Pakistani generals are reputed to be lucky. The more ambitious a general the better it is. Even gods conspire in their favor. Whenever in power, they seem to attract money and new opportunities. Today, Pakistan and its military would turn any other green with envy. Not only certain segments of the civil society are keen, as in the past, to build the military high command’s image as the ultimate savior, both friends and foe seem to help in boosting the institution’s image. So, its not odd for the former ISI chief Lt. General Asad Durrani to feel so smug and confident as he appeared to be during his interviews to the BBC and Al-Jazeera English in February 2015. With an Oscar and Nobel prizes to boost about, we now have other things to rejoice such as the economic corridor to be constructed by China. Soon pictures of the corridor with Chinese trucks will replace paintings of F-16s painted on the sides of buses and trucks.
But an even greater stroke of luck is in the form of Seymour Hersh’s story about American operation to kill Osama bin laden on May 2nd, 2011. While many have rubbished it as baseless, others consider it as conspiracy to damage Pakistan or threaten Chinese investment in the country. You may wonder how the OBL story, which says that Pakistan knew about the operation to kill him, is connected with Beijing investing in the country. The conspiracy against Chinese investment is the same logic that is used to argue that since India’s home minister stated that he had no clue of Dawood Ibrahim’s whereabouts, his lack of knowledge should automatically extend to LeT’s Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Hafiz Saeed. With such ministers India certainly has no locus standi on demanding legal proceedings against Mumbai attack suspects. Had it been the UPA government in India many a passionate anchors there would already have accused their own minister of being an agent for Pakistan’s intelligence.
Referring to the Hersh report, one wonders how has Pakistan media not noticed that it is a super-positive story that aught to clear any doubts people had about the military’s incompetence. It is the American that come out looking silly rather than GHQ, Rawalpindi. As the former ISI chief, who is used as one of the main sources of Hersh’s piece, said in February the world’s most famous terrorist was kept as quid pro quo at some later date. And like General Musharraf is supposed to have saved the country by cooperating excessively with the US after 9/11, Generals Kiyani and Pasha also turned visionary and cut a deal with Washington especially after the CIA got wind of bin Laden’s whereabouts. What is for sure is that whoever provided this information to Hersh was fairly sympathetic to Pakistan. According to the story, Pakistan kept OBL as a prisoner and he had little control over Al-Qaeeda operations during that period. The story suggests that the Obama administration lied and build a hype in killing an unarmed and ineffective terrorist, and didn’t even find anything worth its while. So, then it wasn’t such a bad idea after all for Pakistan to betray a spent force?
And this particular ISI chief is just amazing as everyone wants to talk to him – from the British and American to Indian. In fact, he is also one of the key sources of information of the first book about to be published on the ISI which will be the first of its kind (written by a German the book should be out on the stalls in August).
Many believe that this opinion piece is to build up interest in Hersh’s forthcoming book. But it seems he has other ‘partners in this crime’. The former ISI chief’s February interview appears to be part of this campaign as a disclosure was made in London by the retired general strongly suggesting that Pakistan did keep bin Laden (smart generals today know how to suggest things without being caught for doing so legally). Interestingly, such stories were being spread by military’s own sources even in 2011. The military was confronted with a catch-22 of whether to admit collusion or incompetence. It seems they opted for the former.
Logically, the story should result in a demand for a fresh inquiry into the Abbotabad incident to answer questions raised by Hersh. Not only that this will not happen but such demand will be touted as a RAW-driven conspiracy. Already, there is pressure on social media from strange accounts reminding people of lack of patriotism for questioning military on many recent developments. Notwithstanding problems one may have with some of the details, `Hersh’s story cannot be outrightly dismissed as illogical and a complete fabrication. It draws attention towards many facts such as how did American helicopters sneak into Pakistan? If we were to believe the air chief’s perspective that is recorded in the leaked version of the Abbotabad Commission report `9the only inquiry conducted by Pakistan) in which he claimed that since they were not supposed to watch out for threat from Afghanistan and so there was little radar cover, how about when the helicopter flew back with OBL’s body? Surely, someone picked up the noise generated by the helicopter crashing stones throw away from PMA Kakul? Or do we not monitor sensitive areas inside our air space? It’s a better idea to think that our generals were on top and had arranged all of that else many would think this is a re-play of generals sleeping while an attack was carried out across the BRB canal during the 1965 war. The story, however, makes one curious about his sources and especially how much was fed by Asad Durrani.
If wishes were horses one would like a detailed inquiry into the Abbotabad operation. Meanwhile, the echo of Pakistani sources is quite audible in Hersh’s story. For example, recently a Pakistan intelligence agency-friendly journalist was feverishly tweeting about Kiyani being investigated for corruption. Seems the source of the tweet and Hersh reference to Kiyani’s investigation are similar. In any case, Pakistan military has found another bad guy – after Yahya Khan and Ziaul Haq – its Kiyani who will be suspected and demonized for the future generations. Not that the investigation against him will go very far but many in command of the GHQ will come out looking bright and shinning in comparison. More important, the story will not be a dent in Pakistan military’s relations with the US, Europe or China. We have a luck general in charge.