Toward an 'Islamic Bomb'

One has to be naive to the point of stupidity in order to believe that the Pakistani government did not know about the transfer of nuclear know-how to a number of countries, most of them Muslim, by the person who is considered the father of the Pakistani atomic bomb, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan.

One has to be naive to the point of stupidity in order to believe that the Pakistani government did not know about the transfer of nuclear know-how to a number of countries, most of them Muslim, by the person who is considered the father of the Pakistani atomic bomb, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan. This was a complex operation that went on for years and included extensive deals, the movement of equipment, training and managing hefty bank accounts. Scientists, technicians and others worked with Khan. It is inconceivable that neither Pakistani intelligence nor the country's military had no knowledge of these operations.

The contention that President Pervez Musharraf knew nothing means he lost control of developments in his country. At the beginning of the 1990s, Pakistan transferred nuclear know-how to North Korea in return for technological know-how in missile development.

It is unreasonable to think that the government of Pakistan was totally blind to all the other nuclear deals since then.

The latest revelation was accompanied by a performance in which Abdul Qadeer Khan confessed to his deeds and apologized. And, as expected, President Musharraf forgave him.

The whole thing looks like a schoolchild's contrition for a prank. Where are the millions of dollars that entered his bank accounts in return for the nuclear know-how that was made available to other countries? What did the Pakistanis report to the United States about the nuclear transactions? Some of the information was known in Israel, but intelligence here was taken by surprise by Malaysia's involvement in the manufacture of centrifuges for enriching uranium for countries that purchased the know-how from Pakistan.

Without the latest discoveries by experts of the International Atomic Energy Agency at the enrichment facility in Iran, it's doubtful that the president of Pakistan would have responded. It was French inspectors who stated that the equipment at the Iran facility came from Pakistan and that Pakistan had become a leading disseminator of nuclear know-how.

In January 1991, after the nuclear tests in Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, the country's prime minister at the time, promised that Pakistan would step up supervision of the export of nuclear technology. That promise was reiterated by General Musharraf, who ousted Sharif in a coup. Musharraf dismissed the claim that the Pakistani bomb was intended to be the Islamic nuclear weapon.

However, Abdul Qadeer Khan recently offered a different explanation of his actions. He maintains that he planned it all so that the Muslim countries would be able to match the West. The French are reassuring themselves by noting that the secrets were sold to a non-Muslim country as well (North Korea), though that should naturally be seen as the exception that proves the rule.

The nuclear transaction included a new Muslim country, Malaysia, which, as noted, manufactured some of the centrifuges. Some observers are now recalling that in the past, before the Musharraf period, "Pakistani elements" tried to sell centrifuges to Iraq, too, but the Iraqis, apprehensive of a sting operation, rejected the offer. Now, in the light of the new revelations, it's worth reexamining the rumors about Pakistani nuclear plans in conjunction with Saudi Arabia, which in the past funded part of the Pakistani nuclear project.

The latest revelations show that Pakistan constitutes a potential threat that has to be kept under supervision, as India has been saying for some time. Even if General Musharraf is a friend of the United States, no one knows who will succeed him. Pakistan has undergone four coups since its establishment, and all the country's prime ministers have been ousted by the army before serving their full term. Do the Americans know, for example, where the nuclear bombs in Pakistan are stored and who the guards are? Islamist groups are becoming stronger in the country and are infiltrating the army, too. It's more than possible that the affair of Abdul Qadeer Khan was only the first act in a drama that is still being played out.