May 31, 2008

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MAY 31, 2008


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MAY 31, 2008

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MAY 31, 2008

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MAY 31, 2008

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MAY 31, 2008

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MAY 31, 2008

‘Why should I talk to the IAEA?’ A.Q.KHAN


The following are extracts from an telephone interview conducted yesterday by the Guardian’s Pakistan correspondent, Declan Walsh, with the father of the country’s nuclear weapons programme, Abdul Qadeer Khan

Four years ago you made a televised confession offering your “deepest regrets and unqualified apologies” for selling nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya. Was it genuine?

“I never was selling. This is the western garbage that uses the word selling. I never sold anything to anyone. I never sold anything and I never got any money. Nobody has proved this and nobody can prove it.

Was your confession made of your own free will?

“It was not of my own free will. It was handed into my hand.”

So why did you agree to go along with it?

“Oh, in the national interest I guess. And the promises which were made.”

What promises?

“Freedom, rehabilitation, all these things.”

Are you happy that you went along with it?

“No, not now. I was hand-tied. I think it was a mistake. At that time things were not so clear and you couldn’t see that people could go back on their words and renege their promises.

Do you hold President Pervez Musharraf personally responsible for this?

One person holds the reins, the others follow … There are always self-seekers and sycophants and more lies. This goes on.

President Musharraf might say that American evidence forced him to act against you?

The Americans presented to the whole world the proof against Iraq. And you know what it was. And now about Iran, and so it goes on. It’s unbelievable that Bush and Colin Powell and Dick Cheney and Condolleezza Rice are bringing lies, lies, lies, bringing photos and false documents … it can happen everywhere.

Do you feel any responsibility for the nuclear programmes in North Korea, Libya or Iran?

No … you must have read that the Swiss president destroyed papers that included weapons blueprints. [That shows that] the western countries have all those blueprints and technology and papers and know-how. So they were supplying to everyone. They were supplying to us, they were supplying to them. The only thing is that they were using the same route as we were using.

Which route was that?

Dubai. It was a free port. We were importing all our things from Dubai and all the other countries were importing from Dubai.

Some people say you were running a “nuclear supermarket”, Time magazine called you a “merchant of menace”. How do you feel about these terms?

I don’t care. It doesn’t bother me at all. They don’t like our God, they don’t like our prophet, they don’t like our holy book, the Qur’an. So how could they like me?

… I have come to realise that one person writes – sorry to use the word – a shitpile and everyone picks up and quotes him whether it is true or not. It is meant for the western public, the western media, who are mostly totally ignorant of the facts here. [they say that] my house is a huge white villa, I have 43 villas here, I have so many bank accounts. Nobody could ever prove anything. [They say that] I had a very huge $10m hotel in Timbuktu. You should have gone and seen – it was an eight-room mud brick house where the poor people reside.

So you are not a rich man?
Never was, never will be.


The IAEA wants to send its investigators to speak with you. Would you speak to them?

Why should I talk to them? I am under no obligation. We are not signatory to NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty]. I have not violated any international laws. So why should I talk to them?

So even if it were possible, you wouldn’t?

Why should I? This is my internal affair and my country’s affair – why should I talk to them?

They say they want to make sure no other country can illegally acquire the bomb.

Why don’t you talk about Israel, why don’t you talk about South Africa. Why did you supply and help South Africa to manufacture six bombs … this is a discriminatory approach. That is wrong with us and it should be wrong with them also.


There’s been a lot of speculation that you are keeping an “insurance policy” — documents that shows links between nuclear smuggling and the Pakistani military – with your daughter in London. Are you?

No such thing happened. MI6 has spoken to my daughter, they have been to her house. I did not keep any official paper in my house or anywhere. I know it’s an official secret. … When I left I had a few ballpoints and a small table calendar and nothing else.


What did you do for the celebrations to mark 10 years since Pakistan became a nuclear power?

I stayed at home. I saw on the TV what was going on, I saw on the newspapers. Some people sent flowers, some people phoned and congratulated.

How did you feel?

Two days are important in the history of Pakistan – the 14th of August, when Pakistan was created, and this 28th May, when at least Pakistan got the capacity of protecting itself against aggression and threats and blackmailing. It was a very big day. And since you have been a part of it, you feel proud of being such an historical movement.

What has Pakistan gained from having the bomb?

Peace. No attacks from India in the past 36 years. Otherwise there might have been a war in Kashmir, there might have been a war in Punjab … that has given something, some sense of security to the country.

How has it defined Pakistan’s relationship with the west. You said in the past the west was hostile to Islam. So what has it done?

You know very well the west never likes any country to be a bit independent, whether it is making a bomb, or whether it is financial position and stuff. They want to keep them under thumb. It is not giving any threat to anyone … We have to look after our interests as the western countries look after their interests.


Where are you speaking from?

I am inside my house. I’m in the living room. I can see the guards. You can see them, they are all around.

Do you hope your house arrest will be lifted soon?

There’s always hope as long as the world is there. As long as you are living there is always hope. Without hope you can’t survive.

Disgraced atomic scientist disowns confession


· Father of Pakistan’s bomb rejects smuggling claim
· Khan defiant in first talk to western media since 2004

Supporters of Pakistan Muslim League-N party

Supporters of Pakistan Muslim League-N party hold a picture of disgraced nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan as they gather near a replica of Chaghi mountain, where the nuclear tests were conducted. Photograph: Reuters/Faisal Mahmood

For four years Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, has lived in the shadows, confined to his Islamabad home since a tearful televised confession in which he admitted selling nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya. But yesterday the 76-year-old scientist returned to the spotlight with a bold new twist: that he had not meant a word of his earlier admission.

In his first western media interview since 2004, Khan said the confession had been forced upon him by President Pervez Musharraf. “It was not of my own free will. It was handed into my hand,” he told the Guardian. More worryingly, he swore never to cooperate with investigators from the International Atomic Energy Agency, despite persistent fears that nuclear technology traded by his accomplices could fall into terrorist hands.

“Why should I talk to them?” he said. “I am under no obligation. We are not a signatory to the NPT [nuclear non-proliferation treaty]. I have not violated international laws.” He said details of his clandestine nuclear supply network were “my internal affair and my country’s affair”.

Despite numerous requests from the IAEA and the US government, Pakistan has refused access to Khan, who is still considered a national hero. A spokesman at the UN watchdog’s headquarters in Vienna declined to respond to his comments.

Until this week Khan had been unseen and largely unheard since his February 2004 appearance on state television, in which he said he had hawked the country’s nuclear know-how abroad. He offered his “deepest regrets and unqualified apologies”. Since then Khan has been confined to his villa below the Margalla Hills in Islamabad, where he lives with his wife, Henny. He was initially subjected to tight restrictions. Telephone calls were monitored, internet access was forbidden and visitors were turned away by soldiers camped at his gate. He was allowed to leave the house in August 2006 only for a cancer operation in Karachi, which was successful.

But as Musharraf’s powers have ebbed over the past year, so have the ties on Khan been loosened. First he was allowed to have lunch with close friends, then last month he gave his first interview from his house arrest to a local Urdu language newspaper. Now he hopes that the newly elected prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, will set him free.

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Link to this audio
Hear Declan Walsh speaking to Abdul Qadeer Khan

“As long as you are living there is always hope,” he said, adding that he would wait for pressing economic and political crises to pass. In reality, he may be waiting for Musharraf to be forced out.

Yesterday the military dismissed speculation, prompted by changes in the army command, that Musharraf was about to quit as president. “A section of press is trying to sensationalise routine functional matters,” said a spokesman.

Khan has emerged as Pakistan celebrates the 10th anniversary of the 1998 test that catapulted the volatile nation into the nuclear club. Speaking by telephone, he displayed the mix of defiant nationalism and religious ardour that has endeared him to many Pakistanis.

Reports that nuclear technology was smuggled abroad were “western rubbish”, he said, and unfavourable accounts of his life were “shit piles”. He brusquely dismissed nicknames such as “the Merchant of Menace” from a Time magazine cover.

“It doesn’t bother me at all. They don’t like our God, they don’t like our prophet, they don’t like our holy book, the Qur’an. So how could they like me?” he said.

He dismissed reports that he owned 43 houses in Islamabad, had many bank accounts and owned a $10m hotel in Timbuktu, Mali. “The journalists should have gone and seen – it was an eight-room mud-brick house where the poor people reside,” he said, referring to the latter. Asked if he was rich he answered: “Never was, never will be.”

International nuclear investigators and the Pakistani government paint a very different picture. In 2005, Musharraf confirmed that Khan had supplied North Korea with centrifuges used to enrich uranium. This week the IAEA board received further confirmation linking Pakistan with Iran’s controversial nuclear programme.

Khan said yesterday that nuclear technology was freely available in the west to Iran or North Korea. “They were supplying to us, they were supplying to them … [to] anyone who could pay,” he said.

But for all his defiant talk, one subject remains out of bounds for Khan. Supporters claim he was made a scapegoat for Pakistani generals involved in nuclear trading. Khan refuses to discuss the issue. “I don’t want to talk about it. Those things are to forget about,” he said.

He denied speculation he had hidden evidence of military collusion with his daughter, Dina, who lives in London. “MI6 has spoken to my daughter, they have been to her house. I did not keep any official papers in my house or anywhere,” he said.

Khan directed Pakistan’s nuclear enrichment programme for 25 years. Born in pre-partition India – his family moved to Pakistan after 1947 – his passion for developing a nuclear bomb was driven by hatred of his country of birth.

Khan is worshipped as a hero at home, but the former CIA director George Tenet described him as “at least as dangerous as Osama bin Laden”, and fears of the damage wreaked by his smuggling network were realised when North Korea exploded a nuclear device in October 2006.

In Musharraf’s 2006 memoir, he said he sacked Khan after learning that he was “up to mischief”.

Khan blames this on the “self-seekers and sycophants” around Musharraf, who had allowed Pakistan to become a “banana republic”.


The quest for a Pakistani nuclear bomb was launched by Benazir Bhutto’s father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, in 1972. “You men here will make it for me and for Pakistan,” he told a secret meeting of scientists and generals. Bhutto’s motive was to counter India’s more developed programme. His secret asset was metallurgist AQ Khan who, while working in a Dutch nuclear laboratory, smuggled secrets home. Khan returned to head the programme in 1976. Pakistan exploded its first nuclear device in 1998. The army has an estimated 50 nuclear warheads.

Something is about to happen

Filed under: NEW GOVERNMENT AFTER MARCH 24-2008 — civilsocietypakistan @ 1:50 am
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MAY 30, 2008

By Shafqat Mahmood

We bear the curse of living in interesting times. Since Wednesday evening, the country has been in the grip of various rumours; some predict Musharraf’s imminent departure, others the demise of the National Assembly. The wildest of these is the imposition of martial law.

This paper also broke the news of a lengthy meeting between Mr Musharraf and the army chief on Wednesday evening. In normal times, this may have passed off as a routine get-together between old colleagues. But, in this climate of uncertainty, it has assumed great significance, as has the change in command of the famous Triple One Brigade in Rawalpindi.

Rumours start when there is a gap in information; that is why the best media policy for any government should be a high degree of transparency. The problem in our environment is that we exist on two levels of reality. There is the visible aspect, in which politics and governance takes place, if not transparently then at least at a level that can be understood and analysed.

Then there is the subterranean world of behind-the-scene intrigues in which plots are hatched, conspiracies unfolded, and in which shadowy players and intelligence agencies become dominant actors. This happens in countries where rule of law or dictates of the constitution are not worth the paper they are written on and can be set aside on a whim. It is here that raw, naked power creates its own reality.

We are condemned to live in such a place. It was not too long ago that we celebrated the results of the Feb. 18 election and looked forward to ascendancy in the system of democratic forces. It may still happen, because miracles do sometimes take place, but bizarre rumours always reflect perceptions of reality. The very fact that people can think about issues like a sudden resignation of the president or packing up of the assemblies by him, and even of martial law, suggests that nothing is ruled out by them. It is a grim recognition of the inherent lawlessness of our polity.

This adds to the difficulty of analysing the flow of events. Any decent commentary is possible either on facts freely available in the public domain or on some inside information. Those of us who write try to mix the two, so that we are not caught out making predictions that are outlandish or plain wrong. But it is not easy because the subterranean world that I referred to earlier has twists and turns that are extremely difficult to fathom.

Take, for example, a combination of the following news items. Mr Zardari calls Musharraf a relic of the past, and that too to an Indian news agency. Mr Gilani, the prime minister, not only vows to work with him but points out his many qualities. Inter-Services Public Relations says that the media is making too much of the long meeting between Gen Ashfaq Kayani and Mr Musharraf. It also points out that the change in command of the Triple One Brigade is nothing more than a routine posting. We then hear that Mohammadmian Soomro, the Senate chairman who will be acting president if Mr Musharraf resigns, has been asked to cut short his visit to Germany and return home [a report which has since been denied].

We can take these events at face value. Mr Zardari called Musharraf a relic, but he only meant to say that he belongs to the older regime, and there is nothing significant saying it to an Indian news agency. Mr Gilani has truly become an admirer of Mr Musharraf and is not afraid to say so. The ISPR always says it like it is and these meetings and transfers are all routine. Mr Soomro is coming home because the budget session is close and he would like to preside over the Senate session that will be called along with the National Assembly.

There can, of course, be another take on the same events. Mr Zardari has initiated a war on Musharraf because this not only improves his standing with his coalition partners but, more importantly, it improves his sagging popularity with the people. Mr Gilani is saying nice words to balance what Mr Zardari has said, and also to beguile Musharraf before the PPP administers the guillotine. The army chief met Musharraf to tell him to quit and with the change in command of the Triple One Brigade, he now has the instrument to match his words with action. Mr Soomro is coming back earlier than scheduled because he should be around to take over as acting president after Musharraf resigns.

Which of the two explanations would you accept? The greater likelihood is the second, because in lawless polities anything is possible at anytime, and you know this. Let me add a few more twists. I think Musharraf called Gen Kayani because he wanted to assess his options. I don’t think he has any desire to quit unless circumstances force him to, and he wanted to find out that in case the coalition parties decide to impeach him, can he rely on the army’s support.

What kind of support would he be looking for? He would want the army to enforce his order in case he decides to dissolve the assemblies and dismiss the government. He may also have explored the option of another emergency or martial law, and this is not possible without the help of the army. Remember he is a desperate man and has been known in the past to take reckless steps. He is not the one to go easily into the night and would be willing to try anything and everything before he quits.

What would have been General Kayani’s response? This is where the change in command of the Triple One Brigade becomes important. Musharraf still possesses the power to sack the army chief and the fact that some such stories have surfaced in the recent past is not just a happenstance. It must be something that he may have considered. But now, with his loyalist no longer in command of the Triple One Brigade, his ability to enforce this decision has eroded, if not finished altogether.

In this backdrop, General Kayani’s response is not difficult to decipher. He must have said, Sir, please leave the army out of politics and don’t ask us to enforce any steps against the democratic norms. Why would Kayani say this? Even if one is not willing to concede that he is a professional soldier who truly wants the army to remain out of the political fray, he is not a desperate man like Musharraf. He understands that the climate in the country is not in favour of the army supporting controversial and anti-democratic steps. His answer would thus be of a realist, even if one is not willing to grant any democratic romanticism to him.

If events have indeed panned out in this way, Musharraf’s options have become very limited. He can either hope that the Zardari-led coalition would not take him on or he can resign with some modicum of dignity intact. Knowing him, though, I will venture that he will wait to be unceremoniously shown the door.

Expecting miracles from jackasses

Filed under: NEW GOVERNMENT AFTER MARCH 24-2008 — civilsocietypakistan @ 1:48 am
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MAY 30, 2008

By Ayaz Amir

A strange nation we are, expecting wisdom from morons, radicalism from born opportunists, and virtue from knaves whose principal claim to fame is daylight national robbery.

What do we take the national scene to be, the result of a Nepalese revolution or a Chinese long march? Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan after a deal brokered by the Yanks in whose prowess she had invested all her hopes. Nawaz Sharif’s return to the country came about as a result of Saudi royal intervention. Hard to detect the glimmers of any Che Guevarism in either of these Roman triumphs.

Musharraf took off his uniform not because a million men and women, torches in hand, had besieged Army House but because the Yanks were twisting his elbow and support for him within the army command was waning. The lawyers’ movement played a vital part in weakening him but lawyers take on too much upon themselves when they portray themselves as the heralds of the changes that have swept Pakistan.

All the leaders of the movement – from Aitzaz Ahsan to Munir A Malik to Ali Ahmed Kurd – are my friends. They are possessed of admirable qualities but modesty or humility, alas, is not the most conspicuous among them. They expect the world to change but themselves refuse to change, still stuck in the heady feelings generated by their movement last year. If the tide flows it also ebbs. Critical points come and pass. Their movement has lost its momentum and something more than Aitzaz’s driving skills – his uncanny ability to arrive at every destination at least ten hours late – is needed to regain it.

The people made their views known on Feb 18 but only because they were given an opportunity to do so. If they had not been given that opportunity does anyone think that they would have taken to the streets and stormed the citadels of power? In which make-believe world do we live? Our capacity for being pushed around is virtually inexhaustible and our political class, far from honing the tools of political resistance, has arrived at the last stages of moral and intellectual bankruptcy.

If the Feb elections had been shelved, Pakistan would have dug a deeper hole for itself but the masses would not have stirred. A nation that could endure Ayub Khan for eleven years, that knight of darkness – Ziaul Haq – for another eleven, and a certified mediocre like Musharraf, a disaster in both war and peace, for eight and a half years, can put up with anything. Still the fact remains that whether the Yanks played around with the props on our political stage or the Saudi Royals had a hand in altering some of the background tapestry, elections were held, Musharraf and his pack of political jackals were roundly humiliated, and political parties reviled and abused, and kept out in the cold all these years, swept to a dramatic victory.

So the people were not remiss in expecting great things to happen. What they have received instead is another extended lesson in the workings of political bankruptcy, the political parties in whom the people had reposed their trust proving epic failures at political management. Instead of dealing with real issues and trying to figure out how to get the country out of the hole in which it is stuck they are chasing shadows, evening out old scores and charging at toothless dragons that have lost the power to spout any fire from their raging nostrils.

Zardari, to his credit, is being the man that he always was: interested in power and money. Courtesy of the deal struck with Musharraf (through the Yanks) he has just won himself the biggest reprieve in Pakistani history, all cases against him – and it was not easy counting them – having been wound up. The people of Pakistan may yet be awaiting their miracle but he has received his.

My Lord Dogar, presently adorning the highest chair in the Supreme Court, is the agent of this miracle. And the people of Pakistan, chumps as ever, expect Zardari to put Dogar in the doghouse while My Lord Iftikhar Chaudhry, symbol and hero of the lawyer-cum-judicial movement, sweeps into the Supreme Court. This won’t happen in the real world as long as Zardari is around. So what he is doing is smiling all the time and spouting some of the worst clichés about institution-building that the people of Pakistan have had to put up with for a long time.

The people of Pakistan – ordinary people, that is, because some have had a ball – have had to put up with much all these years. But having to endure lectures on politics from Mr Zardari takes the prize. Those in the charmed circle of the PPP elect – that is, in Zardari’s good graces and therefore enjoying office or importance – go about with trained smiles on their faces. Sherry, I said, was becoming a competent minister. She is also turning into a sophisticated version of the dreaded Mohammad Ali Durrani.

But imagine the plight of those not in this charmed circle. They have to take in all that they are subjected to without wincing or saying anything in return. Our political parties, all of them, produce no rebels. They turn out courtiers instinctively aware that discretion is the better part of valour.

So the nation is being fed a series of fibs as extended as the thousand and one tales of the Arabian Nights: all about constitutional packaging, etc. Zardari misses not a step when reciting this litany. Farooq Naek, the law minister, as he goes through the same paces looks a deeply unhappy man. Things are whirling out of control and the economy is sinking and the rupee taking a further dip every day but the political charade being played out in Islamabad goes on, each day bringing a fresh twist to it.

And what is that other great party of the people, the PML-N, doing? Heaping fresh imprecations on Musharraf’s head when Musharraf is no longer the problem. Far from being a den of conspiracy, the erstwhile Army House where he is still holed up has now a house of sorrow, another lesson in what happens when the pomp and glory of power have fled. Yet the PML-N keeps harping on Musharraf as if with him gone or better still impeached, the bright morning Pakistan has long awaited will have finally arrived.

It is a sign of the state the PML-N is in that without giving the matter a second thought it overreacts to the appointment of a political nonentity like my old friend Salmaan Taseer (never mind if he is a smart finance man) as Punjab governor, turning Salmaan at least for 48 hours into a looming presence on the political landscape. Beware the time when Musharraf is finally no more because the time for excuses then will have run out. Whom them to blame for the nation’s shortcomings or the ineptitude of the political class?

The PML-N also runs the risk of being perceived as a single-issue party. It has boxed itself so much into a corner over the judges’ issue that it has drastically curtailed its room for manoeuvre. We will restore the judges, the party and its leaders thunder at every opportunity, when it lies not in their power to do so. The key to the restoration of the judges is in Zardari’s pocket and he has other games to play and other accounts to settle.

The PML-N consoles itself with the thought that its graph is rising while the PPP’s is plunging. That may be so but of what use a rising graph when it is hard to predict what is going to happen in the next five months, let alone the next five years. How long will the present pantomime last? Suppose it doesn’t, will we head into an election or another night of the…I need not spell out the word. Zardari may be playing a negative game of his own but the PML-N’s interest lies in seeing to it that the present experiment, centred on Pakistan’s first attempt at coalition-building, lasts.

But for that it will have to break free from the shackles of the judges’ issue. Perhaps it would if it got some help from the legal fraternity or even My Lord Chaudhry. But the legal community has run out of ideas while My Lord Chaudhry no longer seems capable of thinking outside the box. He has proved himself a great man in many respects but the gift that marks a Mandela from an ordinary mortal seems not to lie in his grasp. Someone with true greatness in his soul would have said by now ‘all right I am ready to step aside provided Musharraf goes too, Dogar also goes, and the Nov 2 judiciary is restored’ thus sacrificing self for a higher cause.

Iqbal, awakener of our souls, where has thy memory fled, where all thy songs exhorting us to emulate the flight of the eagle? At stake is the country’s future, calling for vision and some measure of greatness. What we are getting is a dance by dummies and men of straw.

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