A US district court in Virginia sentenced on Friday Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai, chief executive of the Kashmir American Council (KAC), to a two-year prison term to be followed by three years of probation.
Dr Fai had pleaded guilty last December to the charge that he concealed the fact that the Council received, dating back to 1990, about $3.5 million fromPakistanfor his lobbying efforts on Kashmir.Lobbying for foreign governments, corporations, even individuals, is a legitimate activity in theUS.
But those working for foreign governments to influence US policy or law must register as agents and fully disclose all relevant information.Which did not happen in the present case?
In its statement on the verdict, theUSjustice department said that the KAC head was being held accountable for hiding the fact thatPakistanwas secretly funding his efforts to influenceUSpolicy onKashmir.
Dr Fai shouldn’t have violated the law of the country of which he is a citizen.
Yet he acted neither out of a self-aggrandisement motive nor to advance the agenda of a foreign government, but to help the long-suffering people in his nativeKashmir.
In over two decades of Kashmiri resistance against Indian rule, nearly 100,000 people have lost their lives, and thousands subjected to torture and extra-judicial killings.
Respected human rights organisations, such as Amnesty International, have repeatedly voiced concern over custodial killings and the use of rape by Indian security forces as a weapon of war.
In fact, the day Dr Fai was ‘held accountable’ for his activities, UN special Rapporteur, Christof Heyns, expressed serious concern, at the end of a 12-day visit to India, over the use of the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act in Kashmir.
Having heard numerous testimonies from families of people killed in arbitrary executions at the hands of Indian security forces, Heyns urgedNew Delhito repeal the law.
And decrying Indian policy in diplomatic language, he said the law was “a symbol of excessive state power” that “clearly violates international law.”
It is not difficult to see therefore how Diaspora Kashmiris feel about their native land and its people.
In fact, the sentiment is universal.A prominent example is that of Irish-Americans.
Until theNorthern Irelandpeace agreement (mediated by an American president of Irish origin, Bill Clinton), they routinely used their influence and made monetary contributions to the Irish cause.
Kashmiris have no such influential and affluent backers in theUS, but they do havePakistan’s support and sympathies.
It is hardly surprising therefore if the KAC took money fromPakistan, as Dr Fai’s lawyer explained before the court, to try and create awareness about the cause of his fellow Kashmiri.Given the background, the KAC chief has received a much harsher sentence than he deserved.