Editorial : http://www.navhindtimes.com/stories.php?part=news&Story_ID=020216 The Secret is Out
PAKISTAN’S father of nuclear bomb, Dr Abdul Qadir Khan has been sacked and divested of his position as Advisor to the Prime Minister by the President, Gen Pervez Musharraf in the wake of allegations of he secretly passing on nuclear technology to Libya, Iran and Korea, the countries listed as “axis of evil” by the US President, Mr George W Bush. Pakistan began its investigation in late November only after Iran admitted about its nuclear programme to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog. Allegations have been levelled by the FBI, the US intelligence agency, that Dr Khan, who was forced to retire from Khan Research Laboratories in 2001, had actually masterminded the missile-for-nuke exchange with North Korea. Undoubtedly it was a tough decision as Dr Khan is a national hero for having set up a challenge to Indian nuclear might, but Gen Musharraf had to take the decision in order to send the message to the international community and the US that Pakistan government was with them for stopping any proliferation of nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons technology.
After the fall of Soviet Union and destruction of Iraq’s nuclear infrastructure under UN auspices, the Bush administration redoubled its efforts to stem regional nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, on the Korean peninsula, and in the South Asian sub-continent. Initially Pakistan had rejected charges of proliferation and then denied any official complicity but it was the Iranian evidence that forced it to publicly concede that “one or two people” acted for personal gain. Preliminary investigations revealed that Dr Khan and former director-general of the Khan Research Laboratories, Dr Mohammed Farooq had supplied nuclear technology to Iran and Libya through underground nuclear mafia for pecuniary gains. Investigators have also traced huge accounts and are trying to ascertain the source who gave them the money. Earlier Dr Khan was convicted in absentia for stealing blueprints from a nuclear lab in the Netherlands where he worked in the 1970 but was acquitted on a technicality.
Though Gen Musharraf sacked Dr Khan, he is faced with a piquant situation: any rigorous action against Dr Khan has the potential to boomerang on his face but at the same time mere a slap on Dr Khan only stripping him of his post would not satisfy Islamabad’s Western allies and give the impression Pakistan condones nuclear proliferation. Initiating no action would damage the credibility of Gen Musharraf and make him suspect in the eyes of Mr Bush and his allies. Already the religious, civic and military circles have started criticising Gen Musharraf for buckling under the US pressure, jeopardising Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities. The mainstream opposition parties have even threatened to launch a nation-wide protest against government move to victimise the countrys top scientists.
Though the decision was taken at the meeting of the Nuclear Command and Control Authority chaired by Gen Musharraf, indications reveal that even the cabinet colleagues of the Prime Minister, Mr Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali are sharply divided on the issue of prosecuting Dr Khan. The Interior Minister, Mr Hayyat opposed it, and went on record that there was no evidence against Dr Khan and he was not a suspect. Even the military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan was not clear in his assertion that the government will take action against the scientist. Significantly at least six scientists and security officials are in military custody in the scandal.
Dr Khan was removed from KRL in 2001, but the evidence suggest that the Pakistani rulers have been in the trade of nuclear proliferation and transferring nuclear technology to Iran and other countries for more than a decade. It was during Mr Nawaz Sharif’s rule that the then army chief, Mr Mirza Aslam Beg had sought clearance for transferring Pakistan’s technology to Iran at an exhorbitant price. In the fragile political structure of Pakistan, Dr Khan emerged as the most powerful person who did not care for the political masters. So strong was his clout that even Ms Benazir Bhutto as the Prime Minister was ignorant of his activities and also Pakistan’s nuclear status in 1990 till she was briefed by the CIA. Though the supporters of Dr Khan allege that it was due to his personal dislike for Dr Khan that Gen Musharraf divested him of the important post, one thing is certain that allowing a person like Dr Khan to hold such a crucial position when all suspicion leads to the case that he allegedly bartered the prestige of the country and the peace in the world for his own pecuniary gains and luxuries would be damaging Pakistan’s position in the eyes of the international community even more seriously.