Dr. A Q Khan Controversy: Update
Pakistan launches major image-building offensive in US
The News: October 24, 2006
By Shaheen Sehbai
WASHINGTON: Pakistan has launched a major image-building offensive in the US to convince decision makers and think tanks to put the Dr AQ Khan saga of nuclear proliferation behind them and treat Pakistan as a responsible nuclear power.
The man in-charge of the Pakistani nuclear programme and assets, Lt-Gen Khalid Kidwai, head of the Strategic Planning Division, who was himself deeply involved in debriefing Dr AQ Khan, is currently in Washington and is scheduled to meet senior officials as well as members of the Carnegie, Rand Corporation and other think tanks to speak about this new Pakistani image.
The Pakistani initiative comes after the North Korean nuclear test generated renewed interest in what Pakistan may have provided the North Koreans and Iran through the AQ Khan network.
Meanwhile, a senior military officer held a briefing at the Pakistan Embassy on the Eid day in connection with this image-building offensive in which the US media was also invited to “correct misperceptions about the Pakistani nuclear programme.”
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official used extensive charts and a PowerPoint presentation to elaborate the command and control structures of the Pakistani nuclear programme and assured the audience that there was absolutely no chance of Pakistani nuclear assets falling in the hands of terrorists or Islamic fundamentalists.
“Pakistanis are moderate people and despite the misconceived image of Islamic fundamentalism, ‘we do not have any closet revolutionaries,’” he said. “Even all the military coups in Pakistan have been non-violent,” the senior officer said.
The briefing was attended by senior Pakistan Embassy diplomats and the US and Pakistani mediapersons, who asked a number of questions, mostly relating to the Dr AQ Khan affair.
The official said AQ Khan would never be handed over to any foreign country as he was still considered a hero in Pakistan and there was a groundswell of emotions recently when he went through prostrate surgery.
He said Pakistan had carried out a thorough interrogation based on questions provided by the US, IAEA and other agencies. “We asked him all those questions and provided all the answers that he gave honestly without adding or subtracting anything,” the official said.
Asked when the interrogation of Dr Khan may end, the official said as far as Pakistan was concerned the chapter was closed but if there were any questions, which arose later, Pakistan would be willing to put them to Dr Khan.
He disclosed that the US had not sent any questions for Dr Khan since the last eight months, indicating that the US may not have anything else to ask him.
In answer to questions the official gave details of what Dr AQ Khan had been doing including supply of some 200 P-1 and three or four P-2 centrifuges to Iran. He said Dr Khan suffered depression frequently and at times he would just refuse to answer any questions but no third degree methods had been used to extract information from him.
The official disclosed details of how Dr Khan had written two letters during his interrogation, one to his daughter and another to the Iranians, which had been intercepted. General Musharraf had also referred to these letters in his memoirs.
He said the letter to his daughter was so detailed and disclosed everything about Pakistan’s nuclear programme. “Dr Khan was adamant to disclose anything before his letters were intercepted but when he was confronted with his own hand writing and the likelihood that his own daughter may become a target of the British or the US agencies because she had carried sensitive information about the Pakistani programme, he collapsed and asked for clemency from President Musharraf.”
He said the letter to his daughter was carried by her to London but had not been provided to the journalists, which Dr AQ Khan had mentioned. Copies of that letter were also sent to Europe by the family to be used just in case something happened to Dr Khan.
The official insisted that whatever Dr Khan had been doing was not known to the Pakistani authorities as he had been given a blank cheque and a free hand to import or export anything. “This was not only a failure of Pakistani intelligence but also a massive failure of international intelligence,” he observed.
During questions, the official remarked that Pakistan was prepared to subject Dr Khan to the lie detection test but Pakistan did not have the polygraph machines and the US had refused to supply these machines.
The official, in his presentation, also referred to the Indo-US nuclear agreement and said Pakistan needed access to such technology as it had plans to generate over 8,000 MW of energy from nuclear reactors in the coming years.
He said if Pakistan were denied parity by the US, it would have consequences because Pakistan will have to meet its needs from some other sources. “The US offer of civilian nuclear technology to India should not be country specific, but should provide a level playing field for Pakistan as well.”
Also see: Dr. Khan's Role in North Korea Bomb Denied
Centrifuges Smuggled to Dubai: Dawn October 24, 2006