Pakistan's Nuclear Inquiry Is A Sham
By Brahma Chellaney
International Herald Tribune
11 February, 2004
invaded Iraq to eliminate weapons of mass destruction that were not
there, the Bush administration is now pursuing an opposite and risky
approach toward Pakistan: allowing that hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism
to escape international censure despite its admitted sale of nuclear-weapons
technology to three so-called rogue states.
proffered by the Bush team for the occupation of Iraq - the presence
of terrorists with links with Al Qaeda - has been true about Pakistan.
Yet Pakistan is a close ally in President George W. Bush's war on terror
while continuing to harbor Al Qaeda and Taliban members and other transnational
terrorists, some of them still enjoying its official patronage.
The U.S. double
standards on display are one reason why nonproliferation and counterterrorism
remain serious international challenges, with critics branding them
as tools to promote American strategic interests.
By objective criteria,
Pakistan long represented a far more compelling threat to international
security than Iraq on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction - a
fact borne out by its more recent admission of leaks of nuclear-weapons
technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea. The Pakistani nuclear aid
to Libya flowed as late as last autumn.
Yet Washington continues
to mollycoddle the military regime in Islamabad and has backed the sham
Pakistani inquiry that pinned all the blame for the illicit nuclear
transfers on individual scientists, particularly one man - Abdul Qadeer
Khan. Through the charade of making the putative father of the Pakistani
nuclear program admit complete responsibility for the nuclear leaks
and then granting him a full pardon, Pakistan's dictator, Pervez Musharraf,
has shielded his military and its powerful Inter-Services Intelligence
It is well documented
how the military helped build Pakistan's nuclear program with materials
and equipment illegally procured from overseas through intermediaries
in Dubai and front companies set up in Europe by the ISI agency. What
could not be procured from the West was imported covertly from China,
which also supplied the design of the first Pakistani bomb. With the
ISI as the spearhead of operations and the German-trained Khan as the
brain, the military ran the world's most successful nuclear-smuggling
ring. That success bred proliferation after 1989 in the reverse direction
- out of Pakistan.
Now, like mafia
dons questioning their underlings for carrying out their orders, official
investigators have sought to cloak the military's involvement and direction
by putting the entire blame on some scientists for getting lured by
the big money from proliferation.
Musharraf has once
again demonstrated how he thrives in adversity. He has cut a deal that
seeks to please all - the United States, which got the inquiry it wanted
and the promise that there would be no further nuclear leaks; Khan,
the national hero who keeps his cache of illicit money after the pardon;
and the military and the ISI, which continue to rule the roost. All
this has been achieved without Pakistan's facing any international penalty
or scrutiny, or even agreeing to turn over documents from its inquiry
to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Since seizing power
in a 1999 coup, Musharraf has ably exploited international concerns
about the situation in Pakistan to strengthen his hold on power, pushing
through a sham referendum in 2002 on his self-proclaimed presidency
and reaching a pact with Islamist political groups to legitimize his
continuance in office until 2007.
Over the past five
decades, a succession of Pakistani military rulers - all of whom came
to power by ousting democratically elected governments - have made themselves
useful to the United States. And, repeatedly, administrations in Washington,
Democratic and Republican, have helped perpetuate military rule in Pakistan,
seeing it as the best bet to take that troubled nation forward. But
the result has been only to make Pakistan a bigger problem for the world.
The Pakistani military
has long-standing links with terrorism and nuclear proliferation. In
fact, the radicalization of the Pakistani society began under the Islamization
campaign of the previous military ruler, Mohammed Zia ul-Haq.
Nothing could be
more dangerous than the mix of Islamic terrorism and nuclear weapons
that now exists in Pakistan. Physical protection of nuclear assets can
be ensured only when the government is in complete control. But when
a dictatorship claims nuclear peddling occurred without its knowledge,
the dangers of leakage and seizure of nuclear assets by Islamist elements
become starkly real.
While the White
House has again praised Musharraf, the risks of continued leakage cannot
be contained without uncovering and disconnecting the various links
in the elaborate Pakistani nuclear-supply chain. An inquiry that hushes
up the role of key players can hardly be the answer to those risks.
The writer is a
strategic studies professor at the Center for Policy Research in New
© 2004 the International Herald Tribune