Frits Veerman en Jaques
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
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
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.
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
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.