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  • Writer's pictureSaleem Qamar Butt

Futile Controversy

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. ~

In the last seven days, I happened to go through two books; one, “A Promised Land” by Barack Hussain Obama, former president of the USA and second, “Honour among Spies” by Lieutenant General Asad Durrani (retired), former head of Pakistan’s Inter Service Intelligence. Although, both the books are poles apart in terms of the contents, subjects discussed, stature and experiences of both the writers, yet Obama’s book helps in demystifying the controversy or suspicion raised in General Asad’s book about killing of Osama Bin Laden (OBL) in Pakistan, perhaps the main and the only noticeable point in his book. With due deference to veteran’s portrayal of his ordeal that as per him he had to bear as a consequence of co-authoring a book with former Indian RAW’s chief A.S.Dulat, titled “The Spy Chronicles''; with some lofty common ideas to conceivably act as a bridge or backdoor facilitators for successful diplomacy at least at the intelligence level. The impact of the joint venture on the Indian policy makers under Modi regime both at political and diplomatic as well as at military and intelligence levels is the reverse of the projected intentions nevertheless.

Had there been no mention of his suspicion about OBL killing, I would have hardly remembered the book by general Durrani, which is projected as fiction by mere change of names of the real characters for fun or pun. However, as I went through Obama’s book soon after and read its last chapter, which is interestingly the self satisfying summit of his auto-biography, general’s misgivings based on unsubstantiated odd tactical pointer got adequately addressed. As a matter of fact, what has Obama written about taking out OBL, and talking to former president Asif ali zardari soon after culmination of the “Operation Neptune Spear”, and Chairman Joint Chief Admiral Mullen talking to General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani (retired), had already been covered in the earlier books, “The Great War of Our Time” by former deputy director of CIA Michael Morell and hinted at in “Obama’s Wars” by Bob Woodward as for complete manuscript of Obama’s book. That begs the question as to why a former Pakistani spy chief with a reputation as a thinking person and a thorough professional soldier would indulge in writing or saying something in public that could raise controversies or undermine the image of his former institutions and morale of the junior lot. I have personally held general Durrani in high esteem but having read his above mentioned book, was really at a loss. In his above stated book, the worthy general has given an impression of being the smartest and wittiest person who was confronted by very ordinary folks of his military clan, which tantamount to first generation cell phone claiming superiority on the latest versions or denial of natural process of human progression including intellect. In his interviews on international channels, he has been representing his country and institutions quite well minus his latest take in the backdrop of writing this book and subsequent interviews on some TV channels; I heard one at least on social media. Does the worthy general need more fame or fortune? In my opinion he needed none of the two as having already been blessed with everything that a human can dream of. Why would a seasoned and highly intelligent person like him then indulge in violation of service norms if not the rules and regulations? I leave it open ended. Incidentally, there are few books published these days and even fewer read those but follow up on controversial themes in electronic and social media adds up to fuelling the fire by the malevolent mafia and hostile forces.

On the contrary, as for Barack Obama’s chapter on OBL, which remained the most sensational part and highest achievement of his 8 years presidency on the war against terror front, many operational, tactical and intelligence details have been deliberately omitted for the sake of maintaining due masquerade on the months long covert and military preparations within Pakistan, Afghanistan and in USA that is as good as classic double cross on Pakistan military and intelligence cooperation in a multiple ways. However, Obama and his deep state remained remorseless in keeping Pakistani leadership in the dark as well as utter violation of Pakistani territorial sovereignty with absolute disregard to political and military ramifications for long held ally. How much effort must have gone on the intelligence front by CIA inside Pakistan by using declared and undeclared footprints including investing on moles and hiring local helpers during preparation, execution and post execution phases as well as for contingency plans is not hard to imagine for an intelligent mind. In my opinion, the discussions on the narrative of incompetence or complicity surfaced in the backdrop of the OBL killing and could by no means precede the debacle. Who would know better than a former head of a prime intelligence service that a thousand successes by intelligence services go unnoticed but one major or minor failure can cause unprecedented ripples; and this is true for all intelligence services of the world including CIA.

Above in view, if one was to do some service to the nation and institutions, then instead of creating qualms, it would have been more befitting to urge and support undertaking a deliberate postmortem of such a consequential failure, in order to apportion blame, punish defaulters, reconsider foreign cooperation memos and policies, and improve upon political, diplomatic, military and intelligence dexterity to avoid recurrence of such a grave letdown. As a matter of fact, incidents like Raymond Davis killing civilians on a busy road in Lahore, killing OBL in Abbottabad and martyring soldiers and officers on Silalah post in Mohmand border area in 2011 and terrorists’ attack on APS Peshawar 2014 and many more such tragedies--- all needed comprehensive investigations and follow up actions at all levels in every concerned field----it is never too late!

27 December 2020

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