fact that India, Pakistan, Israel and South Africa are not parties
to the NPT means that the treaty is in shambles and with stories of
nuclear proliferation coming in thick and fast, there is every
reason to believe that several other countries may in the days ahead
decide to get better nuclear technology for bomb making. Today both
India and Pakistan are accepted as nuclear weapon states outside of
the NPT. This makes matters very interesting. South Africa too had
tested its bomb and possibly also showed its efficacy to Israel in
the 80s and then decided to roll back. We already know of the
attempts of Libya, Iran and North Korea.
Gupta of the National Law University, Jodhpur has pieced together
the entire story of the recent proliferation saga, which enfolded in
Pakistan. He writes, “I am sending the first article on the issue,
which includes only the revelations by Pakistan and the reactions
within Pakistan and the guarded response of the United States. In
the next article I would include international and Indian responses
and a comprehensive analysis related to the strategic implications
of nuclear proliferation.”
Proliferation by Pakistan: Revelations, Responses, and Strategic
Alok Kumar Gupta*
recent exposure about nuclear proliferation has not come as a
surprise to India, which is a power to be reckoned with in the South
Asian region. India has been making efforts to convince the
international community since long that Pakistan not only has
acquired nuclear capability, but is also clandestinely involved in
proliferating it to other countries mainly the ones which are
branded by US as the ‘axis of evil’. It has also come to light
that most of this was known to big countries of the world. Within US
also there were attempts by newspapers and senators from time to
time to make it explicit but all such attempts were ignored,
probably owing to the compulsions of United States to use Pakistan
in its war against international terrorism and to efface Taliban and
Al-Qaeda form the earth. Pakistan was of immense importance in this
endeavor of US.
it is unprecedented in the history of nuclear proliferation that a
person directly involved in the preparation of a nuclear bomb had
resorted to sharing of nuclear know-how with other countries. Thus,
the covert nuclear proliferation so far has become overt now. In
December 2003 Libya said it would allow international experts to
destroy its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs. This
led to lot of speculation about sources of Libya’s weapons of mass
destructions. Subsequently, Pakistan’s top nuclear scientist, Dr.
Abdul Qadeer Khan, famous as “Father of the Islamic Bomb”
reportedly told an investigator on February 04, 2004 that he did
transfer nuclear technology to North Korea, Libya and Iran with full
knowledge of top military bosses.
the former head of the Khan Research Lab (which was, incidentally
named after him) conceded in media that nuclear proliferation
activities have taken place on his behest. Here is the text of Mr.
Khan’s statement on Pakistan television:
recent international events and their fallout on Pakistan have
traumatized the nation. I have much to answer for it. The recent
investigation was ordered by the Government of Pakistan, consequent
to the disturbing disclosures and evidence by some countries, to
international agencies relating to alleged proliferation activities
by certain Pakistanis and foreigners over the last two decades. The
investigation has established that many of the reported activities
did occur and that these were inevitably initiated at my behest. In
my interviews with the concerned government officials, I was
confronted with the evidence and the findings and I have voluntarily
admitted that much of it is true and accurate…..I wish to clarify
that there was never any kind of authorization for these activities
by the Government.”
report in the February 05, 2004 issue of Dawn quoted an official as
saying that Dr. Khan, in his signed statement, had accepted
supplying old and discarded centrifuge and enrichment machines
together with sets of drawings, sketches, technical data and
depleted Hexafluoride (UF6) gas to North Korea. According to the
official, Mr. Khan also accepted supplying centrifuge and enrichment
equipment along with a set of drawings to Iran under the pressure of
late Gen. Imitaz (then advisor to Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto
between December 1988 and August 1990). The official also revealed
that the proliferation started in 1989–91 because of flawed
might have needed the financial assistance and missile
technology that Libya and North Korea respectively could offer
in exchange for assistance in the development of the nuclear
the provision of expertise to Iran was particularly
ill-considered given Pakistan’s strategic situation. Iran and
Pakistan competed fiercely for the leading role in Afghanistan
for much of the last decade. Iran was also incensed at the
treatment meted out to Pakistani Shias by the Sunni majority.
While the Iranian program is not believed to have advanced to
the weapons stage, Islamabad should surely have thought more
carefully before helping a potential rival.
of Proliferation by Pakistan
decision to share its nuclear expertise was, in some ways, an
offshoot of the mindset it adopted over most of the 1980s and 1990s.
It believed that the alliance with the US in the war against the
Soviet Union in Afghanistan immunized its nuclear program from
international scrutiny and that it could even get away with a degree
of clandestine proliferation. Dr. Khan was one among several
prominent Pakistanis who propagated the view that the nuclear
arsenal had given the country a leading position in the Islamic
world and that it was morally obliged to share some of its
knowledge. Pakistan had thought all along that it could forever
retain the capacity to deny any role in the weapon programs pursued
by other countries. Recent developments have exposed the fundamental
flaw in this thought process. Pakistan might have been able to
retain deniability if the three countries to which it allegedly
provided know how continued to withstand pressure to comply with
non-proliferation norms. Once Iran and Libya threw open their
nuclear facilities, international inspectors were bound to track
down the sources of their weapon program. Therefore, repeated claims
of Pakistani State that it was a responsible nuclear power have been
severely undermined by the subsequent details contained in the
public statement made on Pakistan television by the ‘hero of the
nation’, Dr. Khan.
sensational disclosure of the complicity of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan,
architect of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, in the export of nuclear
equipment to Iran, Libya and North Korea led to an embarrassing
situation for Pakistan. This is because according to the reports in
The Washington Post Dr. Khan informed the investigators that he
helped North Korea design and equip facilities for making
weapons-grade Uranium with the knowledge of senior military
commanders, including General Musharraf. This could have given a
fillip to the demands that the military also be brought under the
purview of the investigation into the scandal. According to a friend
of Dr. Khan and a senior Pakistani investigator quoted in the Post,
Dr. Khan told investigators that Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg, the Pakistani
Army Chief of Staff from 1988 to 1991, was aware of the assistance
Khan was providing to Iran’s nuclear program and that two other
Army chiefs, in addition to Gen. Musharraf, knew and approved of his
efforts. As reported, Mr. Khan also urged the investigators to
question the former Army Commanders and Gen. Musharraf, asserting
that “no debriefing is complete unless you bring every one of them
here and debrief us together”, according to the account given by
his friend (who has met the scientist twice during the past two
months). Later on the basis of Dr. Khan’s claims, investigators
have questioned Beg and another former Army Chief of Staff, Gen.
Jehangir Karamat, who occupied the post from 1996 to 1998, but both
have denied any knowledge of the transactions. As reported,
Pakistan’s chief military spokesman, Shaukat Sultan declined to
comment on the specifics of the allegations but asserted, “Gen.
Pervaiz Musharraf neither authorized such transfers nor was he
involved in any such deals, even before he was President.
a finger at an Army Chief and President in Pakistan cannot be
tolerated by the establishment. The Pakistani establishment to
overcome the embarrassing situation tried to make a distinction
between “institutional” and “individual” proliferation.
General Musharraf says that “nuclear leakages” have been done at
the behest of individual scientists like Dr. A.Q. Khan and that
military did not know about them. Khan, in the meantime has owned up
responsibility for the leakages in a televised statement on February
08, 2004 and asked for mercy form Musharraf. And as expected, he got
the mercy, because allegedly it is a part of the deal between the
two. This appears to be part of an effort to create the impression
that proliferation activity was conducted by a few rogue
technicians, without the knowledge or permission of the political
Pak President told The New York Times that he suspected at least
three years ago that Dr. Khan was sharing nuclear technology; but
that Washington had not come up with convincing proof and that it
was not until October 2003 that administration officials in Pakistan
provided necessary evidence. He added, “If they knew earlier, they
should have told us. Maybe, a lot of things would not have
happened.” He also argued that while there were ‘suspicious
movement’ with respect to the laboratory where Dr. Khan worked and
that there were signs of Dr. Khan having ‘illegal contacts’,
there was also the concern that investigating a national hero like
Dr. Khan would have a domestic political backlash.
termed the issue as extremely sensitive and said that he forced Dr.
Khan to retire from his position as the head of the nuclear
laboratory in early 2001 so as to prevent any more transfer of
nuclear secrets. He said, “We nipped the proliferation in the bud,
we stopped the proliferation. That is the important part.” He
further added that since Dr. Khan 'had acquired a larger-than-life
figure for himself, one had to pardon him to satisfy the public, and
I think it has gone extremely positively.' He denied any
barter deal struck with North Korea by Dr. Khan and that he was
looking into the details where exactly things went wrong. He also
defended the Brigadier General in charge of the top secret nuclear
laboratory by saying that person-in-charge did not know what was
Pakistan Prime Minister, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, said after the
revelations that Pakistan would not allow any other country,
including India, to intervene in the domestic affairs of the
country. This statement was in response of comments by Indian
External Affairs Minister, Yashwant Sinha, that the pardon granted
to Dr. Khan on the nuclear scandal was not an internal affair of
Pakistan. He also argued that Dr. Khan is a Pakistani citizen and
scientist and it was the prerogative of the Pakistan Government to
decide the fate of Dr. Khan for any of his mistakes. He further
added that forgiveness had a special importance in the teachings of
Islam and it was heartening to see that a very sensitive issue had
been resolved amicably.
parties have accused the government of making Dr. Khan a scapegoat
and shielding the military top brass that had total control of the
nuclear weapons program. Leaders of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA)
(an alliance of six religious parties) and chief of Jamaat-e-Islami
(JI), Quazi Hussain Ahmad, called a strike on February 06, 2004 to
express solidarity with Mr. Khan. Mr. Hussain demanded an open trial
of the scientists in accordance with the law of the land. The JI
argued that Pakistan had not signed the CTBT or the NPT and as such
there was not breach of any contract or agreement. He added, if the
nuclear technology had been transferred to any other country, there
was no breach of any contract. MMA had termed it as framing of Dr.
Khan and his colleagues by the Government under pressure from the
US. Later the strike called by them lost its relevance with the
confession of Dr. Khan on television. However, senior leaders of the
religious parties’ alliance have been harping on the theme that
Dr. Khan had made the confession under duress and if voice is not
raised against the episode, the day is not far off when America
would demand that Pakistan roll back its nuclear program.
Proliferation by Pakistan —
United States Reponses
of the entire issue of recent nuclear proliferation by United States
raised a number of questions. It also questioned the genuineness of
its intentions in Iraq, which it attacked on the pretext of ridding
Iraq of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and restoring democracy.
The recent incident is being considered as another big failure on
the part of US in nuclear intelligence. The United States, which is
always hypersensitive to efforts made by other countries to acquire
weapons of mass destruction, has played its part in this attempt at
obfuscation. It was not chagrined even when its initial claims, that
Pakistan had not exported weapon technology after President Pervez
Musharraf took office, became questionable. The US administration
has been able to hold the rest of the international community to the
view that it would be better to work with General Musharraf as he
tries to fulfill promises to plug loopholes at the technical level
and to recast his country’s world view.
Lays Open the Clandestine ‘Khan Network’
Bush, in an address on February 11, 2004 described Mr. B.S.A. Tahir
— a Sri Lankan who ran the Dubai-based firm, SBM Computers — as
a ‘deputy’ to Mr. Khan. He also accused Mr. Tahir (a key figure
in an international nuclear black market network headed by the
Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan) of being the chief financial officer
and money launderer as well as the shipping agent of Khan’s
network. He accused him of using his firm as cover for the movement
of centrifuge parts to various clients. He also said that the
businessman directed the Malaysia facility to produce these parts
based on Pakistani designs, and then ordered the facility to ship
the components to Dubai. The shipment was then transferred on to a
German ship with the eventual destination of Libya. The Malaysian
company, Scomi Precision Engineering, later admitted making parts
found on a ship headed for Libya, but said it was not aware of their
final destination and believed they were meant for the oil and gas
this was declared as mere speculation and baseless allegation by
Sultan bin Nasser Al Suwaidi, Governor of The Central Bank of United
Arab Emirates. The Governor said that an investigation into the
activities of Dubai-based businessman Mr. Tahir’s alleged links
with Libya and Iran’s nuclear weapons program could be launched
only if some concrete proof emerged.
exclusively credited intelligence agencies of the US and Britain
with exposing it and assured that Mr. Musharraf had promised to
share all the information he learns about the ‘Khan Network’ and
will ensure that his country is never again a source of
proliferation. Mr. Bush also proposed several measures that included
using Interpol to bring to justice those who indulge in this deadly
Concern about Proliferation by Non-State Actors
US President also expressed concerns about the new dangers from the
nuclear black-market operatives who are motivated by greed or
fanaticism or both. While addressing the National Defence University
on February 11, 2004, he called on the international community to
step up the fight against proliferation of weapons of mass
destruction. He said, “The greatest threat before humanity today
is the possibility of secret and sudden attack with chemical or
biological or radiological or nuclear weapons. These terrible
weapons are becoming easier to acquire, build, hide and transport.
America and the entire civilized world will face this threat for
decades to come. We must confront the danger with open eyes and
unbending purpose. America will not permit terrorists and dangerous
regimes to threaten us with the world’s most deadly weapons.”
of the State Department
Boucher, State Department spokesman said (as reported in the
newspapers), “I do not think it is a matter for the United States
to sit in judgement on. As far as the specifics of what happens to
Dr. Khan, other than making sure that he and whatever other
individuals or networks in Pakistan might have been involved in this
trade do not transfer anything again; as far as the specifics or
sentencing or pardons or whatever, that really is a matter for
Pakistan to decide”. He further added that what really mattered
were two things: the network and individuals must be found out and
stopped; and the information shared with the international community
as the network had extended far beyond the borders of Pakistan.
the spokesman was asked if it was all right for nations to
proliferate as long as they told the United States about it and
agreed not to do so again, he replied, “No, it is not okay. No. It
is for Governments to find out and prevent this kind of thing. What
penalties, sanctions, controls or steps are used to prevent it from
happening again are up for individual governments to decide.”
Talks to Musharraf
Secretary of State talked to Pakistani President on phone and
impressed upon him the need to ensure that the remnants of Dr.
Khan’s network do not exist and foolproof steps must be taken to
ensure non-recurrence of the scandal.
in the Media
Washington Times warned that Washington should not soft-pedal its
concern over nuclear proliferation, but should blunt the impact of
its measures by directing all actions through international
organizations. It also warned that Mr. Khan’s contrition does not
put to rest proliferation issues. The paper also reported that if US
officials are calculating that turning a blind eye towards
proliferation will produce a tied and shackled Osama bin Laden,
compliments of Pakistan, they are probably mistaken. The newspaper
notes that as Pakistani experts maintain, Islamabad fears that given
the history of US-Pakistan relations, producing Osama bin Laden
would produce an incremental end to US courtship. While an Osama
capture cannot be ruled out, such a move (if tactically feasible for
Pakistan) would probably be poorly timed in Islamabad. More recent
media reports however suggested that Osama bin Laden had been
located in the border region of Pakistan and crack British and
American troops had been dispatched to capture him.
exposure has established that the global black market in nuclear
technology is based in Pakistan. Moreover, the role of Dr. Khan in
proliferation exposed, he can expose each ruler of Pakistan, since
he knows too much. He can spill the beans and implicate each General
who has headed the all-powerful Pakistan Army. He can also expose
all the politicians involved in the proliferation business. There is
little doubt that Musharraf has had to strike a deal with him and
all but let him off by granting him mercy.
administration seems to have endorsed the decision of the President
to pardon Mr. Khan. Critics of the Bush administration have been
repeatedly making the point that the US has been letting Gen.
Musharraf off the hook on many serious issues especially in the
realm of proliferation. It is being alleged that US does not want to
get on the wrong side of the Gen. Musharraf especially in the
context of the cooperation on the war on terror. And in the
immediate case the Republican administration has not publicly
criticized Pakistan for fear of adding to the political pressure of
the next article we would include Indian and other international
responses on the issue and the strategic implications for the South
Asian region and the World, along with a critical analysis of the
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