Monday, March 8, 2021

Former ISI chief Asad Durrani in touch with RAW since 2008: Pakistan

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Pakistan’s defence ministry on Wednesday opposed former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt Gen (retired) Asad Durrani’s efforts to get his name removed from a no-fly list, saying he had been interacting with India’s external intelligence agency since 2008.

Durrani has faced problems from Pakistan’s military establishment since he co-authored the book The Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace with former Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) chief AS Dulat in 2018. The government put Durrani on the Exit Control List (ECL) and the military stripped him of his pension, allowances and other benefits.

The former ISI chief had petitioned the Islamabad high court to get his name removed from the ECL but the defence ministry told the court in its response on Wednesday that his name was included in the no-fly list because of “his involvement in anti-state activities”.

The ministry said Durrani’s book contained material concerning Pakistan’s national security that was in “contravention of the provisions of the Official Secrets Act, 1923” and that there could be more publications “supported by hostile elements which contains content to create misperception, confusion, question marks against the top leadership circles…and to target the common people”.

The ministry further said Durrani was “affiliated/interacting with hostile elements, especially Indian RAW, since 2008. It contended that Durrani had submitted an “affidavit committing to refrain from such activities” but this was “still not seen in tangible terms”.

Placing Durrani’s name in the ECL was not “malafide nor without jurisdiction” and hadn’t infringed his fundamental rights, the ministry argued. It also argued that the freedom of movement and speech were “subject to reasonable restrictions…in the public interest and integrity, security or defence of Pakistan”.

The ministry said Durrani’s name couldn’t be removed from the no-fly list because inquiries were still being conducted against him. It said he wanted to travel abroad to participate in conferences, forums and talks that will have “serious national security implications” as was evident from his latest book Honour Among Spies, which was published “through Indian publishers/RAW supported elements”.

After The Spy Chronicles was published in 2018, Pakistan’s Military Intelligence had asked the interior ministry to put Durrani’s name in the ECL. Durrani had challenged the move in the Islamabad high court in 2019.

Durrani’s petition is expected to be heard again by the high court in the second week of February.

In 2019, the Pakistan Army had said Durrani was found guilty of violating the military’s code of conduct. A military court later stripped him of his pension and other benefits. Durrani challenged this order in the Lahore high court. He informed the court last October that his pension had been restored.

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