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Rahul Gandhi’s US contacts raise concern within security agencies

Top 5Rahul Gandhi’s US contacts raise concern within security agencies

New Delhi

‘Both the Indian American Muslim Council and Islamic Circle of North America are well-known arms
of the Pakistan deep state’.

The close involvement of two organizations—Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) and Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA)—in organising Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s recent 10-day visit to the United States has led to concern among India’s security brass. Both IAMC and ICNA are well known arms of the Pakistan deep state, something that ought not to have been missed by people who prepared the guest list and the itinerary of Rahul Gandhi.

Sources told The Sunday Guardian that apart from compromising Rahul Gandhi’s security, the fact that he was allowed to closely mingle with people associated with these two organizations had the potential to damage the perception surrounding him significantly among the intelligence agencies in India and abroad. Both these organizations, apart from being used by Islamabad, are also put into effect by other Western agencies to corner and damage India’s soft-power by raising fictitious issues, including that of minorities being unsafe in India.

IAMC and ICNA, contrary to popular perception, were put to use against India long before the present BJP government under Narendra Modi came to power. IAMC is headed by Rasheed Ahmed, who was executive director (2008-17) of Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA). IMANA’s Director of Operations, Zahid Mahmood, is an ex-Pakistan Navy official. IAMC had engaged lobbying firm Fidelis Government Relations (FGR) to lobby against India in Washington, DC. For their services, FGR was paid $40K between 2013 and 2014 alone by IAMC. FGR was also hired by Burma Task Force (BTF), another front frequently critical of India. BTF was founded by Shaik Ubaid, who gave $267K to FGR between 2018 and 2020 to lobby against India with the US Congress, among others.

BTF also hosted ISI agent Ghulam Nabi Fai, who was found guilty in 2011 by the FBI of concealing the transfer of US$3.5 million from the US to Pakistan and was a well-known lobbying agent for Kashmiri separatists at the behest of ISI. Fai has also been seen frequently with “human rights” activist Angana Chatterji. BTF, as per officials, is another front of ICNA. ICNA played a crucial role in blocking the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States in 2005.

ICNA’s earlier avatar was Halqa-e-Ahbab-e-Islami (HAI), which was set up in 1968. One of the convicts in the genocide of Bengali intellectuals in 1971—in the then East Pakistan and now Bangladesh—Ashrafuz Zaman Khan was associated with ICNA Queen’s Chapter New York. He was also one of the co-founders of the Burma Task Force.

ICNA’s alleged connection with Hizbul Mujahideen founder Syed Salahuddin has been the subject of several reports. In 2016, ICNA generated several headlines after it felicitated Motiur Rahman Nizami, the leader of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami and Al-Badr, who was responsible for the mass genocide of Bengali intellectuals during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. ICNA honoured him posthumously for his “Outstanding Contribution” to Islam and his role in the 1971 tragedy. IAMC also famously gave a platform to Dr Mohammad Siddiqui, the founder of SIMI.

Sources within the Indian security agencies told The Sunday Guardian that no one from Rahul Gandhi’s security details had reached out to them to get a background check done of the people and organization that he eventually ended up meeting in the US.

According to them, earlier such arrangements were done “informally” where the team member concerned would informally enquire about agencies’ input on the people and groups that Gandhi’s team wanted him to meet on such tours, but that informal system, too, was not active now. As per the security agencies, Rahul Gandhi was probably told about how these two organizations were vociferous critics of the present BJP government and hence they were needed to be made a part of his interaction.

However, this suggestion likely ignored mentioning the background of these two groups, whose links to Pakistan’s deep state is well documented not just by the Indian media but by other global media too. The Sunday Guardian reached out to Indian Overseas Congress and its chief Sam Pitroda, who managed this political tour and sought responses to whether they had done a background check of IAMC and ICNA and what role was played by these two organizations in Gandhi’s interaction.

No response was received till the time the report went to press. In a media release, the body had denounced allegations relating to Rahul Gandhi’s trip to the US, terming them as a “misinformation campaign” to tarnish the visit.

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