Pakistan & Nuclear Black Market: What’s The Real Story?
A.Q. Khan – “Dresed to Kill.” Photo courtesy The Economist
One of the big mysteries in the past decade or more revolves round Pakistan’s Abdul Qadeer Khan, described as ‘father of Islamic bomb’. The Economist raises more disturbing questions regarding nuclear black market. Why is there a conspiracy of silence on this important subject even in the West?
“To borrow a phrase from Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush’s former defence secretary, when it comes to the illicit trade in bomb-useable nuclear materials and know-how, it is the unknown unknowns that keep people awake at night.
“The revelation in 2004 that Abdul Qadeer Khan, the man still feted in Pakistan as the father of its bomb, had turned his country’s illicit procurement network into a private and hugely profitable supply chain, ready to sell all sorts of nuclear kit to others, was a huge blow to the global anti-proliferation effort. But exactly how far did the damage go?
“Three years on, Western intelligence agencies are still not really sure who was the next big customer being lined up, after Iran, North Korea and Libyaâ€”though Syria is one suspect. Mr Khan’s speciality was the wherewithal to enrich uranium (suitable, if enriched sufficiently, for the fissile core of a bomb); others in Pakistan did the real bomb-tinkering. But in Libya’s case, he also threw in a 95%-complete proven weapon designâ€”one that had earlier been supplied to Pakistan by China.
“Iran was given instructions on how to cast uranium metal into spheresâ€”a tricky step in bomb-makingâ€”but denies it ever used them. It is the stuff of nightmares, but did any of this know-how also fall into terrorist hands?
“No one knowsâ€”or no one is telling”…