Introduction

Frits Veerman en Jaques Ros

 

Atoomspionage

Approximately 35 kilometers south-east of the capital Islamabad - almost on the border between the provinces of Punjab and Balistan - lies the small town of Kahuta. It is here that Pakistan becomes forbidden. It is not the landscape and the architecture doensn't make you feel uncomfortable either. Scattered Sikh- and Hindu temples, silouetted against the sky, even make the place look picturesque.
And yet tourists and daytrippers avoid it like the plague. Besides, trips to Kahuta would be futile. All access routes to the gost town are blocked bij tanks and Pakistan airforce planes patrol the sky above day and night. Barbed-wire fences, anti aircraft missiles, heavily armed para-troopers and secret agents close off the remaining gaps. Kahuta is strong-hold: nobody without a valid reason for a visit gets in and anyone who cannot kerb his curiosity and has sought a secret route is roughly reminded of his error.
The block od buildings that - in the eyes of the autorities - justifies all this exhibition of power, is called the Pakistan institute of nuclear Research. On paper a research center and laboratory for nuclear power, in realety a center where in strict secrecy one of the most fearsome weapons in the world is produced: the Bomb.

Exactly what goes on within the compound of Kahuta is unclear. The larger part of the extensive center is underground for securety reasons and can't be photographed by spy-satallites. And the scientists working there or the ones that are invited, have up till now not broken their silence.
However, during the past 10 -12 years enough has happened to get a fairly accurate picture of Pakistan's dealings as a nuclear power.
To become one, international laws were avaded, schemes for clandestine transactions were initiated, secret serveces were led up the garden path and spies were recruited all over the globe.
All cues pointed to one direction: Kahuta.
In the middle of this spiderweb sat one man who claimed the main role in what was called by the Western Press one of the major spy stories of the nuclear age: Dr. Abdoel Quadeer Khan. His compatriots call him a hero, who has put impoverished Pakistan on the map. They compare him with Einstein.
Abroad people also speak abouth him in superlatives, but not in such positive terms. To some he is the oriental cross between James Bond and Dr. No, to others "the spy of the century", a chameleon who captured occidental secrets with oriental charm.
The story of Kahuta and the Bomb is the story of Abdoel Kahn.

The story began at the beginning of the seventies, when the scientific elite of pakistan was gathered by president Bhoetto in order to find a solution to the military threat of India. The umpteenth armed conflict with the hated neighbour had just been lost. Thousands of Pakistan's sons had lost their lives or had been captured and morale in the country was desperately low. Something had to be done if self-esteem was to be preserved.
Under the inspiring leadership of the fanatical nationalist Bhoettothe decicion was quickly made. He had known all along what he wanted but he tried to give everybody in the meeting the idea that they had taken the decision democratically. The fifty scientists almost unanimously approved the development of the same monster, wich, at the end of the Second World war, had both literally and figuratively brought Japan to its knees.
At the end of the meeting Bhoetto spoke the historic words:
"There is a Capitalistic Bomb, there is a Communist Bomb, there is a Jewish Bomb, and soon there will be an Islamic Bomb …….. even we have to eat grass for it."

In this strain began one of the most brazen plots in modern times, for Pakistan did not possess a single item necessary for the execution of this plans. There was no uranium, no plutonium, there was no plant nor material, there was no technical know-how nor any money. Beside, there was an international ban on the use of nuclear power for any other than peacful purposes.
Resourcefully, doggedly and most of all secretly, the items on Pakistan's shoppinglist were ticked off. There were set-backs, but these caused no more than some delay. Part of the outside world pretended to be blind and deaf, because fortunes were to made.
Another part of the world, such as governments and their secret services, knew in fact nothing. The conspiration around Bhoetto had planned everything so well and manouvred so shrewdly that nobody became suspicious. That didn't happen until it was too late and a complete nuclear arms industry had sprung up in Kahuta.
Naturally, there were rumours at that early stage, but these were generally waved aside casually. Noboddy believed a poor and primitive country like Pakistan capable of such a feat.

Abdoel Kahn


  • The most amazing stunt was pulled off in The Netherlands by the ilustrous Khan. Within a period of 3 years - between may 1972 and december 1975 - he copied the deepest nuclear secrets on bits of paper in an office of the FDO (Physis Dynamics research laboratory) in Amsterdam and within the walls of UCN (Ultra Centrifuge Netherlands) in Almelo. He would often leave the office of his Dutch employer ( the FDO) carrying fat files, wich - in view of their contents - should have been locked up in a safe.
  • During these espionage activeties Khan was not hampered in any way. On the one hand because of a series of blunders by goevrnment departments which has not taken enough care in checking his backgrounds, on the other hand because of the character of the man himself.
    He was charming, well-bred and amiable. He had a kind word fot everyone, worked harder than he was obliged to under this contract and often invited his assistants and colleagues to his home in Zwanenburg. One of these colleagues was the technical photographer Frits Veerman, with whom Khan shared an office at the FDO. Gradually a relationship had developed between him and the pakistani metallurgist which went further than just being on the same pay-roll.
    Veerman and Khan were friends. At least that's what Veerman Thought. Until he discovered that, under the guise of friendship, he had inwittingly been seduced to render services of a dubious nature. He never uttered his suspicion to Khan and therefor he laterreceived letters (postmark Kahuta) and telephone calls from Pakistan and other far-off countries in which khan had the cheek to ask for more information. To his superiors, however, he did not keep quiet. Every few months he informed them of what he had eseen and heard and of the strange requests which Khan sometimes made or had made.
    However, consciously or subconsciously, the photographer's observations and warnings were ignored until Abdoel Quadeer Khan had returned to his native country permanently where he laid the foundations for the much-wanted Islamic Bomb wich Dutch secrets.
  • In the end it was Frits Veerman of all people who had to pay for the mistakes and carelessness of others. It is true that, in his absence, Khan was sentenced to 4 years" imprisonment for espionage by a court of Justice in Amsterdam, but shortly afterwards he was discharged from prosecution of an error in the suphoena.
    To Veerman the way of justice were even more mysterious. He was questioned by the police, many times turned inside out by the Dutch Secret Service, and to cap it all, he was told not to return to the Physic Dynamics Research laboratory. The reason given was that the company had no more work suited to his speciality. In realety he wasfired because they needed a scapegoat and small fry is dispensable. The real culprit. Dr. Abdoel Quadeer Khan, not only went scot-free but also started a briljant career after his Dutch adventure.

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Frits Veerman

 

Centerboek
ISBN 90-5087-027-9

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