Srinagar: Hardline Hurriyat Conference chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani has said the Kashmiri-born man arrested in the US on suspicion of being a Pakistani agent is a victim of a diplomatic conspiracy.
The charge against Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai of the Kashmiri American Council alleges he is an unregistered agent of a foreign government. The US Justice Department says he donated millions to a Washington non-profit in a secret lobbying effort led by Pakistani intelligence agency ISI to influence US policy on Kashmir.
Geelani on Wednesday insisted Fai was innocent and called the allegation the "result of India`s diplomatic efforts and conspiratorial plans”.
“The arrest was undertaken without any evidence. This conspiracy of India is aimed to weaken our struggle but it won’t weaken our movement at any level,” he said in a statement.
"Mr Fai has been active for last 32 years highlighting the plight of his people," Geelani said. "Because of his unflinching advocacy of the Kashmir cause at the international level, he had become an eyesore for India."
Geelani urged Kashmiris to protest on Friday and "foil the Indian designs to weaken the Kashmiri struggle”.
He said that, unless Fai was freed, Kashmiris "will lose their faith in the international community”.
The arrest is likely to complicate India’s already strained ties with its neighbour Pakistan. The UN-drawn line of control dividing Kashmir is the world`s most heavily-armed border.
Another separatist group, Jammu-Kashmir Liberation Front, also condemned the US charge as going against the democratic path of nonviolence Fai advocated. "His arrest is against ideals of democracy and peaceful reconciliation. This is also against the US government`s approach and thinking."
India`s police chief in Kashmir said Fai`s arrest followed years of suspicions.
"He has been figuring in lots of things in the past, like ... the diversion of ISI funds for anti-national activities in India and particularly in Jammu and Kashmir," Kuldeep Khoda said.
The US Justice Department says in court documents that Fai — directed by a top member of Pakistan`s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI — donated millions of dollars to US political campaigns, wrote newspaper op-eds, organised congressional trips and met with White House and State Department officials. It alleges Pakistan financed similar operations in London and Brussels.
US tax documents show Fai`s Kashmiri American Council had a much smaller budget and told the US government it received no foreign grants.
Though the charges are not related to espionage, the arrest adds strain to the difficult US-Pakistan relationship, tested recently when the US found and killed Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan without telling the government there.
The arrest also sparked debate on social networking site Facebook, with some questioning the timing of Fai`s arrest while US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was visiting India this week.
ISI has a complicated relationship with US intelligence. The agency is a crucial ally against terrorists but also works against the US at times, including running double agents against the CIA.
(With Agencies’ inputs)