Dr Khan’s new version of nuclear proliferation

Published: September 17, 2012

Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan has opened another debate about who was responsible for nuclear proliferation in Pakistan. PHOTO: FILE

In an interview given to a national daily, Pakistan’s ‘father of the bomb’ Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan has opened another debate about who was responsible for nuclear proliferation in Pakistan, which resulted in spreading the bomb technology to North Korea, Iran and Libya through him. He said it was then-prime minister Benazir Bhutto who “had asked for the transfer of nuclear technology to the two countries that she had named”. If he has tried to prove that he did nothing on his own but followed orders, he contradicts himself when he says that he did not obey the next elected leader, prime minister Nawaz Sharif, and forced his hand by threatening to go to the media: “Nawaz Sharif tried to convince me to win international sympathy by staying silent in response to the Indian nuclear tests”.

Dr Khan has earlier tried to prove through the publication of a North Korean letter that the Pakistan Army was backing him when he transferred crucial technology to the pariah state to enable its final nuclearisation. It is also a matter of record that the army turned against prime minister Benazir Bhutto when it suspected her of agreeing to ‘cap’ the nuclear programme of Pakistan. It appears that both the elected leaders he worked under sought to find a less dangerous course with Pakistan’s nuclear programme.

Dr Khan had a good word to say for ex-army chief Aslam Beg, who survived the Bahawalpur crash: “When the aircraft of General Ziaul Haq had met an accident, the chief of the army at the time decided to hold elections in the country without delay of even a moment”. The fact is that proliferation was begun by Dr Khan, much before General Zia died, and there is evidence that he and Aslam Beg passed on nuclear secrets to Iran without telling General Zia who wanted no part of the developing Iran-Arab conflict and especially no Arab-angry reaction by helping to nuclearise Iran. Nawaz Sharif felt that Beg was conducting his separate nuclear diplomacy with Iran and went on record about it after being deposed.

In 1980, General Zia was under pressure to come to the help of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), created in reaction to the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Whether or not he secretly promised ‘military teeth’ to the GCC may never be known, but he was conscious of the fact that he had to handle Iran carefully. He had committed the folly of imposing zakat on the Shia of Pakistan the same year under advice from Saudi Arabia.

A dossier released by London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in 2007, as a ‘chronology of Dr AQ Khan’s proliferation’ indicates that he had visited Iran’s reactor at Bushehr in 1986. Iran approached Dr Khan’s ‘network’ to close a three million dollar deal for centrifuge technology. The IISS dossier, distinguishes between ‘Pakistan government’ (meaning General Zia) and ‘Khan network’ (excluding General Zia). Iran, later, disclosed the details of the despatch of centrifuges to Iran, by Dr Khan, to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). According to IAEA, he made the sale to Iran of all the required elements in 1987, in Dubai.

Dr Khan now wants to somehow validate what he did by taking on board the elected leaders of Pakistan, but the fact is that he kept quiet when they were deposed from power one after the other, basking in the privileges the army had allowed him. He knew that ‘India policy’ and ‘nuclear policy’ were not in the hands of the politicians in Pakistan and he spared no thought to the ethical and moral dimensions of what he was doing. There was a steady growth industry of self-advertisement by journalists patronised by him and an understandably grateful nation wanted him to become president of Pakistan after the ouster of Ghulam Ishaq Khan.

However, Dr Khan is wise in welcoming the thaw in Indo-Pak relations. He knows that nuclearising Pakistan was of no use after General (retd) Pervez Musharraf committed the folly of launching the Kargil Operation in 1999. He also must know that the bomb he made is of no use in the face of al Qaeda terrorism. In fact, the bomb is a grave risk to the world as Pakistan’s internal order breaks down under this new challenge.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 18th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (32)

  • sabi
    Sep 17, 2012 - 11:25PM

    He has admitted it again.He should be tried in court for treason.Suo-moto cj.

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  • Sep 18, 2012 - 12:06AM

    This is another false flag operation.

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  • sabi
    Sep 18, 2012 - 12:21AM

    ET

    “There was a steady growth industry of self-advertisement by journalists patronised by him and an understandably grateful nation wanted him to become president of Pakistan after the ouster of Ghulam Ishaq Khan.”
    I reproduce my previous comment on news item

    “sabi

    Aug 28, 2012 – 12:45AM
    Reply

    “Very few know that there was a guy named Abdul qadir hassan who led the team of media men for promoting this guy as hero.This man made his fortune by virtu of the fame that mediamen had given him.Bakcstabing the nation with nuclear proliferation is indeed a crime not to be forgiven.This is a sad part of our history hidden from many of us”.

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  • uH
    Sep 18, 2012 - 12:35AM

    Very comprehensive article. Great read !Recommend

  • Kanwal
    Sep 18, 2012 - 1:20AM

    Can we somehow stop reporting this old man? He wants attention only. No one will vote for him ever.

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  • Asad
    Sep 18, 2012 - 2:09AM

    I was shocked to see his support for the water car!!!.. Did he really believe a car can run on water? Just wondering.. in fact many things!

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  • Mirza
    Sep 18, 2012 - 2:36AM

    A very fair and balanced editorial by the editors of ET. Thanks for being open and honest.
    If I am not mistaken, the HC had conditionally released AQ Khan. The condition was he is not going to make political statements and give interviews to media. Most people after retirement keep a low profile and try to undo the wrongs they have done in the past. Here we have a man who is lusting for fame and populism every chance he can get. He has made so many contradictory statements about each political leader including IK, NS and BB that one does not know what to believe. Not too long ago he was praising IK then turned against him for no reason. However, he has not opposed military dictators including the worst of them Gen Zia, even though he was used by them as a scapegoat.
    AQ Khan has done enough damage for one lifetime and with his ripe old age and dementia he should stop dreaming and hallucinating about his political future course. We don’t want another one like the PCO CJ.Recommend

  • numbersnumbers
    Sep 18, 2012 - 2:46AM

    Good article, but the problem remains that forthcoming answers always lead to more questions! The here and now problems of nuclear states will continue to trouble the world for the foreseeable future no matter what we discover about the past.

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  • usman786
    Sep 18, 2012 - 6:45AM

    I am disturbed by the last 2 lines. It seems ET is suggesting that v shd get rid of nukes and handover to USA when we know our enemy no1 is behind Taliban and BLA. Rest AQ Is saying truth. One speaks truth sometime which needs to be segreggated.

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  • Mohinder sandhu
    Sep 18, 2012 - 8:00AM

    Is he really a doctor,where did he do his doctorate. This might be a another case of fake degree

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  • Scorched_Earth
    Sep 18, 2012 - 8:31AM

    The bomb was designed, made and tested by PAEC. The nuclear fuel cycle, uranium processing, conversion and plutonium production and reprocessing was also mastered by PAEC. A Q Khan’s role was restricted to centrifuges.

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  • Sep 18, 2012 - 9:32AM

    DR.Khan, one small request – while you are entering politics, please don’t steal the agenda of other parties.

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  • Sep 18, 2012 - 9:52AM

    A very well thought out article which not only exposes the fault lines in the recent statement of Dr. Khan but also points towards some of the inherited risks of the acquisition of this massive military power. There is no doubt that acquisition of nuclear technology is pinnacle on scientific development for any country. For this appreciation is due for all scientists, other staff and also the national leadership. Dr. Khan who looks to be mentally imbalanced somehow got more than due share for this advancement. As the events now suggests, he has been rather been on the negative side – for which he publicly apologized from the nation. It is not understood as to why is he creating controversies? It now a time that the government should withdraw all the honors from him and have an audit done of the massive wealth he has accumulated over a period of time.

    From military/defense perspective we have sufficient technology to deter our enemies and what we need it to develop credible doctrines and safety mechanism. Our scientific effort should now to be indigenous self sufficient for power and technology. The resultant wealth may produce additional wealth to remove poverty thus giving relief to the nation. It is only happy and united nation which is the best defense against internal threats and external aggression.

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  • Lala Gee
    Sep 18, 2012 - 10:05AM

    @Editor:

    “He knows that nuclearising Pakistan was of no use after General (retd) Pervez Musharraf committed the folly of launching the Kargil Operation in 1999. He also must know that the bomb he made is of no use in the face of al Qaeda terrorism. In fact, the bomb is a grave risk to the world as Pakistan’s internal order breaks down under this new challenge.”

    I am really disappointed by your last paragraph, a brilliant example of pseudo-intellectualism and defective analytical prowess. What nuclearizing of Pakistan has to do with Kargil Operation? How can you forget the Indian aggressions in East Pakistan and Sia Chen. Didn’t India going nuclear in 1974 pose serious threats to Pakistan’s existence keeping in view the role India played in breaking Pakistan. How can you completely ignore the Indian ambitions of dominance in the region and beyond? Which neighbor of India didn’t suffer from the Indian hegemony and machinations? You seems to be so much concerned about worlds safety, but what about Pakistan’s own safety. If you, by any chance, remember the bomb served it’s purpose well during the 10 months long Indian posturing of 2002. And, how, by following your advice to get rid of nuclear arsenal, going to help Pakistan in fighting Al-Qaida, Taliban, and BLA terrorist? You should have provided some details to convince a layman like me. One last question, did we really made the bomb to fight al-Qaeda or terrorism? Did the bomb help USA, UK, and India in this regard? Would you offer the same advice to others as well?

    @Mirza: I usually do not agree with your narrative, but this time you did well. Dr. shouldn’t be allowed to speak to media as per court orders on sensitive issues concerning national security. Unfortunately, the PPP government is doing what she does best, i.e. do nothing.

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  • Harkol
    Sep 18, 2012 - 10:43AM

    Bottom line? He proliferated.Recommend

  • Dr. Doolittle
    Sep 18, 2012 - 10:48AM

    @Asad
    I too was shocked to hear him support the water-car. But then I consoled myself.Recommend

  • salim
    Sep 18, 2012 - 10:58AM

    It seems Musharraf was right after all!Recommend

  • Zoro
    Sep 18, 2012 - 11:21AM

    So Kargil Operation by Mushy …was a blessing in disguise … Pakistan came to know the futility of there BUMB.

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  • sikandar
    Sep 18, 2012 - 11:43AM

    The more tyranny we become the more the chances of we succumb to that fatally.

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  • observer
    Sep 18, 2012 - 12:07PM

    Sometime back, Dr Khan had claimed that he is proud of the fact that Bhopalis of Pakistan had no traitors amongst them.

    That claim has now been conclusively rubbished.

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  • Hussain
    Sep 18, 2012 - 12:53PM

    The nation which collects manipulates ills about its MUHSINS like Qadeer Saab will remain confused. All are requested to read last para of the article which is why the rest of the article is written. So nuclearization of rest of the six countries is for peace, but only that of Pakistan is of GRAVE RISK. For information of some, if we were not nuclearized, we would have been in more trouble by now. Pakistan is passing through a troubled period for the time being. Is there anyone who is better in Pakistan, Quid-e-Azam was Shia/sunni, Dr Qadeer is a prolofirator, politicians are corrupt, int agencies are rogue, Armed Forces are bad, intellectuals are for sale. Please think before you endorse your remarks. We are Pakistan, that means we are not good. Pakistan Zinda bad. Regards and respect to all readers.

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  • Lala Gee
    Sep 18, 2012 - 1:02PM

    (Moderator: Even the editors don’t have the courage to hear factual criticism, trying second time)

    @Editor:

    I am really disappointed by your last paragraph. What nuclearizing of Pakistan has to do with Kargil Operation? How can you forget the Indian aggressions in East Pakistan and Sia Chen. Didn’t India going nuclear in 1974 pose serious threats to Pakistan’s existence keeping in view the role India played in breaking Pakistan. How can you completely ignore the Indian ambitions of dominance in the region and beyond? Which neighbor of India didn’t suffer from the Indian hegemony and machinations? You seems to be so much concerned about worlds safety, but what about Pakistan’s own safety. If you, by any chance, remember the bomb served it’s purpose well during the 10 months long Indian posturing of 2002. And, how, by following your advice to get rid of nuclear arsenal, going to help Pakistan in fighting Al-Qaida, Taliban, and BLA terrorist? You should have provided some details to convince a layman like me. One last question, did we really made the bomb to fight al-Qaeda or terrorism? Did the bomb help USA, UK, and India in this regard? Would you offer the same advice to others as well?

    @Mirza: I usually do not agree with your narrative, but this time you did well. Dr. shouldn’t be allowed to speak to media as per court orders on sensitive issues concerning national security. Unfortunately, the PPP government is doing what she does best, i.e. do nothing.

    Recommend

  • Lala Gee
    Sep 18, 2012 - 1:31PM

    @sabi:

    “Very few know that there was a guy named Abdul qadir hassan who led the team of media men for promoting this guy as hero.This man made his fortune by virtu of the fame that mediamen had given him.Bakcstabing the nation with nuclear proliferation is indeed a crime not to be forgiven.This is a sad part of our history hidden from many of us”.

    I have been reading Abdul Qadir Hassan since 1975 and consider him as a patriotic Pakistani having some moral integrity. His sole motivation to praise Dr. AQ Khan seems to be due to his utmost role in making Pakistan a nuclear power. I am sure without Dr.Khan’s input, it would have taken Pakistan much longer, if at all, and lot more money to develop nuclear capability. Regarding “backstabbing”, it is only naive to even think that he alone could have sold centrifuges to Iran, Libya, and North Korea. Centrifuges are not something you can smuggle in your personal baggage. It is more likely of our strategists plan to detour the US efforts to denuclearize Pakistan.

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  • Jat
    Sep 18, 2012 - 2:46PM

    The fact of the matter is, the state of Pakistan including the establishment, scientific community and politicians indulged in nuclear proliferation. End of the story.

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  • Someone
    Sep 18, 2012 - 6:07PM

    Rubbish article and a pathetic outlook. The writer appears confused in his stance.

    He also must know that the bomb he made is of no use in the face of al Qaeda terrorism.

    What on earth did the bomb have to do with “facing al-Qaeda terrorism”? Senseless logic. Did India make its bomb to counter Khalistanis or Kashmiris? Do some pondering for a while. Once you understand the reason why countries pursue nuclear ambitions, come back with an asnwer. Recommend

  • sabi
    Sep 18, 2012 - 7:20PM

    LalaGeeI
    “have been reading Abdul Qadir Hassan since 1975 and consider him as a patriotic Pakistani having some moral integrity. His sole motivation to praise Dr. AQ Khan seems to be due to his utmost role in making Pakistan a nuclear power. I am sure without Dr.Khan’s input, it would have taken Pakistan much longer, if at all, and lot more money to develop nuclear capability.”
    Many journalists exploited the patriotic sentiments of a commen man (Well a cheap way to get temporary fame) for personel motives.This practis continues today under the cover of ‘Ghairat brigade’
    For detail answer pls. read my last comment on news item AQ Khan set to launh new party.

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  • roomi
    Sep 18, 2012 - 7:36PM

    AQ Khan is telling lie. What about his network in Malaysia and Dubai with SMB computers. He sold the formula and earned millions of Dollars. How can he fund hospitals. Who is the mastermind behind his decision to become politician. Yes, our nation suffered a lot due to preslar ordinance. We paid higher tax to the Govt. for keep it going and Mr. AQ Khan sold this
    Can he answer these questions.

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  • Mr. LOL
    Sep 18, 2012 - 7:37PM

    @Someone: You do not seem to comprehend the script properly. What the writer means to say is that a nuclear bomb will not help us in eliminating Al Qaida or terrorism. What part of it do you now understand?

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  • Salim
    Sep 18, 2012 - 10:49PM

    Mr.A.Q.Khan should declare his and his familys all assets and also tell how he got these.

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  • Salim
    Sep 18, 2012 - 11:06PM

    Thousands of missiles and atomic weapons could not save USSR from breaking up.How could atom bombs secure Pakistans furure??

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  • Umer Rasheed
    Sep 19, 2012 - 2:46AM

    A Q Khan has no credibility whatsoever. He has lost it completely. His services in the nuclear program are highly over-rated. The guy endorses water-kit car is enough evidence to support that.

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  • observer
    Sep 19, 2012 - 11:26PM

    @Lala Gee:

    How can you completely ignore the Indian ambitions of dominance in the region and beyond? Which neighbor of India didn’t suffer from the Indian hegemony and machinations?

    A. India saved the Bangladeshis from mass murder and rape.

    B. If Nepal and Bhutan have not been gobbled up like Tibet and parts of GB, India is to be thanked.

    C. Maldives, when facing a coup asked India foe help.

    D. Srilankan Cricketers were safe in India.

    E. All roads, hospitals, power plants and schools in Afghanistan bear testimony to Indian ‘designs’.

    Which neighbours were you talking about?

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