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Pakistan's Nuclear Metastasis: How Widespread is the Cancer?

The time has come to find out how much damage Pakistan's nuclear program has done--and how many rogue countries are closing in on the bomb.

11:00 PM, Jan 7, 2004 • By MANSOOR IJAZ
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What to do? Simply interrogating a handful of senior nuclear scientists resident at Kahuta Labs cannot stop the quest by ungovernable elements in Pakistan's military-intelligence establishment from spreading the country's nuclear know-how. Even questioning Dr. A. Q. Khan himself, as Musharraf recently allowed under intense international pressure, will not be enough. Disinformation that insured the success of Khan's clandestine effort to build Pakistan's bomb, after all, was the hallmark of his entire tenure as Islamabad's nuclear chief.

Nor will it be sufficient that another Muslim country "outs" Pakistan's nuclear complicity when faced with irrefutable evidence, as Iran and Libya have apparently done. Waiting for admissions of guilt in matters of nuclear commerce after the fact is a dangerous policy for preventing proliferation in unstable, autocratic regimes that dominate the Muslim world's political landscape.

The conscientious objectors in Pakistan's scientific, military, and intelligence establishments have a moral responsibility to come clean about what has been done, wittingly or not, to assist other nations in developing to whatever extent they could meaningful nuclear weapons research programs. Sooner or later, the evidence will emerge. But the world cannot wait until that evidence is a rogue state's North Korean-made missile armed with a Chinese-made nuclear device assembled in Islamabad's nuclear labs whose fuel came from gas centrifuges sold by Pakistan's rogue Islamists.

Musharraf has to publicly and verifiably put an end to the speculation that Pakistan's nuclear assets are for sale to nations rich enough to buy from or barter with his scientists. This means, among other things, taking steps to offer more transparency in independently monitoring Pakistan's nuclear sites, and keeping track of the movements of Pakistan's scientists in ways that neither humiliate the country nor compromise its sovereignty.

As a first step, President George W. Bush needs to ascertain that Musharraf had no knowledge of the transactions in question. Bush White House officials have indicated that at least in the Libyan case, where the transfers of technology took place largely after the September 11 terrorist attacks, Musharraf appears to have had no knowledge of the transfers. If he genuinely did not, President Bush needs to help distance the Pakistani president in the minds of the American public from the crazies who want to destroy Pakistan by sharing its nuclear secrets with rogue states.

By building such a political argument at home, Bush can take important legislative steps that will free up technology to assist Musharraf in holding his scientists and military-intelligence complex accountable for future actions. The previous U.S. policy of economic and military sanctions is outdated and irrelevant in the context of Pakistan's cooperation on post 9/11 terrorism issues.

Since 1990, U.S. sanctions have blocked technologies from being sent to Pakistan that could improve nuclear security there. These sanctions, along with U.S. export license controls and, where needed, global non-proliferation regime compliance rules, should be waived to insure Islamabad gets the needed technology to protect its nuclear labs, weapons and materials from unauthorized use.

Pakistan: Model Nuclear Citizen or Loose Atomic Cannon?

There is another reason for pursuing this course. Having come dangerously close to falling under the U.S. definition of a "rogue" state, Pakistan could now become a beacon for how to responsibly deal with rogue elements inside the state without compromising its sovereignty or dealing a blow to an important cornerstone of the national psyche. Other states (Georgia, for example) with nuclear weapons programs that may also be in the market for selling their secrets might take notice and change course.

To emphasize U.S. concerns, the president (and Congress) should condition all U.S. aid to Pakistan on Islamabad's acceptance of nuclear safekeeping vaults, sensors, alarms, closed-circuit cameras, and other technologies that give Musharraf and his like-minded aides the ability to internally monitor and track Pakistan's nuclear technologies. Simply excusing leakage as the work of "greedy" individuals with their own agendas, as Pakistan's foreign ministry spokesman did when the Iranian revelations were made, is neither believable nor an acceptable risk to the safety and security of civilized nations.

Furthermore, a new formula for giving U.S. aid should be devised that is inversely proportional to Pakistan's spending on military and nuclear budgets. The less Islamabad spends of its national wealth on building nuclear bombs that protect no one, the more America should spend on helping Pakistan build schools and hospitals that educate and protect the masses.

Pakistan has the right to maintain its nuclear arsenal for deterrence against regional threats, and perhaps as importantly, for its national dignity. It does not have the right, whether sanctioned officially or not, to assist in the creation of nuclear monsters that seek Armageddon itself. Nor does it have the right to misappropriate American taxpayer dollars in support of actions by the very elements that seek our death and destruction on their misguided path to eternity.

Mansoor Ijaz, a New York financier and chairman of Crescent Investment Management, jointly authored the blueprint for the cease-fire of hostilities between Muslim militants and Indian security forces in Kashmir in July 2000. He also negotiated Sudan's offer of counter-terrorism assistance on al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden to the Clinton administration in 1996 and 1997. His personal views, expressed here, are based on firsthand accounts from meetings, private discussions and correspondences with Pakistani nuclear scientists as well as senior military and intelligence officials over the past decade. His father, Dr. Mujaddid Ijaz (deceased), a nuclear physicist who retired Professor Emeritus at Virginia Tech, brought over 100 students from Pakistan and other parts of the Muslim world to the United States during his 26 year tenure for training and degree programs at U.S. colleges and universities. Some of those students now run sensitive parts of Pakistan's top-secret nuclear facilities.