By Khaled Ahmed
On July 12, 2012, ex-ISI chief General (retd) Asad Durrani appeared on PTV and expressed his views in his characteristic reductive manner. Durrani cultivates gruffness as his trademark. In this, he is like a predecessor of his, General Mahmood Ahmad: the US is here in the region to stay to get to the oil and gas bonanza of Central Asia; and Pakistan has to deal with this as a threat to its security.
While Durrani delivered his rough wisdom, another retired spy boss, Hamid Gul, was in the Long March of the Difa-e-Pakistan Council, riding in an ego-boosting Land Cruiser, seeing cash worth lakhs of rupees being handed around on the way.
Hamid Gul has told the international press that he had sent his sons to be trained with the Haqqanis in the tribal areas. Barnett R Rubin in his book The Search for Peace in Afghanistan: From Buffer State to Failed State (Yale University Press, 1995) wrote that, in 1988-89, the 519-strong Afghan shura in Peshawar received 25,000 dollars per member as bribe from the Saudi intelligence agency, which spent 26 million dollars per week during the Peshawar session. The ‘deal’ was facilitated, according to Rubin, by Hamid Gul.
That year, Afghanistan’s ruler, President Najibullah, defeated the ISI-nurtured mujahideen in Jalalabad. Hamid Gul says he did not plan the Jalalabad operation, but an ISI officer, Brigadier S A Tirmizi, in his book Profiles of Intelligence (1997) stated that he had.
Like Durrani, Hamid Gul has been frequently clueless but speaks like a prophet on Pakistan’s security. He thought Aimal Kasi, who was executed for killing CIA agents in the US, was called a CIA agent by him. He had to admit that his plan to put together the IJI in 1990 to prevent the PPP from coming to power was wrong.
Our ISI geniuses were not only clueless; what is worse, they were usually ‘reverse-indoctrinated’. Hamid Gul never believed that Osama bin Laden had done 9/11; he was convinced that the Jews had done it.
Another ISI chief, General Mahmood Ahmad, was simply cowed by the charisma of Mullah Umar. Cathy Gannon in her book ‘I’ is for Infidel: from Holy War to Holy Terror, 18 Years inside Afghanistan (Public Affairs, 2005) tells the story. ISI boss Mahmood Ahmad was in Washington when Osama struck on 9/11. General Musharraf sent him to Mullah Umar to tell him to avoid being invaded by the US and surrender Osama.