Where Have All The WMDs Gone?

People’s Democracy

Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 08


Have All The WMDs Gone?




world has been agog the past few weeks at the astounding revelations from
Pakistan that Dr A Q Khan, the father of the Pakistani nuclear bomb, had passed
on nuclear weapons technologies to Libya, Iran and North Korea over a long
period extending over a decade. The story was broken, after some months of
suspense involving “de-briefing” of Dr Khan and six other colleagues at the
Khan Research Laboratory (KRL), by none other than general Musharraf himself who
admitted to Dr Khan’s actions but attributed them to selfish financial
motives, denied the involvement of any official agency and stated that the
matter was now fully under control with no possibility of any further
proliferation. A publicly broadcast “confession” by Dr Khan was quickly
followed by a Presidential pardon, later clarified as being “conditional”.
The US, the world’s self-proclaimed watchdog over proliferation of WMDs
(weapons of mass destruction), greeted all this with equanimity and expressed
its full understanding of the measures being taken by Pakistan, especially
general Musharraf.


may be taking place behind closed doors, this entire episode has witnessed the
world over only a rather mild storm, rarely going above a strong breeze. With
the immediacy of the event having now passed, this is perhaps a good time to
look at it from different angles and examine its implications both in the short
and long terms.


it be said at the very outset, though, that whereas many commentators in India
and a few abroad would argue that the chickens have finally come home to roost
in Pakistan, in reality the hen house is not in Islamabad but in Washington.


US under George W Bush went to war against Iraq, with its lapdog Britain led by
Tony Blair by its side, precisely over the issue of WMDs, none of which were
however found or are likely to be. Iraq was a “rogue” state, they argued,
having links with al-Qa’ida and potentially capable of transferring WMD
capability to terrorist groups. The US with its extreme right-wing neo-con
leadership has been leading a virulent campaign against an “axis of evil”,
countries which the US regarded also as “rogue” states such as Libya, Iran
and North Korea, and who must be stopped at all costs by pre-emptive action as
in Iraq if necessary. All of a sudden, a common source for much of these WMDs
has been found in Pakistan, a long-time strategic ally of the US, its leading
partner in the “war on terrorism” especially against al-Qa’ida. The
contrast between the US response to these developments and its actions in Iraq
could not have been more striking. The reasons go far beyond the old US-Pakistan
axis or molly-coddling general Musharraf and lie at the very heart of US
strategic policy and the hegemonic vision of US imperialism. 




us first l

ook at the recent revelations themselves.

Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and related delivery capability through missiles
have involved proliferation in both directions, especially to but also from
Pakistan, has been one of the world’s best-known secrets along with Israel’s
WMD capability. The former was obtained by a combination of stealing and
smuggling of nuclear weapons related know-how and materials (mainly from Holland
and Germany by A Q Khan who was then working in the former), clever
reverse-engineering and clandestine manufacture of some components abroad.
Pakistan’s missiles, especially the long-distance Ghauri are virtual replicas
of the North Korean Nodong missiles and were obtained from North Korea in crated
ready-to-assemble condition in the mid-‘1990s, in all probability in a barter
deal for Pakistan’s assistance in nuclear weapons technology, particularly
uranium enrichment, in 1996. Earlier acquisitions of missiles by Pakistan from
other countries are also well established with Pakistani nuclear scientist and
peace activist Pervez Hoodbhoy recently confirming that Pakistan only had to
paint on the crescent and star!


clinching and no longer deniable Pakistani connection came to light when the
UN’s international atomic energy agency (IAEA) were, after prolonged
negotiations, invited by Iran late last year to inspect its nuclear energy
establishments and found equipment which not only could have been used for
uranium enrichment and resembled the Pakistani designs which were familiar to
the IAEA inspectors, but also contained traces of enriched uranium! Iran stated
that the contamination must have taken place in the country of origin which it
did not publicly name but privately confided to the IAEA was Pakistan. In
Libya’s case, shipments of equipment related to nuclear weapons programmes
were intercepted by German and Italian agencies off Dubai en route from Malaysia
(where they had been manufactured on behalf of Khan) to Libya in 2001. Libya’s
mercurial leader Colonel Qaddafi was soon to do a policy U-turn, declared his
nation’s nuclear weapons programme and invited the IAEA to take over and
remove all related equipment. The Pakistani technology and equipment were once
again revealed.


did all this really come as a surprise to anyone? And who was to blame?




the Pakistani end, it strains credulity to the extreme that such large-scale and
selling of nuclear weapons secrets had been taking place clandestinely under the
very nose of the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment who were
known to have exercised total control over the nuclear weapons and missile
programmes, and also closely watched over all the scientists involved. Khan used
large military aircraft to transport weapons-related component and machinery to
other countries, not to mention taking such material out of the
closely-monitored KRL facilities, and had entered into numerous transactions for
millions of dollars, many by cheque if you please, all without anyone in the
Pakistani Army or ISI or military intelligence knowing anything about it! Can
anybody really believe that North Korean missiles were received in Pakistan as a
friendly gift without any quid-pro-quo being involved? 


ministers and officials have been at pains to point out that their entire
nuclear weapons related programme was clandestine, with full autonomy to Khan
and his colleagues to pursue their objectives, and this is the reason why no
military, intelligence or government official knew any of the details. 
Reading between the lines, what is being said is that, so long as the
goal was achieved, very wide latitude was given to Khan, including as to raising
resources by selling nuclear secrets if necessary on a strict need-to-know
principle under which, in retrospect, only Khan knew what was really going on!
To any one worried about proliferation, this scenario of nuclear management by a
few persons with absolutely no accountability or governmental supervision, is
even more frightening than the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment
knowingly indulging in some limited proliferation to a few countries. If Khan
had sold nuclear weapons technologies in this manner to a few countries, may he
not also have done the same to some non-state actors including al-Qa’ida?


Musharraf and senior officials have sought to allay fears by saying that now the
Pakistani nuclear deterrent is an open programme with a Nuclear Command
Authority in place, and has also assured the international community that there
has been no proliferation since the General took office. This is not likely to
inspire great confidence in the light not only of past experience but also of
the fact that the transfer to Libya and the interception of the shipment on the
high seas took place very much during general Musharraf’s on-going tenure.
Another big worry! Is general Musharraf himself now out of the decision-making
and need-to-know loop? Is the military intelligence state-within-a-state in
Pakistan now bigger than its executive president and Army Chief rolled into one?




one the few slips made during this entire episode, general Musharraf claimed
that the US had come to him quite late with all their evidence against Khan and
nuclear weapons technologies leaking out of Pakistan, and had they done so
earlier, he could have done something about it. This was promptly denied by the
US State Department, which claimed it had kept Pakistan informed about its
suspicions and evidence for a long time, and the by CIA which was especially
keen on protecting its image after the Iraq WMD fiasco.


respected Pakistani daily, Dawn, quoted officials recently as saying that
the US dossier presented to Pakistani authorities on Khan’s activities
contained details of his movements since 1992 including dates and destinations
of foreign travel, bank account numbers and details of financial transactions,
finer points of people met etc almost as if, in the words of the official,
“the Americans had a trace planted on Khan’s body”! If the US had been
tracking Khan for over a decade and had all this information, what were they
doing with it?


simple part of these complex questions must be that US intelligence did not know
as much as it now claims it did. The capabilities and hard actionable knowledge
in the possession of the CIA and other US intelligence agencies have long been
suspect and have now been thoroughly exposed in Iraq as well as Afghanistan.
Much of the ten-year tracking of Khan’s travels could therefore have merely
been retrospectively compiled so that the embattled CIA Chief George Tenet could
stake some claim to respect.


must be understood, as the handling of Iraq’s WMDs and their use as the reason
touted for going to war by the US and Britain show, that intelligence can only
provide some information weighing which, however, political decisions must be
made.  While both the US and Britain
are seeking to deflect public attention by focusing on possible “intelligence
failure” and setting up Inquiry Commissions to investigate them, the fact is
that in both cases, the onus of failure lies with the decisions taken by the US
and British political leadership based on all the inputs of which intelligence
is only one part.


inevitable conclusion is that the US knew at least a substantial part of the
nuclear proliferation-taking place but for political-strategic reasons, chose
not to do anything to stop it.


is to date the only country to have been designated and sanctioned in 1979 by
the US under the Glenn-Symington amendment to the Foreign Aid calling for such
action against nations acquiring nuclear-related technologies. In 1981 this US
president waived this under a special provision to assist Pakistan against the
Soviets in Afghanistan and resisted subsequent attempts to stop assistance. When
the Pressler Amendment was passed in 1985 prohibiting US aid to Pakistan unless
it could certify that the latter did not possess nuclear weapons, successive
Administrations continued to sign certify that it did not until, after the
Soviet threat had ended, president Bush Senior did not certify and aid stopped
until his son resumed it after 9/11 and under the strategic objectives of the
“US war on terrorism”.


same strategic reasons were advanced by the present Bush administration when
Pakistan’s assistance to North Korea in nuclear weapons technology in 1998 was
highlighted by the US Department of Energy and the CIA. Even after general
Musharraf came to power in 1999 and assured the US that all such activities had
stopped, evidence of such activities continued to surface including the highly
embarrassing taped evidence discovered by British intelligence and shared with
their US counterparts as late as 2002 when the Pakistani embassy in London was
being renovated. 


when the Bush administration is claiming to be in control of things, independent
commentators especially in the US print media are coming out with increasing
evidence about official Pakistani involvement and tacit US complicity with such
proliferation. In the present context, the US is clearly shoring up its own
strategic interests by continuing to project general Musharraf as their
principal ally in Pakistan not only against al-Qa’ida but also for
modernisation. The US is also playing a deeper game, of quietly mounting
pressure on the Pakistani establishment to leverage the present situation to
obtain greater US control over Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.




is yet another deeper and longer-term strategic game being played out by the US.
As this article has tried to show, nuclear non-proliferation is not a general
principle in US policy, but only a tool in support of other US policy and
strategic goals.


US is using the recent disclosures to buttress the position long held by the
neo-conservatives namely that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and
other similar international Treaties are useless and should be abandoned in
favour of US-led multilateral arrangements which would also replace such
international UN-led bodies such as the IAEA. The US under George Bush has
already abrogated the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and decided not to ratify
the nuclear test ban treaty or CTBT.

While India has long refused to join the NPT-CTBT regimes for their
discriminatory nature, the BJP-led government broke with the long-standing
national consensus on nuclear ambiguity and non-weaponisation of India’s
nuclear capability and is now cynically trying to join up with the US efforts to
reorganise the international security architecture outside the UN or IAEA


Iraq, the US consistently undermined the IAEA inspections only to be embarrassed
by its own failure to find WMDs. The US has now launched a Proliferation
Security Initiative (PSI) under which, following on from its notorious doctrine
of pre-emptive strikes, it plans to set up a US-led coalition of countries which
would pre-emptively intercept or otherwise prevent suspected WMD proliferation
attempts by select nations or non-state actors. The US is actively seeking to
rope India into this nefarious plot into which it has already roped in its close
allies in NATO and outside. The PSI is another barely-disguised attempt by the
US to set up multi-lateral structures outside the UN or other internationally
recognised frameworks so as to project and perpetuate US hegemony. If the
examples seen in this article are any indication, nations or other parties
identified and targeted under the PSI will be subjectively selected and timed
only so as to serve US strategic goals.


also needs to be emphasised that while the US persists in arguing that other
countries do not and should not need nuclear weapons or other WMDs to protect
their security interests, the US continues to insist on its own right and need
to do so and indeed to expand its own WMD capabilities, clearly exposing its
hegemonic ambitions. The US Nuclear Posture Review, National Security Doctrine
and other policy pronouncements reinforce the prevailing US view that nuclear
weapons are critical to US security. The US budget includes more than US$500
million over the next five years to develop new nuclear weapons.


non-proliferation cannot be achieved when some countries believe that nuclear
weapons are essential for their security, and are legitimate currency for
international power, but this does not apply to other countries. The only
long-term guarantee against nuclear non-proliferation is global nuclear