Pakistani Ex-Spy Chief Faces Inquiry Over Book With Indian Counterpart
Posted May 29, 2018 9:59 p.m. EDT
Updated May 29, 2018 10:04 p.m. EDT
NEW DELHI — At a packed house for the release of the book “The Spy Chronicles” in New Delhi last week, the former Pakistani intelligence chief who is co-author of the book jokingly thanked India’s government for denying him a visa to attend the event.
“By denying me the visa, they saved me from the wrath of our hawks at home,” Asad Durrani, a retired lieutenant general who led Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, in the early 1990s, said in videotaped remarks sent to the audience in New Delhi from Pakistan.
That was wishful thinking.
On Monday, Pakistan’s military barred the former intelligence chief from leaving the country and ordered an investigation into whether he violated the military’s code of conduct by writing the book. If charged, Durrani could face jail time.
Durrani wrote “The Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace” with A.S. Dulat, the former chief of India’s intelligence arm, the Research and Analysis Wing, or RAW. They were India’s and Pakistan’s top spy chiefs while both countries, archrivals that have fought four wars since independence, raced to become nuclear powers.
The book is set as a dialogue between the former chiefs, where they expound on topics like the U.S. raid to capture Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and whether the presidency of Donald Trump is good for their countries.
In Durrani’s opening remarks by video chat last week, he described the book as an effort to get India and Pakistan talking again, to forge peaceful solutions to the seemingly intractable conflicts that consume the nuclear-armed countries.
On Monday, the spokesman for Pakistan’s Army, Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, said that Durrani had been placed on an “exit control list” and that a court of inquiry, headed by a three-star general, would investigate whether the spy chief had violated the military’s code of conduct.
Dulat said of his co-author’s predicament: “This is very, very unfortunate.”
“What we said in this book was that madness in between India and Pakistan should end,” he added. “But I think madness in Pakistan needs to end first.”
Both former spy chiefs have continued to be part of back-channel diplomatic meetings between India and Pakistan.
Although the book was released in India last week, it is still not available in Pakistan, but has gone viral in a PDF format shared over WhatsApp.
The views Durrani espouses in the book have raised eyebrows in Pakistan, criticizing both civilian leaders and the military, revered inside the country.
The former intelligence chief claims in the book that the Pakistani military knew ahead of the 2011 U.S. raid to capture and kill bin Laden and had received a payment for its cooperation, while feigning surprise. Pakistan’s official stance — and the Americans’ — has been that Pakistani officials learned of the raid only after it took place.
“For political reasons, I said it will not go down well in Pakistan that we cooperated with the United States to eliminate someone many Pakistanis considered a hero,” Durrani said of the raid on bin Laden’s compound, explaining why he thought the government denied prior knowledge of the operation.
Other statements made by Durrani include Pakistan’s role in fomenting popular unrest in Kashmir, the disputed Himalayan region that is claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan. Officially, Pakistan has always maintained that it supports the population in Kashmir morally and diplomatically and denies any role in the armed, anti-India insurgency in the disputed region.
India, however, has directly accused Pakistani military intelligence of long supporting militancy in Kashmir and the attack by Lashkar-e-Taiba militants that killed more than 160 people in Mumbai in 2008.
While Durrani has received sympathy in India for the scrutiny he now faces, in Pakistan, he has been criticized.
Several Pakistani civilian leaders have questioned Durrani’s actions and statements attributed in the book. Raza Rabbani, an influential opposition senator, said during a Senate session last week that any civilian teaming up with an Indian would have been quickly branded as a traitor.
“It is shocking that on one hand Pakistan and India relations are at an all-time low and on the other hand, former spy chiefs of both the countries are teaming up to write a book,” Rabbani said.
Adeeb Z. Safvi, a retired Pakistani navy captain and defense analyst, said Durrani had shunned protocol by publishing the book without getting it reviewed by security services first, as is the custom with many countries, including the United States.
It is rare for former powerful generals to be held accountable or questioned for their actions. Durrani also served as the director general of military intelligence and retired in 1993, but he has remained active in public life, having later served as Pakistan’s ambassador to Germany and Saudi Arabia.
For many Pakistanis, Durrani’s chumminess with his Indian counterpart was as problematic as his views.
At the book release event in New Delhi last week, Durrani referred to more peaceful times, before the countries were partitioned in 1947.
“In the good old days, I could have crossed, but I don’t think I’ll take the chance,” he said with a smile on his face.
The audience, which included Manmohan Singh, India’s former prime minister, chuckled. When the video of his prepared remarks was over, the audience clapped thunderously.
The Court of Inquiry’s proceedings will be closed to the public. It was not immediately clear how long the inquiry would take.