Selling nuclear secrets

Pakistan’s government has brushed off revelations over the sale of nuclear technology

Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, the revered “father” of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme recently confessed to selling nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea in a televised address to the nation. In his statement he accepted full responsibility for nuclear proliferation and at once absolved the Pakistani government of any and all responsibility. In fact, he pleaded with the nation “to refrain from any further speculations and not to politicize this extremely sensitive issue of national security.”

Critics and members of opposition parties were astounded by the speed and efficiency with which the apology and subsequent pardon was orchestrated. For many it was all the proof they needed to condemn the government of using Dr Khan as a scapegoat for an operation now believed to have been going on for two decades. While the government’s official stance is that Dr Khan, along with a group of select scientists, were carrying out these activities independent of any government involvement, there are serious doubts as to how that was possible on such a grand scale. A US instigated Pakistani probe has revealed a global network that included agents in Germany, to brokers in Dubai, to a factory allegedly making gas-centrifuge parts in Malaysia.

While the Bush administration has expressed shock over events, recent evidence has brought to light the fact that the US government was actually aware of the nuclear proliferation. British news sources within US intelligence agencies discovered that shortly after Bush became president, the National Security Agency effectively blocked an investigation into the activities of the Khan Research Laboratories. The CIA stated that it was impossible for them to look any further into the situation as funding originated in Saudi Arabia.

However, most critics believe that it was let slide, as Pakistani President General Musharraf is too powerful an ally to the US war against terrorism. Also, after about 50 years of conflict in Kashmir, the UN and US have managed to convince both India and Pakistan to have a diplomatic summit in late February to resolve the situation; they do not want to jeopardise it in any way.

Dr Khan feels that spreading nuclear technology to Islamic nations will enable them to fortify themselves against Western domination. Dr Khan has long been considered a patriotic hero and hailed for making Pakistan the seventh nuclear power of the world. In spite of his admission of guilt, Pakistanis still consider Khan’s agenda to be righteous and subsequently view Musharraf’s diplomatic tactics as another attempt to appease the US’s overblown ego.

Most Pakistanis view the whole situation as yet another attempt to wrest Pakistan’s nuclear power away from it, leaving it helpless in a region where a dynamic equilibrium is maintained between India and Pakistan solely through the potential threat of mutual nuclear attack.

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