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  Has America Gained Control of Pakistan Nuclear Weapons?  


By: Hari Sud
February 22, 2004

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Hari Sud

“Pride and joy of Pakistan, the Nuclear Weapons, are on Pakistani soil but under American control”. That is the word from political and diplomatic experts in the West. Eric Margolis, a Canadian and a pro Pakistani analyst, who gained his importance as an expert on Pakistani Army and Afghanistan military imbroglio after 9/11, believes so. Writing recently in The Dawn (Pakistani Newspaper), he said that the American Command Control technology and security codes are already in place to safeguard the Pakistani 40 odd nuclear weapons. Washington now will demand complete integration of US and Pakistani forces structure. Next step will be to jointly guard the nuclear weapons on Pakistani soil. Finally, total control of the nuclear weapons by America, even though they stay in Pakistan. 

If Pakistan does not agree to this then the payment of the budgeted $3 Billion US aid will be withheld. The latter is the amount, which keeps Pakistan as a nation financially afloat. It is urgently needed. 

What has been happening Behind the Scenes since 9/11? 

America during its occupation of Kabul in the year 2000 found distinct links between a few Pakistani scientists and A-Qaeda. These scientists were questioned in Pakistan and let go. Other suspected scientists disappeared from the scene (visiting Burma). Alarmed America set in motion process and procedures to infiltrate and gain control of the Pakistani nuclear technology. First, a liaison group of Pakistani and American scientists was created, ostensibly to help Pakistan create unbreakable command and control codes, which will prevent the explosion, should the bombs fall into the wrong hands. Indirectly it helped to put the active nuclear bombs in cold storage. Second, came the nabbing of the scientists who were selling of nuclear secrets and designs privately but under the watchful eye of the Army and ISI, who wished to keep the deniability as part of their diplomatic arsenal. The procurement and technology network these scientists ran had been infiltrated a while back but America kept this to itself, least India and Israel got very alarmed. Israel has a declared policy of attacking any nuclear or non-nuclear threat to its existence. Progress in building the bomb by its enemies could invite Israeli action on Libyan and Iranian sites (worst case scenario could attack Pakistani sites itself). Third and last of all is the selection of the opportune time for the disclosures by America. It happened when the world was about to learn about Iranian nuclear plans.  

Hence, since 9/11, unknown to the rest of the world America was working hard using back channels to secure the Pakistani Nuclear arsenal. 

How Was the Disclosure Trap Set? 

Last autumn, the Americans approached the Libyan and told them that they know everything about their nuclear program and its source. Col. Gaddaffi was forced to abdicate its nuclear weapons program.  A similar approach was made to Iran, who had watched the destruction and occupation of neighboring Iraq early in the year and did not wish the same fate. Hence they declared all about their nuclear program to IAEA and named Pakistan as its source. Then came the back channel diplomacy with Pakistan. Since Pakistan is a friend and a strategic partner in catching Al Qaeda, hence it was agreed that all faults be pinned on the Pakistani Dr. Nuke (Abdul Kadeer Khan) and hold the Pakistani Army blameless. The Pakistani Strongman, General Musharraf liked the idea of holding Pakistani Army blameless and agreed to put the blame on Adbul Kadeer Khan’s shoulders. But there was only one hitch. Abdul Kadeer Khan is next only to God in Pakistan. He gave the country the Islamic Bomb; hence will not take exclusive responsibility for nuclear proliferation to Libya, Iran and North Korea. In the interest of $3 Billion and much more in aid from America, Abdul Kadeer Khan agreed to take the full blame and got the Army off the hook. 

In return, America agreed to continue the economic aid with a caveat that Pakistan accepts its aid in control and safeguard of the nuclear weapons in three phases as Eric Margolis has written. 

Well-done America. The cleverly placed disclosures and perfect timings have stripped the most dangerous country in the world of its nuclear weapons and got the military government on its side. The politicians and religious parties in Pakistan clamored a bit but have calmed down, since they also like the American money. In addition the Islamic war on the West with Pakistan as the epicenter, which started on 9/11, has made them a sore looser. Hence this seems to be a very good way out. 

Why India is so mum? 

India is the indirect beneficiary of this imbroglio. First, Pakistan offered ceasefire in LOC in Kashmir and withdrew support to the terrorists in India as soon as it became clear to them that all the hell is about to break loose on the nuclear front. Second, there is a receding nuclear holocaust threat in any border war between India and Pakistan on Kashmir, terrorism or any other issue. Reasons – the Pakistani nuclear bombs may be on Pakistani soil but they are not in the full control of them.  

This has kept India mum about the developments. Moreover the present BJP leadership in charge in Delhi is more interested in dollars which are flowing into India via IT trade and BPO services than raking hell on the international political and diplomatic scene for Pakistan. Not much will be achieved by India in a diplomatic war with Pakistan. America is already doing a good job of that. 

Why did America wait 20 years to bust this Nuclear Trade Ring? 

If America today tells the world that they did not know about nuclear proliferation emanating from Pakistan, do not believe it.  America knew all about Pakistani intelligence agent’s efforts to steal nuclear technology from the West in last 25 years. In 1978 Abdul Kadeer Khan stole the nuclear centrifuge design from Holland. From 1982-89, Pakistanis were trading the centrifuge secrets for design of nuclear weapons with China. America knew all about it. They told Chinese mildly about it, but China was an asset in the Anti Soviet ring, which America had erected during the Cold War, hence, would do nothing to upset them. In 1985 a Pakistani agent was arrested in America purchasing nuclear triggering devices. The Reagan Administration let the matter off lightly as Pakistan was an ally in their fight in Afghanistan.  

Not only that, CIA had infiltrated the Pakistani nuclear establishment long before they are prepared to admit. The only admission they are prepared to make today is that they infiltrated the Abdul Kadeer Khan network to learn all about it. This network had been in operation for the last 18 years as Iran received the centrifuge design in 1985 and the actual centrifuge in 1989-91. Prior to that Libya received similar help in the same timeframe. The latecomers were the North Koreans who traded missiles for nuclear bomb help from 1994 to 1999. So how could America not know? 

Hence America’s limited admission of their man inside the Pakistani nuclear trade ring is only a partial truth. The whole truth, as speculated, is that America has complete knowledge of Pakistani nuclear establishment and its secrets. 

The horse has bolted from the Barn, What Do we Do? 

America and Bush Administration at the moment is doing the right thing by gaining control over the Pakistani nuclear weapons. How much access is gained by America will never be known. Pakistani Army will not talk about it because it will upset the nationalism, which surrounds the nuclear prestige. America will not talk about it because it will give ammunition to Pakistani Army critics at home. 

Recently announced measures by President Bush are half measures after the horse has already bolted the barn. Nobody can speak very highly of the Nuclear Lobby in Washington.  It has been working against the interest of peaceful use of nuclear energy and brackets the rogue nations with it. This stance has not helped its cause. It is a waste of time. An example has to be set to prevent future nuclear trade. Time to set example is now. Unless you make an example of of the errand nation, this episode will be forgotten soon and a bunch of new proliferators are waiting round the corner to move into the seats vacated by Dr. Nuke in Pakistan. In this sense America has failed. Pakistan will always use its strategic importance to have leverage over American policy and wish to be pardoned for gross international misbehavior.

(The author is a retired Vice President from C-I-L Inc. and has lived in Canada for the past 34 years. A graduate of Punjab University and University of Missouri; Rolla, USA, the author is a former investment strategies analyst and international relations manager. The Views expressed are his own. email- harisud@hotmail.com)

Hari Sud

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