Originally Published 2004-02-03 09:42:31 Published on Feb 03, 2004
Drumbeats on Pakistan¿s nuclear black-marketing are getting louder. The international community (read Washington) is alarmed and worried at the rapidly accumulating pile of evidence against Pakistan¿s top nuclear scientist, Dr AQ Khan, and a few of his associates for selling nuclear technology and materials to nations that are considered "rogue". (China is not the target yet and hence do not qualify to be a rogue despite overwhelming evidence).
Who sold nukes ?
Drumbeats on Pakistan's nuclear black-marketing are getting louder. The international community (read Washington) is alarmed and worried at the rapidly accumulating pile of evidence against Pakistan's top nuclear scientist, Dr AQ Khan, and a few of his associates for selling nuclear technology and materials to nations that are considered "rogue". (China is not the target yet and hence do not qualify to be a rogue despite overwhelming evidence). The heat and dust being created by the "revelations", obviously made by muckracking journalists of influential western newspapers, begs the question: Why does the world get drawn into the carefully planned and orchestrated propaganda, year after year? First it was al Qaida, then WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) and now a nuclear blackmarket racket. This is not intended to be a defence of AQ Khan or Pakistan. If Dr Khan and his associates in the military and nuclear establishment have indulged in buying and selling nuclear technology and materials for several years, they should be punished, that is if there is a punishment for a crime that qualifies to be categorized as crime against humanity. If the allegations currently being made in the media were true, a special court should be set up by the United Nations to try them. In fact, the first step towards that direction would be to institute an independent investigation and send UN Inspectors to Pakistan immediately. But the question is: who will be the judge?

Take the case of Pakistan. Pakistan decided to go nuclear after a humiliating defeat in the 1971 battlefield. Within weeks of surrender at Dhaka, Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto called a secret meeting (January 24, 1972 at Multan) of nuclear and military officials and said he wanted a Bomb. A 125 MW heavy water reactor became operational near Karachi the same year. It was built with Canadian assistance. The US was not in the dark about these developments either. Three years after Mr Bhutto's secret meeting, the State Department prepared a short note on Pakistan and the Non-Proliferation Issue (January 22, 1975) which said Pakistan was not only building more power reactors, it was also negotiating with the Belgians for a heavy water facility, with the Canadians for a fuel fabrication plant and with the French for a chemical separation plant. "These facilities, "the note (since declassified and available at www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB6/ipn20_1.htm) said, "together with the heavy reactor, will give Pakistan a virtually independent nuclear fuel cycle and the opportunity to separate a sufficient amount of plutonium to build a nuclear weapon….the earliest the Pakistanis are likely to be able to produce a weapon would be 1980.'' Just a year later, so clear was the evidence that Pakistan was buying nuclear technology and materials from European countries that the State Department issued a Demarche to Pakistan. On June 23, 1983, the State Department prepared a four-page note for the US President on "The Pakistani Nuclear Programme" which began on this ominous note". There is unambiguous evidence that Pakistan is actively pursuing a nuclear weapons development program."

Besides the declassified documents, the following findings have been pieced together from open sources that reveal the involvement of the United States and other western nations in helping Pakistan build the nuclear capability. Pakistan's initiation into the nuclear club had begun in 1958 when it was invited to join the Atoms for Peace Programme launched by the Eisenhower administration. Two years later, Pakistan received a grant of $350,000 from the US to build its first research reactor.  In 1962, US supplied a 5 MW light water research reactor known as the Pakistan Atomic Research Reactor (PARR-1). In 1971, the Canadian General Electric Co. completed a 137 MW CANDU power reactor for the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant. Plans for the plutonium separating facilities designed by the British Nuclear Fuels Limited were finalised the same year. A Belgian firm, Belgonucleaire and a French corporation, Saint-Gobain Techniques Nouvelles, designed a pilot reprocessing facility called the New Labs at PINSTECH. In 1976, under a highly secretive project codenamed 706, Pakistan bought components for centrifuges from the Netherlands; orders for 6500 tubes of specially hardened steel were placed with Van Doome Transmissie. Other support components and subsystems were bought from Vakuum Apparat Technik (high vacuum valves) of Haag, Switzerland and Leybold Heraeus ( gas purification equipment), Hanan, Germany. A year later, the British subsidiary of Emerson Electric sold 30 high frequency inverters to Pakistan for controlling centrifuge speeds. In 1987, West Germany sells a tritium purification and production facility with a capacity to produce 10g of tritium daily. Tritium can be used to produce a thermonuclear device. In 1989, German magazine, Stern reported that ``since the beginning of the eighties over 70 (West German) enterprises have supplied sensitive goods to enterprises which for years have been buying equipment for Pakistan's ambitious nuclear weapons programme.'' There is more evidence, gathered from US sources, to show how the US blinks when it wants to. The most basic is the CIA's unclassified report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions (www.cia.gov/cia/reports/721_jan_jun2000.html)

which, since 1999, have been religiously reporting Pakistan's acquisition of   "a considerable amount of nuclear-related and dual-use equipment and materials from various sources-principally in the FSU (former Soviet Union) and Western Europe" .

What the CIA would never report is the involvement of US administration and firms in helping Pakistan acquire nuclear weapons technology at a time when it was forcing the world to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and other non-proliferation agreements. In May 1990, the intelligence agencies had gathered evidence that the US administration was allowing Pakistan to acquire restricted items for its nuclear arsenal from within US. Well-known investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, writing in New Yorker, March 29, 1993, said ``many more nuclear-related goods were clandestinely bought inside the United States by Pakistan than by Saddam Hussein's Iraq.'' The story of Richard M. Barlow is equally revealing. He was a CIA officer working on Pakistan's nuclear programme. In 1987, he discovered what the State Department and his seniors were telling the Congress was not exactly what he and his colleagues were digging out on Pakistan's expanding nuclear weapons development programme. He resigned a year later. He later joined as an analyst with the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy from where too he had to resign under pressure after he raised strong objections to the administration's continued support to Pakistan's nuclear purchases in the US.

The only conclusion one can draw from these findings is that the US was not only aware of Pakistan's nuclear weapons development programme from the beginning but was willingly assisting the latter to develop the capability, even brushing aside CIA's intelligence reports on Pakistan's purchases from the west. No one else had the technology to sell them anyway. So who, in the final analysis, should stand trial for nuclear proliferation ?

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