Shift in US relations with Pakistan

Manifestly, there is a fundamental and seismic shift in Washingtons relations with Pakistan after Dr Ghulam Nabi Fais arrest on July 19. As I see it presently, America is done with Pakistan. The CIA evidently has determined that the US must put the ISI, and indirectly the military high command, in its place. It seems that the current American thinking is reminiscent in some ways of the KGB and CIA spats in the height of the cold war. Why do I call it fundamental? It is so described for the first time since Pakistans creation; there is clearly a breakdown in the relations between the GHQ and Pentagon. Strange as it may sound, Islamabads militarily command had a direct link over the years with its corresponding elements in the US army - there is none now left. With this change, there is bound to be far-reaching implications in the planning of strategic policies of both Islamabad and Washington. A US federal indictment filed in a Virginia Court charged the accused, an American citizen, of funnelling millions of dollars from Pakistans government and the ISI through the Kashmiri American Council (KAC), a Washington-based non-profit NGO, to gain political influence. Because of two factors, recent deterioration in the US-Pak relations and manifest significance of Kashmir for Pakistani and sub-continental political situation, this indictment raises important strategic issues that require an in-depth analysis. There is little doubt about the 'legal justifiability of these accusations. Dr Fai lobbied for Pakistans position without notifying the American authorities, by using the funds provided by the ISI, prima facie, a violation of a sensitive American statutory law: Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). For establishing the Pakistani government and ISI connection, the FBI alleges, Fai was a 'paid agent since 1995, who worked under an ISI officer - identified by Abdullah (codename) - and his deputies, Brigadier Javed Aziz Khan, Brigadier Sohail Mehmood, and Lt Col Tauqeer Butt. Eight out of 10 of Dr Fai's statements, CW2, were written up by his intelligence contacts. It is further alleged that the ISI runs two similar institutions through Barrister Abdul Majeed Tramboo's Kashmir Centre in Brussels, and Nazir Ahmad Shawl's in London. From dozens of emails the Bureau has made public, it has tried to prove that Dr Fai and his KAC associates knew that they were engaged in covert activities: In one case, a conversation about the transfer of $75,000 used the code-phrase Brylcreem, 75 miligrams, another, for $157,000, to a 157 pages draft. The prosecution emphasised that Fai was treated without respect, as a minion by his ISI bosses. In April 2008, for example, Brigadier Khan directly instructed Fai in written language permissible with a lowly-paid employee. Is the accusation politically-motivated, since there is evidence of deteriorating Islamabad-Washington relations due to the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden? The degeneration of relations between the CIA and ISI started following the arrest of CIA operative Raymond Davis, caught red handed in Lahore for murdering two Pakistanis, and Operation Geronimo to get Osama. Within hours of Davis clandestine egress arranged by Islamabad after removing the countrys Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the CIA launched its most deadly drone attack, yet on the Pakistani territory killing 47 people. For its bungling in the Abbottabad raid, CIA Chief accused the ISI of being incompetent or complicit. Meanwhile, to ward off public outcry, the federal government asked the US to reduce its huge militia of CIA operatives meandering throughout the country for their own clandestine activities. The American spy agency complied, but retaliated by suspending $800 million aid commitment and withholding other finances under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF). Later, General Shuja Pasha was sent to Langley to redefine the rules of engagement. Within hours of his departure, the FBI arrested Dr Fai. The question is: did the ISI need Dr Fai for the job? The ultimate answer seems to be that in Pakistans political system, there is no criterion, rather economic interests of the benefactor predominate. Then the US agencies would certainly keep track of such monies, so why were they quiet all along? The KAC performed openly and is certainly not an underground movement. From putting in petitions to a Google groups forum and a Facebook page of its affiliates its conferences have been held in universities. The last meeting held in February 2011 included established speakers on subcontinental affairs and Ambassador Hussain Haqqani, the Pakistani envoy to the US. In my previous article on the same subject, I said: This is not a simple case of getting the bad guy, it is about creating more bad guys, in the process. This phenomenon is notwithstanding Dr Fais own sponsorship by successive governments, both civilian and military, in Islamabad, in the last 15 years. It would be interesting to see how he convinced all these bosses, as a lobbyist According to court records, Dr Fai and his KAC have received at least $4 million from the Pakistani government since the mid-1990s, besides receiving from $500,000 to $700,000 per year from the Pakistani government. The Election Commission of the US record reveals that the Pakistani funds were provided for the political campaign of Obama, both the National Republican and National Democratic Senatorial Committees, during the course of several years, and $23,500 contribution to US lawmakers with Congressman Dan Burton of Indiana being the main beneficiary. It should be extremely worrisome in Islamabad that potential damage to Pakistan's image, the ISI and the military high command looms large when the US court process gets underway. In addition, there is the prospect of a fundamental shift in the US policies in this region; its decision to go ahead with this altered perspective change has little to do with Dr Fais accomplishments. However, for the historian Fais name would be determined to be the starting point of this current phase of the US-Pak diplomatic void. n The writer is barrister at law (US & UK), and senior advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

The writer is barrister at law (US and UK), senior advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and professor at Harvard University.

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