on Kashmir, of which all three MPs are senior members. There is no suggestion that they were aware of the centre’s alleged links to the ISI or have acted improperly in any way.

A spokesman for Mr Danczuk, who was accompanied by Karen Burke, his partner and senior secretary, said: “Simon has a large Kashmiri population in his constituency. He did not know anything about the Kashmir Centre and had no idea that it was allegedly funded by the ISI.”

The House of Commons’ register of members interests shows that Mr Danczuk received travel and accommodation totalling £3,040 and Mr Griffiths £1,779. The cost was shared between the Kashmir Centre and the Government of Azad Kashmir.

Lord Ahmed said that he had known Dr Fai since 1993 but was unaware that he was a director of the Justice Foundation in London, which he had assumed was a charity.
The peer said that he had been questioned on behalf of the US State Department at Chicago airport some two years ago about his relationship with Dr Fai.

“I know him to be a wonderful man,” Lord Ahmed said. “A man who has been campaigning for the right of self-determination of the Kashmiri people and highlighting the human rights abuses of the Kashmiri people.”

A fellow peer, Lord Hussain, declared his position as vice-president of the Kashmir Centre in his register of interests as a Liberal Democrat councillor in Luton. Since his maiden speech as a peer in March he has asked two questions, both related to Kashmir.

...The Kashmir Centre in London is run by Professor Nazir Ahmed Shawl, who did not respond to repeated requests for comment. The centre’s website describes it as “a non-partisan, non-governmental organisation that seeks justice and peace for the oppressed people of Jammu and Kashmir”.
Source: Times (£)

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