You probably know the story about nuclear proliferation by Pakistan. I have written related posts here and here. This post brings together some of the news coming out of Pakistan regarding the recent questioning of Pakistani nuclear scientists.
A lot of the articles in The News were written by their investigative journalist, Kamran Khan (Some comments about him by another Pakistani blogger later in this post.)
First came the disassociation of the army from this debacle.
More than a quarter of a century after its nuclear programme was covertly launched during which every effort was made to keep its activities completely secret and most of its transactions remained undocumented and unaccountable, Pakistan’s nuclear programme has now been placed under the strict control of Pakistan Army, which has placed rigorous checks and controls on every aspect of the programme.
[…]A retired Pakistani official, who remained associated with Pakistani nuclear programme for long, said, […] “We were forced to write blank cheques and not to ask for receipts. Administrative checks were difficult to place and devoted and educated human resource was difficult to find,” he said, frankly acknowledging that may be ‘a few’ of the thousands of international complaints and reports circulated to malign Pakistan’s nuclear programme had some merit.
[…]Former officials have informed that Pakistan Army remained actively associated with Pakistan’s nuclear programme since it was launched by the former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1974, but, at several stages “huge un-audited funds” were to be placed at the disposal of the top scientists attached with the programme.
Next came the revelation that there was some official cooperation between Pakistan and Iran on nuclear matters.
Investigators probing the nuclear imbroglio have determined that at least two scientists acted inappropriately and exchanged information with Iran beyond the limit authorised to them by the government in late 1980s, according to senior officials.
Officials said in 1987 former military ruler General Zia-ul-Haq had approved a longstanding request from the Iranian government for an unpublicised cooperation in peaceful nuclear programme. But Zia had specifically limited Pak-Iran nuclear technology to non-military spheres.
“Just before his death in 1988 when I told Zia about Iran’s growing interest in non-peaceful nuclear matters, he asked me to play around but not to yield anything substantial at any cost,” said a top retired nuclear scientist, who asked not to be identified.
The scientist said he was aware that the Iranians were intensely pursuing the matter with General Aslam Beg, Zia’s successor, but did not know how Beg responded to the Iranian request because by that time he was not directly associated with the programme.
[…]”I don’t know about the exact nature of transfer of technology that took place but I knew that nothing moves in Pakistani nuclear spectrum without the knowledge of the chief of army staff,” said a former Pakistani nuclear scientist, who questioned Beg’s press statements, saying while he was the COAS [Chief of Army Staff] the decision making about nuclear programme was with the former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and later with Nawaz Sharif.
Officials, though do not discount Beg’s influence and knowledge about the nuclear exchange that took place between some Pakistani and Iranian nuclear scientists in 1989-90, said equally important voice in the nuclear matters during that period was that of Ghulam Ishaq Khan, former president.
The trace of money is always important in such cases.
Foreign accounts used to deposit the proceeds from the transfer of some nuclear technology to Iran have been traced back to at least two senior nuclear scientists, high-level government sources have revealed.
[…]The Iranian authorities have already confirmed the information about these bank accounts that were being controlled by the suspected Pakistani nuclear scientists. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the US government also had the full details of the financial transactions that took place between the Pakistani scientists and their Iranian sources, official sources said.
After a lot of hints in previous articles, this is the first one which directly implicates Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan.
Pakistani investigators have made an independent confirmation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) allegation that nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan had direct ties with international black market dealers who sold non-peaceful nuclear technology and hardware to Iran and Libya, and offered similar deals to Syria and former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, well informed officials have said.
[…]A senior official […] confirmed that Dr [Abdul Qadeer] Khan has been advised to stay home, which is now being guarded by the military intelligence sleuths.
[…]Pakistani investigators and IAEA have no doubt that at least two senior Pakistani nuclear scientists were the main “sources of supply” for the nuclear black marketeers who principally operated out of Dubai.
[…]”Not many years ago when the father of an extremely successful Chinese nuclear programme died the Peoples Daily carried a three-line story on its inside page,” the official recalled while disclosing that since 1988 Dr Khan spent about Rs 50 million to finance media events eulogising his role as Father of Islamic Bomb.
Dr. Khan definitely had a huge appetite for personal publicity.
“Money trail is one solid piece of evidence,” said one official. “But most importantly the governments of Iran and Libya have exposed the racket. They made no attempt to hide their sources as if they wanted to settle score with Pakistani scientists.”
[…]Pakistani investigators said that they have strong reasons to believe that misusing a benign government authority for peaceful nuclear cooperation with Iran, Dr A Q Khan authorised transfer of related information, including blue prints, names of third party contacts to Iranian authorities. He later helped Iran produce centrifuges for the uranium enrichment in early nineties.
Pakistani officials have privately acknowledged that the recent events exposed highest levels of negligence, financial impropriety and security lapses at the Khan Research Laboratory, the nation’s most sensitive nuclear installations throughout the nineties.
We are finally getting some complaints about the army.
“Successive army chiefs and the heads of various military intelligence services looked the other way as insiders volunteered information about all sorts of problems in the highest echelon of the KRL bureaucracy,” said one official source.
[…]Dr A Q Khan?s visits to Iran were in the full knowledge of the ISI as its then chief Lt Gen Asad Durrani, like his boss Gen Aslam Beg, was among the main proponents of Pakistan-Iran defence cooperation.
“If Gen Durrani didn’t know what was going on between the KRL and the Iranian scientists in 1991 and 1992, then it was terrible miss for the ISI,” the former ISI source said.
More dirt on Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan.
An investigation by Pakistani officials is understood to have found evidence to suggest that the key players of an underground nuclear black market that supplied some important elements of nuclear technology to Iran and Libya were tied with Pakistani nuclear scientist, Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan. The investigators have, however, not yet been able to fix the responsibility of the most damaging security lapses at the KRL, where the GHQ and the ISI were running a four-tier security system, under two separate brigadiers of the Pakistan Army. “Even during the 1980s and 1990s, when Dr Qadeer was the ultimate boss of the KRL, the security contingents were free from his control and they were only answerable to the Army and their relevant intelligence services,” a KRL source said.
It seems like the military side is getting off scot-free.
Separately, a Dubai-based Sri Lankan middleman, who was a central figure in dealings between Iran and Pakistani scientists has named Dr Qadeer, as his principal contact in Pakistan. This Sri Lankan businessman, who spoke with the IAEA and the Western intelligence agents in Malaysia recently, provided a graphic insight into the current nuclear black market and its association with a few Pakistani scientists.
Official sources disclosed that while the investigation into Dr Qadeer’s financial status was carried out in Islamabad, Dubai, London and some other countries, there are strong indications that some of the KRL scientists, still being questioned by the investigators, were living well within their means and allegation of financial impropriety may not hold against a few of them.
And now some information about the riches of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan. I should mention that it was well-known in Islamabad that he lived royally.
Not many Pakistanis would even know that the famous “Timbuktu” is a city in the African state of Mali. Even fewer would know that the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan has built a fabulous hotel there and has named it after his Dutch wife, Dr Hendrina Khan.
Hendrina Khan hotel in Timbuktu was one of the dozens of business and financial undertakings of Dr Qadeer that are now being investigated by the Pakistani intelligence officials, currently probing the IAEA charges that an extensive nuclear black market is tied to a few Pakistani nuclear scientists.
[…]Dr Qadeer’s indirect connection with some Dubai-based companies, including a real estate project and several bank accounts, is also being probed. In Islamabad and in the nearby Bani Gala, the authorities have uncovered Dr Qadeer’s direct or indirect association with at least half a dozen houses, having combined value exceeding Rs 150 million.
Here are some hints of the influence of the Pakistani army on the nuclear program.
While the investigation on financial charges against Dr Qadeer and a few other colleagues continue in full swing, there is an overwhelming view even in the senior brass of the Army that no probe can get to the bottom of the matter unless it finds out the reasons as to why the military guardians and overseers of the nuclear programme failed in their administrative, security and intelligence responsibilities regarding the KRL. “We must concede that there is a growing perception both within the country and abroad that the Army is essentially trying to cover up its failures on the KRL,” said a federal cabinet minister during a private conversation with this correspondent in Islamabad on Friday.
[…]”Briefing on nuclear programme is provided only on the need-to-know basis; I don’t think there is any need for that at this moment,” replied Gen Mirza Aslam Beg, the then chief of Pakistan Army, when former prime minister Benazir Bhutto asked him about the status of the country’s nuclear programme, during a military briefing arranged for her at the Joint Staff Headquarters, a few months after her take-over as the prime minister for the first term in 1989,” according to a retired Pakistani military official who was present on the occasion.
Pakistani officials related with the country’s nuclear programme and several retired military officials confirmed that during her two terms in power Benazir was never invited, despite her repeated requests, to visit the Khan Research Laboratory (KRL). During his first term as the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif was also denied a request to visit the KRL by Gen Mirza Aslam Beg and also by his successor Gen Asif Nawaz, according to a retired corps commander. “Gen Beg kept the programme under such a thick cover that he didn’t even allow the two successive prime ministers to look inside,” said another retired lieutenant general, who had also commanded a corps of Pakistan Army in the 1990s. “What do you do when the army chief thinks that the prime minister of the country is a security risk.”
[…]A serving KRL official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Army as “the guardian of programme” had multi-tier involvement in the KRL affairs. “While Army chiefs gave strategic guidance and regular appreciation to scientists, Army Chief of General Staff was there to iron out significant administrative and financial issues and the DG CD [Directorate General of Combat Development] coordinated research and development,” the KRL scientist said. “Two separate brigadiers had hundreds of troops and agents at their disposal to run an impregnable multi-tier security network at the KRL,” he adds. “The ISI had a separate detachment for the KRL.”
And finally some official statements:
Seven suspects, including Dr Qadeer Khan, remained under investigation for allegedly selling nuclear secrets to Iran and Libya, and a decision on whether to put them on trial would only be made when the probe was complete, Director-General Inter-Services Public Relations Maj-Gen Shaukat Sultan said on Sunday.
[…]Dr Qadeer’s house in Islamabad is under 24-hour watch, and security was beefed up on Saturday. “I wouldn’t call it house arrest,” said Sultan. “He is an important figure and there is a probe going on and he is now one of suspects.”
The leaders of the religious alliance MMA acted predictably.
Amir Jamaat-e-Islami Qazi Hussain Ahmad has called upon the people to observe a complete strike on February 6 to express solidarity with Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan and other nuclear scientists. He further demanded an open trial of the scientists in accordance with the law of the land.
Then come reports of a confession by Dr. Khan.
Dr A.Q. Khan, who is credited to have set up Pakistan’s nuclear programme, has admitted to having transferred nuclear technology to North Korea, Iran and Libya , authoritative sources disclosed in a background briefing to Dawn on Sunday.
Abundant evidence to the effect is also said to have been extracted during the almost two-month-long ‘debriefing’ of most of the top scientists and officials of the Khan Research Laboratories (KRL), the sources said.
Dr Khan is also said to have accepted the allegation about transfer of nuclear technology to these three countries, in a signed 12-page document which he had submitted to the authorities a few days ago.
As was expected, former army chiefs were absolved of any blame in the matter.
Two former army chiefs were questioned in the probe into nuclear leaks to Iran, Libya and North Korea, but no evidence was found against them, a military official said today. Abdul Qadeer Khan named ex-army chiefs Aslam Beg and Jehangir Karamat in an 11-page statement confessing to selling nuclear secrets to the three states between 1988 and 1997, the official said. “He named two gentlemen, generals Beg and Karamat, who were then questioned,” the military official said on condition of anonymity. “(Khan) said they were in the know. In one case he said he did it on their instructions, but not directly. They asked someone else and that fellow instructed A Q Khan and that man is now dead.” The middleman was the late brigadier Imtiaz Ali, defence adviser to Benazir Bhutto during her first tenure as prime minister from 1988 to 1990. Both Beg, who was army chief from 1988 to 1991, and Karamat, army chief from 1997 to 1998, were “thoroughly” questioned during a two month probe by Pakistani investigators. “There was no evidence found of what A Q Khan was saying, so it could not be sustained,” the official said. “If there is any more evidence of involvement of anyone else they will be questioned, no one is above the law.
Dr. Khan then started his multi-pronged defence strategy. Here is his “friend” and he is also alleged to have provided a taped interview to his daughter who has gone abroad.
Abdul Qadeer Khan told investigators he gave nuclear weapons technology to other countries with the full knowledge of top army officials, including now-President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a friend of the scientist said today. Abdul Qadeer Khan, Pakistan’s top nuclear scientist, told the friend he hadn’t violated Pakistan’s laws by giving out-of-use machines for enriching uranium to Iran, North Korea and other countries, the friend told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. “Whatever I did, it was in the knowledge of the bosses,” Khan’s friend quoted him as saying. The scientist also said that two former military chiefs —- Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg and Gen. Jehangir Karamat —- and even Musharraf were “aware of everything” he was doing, the friend said. “I am also convinced that (Khan) couldn’t act unilaterally,” the friend added. Military spokesman Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan denied Musharraf was privy to any transfer of nuclear technology or authorized Khan to do it. “It is absolutely wrong,” Sultan said. Musharraf “was not involved in any such matter,” he said. “No such thing has happened since he seized power in 1999.” Musharraf has headed the army since 1998, and before that held a number of top positions in the military. The official said two individuals, from Sri Lanka and Germany, operated on behalf of Khan in smuggling that began in the 1980s and continued at least until 1997.
Army Chiefs deny any involvement while some scientists and ex-military officers confess.
Beg denied in interviews last week approving or being aware of the sale of nuclear secrets.
[…]President Pervez Musharraf, who has been army chief since 1998, has categorically denied any military knowledge or approval of the nuclear leaks, and has blamed civilian scientists and international black marketeers.
More than a dozen nuclear scientists, engineers and administrators have been questioned during the probe, which was prompted by information from Iran via the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in November.
Around half have been cleared and the probe narrowed last week to three ex-military officers and three nuclear scientists. Apart from Khan, four others have confessed to transferring nuclear expertise but they have yet to be named, an official close to the investigation told.
Another indirect claim, via the religious alliance, from Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan denies any confession.
Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan denied to have admitted in written about transferring nuclear technology to any country, sources reported on Tuesday.
This he told to Chief of Jama’at-e-Islami Kazi Hussein during telephonic conversation held Eid UL-Uzha night, claimed by Ammer-UL-Azeem, Central Secretary of Jama’at-e-Islami Pakistan.
Some of the scientists are “detained” now rather than “being debriefed.”
Pakistani government has ordered to detain four Pakistani scientists for three months who were accused to have given nuclear weapons technology to other countries. The order is implementable since January 31 of the current year, said a report on Tuesday.
The orders of detention of the four under investigation scientists was issued in consonance with the Security of Pakistan Act 1952, Sub-clause B of Section 3, according to Interior Ministry.
The scientists who have been issued the orders included Dr Farooq, Dr Nazir Ahmed, Brigadier (R) Sajawal and Major (R) Islam-UL-Haq.
Here is some information related to the Security of Pakistan Act 1952.
And here are Soliloquist’s comments about this issue.
Leaving aside what kind of dirt ‘foreign’ press’ has been digging up in the IAEA allegations against Pakistani scientists in their ignoble roles in nuclear proliferation, here’s a gleaning from the local press. KK [Kamran Khan], let me also tell u, is much maligned in the Pakistani journalistic cadres because of his alleged links with Intelligence agencies who supply him with fodder for his Investigative reports (I did a research/survey report on the topic at University). Secondly, KK works for a TV channel/Media group which is left with no other option but to discretely toe the ‘official’ line for its survival and success.
I don’t know if the information she provides about Kamran Khan is true or not. I read Kamran’s articles only occassionally.
[…]Such a story, whatever its source, would have never made it to mainstream media if there was not an element of truth to it and had not the govt. given its go ahead. Getting the drift?
I sort of agree with her here. I am not sure what the full story is, but I do see some problems as well as government/military complicity. This is obviously based on my gut feelings rather than any specific information.
Also, reading Kamran Khan’s articles, it is clear that he has had access to present and retired KRL scientists, ISI officers and others. This does not seem possible without some go-ahead from the government (or at least some part of it.)
With the kind of sentiments running high back home and blind devotion to our Nuclear Scientists notwithstanding, could it be that they not succumb to worldly greed? Dr. AQ Khan, some years back was also involved in GreenBelt infringement scandal in the capital. That too was brushed under the carpet, why? Because he was Baba e Bomb.
But at the end of the day, that is the kind of heroes we have. In this case we are talking of ultra secret technical expertise which was not doled out in the spirit of Islamic biradri but for the sheer greed of making money. Personal gain.
I don’t think it would have been any better if it was doled out in the spirit of Islamic brotherhood.
I was a 2nd year student at KU at the time of nuclear detonations (May 28, 1999) and felt as if our nation was raped and rejoiced in it. Shorn of the tattered garments left on us in the name of dignity. Nawaz Sharif was at the crest of a nuclear euphoria and even a Yaum e Takbeer to his portly credit could not save him from being given the boot.
I was in the US at the time and was definitely in the minority who were against the nuclear tests.
Pakistan never signed CTBT or the NPT to its own disadvantage. It was just signing for God’ sake and not an actual ratification (ask US of A) that would have redeemed some post-Chagai esteem amongst the comity of nations. But then again that would have been no guarantee to prevent individual rogue acts as reported these days.
It’s not as if I don’t acknowledge the work our nuclear scientists have done; Pakistan did need a nuclear deterrent in the face of India’s on and off belligerence; and the work done despite all the discriminatory bans and limited conditions is commendable, but it will never be an Islamic Bomb, just as there is no such thing as Islamic Nationhood.
I don’t think a nuclear deterrent has really helped Pakistan. It has just made war more deadly.
And bombs can’t be Islamic, since they are quite irreligious.
You might also want to read Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy’s article. Dr. Hoodbhoy is an activist against nuclear weapons and is Professor of Nuclear Physics, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.
UPDATE: Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan admits his proliferation activities and absolves the government on national TV and the Pakistani cabinet recommends a pardon for him. Pretty convenient for everyone!