Washington Post names Dr Khan and Farooq as those who sold N-technology
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: The Washington Post on Wednesday, quoting unnamed Pakistani intelligence officials, named Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan and Mohammad Farooq as the two men who acted as middlemen to supply nuclear weapons technology to Iran and Libya.
A front-page dispatch filed from Karachi by the newspaper’s Pakistani stringer Kamran Khan said that the two scientists had “provided the help, including blueprints for equipment used to enrich uranium, both directly and through a black market based in the Persian Gulf emirate of Dubai.” The middlemen, from South Africa, Germany, the Netherlands, Sri Lanka and elsewhere, allegedly also offered the Pakistani scientists’ services to Syria and Iraq, but deals apparently never struck, according to the officials, who spoke to Washington Post on condition of anonymity.
The report said that in return for the scientists’ assistance in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Iran channelled millions of dollars to foreign bank accounts allegedly controlled by the two men, one of whom Dr Khan, amassed large real estate holdings in Pakistan and Dubai, the officials said.
This is not all.
US intelligence officials have said, says the Post, that it is their belief that North Korea obtained uranium-enrichment technology and equipment from Pakistan in exchange for missiles.
One of the three Pakistani intelligence officials quoted by Kamran Khan had said that a variety of high-ranking military officials “looked the other way as insiders volunteered information about all sorts of problems in the highest echelons of the Kahuta Research Laboratory (KRL) bureaucracy”.
The report quoted another official saying that to show its commitment and international responsibility to nuclear non-proliferation, Pakistan has assured the IAEA of strong legal action against the culprits. It said although the nuclear programme was now under control, “it has suffered from lax security in the past, when Dr Khan and other senior scientists were given vast resources and freedom from outside scrutiny that may have contributed to the leaking of nuclear secrets”.
The Post quoted a former nuclear scientist with 30 years of service to say, “It was a no-questions-asked regime for the KRL. Dr Khan was never supposed to answer or explain his frequent foreign trips. He spent billions of dollars without any significant financial oversight.”
One of the officials involved in the current investigation said that while the “money trail” provided some of the evidence against Dr Khan and Mr Farooq, the most damaging information was given by Iran and Libya to the IAEA, which then passed it along to Pakistani authorities.
“The governments of Iran and Libya have exposed the racket,” one of the officials said. “They made no attempt to hide their sources, as if they wanted to settle a score with the Pakistani scientists.”
A senior official close to President General Pervez Musharraf said the information provided by the IAEA was so specific and incriminating that the president decided to confront Mr Khan personally in the last week of November. “For the first time, I saw tears in the president’s eyes, who thought that it was the worst-ever breach of the nation’s trust,” recalled the aide. Gen Musharraf is eager to pursue charges against the scientists, but some advisers are urging a milder punishment, such as dismissing Dr Khan from his post as an adviser to the government on nuclear issues, the official added.
According to the report, Dr Khan has subsequently been questioned by Lt Gen Ehsanul Haq, chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence, and Lt Gen Khalid Kidwai, commander of the Strategic Planning and Development Cell, which was created several years ago to oversee nuclear security in Pakistan.
“Pakistani investigators have determined that in addition to selling technology through black-market Dr Khan also provided direct help to Iranian nuclear scientists by giving them blueprints for high-speed centrifuges used to enrich uranium for nuclear bombs, and the names of clandestine suppliers for centrifuge parts, officials said. Mr Farooq, an engineer with expertise in centrifuges, helped facilitate Dr Khan’s efforts during several trips to Iran, the officials said.
Dr Khan was well compensated for his work in behalf of the Iranians, the officials said. He purchased houses for his children and spent considerable sums to organise seminars, distribute posters and publish books aimed at lauding his achievements in the country’s nuclear programme, officials said.