Durrani defends himself on Kasab identity disclosure (Roundup)

January 8th, 2009 - 8:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Jan 8 (IANS) Saying he had done no wrong, sacked National Security Advisor (NSA) Mahmud Ali Durrani Thursday resolutely defended his move admitting that Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone terrorist arrested during the Mumbai mayhem, is a Pakistani citizen, even as the issue has served to bring into the open the deep fissures within the country’s top political leadership. “I’ve committed nothing wrong and had been authorized to issue statements on security issues,” Durrani told IANS but refused to elaborate how he came to know about Kasab’s identity.

The Pakistani media, meanwhile, went to town Thursday on the former NSA’s dismissal, saying it not only pointed to the cracks in the country’s leadership but also to the lack of coordination between different government departments.

A source close to Durrani said he made the statement on Kasab after consulting President Asif Ali Zardari. Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar denied this, saying: “All advisors and ministers are under the prime minister, and Durrani had no consultation with the president.”

A retired major general, Durrani declined to speak further on his sacking, saying he would do so only after receiving written orders about his dismissal. Asked whether he had met or telephoned Zardari, he did not reply.

Durrani has held key positions since the late 1970s when with Pakistan’s help, the US started resisting the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan. Durrani was military attaché in the US and was later military secretary to then military dictator Gen. Ziaul Haq, who died in a mysterious plane crash in 1988.

Zia’s son Ejazul Haq was quoted as saying on Express TV that it was Durrani who had insisted his father to go to Bahawalpur to witness a new Pakistani tank. Zia died when the aircraft crashed soon after taking off from Bahawalpur on the return flight to Islamabad.

The events relating to Kasab’s identity began unfolding late Wednesday afternoon with Durrani telling private Indian TV channel CNN-IBN that the captured terrorist was indeed a Pakistani national.

Later, other media outlets also ran the same story and attributed it to a Pakistani official, who in reality was Durrani himself.

Subsequently, foreign office spokesman Muhammad Sadiq was quoted as saying the same thing. Information Minister Sherry Rehman also sent text messages to this effect to several journalists.

Late Wednesday night, it was announced that Durrani had been sacked for not taking Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani into “confidence” and for “embarrassing” the country with his revelations.

As expected, all English dailies front-paged the development but only one chose to comment editorially.

“Weak coordination leads to Durrani’s sacking”, The Nation said in its report.

Quoting sources, it said Durrani was sacked for his “controversial statements” to the Indian media about Kasab’s identity.

“His disclosures created a lot of confusion about Pakistan’s stance on Mumbai incident,” The Nation said.

“Sources further said that more heads could roll in the days to come as consequence of these developments… (the) confession (on Kasab) dealing severe blow to the image and credibility of the PPP-led coalition government,” The Nation reported.

“Indiscretion cost Durrani his job,” said the headline in the Dawn.

“The late-night decision by Prime Minister Gilani to sack the highly influential member of his cabinet immediately sparked speculations about growing fissures within the ruling party, and perhaps among the various pillars of the establishment on the handling of crucial and sensitive matters of national security,” the Dawn said.

The News headlined its report “National security adviser sacked”, with the sub-head: “Mehmud Durrani accused of keeping PM in the dark on Kasab issue; confirmation of Mumbai gunman’s Pak nationality leads to fiasco”.

In an editorial, The News said the manner of Durrani’s sacking had revealed cracks in the top echelons of the country’s leadership.

“Some very serious differences at the highest level in Islamabad had been spectacularly laid bare within the space of a few hours,” The News said in the editorial, headlined “Cracks at the top?”

The timing of the editorial was also highly unusual because English newspapers in Pakistan normally take up to 48 hours to comment on an event.

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