AQ Khan and Nuclear Bomb : Part X : India & Israel plan an attack on Kahuta and Pakistan becomes nuclear capable

In June 1980 the BBC broadcast a documentary, “Project 706—The Islamic Bomb,” the fullest investigation to date into Khan’s illicit uranium enrichment program.18 Days later it was shown in Holland, where Henny happened to be staying with her parents on an annual pilgrimage to renew her Dutch visa. Her recollection of a meeting she had with Dutch immigration officials the following day revealed how the authorities there were oblivious to the growing Khan scandal. “The clerk, after finding out that I came from Pakistan, started discussing the [television] program. He inquired if I knew this Dr. Khan. And before I could answer, he added that Dr. Khan must have earned millions through this game. With difficulty I managed to keep quiet and never gave the impression that I was ‘that’ Mrs. Khan. At that moment I wished I could tell him that, like any other Pakistani senior government official, my husband was earning only 3750 rupees [$400] a month.” Khan was a wanted man in Holland and his wife should have been a prime asset, if not a lure to force him to return to The Hague. Instead, her passport was stamped and she got back on the plane to Islamabad.

Alexander Haig had singled out Pakistan as the means by which the US could contain the Soviet threat, with Afghanistan as the theater in which to do it. But the idea was not his own. It came from the US ambassador in Islamabad, Arthur Hummel, who suggested the US offer a dramatic increase in aid. Potentially, it was a golden opportunity. Pakistan was desperate to act against Soviet aggression and the US had a chance to bleed the Soviets without putting troops on the ground. Here was a war the US could win. The only sticking point was Pakistan’s nuclear program. The White House came up with an argument. The US would lavish aid on Pakistan and in return a secure Islamic Republic would be less inclined to build a doomsday device. The theory was let loose on Capitol Hill.

In Pakistan, Zia did what he could to help. A frank briefing on the state of the secretive Pakistan nuclear project from Dr. Ishrat Usmani, the former head of PAEC, found its way into an influential European nuclear publication. He revealed that, contrary to public fears, his country “faced severe challenges” in completing the Kahuta program. Usmani had gone on to work at the United Nations in New York and had become a trusted face in the West. But although Usmani knew that in February 1979 Khan had succeeded in building several operational centrifuge cascades at Sihala, he told the reporter from Nucleonics Week that Pakistan faced severe technical challenges and was unlikely ever to be capable of producing even the crudest of nuclear devices.

A senior official at the Department of State called Senator Charles Percy (Republican, Illinois), chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, which would have to vet aid to Pakistan. Anticipating strong opposition, Percy was advised to say that Pakistan “faced an immediate and growing threat from the Soviets in Afghanistan” and its survival hinged on the Afghan freedom fighters. A talking-points pack recommended that if the nuclear issue were to be raised he should acknowledge the Islamic Republic was “making a determined effort to acquire nuclear explosives” and that the punitive measures taken in the past had achieved nothing. Sanctions were a failure. The way to gain assurance that A. Q. Khan would roll back the nuclear program was to give Islamabad jets and money. The twisted logic of granting Pakistan security to buy off its nuclear program was getting some usage.In eighteen months, the Pakistan nuclear program had gone from within a wing tip of being atomized by US or even Israeli bombers, to a low-level risk with little chance of succeeding, pushed to the back of US priorities.

Early in the morning of 1 May 1981, A. Q. Khan was woken by an urgent and unexpected phone call. Several weeks earlier he had sent word to General Zia that he had successfully enriched a small sample of uranium to weapons-grade strength, a colossal breakthrough on the path to manufacturing a nuclear bomb. Using European blueprints, he had modified URENCO’s energy-supplying technology for use in a weapons program. Now Zia had decided to view the progress at Kahuta for himself, with an unscheduled visit that morning. Khan was thrown into a panic. He immediately called Brigadier Sajawal, told him to get into his dress uniform and join him in the staff car in half an hour.1 Dr. Shafiq, then a thirteen-year-old schoolboy, tagged along. “When he arrived at Kahuta, Zia was shocked,” he recalled. “He was expecting a school chemistry lab and here was a plant filled with fully functioning Western-style laboratories, cascades of gleaming centrifuges humming away in glass chambers all being monitored by scientists in pristine white coats. Nothing like this had ever been done in Pakistan before. I remember the look on his face. He was like, ‘This is an empire.’ He was overwhelmed.” Khan recalled the visit as a great morale booster for him and his colleagues. “During his flying visit to our laboratories Zia renamed our organization from ‘Engineering Research Laboratories’ to ‘Dr. A. Q. Khan Research Laboratories,’

Back in 1979, the Israelis, according to a senior intelligence source in Israel, had been shown a classified US memo by their counterparts in RAW, the Indian foreign intelligence agency. Intercepted on its way from the US embassy in New Delhi to the secretary of state, Cyrus Vance, it confirmed that the US privately believed Pakistan would be able to explode a bomb within “two or three years”—most likely by 1981.So shocked had the Israelis been by the massive advances made by Khan that they had begun planning a pre-emptive strike on Kahuta, a plan that had only been put on ice due to US pressure. Now both Israel and India picked up more worrying indicators, including signs that test tunnels were being dug in Pakistan’s Ras Koh mountains.

So certain were the Indians of Pakistan’s intent that Lieutenant General Krishnaswami Sundarji, a future Indian vice chief of army staff, took the unprecedented step of publishing a war-gaming manual on the basis that Pakistan would imminently have a deployable bomb. Israel was less cerebral in its response. On 7 June 1981, deploying US-supplied bombers, armed with US-manufactured munitions, targeting with satellite overheads supplied by the US intelligence community, Israel destroyed the Iraqi nuclear program, striking out its reactor in Osirak, sending a clear message that even if the US was willing to turn a blind eye to the activities of unauthorized nuclear powers, the Israelis were not. Jerusalem would not stand by and allow realpolitik to arm Pakistan either, and a highly secretive bombing campaign orchestrated by the Mossad, Israel’s external security agency, which had begun earlier in the year and targeted A. Q. Khan’s European suppliers, was escalated.

The first victim had been Heinz Mebus, Khan’s old friend from West Berlin Technische Universität, who, along with Albrecht Migule, had helped build Pakistan’s fluoride and uranium conversion plants in 1979. A letter bomb exploded inside Mebus’s home in Erlangen, West Germany. Mebus was out at work, but his dog died in the attack. European criminal investigators soon linked the bombing to another that had occurred in Berne, Switzerland, on 20 February, outside the home of Eduard German, managing director of CORA Engineering, the company that had exported the gasification and solidification unit to Pakistan in 1979. The company had been preparing to send another rig to Pakistan when the bomb went off. The incident was followed by an anonymous caller demanding that CORA stop trading with Pakistan. Rudolf Walti, a CORA official, recalled that after his company was threatened again two months later it ended its association with Pakistan, having discovered that the US knew everything. However, this information had been kept highly classified, lest it undermine the aid train that had started to leave for Pakistan.

Police in Berne could find no trace of any of the attackers, only references to a gang that called itself the Group for Non-Proliferation in South Asia. However, they soon discovered that similar attacks against Khan’s European suppliers had been carried out by other equally untraceable groups, including one called the Committee to Safe guard the Islamic Revolution and another known as the League for Protecting the Sub-Continent, which had exposed secret contracts between Khan and a French nuclear supplier.

Pooling resources through Interpol, the international police organization, the Swiss detectives learned of an Italian company trading with Khan that had also been warned off. Emanuele Poncini, deputy director of Alcom Engineering, which was supplying metal components to Pakistan, confirmed that his company had received a threatening letter and had backed away from its deal. Then, on 18 May 1981, another bomb exploded, this one planted in the southern German town of Markdorf outside a company that had been supplying Pakistan since 1976. That November, Albrecht Migule was also targeted when a letter bomb was delivered to his house in Freiberg, West Germany. The Swiss police investigations floundered, although in private the detectives believed a sophisticated, state-backed group was behind the attacks, with Mossad the most likely candidate.Peter Griffin recalled having the frighteners put on him, too, when he went to Bonn to pick up a payment from Ikram ul-Haq, A. Q. Khan’s agent there. “I was in a bar when a stranger sat down next to me. ‘You’re Peter Griffin,’ he said. ‘We don’t like what you’re doing, so stop it.’ ” Griffin started recording all his business dealings and movements in a diary, put all his company records into a bank vault, and advised his wife that if anything untoward should happen to him she should give everything to their son Paul.

The CIA had picked up on Zia’s instructions to Khan in May 1981 to get ready for a cold test. Pakistan had moved on to the next stage. Officially, Pakistan’s warhead design was the responsibility of Dr. Samar Mubarakmand, a founding member of PAEC, who had attended the 1972 Multan conference and ran PAEC’s Directorate of Technical Development (DTD), one of the most secretive organizations in the labyrinth of Pakistan’s nuclear industry. At a secret laboratory, the location of which was never disclosed, Mubarakmand worked with a team of scientists and engineers who had formerly been employed by the Pakistan army’s ordnance complex at Wah, north of Islamabad. They had been shifted from conventional to nuclear weapons in March 1974 but had yet to perfect their warhead design. In 1981, Zia decided to increase the pace by authorizing Khan to establish a competing weapons team at Kahuta

Everything was building up for a cold test, and in March 1983, shortly after Reagan had hailed US efforts at “dissuading [Pakistan] from continuing its nuclear explosives program,” work began in tunnels bored into the Kirana Hills near Sargodha, the Pakistan air force’s largest base and its central ammunition depot. The tests were to be conducted by PAEC, after Dr. Samar Mubarakmand’s team at the Directorate of Technical Development finally produced a viable bomb design with input from Khan’s teams at Kahuta. Mubarakmand, who oversaw the preparations, recalled how they first had to clear the site of wild boars, one of which had previously written off a jet as it landed by charging into its undercarriage. He then booted up the US- and German-manufactured supercomputers with which his scientists would monitor the triggering of a nuclear bomb that had had its fissile core removed.

An armed escort arrived with the weapon. “The bomb was assembled in the tunnel. The telemetry was set up, checked and rechecked. Vans outside the test site would monitor the event from every angle.” The first test was designed to monitor the trigger mechanism and to see if it would generate sufficient neutrons to start a chain reaction. “The button was pushed and nothing happened,” the report stated. Fearing the device had failed, a team entered the tunnel and, running every wire through their fingers, they found that two connections had come adrift. After conducting some running repairs the test went off successfully. Now Pakistan’s dignitaries were invited to the site. A few days later, General K. M. Arif arrived, alongside Munir Ahmed Khan, chairman of PAEC, and Ghulam Ishaq Khan, the finance minister. “Only a few people in Pakistan knew. It was a red-letter day,” recalled Arif. “I can tell you we were all very excited. The tests went perfectly. Pakistan to all intents and purposes now had its bomb. The work of our scientists was nothing short of heroic. From now on there were twenty-four more cold tests to straighten out the triggering mechanism until we got the hang of it exactly.”

In Pakistan, Khan was unconcerned about White House sensitivities. His Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) was filled with droves of conspicuous foreign visitors. “The Chinese were working on triggering mechanisms, the centrifuges, vacuum systems. They brought rocket propellant and super-hard metals like maraging steel,” recalled Dr. Shafiq, who was then training to be a medical doctor and frequently visited the plant to see his father, Brigadier Sajawal. “They brought in fissile material and Khan gave them the data on enrichment and metallurgy. They helped Pakistan import and experiment with high explosives and Khan gave them his work on the centrifuge rotors.” To make them feel welcome the main guest house was hung with lanterns and done up as a Chinese hall.

The collaboration grew so immense that the Chinese requested Pakistan to change the old-fashioned way in which some deals were financed. Dr. Shafiq recalled his father and Khan discussing China’s demands. “There would be no more suitcases full of cash delivered by high-ranking Pakistan army officers or ISI agents. China wanted a trustworthy and transparent line of credit. Dr. Khan had to get things regularized and get the government to deposit money into an account in one of its chosen banks, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International [BCCI], the Islamic Development Bank or the National Bank of Pakistan.” These bank-to-bank transfers would attract the attention of Western intelligence, which began investigating Khan’s finances in 1982, but they would not report back until much later and those involved in the investigations complained at the time of being largely ignored

A committee of soldiers and intelligence people had first come together to discuss what became known as “the Osirak contingency” in 1981, after Lieutenant General Krishnaswami Sundarji had published his Pakistan war-gaming manual. Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi had consented and placed Air Marshal Dilbagh Singh, chief of air staff, in charge of the operation. He had ordered Indian Air Force Jaguar squadrons to practice low-level flying, simulating runs with 2,000-lb bombs.

In February 1983, with the strike plan at an advanced stage, Indian military officials had travelled secretly to Israel, which had a common interest in eliminating Khan, to buy electronic warfare equipment to neutralize Kahuta’s air defenses.24 On 25 February 1983, Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi had accused Pakistan of “covertly attempting to make nuclear weapons,” and three days later, Raja Ramanna, director of India’s Bhabha Atomic Research Center, had revealed that India, too, was developing a uranium enrichment facility. Suspecting something was brewing, the ISI sent a message to their Indian intelligence counterparts in RAW that autumn, and as a result Munir Ahmed Khan of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission met Dr. Ramanna at the Imperial Hotel in Vienna. He warned Ramanna that if India were to strike at Kahuta, Pakistan would hit India’s nuclear facilities at Trombay. It lay downwind from the teeming Indian city of Mumbai and an attack would result in the release of “massive amounts of radiation to a large populated area, causing a disaster.”

New Delhi paused. Israel stepped in, suggesting that it carry out the raid, using India’s airbase at Jamnagar to launch Israeli air force jets and a second base in northern India to refuel. A senior Israeli analyst close to the operation recalled that the plan was to enter Pakistan beneath the radar, with jets tracking the line of the Himalayas through Kashmir. As Reagan’s staff finalized arrangements for the president’s visit to China in March 1984, prime minister Indira Gandhi signed off the Israeli-led operation, bringing India, Pakistan and Israel to within a hair’s breadth of a nuclear conflagration. It was at this point that the CIA tipped off President Zia, hoping the chain reaction would defuse the situation. And after Khan’s outbursts in the Pakistani newspapers, India and Israel had backed off.

President Zia soon had a more pressing letter on his desk. Dated 10 December 1984, it was written by A. Q. Khan and required careful consideration. Everything was in place at Kahuta, Khan wrote, to detonate a real nuclear bomb—a hot test.61That in the closing months of 1984 Pakistan was on the brink of unveiling in public its nuclear program was verified by a second source, the Pakistani finance minister, Ghulam Ishaq Khan. “The nation owes a debt of gratitude to its scientists … using weapons-grade enriched uranium, a product of KRL, they had developed by 1984 a nuclear explosive device which could be detonated at short notice,” he wrote in a private letter sent to staff at Kahuta.

General Arif recalled that Zia was thrilled, but in two minds. He was eager to witness Pakistan’s nuclear ascendancy, but equally wary of losing the billions of dollars coming from the US. “Khan was told to wait. He was not used to being refused. He was devastated.” According to Zia’s chief of staff, something other than US hard cash had led to Zia calling off the hot test: the imminent arrival of a US delegation that was visiting Islamabad to talk about the nuclear program and witness how the covert war over the border was being prosecuted.63 “Pakistan could not detonate a bomb while the Americans were here. With the Soviets still in Afghanistan we needed them to go back home with a vision that we were winning that war with US support. We could afford to wait,” Arif said.

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

AQ Khan and Nuclear Bomb : Part VIII : Kahuta Nuclear Plant aka Butter Factory aka Project 706

On 31 July 1976 they gave A. Q. Khan the authorization to construct his own enrichment facility, the Engineering Research Laboratories. They also gave it a codename: Project 706.

Khan set himself a seven-year deadline to build a bomb. To meet it, he sought out the brightest technicians, physicists and engineers in Pakistan and ripped apart the scientific establishment to get them, offering unheard-of salaries, perks, pensions and government bungalows. “Some of the heads of the organizations made such a hue and cry [about losing their employees] that it seemed as if the heavens would fall in,” he wrote. Among those he employed were Dr. Farooq Hashmi, a metallurgist trained at Southampton University, who became his deputy director, Dr. Alam, a British-educated computer programmer and mathematician, and Brigadier General Anis Ali Syed, on secondment from the Pakistan army, who became the head of the Special Works Organization, a military unit created to procure equipment for Project 706. Khan often used his hotline to the prime minister to ensure he got the last word, and by the autumn of 1976 the message had got through: Khan was not to be tangled with.

All elements of Project 706 started simultaneously: the building of the main plant at Kahuta, the procurement of essential equipment and materials from Europe, the manufacture of the first prototypes, the establishment of a pilot plant in which to test them, even a weapons design center. Khan had calculated he would need at least ten thousand centrifuges to supply a viable bomb program. He had plumped for the CNOR prototype as it was simpler to build, and since it had been abandoned by URENCO in favor of the G-2 there were dozens of suppliers with vast stockpiles of unwanted components they were desperate to sell. But the CNOR had a design flaw that URENCO had never completely resolved: its bottom bearing, a tiny ball stuck onto a needle and attached to the base plate of the machine’s rotor. The needle supported the weight of the rotor as it spun at up to 70,000 rpm, and to counter the friction a spiral groove, virtually invisible to the human eye, was etched on to the underside of the bearing, which sat in a tiny cup of lubricant. High-definition computer-driven lathes had to etch this groove onto the underside of the bearing, and even a minute irregularity would cause the rotor to tilt and the machine to crash. The exact dimensions of the bearing and its spiral groove had been among the most highly classified secrets at the Almelo plant, and it was clear from letters that Khan now sent to former colleagues at URENCO that he had been unable to obtain these specifications.

It was just another problem on a long list of challenges to surmount. “It was an uphill task with every step being marred by a new set of intricate problems … A country which could not make sewing needles, good bicycles or even durable metalled roads was embarking on one of the latest and most difficult technologies,” he wrote.

A small power station was also constructed to make Kahuta independent of Pakistan’s grid, which was so unstable and overdrawn that during the summer large sections of Rawalpindi and Islamabad were plunged into darkness. Khan also insisted that Project 706 aim to become self-sufficient in manufacturing components, and Brigadier Sajawal was ordered to build machine-tool workshops, ready to house state-of-the-art European equipment capable of reverse-engineering centrifuge parts. Aside from the technical sections, Kahuta also needed guard towers, alarm systems, a paved road wide enough for trucks, communications, staff facilities, guest houses for visiting scientists. Brigadier Sajawal estimated that the basic infrastructure alone would take three years to finish. So, while his men bulldozed, Khan and his small team of scientists worked on designing a Pakistani prototype centrifuge (which they called the P-1)

Griffin, who would become inseparable from Khan, supplying machines, parts and tools to him for two decades, recounted how, in the summer of 1976, when he was a young sales manager at a Swansea-based machine-tool supplier called Scimitar, he received a phone call that would change his life. For Abdus Salam, the Pakistani-born businessman on the other end of the line, it was a misdial. He had been looking for the British office of US machine-tool giant Rockwell International, which helped make NASA’s space shuttle, but instead got the UK agent of its power-tool division in Wales. Nevertheless, the conversation that followed led to an introduction to Khan. Griffin said: “Salam wanted £1 million in Rockwell power tools. Top-of-the-range, US-made equipment. One million pounds of it. Of course I could do the deal even though I was not Rockwell. We agreed to meet in London.” There, Salam revealed that the equipment was for a “brilliant young Pakistani scientist” called Abdul Qadeer Khan, who was “trying to help his country industrialize and enter the modern age.”

There were often loyalties at play beyond Griffin’s comprehension. Once, when he tried to convince Khan to stop buying laser rangefinders from China which were actually manufactured by Israel and would have been far cheaper sourced directly from there, Khan had refused. “No, we import them from the Chinese,” he said. “The Chinese are our friends.”

The Pakistanis sometimes referred to their burgeoning network as “Operation Butter Factory,” a name that harked back to the 1960s when Albrecht Migule had built a margarine factory for the son of General Ayub Khan. Khan, Butt, ul-Haq and other ISI agents mentioned this in-joke in their correspondence, describing enriched uranium as “cake,” “sweets” or “biscuits,” the end product produced from the “butter” or UF6 that Migule had helpfully provided by building the fluorine and uranium conversion plants. But on the ground, Khan’s men made very little attempt to cover their tracks, preparing contracts that stipulated delivery directly to the Director General, Special Works Organization, Rawalpindi, and handing out checks from government accounts held at the National Bank of Pakistan.

One reason for this openness was that Khan knew that Europe had no idea what he was up to. Because centrifuge technology was so new and poorly understood, the checks and balances that should have been triggered by the trade failed. Most of the components Khan requested were not on any IAEA list of nuclear-sensitive equipment and were not subject to any European export controls. Even though some of the components were vast, among them a complete gasification and solidification unit (to feed UF6 gas into the centrifuges and then transform it back into a solid form) which required three Hercules C-130 transport planes to get it to Pakistan, most sales were vetted and approved by Europe’s governments.

Greed, lax custom inspections, an overly bureaucratic IAEA, governments’ pursuit of their national interests, and antiquated legislation were all being exploited ruthlessly, and clearly Western governments and suppliers underestimated Pakistan. Dr. Shafiq, whose father was busy building centrifuge halls as components came flooding in, reflected: “Everything came from the UK, Germany and France and was openly transacted. The companies would tell their governments, ‘These silly buggers in Pakistan want to spend billions’ and their governments would say, ‘If these silly buggers have got the cash then let them have it.’ We would say vacuum pumps; we need them for oil and gas, etc. But it was all going to Kahuta.” Later, when he had all he needed, Khan openly agreed: “The Western world was sure that an underdeveloped country like Pakistan could never master this technology”

In Pakistan, things appeared to be going so well that in 1976 prime minister Bhutto ordered test tunnels to be constructed at two locations in western Balochistan, five in the Ras Koh range on the Balochistan plateau, and one beneath the sands of the Kharan Desert, a hundred miles to the west. Brigadier Muhammed Sarfaraz, chief of staff at 5 Corps, oversaw the building work along with Brigadier Sajawal. At Kharan, they constructed a vertical shaft 300 foot deep with a 700-foot horizontal tunnel leading off the bottom. In Ras Koh, five horizontal tunnels were bored directly into the side of a mountain. The tunnels were designed in the shape of a double “S” so that if a bomb was detonated, the explosion would move the mountain outwards and the tunnel would collapse inwards. Each one was capable of withstanding a 20-kiloton explosion explosion, the same magnitude as the bomb dropped on Nagasaki. Completed in 1980, the tunnels would be sealed until Pakistan was ready.

Despite all the activity at Kahuta and Ras Koh, the international community was oblivious to Pakistan’s uranium enrichment plans, going all out, instead, to block its ongoing deal with France on the reprocessing plant, which it viewed as a prelude to the production of a plutonium bomb. Straining to see what Pakistan was up to, the State Department put Robert Gallucci, a young official in the Bureau of Non-Proliferation, on to the case. He rummaged around in all the classified material he had access to and concluded that “Pakistan’s nuclear industry is not particularly worrisome now” as the Islamic Republic was “at the beginning of its nuclear development.”

US secretary of state Henry Kissinger had tried to head Bhutto’s nuclear ambitions off course during a meeting in New York in 1976, offering him a strange deal. Bhutto was to terminate his reprocessing project in favor of a US-supplied facility that would be located in Iran and be made available to all countries in the region. But Bhutto rejected the offer and, fearing that Pakistan was about to proceed to the next stage of plutonium production, the US Senate proposed an amendment to the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act to block economic and military aid, threatening to cut off Pakistan’s annual $162 million US aid package. Bhutto was not rattled. The noise from the US Congress suited him fine, as he had no intention of going ahead with the costly reprocessing plant and was concentrating his energies on Project 706. “Bhutto himself was of the view that the work at Kahuta laboratories should be kept concealed from the world by focusing attention on the purchase of the reprocessing plant,” recalled Kauser Niazi, his information minister.60 Always on the lookout for cost efficiencies, Bhutto also hoped that if Pakistan was seen to abandon its reprocessing plans under American pressure it would not have to compensate the French when it finally pulled out of the deal.

[while Bhutto was under incarceration after Zia’s coup] Somehow, the exasperating CNOR centrifuge whose exacting design had made it so difficult to reconstruct in Pakistan was now up and running at the Sihala pilot plant. Khan was even preparing to introduce UF6 gas into the centrifuge chamber and to attempt, for the very first time, to enrich uranium. It was remarkably rapid progress for a man who just two years before had been a translator at the FDO lab in Amsterdam, and a solace for Bhutto as he awaited his fate.

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

AQ Khan and Nuclear Bomb : Part I : Introduction

However, when the war in Afghanistan ended, Bush cut Pakistan adrift, terminating aid in 1990, marking the last significant contact between the US and a nuclear-ready Pakistan until cruise missiles slammed into Osama bin Laden’s training camps in Afghanistan in 1998..No one was looking at the Islamic Republic, even as intelligence began backing up in Europe, India and Israel to show that its military nuclear network had reacted to the aid cut-off by escalating the black-market deals in nuclear technology, eyeing markets hostile to the West.

By the time President Bill Clinton took office in 1993, and throughout his two terms, an ever more detailed picture was pieced together of Pakistan’s dangerous liaisons: Iran in 1987, Iraq in 1990, North Korea in 1993, and by 1997 Libya, too.

Things would get worse. By the time George W. Bush secured the presidency in 2001, a mountain of incredibly precise intelligence portrayed Pakistan as the epicenter of global instability: a host and patron for Islamist terrorism, ruled by a military clique that was raising capital and political influence by selling weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

However, in the days and months that followed September 11, Wolfowitz and others set about building a new house of cards. Pakistan’s President Musharraf pledged to round up al-Qaeda and to assist in mopping up the Taliban, giving up their leaders and busting their sanctuaries in the inhospitable border region with Afghanistan. Musharraf became integral to American plans, lending the Pentagon airspace, passing intelligence and mounting operations in regions where no Western soldier could ever hope to go. The Bush administration weighed his value as a potential ally against the harm Pakistan’s nuclear program could do, just as Carter and Reagan had done before. Despite overwhelming evidence of a building nuclear crisis, in which a state leaking nuclear technology was also concealing terrorists who were seeking it, the White House decided to do nothing.

In October 2003, Richard Armitage flew to Islamabad to meet Musharraf. The White House agenda was to keep the general onside. A drama was conceived that drew from Musharraf a promise to shut down Pakistan’s nuclear black market in return for winning US support for his unelected regime. It was agreed that A. Q. Khan would be arrested, along with a dozen of his fellow scientists, but Pakistan would keep hold of them, allowing the West to pose limitless questions via ISI interrogators but leaving the country’s military elite in the clear.

As White House calls for regime change in Iran rose to a clamor in 2006, Pakistan’s President Musharraf turned off the intelligence tap, shutting down all investigations into Khan. Then Musharraf’s contribution to the war on terror began to fall apart at the seams. Militants arrested in the post-9/11 heat were released and allowed to re-form their jihadi groups under new names. A neo-Taliban flourished in Pakistan’s tribal border areas, from where they struck fatally at Afghan, British and American forces. Most worrying, al-Qaeda began merging with Pakistan’s home-grown terrorists, spawning new camps, new graduates and new missions abroad. By 2007, Pakistan’s nuclear sales network was flourishing again. The Islamic Republic had learned to manufacture the restricted components and materials, electronic equipment and super-strong metals needed for a ready-made nuclear weapons facility which they were selling to anyone who could come up with the cash. Pakistan’s arsenal, developed at Washington’s grace and favor, was sliding out of control as terrorists gained new footholds in Islamabad.

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

ISPR Press Release : What a joke

After four days of utter silence to the nation yet some interviews to BBC in English with such statements as “we are good, but we are not God” ISPR comes out with a press release in English mainly for the consumption of the international media. Bloody civilians who were shocked that by diverting resources from health, education and infrastructure, this what our security establishment had to show for itself may find little comfort in reading it.

Without further ado, the Press Release:

It was highlighted that the achievements of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), against Al Qaeda and its terrorist affiliates, have no parallel in Pakistan.

In Pakistan? Isn’t that what ISI IS supposed to do? It would have been really shameful if any other international organization came even close to matching ISI achievements in Pakistan.

COAS made it very clear that any similar action, violating the sovereignty of Pakistan, will warrant a review on the level of military / intelligence cooperation with the United States.

Can’t we at least threaten to shut all cooperation? Is this the best threat we could throw at them?

The Corps Commanders were informed about the decision to reduce the strength of US military personnel in Pakistan to the minimum essential

As my friend Jafar said, did the military personnel IN Pakistan do the action? How many CIA guys were thrown out after Raymond Davis saga?

As regards the possibility of similar hostile action against our strategic assets, the Forum reaffirmed that, unlike an undefended civilian compound, our strategic assets are well protected and an elaborate defensive mechanism is in place.

Acha? As if this civilian compound was located near the border in a deserted area. The compound was located well inside Pakistani territory near the military academy Kakul in Abbotabad and the infiltrators were in our airspace for more than an hour and according to our air marshal by the time our F-16s reach there, they had already left in helicopters.

The Forum, taking serious note of the assertions made by Indian military leadership about conducting similar operations, made it very clear that any misadventure of this kind will be responded to very strongly. There should be no doubt about it.

Misadventure of this kind from Indians will be responded to very strongly. However, when Americans do it, it will just warrant a review of our cooperation.

The Forum reiterated the resolve to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan and to fight the menace of terrorism, with the support and help of the people of Pakistan.

What do they have to show for the support that people gave them so far? With big chunk of budget and foreign aid routed to military at the expense of health, education and infrastructure, if we couldn’t even detect the trespassing helicopters and our multimillion dollar f-16s took more than an hour to respond to the threat, the bhookay nangay awaam of Pakistan have been taken for a ride by their security establishment.


After this joke of a Press Release which Express Tribune rightly said was CRAFTED on the fourth day of incident, Indian defence ministry replied within half an hour with a statement saying just “ROFL”

=Honorable Mention=

Award for best analysis goes to Tazeen who said something to the effect of that this is the highest point of Presidency that such a huge blunder happens in Pakistan and no one is blaming the President.


ISPR is back to its old tactics and have started feeding the media to transfer blame to civilian leadership. Ansar Abbasi printed a piece on hikers from western countries taking a trip near Kahuta who were later released by Interior Ministry on having diplomatic immunity. Electronic media was again repeating the stale news that New York embassy issued passport to 7,000 Americans without getting green light from ISI. Does this mean that Osama Bin Laden and other foreigners roaming around in the country have all been green lighted by ISI?