Khan, who has previously served as the 'president' of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) until August last year, was nominated as Pakistan's ambassador to the US in November

WASHINGTON: Three influential American lawmakers have demanded an investigation into allegations that Masood Khan, who has been confirmed as Pakistan's Ambassador to the US, has links with terrorist and Islamist outfits.

Pakistan last month said that the US government has approved the nomination of Khan as its Ambassador to Washington, days after a prominent US Congressman urged President Joe Biden to reject his diplomatic credentials and termed him a "bona fide terrorist sympathiser."

Khan, who has previously served as the 'president' of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) until August last year, was nominated as Pakistan's ambassador to the US in November.

In their letter dated March 9 to US Attorney General Merrick Garland, lawmakers Scott Perry, W Gregory Steube and Mary E Miller said that Khan's close relationship with domestic actors linked with the Pakistani regime remains a critical concern.

"It is vital to US national security that our government investigate any potential Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) violation with regard to Ambassador Khan.

"He clearly supports terrorists, and if this Administration is happy to provide him with a diplomatic visa, the American People deserve – at the very least – the due diligence from our government for a thorough investigation and answers," the three lawmakers said.

Stating that Pakistan has an exhaustive history of using US actors as agents of their government, the three lawmakers noted that in 2011, Virginia activist Ghulam Nabi Fai was charged by American prosecutors with serving as a secret agent of the Pakistani government.

"Fai pleaded guilty and admitted to extensive contact with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). It emerged that the ISI had transferred USD 3.5 million to Fai and his organisation, the Kashmiri American Council," they said.

Following his release, Fai became involved with a new outfit, the World Kashmir Awareness Forum, and set about forming a partnership with Masood Khan.

In May 2018, Fai's group hosted an event in DC to highlight alleged “Indian atrocities” in Kashmir – an event where Masood Khan was the keynote speaker, they wrote.

In addition to continuing his pro-Pakistan work, Fai also appears to be a close representative of the Turkish regime, serving as a board member of a leading regime entity named the Union of NGOs of the Islamic World (UNIW), an alleged front group for the Erdogan regime's paramilitary group, SADAT, according to the letter.

Leading a delegation of American Islamist 501(c)(3) organisations in 2018, UNIW and these US-based “charities” met with Masood Khan in his official capacity as “President of Pakistani Kashmir”; this meeting included representatives and proxies of violent Kashmir-based Islamist groups, the letter said.

“Masood Khan also has also been tied closely to Pakistani efforts to marginalise India in the United States.

“Even as Friends of Kashmir hosted an event with two operatives with ties to Lashkar-e-Taiba in 2017 (the US-designated terrorist group which carried out the deadly 2008 Mumbai attacks in which 166 people, including Americans, were killed), Masood Khan continued to meet with the head of Friends of Kashmir on a regular basis, with social media posts highlighting several meetings at Mr.

Khan's residence in Pakistan,” the three lawmakers said on the letter.

Khan has also worked with groups such as the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA), whose subsidiary, PAKPAC, has worked closely with Friends of Kashmir. APPNA itself has been described by Imran Khan as Pakistan's “most powerful” lobbying group in the United States, they said.

“In addition, while Masood Khan was 'President of Azad Kashmir', a registered 501(c)(3) organisation called Helping Hand for Relief and Development (HHRD) repeatedly enjoyed praise from Khan and his office, which declared its commitment to "cooperation" with the HHRD11 – even after the US Congress raised concerns about HHRD's open cooperation with designated terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba,” the letter said.

HHRD is a subsidiary of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), which Johns Hopkins University Professor Vali Nasr has identified as one of the eight major branches of Jamaat-e-Islami, an international Islamist movement responsible for genocide during the 1971 Bangladeshi War of Independence.

In 2019, the organiser of an ICNA/HHRD fundraiser was convicted of lying to the FBI as part of a terror finance investigation, they wrote.

“Given the Ambassador's unusual closeness to the aforementioned Islamist groups, we request an investigation into the nature of Mr Khan's relationships with them,” the lawmakers demanded.

The delay in the appointment of Khan as Islamabad's envoy in Washington had come at a time when relations between the US and Pakistan became frosty.

Washington looks at ties with Pakistan from the prism of its strategic competition with China, although Islamabad has repeatedly said that it was not part of any camp politics.