|Interview of Ms. Benazir Bhutto
Political Review Aspenia (of Italy)
through Ms. Marina – 23 October 2004
Q1- How do you consider the “affair” of the scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, who has been accused to provide secret information and nuclear technology to the North Korea, Iran and Libya? What did you do as Prime Minister?
Ans: The clandestine nuclear export was a serious matter. Personally I find it hard to believe that individual scientists could have acted on their own without the knowledge or involvement of those who were supposed to monitor their activities and were responsible for the security of both the scientists and strategic assets.
However, it is too early to say who is responsible. PPP has called for the holding of a bi-partisan parliamentary inquiry given the concern that the scientists may have been made into scapegoats. You remember Musharaf was the self styled chief executive when a newspaper advertisement was given by his handpicked commerce minister for the sale of nuclear products in 2000. Matters like these raise serious questions as one begins to suspect that those who violated the policy are now hiding behind the scientists and there is heartburning over this in Pakistan.
When I was the Prime Minister there were three layers of control over the nuclear program. These three layers pertained to: first the policy formulation which was under the control of the tripartite group comprising of the President, the Prime Minster and the Army chief. Second, the program itself that was in the control of the scientists. Third, the security of the assets that was in the hands of the military. This was so during my two terms as Prime Minister.
I also addressed some important concerns. For instance there was a concern that a nuclear scientist could be induced to visit a country and then detained there to help their possible nuclear program. I directed that no scientist should leave the country without written government permission and without security detail.
As member of the policy group I was able to convince the President and Military about the need to allay the concerns of the international community through confidence building steps such as the policy decision not to export nuclear technology. The President and the army chief agreed to this.
Foreign Office is conducting an inquiry into the violation of the laid down policy of my government. This is at the centre of the dispute which hit Pakistan early this year.
Saif Gaddafi has claimed that forty million dollars was paid by Libya for a “bomb dossier”. This presumably occurred somewhere between 1998 and 2000 which would put the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of General Musharaf who was either the army chief under Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the time or the chief executive. Yet Washington appears to forgive Musharaf claiming that it is “in the past”.
Q 2- Why, according to you is it important the nuclear development?
Ans: In terms of strategic balance we need nuclear technology because of India choosing to go nuclear by exploding its first nuclear device in 1974. After India’s nuclear tests of 1974 Pakistan was left with no choice but to also acquire nuclear technology for strategic reasons.
Q3- According to you, the holding of nuclear weapons in Pakistan, did it increase or decrease the security?
Ans: It is a moot question whether nuclear weapons enhance or diminish national security. Academics have been arguing endlessly without yet arriving at any conclusive answer.
Many in Pakistan see nuclear capability as a deterrence to any future war with India. There is lurking fear that a conventional war could turn nuclear. Therefore having nuclear capability would ensure that India could not launch a conventional war, knowing that if it did, it would turn nuclear, and that hundreds of millions would die.
Q 4 And in India?
Ans: Both India and Pakistan have teeming and toiling masses whose socio economic problems have not been addressed.
Both India and Pakistan need to realise that spiralling arms race particularly with a nuclear dimension will drain them of their resources. They need to learn from the experience of former Soviet Union and the danger of an implosion.
Q 5 Which are the relations between USA and Pakistan, concerning security?
Ans: There have been ups and downs in the relations between the two countries. Between 1990 and 1993, Pakistan came within a hair’s breadth of being declared a terrorist state. Once I became Prime Minister of Pakistan, I ensured that Pakistan was safe from this threat.
When General Musharrf seized power in a coup in 1999 the United States and the west treated him as a pariah. President Clinton during his visit to the sub continent in 2000 stayed in Pakistan for only 20 minutes during which he refused to be photographed with General Musharraf. But come 9/11 and the relationship changed..
We feel that because of the support of the US to the dictatorship of Musharraf democracy in Pakistan has been put on the back burner. We think this policy needs to be reviewed because dictatorship can not fight terrorism. Only a democracy can fight forces of terrorism.
Q 6:- Which will be, according to your point of view, the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the next 10 years in Asia?
Ans: The reasons why countries choose to go nuclear is because of political compulsions. A country, which has a serious security threat perception from anywhere, is more likely to acquire nuclear weapons than a country that does not have serious threats to its security. It is difficult for me to comment as to which other country will follow the nuclear path but it is safe to say that countries s facing serious threats to their security will seek these weapons no matter what technological barriers are erected in their way. It is important to draw such countries into the mainstream through dialogue.
Q 7: Is there a relation between terrorism and nuclear weapons?
Ans: Terrorists have no creed, no religion, no scruples. A terrorist wants to die but before killing himself he wants to kill as many as possible. A terrorist’s priority therefore would be to lay his hands on weapons of mass destruction so that he could kill as many as possible. This is the connection between a terrorist and nuclear weapons. A terrorist would do anything to lay his hands on nuclear weapons.
Q 8:- Shortly how do you expect the future scenario between western and Islamic world?
Ans: The west could understand that terrorism has no religion and distinguish between muslims and terrorism.
There is the other aspect also. Most of the unaddressed political problems are in Muslim countries. Behind every act of terror there is also some un-addressed political problem. There is a need to address these political problems and is0late terrorists from the causes they exploit.