Sunday, September 30, 2007

Benazir Bhutto's Remark about AQ Khan

Fuss over Bhutto's nuclear remarks By Farhatullah Babar
The News, October 01, 2007

The fuss over Ms Benazir Bhutto's remarks over cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is not surprising. Indeed it is déjà vu. Those whose pastime is to dub her as 'security risk' are at it again. The monopolists of truth and wisdom are out to make a punching bag of her. Whenever she says something that runs counter to the officially certified truth she is lambasted for presumed lack of patriotism or toeing the enemy line. It is a different matter though the critics later come round to accepting the logic and reason.

For instance, when she called for promoting people-to-people contacts and pulling down the 'invisible Berlin Wall' between India and Pakistan, she was instantly accused of betraying the martyrs' blood. Call for demolishing the invisible Berlin Wall was resented not because it meant betrayal of the martyrs but because it would take away some shine from the glittering medallions. Today even the ardent advocates of Kargil adventure acknowledge, at least publicly, the compelling logic of pulling down the barriers, easing tensions and liberalising trade in the subcontinent. They seem to recognise that normalisation should not be stalled just because talks on Kashmir have not yet produced results.

When, some years ago, she warned against the hijacking of the liberation struggle in Kashmir by extremist non-Kashmiri groups saying it was the ultimate disservice to the cause of Kashmir, she was accused of undermining jihad and even toeing the Indian line. But soon the supporters of jihadis recognised the rationale. Responsible Kashmiri leaders themselves decry the non-Kashmiri jihadi outfits. Gen Musaharraf has even cried out louder. Don't export your jihadi zeal and khudai faujdar mat bano (Do not assume the role of God's army), he warned them in his address to the nation on January 22, 2002.

It is said that wisdom dawns upon the unwise also but only after damage has been caused. What did Ms Bhutto say lately about the IAEA that seems to have let the cat into the pigeons? At the outset she said that the issue of allowing IAEA access to Dr AQ Khan was a hypothetical one and did not arise at this stage. However, she said her government will cooperate with the IAEA in questioning those who have acknowledged the role in proliferation of nuclear technology. What is wrong with it?

Has the government itself not permitted the IAEA to put written questions to Dr AQ Khan, the replies to which are then forwarded to the UN agency? Has Gen Musharraf not admitted in his memoirs sharing 'all information' about the nuclear black market with the international agencies? What must be our central concern -- protection of those who proliferated or protection of our nuclear assets? Protection of nuclear assets demands that Pakistan is perceived as a responsible state acquiring nuclear technology for its legitimate defence and economic needs and not for setting up the juma bazaar of nuclear materials and technology. It is in our interest to cooperate with the UN watchdog body to disabuse the notion that any government in the past or any state institution was involved in the nuclear black market. The protection of our nuclear assets lies in assuring the international community that ours is not a rogue state that protects the proliferators.

This has become even more important after General Musharraf made startling revelations in his memoirs about the international nuclear black market and the role of some Pakistanis in it. Chapter 27 "Nuclear Proliferation" (pages 283-294) of his memoirs reads like an FIR that also names some Pakistanis. How can we say no to investigations? According to General Musharraf, "Our investigations revealed that AQ had started his activities as far back as 1987, primarily with Iran. In 1994-94 AQ had ordered the manufacture of 200 centrifuges. These had been dispatched to Dubai for onward distribution". Further, "Dr AQ Khan transferred nearly two dozen P-1 and P-2 centrifuges to North Korea" (page 294). This is followed by a revelation that would send many into a tail spin, "To the Iranians and Libyan, through Dubai, he provided nearly eighteen tons of materials, including centrifuges, components and drawings", saying also "the deal with Libya is estimated to be in the region of $ 100 million" (page 294). Describing AQ Khan as "not part of the problem but the problem itself" (page 288), the memoirs claim "all this information has been shared with concerned investigation international agencies".

General Musharraf did the right thing in sharing nuclear black market information with international bodies. But after having informed the IAEA that 18 tons of nuclear materials were clandestinely shipped out of Pakistan supposedly by one person, can Ms Bhutto be faulted for saying that she will cooperate with the UN in unearthing the black market. Behind lambasting Ms Bhutto is the lurking fear that there could be more than just one skeleton in the cupboard. Behind it also is the doubt that General Musharraf's candid expose of the nuclear black market may not be candid after all. If we have to protect the nuclear assets there is no alternative to take out the black market roots, branches and leaves. The logic of this reasoning will also be accepted like the logic behind the peace process and disbanding the jihadis before it. One only hopes that its wisdom dawns before any damage is done.

The writer is a former PPP senator and a member of the Senate's human rights committee. Email:

Also See: The Real Security Threat, Dawn, October 1, 2007

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