Abdul Qadeer Khan under 'house
arrest'(mastermind of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme)
| Jan 31,2004 | NA
Posted on 01/31/2004 1:59:18 PM PST by Dog
Abdul Qadeer Khan under 'house arrest'
STANDFIRST, Jan 31: Investigators have uncovered
a sophisticated black market in components with Islamabad at its centre.While
on a tour of eight Asian countries in the summer of 2002, Colin Powell,
the US secretary of state, arrived in Islamabad with a special request.
Mr Powell asked President, General Pervez Musharraf,
to arrest Abdul Qadeer Khan, the mastermind of Pakistan's nuclear
weapons programme and a hero in the country. He said Mr Khan needed
to be questioned over the alleged secret trading of Pakistan's nuclear
technology to North Korea and he had evidence.
An American spy satellite had recorded images
of a Pakistani transport plane being loaded with missile parts in
North Korea. It was, the US believed, part of a barter deal trading
Pakistani nuclear know-how for missiles.
According to sources in Washington, Mr Powell
offered Gen Musharraf assistance for an inquiry into Mr Khan's activities.
The Guardian has learned that money, equipment and lie detectors for
interrogations would be made available. Gen Musharraf rejected the
overture but the case against Mr Khan has been building up inexorably
Yesterday, Mr Khan was under effective house
arrest in Islamabad waiting to hear if he will face charges of treason.
The evidence being considered is embarrassing
for Pakistan, whose scientists are accused of being at the centre
of the illegal and dangerous trade in nuclear secrets. Astonishing
details of their alleged involvement not only with North Korea but
with Libya and Iran have emerged in the last two months after the
UN's demand that Iran provide its investigators with a comprehensive
record of its 20-year-old nuclear effort. The UN's nuclear detectives,
acting on names and contacts supplied by Tehran plus information gleaned
in Iran, found evidence which pointed to Pakistan as the source for
Iran's uranium enrichment technology. But in an interview with a Pakistani
satellite channel last month Mr Khan denied any involvement with Iran.
"I am being accused for nothing, I never visited Iran, I don't
know any Iranian, nor do I know any Iranian scientist.I will be targeted
naturally because I made the nuclear bomb, I made the missile,"
When Libya's leader, Colonel Muammar Gadafy,
volunteered last month to scrap his covert nuclear bomb project, MI6,
the CIA and UN inspectors from Vienna got a glimpse of Libya's equipment
and concluded that Pakistan and Mr Khan were again the source, directly
or indirectly, of the bomb-making equipment.
Gary Milhollin, head of the Wilson Project,
a counter- proliferation group, said: "In all three places (North
Korea, Iran and Libya), it's the same designs and technology. It was
pilfered by A Q Khan. It's old but it works. The Pakistanis used it
to make 30 bombs."
The result is that almost two years after Gen
Musharraf rebuffed Mr Powell and almost 30 after Mr Khan absconded
from the Netherlands with top secret blueprints on how to enrich uranium,
the scientist feted in Pakistan may be about to face trial.
The signals from Islamabad, this week, are
that at least two men, apparently Mr Khan and Mr Farooq, will face
trial for selling Pakistani nuclear secrets abroad.
Faisal Saleh Hayat, Pakistan's interior minister,
said on Monday: "No patriotic Pakistani should even think of
selling out Pakistan. "There was a time when they used to call
themselves heroes of Pakistan. But now the real face of some of these
heroes is being exposed. We will take legal action against them."
The network being revealed by investigations
in Pakistan, Iran, and Libya has alarmed seasoned inspectors and intelligence
services by its scale, its sophistication and the ease with which
it has operated unimpeded for almost two decades.
According to this week's issue of Der Spiegel,
a German weekly, a German intelligence report found in the mid-1990s
that "there is said to be cooperation between Iran's atomic energy
organisation and Pakistan's Khan laboratories".
Almost ten years later, the threads in the
dense web of the nuclear black market stretching from the far east
to the Middle East and Europe are being unravelled.
Pakistan and its nuclear laboratories named
after Dr Khan, at Kahuta, south of Islamabad, are the common factor
in tracing equipment found in Libya and Iran, and believed to be in
North Korea. But the networks which appear to have been set up in
the mid-80s may now have grown so extensive as to have acquired a
life of their own, independent of the original Pakistani sponsors.
According to diplomats tracking the investigations,
Tehran named some six individuals and several firms as being involved
in the black market trade.This led to the questioning of Mr Khan and
his associates, but investigators suspect this is the tip of an iceberg.
"This is globalisation at work,"
said one well-informed source."So many fingers are pointing at
Pakistan. There are only a handful of people who can pull together
systems like this. But there are a large number of firms who can do
gadgets and gizmos for centrifuges." Another diplomatic source
agreed Pakistan was the main suspect. "But there's a whole bunch
of other suspects and sources. There has been a very active market
in this stuff and this thing is widening." Those suspected of
involvement include an unnamed British businessman in Dubai and middlemen
in Sri Lanka and the Middle East.
A planeload of nuclear equipment impounded
by the Americans from Libya will provide details on the provenance
of the machinery, as will a shipload of centrifuge components manufactured
in Malaysia and seized aboard a German boat en route to Libya in October.
Mr Milhollin said Col Gadafy's programme, going
back a decade, involved a deal with the Pakistani scientists "to
outsource" the manufacturing and supplies of parts. But the main
focus of the investigation is the trade in parts for gas centrifuges,
the key machines required to establish a home-based nuclear weapons
effort. The centrifuges found in Libya and Iran are all of the same
fundamental design, by the German engineer Gernot Zippe. The design
dates from the late 1960s for what was to become the Anglo/German/Dutch
consortium, Urenco. At the same time as Zippe was working on his design,
Mr Khan was studying in Germany and Belgium.
In 1975 he absconded with the Zippe centrifuge
blueprints. Back home and given carte blanche to lead Pakistan's race
to match India's nuclear bomb, he and his experts improved the Zippe
design, known as G-2, to what has become known in expert circles as
Pak-2. A Dutch court sentenced Mr Khan to four years jail for industrial
espionage in 1983, but the verdict was overturned on the grounds that
he had never been served with the arrest warrant.
It remains unclear how tainted Gen Musharraf's
government is. The political imperative for both Islamabad and Washington
is to maintain that Pakistan's role was limited to that of a few rogue
scientists acting without state authorisation and that in any case
the nuclear deals preceded Gen Musharraf's takeover in 1999 and have
been suppressed since then.
The latter claim is called into question by
the alleged sighting of the Pakistani plane in North Korea in 2002
and by some of the supplies to Libya which have taken place since
1999. Because of the Pakistani leader's importance to the Americans
in the war on terror, "there is," says one of the diplomats,
"a high need to protect Musharraf. That's politics. Musharraf
may not have wanted to know what was going on for reasons of plausible
But even if the Pakistani channels are being
closed down and Gen Musharraf escapes international censure and survives
the domestic fallout, the damage may well already be done.
Jon Wolfsthal, a nuclear analyst at the Carnegie
Endowment said: "There's concern that this thing has spread beyond
their (Pakistan's) control. Once you let the chickens loose, you can't
get them back into the coop." COPYRIGHT: GUARDIAN NEWSPAPERS