London, Oct. 25: Every successive American government, from President Jimmy Carter to incumbent President George W. Bush, has turned a blind eye to Pakistan’s nuclear programme and allowed Islamabad to build nuclear facilities at Kahuta, near Islamabad, and assemble a vast arsenal of nuclear weapons by diverting US aid money, according to details revealed by investigative journalists Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark in their new book Deception: Pakistan, the United States and the Global Weapons Conspiracy.
Successive US governments even sanitised reports on Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions and capabilities by their own intelligence agencies by either rewriting them or destroying all evidence painstakingly collected to enable Islamabad achieve its nuclear goals clandestinely, the book claims.
Evidence was destroyed, criminal files were diverted, the US Congress was repeatedly 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 Service stings that aimed to catch them buying nuclear components in America, the authors claim.
The so-called rouge nations, Iran, North Korea and Libya, described by US President George W. Bush as the “Axis of Evil,” got their nuclear technology from Pakistan, the authors added. Describing Pakistan as a rouge nation at the epicentre of world destabilisation, the book claims that Pakistan was still busy selling its nuclear secrets in the world market.
In a chilling warning to the world, the authors say: “It will only be a matter of time before the rising tide of Sunni extremism and the fast-flowing current of nuclear exports find common cause and realise their apocalyptic intent. There are plenty of ideologues, thinkers and Islamic strategists who are working towards precisely that goal, and here is a regime in Islamabad that has no hard and fast rules, no unambiguous goals or laws, and no line that cannot be bent and reshaped.”
Describing the genesis of nuclear Pakistan, the authors have written: “It all started with an ambitious young man who could not get a job.” Abdul Qadeer Khan, a metallurgical engineer and the future Father of the Pakistan Bomb, wrote to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1974 offering highly classified blueprints for a radical new nuclear process being developed by a consortium of British, Dutch and German scientists called URENCO.
Smarting over the American refusal to act as Pakistan’s security guarantor against a nuclear attack by India, which had tested its bomb in Pokhran on May 18, 1974, Bhutto grabbed the offer and in October 1975 A.Q. Khan “brought to Pakistan designs, instruction manual and lists of suppliers for both the CNOR and G-2 prototypes” of centrifuges developed by URENCO scientists. Khan, who had given himself a seven-year deadline to build the bomb, chose Kahuta, outside Islamabad, as the site of the enrichment facility, the Engineering Research Laboratories, codenamed Project 706.
The construction of the nuclear facility started in the autumn of 1976. The CIA, the book says, reported about the intense activity in Kahuta to its regional headquarters in Tehran. “Something strange is happening at Kahuta. Construction work is going on at a pace quite uncharacteristic of Pakistan. One can see day-to-day progress.” Western nations kept disregarding warnings about Khan and Pakistan’s network of agents who had begun shopping in Europe and North America for equipment needed for the nuclear facility at Kahuta.
The first warning came from a colleague of his at URENCO’s Almelo centrifuge project, Frits Veerman, in 1975, and then Nico Zondag, who tipped off the Dutch intelligence service. However, there was no response to both the complaints. However, most of the components that Khan and Pakistani agents were buying were not on any IAEA list of nuclear-sensitive equipment due to the fact that the centrifuge technology itself was new at the time. “Greed, lax customs inspections, an overly bureaucratic IAEA, governments’ pursuit of their national interests, and antiquated legislation were all being exploited ruthlessly, and clearly Western governments and suppliers underestimated Pakistan,” say the authors.
The US in 1976 had offered Bhutto a deal to stop his reprocessing project (Pakistan was in talks with France over a reprocessing plant) and offered to share products from a US-supplied facility in Iran. Even at that point, a report ordered by the US State department had concluded that “Pakistan’s nuclear industry is not worrisome now.”
It was only after March 1979, when a German TV channel unmasked A.Q. Khan as the head of Pakistan’s nuclear programme, that then US President Jimmy Carter ordered the CIA to investigate. With the imposition of a Communist government in Afghanistan in 1978 and the Soviet invasion of that country the following year, and the overthrow of the pro-US Shah of Iran by Ayatollah Khomeini in February 1979, Mr Carter’s national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski lobbied for a change in US non-proliferation policy in order to fight the Soviets through a proxy war by Afghan rebels. The US by now had a detailed picture of Pakistan’s nuclear programme, but had decided to go on the backfoot to protect its strategic interests in the region. However, the real deceit on the Pakistan nuclear issue began with the Reagan administration.
“US officials converged on Islamabad carrying cash (for the proxy war in Afghanistan routed through the ISI) and with the message that America would ignore Pakistan’s growing nuclear programme,” say the authors. President Reagan insisted that non-proliferation remained a key policy, they add. Reagan officials went on the offensive to prevent any opposition in Congress to its plans to use Pakistan as “a staging post to bleed the Soviets.”
In order to get Congress to agree to unprecedented aid for Pakistan, Reagan advisers began promoting the theory that the “way to gain assurance that A.Q. Khan would roll back the nuclear programme was to give Islamabad F-16 jets and money.” The theory rapidly bloomed into a complex conspiracy as the US State department officials started “actively obstructing other arms of government which could not help but fall over intelligence about Pakistan’s nuclear trade.”