Wednesday May 22, 2024

Gen Durrani admits ISI's role in 1990 polls

By Zahid Gishkori
May 21, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Former spy chief Lt Gen (retd) Asad Durrani has admitted that the 'Political Cell' of ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) carried out a political assessment ahead of the 1990 elections. The former director general of ISI also admitted that the-then Chief of Army Staff General Mirza Aslam Beg was his boss and was in the know.

“[ISI] Political Cell was established by [Zulfikar Ali] Bhutto in 1975. It was recommendation of some board. A study was carried out for this. It is possible that the mandate and name was different but it carried out political assessment [ahead of 1990 polls]. DG ISI reports to PM as Chief Executive, President as head of the state/C-in-C and also briefs three chiefs [three armed forces]. COAS [Aslam Beg] was my boss,” Gen Durrani's startling revelations came as part of his statement to a team of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) probing the alleged distribution of estimated Rs148 crores among politicians to pollute the 1990 polls in the country.

Before this, Gen Mirza Aslam Beg claimed that he had vehemently warned the-then spy chief Gen Durrani against dragging the military into "political engineering" ahead of the 1990 polls. “I warned Durrani to be careful in handling of those [ISI] funds. After this, I never again discussed this matter with him [Durrani]. I gave him no names of politicians or the money to be distributed, because this was entirely his domain, and he was responsible to report to the president,” Gen Beg revealed in his written statement submitted to the FIA and the apex court.

Gen Durrani also admitted in the same affidavit that “ISI mandate is not assessing political scenario. They do carry our counter intelligence related to foreign issues. Assessment is not our mandate. Internal security situation as DG ISI. It was reasonable. Except for ‘maham’ in Karachi [in early 1990s].”

About two main accused — Younis Habib and Yousaf Memon — in Asghar Khan case who are accused of distributing millions of rupees among politicians, etc, Gen Durrani says, “I have heard about Younis Habib and met him in court. I do not have any information about Yousaf Memon. I do not think there was nomenclature (elections cell). There were certain people who worked on this. Roedad Khan was given mandate of accountability. Rafi Raza and Ajlal Zaidi were also involved.”

About other individuals who were accused of operating for that political cell, former DG ISI revealed that “I know Brig (R) Amanullah. He was in Quetta MI. I also know Lt Col (R) Eqbal Saeed Khan. He was in Rawalpindi GHQ. I do not now Lt Col (R) Ejaz. I know Lt Gol (R) Mir Akbar Ali Khan who was posted in MI Directorate. I also know Brig (R) Kamal Alam Khan who was posted in ISI when I was leaving ISI and I do not know much about him. I meet President [Ishaq Khan] once a month or after two months or as and when required.”

The ex-DG ISI further revealed that after retirement as in routine he was selected for Germany. It was after one year of retirement. It was in May 94, almost six months after Benazir Bhutto took over as prime minister, he noted in his statement submitted to the apex court. In his affidavit, Gen Durrani further revealed that “having recommended that the information be treated confidentially, I humbly submit to this honorable court that I am unable to comment on the contents of the affidavit in an open court because I am bound by the official secret act. I am of course prepared to answer your questions in your chamber or in camera proceedings.”

Elaborating the circumstances, he continued to reveal that in April 1994, there was a press release issued on behalf of Gen Beg that one Mr Habib and his community had donated Rs140 million and Mr Habib deposited this amount in the account of a government agency. It was later reported in the press that Gen Beg had further elaborated that the ISI had spent Rs60 million out of this donation for political intelligence prior to the 1990 elections, and put the rest in a special fund, he said adding, at that time he was heading ISI and Gen Beg confirmed to me that these statements had been given. “In May 1994, I took up my assignment as Ambassador to Germany. In early June 1994, I was contacted by Maj Gen (R) Nasirullah Khan Babar, the then interior minister who told me that a commission or inquiry had been constituted to ascertain the facts regarding Gen Beg’s statement. He also added that he had discussion with Gen Abdul Waheed, then COAS, who assured army’s cooperation. Gen Babar said that a FIA director was on his way to take my statement.”

The ex-spy master further revealed that FIA Director Rehman Malik on June 6, 1994 contacted him in Bonn and presented a letter from the FIA DG asking him for necessary details. “I talked to Gen Babar and pointed out that there were certain sensitivities of the case and he suggested that I could address a confidential statement to premier Benazir Bhutto,” added Gen Durrani. “I agreed. I wrote down a letter to the prime minister, providing the information. I also pointed out the implications that I believed were of sensitive nature and requested for discreet handling. Mr Malik came back from Germany after a few weeks. My statement had been typed out on a court paper and I was required to sign it for perusal by the commission. I was told that it had the approval of the chief executive and that the matter would be handled confidentially. I signed that prepared statement which was given to me by Mr Malik.”

Gen Durrani in his statement further revealed that for the next about two years, he heard nothing more on the subject till the press reported that Gen Babar had made a statement in the National Assembly referring to an affidavit that he said was given by him. Mr Malik made him sign the statement under special circumstances and he was given the assurance that the matter would be dealt with confidentially, added ex-spy chief.

“I do not know under what circumstances the then interior minister made the statement in the National Assembly. I was unaware about his intentions that are known to him. The affidavit was got signed from me on the understanding that it would only be used for the specific purpose — I am proceeding to Germany — and therefore unable to personally attend the proceedings,” concluded Gen Durrani in his affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court.