October 23, 2002, Chandigarh, India
Pak nuclear scientists in touch with Al-Qaida
Washington, October 22
This was stated by Mr Robert Einhorn, Senior Adviser, Centre for Strategic and International Studies and former Assistant Secretary of State for Non-proliferation, during an interview with ANI on the subject of the alleged Pak-North Korean barter deal on the nuclear weapons front.
He added that, with a note of caution, that nuclear scientists always possessed a lot of knowhow which were of interest to “states of proliferation concern and to terrorist groups.”
According to Einhorn, “Apparently there was some admission that these former Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission scientists had discussions with Al-Qaida. Now they claim to have been involved only in humanitarian kinds of projects. I don’t know whether there was more to that or not, but I think it simply illustrates that Pakistan needs to have very tight control on its nuclear scientists, on its nuclear laboratories and even on former and retired nuclear scientists.”
There have been media reports that Pakistan was a vital contributor to North Korea’s secret nuclear weapons programme. But Einhorn feels Washington possibly knows more about the secret pact than it is willing to let out, dependant as it is on Islamabad for war against terrorism and the rounding up of Al-Qaida elements.
The point is that the White House, which has cosied up to Pakistan since the September 11 (2001) terrorist attacks, has refused to discuss anything about Pakistan’s role in North Korea’s nuclear programme, Einhorn remarked. Hence, the suspicion that it knows more than it wishes to divulge.
Early this year, President George Bush said North Korea was part of an “axis of evil” along with Iran and Iraq. But criticising Pakistan for its alleged role in helping the Communist country create a nuclear programme might upset the partnership between Washington and Islamabad. The USA is counting on Pakistani help to round up leftover elements of Al-Qaida who are believed to have fled across the border from Afghanistan. Under the circumstances, America should insist that Pakistan keep a tighter lid on its nuclear knowhow, the expert said.
The New York Times had reported over the weekend that some US officials believed that Pakistan and North Korea were engaged in a barter arrangement in the late 1990s, in which Pakistan supplied nuclear technology in exchange for ballistic missiles. News of the clandestine programme has rocked Washington since the White House announced last week that Pyongyang had admitted to its existence.
Said Einhorn: “In the late 1990s, here was a sensitive trade relationship between North Korea and Pakistan. North Korea was selling Pakistan No-Dong missiles. At that time, Pakistan was not in very good shape economically.
“And questions were raised - how is Pakistan paying for these No-Dong missiles. Well, speculation arose as to whether Pakistan had something North Korea might want, namely the technology to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.”
He further said that “Secretary of State Colin Powell said he spoke to President Musharraf on Friday, and President Musharraf told him that there was no such cooperation between North Korea and Pakistan. The reporter asked Secretary Powell, ‘Well, what about in the past — was there such cooperation in the past?’ And Powell responded that he’s not talking about the past, he’s looking toward the future. Well, you could draw your own conclusions about what Secretary Powell may believe happened in the past.”
Einhorn explained it this way: “I think it means that Pakistan needs to be encouraged very strongly and repeatedly to make sure it has the tightest controls on the export of sensitive materials, including nuclear materials, and very tight controls on nuclear scientists who possess a lot of know-how that could be of interest to states of proliferation concern as well as to terrorist groups.”
“And so,” he added, “Pakistan needs to make sure it has the strongest possible controls on the interactions of companies or nuclear scientists with foreign elements. This is critical, and presumably the US administration will be urging this of Pakistan.”
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