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It may be plausibly argued that after Dawn Leaks and Nawaz Sharif's atrocious Mumbai attacks suggestion, retired general Asad Durrani's revelations in a book have created quite a stir. A former ISI and MI chief, who served as ambassador to Germany and Saudi Arabia, Durrani's name has been placed on Exit Control List for purportedly breaching the military's code of conduct by making highly unacceptable remarks through a book that he co-authored with former RAW chief AS Dulat.

A careful reading of this book makes it abundantly clear that both the former spymasters have, for obvious reasons, been economical with the truth. Durrani, however, appears to be highly knowledgeable, scholarly, philosophical, deft and impressive mainly because of a variety of factors. Although Durrani is a former soldier, diplomat and country's principal interlocutor on regional and global forums since his retirement in the early 1990s, he has been found to be prudence insofar as his remarks about Kashmir and Balochistan are concerned.

In the chapter Brotherhood to Rescue which tells its readers how a former RAW chief's IB background helped a former ISI chief. That was when Dulat and some intelligence colleagues rescued his son Osman in India in 2015. According to him, "more substantively, in 2003 a tip-off from the RAW to the ISI had saved General Musharraf's life". The question is: how could Durrani and any other former intelligence chief bring such information into the public domain? Isn't he unmindful of the consequences to a disclosure that RAW helped save a Pakistani army chief's life? Despite his seemingly liberal outlook, Durrani, however, has heaped praise on the late Lieutenant-General Hamid Gul, an ultra-conservative former DG ISI, who is the most infamous ISI chief in Indian eyes. He was to India what Ajit Doval is to Pakistan.

Durrani seems to have erred in his response to the question whether Pakistan army kept Osama bin Laden hidden. "At some stage the ISI probably learnt about it and he was handed over to the US according to a mutually agreed process. Perhaps we are the ones who told the Americans isko le jao, we are going to feign ignorance. If we denied any role, it may have been to avoid political fallout. Cooperating with the US to eliminate a person regarded by many in Pakistan as a 'hero' could have embarrassed the government." His opinion finds immense credence when he describes the then army chief, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, as his "most favourite student", telling the two other participants of the discussion that General Kayani had successfully avoided any encounter with him, lest he asked the former army chief's opinion about his [Durrani's] assessment of the bin Laden incident.

Durrani should not have lost sight of the fact that national interest takes precedence over any other consideration. What happened to Dr AQ Khan, the man who endowed the country with nuclear power, is a good case in point. And what constitutes the national interest in relation to national security is always determined by the security establishment. There is therefore no doubt about the fact that the conduct of General Durrani, who retired a quarter of century ago and therefore was neither privy to, nor cognizant of intelligence matters after his exit, was not guided by deep professional ethics.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2018

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