Did US Governments since ’70s help Pakistan proliferate nuclear weapons?

November 14th, 2007 - 2:57 am ICT by admin  
The Asian Age report by its correspondent Sarju Kaul quotes Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott, the authors of “Deception: Pakistan, the United States and the Global Weapons Conspiracy” as saying that that the successive US Governments looked the other way when they received information about the activities of Pakistan from their own intelligence agencies.

On some occasions government agencies sanitised reports by their own intelligence agencies “by either rewriting them or destroying all evidence painstaking collected ” which helped Islamabad achieve its nuclear goals clandestinely.

In a sensational disclosure, the authors of the book say that “Evidence was destroyed, criminal files were diverted, the US Congress was repeated lied to, and in several cases, in 1986 and 1987, presidential appointees even tipped off the Pakistan government to prevent its agents from getting caught in the US Customs Services stings that aimed to catch them buying nuclear components in America”

The objective of successive US administrations was to obtain Pakistan’s cooperation in the war against the Soviet forces in Afghanistan, and now Pakistan’s cooperation in war on terror. The authors of the book claim that ‘ Pakistan was still busy selling its nuclear secrets in the world market”. ccording to European analysts and Saudi intelligence officials who plotted Khan’s spending, the Khan Research Laboratory (KRL) was only able to advance by using US aid money intended for Pakistan’s infrastructure and into the covert aid dispatched by the CIA to arm the mujahideen factions pitted against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Britain had informed Washington about its concerns that Pakistan was diverting US aid and covert CIA funds to its bomb, the book quoted a British diplomat, as saying.

“Our compatriots in the US heard our concerns. We made them forcibly. But they didn’t want to turn off the tap or even pressure Pakistan.” The diplomat added.

The Pakistan-controlled Bank of Credit and Commerce International, which collapsed in 1991, according to the book, was one of the major avenues of funds transfer.

“To access CIA money was relatively easy. Bags of dollars were flown into Pakistan and handed over to Lt. General Akhtar Adbur Rehman, the ISI director. Rahman banked the cash in ISI accounts held by the National Bank of Pakistan, BCCI and Bank of Oman (one-third owned by BCCI),” the book says.

“KRL was also associated with these banks, enabling Rehman or Ghulam Ishaq Khan (who was in charge of project’s finances from 1973 to 1988, and later became President of Pakistan) to dip into the CIA money and redistribute it to (A.Q.) Khan without raising suspicion,” the book adds.

Other US money was channelled to the KRL through the BCCI Foundation, a Pakistan-based charity set up by BCCI founder Agha Hasan Abedi in 1981, the Asian Age quotes the authors, as saying.

However, despite warnings, the Reagan Administration continually denied it’s involvement.

Pakistan to had realised that it could not always depend on US aid to finance its nuclear programme. Efforts were made to keep the nuclear project running and look beyond US aid.

In early 1985, an elite group of principals began highly secretive meetings to explore how to trade KRL’s skills and assets, the book says.

Part of the motivation to sell nuclear technology came from General Zia’s long-held view that Pakistan should share its weapons technology with the wider Muslim ummah.

“The subject was first tentatively broached with potential customers in September 1985, when a delegation from Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry met their counterparts from Iran, Syria and Libya to discuss strategic cooperation,” the book says.

The nuclear relationship between Pakistan and Iran formally started in February 1986, when Islamabad offered to help Iran with its stalled nuclear programme and Dr A.Q. Khan visited the country.

In the summer of 1987, Khan, along with a group of aides, discussed the list of material ordered by Tehran: “A sample machine (disassembled), including drawings, specifications, and calculations for a ‘complete plant’, and material for 2,000 centrifuge machines.”

The Pakistan Army top brass, right from the time of General Zia-ul-Haq to General Pervez Musharraf, knew about the secret deals engineered by disgraced nuclear scientist Dr A Q Khan.

The Asian Age quotes the authors as saying that the technology for the nuclear bomb was offered to Iran, North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Libya and other nations by Dr A Q Khan’s network.

General Mirza Aslam Beg, who took over as the Army chief after General Zia’s death, has been quoted by the authors as saying that the annual budget for the KRL, at Kahuta was only 18 million dollars a year.

However, just an analysis of the costs of shopping in North America and Europe by Pakistan in 1984 and 1985, according to the book, was estimated by Western intelligence agencies as between 550-700 million dollars.

Under General Zia, Pakistan had also facilitated a deal between China and Riyadh for the sale of missiles, and also proposed the sale of nuclear warheads to Saudi Arabia.

Even after General Zia died in a plane crash in August 1988, the Pakistan Army’s control over the nuclear programme was total, so much so that democratically-elected then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was not allowed to know even one detail about the programme and weapons development.

In fact, General Beg thrice openly told US officials, including Ambassador Richard Oakley, that Pakistan would share nuclear technology with Iran.

The Pakistan military by now had also adapted F-16s to carry nuclear warheads, something that the US Government had kept reassuring the US Congress it would never do.

During Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s tenure, the Pakistan military got a new client for its nuclear arsenal: North Korea. General Beg also reached out to Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein. His envoy offered a nuclear bomb to Baghdad just after Saddam had invaded Kuwait, the book adds.

After the offer to Baghdad, General Beg decided to go to Tehran and offered the Iranians the bomb too (on completion of the earlier order of centrifuge parts and fully functioning centrifuges).

Tehran agreed to the deal, ordered four devices and suggested that shipment be made via Kazakhstan, the authors add.

However, the deal did not materialise eventually. The Iranians asked for blueprints for German-designed centrifuge designs, and this was sold in 1995 by the Pakistan military, the book says.

The Saudis were supplied nuclear warheads for their Chinese missiles, the book says. The US, in a familiar pattern, refused to believe its own intelligence agencies and was satisfied with a simple denial by Riyadh.

The US felt the first pinch when in 1993 terrorist bombers targeted the World Trade Centre in New York.

Ramzi Yousef, a Pakistani, was identified as one of the key planners. However, in continuation of the old US policy on Pakistan, the new Clinton administration offered to deliver F-16s, which Islamabad had ordered four years ago, in return for a nuclear rollback.

Barely three years after being sacked, Benazir Bhutto won another election, and this time she, on Dr A.Q. Khan’s insistence, went to visit North Korea and carried back a bag full of CDs and blueprints for the army, the book says.

In return for the 1993 Nodong missile deal, Pakistan offered Pyongyang a uranium enrichment plant in lieu of cash in 1996. In 1998, A.Q. Khan also went on a series of trips to Africa with his usual contingent of agents, suppliers and KRL scientists.

The Pakistan bomb became public soon after India conducted a nuclear test on May 11, 1998. Islamabad, in response, tested its own device swiftly. Pakistan had formally announced its status to the world.

Even with the change in government after the coup by General Pervez Musharraf in October 1999, the proliferation went on, claims the book.

In the CIA’s biannual report to the US Congress on acquisition of WMD technology in 2000, Pakistan was for the first time described as a potential supplier of blackmarket technology, The Asian Age reports.

After George W Bush became US President, the report says, ” for a while it seemed that the US would change its policy of obfuscation” and start getting tough on Pakistan for nuclear proliferation.

The father of the Pakistani bomb, A.Q. Khan, was made the fall guy. In a deal sewn up by the Bush Administration with General Musharraf, Khan admitted to having led unauthorised proliferation activities and gave a clean chit to the Pakistan Government.

It was agreed that A.Q. Khan and his aides would be arrested and charged with “privately” engaging in proliferation, but they would not be extradited and all the questioning would be done only through the ISI. The country’s military, which was the real power behind the nuclear programme, was left untouched.

The report says that Pakistan was, however, again saved after the US realised that it needed an ally in the region after the September 11, 2001 attacks by al Qaeda.

Pakistan, far from being an ally of the West, is a “rogue nation at the epicentre of world destabilisation” and “continues to sell nuclear weapons technology” to clients known and unknown even as President Pervez Musharraf denies it, the book claims.

“Pakistan continues to sell nuclear weapons technology which means either that the sales are being carried out with Musharraf’s secret blessing, or that he did not know and is no more in control of his country’s nuclear programme,” the book observes. (ANI)

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