Original Articles

My choice today: Saturday 31 May 2008


Khawahish aur khabar

The AQ Khan issue: Resurrecting a ghost?

Resurrecting a ghost

DR A.Q. Khan is back in the news, retracting by implication the confessionary statement he made in 2004 and asserting that he was forced to make it. Given the political situation today, it is obvious who he was referring to when he said he was made to come on TV and read out the statement. Besides making happy those now going after President Pervez Musharraf’s skin, Dr Khan would be hard put to ascribe any other motive to his decision to break his silence and restart the debate on an awkward aspect of Pakistan’s nuclear programme. That he was the man who put Pakistan on the world’s nuclear map and many in the nation regard him as a hero goes without saying. However, for a scientist he had an unusual trait — he spoke too much. Scientists, scholars and researchers, especially those who work on sensitive projects, the world over keep a low profile. A scientist seeking publicity is like a judge turning himself into a political activist. This was, however, less of the grotesque in the metallurgist; the greater part of the anomaly lay in his alleged role as a disseminator of nuclear technology.

He has now told DawnNews TV he did not do anything that was ‘illegal or unauthorised’. Evidence that was described as incontrovertible was collected to show that Dr Khan indeed ran a clandestine network that tried to make technology for making nuclear weapons available to ambitious governments ranging from North Korea to Iran and Libya. It is true that Pakistan is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The legality or otherwise of his actions notwithstanding, now that he has chosen to break his silence Dr Khan needs to clarify what he means when he says he didn’t enter into any ‘unauthorised’ deals.

It is not a secret that all aspects of the country’s nuclear programme have remained in the hands of the military. Therefore, the implication that his actions were not just his own assumes added significance at a time when some in the West are questioning Pakistan’s ability to keep its nuclear weapons secure. We won’t get into the debate here whether Pakistan is safer and stronger for having nuclear weapons. We would, however, say that most damage to the country in recent years, and more so in recent months, has not been done by any external enemy but by loose talk within. And it is time political leaders in and out of government, ex-generals, scientists and others just paused and thought through the consequences of their words before they so generously share them with everyone.

Jamhooriat kay julaab

End of the road for president?

Baitullah Mehsud’s funds

The Governor of the NWFP, Mr Owais Ahmed Ghani, says the “caliph” of the “emirate” of South Waziristan, Mr Baitullah Mehsud, is spending between two to three billion rupees annually “on procuring weapons, equipment, vehicles, treating wounded militants and keeping families of killed militants fed”. He refuses to believe that this kind of money can be raised by him through “through taxation, zakat or donations”, but doesn’t say who could be funding him. The last caretaker interior minister had gone on record as hinting that the US could be involved, but it is likely that the country he has in mind is India.

This will not do. The truth could be that Mr Ghani isn’t really sure who is funding terrorism in Pakistan. But one thing we know for certain: America is funding the state of Pakistan to fight against Baitullah Mehsud who has big money. Once he reportedly took money from a predecessor of Mr Ghani’s in Peshawar to “pay back the dollars he had received from Al Qaeda”. Al Qaeda has drug dollars and proceeds from such smuggled goods as the foreign cigarettes that we smoke in Pakistan, plus the “cut” Mehsud may be getting from the second hand cars brought into Pakistan. The truth is that it costs us much more to mobilise against him and for that we need international help, whether we like it or not. (Editorial, Daily Times)