The second oldest profession

Published: May 29, 2012
The writer served as director-general of the ISI from 1990-92

The writer served as director-general of the ISI from 1990-92

And half as honourable, as someone rather unkindly added. After all, spying for one’s country, which has not infrequently washed the sins of many from the still older profession, cannot be all bad. Just look at the stakes. If nailed in hostile territory, one faced an uncertain fate. Even your own country might disown you, as well as the fact that in most lands the act carries the death penalty. All the same, there was some solace: one did it for the motherland. No salvation, however, if one was nabbed spooking for a foreign power; even it was the friendliest of all.

Israel is not just another US-friendly country. It can influence the foreign policy of the mightiest power in history, especially in the Middle East. What it cannot do is get its agents released from American prisons. Jonathan Pollard, a US citizen imprisoned in 1987 on charges of spying for Israel, still remains in the jug. The government in Jerusalem and their powerful allies in the US have tried all tricks, including ex post facto grant of Israeli citizenship, but to no avail. Another US national, Ghulam Nabi Fai, was asked to cool his heals for failing to declare funds, allegedly received from the ISI to carry out one of the most legitimate con jobs in the US: lobbying for assorted causes. (Hope our compatriots on foreign payrolls regularly submit their returns!)

So, why so much fuss over Dr Shakil Afridi! If he was involved in clandestine work on behalf of a foreign power, there was no way he could escape prosecution. If he did it for a common cause or for common good, that might have been relevant during the trial, or may make a difference in times to come. (Yes, there is always life after a trial, unlike in cases like Osama’s, where one is executed without even a formal charge.) I do not know if Afridi should have been tried by a jirga or in a court of law, under tribal decree or under the country’s penal code, but I do know that for him, it is not yet all over.

Espionage — like prostitution and war, and unlike politics — has been long enough in business to have evolved a working code of conduct (even a code of ethics). With hundreds of thousands of secret agents snooping all around the globe, a good number of them are very likely to land themselves in trouble. They are not only of great value back home, but are also a prize catch for the hosts. No doubt they would be made to cough out important information about their mission and more, but their real worth lies in their potential for a future exchange. Lest one forgets, the other side too was not solely relying on Peace Corps volunteers. I think Dr Afridi will get another chance to administer a polio vaccine; the next time in the Promised Land.

In the meantime, those who complain that his sentence, 33 years in jail, was too harsh for the crime committed — treason — may like to think again. It is of course possible that some of them also protested when a frail Dr Afia Siddiqui was charged with attempting to disarm a platoon of crack GIs, and sentenced to 86 years behind the bars. If she did in fact commit the act, she was either out of her mind and, therefore, unfit for a court trial, or a woman of great courage. In the UK, assuming that the British still retain some of the traits that helped them create the largest empire in history, a sporting judge would have bestowed upon her a Victoria Cross.

Now that we have owned the WOT as our war, we may also start owning up our heroes and swap them with theirs. It would be nice to award a Nishan-e-Haider to someone still alive, and a female at that!

Published in The Express Tribune, May 30th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (46)

  • Sane
    May 29, 2012 - 9:58PM

    Yes. US should release Jonathan Pollard, Ghulam Nabi Fai, Dr Afia Siddiqui and other muslim prisoners. then only lecture pakistan. US has no right in pak’s internal matter.


  • Haroon
    May 29, 2012 - 10:14PM

    Respect Sir,
    Having said that the people’s pointing fingers at the right wingers are as lost as the righties. Righties try and search for there roots in Arabs and the drone strike club( Pak liberals) are looking for there roots somewhere else ;)


  • Hammad
    May 29, 2012 - 10:18PM

    . May I ask where does Afia Siddiqui come into the equation?? What she did was against Pakistan’s as well as America’s interests. Don’t forget Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (AQ high up leader) gave her up to ISI. In ANY case, she was a US citizen who was accused of crimes against her own country, a country she had taken an oath to protect. Recommend

  • Ejaaz
    May 29, 2012 - 10:37PM

    Genreal Sahib, what crime has Afridi committed? The worst crime he has committed was go try to collect some swabs from a house in abbottabad for some money from CIA. The damage the punishment has done to Pakistan is going to be much much more and for a much longer time. No one in this land of ours give a damn about an ordinary person like Afridi. His brother and family will complain, cry and come to terms with it. How about the selling out of Pakistan that Generals of Pakistan have been doing?
    Who allowed all the Arabs, Uzebekis, Chechans, etc to come and live without visas in Pakistan? Who has allowed Drones to fly out of Pakistan to kill Pakistanis? Who allowed OBL to live in basically an army cantt. for five years? Who corrupted the political system by disbursing money to fix elections? The list is very long but who cares as long as a poor nobody who is trying to make a few rupees doing essentially no harm is given no trial, no lawyer, no chance to speak and sent in for 33 years. Recommend

  • Syed
    May 29, 2012 - 10:46PM

    The stupidity of the US does not justify the stupidly long verdict in Pakistan. The real charge should simply be working for a foreign govt. Treason is ridiculous. Period.


  • Rajendra Kalkhande
    May 29, 2012 - 10:54PM

    Question of trying Osama Bin Laden in a court did not arise as he never made himself available to any law enforcement agency. In technical terms he was an absconder. Absconder and the one who gives him refuge, both are criminals in the eyes of law. Only options in the law for such absconders is to catch them dead or alive. I suppose this is what Americans have done. Now coming to Dr Afridi’s case, I am very doubtful if Americans really care about his fate. He has already served their purpose and is not of much practical use. He is just a stick to beat Pakistan diplomatically. Trouble with Pakistan is that she is still living in the past whereas whole world has moved on. Pakistan is almost alone sitting alone and holding to the past. Even Afghanistan has moved past Pakistan now at least diplomatically.


  • DB
    May 29, 2012 - 10:54PM

    Tell us what facts do you have about what Aafia Siddiqui did that was against Pakistan? The only thing we know that she is possibly suffering from mental disease. We don’t even know for sure how she ended up in Afghanistan.

    And if you think that US court system is not stacked against any brown person even hinted of being involved with terrorism, you’re living in a fantasy land.


  • Maulana Tharra
    May 30, 2012 - 12:02AM

    General Sahab:
    What punishment would you prescribe for some famous past and current “illustrious” CIA collaborators which include, Zia, Akhtar Abdul Rehman, Pasha and last but not least someone named Lt. Gen (R) Asad Durrani but to name a few? How about same 33 years behind bars as dispensed to Dr. Afridi?Recommend

  • Maulana Tharra
    May 30, 2012 - 12:12AM

    General Sahab:
    Can you enlighten the world about your views on what punisment would you recommend for Pakistanis (both, in and out of uniform) who have been plying not only Second, but The World’s First Oldest Profession as well?Recommend

  • John B
    May 30, 2012 - 12:24AM

    Did not any one notice that the author alludes that she is an ISI spy?Recommend

  • Shahid
    May 30, 2012 - 12:29AM

    It looks like that Dr. Afridi is being victimized due to rage of some incompetent people in Pakistani establishment. They could not even notice that OBL living in their backyard and being lifted and now all the anger is on Dr. Afridi. Though Dr. Afridi committed an unlawful act by collaborating with some foreign secret service but at the same time his act helped in eliminating a dangerous fanatic who was responsible for murdering thousands of innocent people across the globe including Pakistan. Even Prime Minister of Pakistan announced that elimination of OBL was a result of some crucial information supplied by Pakistani secret services to CIA. This whole episode seems like some strange show of stupidity. My humble request to the elite: Please don’t alienate Pakistan from the whole world. It does not make any sense.


  • adeel759
    May 30, 2012 - 12:49AM

    At least now we know the Merits and Qualifications considered before the Highest Award, Nishan-E- Haider is granted: Just give it to someone every now and then.


  • Babar
    May 30, 2012 - 2:09AM

    A very well written article indeed.


  • Mirza
    May 30, 2012 - 2:10AM

    Even if (for the sake of argument) Afridi committed treason since when it is punished by 33 years in jail? There have been many instances of not treason but high treason by generals and judges in aiding and abetting breaking the whole constitution but none of them was ever punished or questioned. The hosting of OBL was not treason but unmasking his presence is?
    The spy we are talking about intentionally gave away nuclear and hi-tech secrets knowing full well it is treason against the US. Providing cotton swabs to the US cannot be compared to the professional secret agents stealing national secrets for foreign powers.


  • Khalid
    May 30, 2012 - 2:16AM

    A view into the mind of an ex-head of our premier intelligence agency. These people still harbour these delusions, thinking they are oh so clever and witty. They refer to themselves as the champions of strategic games. This article is nothing more than a rant that a moody teen would come up with, when his parents tell him not to hang out with certain “bad” people.


  • Cautious
    May 30, 2012 - 3:11AM

    So the author believes that giving a blood sample is the same as stealing national secrets and Afia Siddiqui should be given the Victoria Cross? Makes no sense to me but no doubt it’s a popular concept in Pakistan – might explain why your country is less popular than N Korea?


  • Imran Con
    May 30, 2012 - 4:49AM

    @John B:
    Uh oh, looks like the smart general should be in court for treason. At least there’s no confusion as to what he believes is supposed to be done to him for it.


  • Pawan Madhok
    May 30, 2012 - 5:37AM

    The position taken by Gen. Durrani would be consistent with that of any North Korean general faced with a similar situation. But of course, North Korea could care a whit if its people starve.


  • C. Nandkishore
    May 30, 2012 - 6:05AM

    But the Pakistani Generals are brave. They had to punish somebody. Therefore they went after an unarmed doctor. Not one word against Taliban who beheaded 15 Pakistani Soldiers this month. Well, they carry guns.Recommend

  • BlaaardyCivilians
    May 30, 2012 - 7:15AM

    “(Yes, there is always life after a trial, unlike in cases like Osama’s, where one is executed without even a formal charge.)”

    The author bickers over executing the worlds most notorious terrorist without a trial and then dismisses the question of whether sentencing Shakil Afridi under FCR was just/fair/constitutional.

    Then the author goes on to somehow include Aafia Siddiqui in his article (who has absolutely no connection to this particular case – and I should also mention that she was arrested in Kabul not in Pakistan).

    In fact, as long as we’re tossing in irrelevant names here how about I toss in Asia Bibi’s name? Why didn’t the good Lt-Gen speak up when she was being condemned to prison for a crime she did not commit?


  • Anonymous
    May 30, 2012 - 7:46AM

    @John B:
    Yes our hero and nishane hyder also!!!


  • observer
    May 30, 2012 - 8:26AM

    Gen Sahib is absolutely sure about two things.

    A. Dr Afridi’s guilt.

    In the meantime, those who complain that his sentence, 33 years in jail, was too harsh for the crime committed — treason — may like to think again.

    B. OBL’s innocence.
    unlike in cases like Osama’s, where one is executed without even a formal charge.

    Rest is just words.


  • May 30, 2012 - 8:50AM


    US pays your bills, helps Pakistan survive, they have every right to do what they are doing. Stop taking US’s money then there will be some truth to your argument.


  • Noman Vardag
    May 30, 2012 - 9:16AM

    Very well written and concise article even if many do not agree with his views and arguments. I have always enjoyed and appreciated his style; very clear thoughts, matter of fact, precise and concise. Dr. Afridi may not have committed treason but he was working for a foreign intelligence agency, which itself is a major crime. Others doing the same, including the uniformed and high ranking must also be punished.

    Mr. Durrani’s statements before the Supreme Court in the Mehran Gate Scandal Case are also in the same style. Mr. Durrani is serving the people and the country by telling us the truth, admitting the good, bad and the ugly. Mr. Aslam Beg is serving none, including himself, by denying the obvious and by insulting the intelligence of the Honorable Judges of Supreme Court and all Pakistanis by stating that he, as Army Chief, was unaware of what the ISI was doing in Mehran Gate Scandal and also had no control over it.


  • kakarie
    May 30, 2012 - 9:40AM

    Dr. Afridi is a typical used case scenario which British colonials & its brave Sepoys like this General so called Durrani have been applying for more than a century now. The British left a buffer zone for them & they filled this space with Jihadis. This General is on record that Jihadis are an asset & we have an oppertunity to exploit this advatage to have foreign policy acheievements. As a result the Margalla Hills overlooking Islamabad belong to General Durrani. But your time is up General, no more Molla monkey business, the world can tolerate or get ready to be tried in Hauge or unable to travel outside Pakistan.


  • saleem
    May 30, 2012 - 10:03AM

    The oldest profession is war , as all the historical or biblical books talk about the first human generation fighting for the reward before even prostitution

    What Dr Afridi was doing was to help nail any criminal, if it turned out to be biggest known , then he should be rewarded the greatest the country has Nishan e haider. The criminals are those who kept the biggest criminal as guest for years. So it should be these people who should be punished.


  • Abdullah Shah
    May 30, 2012 - 10:17AM

    General Saab, what a pity that most in your fraternity only have the guts to speak against those ‘bloody civilians’ but keep the lips tightly sewed together when it comes to far bigger crimes comitted by their own brethren. At best, Dr. Afridi is responsible for the killing of OBL and a few of his partners on that fateful day. Whose hands are stained with the blood of the 24 soldiers who were sacrificed as a result of the ‘amman ki ashaa’ with the US? What about the inumerable other soldiers who fell victim to the GWOT to which your one time eldest brother promised ‘unstinting support’?Recommend

  • A Peshawary
    May 30, 2012 - 11:05AM


    I bravo the General’s courage for writing something for public consumption even though he is a court attendee one one of all the cases mentioned you. I hope that somebody like Asghar Khan can bring out more court cases for the follies of others generals and most importantly are punished by the courts as swiftly as punishment being awarded to politicians.

    A Peshawary


  • Nasir Hussain
    May 30, 2012 - 1:42PM

    Gen: you and you team have been hiding OSAMA the terrorist from world. Dr Afridi helped world in searching the most wanted terrorist. Now decide who is hero and who should be punished? I think Afridi must be appreciated and those who have been helping OSAMA must be punished.


  • Parvez
    May 30, 2012 - 2:23PM

    Afridi’s crime was that he’s a civilian and a spy.


  • lutfullah
    May 30, 2012 - 3:55PM

    well done gen durrani the ex communists present day liberals enlightened are mobing over u but what u wrote is what the nation thinks


  • Nadeem
    May 30, 2012 - 4:10PM

    Looks like the general is trying to convince his constituency (army) that he is more loyal to it than general mirza aslam beg.


  • Shahid
    May 30, 2012 - 4:29PM

    Almost 90 percent of these commentators berate the General and speak up for the traitor Shakil Afridi. It shows the efficacy of perception moulding techniques CIA is employing while propagating a certain narative. Our spooks need their utmost to bring the things in their real perspective.


  • BlaaardyCivilians
    May 30, 2012 - 5:39PM

    Prosecute those who harboured a terrorist in our country THEN we’ll talk about Dr Shakil Afridi!

    Guess this is what we should expect from a country which showers rose petals on murderers (Quadri) and executes those who help catch murderers!


  • Adnan Khan
    May 30, 2012 - 6:42PM

    I just want to thank you, Gen. Durrani for your service to this country. Although on this forum you will find some privileged, yet wholly ungrateful souls, who nonetheless enjoy the freedoms and liberty that you and your brothers-in-arms have provided for them, the wider masses acknowledge and appreciate your service to the nation. We will never forget.
    Shakil Afridi has proudly admitted to his heinous crimes. He should never see the light of day, unless he can be exchanged, as you put it, for something more valuable for us. Dr. Afia being reunited with her children in Pakistan, recognized as a courageous heroine, would probably be a just barter.

  • Arifq
    May 30, 2012 - 8:31PM

    According to court released documents pertaining to Mr. Afridi’s incarceration he was convicted on charges of colluding with the banned Lashkar-i-Islam (LI) and its chief, Mangal Bagh, court did not entertain charges of espionage.

  • May 30, 2012 - 8:46PM

    Very intersting development; the court that convicted the doctor has made the judgement public, revealing that the doctor was jailed for alleged ties to a warlord and not working for the CIA. This is what they call damage control.


  • Cynical
    May 31, 2012 - 12:33AM

    @John B

    Kicking myself. How could I miss that!
    And after I read it again it seems as clear as day light.


  • Shahid
    May 31, 2012 - 2:09AM

    New twist in Dr Afridi’s case is quite telltale. What would champions of a traitor’s legal right say now? As for America it’s a good opportunity to secure the release of their ‘hero’ in exchange of another doctor, a female in this case, rotting in American jails only for reacting in self defence.


  • andleeb
    May 31, 2012 - 3:12AM

    His crime was exposing the incompetency of our military and ISI.


  • Hafeez
    Jun 1, 2012 - 1:04AM

    Will the General please expound on what should be done with the Generals involved in handing over Pakistanis to the US without any recourse to law? Besides that, our Generals have also handed over an Afghan diplomat Mullah Zaeef whome we had given the status of a diplomat. There is actually a long list of heinous crimes committed by our top brass which are way darker and damaging than what this doctor has done.


  • Parvez
    Jun 1, 2012 - 9:03AM

    If supplying info to US is treason, how many of our starred officers, beaurocrates etc will fill the bill? A lot I think


  • Shahzad
    Jun 1, 2012 - 12:16PM

    The WOT has been going on for so long I forget why it started. Can someone please explain was there under UN charter if so, did this say anything about finding Osama??


  • A. Khan
    Jun 1, 2012 - 3:04PM

    The real charge against Afridi should have been doling out fake polio vaccine. Has anyone in Pakistan even looked into that ?


  • hafeez khattak
    Jul 26, 2012 - 12:20PM

    Dear sir durrani sahab,
    i agree with your thought that Dr aafia siddiqui should be awarded the nishan e haider and the government should talk about her release with the americans,


  • hafeez khattak
    Jul 26, 2012 - 12:40PM

    Dear sir durrani sahab,
    i agree with your thought that Dr aafia siddiqui should be awarded the nishan e haider and the government should talk about her release with the americans,Recommend

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