What can be better than a book written by a spy chief? A book by two spy chiefs. Make that a book by two spy chiefs from India and Pakistan! Even if this riles the powers that be, not only is the prospect tantalising but also guaranteed to make publishers and readers salivate. So is the case with The Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace, authored by former head of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, Asad Durrani, the former chief of India's Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), AS Dulat, and journalist Aditya Sinha.
The book is making heads turn, and has not gone down well with authorities in Pakistan. Earlier this week, the Pakistan military barred the 77-year-old from leaving the country while a court of inquiry, headed by a three-star general, investigates whether he violated the military's code of conduct by writing the book.
It is unprecedented in Pakistan's history that a former chief of the secret service agency is under investigation. Durrani is under a cloud given the book's revelatory material. Now retired, Pakistan Army's Lt. General Ghulam Mustafa tells Murtaza Shibli why Pakistan's response to Durrani and the book is not an overreaction. The highly-decorated officers says that Durrani shouldn't have written thee book and that he likely holds a grudge towards the Pakistan Army for pushing him to retire from the services. Excerpts from the interview:
This book (The Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace) has created quite a controversy in Pakistan. What is your take on it?
I feel this book should not have been written for two reasons. First, in any official position, whatever comes to one’s knowledge is the state property, and an individual has no right over it. Second, the book has released at a time when Pakistan is in the grip of a vicious hybrid war. We are being destabilised, and India is playing a major role in it. I am personally pained that a Director General of the ISI has collaborated with a person from R&AW, which is responsible for a lot of our problems.
Some people are saying the Pakistani Army has overreacted?
I don’t think so. Currently, our Army is fighting on several fronts – both internally and externally. We are fighting against terrorism that is being fomented from Afghanistan and India, and also some of our own people are supporting our enemy. Don’t forget that very recently former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif came out with a slanderous statement that implied as if the Pakistan Army was responsible for the terrorism in Mumbai. In this backdrop, one has to appreciate and understand the sensitivities of our Army.
What is the feeling among the retired personnel?
They are all angry and hurt. I talked to several of my former colleagues and everyone has condemned Durrani for his breach of trust and amateurish behaviour.
Has Durrani violated any rules?
Yes, I think so. He has violated a number of rules. Even after 25 years of one's employment in the Army, if one comes into contact with the people from an enemy state, one has to inform the Army and take them on board*. For a book venture such as this, one must get a clearance from the General Headquarters (GHQ). I’ve been retired from the Army for 14 years now. If I write something, I will have to get it cleared from the GHQ first.
General Pervez Musharraf also wrote a book while he was serving in the Army. Also, General Shahid Aziz wrote a tell-all book about Musharraf’s coup as a participant-observer. How did they reconcile with these rules?
General Musharraf submitted his manuscript to the concerned agencies within the Army. Only when it was cleared, was the book published. There were some issues with General Aziz’s book, but I'm unaware of the details. What I know is that he was censored for some observations and lost quite many of his contacts (sic) within the Army because people did not like certain things in his book.
What are your comments about the book?
I have a few observations. First, AS Dulat is a thoroughbred intelligence man who started his life as a spy on the field and progressed through the ranks, working for the two top Indian intelligence agencies – IB (Intelligence Bureau) and R&AW. In comparison, Durrani, by his own admission, was thrust into the job. He had to learn the ropes while on the job. Also, he was the head of the ISI just for one-and-a-half years.
Second, Dulat worked in Nepal, one of India’s important intelligence outposts, for six years. In the book, he sums up his life in Nepal in one-and-a-half paragraphs, and all he talks about is cricket. In comparison, Durrani, despite working for only 18 months as the DG (Director General) ISI, seems to be talking endlessly, and his utterings have hurt Pakistan’s basic narrative. It appears that Durrani is being played and Dulat is acting as a catalyst to lead him. These are old and classic intelligence tools and techniques, and it is quite visible.
Another thing that struck me is that Aditya Sinha claims that what has been presented in the published form is half of what was actually said. I am very keen to know what is not being published, and if it would be kept for some other time to kick up more dirt at an opportune time.
How is the book being perceived in Pakistan?
It has raised many suspicions, perhaps more so because of its timings. It is the election time and there are international efforts to drag Pakistani Army into controversies, and this book serves it well. Besides, Nawaz Sharif is using it for his own political mileage. Now Rana Sonaullah, another leader from his party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN), is also speaking on behalf of Sharif to maximise their efforts to tarnish the Army's image. This is not helping Durrani’s cause and is provoking more negativity around the book.
Comparing Dulat and Durrani, what would you say?
Dulat doesn’t say anything substantive. That is his beauty and one must appreciate his team for that. In contrast, Durrani is quite expansive and pretty loose-tongued. Apparently, Durrani has breached the trust of his country, of his people and of course the Army. Some people do support him and his side of the story, but they are few and far in-between. Also, most of these people have vested political interests. The book supports the Indian narrative and interests. I have no doubt this is part of an Indian gameplan, and Dulat is actively participating in it.
Some people in Pakistan say that Durrani nurses a grudge against the Army?
That could be the case. I don’t know. It is true that he was forcibly retired from the Army because he was attending political meetings of the Pakistan People’s Party while he was the commandant of the National Defence University. So it is possible that he might have a grudge. I personally know him as a professional soldier and a deep man, but we haven’t met for nearly 10 years. To his credit, I must say that he has previously defended Pakistan’s standpoint on several occasions internationally.
What might have transpired at the GHQ when Durrani was summoned earlier this week?
It is probably for the first time that a former ISI chief is being investigated. It is clear that his meeting did not go well. That is why a court of inquiry has now been constituted under a serving General. The future of Durrani depends upon this inquiry and hangs in balance.
(* Durrani retired in 1993)