Thursday, September 20, 2012
Point of view: Unnecessary words
Of course, in nuclear matters, particularly with the very serious internal security threats Pakistan faces, there is no room for complacency. In that environment, A.Q. Khan’s assertions are an unnecessary and unwelcome distraction from present-day concerns.
Source/Credit: Daily Dawn | Pakistan
By Editorial | September 16, 2012
WHEN Abdul Qadeer Khan speaks, there’s always a sense that perhaps it were best if he hadn’t. In a fawning interview given to a section of the local media, the controversial key figure in Pakistan’s acquisition of the nuclear deterrent has claimed that he was ordered by then prime minister Benazir Bhutto to transfer nuclear technology to two countries essentially, giving Mr Khan’s activities an official imprimatur. Prima facie, as with much else that the erratic Mr Khan has claimed in public since his spectacular fall nearly a decade ago, the latest allegations are fairly implausible. In both her terms as prime minister, Ms Bhutto was known to have been kept far away from decisions on the nuclear programme by the self-appinted nuclear guardians, i.e. the army high command. Indeed, this was true for civilians generally, with Nawaz Sharif, the other leader of a civilian dispensation between generals Zia and Musharraf, having no input in the safety and security of the nuclear programme.
The more riveting truth that the interview glossed over was that this is the first time Mr Khan has of his own volition admitted to being involved in proliferation. When he appeared on TV during the Musharraf years to take responsibility for the nuclear proliferation from Pakistan he later claimed it was done under duress. Now that he has finally owned up to his role, he has seen fit to transfer blame to the civilian leadership of the time and just cast himself as someone following orders. That is a narrative that even the most credulous of observers would find hard to take at face value; the powers-that-be in Pakistan are well known to all.
There is a broader problem with Mr Khan’s public pronouncements, however. The Pakistani security establishment has worked hard to formalise and strengthen control over the country’s nuclear programme and while much of the work has taken place away from the public eye, there is a growing consensus among experts, national and international, that both the safety and security of the Pakistani nuclear programme have been vastly improved. Of course, in nuclear matters, particularly with the very serious internal security threats Pakistan faces, there is no room for complacency. In that environment, A.Q. Khan’s assertions are an unnecessary and unwelcome distraction from present-day concerns. And, as he embarks on a fledgling political career, if Mr Khan continues to hold forth on his controversial past, it will only give more ammunition to hardliners in the international community who want Pakistan to be treated as a nuclear rogue state with a terrorism problem. A.Q. Khan should weigh his words more carefully.
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