Bhutto Can Pull Pakistan’s Chestnuts Out of Nuclear Fire
By Wajid Shamsul Hasan – March 3, 2004
Now Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali, too, has joined General Musharraf’s orchestra in describing twice-elected Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto as a security risk. He believes that exposing his boss before the international community as a major promoter of the transfer of nuclear technology she has done Pakistan a disservice.
As opposed to this official view, Bhutto rightly feels that General Musharraf has been responsible in exposing Pakistan to greater humiliation and dangers than the surrender at Dhaka by his predecessors. He has committed an act of treason and there has got to be an investigation and accountability by a bi-partisan parliamentary committee.
Bhutto’s views represent a broad consensus in Pakistan where Musharraf has become the most unpopular ruler ever for making father of its nuclear bomb–Dr A.Q. Khan–a scapegoat to save himself and others like him who have had their fingers in Pakistan’s nuclear pie.
As the daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who willingly became a horrible example to protect Pakistan’s nuclear programme, Benazir Bhutto has just done the most patriotic thing to pinpoint the real culprits so that a genuine political leadership takes over in order to save whatever is left of our nuclear honour. Her father had sacrificed his life for it. It is, therefore, incumbent upon her as his political heir to defend it as the country’s main source of deterrence. And the best defence of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is in denuding those who have exposed it to its total obliteration under international pressure and to make them accountable for their act of treason.
It was ZAB who as Ayub Khan’s Minister for Science and Technology had set Pakistan on the nuclear goal for security and generation of energy. In an atmosphere when his country had almost become one of the lesser states of the United States, he had persuaded Ayub Khan to establish a nuclear infrastructure as early as 1966 when India had made a substantial progress in the atomic field.
Bhutto and not Field Marshal Ayub had realised that whenever Pakistan would need them, the Americans would stop their arms and spares to Islamabad. It happened in 1965 during the Indo-Pakistan conflict and then in 1971. He pleaded for diversity in sources of acquiring arms and also reliability of the suppliers. Only a self-reliant Pakistan could face an adversary six times bigger than its size, better armed and with larger armed forces. Notwithstanding the fact of unfathomable dissatisfaction in former East Pakistan and rising of the tempers to the point of open revolt in 1970-71, Bhutto had believed that Indians “despite the life time opportunity given to them” would not have dared to attack Pakistan had Islamabad had nuclear deterrence.
Therefore, in 1972 as President he decisively opted for a nuclear course. He told his scientists in Multan “we will eat grass and have the bomb”. There was no turning back from then onward. He first strengthened and funded the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and then after having progressed a great deal, decided to set up yet another institution—the KRL—following the Indian explosion in 1974. Dr A.Q. Khan joined KRL in 1976 to be part of Bhutto’s two-pronged pursuit of nuclear goal.
Pakistan would have crash-landed in the exclusive nuclear club as early as late1977 or the beginning of 1978. But then Bhutto was made a horrible example by General Ziaul Haq to please his foreign masters and secure support for his illegitimate regime—much on the similar pattern that we have seen since 9-11 including American recognition of a pariah military dictator as “the best man” to rule Pakistan.
In one of his last meetings with his daughter Benazir Bhutto before he was hanged by General Ziaul Haq, ZAB had asked her to pick up the pieces—whenever possible—of Pakistan’s nuclear programme and complete the mission that he had chosen upon himself at fatal peril to his life. He had, however, emphasised that Pakistan’s nuclear programme should remain deterrent and at no stage transfer of technology be permitted.
ZAB was conscious of the fact that the path he had opted was not only strewn with threats to his life but was also of potential risk to the survival of the team of nuclear scientists that he had managed to collect. In his secret instructions to the relevant agencies, he had directed them not only to protect the scientists but to monitor them as well. He had information that Pakistan’s n-programme was under extreme foreign threat. Americans were opposed to it tooth and nail. India and Israel considered it to be direct threat to them. So were its scientists.
The instructions to provide the nuclear scientists “extra-ordinary security” opened these institutions to the heavy presence of the military, ISI and MI. Had Bhutto known that those assigned to protect the scientists would become poachers themselves—he would have surely not involved them in the security business.
ZAB-introduced security procedures became a permanent fixture and were strictly followed by even General Ziaul Haq. These security procedures worked smoothly until 1989 when Pakistan had cold tested the nuclear device and its clandestine nuclear programme became a major object of concern for CIA, Indian RAW and Israel’s Mossad.
When Benazir Bhutto became prime minister in 1988 she was approached by military high command to use her influence—courtesy her late father– to get Pakistan assistance in nuclear and missile technology from China and North Korea. The military knew of the high esteem that the Chinese and North Korean leadership held late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. She could have had made the Chinese and North Korean assistance conditional to the completion of her tenure in office but instead of getting foreign countries involved in the internal politics, Benazir decided to give benefit of the doubt to the generals.
By this time Benazir had heard about approaches being made to Pakistan by some Muslim countries to help them in their nuclear programmes. In her meetings with her top brass—she enunciated Bhutto N-Doctrine. She recalled what her father had told her. While taking promise from her to continue his nuclear mission, ZAB had told her that Pakistan was on the threshold of a nuclear breakthrough and she should do her best to protect its nuclear programme with her life and two of the institutions that he had painstakingly built to that end—i.e. KRL and Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission.
ZAB had also asked her to ensure that Pakistan’s nuclear technology is not transferred to any one since its transfer would be of suicidal consequences for Pakistan. “ For our adversaries it would be difficult to swallow the fact that we have managed to make a bomb—but the transfer of nuclear technology to any of the Muslim countries would provoke their wrath to obliterate ours as well. That we must not allow to happen”, believed ZAB.
It was a lifetime mission for Benazir to protect and develop Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programmes on the condition that technology shall never be transferred. According to her, Pakistan’s nuclear programme was a matter of life and death for her country. No one would be allowed to roll it back nor would he be permitted to stop its further development solely as a deterrent. In her nuclear doctrine there is total ban on transfer of nuclear technology for “money or friendship”.
As Prime Minister Benazir had put her foot down when those seeking her permission for its export approached her on the issue of transfer of nuclear technology on several occasions. She did not accede to that and lectured them on the dire consequences Pakistan could be made to face if anything of that sort took place. She obviously turned down their requests. She recently disclosed to Financial Times she got a consensus agreement on her nuclear doctrine from her top brass and had succeeded in putting a bar on the export of nuclear technology in December 1988.
Later, she revealed, this bar, however, did not prevent senior officials and scientists to again approach her to seek permission to sell nuclear technology to raise money for defence and for tiding over country’s balance of payment problems. Bhutto again refused. “It certainly was their belief that they could earn tons of money if they did this,” she told FT in London (Feb. 22).
“It was something that I was disabusing them of, that they could not get it. If they chose to sell it, only three countries would buy it, because it wasn’t like McDonald’s hamburgers that would have a big consumer market,” she told FT.
She recalled the three countries referred to her as possible buyers were: Iran, Iraq and Libya. She asked her officers how much money such deals would fetch them and instead of them answering her question she told them that it would sell for no more than 100 million dollars per country, not enough to help Pakistan’s economy. Bhutto rightly wants a bipartisan investigation into the violation of her nuclear doctrine. She believes that Dr A.Q. Khan has been made a scapegoat by General Musharraf to save his skin for his involvement in the n-technology sale through advertisements. She feels that he has committed an act of treason by exposing Pakistan’s nuclear programme to complete obliteration.
It is late but not too late. Bhutto wants Musharraf to read the writing on the wall. It spells much more of a serious problem than the general can handle. While his Information Minister keeps barking about a sell-out by her when his own boss has put entire Pakistan in a Neelam Ghar (Auction House) for open bids, it would be worth reminding that Pakistan is much dear to Benazir Bhutto than him.
Now a few words on Bhutto being accused a security risk even by persons like Prime Minister Jamali. In 1984, while in exile and despite her sworn enemy in power who had executed her father, she had pleaded to the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee in April 1984, not to stop aid to Pakistan.
According to India Today (May 15, 1984): “During her whirlwind tour of Washington last month, Benazir Bhutto worked a near political miracle that pulled General Ziaul Haq’s chestnuts out of the fire. Almost single-handedly, she succeeded in persuading the Senate Foreign Relations Committee—which had adopted a resolution that could have ended all American aid to Pakistan—to change its mind”.
Despite maltreatment to her and her husband Asif Ali Zardari when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sought her help in 1993 to save Pakistan from being declared a terrorist state by the United States, she rose above her own grievances. She intervened with the Americans and saved Pakistan from being branded as a terrorist state.
In early 2000 when President Clinton was to tour India and was in two minds to visit Pakistan under a condemned military dictator–it was Benazir Bhutto who had advised him to visit Pakistan–even for a while–not to disappoint its people who have been supportive of the United States. President Clinton who was strongly committed to the cause of democracy, agreed to visit Pakistan to show his solidarity with the people. Though it was just for few hours–he made his displeasure amply clear in Islamabad by not letting himself photographed with Gen. Musharraf.
Last but not the least, Bhutto met Prime Minister Vajpayee in Delhi in December last. Vajpayee sought her advice whether he should go to Pakistan or not to attend the SAARC summit in January. He thought that his visit to Islamabad would give legitimacy to a military dictator and harm the cause and struggle for democracy.
Once again Bhutto rose above Musharraf’s grudges. She advised Vajpayee to attend SAARC conference since it could be instrumental for a breakthrough on Kashmir—an issue of much greater concern among the people of India and Pakistan. Vajpayee agreed with her and made up his mind to attend Islamabad SAARC summit.
How ironic it is and a slap on the face of obdurantists in Pakistan that while the Indian Prime Minister consults Pakistan’s Opposition leader whether to visit her country or not, General Musharraf does not want to use her international clout to pull Pakistan’s chestnuts out of the nuclear fire ignited by his gross mishandling.