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Q&A With A.Q. Khan

Father of the Islamic bomb.

11:00 PM, Jan 26, 2009 • By URS GEHRIGER
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A: I'm afraid your information is incorrect. If one reads the Parliamentary Report issued by the Dutch government on this topic, one sees that I was never suspected of any wrongdoing. Certain orders were placed by Pakistan in that period which indicated that an enrichment programme had been initiated, but these were all for non-classified equipment and/or materials, information for which was obtainable from the open market. The case that was initiated against me in Holland was for writing 2 letters from Pakistan to ex-colleagues requesting specific information which, according to the Public Prosecutor at that time, was of a secret nature. The case was quashed on procedural matters but the right of appeal was not utilized by the Dutch government because a) I had obtained 7 affidavits from world-renowned professors and scientists confirming that the information in question had been in the public domain for decades and b) the letters in question had been written nearly 10 years earlier and were no longer relevant. The reason for my requesting the information was that there were no scientific libraries containing books on this subject in Pakistan at the time and my own library and household goods had not yet arrived. Furthermore, one should remember that I had worked on that specific subject and was therefore asking for information which I had perfected. It should also be noted that I went to Holland many times after that to visit my parents-in-law, the last time being in July 1992, with the full knowledge and permission of the Dutch authorities. Would that have been possible if I had done anything wrong?

Q: When did you realize that you had enough knowledge and information to build the bomb?

A: One never has enough knowledge or information on one's own to start a project and bring it to completion. The knowledge I had gained referred to the enrichment of uranium, not to the building of a bomb. From my past experience I knew who the suppliers were and I also knew that, being businessmen, they were willing to sell whatever was required. Later on, export laws became much more stringent and embargoes were put in place. The making of the device itself was a totally different field. I had gathered a team of competent engineers and scientists and when Gen. Zia instructed us to do the job, we managed to do so in 2 years.

Q: Could you describe your feelings on May 28th, 1998, when Pakistan successfully tested its first atom bomb and you became a national hero?

A: The feeling that anyone has who has just seen the accomplishment of years of hard work. However, that feeling was not mine alone. It was shared by the whole team that had been built up, without whom nothing would have been possible, and by the nation as a whole. Not only was it the first time that something of this nature had been achieved in Pakistan, but it also ensured the existence and sovereignty of the country.

Q: Looking back, what was the most difficult period on the path to the atom bomb?

A: I would not like to mention a specific period, even though the embargoes placed on us did make things more difficult, but difficulties are there only to be overcome. What I found most difficult during the course of my work was the professional jealousy, rumours and active antagonism from some quarters within the country. That is, of course, not speaking of all that has happened over the past 5 years.

Q: On February 4th 2004 you admitted that you passed atomic secrets to Iran, North Korea and Libya. What was the motivation for this transfer?

A: I am afraid I am unable to answer this question as the Islamabad High Court has passed a judgment forbidding me to speak on such matters. I can only say that I did nothing wrong and whatever I did was done in good faith and in the national interest.

Q: There has been a lot of speculation that you have sold parts and blueprints for a nuclear weapon. What exactly have you sold? And to whom?

A: Because of the court order, I am not in a position to reply to this question. Let me only say that I never SOLD anything to anyone.

Q: In October 2003 a freighter loaded with nuclear material was stopped on its way to Libya. Thereafter Libya gave up its secret nuclear program. Among the documents the Libyans handed over to the IAEA, the Agency found blueprints for a nuclear weapon. They were packed in two shopping bags of "Good Looks Fabrics and Tailors", your personal tailor in Islamabad. There are reports in books and media stating that agents of the Pakistani Secret Service ISI saw you in 2000 carrying two shopping bags of "Good Looks Fabrics and Tailors" into an airplane from Islamabad to Dubai. There they observed how you carried the bags in a hotel and delivered them to some men of Arabian origin. What was in those bags you carried to Dubai? And who were the men to whom you delivered the bags?