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A.Q.Khan Gagged , Threatened With In Camera Trial

There has been widespread disapproval in Pakistan of the interviews given by Dr.A.Q.Khan, the detained Pakistani nuclear scientist, to the Associated Press of the US and to the Kyodo News Agency of Japan as well as to some domestic TV channels regarding the involvement of President Pervez Musharraf and the Pakistan Army in the sale of centrifuges for uranium enrichment to North Korea in 2000. Even his traditional supporters such as the Muslim fundamentalist parties and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) of Nawaz Sharif have been embarrassed by his implicating the army as an institution in the clandestine transaction.

2. The main line of criticism is that by implicating Musharraf as the Head of State and the Army as an institution in this transaction, he has implicated Pakistan as a State in this transaction and thereby provided international critics of Pakistan with one more stick with which to beat Pakistan.

3. There was considerable confusion and panic in the Government headed by Yousef Raza Gilani over the likely consequences of his disclosures. It was decided to let the Army handle the damage control without the civilian Ministers getting involved in it. The entire damage control exercise was handled by Lt.Gen. (retd) Khalid Ahmed Kidwai, the head of the Strategic Planning Division, which, inter alia, is responsible for the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. He is thought of highly in the US and carries some credibility in the US policy-making circles. It was he and Lt.Gen. Ehsanul Haq, the then Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), who had played a role in pressurising A.Q. Khan to admit his role, in his individual capacity, in the sale of nuclear technology and equipment to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

4. As part of this damage control exercise, Kidwai invited a small group of Pakistani journalists enjoying the confidence of the Army for a briefing and refuted in detail the various allegations made by A.Q.Khan. According to these journalists, firstly, he denied that the confession of A.Q.Khan had been obtained under duress or through false promises. He asserted that the confession was made voluntarily and that A.Q.Khan himself had made some modifications in his handwriting in his confessional statement.He offered to show the confessional statement to independent Pakistani observers to prove that no force or false promises were used.

5. He said that though there was sufficient ground for prosecuting Khan, Musharraf decided not to do so keeping in view his national stature and contribution to Pakistan’s quest for a nuclear capability. According to Kidwai, Musharraf pardoned Khan under two conditions. He would not talk to journalists on the subject and no fresh disclosures would come up in future which might warrant his prosecution. He accused Khan of violating the condition regarding not talking to journalists and indicated that the ban on his meeting journalists has been re-imposed. He also talked of a possible in-camera trial of Khan for endangering national security.

6. As regards the dealings with North Korea, he admitted that there was a State-to-State contract with North Korea under which Pakistan bought medium-range missiles from North Korea for cash. He projected this as a legitimate commercial transaction to which nobody can object. He denied that Pakistan had bought any long-range missiles from North Korea. He said that Khan did submit a proposal for the purchase of North Korean long-range missiles, but claimed that Musharraf did not approve it. It was not clear why he denied officially the purchase of any long-range missiles though it is widely known that the long-range missiles were also procured by Pakistan from North Korea since China had declined to sell them on the ground that their sale would be a violation of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). He apparently wanted to protect North Korea from any accusations of having violated the MTCR.

7. Kidwai vehemently denied that North Korea sold the missiles in return for the centrifuges. He maintained that the supply of the centrifuges by Khan to North Korea was an individual illegal transaction without the knowledge of the State, which had nothing to do with it. He was silent on Khan’s statement that Musharraf had sent him to North Korea during the Kargil conflict with India in 1999 along with a senior Army officer to procure shoulder-fired missiles.

8. Khan has been taken aback by the widespread public disapproval of his interviews to the AP and Kyodo and has mounted a damage control exercise of his own. He has accused the AP of having distorted his remarks. He has denied having implicated the Army, but not denied having implicated Musharraf. He has denied endangering national security since the fact that the centrifuges in North Korea’s possession were from Pakistan had been admitted by Musharraf himself. The only additional fact he has mentioned is that Musharraf was aware of the supply. He has also said that to avoid such distortions he has decided not to give interviews to foreign journalists in future.

9. As part of the six-power (US,Russia, China, South Korea, North Korea and Japan) talks under the auspices of China, North Korea had agreed to submit a full, verifiable declaration of its nuclear-capable assets. It has so far submitted to the group only a declaration of its assets relating to the plutonium route to an atom bomb. Pakistan had played no role in this and hence was not worried over it.

10. North Korea has been delaying the submission of a declaration relating to the enriched uranium route in which the Pakistani centrifuges were crucial. According to well-informed sources, there is considerable nervousness in the Pakistani Army over this lest the North Korean declaration, if and when it is made, does not totally corroborate the Pakistani stand that the supply of the centrifuges was a rogue operation of Khan without the knowledge of the State. According to these sources, Pakistan is hoping that China will ensure that North Korea will not cause any embarrassment to Pakistan in its declaration.

11. Annexed are two more past articles of mine on this subject.

(The writer, Mr B.Raman, is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and,presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )


Extracts From Article of September 29,2006, titled “MUSHARRAF’S MEIN KAMPF” The article was my comment on his book “In the Line of Fire” and the observations made by him in response to questions during his tour of Europe and the US in September,2006, in promotion of the book

Quote from the article: See the kind of falsehoods he has uttered in his book and during his promotional tour in West Europe and the US. I have already drawn attention to his falsehoods about the Kargil conflict in an earlier article on the book (“Musharraf: Throwing Dust in His Own Eyes”). Let me mention some others:

The Pakistani military units posted in the Kahuta uranium enrichment plant could not detect the removal of centrifuges from the plant by A. Q. Khan, the nuclear scientist, for being sent to Iran and North Korea because their job was to protect the plant from external attacks and not the prevention of internal thefts. A. Q. Khan just put the centrifuges in his car and took them away, without his car being checked. The “Daily Times” of Lahore reported as follows on September 26, 2006, on Musharraf’s interview on the CBS the previous evening: “Gen Musharraf was closely questioned as to how the centrifuges that Dr Khan is charged with having supplied to North Korea and Iran could have been taken out of Pakistan’s highly-secured and military-guarded nuclear facilities undetected by the government or the army. He replied that the military was there to safeguard the facilities from outside attack. When the interviewer suggested that in that case the internal controls were a “little weak,” Gen Musharraf disagreed, asserting that they were not weak but “very strong”. He said the centrifuges, whose designs, parts and they themselves had been sent out, could easily have been placed in a car and moved out. When the interviewer wondered if 18 tonnes of equipment could have been thus removed without anyone noticing, Gen Musharraf replied that it could not have been done at one time. “It must have been transported many times” and thereafter put on a C-130 and flown out. All the C-130s in the country are owned and flown by the Pakistan Air Force, but this question was not put to the President. Asked if the reason nobody from outside had been allowed to talk to Dr Khan was the fear that he might incriminate the army, the President replied, “That is absolutely not the case,” adding that US President Bush and CIA’s George Tenet are “very satisfied and quite comfortable with whatever we have done”. Musharraf has insinuated that there were some Indians working in the Dubai network of A. Q. Khan, who “disappeared” after the network was detected by the US and speculated that Pakistan’s enrichment technology must have leaked to India through them. He has not named these so-called Indians in A. Q. Khan’s Dubai network. Nor has he indicated why the detailed investigations made by the intelligence agencies of the US and other countries and by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of Vienna have not brought out any “disappeared” Indians. Buhary Seyed Abu Tahir, who headed A. Q. Kan’s Dubai network and who set up a plant in Malaysia for the clandestine manufacture of new centrifuges at the instance of A. Q. Khan, was a Sri Lankan Muslim of Indian origin, who subsequently married a Malaysian and settled down in Malaysia. He has not disappeared. He was arrested and interrogated by the Malaysian Police. Why has he not said anything about the so-called “disappeared” Indians? Ever since the Indo-US deal for civil nuclear co-operation was signed in July last year, Ms. Shireen Mazari, the Pakistani analyst, who wrote a book on the Kargil conflict at the instance of Musharraf, has been spreading nuclear canards about India allegedly supplying nuclear technology to Iran, Iraq and other countries. The story of the so-called “disappeared” Indians was also her canard, which Musharraf has borrowed.”


26. 10. 2006


According to well-informed sources in Pakistan of well-established credibility, there is nervousness in Pakistan that fresh enquiries by the US into North Korea’s nuclear capability might bring out hitherto unknown (to the international community) information relating to co-operation between Pakistan and North Korea in the nuclear and missile fields. These sources say that Maj. Gen. (retd) Mahmud Ali Durrani, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, who is a close personal friend of Gen. Pervez Musharraf, has informed Gen. Musharraf that after the North Korean nuclear test of October 9, 2006, the US intelligence has been asked to do an update of a National Intelligence Estimate of 2002 on Pakistan-North Korea nuclear co-operation and to talk to Mrs. Benazir Bhutto and Mr. Nawaz Sharif, former Pakistani Prime Ministers, about it. Details of the reported National Intelligence Estimate were given by Mr. Seymour Hersh, the well-known investigative journalist, in an article published by the New Yorker magazine on January 27, 2003. A copy of the article is annexed.

2. While Pakistan’s military relationship with North Korea in the field of purchase and joint development of conventional weapons dates back to the period before the outbreak of the Indo-Pak war of 1971, the co-operation in the missile and nuclear fields dates back to the visit of Mrs. Benazir Bhutto, the then Prime Minister, to Pyongyang in 1993. The visit and the resulting discussions on bilateral co-operation in the field of missile purchase and development were facilitated by China.

3. The Chinese entities, which were supplying the M-9 and M-11 missiles to Pakistan, had come under intense scrutiny by the US during the tenure (1988-92) of Mr. George Bush, the father of the present President, and the subsequent tenure of President Bill Clinton. This pressure partly contributed to the Chinese decision to put Pakistan in touch with North Korea and facilitate the acquisition of North Korean missiles and related technology by Islamabad. Mrs. Bhutto’s talks in Pyongyang were successful and led to the signing of a formal agreement on this subject in 1995.

4. Pakistan’s missile and nuclear relationship with North Korea since then has proceeded as follows:

· 1993-97: The co-operation was confined to missiles and missile-related technology.

· 1997-2003: The co-operation was expanded to cover the nuclear field. What was initially a missile for cash and wheat deal became a missiles and missile know-how for nuclear material and nuclear know-how barter deal. This decision to convert it into a barter deal was attributable partly to the cash crunch faced by Pakistan, the difficulties faced by Pakistan in procuring wheat from abroad for supplying to North Korea and North Korea’s decision to go nuclear and the reported Chinese reluctance to help it directly since the Chinese nuclear entities were under close watch by the US intelligence. The Pakistan-North Korea nuclear co-operation took the form of transfer of know-how, visits of North Korean nuclear scientists to Pakistani nuclear establishments, the presence of North Korean nuclear scientists during the nuclear tests carried out by Pakistan at Chagai in May, 1998, and the supply of centrifuges for uranium enrichment to North Korea.

5. Till 2000, the transport of missiles and nuclear material in the two directions was mainly by sea and air. During the Clinton Administration, Mr. Richard Armitage, who was at that time doing security consultancy work, was commissioned by a Congressional Committee to prepare a paper on how to prevent the clandestine transport of nuclear-related material by sea. He presented a paper on this subject to the Committee and also gave an oral testimony. He suggested interdiction of suspected ships and proposed other ideas, which became the subsequent basis of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) under the Bush Administration. Mr. Armitage, who functioned as the Deputy Secretary of State during the first tenure of Mr. Bush, continued to take interest in the subject of interdictions as one of the options to prevent proliferation.

6. This led to a re-examination by Pakistan and North Korea—-with the reported knowledge of China— of the mode of a transport used till then and to the decision to transport the material thereafter by train via China and by road from the Xinjiang Province of China via the Karakoram Highway, initially built with Chinese assistance in the 1960s and the 1970s and now being upgraded, also with Chinese assistance.

7. The policy of General Pervez Musharraf has been to accept only those aspects of the co-operation about which the US has obtained credible evidence and deny the rest and to put all the blame on Dr. A. Q. Khan, the nuclear scientist. Till 2003, Musharraf denied the supply of centrifuges and admitted it only after it had been established by the US. He has not so far admitted any Pakistani role in assisting North Korea in the field of plutonium re-processing and the use of the overland route for the proliferation activities.

8. The nervousness in Islamabad after the North Korean nuclear test is due to, firstly, fears that fresh enquiries by the US might bring out hitherto unadmitted (by Pakistan) aspects of its co-operation with North Korea; secondly, fears that the pressure on it to hand over A. Q. Khan for interrogation by US investigators might increase; and, thirdly, that Mrs. Benazir Bhutto and Mr. Nawaz Sharif, who were considerably in the picture about this c-operation, might reveal the details to the US because of their anger over Musharraf’s refusal to let them return to Pakistan and contest next year’s elections to the National Assembly. If rightly approached by the US, Mrs. Bhutto and Mr. Sharif might be inclined to speak about the role of the Army—particularly Musharraf–in this co-operation, but not about their own role. According to these sources, Musharraf is particularly nervous that Mrs. Bhutto, who is more knowledgeable than Mr. Sharif, might start talking about this co-operation with the Americans. It is to pre-empt her doing so that he has reportedly been trying to make some political overtures to her.

9. The present visit to the US of Lt. Gen. Khalid Kidwai, the head of Pakistan’s Strategic and Plan Division, who oversees the nuclear and missile programme on behalf of Musharraf—whether the visit it is at his instance or in response to a summons from the US– is being utilised by him to remove any misperceptions in the US about Pakistan’s role, explain its reluctance to hand over Khan and to project Pakistan as willing to co-operate with the US in any further investigation. He has been meeting Congressional aides—since most Congressmen are busy with the Congressional elections– research scholars of think-tanks and proliferation experts. He also held an unattributable (to him) briefing for the media in the Pakistani Embassy in Washington.

10. During his interactions, Lt. Gen. Kidwai has reportedly been making the following points:

· A. Q. Khan gave the centrifuges to North Korea for the low grade enrichment of uranium for the production of electricity and not high grade enrichment for military purposes.

· A. Q. Khan has had no role in helping North Korea in respect of the plutonium reprocessing technology or weapon design.

· However, if the US wants fresh enquiries to be made, Pakistan will be willing to co-operate without handing over Khan.

11. He has also been utilising the opportunity of his interactions to stress upon the US policy-makers the need to have a second look at the US-India civilian nuclear co-operation deal in the light of the North Korean nuclear test. His argument has been: either put the deal with India in the cold storage or if the US has to go ahead with it, treat Pakistan on par with India. He has also been making the point that China has offered to supply six more nuclear power stations to Pakistan and that it will not be in the US interest for Pakistan to become dependent on China because of the US’ discriminatory attitude.



What the Administration knew about Pakistan and the North Korean nuclear program.

Last June, four months before the current crisis over North Korea became public, the Central Intelligence Agency delivered a comprehensive analysis of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions to President Bush and his top advisers. The document, known as a National Intelligence Estimate, was classified as Top Secret S.C.I. (for “sensitive compartmented information”), and its distribution within the government was tightly restricted. The C.I.A. report made the case that North Korea had been violating international law—and agreements with South Korea and the United States—by secretly obtaining the means to produce weapons-grade uranium.

The document’s most politically sensitive information, however, was about Pakistan. Since 1997, the C.I.A. said, Pakistan had been sharing sophisticated technology, warhead-design information, and weapons-testing data with the Pyongyang regime. Pakistan, one of the Bush Administration’s important allies in the war against terrorism, was helping North Korea build the bomb.

In 1985, North Korea signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which led to the opening of most of its nuclear sites to international inspection. By the early nineteen-nineties, it became evident to American intelligence agencies and international inspectors that the North Koreans were reprocessing more spent fuel than they had declared, and might have separated enough plutonium, a reactor by-product, to fabricate one or two nuclear weapons. The resulting diplomatic crisis was resolved when North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Il, entered into an agreement with the Clinton Administration to stop the nuclear-weapons program in return for economic aid and the construction of two light-water nuclear reactors that, under safeguards, would generate electricity.

Within three years, however, North Korea had begun using a second method to acquire fissile material. This time, instead of using spent fuel, scientists were trying to produce weapons-grade uranium from natural uranium—with Pakistani technology. One American intelligence official, referring to the C.I.A. report, told me, “It points a clear finger at the Pakistanis. The technical stuff is crystal clear—not hedged and not ambivalent.” Referring to North Korea’s plutonium project in the early nineteen-nineties, he said, “Before, they were sneaking.” Now “it’s off the wall. We know they can do a lot more and a lot more quickly.”

North Korea is economically isolated; one of its main sources of export income is arms sales, and its most sought-after products are missiles. And one of its customers has been Pakistan, which has a nuclear arsenal of its own but needs the missiles to more effectively deliver the warheads to the interior of its rival, India. In 1997, according to the C.I.A. report, Pakistan began paying for missile systems from North Korea in part by sharing its nuclear-weapons secrets. According to the report, Pakistan sent prototypes of high-speed centrifuge machines to North Korea. And sometime in 2001 North Korean scientists began to enrich uranium in significant quantities. Pakistan also provided data on how to build and test a uranium-triggered nuclear weapon, the C.I.A. report said.

It had taken Pakistan a decade of experimentation, and a substantial financial investment, before it was able to produce reliable centrifuges; with Pakistan’s help, the North Koreans had “chopped many years off” the development process, the intelligence official noted. It is not known how many centrifuges are now being operated in North Korea or where the facilities are. (They are assumed to be in underground caves.) The Pakistani centrifuges, the official said, are slim cylinders, roughly six feet in height, that could be shipped “by the hundreds” in cargo planes. But, he added, “all Pakistan would have to do is give the North Koreans the blueprints. They are very sophisticated in their engineering.” And with a few thousand centrifuges, he said, “North Korea could have enough fissile material to manufacture two or three warheads a year, with something left over to sell.”

A former senior Pakistani official told me that his government’s contacts with North Korea increased dramatically in 1997; the Pakistani economy had foundered, and there was “no more money” to pay for North Korean missile support, so the Pakistani government began paying for missiles by providing “some of the know-how and the specifics.” Pakistan helped North Korea conduct a series of “cold tests,” simulated nuclear explosions, using natural uranium, which are necessary to determine whether a nuclear device will detonate properly. Pakistan also gave the North Korean intelligence service advice on “how to fly under the radar,” as the former official put it—that is, how to hide nuclear research from American satellites and U.S. and South Korean intelligence agents.

Whether North Korea had actually begun to build warheads was not known at the time of the 1994 crisis and is still not known today, according to the C.I.A. report. The report, those who have read it say, included separate and contradictory estimates from the C.I.A., the Pentagon, the State Department, and the Department of Energy regarding the number of warheads that North Korea might have been capable of making, and provided no consensus on whether or not the Pyongyang regime is actually producing them.

Over the years, there have been sporadic reports of North Korea’s contacts with Pakistan, most of them concerning missile sales. Much less has been known about nuclear ties. In the past decade, American intelligence tracked at least thirteen visits to North Korea made by A. Q. Khan, who was then the director of a Pakistani weapons-research laboratory, and who is known as the father of the Pakistani nuclear bomb. This October, after news of the uranium program came out, the Times ran a story suggesting that Pakistan was a possible supplier of centrifuges to North Korea. General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s leader, attacked the account as “absolutely baseless,” and added, “There is no such thing as collaboration with North Korea in the nuclear area.” The White House appeared to take the Musharraf statement at face value. In November, Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters he had been assured by Musharraf that Pakistan was not currently engaging in any nuclear transactions with North Korea. “I have made clear to him that any . . . contact between Pakistan and North Korea we believe would be improper, inappropriate, and would have consequences,” Powell said. “President Musharraf understands the seriousness of the issue.” After that, Pakistan quickly faded from press coverage of the North Korea story.

The Bush Administration may have few good options with regard to Pakistan, given the country’s role in the war on terror. Within two weeks of September 11th, Bush lifted the sanctions that had been imposed on Pakistan because of its nuclear-weapons activities. In the view of American disarmament experts, the sanctions had in any case failed to deal with one troubling issue: the close ties between some scientists working for the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and radical Islamic groups. “There is an awful lot of Al Qaeda sympathy within Pakistan’s nuclear program,” an intelligence official told me. One American nonproliferation expert said, “Right now, the most dangerous country in the world is Pakistan. If we’re incinerated next week, it’ll be because of H.E.U.”—highly enriched uranium—”that was given to Al Qaeda by Pakistan.”

Pakistan’s relative poverty could pose additional risks. In early January, a Web-based Pakistani-exile newspaper opposed to the Musharraf government reported that, in the past six years, nine nuclear scientists had emigrated from Pakistan—apparently in search of better pay—and could not be located.

An American intelligence official I spoke with called Pakistan’s behavior the “worst nightmare” of the international arms-control community: a Third World country becoming an instrument of proliferation. “The West’s primary control of nuclear proliferation was based on technology denial and diplomacy,” the official said. “Our fear was, first, that a Third World country would develop nuclear weapons indigenously; and, second, that it would then provide the technology to other countries. This is profound. It changes the world.” Pakistan’s nuclear program flourished in the nineteen-eighties, at a time when its military and intelligence forces were working closely with the United States to repel the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The official said, “The transfer of enrichment technology by Pakistan is a direct outgrowth of the failure of the United States to deal with the Pakistani program when we could have done so. We’ve lost control.”

The C.I.A. report remained unpublicized throughout the summer and early fall, as the Administration concentrated on laying the groundwork for a war with Iraq. Many officials in the Administration’s own arms-control offices were unaware of the report. “It was held very tightly,” an official told me. “Compartmentalization is used to protect sensitive sources who can get killed if their information is made known, but it’s also used for controlling sensitive information for political reasons.”

One American nonproliferation expert said that, given the findings in the June report, he was dismayed that the Administration had not made the information available. “It’s important to convey to the American people that the North Korean situation presented us with an enormous military and political crisis,” he said. “This goes to the heart of North Asian security, to the future of Japan and South Korea, and to the future of the broader issue of nonproliferation.”

A Japanese diplomat who has been closely involved in Korean affairs defended the Bush Administration’s delay in publicly dealing with the crisis. Referring to the report, he said, “If the intelligence assessment was correct, you have to think of the implications. Disclosure of information is not always instant. You need some time to assess the content.” He added, “To have a dialogue, you really have to find the right time and the right conditions. So far, President Bush has done the right thing, from our perspective.” (The White House and the C.I.A. did not respond to requests for comment.)

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