US media assault on Dr Khan continues
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: The media assault on Dr AQ Khan continues, the latest being an editorial in Boston Globe on Thursday that accuses President Pervez Musharraf of appearing to protect his government and military from “embarrassment” in the “world’s worst case of nuclear proliferation.”
The leading article charges that Dr AQ KHAN “is known to have peddled nuclear secrets to Iran, North Korea, and Libya.” He is also said by US intelligence to have visited Egypt, Ivory Coast, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates. Dr Khan’s business trips are a subject of interest, according to the newspaper, because there could hardly be a more pressing mission for US intelligence than to discover what other countries besides Iran, North Korea, and Libya might have received help from Khan’s network in developing nuclear weapons. “And since some nuclear scientists working in the Khan Laboratories visited Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan before Sept. 11, 2001, al Qaeda would have to be added to the list,” it deduces.
Dr Khan, according to Boston Globe, sold hardware and divulged centrifuge technology in the three countries and, at least in Libya, provided a design for nuclear bombs. “But crucial questions about the extent of Khan’s proliferation activities remain unanswered because the government of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf - after arresting and pardoning Khan more than a year ago - has refused to allow him to be questioned directly by the CIA. Pakistani authorities do permit questions to be submitted to them for transmission to Khan, but so far that mediated form of interrogation has yielded no pertinent information about potential new sources of nuclear proliferation,” adds the editorial.
The newspaper goes on to write, “The screen Musharraf has placed between Khan and either the CIA or the International Atomic Energy Agency exacerbates a global security threat. Musharraf’s reasons for pardoning Khan and sequestering him from inquisitive foreigners might be understandable, but they place political expediency above the international community’s common interest in preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. In shielding Khan’s remaining secrets, Musharraf appears to be protecting Pakistan’s government and military from the embarrassment of being implicated in the world’s worst case of nuclear proliferation. President Bush has until now tolerated Musharraf’s pretense that Khan acted alone, without the collusion or knowledge of the generals who in fact permitted his commerce with North Korea to be carried out with Pakistani military aircraft. This charade should not be allowed to continue. The Khan network cannot be dismantled definitively, and incipient nuclear weapons programs cannot be identified unless Musharraf stops keeping Khan’s secrets. It is ultimately more important to prevent nuclear proliferation than to maintain a veneer of good relations with Musharraf.”