Of the two spies who came in from the cold to write a book not penned by them, one could be back in the icebox. Lt. General Asad Durrani, once chief of Pakistan’s notorious Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), is in trouble. He danced a tango with ex-RAW head Amarjit Singh Dulat – who is in the habit of chronicling his years as a spy – and spilled ‘ISI-Beans’ that Indian journalist Aditya Sinha strung together with ‘Dulat Brand Chickpeas’ to write the highly revealing ‘Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace’, a book that has become must-read for ISI agents and wannabe spooks.
The book, which is a minefield on games played by Pakistani and Indian spooks, rattled the Pakistani junta. Result: The Army Cantonment that Pakistan is, Lt. Gen. Durrani faces a military court of inquiry. What’s more, Durrani cannot even run. ISI chief from 1990-92, Durrani’s illustrious name has been placed in the country’s ‘No Exit Control List’, which means he cannot step out of Pakistan till his name is cleared.
Officer and gentleman Lt. Gen Durrani might be but ex-Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who vomited the other day that Pakistan sent Kasab & Co., to Mumbai 2008 to carry out the dastardly attacks that killed 168 Indians, wants Pakistan’s National Security Council to meet and discuss Durrani’s transgressions. Not to be left behind, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) says anybody civilian and he would have been branded traitor. The general’s army contemporaries are also questioning his motives. In short, Lt. Gen Assad Durrani is the spook who has spooked Pakistan.
The blame for that should in part lie with AS Dulat. The ex-RAW chief not only likes to spill beans but also wants the world to know that he’s the one who spilled the beans! Every book on his exploits – which he doesn’t write but outsources – goes under his name. He’s the only retired spy who loves to see his name on the cover of a book on spies he doesn’t write. Sentences in an earlier book “authored” by Amarjit S. Dulat were also strung together by Aditya Sinha.
To get ‘Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace’ between the covers, ex-spies Dulat and Durrani met ex-editor-n-chief of a couple of national newspapers, Aditya Sinha, at safe and neutral venues where neither Pakistan nor India could get to them. Needless to say, the trio must have resorted to some ‘cloak’ if not the dagger methods to cover their tracks and presence, standard operating procedure for spies, and gangsters on the run.
The story goes of gangster-turned-politician DP Yadav, of how he went on the run in 1992 – during the time Durrani was ISI chief – fearing an ‘encounter killing’ at the hands of the Ghaziabad Police. Not unlike Dulat and Durrani, he called a journalist and they met at a bird sanctuary in Haryana after the journalist went through a couple of tactical car swaps! The story written and reported, the then BJP government in power in UP was forced to come out and declare that there would no encounter-killing of Yadav!
DP Yadav went on to become a politician and a minister! But Durrani has no such recourse. If Dulat was in the dock for “authoring” the book, all of India’s news media would have been shouting freedom of expression and murder of democracy. The media in Pakistan has no such option, compulsion or qualms. Spy Dulat and spook Durrani are poor spies if they did not foresee such a reception to Spy chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace in Pakistan.
If Durrani was not “co-author”, he could have gotten away with “I’ve been misquoted”. But Dulat got Durrani to do a Dulat with Aditya Sinha! And now Durrani, who cannot get out of the book’s covers, cannot get out of Pakistan. If he can get his hands on his share of the royalty on the book is also suspect. Looks like publisher HarperCollins should commission another Aditya Sinha book: The Spy Who Went Cold! And this time with no Dulat on the cover.
News from Pakistan is that a serving Lt. General will be holding the court of inquiry and Lt. General (Retd.) Durrani may face some pointed questions. That’s because the book is full of “nuggets” on Kashmir, the 2008 Mumbai attack and the shenanigans of spies of both countries. The problem with spooks is that they love to play cloak and dagger but the daggers drawn are more often double-edged. To them spying is a game and “turning the other” is more important than sending the enemy on a wild goose chase, or into a dark ditch.
The book Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and Illusion of Peace comes at a time when Kashmir has been on the boil for months and the Hurriyat Conference – the brainchild of Durrani – is under attack in India for financing the cult of stone-throwing with funds from Pakistan. Dulat is a big votary of including the Hurriyat in the “Kashmir peace talks”. He also wants India to invite Pakistan Army Chief Gen. Qamar Bajwa to a tete-e-tete, give the Hafiz Sayed loving General a chance to explain Pakistan Army’s position on cross-border terrorism.
The spy book has spurred talk on the Modi Government’s handling of Kashmir. Surprise guests at the book launch were former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former Vice President Hamid Ansari. Both men favour resumption of talks with Pakistan. In fact, everybody prominent at the book release wants India to hold talks with Pakistan. From former NSA Shiv Shankar Menon to former external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha, who quit the BJP recently out of disgust at the way Modi operates.
Lt. Gen. Assad Durrani addressed the assembled guests at the book launch via video-conferencing because India refused him a visa. Now he’s facing a court of inquiry and is barred from leaving Pakistan. Maybe it is all a drama. Could be that the ISI knew all along about the book, even as it was being written. Maybe, Dulat wittingly or unwittingly, walked into a trap. Spies! They love to play games spooks play. It’s in their book written! Maybe, Sinha will one day write a book on how ‘Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace’ was written. Maybe.(IPA Service)