Originally Published 2005-02-17 12:50:07 Published on Feb 17, 2005
Like a bad dream, the Dr AQ Khan episode has returned to haunt the world. There are a number of reasons why it will do so in the coming days. First, it is one of the most serious crimes committed against humanity.
No pardon for AQK
Like a bad dream, the Dr AQ Khan episode has returned to haunt the world. There are a number of reasons why it will do so in the coming days. First, it is one of the most serious crimes committed against humanity. The repercussions of state-sponsored networks of smugglers, nuclear scientists, military officials and businessmen freely trading in nuclear technology and materials will be felt for generations. There are credible reports of smuggling networks, especially in east Europe, which have sufficient quantity of nuclear materials to develop several radioactive-capable explosive devices.

There is equally strong evidence that Pakistani nuclear scientists have had close links with the Taliban and al Qaeda leaders in the past. Once these two facts are placed along with the strong desire expressed by various terrorist groups, especially those aligned with the al Qaeda, to possess nuclear or radioactive weapons, it is not very difficult to assess the transnational threat created by the AQ Khan network that poses a danger to the world.

For this reason alone, the network should not only be destroyed, but also the people who operated it across the world should be identified, hunted down and trialed for committing crime against humanity. This would, of course, depend, solely on the willingness of the Bush Administration. President George W Bush, in his second term, should set an example for the world to follow by setting up a special tribunal to prosecute those accused of aiding and abetting the Khan network. The tribunal should seek the assistance of international organisations like the United Nations and International Atomic Energy Agency besides intelligence and security agencies from an international coalition. This coalition should comprise members of law enforcement, customs, intelligence and military officials from Pakistan, US, India, Malaysia, Germany, UK, France, South Africa and Russia.

The first task of the tribunal should be to identify the accused and call for their interrogation by a neutral team of intelligence and security officials and nuclear experts. Identifying the accused in the Khan episode is not really difficult. The names are available in public domain. More specifically, the Royal Malaysian Police had issued a press statement in 2004 listing out names of those associated with Dr Khan. There are quite a few others who have not been identified and there are many more who will not be identified. The most feasible way to find out is to interrogate those who are known and available.

Since the Pakistan government has made it an issue of national honour not to let Dr Khan to be questioned by any intelligence agencies, four others in Pakistan could be easily called for questioning. One is Dr Muhammad Farooq, a close associate and confidante of Dr Khan. He acted as a conduit between Dr Khan, Pakistan army and Iran. There is evidence that Dr Farooq, a centrifuge expert, traveled to Iran and Libya on behalf of Dr Khan, and was the key source of information against the Khan Network when the US and Pakistan intelligence officials debriefed him in November 2003. One of the startling disclosures made by Dr Farooq was about Dr Khan's financial skullduggery.

The Tehran deal, in fact, marked the beginning of Khan's clandestine nuclear sales. Investigations have revealed that the scientists, including Dr Farooq, maintained secret bank accounts in Dubai where millions of dollars were deposited. Mr Kamran Khan, an investigative journalist, wrote in a prominent Pakistani newspaper that "foreign accounts used to deposit the proceeds from the transfer of some nuclear technology to Iran have been traced back to at least two senior nuclear scientists." He further wrote that Iranian authorities had confirmed the information about the bank accounts. One of the scientists was Dr Farooq.

Dr Farooq's interrogation, by independent agencies, will reveal the most important key to the entire network, the role of Pakistan Army. He could reveal the officers who were dealing with him on a regular basis. It is quite clear that an operation like the one run by Dr Khan cannot be possible without the active support of a large organisation like the Pakistan Army. It is not conceivable that the Army that runs a three-tier security cordon around Khan Research Laboratory at Kahuta was unaware of the transfer of materials and equipment to foreign destinations. And, an operation of this magnitude cannot be carried out without the existence of a specific department or task force - most likely clandestine - within the Army.

Similarly, Humayun Khan, a trader in electric equipment and computer hardware in Islamabad, can reveal the military's nuclear smuggling network. Although there is no evidence in public domain linking Humayun with Dr Khan, there is substantial proof that he had links with the Pakistan Army and was involved in smuggling nuclear materials. Humayun's involvement in the nuclear trade was exposed with the arrest of an Israeli businessman settled in South Africa, Asher Karni. Karni, an ex-soldier in the Israeli Army, was arrested at Denver International Airport in January 2004 following an investigation by the US Department of Commerce into the sale of 66 spark gaps (a dual use equipment used in breaking kidney stones as well as triggering nuclear weapons) to Pakistan.

E-mail records recovered from Karni's computers revealed the existence of Humayun and his attempts to buy sophisticated oscilloscopes, magnetometers, telemetry systems, and airplane guidance systems from US companies during 2002 and 2003. Humayun also sought Sidewinder missiles and infra-red sensors for the missiles from Lockheed Martin Naval Systems, a clear evidence of his links with the Pakistani military establishment. More than one year after these disclosures, Humayun has neither been arrested nor questioned. He could reveal the identity of Pak military officials who dealt with him and the channels through which he smuggled dual-use equipment from different parts of the world. In fact, Humayun could lead investigators to other networks, much like Dr Khan's, which continue to flourish and expand.

The third person who can be questioned in detail is former Army Chief General Aslam Beg. He was deeply involved in the nuclear trade with Iran. General Beg was also involved in other clandestine nuclear deals. He has publicly maintained that Pakistan should trade in nuclear technology and equipment. General Beg, according to former Pakistan Cabinet Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had negotiated with Iran for a nuclear deal. Former US Ambassador to Pakistan Robert Oakley has also referred to a conversation with General Beg during which the latter had said he was discussing nuclear cooperation with Iran's Revolutionary Guards.

General Beg had such stronghold over the nuclear programme that he even refused Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto a briefing on Pakistan's nuclear development programme when she had visited the Joint Staff Headquarters a few months after taking over as Prime Minister in 1989. General Beg could prove to be a goldmine of information.

The fourth man who should be interrogated is Aizaz Jaffri, a prominent businessman based in Islamabad. He owns Hot Shots, a bowling alley in Islamabad, and a mall complex besides scores of business establishments which, reports say, are actually owned by Dr Khan. Jaffri used to work for Pakistan's National Development Corporation before he joined Khan's network and began acting as a front man for dozens of businesses established by Dr Khan. Between November and December 2003 when Dr Khan was being questioned and his associates detained, Jaffri made three trips to Dubai, possibly (as investigators suspect) to shut down the financial structure which he ran for Dr Khan.

Courtesy: The Pioneer, New Delhi, February 16, 2005.

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