Musharraf Blames

Washington

 

By JINSA Editorial Assistant Jessica Altschul.

February 12, 2004

Pakistani President Blames Washington for Nuclear Debacle
“Father” of Pakistan’s Nuclear Bomb Confesses to Illegal Nuke Sales to North Korea, Libya and Iran

The Pakistani Foreign Ministry disclosed that there has been a leak of nuclear secrets and technology to Libya, North Korea and Iran - aspiring nuclear powers deemed “rogue states” by the State Department. Abdul Qadeer Khan, who developed the first atomic bomb of the Islamic world, admitted in early February 2004 that he was responsible for leaking sensitive nuclear secrets and technology to the countries. However, as of February 5, 2004, the Pakistani government is currently holding 15 other scientists for questioning, and though at least six others have been released, officials say their names have not yet been cleared.

Dr. Abdul Qadeer Kahn, considered to be the “father” of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, received a full pardon after admitting he assisted the atomic weapons programs of Iran, Libya and North Korea.
Government officials in Pakistan say that weapons-related designs and components were smuggled to Iran in the late 1980s and to Libya and North Korea in the 1990s. After months of secrecy and denial, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan has admitted that he, along with four other scientists, sold nuclear secrets and technology to North Korea, Iran and Libya. Khan wrote in his confession statement that he smuggled hardware on chartered planes, shared secret designs for the centrifuges that produce enriched uranium, and gave personal briefings to scientists and officials in Iran, Libya and North Korea. Khan further confessed that he shared the secrets with other countries to ease Western attention on Pakistan and to “help the Muslim cause.” Pakistani investigators discovered that Khan spread his wealth among foreign bank accounts, palaces in Pakistan, and properties abroad. He also bought a hotel in the West African nation of Mali, which he then named for his wife, Hendrina.

Khan, “father of the Pakistan nuclear program,” was head of AQ Khan Research Laboratories (KRL), which distributed a brochure that appears to advertise the sale of nuclear technology and know-how to anyone interested in buying. On January 4, 2004, The New York Times printed the brochure, which had an official-looking government seal and a picture of Khan on the front. Pakistani officials have admitted that although Khan was at the center of the investigations, he was not labeled a suspect until 2004. General Musharraf told the Associated Press on January 24, 2004 that any person found guilty of selling such sensitive information or materials would face serious consequences. In March 2001, Khan was forced to step down as head of KRL, and on January 31, 2004, he was stripped of his title of Scientific Advisor.

In an interview on February 9, 2004 in Rawalpindi, Pakistan with The New York Times, Musharraf said he shares the blame for the nuclear mishap with Washington. He said that American officials did not provide Pakistan with sufficient evidence of Khan’s misconduct. Musharraf even stated that he had suspected Khan of sharing nuclear technology with other countries for three years, but did not have enough evidence to begin an investigation.

According to a senior Bush administration official quoted by The New York Times, Pakistan was given general information about Khan’s activities in autumn 2001. Although concrete information was not provided to Musharraf until October 2003, there was nothing stopping Pakistani officials from carrying out internal investigations on Khan’s activities. Musharraf told reporters that conducting investigations would have been difficult, saying, “It was extremely sensitive. One couldn’t outright start investigating as if he’s any common criminal.”

 

Public Apology
On February 4, 2004, Khan went on national television in Pakistan and admitted that he had sold information and technology to North Korea, Libya and Iran. He had agreed to speak on television in return for a full pardon and assurances that he would not be prosecuted for any of his transactions. The same day, Musharraf said at a press conference in Rawalpini, “I give him pardon. Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan is my hero. He is a national hero.” Many officials in Pakistan forecasted the pardoning, noting that prosecuting Khan would lead to massive uprisings and protests by influential leaders of Islamist political parties and citizens. Qazi Hussain Ahmed, leader of the Islamic fundamentalist group Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), confirmed to the BBC on February 4, 2004 that there is widespread opposition to prosecuting Khan, saying, “I don’t think people like Khan should be tried. He is a national hero. He has developed the nuclear program.”

Kahn's research laboratory, some claim, has become more and more religiously-focused, placing an unofficial emphasis on proliferating nuclear weapons throughout the Islamic world.
Khan’s supporters allege that he was forced to make a public apology, and that he has falsely admitted to the charges. This is an opinion shared by North Korea, one of the countries with which Khan admitted to sharing nuclear secrets. On February 10, 2004, North Korea issued its first statement regarding the accusations of Khan’s suspected dealings with the extremely secretive Communist state. According to Reuters, the North Korean Foreign Ministry stated that the allegations against Khan were “nothing more than sordid false propaganda” spread by the United States.

Khan is hailed in Pakistan for creating the Islamic world’s first atomic bomb. Critics, however, deride Khan as a simple metallurgist who did little more than steal nuclear information from Europe. It was under suspicious circumstances that Khan brought nuclear information to Pakistan in the first place; in the late 1970s he worked for the Physical Dynamics Research Laboratories (FDO), a Western European organization based in the Netherlands, and, when asked to translate top-secret documents, took countless pages of notes and promptly fled the Netherlands for Pakistan. Shortly thereafter, he founded Engineering Research Laboratories, which was later renamed AQ Khan Research Laboratories (KRL).

Perves Hoodbhoy, a professor of physics at the Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, told Pakistan’s Daily Times on January 30, 2004, “He’s [AQ Khan is] a metallurgist, not a nuclear scientist as widely advertised. He has certainly not made any outstanding inventions.” Hoodbhoy also expressed his belief that Khan is capable of making such decisions to sell nuclear secrets and technology, even if it is detrimental to Pakistan’s national security. “He’s a man who does things for profit. He operates in a milieu where the sharing of such things is not regarded badly,” he said. In addition, Hoodbhoy described the atmosphere at KRL as an extremely religiously charged one, saying, “They have, over the last decade or so, become much more religious and their attitudes are considerably more anti-Western than 30 years ago. He [Khan] thinks the bomb is essential to protect Islam against assault from those who hate Islam.” Khan was once quoted as saying, “All Western countries are not only the enemies of Pakistan, but in fact, of Islam.”

Pardoning a Criminal
Taking more severe action against Khan, who is currently under house arrest, might unleash an upsurge of public anger against the government, or questions may emerge about the possible unethical actions of at least two Chiefs of Army Staff. However, Khan’s supporters say that no nuclear transference could have happened without military involvement. His family has spoken to Pakistani press, saying that Khan has been made a scapegoat for the many military officials who were at least aware of the transactions, if not participants themselves.

According to an article published on February 5, 2004 by The Washington Post, a friend of AQ Khan’s said he has taken precautions against being prosecuted by the government and made out to be the scapegoat. Khan has allegedly provided evidence that the military knew of his nuclear transactions to his daughter, who lives in England. He asked her to go public with the evidence if the government were to prosecute him. In Khan’s televised apology, however, he said, “There was never, ever any kind of authorization for these activities from the government.”

 


Military Involvement?
Many experts believe that the Pakistani probe into the scientists may never yield real results. Although Secretary of State Colin Powell said on February 9, 2004 that Pakistan must dismantle its network of secret nuclear dealings “by the roots,” if the investigation points to high-level military figures, it may come to an abrupt halt. Retired Brigadier Shaukat Qadir told Reuters on January 29, 2004 that he does not believe Musharraf will pursue the investigation if it leads directly to military leaders. “Former chiefs of army staff are sacrosanct in Pakistan. Nobody wishes to carry it that far.” However, on January 24, 2004, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Khan told the Associated Press, “Pakistan’s investigations are vigorous. And they are looking into all dimensions.”

One military figure under scrutiny is General Aslam Beg (ret.), who served as Chief of Army Staff from 1988-1991. The New York Times reported on January 27, 2004 that a high level Pakistani intelligence official said that senior nuclear scientists had told investigators that General Beg would have approved any transfer of technology to Iran. The army tightly controls the nuclear program in Pakistan, and Beg was believed to know about all nuclear happenings during his tenure. In spite of this, Beg has not been questioned thus far. In an interview with New York Times reporter David Rohde, Beg verified he had not been questioned by saying “They would not dare. They would not dare.”

Although Beg has denied sharing nuclear technology and secrets, or authorizing others to do so, Robert B. Oakley, who served as the American ambassador to Islamabad from 1988 to 1991, told The New York Times in a telephone interview on January 29, 2004 that Gen. Beg had spoken of nuclear ties with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. “He said he had a good conversation with the Revolutionary Guards about nuclear cooperation and conventional military assistance,” Oakley told Rohde. “Iran was going to support Pakistan with conventional military aid and petroleum and the Pakistanis would provide them with nuclear technology.” Oakley was so distressed about the conversation that he went to Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s prime minister at the time, and urged him to repress any arrangement of the sort.

Although at present there is no concrete evidence of Pakistani army officials giving permission for any technology or document transfers, many officials in the U.S. and Pakistan are suspicious as to why the investigation seems to be explicitly directed away from the military.

Possible Saudi Funding Halts U.S. Investigations
According to the November 7, 2001 editions of BBC Television’s “Newsnight” and The Guardian of London, the Bush administration was aware of Khan’s nuclear dealings and put a halt on the investigations because funding for the Pakistani nuclear program appeared to be coming from Saudi Arabia. Citing unnamed U.S. intelligence officials and top CIA operatives, the reports allege that as soon as George W. Bush took office, the National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies were instructed to “back off” from any inquiries into Saudi financing of terror networks, which included financing of Khan’s nuclear laboratories.

Greg Palast, author of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, and David Pallister, reporter for The Guardian newspaper, both received a California State University Project Censored Award for the exposŽ, which was based on the story broadcast by “Newsnight.” Both claim that the Bush administration’s squelching of investigations into Khan’s laboratories and illegal actions was only a part of a wider policy which protected prominent Saudis, including the bin Laden family.

 

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