The Arrest of Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai and the Role of European and American Muslims

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Context

The FBI recently detained an American citizen, Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, who heads the Washington-based Kashmiri American Council (KAC). Fai has been blamed by the US Department of Justice for not telling the US government he received funding from Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) while campaigning for the Kashmiri cause and making donations to US Congressmen.

The incident has taken place in the aftermath of the arrest made by Pakistani authorities of Dr. Shakil Afridi. Dr. Afridi allegedly helped the CIA launch a fake vaccination campaign in Abbottabad that helped to get Osama bin Laden. The arrests represent tit for tat responses by the intelligence organizations of the two countries, as US-Pakistan relations continue to deteriorate over the future of Afghanistan.

As genuine Islamic grievances increasingly become mixed up with politics, perceptions of the Islamic world continue to decline while complicating the role of Muslim communities in Europe and US. As a result the prospect of domestic civil unrest and homegrown terrorism is likely to increase.

Analysis

Implications for Pakistan

A statement from the Department of Justice said Fai defied the Foreign Agents Registration Act and tried to “falsify, conceal, and cover up material facts he had a duty to disclose in matters within the jurisdiction of Executive Branch agencies of the US government.” If found guilty, he can face up to five years behind bars.

Fai’s arrest is symbolic of the extent that the US can hurt Pakistan’s interests and standing internationally. It also adds to the pressure on Pakistan’s military and ISI and warns that if it fails to cooperate in the newly unveiled US counter terrorism strategy, what to expect from the US.

This arrest also reflects the US’s shift towards an acceptance of the Indian position regarding Kashmir: namely, that Pakistan is fomenting insurgency there and the influence of indigenous and historical grievances, as asserted by Pakistan, is minimal. In this vein, the US is also seen to be leaning towards the Indian and Afghan stance in relation to the insurgency in Afghanistan, which claim that the problems lie in the safe havens in Pakistan and the support received from the Pakistani establishment.

The US’s shift towards Indian and Afghani points of view have also been somewhat validated since the Osama operation and the arrest of a Brigadier and four majors in connection with it. Furthermore the US contends that there existed a support network in Abbottabad helping bin Laden hide. The statements made by nuclear scientist Abdul Qadir Khan recently, added weight to the argument that some people in Pakistani military were also involved in nuclear proliferation.

Implications for the US

The arrest is going to complicate the role of the Pakistan American community that has traditionally supported and lobbied for Pakistan’s Kashmir stand. The role of US Muslim community will also become further convoluted leading to more chances of home grown terrorism. One of the points of emphasis of the new US counter terrorism strategy envisions preventing such prospects.
At a larger level, there appears to be some quid-pro-quo occurring between Russian and US as it relates to different extremist groups. This dynamics seems to be a part of the larger reset of relations between the two.

In early June, Russia labeled Pakistan-based terror organizations Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and HuJI, and underworld don Dawood Ibrahim as financers of terror.
A comprehensive list of terror organizations was published by Russia’s government daily ‘Rossiiskaya Gazeta’ with the aim of alerting the general public and banks. The list also identifies Jamaat-ud-Dawa, headed by Mumbai terrorist attack suspect Hafiz Saeed, as working under cover for LeT. These developments would have pleased both India and US.

On the other hand, the US State Department’s designation of Caucasus Emirate as a terror outfit on May 26th was unexpected. US had earlier claimed tacitly that some of the militant groups in North Caucasus operating under the banner of Caucasus Emirate didn’t constitute a terror outfit, but a classic insurgency.

Politics aside, the activities of Muslim citizens, in the US and also in Europe will continue to be under intense scrutiny, and as more and more Islamic grievances become mixed up with politics and termed as terrorism, perceptions of Islamic world would continue to decline. Add to that the worsening economic woes and strengthening of the right wing elements, the prospect of domestic civil unrest and homegrown terrorism is likely to increase in Europe and America.

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