The Father of Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons Program Enters Politics
September 20, 2012
Dr. Abdul Quadeer Khan is a hero in Pakistan. Abroad, he is often described as a money-obsessed fundamentalist. Western governments, press, and security officials say that his nuclear sales network could be one of the most dangerous organizations of the modern era. A steadfast Pakistani nationalist, Dr. Khan is now entering into politics.
The struggle to take recognition for Pakistan’s nuclear capacity has lasted almost as long as the program itself.
Institutional divisions and personal vendettas have long pitted the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) against Khan. Indeed, Khan’s claim as Pakistan’s nuclear pioneer is based on the fact that his Kahuta plant produced Pakistan’s first enriched uranium. The PAEC says that building the bomb involved twenty-five separate steps, and that Khan had nothing to do with the weaponizing of the uranium into gas, the production of plutonium, or the the production of a warhead.
No matter Khan’s true role in Pakistan’s nuclear development, he certainly is responsible for nuclear proliferation.
It began in 1987 with Iran. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was looking for Iran to go nuclear. Businessmen with access to Khan presented Khamenei with a handwritten list of prices for centrifuge designs, parts making machines, and even a 2,000 plus centrifuge making plant. Over a ten year period, Khan’s network supplied Iran with a large number of components and nuclear weapons designs.
North Korea’s nuclear program benefited from Khan’s network enormously. Journalist Shyam Bhatia has said that the Pakistani state was so heavily involved in North Korea’s proliferation that Pakistan’s then Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto herself, participated in the transfers. According to Bhatia, who knew Bhutto from their days together at Oxford University, the former Prime Minister herself described to him how she personally smuggled some CDs into Pyongyang in 1993 that contained information on uranium enrichment.
Khan himself has corroborated Bhatia’s story, saying in media interviews that he was only following orders from Prime Minister Bhutto when he transferred nuclear secrets to Iran and North Korea.
The third nuclear hopeful supplied by Khan’s network was Libya. In the mid-1990s Colonel Gadaffi established contact with Khan, and made a few purchases. Then in 2000, Libya ordered no fewer than 10,000 of the network’s most advanced centrifuges as well as uranium hexafluoride feedstock. This would lead to Khan’s downfall.
The American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) discovered a shipment of centrifuge parts being delivered to Libya on a ship called BBC China. The materials were seized and Gadaffi, fearful for his own future, handed over all of his purchases from the Khan network – including a plastic bag from Khan’s favorite tailor containing detailed plans for building a nuclear bomb.
Khan is also known to have tried to sell nuclear weapons plans and materials to both Syria and Iraq.
Pakistani officials, afraid the state could be accused of directing Khan’s network, placed Khan under house arrest and made him give a televised confession. From 2004 until 2008, Khan was in lock down. Since his release, Khan has insisted that everything his network did was part of Pakistani policy.
Now, at the age of 76, Khan is trying his hand at politics.
Khan’s chief campaign adviser, Khurshid Zaman, says Khan wants to end what he sees as Pakistan’s downward spiral. Khan is starting a new movement to meet this problem that he calls “Save Pakistan.” Zaman says Khan will only play a guiding role in the political movement he’s started.
How Khan plans to cultivate his new movement or the direction that his political ambitions will take shall be documented in the future here on NotTheology.
For more on Pakistan, readers may also like: https://nottheology.com/2010/01/11/swat-valley-a-recent-history/