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Volume 4, No. 4 - October 2004

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The A. Q. Khan Network and Justice
Dr. Subodh Atal

While the media focused on President Bush's style, his lack of depth in explaining his positions, and how bringing freedom to the world is such hard work, his opening remarks on the AQ Khan network being brought to justice may have been the biggest instance of "misleading" in the entire first debate of the 2004 US presidential elections.

Since the existence of the "AQ Khan" network was revealed earlier this year, there has been near unanimous agreement by experts around the world, in the US, and inside Pakistan, that Khan's monopolization of a nuclear proliferation network that spanned nearly two dozen countries and many continents, was impossible and incredulous. The concept that the Pakistani military, which has had a vise-like grip on Pakistan even during its democratic interludes, would have been unaware of the nation's nuclear technology, centrifuges and more being exported around the globe, can be described by one word: nonsense. That top Pakistani military leadership, including Musharraf, who claimed to have 400% confidence in November 2001 of his nuclear assets, would have been uninformed of this global network is not possible.

The only two entities in the world who claim that the Pakistani regime was blissfully unaware of the network are: a) the Pakistani regime itself, and b) the Bush administration. Both blame AQ Khan as a greedy nuclear scientist who did it for riches. Back to Bush's inclusion of "AQ Khan" and "justice" in the same sentence - was Khan then punished suitably for supplying some of America's worst enemies with nukes? No, he was pardoned quickly by Musharraf, and the Bush administration proclaimed it all an internal Pakistani matter and gave Musharraf a pass. Musharraf in a recent NY Times interview brazenly stated that no way would he allow US investigators to talk to Khan.

What does this all mean? Seymour Hersh wrote earlier this year that the "pardon" and the "pass" were part of a deal where the Bush administration was promised help in capturing Bin Laden. So do we get Bin Laden in return for allowing the details of the world's greatest nuclear proliferation scandal to remain obscured. It is no wonder that Nicholas Kristof wrote recently in the NY Times "If a nuclear weapon destroys the U.S. Capitol in coming years, it will probably be based in part on Pakistani technology".

So what is it that kept the Bush administration from digging deep enough to secure America against such a catastrophic threat: is it really the capture of Bin Laden - but that does not appear to have been US priority since Tora Bora. Or is it that the electoral dynamics are dictating this policy? A Bin Laden capture in an election year could well guarantee four more years for the Bush-Cheney ticket.

If this is what US policy on the war on terror and nuclear proliferation boils down to - electoral politics - then it is time for change, and a fresh start in 2005.

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