A case that exposes agencies’ failures

By: Ashraf Mumtaz      Published: 06:31 PM, 28 Jan, 2021
A case that exposes agencies’ failures

A former head of the country’s premier intelligence agency (ISI) wants to go abroad but he can’t leave the country because his name is on the no-fly list.

He moves the high court to have the ban removed, but the defence ministry opposes the petition on the ground that Lt Gen (retd) Asad Durrani’s name had been placed on the no-fly list for “his involvement in anti-state activities”. 

The ministry also alleges that the former general, who remained in the army for 32 years and served on many sensitive posts, had been interacting with “hostile elements especially Indian intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) since 2008”. 

There can’t be a matter of greater shame for the country, which is the only nuclear power of the Islamic Ummah. 

Former head of an intelligence agency, who is also a former general, involved in anti-state activities? Unbelievable. The very thought makes one shiver.

But when the allegation, or suspicion, comes from the defence ministry it has to be given due importance. It can’t just be ignored. 

Gen Durrani, now 80, had co-authored a book “The Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace” with former RAW chief AS Dulat in 2018. 

The defence ministry said that Durrani’s intention to travel abroad to participate in international conferences, forum and talk shows would have serious national security implications as was evident from the recently published book “Honour Among Spies”, which was also written by Durrani and “published through Indian publishers/RAW-supported elements”.

The ministry said that according to the existing law, such a person, who is accused of planning a conspiracy against the state, cannot leave the country.

The ministry urged the court not to remove former ISI chief’s name from ECL saying, “Durrani had submitted an affidavit committing to refrain from such activities, which is still not tangible.” 

Gen Durrani was the 10th director general of the ISI who wore the mantle of the most dreaded post from Aug 1990 to March 1992. This was the period when the PML-N ruled the country after the dismissal of Benazir Bhutto on a variety of charges. 

According to the procedure the ISI chief is appointed by the prime minister on the recommendation of the army chief. 

The defence ministry’s reply on Gen Durrani’s petition raises many questions: What was the major consideration behind his appointment? Why it could not be detected that the man, whose primary job was to keep an eye on the enemy designs and inform the government so that necessary steps could be taken to thwart them, had the inclination to join hands with his counterpart of the enemy country?

Then, why the ISI could not detect in time that Gen Durrani was in touch with RAW chief Dulat and why it could not prevent the publication of a book which the defence ministry now says was reviewed from the security angle and according to the inquiry board its content was against the interests of Pakistan

If the ministry can now foretell that Durrani’s intention to travel abroad to participate in international conferences, forum and talks shows would have serious national security implications as was evident from the recently published book “Honour Among Spies”, which was also written by Durrani and “published through Indian publishers/RAW-supported elements”, why had the institution failed to get information about his contacts abroad then?

The argument that according to the existing law, such a person, who is accused of planning a conspiracy against the state, cannot leave the country appears weighty but it can’t cover up the failures of the defence ministry and the intelligence bosses witnessed in the case. 

A military court had stripped Gen Durrani of his pension and other benefits. However, he challenged the matter before the Lahore High Court and then told the judge that his pension had been restored.