Former National Security Adviser Mahmud Ali Durrani,who was sacked after disclosing to media the Pakistani nationality of Mumbai attacker Ajmal Kasab,has said he had the written authorisation from the Prime Minister to speak on the evolving situation in the wake of the 26/11 strikes.
Durrani,a retired Major General who served as Pakistan’s envoy to the US and Military Secretary to former President Gen Zia-ul-Haq,also claimed that President Asif Ali Zardari had phoned him and ‘regretted his dismissal’ by Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani last week.
Gilani had said that Durrani — who was selected by Zardari for the post of NSA last year — was fired for his ‘irresponsible behaviour’ and for speaking on Kasab’s case without taking government into confidence.
However,Durrani told Pakistani newspapers that he was authorised by the Prime Minister in writing to speak on matters of national security and Indo-Pak relations,and it was his understanding that the Kasab issue was within this domain.
Durrani said a reason for his dismissal might be Gilani’s feeling that he was being ‘left out’ of the process for making key decisions.
Media reports have suggested that Durrani’s sacking was a fallout of differences that have recently emerged between Gilani and Zardari.
An official letter issued on the directive of the Prime Minister last month said only the National Security Adviser,Foreign Minister and Information Minister were authorised to speak on the ‘evolving situation’ in the wake of the Mumbai attacks,according to Durrani.
Durrani said it was ‘decided at the highest level,meaning the President,in consultation with the premier security agencies that it was in Pakistan’s supreme national interest to admit Kasab’s Pakistani nationality before others started harping on it,leaving Islamabad with no choice but to own up’.
Security organisations had briefed Zardari about Kasab’s nationality before Durrani talked about it.
Durrani said all stakeholders were taken into confidence before the statement on Kasab was made public and he “did not breach the confidence or the trust of the leadership.”
Durrani said he had no differences with the Prime Minister before his sacking and dismissed as ‘nonsensical’ media reports that top US officials had lobbied for his restoration.
“The Prime Minister had every right and authority to send me home,but the way he did it was not nice although otherwise he is a fine gentleman. I wish him success…The way I was sacked,I was painted as if I have committed a grave crime,” Durrani told ‘The News’ daily.
He also said “it was his strong commitment to have peace with India”. He had worked for this purpose in the past and would continue to do so,Durrani said.
Durrani also said he was anguished that certain elements had launched a character assassination campaign against him and were describing him as an ‘American agent’.
“My integrity has always been above board. Whatever I did,I did for Pakistan and I will keep doing so in future as well,” he said.
He acknowledged that he had strong links with top US officials but said such contacts were necessary for protecting Pakistan’s national interests.