Benazir carried nuclear secrets in overcoat to North Korea: book

May 13th, 2008 - 6:01 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Benazir Bhutto
By Manish Chand
New Delhi, May 13 (IANS) Benazir Bhutto, then prime minister of Pakistan, carried critical nuclear data on CDs in her overcoat to Pyongyang in 1993 and brought back North Korea’s missile information on her return journey, says a new political biography of the late leader. The shocking revelation about Pakistan’s alleged role in North Korea’s illicit nuclear weapons programme is chronicled in detail in veteran journalist Shyam Bhatia’s “Goodbye Shahzadi”.

Bhatia, who says Bhutto acted as a “female James Bond”, has based his book on long personal conversations with the late prime minister.

“As she was due to visit North Korea at the end of 1993 she was asked and readily agreed to carry nuclear data on her person and hand it over on arrival in Pyongyang,” writes the London-based Bhatia while recalling a conversation with Bhutto in her villa in Dubai villa 2003.

“…before leaving Islamabad, she shopped for an overcoat with the ‘deepest possible pockets’ into which she transferred CDs containing the scientific data about uranium enrichment that the North Koreans wanted,” says Bhatia.

“She did not tell me how many CDs were given to her to carry, or who they were given to when she arrived in Pyongyang, but she implied with a glint in her eye that she acted as a two-way courier, bringing North Korea’s missile information on CDs back with her on the return journey,” Bhatia writes.

Bhutto’s interest in North Korean missile technology was triggered by India’s testing of the long-range Agni missile, capable of hitting all Pakistan’s population centres, in 1989, he says.

“When she came into power for the second time in 1993, there were agonized discussions underway about how Pakistan could augment and strengthen its existing missile capabilities.”

In 1993, says Bhatia, the central question was how the barter for enrichment of uranium (which Pakistan’s nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan had mastered) for missiles (North Korea) could be effected.

“Pakistan was under the spotlight as it had never been before, with India, Russia and the secret services of the West monitoring every nuance of the country’s military research.

“This was where Benazir came in useful,” the author states while trying to explain why Bhutto was chosen as a courier for this top-secret mission.

Bhatia’s candid biography of Bhutto, based on a 34-year-old friendship dating back to student days, evokes a multi-hued portrait of the Pakistani leader.

Bhutto was truly versatile, the author recalls: a sensitive human being who idolised her father and a fiery debater who became president of the Oxford Union Debating Society. He also delves into her friendship with Peter Galbraith, the son of former US ambassador to India John Kenneth Galbraith, and the charges of corruption that still shadows her husband Asif Ali Zardari, the leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) after Bhutto was brutally killed Dec 27 last year.

The author has more details on collusion between Pakistani and North Korean nuclear scientists, which seems to confirm what many in the West suspected: the Islamabad-Pyongyang axis in non-proliferation which was in turn allegedly aided by Beijing.

Faced with mounting international pressure to shut down their plutonium facilities, North Korean scientists looked to Pakistan for help to develop a parallel enrichment programme.

Says Bhatia, “Pakistan was ideally placed to help because of the enrichment secrets that A.Q. Khan, the Dutch-trained metallurgist, had stolen from European laboratories, and who so impressed Zulfikar (Ali Bhutto, the Pakistani prime minister and Benazir’s father who was hanged in 1979) with his boast that Pakistan could match and even surpass as South Asia’s leading nuclear weapons state.”

“Later, Khan and colleagues from the Pakistani scientific community would become regular visitors to North Korea. By 1998, there were nine military flights a month ferrying military officers and scientists between Islamabad and Pyongyang.”

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