AQ Khan and Nuclear Bomb : Part III : Nuclear Yard Sale

But first Musharraf would need to make an overt display of strong-arm tactics to get the US off his back. After Clinton returned to Washington, Musharraf’s new man, General Feroz Khan, met Einhorn’s special group and assured them that his namesake A. Q. Khan would have to abide by the new regulations of the National Command Authority along with everyone else. He also advised that Lieutenant General Syed Mohammed Amjad, head of Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau, had been ordered to quiz A. Q. Khan over allegations of corruption and private profiteering. Nawaz Sharif had used the same ruse in 1998, telling the US that the ISI was investigating Khan, despite the fact that the spy directorate’s chief knew of no such investigation. Amjad’s report would never surface and he later resigned, disaffected with his brief. The elusive inquiries—which got nowhere or never happened—coincided with a handful of high-profile, theatrical raids conducted by the ISI, including the storming of a C-130 plane that was supposedly chartered by Khan and heading for North Korea. When nothing incriminating was found, Musharraf claimed: “We got some suspicious reports … [but] unfortunately, either you know, he was tipped off or whatever … we just could not catch them red-handed.” One of those who led the raids was more candid. “We rang KRL first and checked the coast was clear. This was meant to demonstrate a point.” Husain Haqqani was incredulous. “It was a lot of hot air. The military had been in sole control of KRL and PAEC since Zia’s days. They had always been in charge of Khan—in that all of his activities were governed by their orders. And now he was being portrayed as operating beyond the state. It was a put-on show for the US.”

It was to the military orders that governed Khan that Musharraf next turned. Since Zia’s time, every sale had been sanctioned by the military and now Pakistan’s chief executive decided to legitimize nuclear proliferation altogether. Musharraf ordered the publishing in national newspapers of the secret menu that A. Q. Khan had long been touting around Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Africa and the Middle East. Everything on the menu would still be available, the government announced, the only difference being that in future a permit would be required from the Defense Control Committee, chaired by Musharraf and whomever he picked as his prime minister. The advertisement hit the streets on 24 July 2000, and Washington was horrified by what it read:

The items listed in the advertisement can be in the form of metal alloys, chemical compounds, or other materials containing any of the following: 1. Natural, depleted or enriched uranium; 2. Thorium, plutonium or zirconium; 3. Heavy water, tritium, or beryllium; 4. Natural or artificial radioactive materials with more than 0.002 microcuries per gram; 5. Nuclear-grade graphite with a boron equivalent content of less than five parts per million and density greater than 1.5 g/cubic centimeter.

It was the whole shebang, everything anyone needed to make a nuclear bomb.  Listed was equipment “for the production, use or application of nuclear energy and generation of electricity,” including “gas centrifuges and magnet baffles for the separation of uranium isotopes” and “UF6 mass spectrometers and frequency changers.” They made it appear that Pakistan was for the first time applying rigorous export controls to a prohibited trade that was to be governed by the Pakistan authorities. In reality the advertisement blew to pieces the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and decades of arms controls which had to date kept the nuclear club down to five declared and a handful of undeclared nuclear powers—and was Musharraf’s clumsy bid to find a get-rich-quick scheme for Pakistan.

Former army chief General Beg saw the advertisements for what they were and, writing in an Urdu newspaper, championed them as the Islamic Atoms for Peace. “This is the best way for Pakistan to pay off her debts,” he argued, conceding that Pakistan “used to sell atomic material and equipment quietly and secretly.”

If any more evidence were needed that Khan’s proliferation activities were being actively promoted by Musharraf’s military regime, it came in November 2000 when the Pakistan army staged “IDEAS 2000,” an international munitions fair in Karachi.52The central exhibit was a large Khan Research Laboratories booth promoting the sale of centrifuges with an after-sales consultancy service that included “installation, repair and maintenence” thrown in. Alan Coke, a senior editor from Jane’s Defense Weekly, who visited the KRL booth, recalled: “They were handing out glossy brochures offering the kind of technology that would be directly applicable in a nuclear weapons program, the whole kit and caboodle, all in one.” When Coke asked a KRL representative if everything in the brochure was cleared for export he was told: “Of course, it wouldn’t be on the shelf if it wasn’t.”

Excerpted from “Shopping for Bombs: Nuclear Proliferation, Global Insecurity, and the Rise and Fall of the A.Q. Khan Network

For further reading

Why Pakistan is advertising its nuclear wares

Interview of General Aslam Beg confirming and actually supporting the ad!

 

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