The Pakistan Army has ordered an inquiry into a former spymaster who has co-written a book that says Osama bin Laden was handed over to the United States.

The army has asked the government to block Lieutenant-General Asad Durrani, a retired spy chief who headed the ISI in the early 1990s, from leaving the country because of revelations in a book he co-wrote with Amarjit Singh Dulat, a former head of the Indian intelligence Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).

A range of controversial issues are raised in ‘The Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace’, but the most sensational is the claim relating to al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

“The ISI probably learnt about OBL [Osama bin Laden] and he was handed over to the United States according to a mutually agreed process,” Durrani wrote.

“The denial of any role [by Islamabad] was because cooperating with the United States to eliminate a person regarded by many in Pakistan as a “hero” could have embarrassed the government,” he wrote.

This contradicts the official position of Pakistan that they only learnt about the US raid on bin Laden’s compound in the city of Abbottabad on May 2, 2011, after it occurred, despite the fact his secret residence was close to an army academy.

The army has ordered an inquiry into the matter and put Durrani on the Exit Control List to bar him from leaving Pakistan.

Sources have told Asia Times the army will investigate whether or not Durrani has violated the Military Code of Conduct. That means he could face a court martial.

In fact, insiders have said there are many claims in the book that could make Durrani liable for stringent action.

Spy Chronicles 1
The cover of the book ‘Spy Chronicles’. Photo: Courtesy Twitter

There is also a suggestion that the Pakistan Army under then chief Pervez Musharraf initiated the Kargil War without getting civilian leaders on board.

Duranni and his co-writers also claimed that the ISI fueled militancy in Indian-administered Kashmir. All of these matters could see the former spymaster prosecuted.

Other sensitive matters could also create problems. They include his views on self-confessed RAW spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, whom he anticipates will be returned to India – and used as a tool to shame the Pakistani government, or the fact that he underplayed Indian involvement in Balochistan.

Jadhav was allegedly picked up at the Iran-Pakistan border last year. He is a former Indian Navy officer who has been charged with spying by Pakistan.

Pakistani military sources have said that in addition to allegations in the book, a major concern for sections of the leadership is the timing of its release – and whether it was politically motivated.

“It’s too much of a coincidence for the book to be released immediately after [former prime minister] Nawaz Sharif’s comments on the Mumbai attacks, and just two months ahead of the elections,” a senior military official told Asia Times. “Nawaz is India’s guy, who they’d want to protect. And just like his statements, this book – which regularly talks up Nawaz Sharif – appears to be nothing more than a blatant attempt to malign the Pakistan Army,” he said.

While Lieutenant General Durrani is all praise for Nawaz Sharif in The Spy Chronicles, describing his government’s decision to go ahead with the 1998 nuclear tests as “brave” and clearing him of any knowledge or involvement in Kargil, the former PM himself has taken issue with the book.

Sharif wants the National Security Committee to meet and discuss  Durrani’s book, like the NSC did after he made comments about the Mumbai attacks.

PTI wants him court-martialled

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Tehik-e-Insaf (PTI), a party believed to have the military’s backing to outdo Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in the upcoming elections, has suggested that Durrani should be court-martialed.

“He is liable to be court-martialed,” PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry said while talking to Asia Times. “But just like Durrani we also want the GHQ to summon Nawaz Sharif to take strict action against him for similarly violating his oath [in his comments about the Mumbai attacks].”

Security analyst and military scientist Ayesha Siddiqa, author of Military Inc.: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy believes Durrani’s comments have “neutralized” Sharif’s remarks, which sparked criticism that has been simmering for recent weeks.

“In the war of narratives, the way people reacted to [Durrani’s] book neutralized the anti-Nawaz rhetoric,” she told Asia Times. But Siddiqa believes no action will be taken against Durrani. “I think the faujis [soldiers] got nervous given the reaction,” she said.