Fai’s guests may not have known, but we did (Sunday Guardian)
By M D Nalapat
In this May 2007 photo, Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai addresses a news conference in Muzaffarabad. Pti
t last, we know the truth, courtesy of the Delhi police. This superb force, which has about the same standards as their counterparts in Mumbai, have identified Suhail Hindustani as being even more passionately committed to the nuclear deal than Manmohan Singh. So committed that he somehow managed to conjure up vast sums of cash in order to entice select MPs into voting for the deal. This passion for the mysteries of the atom had been kept well hidden by Hindustani, perhaps even from himself, till 2008.That year, he outed himself spectacularly, working hard to ensure a result that gave the UPA government much relief, of course without any involvement of political planners and parliamentary Mr Fixits in the Congress party and its Sancho Panza, the Samajwadis. We have the results of the painstaking investigations done by the Delhi police to convince us that Hindustani and Saxena acted on their own, much as A.Q. Khan did when he set up an international bazaar for nuclear technology and materiel. The authorities in Pakistan carried out a detailed investigation into Khan's operations, and reached the conclusion that he had absolutely zero help from the military or civilian authorities in Pakistan. The redoubtable scientist was able to command state aircraft, diplomatic facilities and the nuclear establishment at will, clearly by resort to magic.
Not that Saxena and Hindustani may, in their prison cells, feel lonely for much longer. Now that he has been denuded of the cover provided by the Samajwadi Party, it is entirely likely that the suave Amar Singh may play the part of the "lizard's tail", exactly as Suresh Kalmadi appears to have done in the Commonwealth Games scams. The decisions that cost the country hundreds of millions of euros could not have been taken by merely a Kalmadi. However, none except him has been held accountable. He seems to have acted as a cork on the bottle, preventing the genie of full disclosure from ever spilling out. If Sohail Hindustani lacks the gravitas to play that role in Nucleargate, Amar Singh will be made to step forward, and into jail. As in the case of the Commonwealth Games scams — repeat scams, plural — or the 2G depredations, first small and later medium-sized fish will get sacrificed to save the sharks who actually gave the orders for the loot. In the case of Nucleargate, it strains credulity to believe that a Hindustani or even an Amar Singh acted on his own, minus a support system provided by the beneficiaries of the outcome of the confidence vote.
Of course, we have it on record from the principal functionaries of the Congress party and its allies in pushing through the nuclear deal that none of them was even remotely aware of the antics of the Saxenas and the Hindustanis. And we must take their word for it, exactly as we must the oath of the national capital's more venerable editors, that they had "absolutely no idea that Ghulam Nabi Fai worked for the ISI". If, instead, they had been open about the fact that it has been known at least from the mid-1990s that Fai was an "agent of influence" of the ISI, and that this fact did not seem weighty enough to prevent them from accepting his hospitality, his diatribes against India and his scripted resolutions on Kashmir, because they were non-official citizens of a presumed democracy, they would have been entitled to far more respect than their plea that they were ignorant of the sponsorship details of the conferences attended by them. In the interests of transparency, let it be revealed (to those unfamiliar with the internet) that this columnist himself has been writing a regular column for a Pakistani newspaper, the Pakistan Observer (pakobserver.net), which is particularly influential with that country's Punjabi constituency, including the many stalwarts from that province who serve in the Pakistan military, including in the ISI. If he were to now claim that he has been unaware of the provenance, the readership and the views of this newspaper, he would be a liar.
Sadly, despite his many articles on Kashmir (some of which were a wee bit different from the perspective peddled by Mr Fai), this columnist was never invited to the many soirees graced by more illustrious compatriots. Those invited were presumably far more "reasonable" than this columnist has ever been, and favoured futures for Kashmir that approximated the views of that champion of non-elective democracy, the Hurriyat Conference. A journalist is a bit like a cabaret artiste, in that he has to bare his views, the way the cabaret star bares her body.
ven a cursory examination of those views would show exactly why this columnist went uninvited. Ghulam Fai needed live Indian bodies that could be showcased around Washington as evidence that "Indian public opinion" favoured the surrender of Kashmir, so as to give oxygen to the many busybodies in the State Department, the Pentagon and the CIA who wanted their country to lean far more heavily on India to make unimaginable concessions on Kashmir. To entice these Indian fellow-travellers, Fai was willing to splurge on air tickets, hotel stays and much, much more. It is a pity that not one of the many distinguished names on Fai's guest list seems to have any inkling of whether Fai was a male or a female, a liberal or a conservative, or indeed a human being or a ghost. He was, in Donald Rumsfeld's words, a "Known Unknown".
It is no crime to attend a conference, if one is a private citizen. It is, however, a shame when practitioners of what ought to be a profession of the brave act in a craven manner and trot out that old chestnut of an excuse, "We did not know!" Well, the rest of us do.