The Directorate for Inter-Service Intelligence, Pakistan’s spy agency, has been financing the Kashmiri American Council, which advocates for India to give up parts of Kashmir. Part of the council’s push to gain influence was through campaign contributions. Under United States’ law it is illegal for foreign governments to give money to political candidates and since the council was financed through Pakistan’s military it broke the law.
Pennsylvania Representative Joe Pitts (R-16) was one of the politicians who received such contributions. In 2004 Pitts received $2,000 for his reelection campaign from Dr. Fai, a representative of the Kahmiri American Council. A few days later Pitts introduced a resolution calling for peace between Pakistan and India in the disputed territory of Kashmir.
“I don’t like to be used by anybody,” Mr. Pitts said. “It is very upsetting.”
Pitts’s assertion is supported by the FBI indictment, which according to Rep. Pitts’ office stated that no Congressman were aware of the source of Dr. Fai’s contributions. The indictment cleared Rep. Pitts, and the other Congressmen involved, of any wrongdoing.
Pitts clarified his involvement in the ordeal in a letter to Lancaster area newspapers.
To the Editors:
Our focus today is on job creation, the economy, and our national debt. Earlier in my career I served on the House International Relations Committees, where I was very active in fighting for human rights, working for peace, and combating the AIDS pandemic in Africa. I made a point of speaking up for the world’s forgotten humanitarian crises in places like Burma, Western Sahara, and Kashmir.
Kashmir is the mountainous region between India and Pakistan that has been hotly and violently contested since the two nations divided in 1947. I went there in 2000 and met with a large and forlorn group of Kashmiris. Many of them were missing arms and legs. A 16 year-old boy asked me, “Why doesn’t the U.S. help us? The U.S. helps everyone else, but does nothing to help us.”
It turns out these people are “internally displaced persons.” Refugees, who cross international boundaries, get a lot of attention. IDPs, who are just as homeless and hurting, are usually ignored.
I decided I would try to help them, and I did. I raised private aid for them. I urged President Bush to appoint a special envoy to press the governments of India and Pakistan (both nuclear powers) to reconcile. And I looked for opportunities to urge the two nations to take small steps: a bus route across the border, cricket matches between the sides.
Years after my 2000 trip to Kashmir, a man named Dr. Syed Fai—a soft-spoken Kashmiri-American—asked me to help him find a spot in one of the House office buildings so he could hold a conference to talk about peace in Kashmir. Both sides were represented and it seemed like a good opportunity to raise awareness. I found a room for him and also made some remarks to the group. Dr. Fai repeated the event in following years, inviting members of both parties and both chambers to participate.
In 2004, Dr. Fai and an associate contributed $2,000 each to my campaign committee. The contributions appeared completely unremarkable. Both men were American citizens, and it seemed clear that they were giving because they believed in my work. (They also gave to Barack Obama, both parties’ senatorial campaign committees, and several other members of Congress.)
This week, the FBI arrested Dr. Fai and charged him and his associate with acting as unregistered agents of a foreign government. It is unlawful to lobby for a foreign government without registering as a lobbyist, and it is unlawful for a foreign government to make campaign donations. The FBI says Dr. Fai was bankrolled by Pakistan’s “ISI” (the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency). The ISI are a very nasty bunch.
I immediately gave amounts equal to the two donations to the Boys and Girls Club and to the Water Street Rescue Mission, both in Lancaster.
It never appeared to me that Dr. Fai was a lobbyist for Pakistan. It always seemed to me that he was an American working for peace in the land of his birth. Clearly, much more was going on. Dr. Fai will get his day in court. Before long, we will learn exactly what he was doing behind the scenes.
Whatever the ISI hoped to accomplish—it didn’t work. I was just as critical of Pakistan (for its human rights abuses and for playing footsie with the Taliban) after Dr. Fai’s contribution as I had been before. I pushed both sides just as hard to achieve peace.
The real victims of this episode are the suffering people of Kashmir who are desperate for peace. Their plight has been hijacked by a government that claimed to be on their side.
Congressman Joe Pitts