Ex-intelligence chief barred from leaving Pakistan over explosive book

An explosive new book co-written by a former intelligence chief has caused an uproar in Pakistan, prompting authorities to bar the author from leaving the country while they investigate him.

The book, “The Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace,” was published by Harper Collins India and was released in Pakistan on Wednesday and published in India on May 23.

Asad Durrani, a retired Lieutenant General, was head of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the country’s powerful spy agency, from 1990 to 1992. He co-authored the book with A.S. Dulat, the ex-chief of India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) intelligence agency.

It’s made headlines in both countries — for the fact that two former spy chiefs from two rival countries joined forces to write it and revelations that include Pakistani intelligence being aware of the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden before he was killed in a 2011 raid by the United States.

The military said late Monday that Lt. Gen. Durrani would be placed on an exit control list that effectively prevents him from leaving the country and summoned him to ISI headquarters where “formal Court of Inquiry headed by a serving Lt. Gen has been ordered to probe the matter in detail.”

Lt. Gen. Durrani told CNN that he was not “speaking to anyone” on this subject.

The book also gives details on Pakistan’s intelligence presence in Indian administered-Kashmir and Afghanistan, both sensitive topics in the country.

Over reacting?

Prior to its release, many people in Pakistan had been sharing pirated PDF copies on social media and one bookseller in the capital Islamabad said that 300 people signed up for pre-sale copies.

“(There) has been no attempt from the state to prevent the book from being sold,” said Mohammad Abbas, a bookseller at Islamabad’s Saeed Book Bank.

Zarrar Khuhro, a Karachi-based journalist and talk show host, said the government was “overreacting” to the book’s claims.

“I have read the book and I don’t think anyone commenting or outraging over its contents have actually read the book.”

Islamabad based military analyst Hassan Askari Rizvi said that there is a possibility that Durrani didn’t attempt to get a green light from ISI to discuss sensitive intelligence material with a rival country’s intelligence head, a standard procedure for retired military and intelligence officials.

According to Durrani it’s this “disregard for checks and balances” that could land Lt. Gen. Durrani “in trouble.”

Asakari also told CNN that the current controversy was exacerbated since it came after an interview former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif gave to a local paper, when he criticized the military and the alleged use of proxy militant organization across the border in India.

“Militant organizations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? ” Sharif had told Dawn Newspaper earlier in May, Pakistan’s leading English daily, apparently in reference to the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that committed by 10 Pakistani men associated with terror group Lashkar-e-Tayyiba.

Critics said both men’s actions and statements show disdain for the security establishment in the country and their comments could compromise Pakistan’s national security.