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Pakistan's Nuclear Money Trail

Reader comment on item: Red Mosque in Rebellion
in response to reader comment: Wake up Europe and America

Submitted by Moni (India), Jul 25, 2007 at 15:34

There have been many contradictory reports about Pakistan's nuclear program both leading up to and following the bizarre confession by Pakistani nuclear figure Dr.A.Q.Khan and his subsequent pardon by Gen.Musharraf. In this context, one can infer interesting conclusions by following the money trail and correlating it with the involvement of foreign nations or persons in the Pakistani nuclear program.

Zulfiqar Bhutto, who was then prime minister, initiated Pakistan's nuclear weapons program at a meeting of high-level military and civil bureaucrats and scientists in the city of Multan on January 20 1972. Needing financial support, Bhutto openly propounded the need for the "Islamic civilization" to possess nuclear weapons since the Christian and Jewish societies already had it. Bhutto went on tour to the oil rich Arab nations, challenging their rulers to demonstrate their Islamic solidarity.

Bhutto immediately won pledges of support from three rich Islamic states – Iran, Saudi Arabia and Libya. Under the patronage of Saudi King Faisal, Bhutto hosted the 1974 Islamic Summit in Lahore, Pakistan. It was here that Bhutto and Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar Qaddafi sealed a deal by which Libya would contribute substantial sums of money to Pakistan's nuclear program in return for Pakistani transfer of nuclear know-how at a future date. Bhutto even arranged for Qaddafi to tour Pakistan's new Canadian built nuclear reactor in Karachi guided by the long term chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, Munir Khan, who some say was the real "father" of Pakistan's bomb.

Mohammed Beg, former European Director for Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and Bhutto confidante later revealed that Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar Qaddafi personally supervised transfers of suitcases filled with US Dollars to Pakistan on PIA flights, sometimes up to $100 million in a single flight. Saudi King Faisal also generously contributed funds to Pakistan's nuclear program during this time. Bhutto's indebtedness to these two leaders was made clear when he named the largest Cricket Stadium in Pakistan after Qaddafi and renamed the old Colonial city of Lyallpur as Faisalabad, in honor of King Faisal. In the year following the deal with Libya, Bhutto convinced the Shah of Iran to contribute up to $500 million, ostensibly for crushing a Baloch rebellion near Pakistan's Iran border, but widely believed to be earmarked for the nuclear program. Put together, the Islamic contribution to Pakistan's atomic program reached many billions by the late 1970s.

After dictator General Zia-ul-Haq overthrew and later executed Bhutto in 1979, the Pakistani military took firm control of the nuclear program. Thanks to the Afghan jihad, Pakistan was by then swimming in cash, both due to direct aid from the US as well as contributions from the Saudis. However, despite ambitious goals, Pakistan lacked the scientific base needed for the many thousands of sophisticated components needed for a nuclear weapons program. But by leveraging his European contacts, A.Q.Khan set up a network, supervised by the Pakistan Army's Special Works Organization as well as the sinister spy agency, the ISI, which could acquire virtually any desired item from Western European nations as well as the US and Canada to a lesser extent. During this time, failed Bank of Credit and Commerce International played a critical role in financing this Pakistani nuclear smuggling ring. In 1992, a report into from a US Congressional sub-committee headed by Senator John Kerry, said that there was "good reason to conclude that BCCI did finance Pakistan's nuclear program.

By the late 1980s Pakistan had acquired the ability to make an atomic device as well as the nuclear fuel needed for it. It was time for the lenders to come calling for a return on investment. Iran was the first to approach Pakistan. Then Pakistan Army Chief Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg openly called for a Pakistan-Iran strategic alliance that included nuclear co-operation. An aide to then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif recently revealed that Gen. Beg and a senior Iranian military official met with Mr. Sharif and informed him of a deal to sell nuclear technology to Iran for an additional $12 billion. We now know that Pakistan did transfer nuclear technology to Iran around this time. We also know that sometime later, Libya also approached Pakistan and obtained nuclear technology for further cash transfers to the tune of more than $100 million.

Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto recently mentioned in an interview that she had sanctioned the purchase of ballistic missile technology from North Korea. Western analysts now believe that Pakistan transferred nuclear technology to North Korea in return for the missiles since it lacked foreign exchange during the mid 1990s. The recent Saudi connection is also important. After Pakistan's nuclear tests in 1998, Saudi Arabia provided almost a billion dollars worth of free oil supplies to Pakistan every year. In 1999, Saudi Defense minister Prince Sultan became one of the few foreigners to tour secret Pakistani nuclear facilities - places were even former elected Pakistani Prime Ministers weren't welcome. Arnaud de Borchgrave recently broke a story on a secret Pakistan-Saudi deal on nukes. Interestingly, the Saudi oil facility was stopped right after that report and there are now talks of a large Pakistan army contingent moving to Saudi Arabia - both possible signs of a deal clinched.

Another pointer to the financial aspect of Pakistan's proliferation was revealed in 2000, when the Pakistan commerce ministry issued advertisements in prominent English language Pakistani papers announcing intended sale of enriched uranium, plutonium and 17 types of equipment, including nuclear power reactors, reactor control systems and many other similar technology. Days after this, the Pakistan government withdrew the ads and said that it was a "mistake". Despite this Gen. Beg commented that selling "surplus" nuclear material to fellow Islamic nations was a "respectable way of earning money."

The bottom line is that an analysis of the money trail shows that the drivers behind Pakistani nuclear proliferation were essentially that of a state and not some rogue individuals. Even though A.Q.Khan and some of his assistants may have had a major role in the nuclear network, the Pakistani Army essentially supervised it. That oversight is not dependent on whether goods were coming in or going out of Pakistan. As the 2000 advertisement saga shows, Pakistan government was seriously pursuing the usage of its nuclear technology as a tradable commodity. The huge sums of money involved also point to state involvement. Given this, it would not be possible to break this nuclear network without bringing to account the various Pakistani state entities, overt and covert, and their representatives abroad. Unfortunately, by buying Gen.Musharraf's incredulous claims of no state involvement and focusing on A.Q.Khan, the US and its allies are ensuring that the nuclear network remains alive, albeit more underground.

Watch out all rogue scientists of Pakistan . No more cooperation with Pakistanis anymore.


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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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