The story of Pakistan`s bomb
Most newscasts in the United States read like this: As 26 people died last week in a suicide blast in Rawalpindi the US is concerned over the rising threat of instability in nuclear-armed Pakistan and worried about the safety and security of the country's nuclear weapons. The New York Times has revealed that the US has been using a $100 million program to secretly help Pakistan guard its nuclear arsenal.
Then you turn to Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark's chilling account titled Deception: Pakistan, The United States and the Global Nuclear Weapons Conspiracy and in a consummate narrative the book turns that news report on its head.
Five successive American presidents, from Jimmy Carter to George W. Bush, served the cause of Pakistan's nuclear activity rewriting, destroying and subverting by all means evidence provided by its intelligence agencies, lying to its Congress and the US taxpayer about Pakistan's intentions and capability, and facilitating, through shortsightedness and intent, the spread of the very weapons whose safety and security it now worries about and even funds to protect from falling into the hands of rogue states and terrorists.
For thirty years between 1975 and 2004, an embittered and ambitious Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan stole highly classified blueprints for a radical new technique from Holland and turned them into a nuclear bomb for his country. In the process he created a clandestine mercenary labyrinth for selling nuclear secrets to North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Libya that was financed by aid money from the American taxpayer, Saudi Arabia, Libya, and through indiscriminate assistance from China.
The most unnerving detail in an account that is a masterful work of investigative journalism is that contrary to the suggestion that it was only A Q Khan who ran a nuclear smuggling racket, all the evidence points to the Pakistan military and bureaucratic establishment's total complicity in the affair.
In fact, Levy and Scott-Clark document that proliferation continued on Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's watch even after Khan was retired in April 2001: American spy satellites photographed missile components being loaded into a Pakistani C 130 outside of Pyongyang, with intelligence reports concluding that the cargo was a direct exchange for nuclear technology coming from Kahuta.
Everyone who is interested in the fate of the world as it is being shaped by US-Pakistan relations must read this book. But there are other sidelights in the book that give you an insight into how India's foreign policy with Israel was shaped in part by both nations distrust of Pakistan's nuclear ambitions. In 1983-84 Indira Gandhi signed off to allow Israeli pilots to conduct the air raids on Kahuta in cohorts with the Indian Air Force from Indian base in Jamnagar but the joint Israeli-Indian effort was forced down after the CIA tipped off General Zia.
It also reveals how and why Pakistan moved close to the Islamic nations. As early as the mid-80s General Zia realised that the US money and political goodwill that kept the nuclear programme alive was finite and would not last beyond the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. For those who long feared Pakistan getting their hands on the bomb because it may lose it (to terrorists) or use it (against India) or sell it, General Zia opted for the latter lucrative option. He aligned his profits carefully with his ambition to serve the cause of the Muslim ummah and chose Iran and Libya as partners.
The book recounts deceptions at various levels. For those who saw Nawaz Sharif mourn the killing of Benazir Bhutto with some feeling will be surprised to learn in this book that he once plotted with Osama bin Laden to have her finished off.
The most entertaining and frightening, however, is the self-deception of the protagonist of the whole saga, A Q Khan.It is detailed through interviews with Khan's psychiatrist Professor Haroon Ahmed. Dr Ahmed tells the story of Khans turbulent family life, his constant tension with his wife, his extramarital affairs and how he changed as he inched closer to making the bomb, he seemed eaten up (and) had taken to booming. The Father of the Bomb believed he was Father of the Nation and no one in Pakistan corrected that impression.