Scientist Admits Spreading
February 3, 2004
After years of official denial, Pakistani officials said that Abdul Qadeer
Khan, a revered 66-year-old scientist, and his associates spread the designs
and technology to produce nuclear weapons fuel to Iran, North Korea and
by Pakistani officials were made only after evidence uncovered by international
inspectors and U.S. officials pointed conclusively to their nation's role
in aiding the nuclear programs of Iran and Libya.
President Gen. Pervez Musharraf was expected to announce the results of
the nuclear probe in an address to the nation after a period of national
holidays ends. The seven key suspects include scientists and security
officials from the country's top nuclear facility.
Chief among them is Abdul Qadeer Khan, long seen as a hero in Pakistan
for creating the Islamic world's first nuclear bomb. .Khan signed a 12-page
confession in which he admitted providing designs and components for centrifuges,
a senior Pakistani official told local reporters in Islamabad.
Khan was fired as scientific adviser to the prime minister. He is under
a form of house arrest at his home in Islamabad and has been unable to
speak to the media.
In an attempt to forestall a public backlash over his dismissal, two top
military officials briefed Pakistani journalists about his confession,
submitted to investigators late last week.
Another in custody is Mohammed Farooq, who was in charge of foreign procurement
for the nuclear program throughout the 1990s. His son Asim said his father
was being pressured to testify against Khan even though he had done nothing
But there are growing doubts over how top military officers overseeing
the nuclear program couldn't have known about the spread of technology
to at least three countries.
A government official
said "questions have been put" to two former army chiefs to
check information provided by Khan and other suspects- the first time
that such top figures have been questioned in the proliferation probe.
General Jehangie Karamat and General Mirza Aslam Beg, a nationalist and
strong advocate of a strategic alliance with Iran during his tenure, denied
they had authorized nuclear transfers, the official said.
Beg has said Pakistani scientists might have spread nuclear secrets to
Iran and Libya, abut that it was "no crime," and the probe was
a mistake and a sign the government was caving in to Western pressure.
Military officials told journalists that authorities didn't closely scrutinize
what was going out of the nuclear lab because Khan was a trusted figure.
The revelations that the top nuclear scientist in Pakistan- now a key
ally in the U.S. war on terror- sold sensitive technology to two nations
among President Bush's "axis of evil" alarmed the international
But analysts said
Musharraf's apparent willingness to come clean about the shady past of
Pakistan's covert nuclear program would count in his favor.
He has won foreign plaudits for his opposition to Islamic extremism and
eagerness for peace with India, Pakistan's nuclear rival.
Much depends on what comes next. It is not clear what will happen to Khan.
"Pakistan needs to show the world that it is a responsible nuclear
power and this happened in the past," said Talat Masood, a military
and political analyst.
"It has to reassure the international community that it is investigating
thoroughly and action will be taken against those involved, either administratively,
legally or both."
program was born in fear and secrecy three decades ago. On May 18, 1974,
India detonated its first atomic weapon in the Rajasthani desert about
100 miles from Pakistan.
In 1972, then Pakistani
Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto launched an all out nuclear effort.
After the Indian test, he ordered a crash program to match his much larger
Pakistan did not
have the technical base to support an atomic development program. So Khan
initiated a huge clandestine effort to acquire the components and materials
necessary to develop the process to produce fissile material for an atomic
weapon. He eventually passed the technology and contacts he used to build
Pakistan's program to Iran and Libya, diplomats and intelligence officials
Pakistan also lacked
the financial resources to build a bomb from scratch. Experts said it
turned to fellow Muslim countries for help in creating what would become
known as the "Islamic bomb."
In May 1998, Pakistan
successfully tested its first atomic weapon. Khan became an overnight
hero, dubbed the father of the Islamic bomb.
The Pakistani official
who described Khan's confession said the nuclear transfers stopped after
Musharraf created the National Command Authority to take control of the
country's nuclear arsenal in early 2002.