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Volume 3, No. 9 - February 2004

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The Nuclear Jihad
B. Raman


Pakistan is not the original birth place of the Islamic fundamentalist and jihadi orgs. Islamic fundamentalism and jihadi terrorism were born elsewhere in the Ummah and thereafter spread to Pakistan after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.

But, Pakistan is the original birth place of the concept of the nuclear jihad, which highlighted the need for an Islamic bomb and advocated the right and the religious obligation of Muslims to acquire WMDs and use them, if necessary, to protect their religion. The jihadi terrorists and their ideologues in Pakistan perceived the nuclear weapon as the ultimate weapon of retribution against States which they viewed as enemies of Islam, particularly the US and Israel.

It was, in fact, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, a Western-influenced liberal and not a religious fundamentalist, who first projected Pakistanís clandestine quest for an atomic bomb as the quest for an Islamic bomb to counter what he described as the Christian, Jewish and Hindu atomic bombs. He used this depiction in order to convince other Islamic States such as Libya, Saudi Arabia and Iran to fund Pakistanís clandestine military nuclear programme.

It was only subsequently that Paki jihadi orgs such as Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and fundamentalist orgs such as Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam adopted Bhuttoís depiction of the Islamic bomb and projected it as rightfully belonging to the Ummah as a whole. They described Pakistanís nuclear and missile capability as held by it on trust on behalf of the Ummah. In 2000, when Abdul Sattar, Musharrafís then Foreign Minister, advocated Pakistanís signing of the CTBT, the Islamic fundamentalist and jihadi orgs started a public campaign against him and projected him as a traitor and as anti-Islam. Thereafter, he gave up his advocacy.

After he shifted to Afghanistan from the Sudan in 1996, Osama bin Laden not only started speaking of the right and religious obligation of Muslims to acquire WMDs and use them if necessary to protect Islam, but also initiated a project for the acquisition/development of WMDs under the leadership of Abu Khabab in his training complex in Afghanistan.

After 1998, Al Qaeda and the International Islamic Front for Jihad against the Crusaders and the Jewish People IIF launched a campaign for the recruitment of students of science and scientists already working in the scientific establishments of Islamic countries for helping them in their quest for the acquisition/development of WMDs.

Many analysts of what has come to be known as catastrophic or new terrorism have remarked on the presence of a large number of educated persons in the ranks of the jihadi terrorist orgs. Even the pre-1991 ideological terrorist orgs of the world, influenced by leftist
ideologies, had attracted a large number of educated youth. Thus, the attraction of educated youth to terrorism is not a new phenomenon. Most of them were students or graduates or teachers of humanities. There were hardly any students of science or scientists in their ranks.

What is new about jihadi terrorism is the gravitation of a number of students of science or working scientists to the jihadi orgs to help the terrorists in their jihad. While the students of science came to the jihadi orgs from many Islamic countries, working scientists came
mainly from Pakistan.

Gen Zia-ul-Haq, who ruled from 1977 to 1988, strengthened the Islamic motivation of not only the Armed Forces, but also of its scientific community in the nuclear field. Just as he started projecting the Army not only as the Army of Pakistan, but also as the Army of Islam to serve the Islamic cause, similarly, like ZA Bhutto whom he overthrew and sent to the gallows, he started providing a religious justification for Pakistanís clandestine quest for the atomic bomb.

Ziaís policies resulted in the injection of the fundamentalist virus into Pakistani Army and scientific establishment. While the increasing influence of fundamentalism in the lower and middle levels of the Armed Forces received the attention of analysts of the world, a similar increase in the influence of fundamentalism in the scientific establishment did not receive similar attention despite the fact that sections of the Pakistani media had been reporting the presence of unidentified scientists of Pakistanís nuclear establishment in the religious conventions of Pakistani jihadi orgs such as Lashkar-e-Toiba.

The first indications of the presence of pro-jihadi scientists in Pakistanís nuclear establishment came to notice during the US military ops in Afghanistan against Al Qaeda and Taliban, when documents recovered reportedly spoke of the visits of retired Paki scientists
Sultan Bashiruddin Ahmed and Abdul Majid to Kandahar when bin Laden was operating from there pre-9/11. Bashiruddin was the first head of the Kahuta uranium enrichment project before AQ Khan replaced him in the 1970s.

At the instance of the US, Pakistan authorities detained the two for some weeks and interrogated them. They admitted visiting Kandahar and meeting bin Laden, but maintained that the visit was in connection with the work of a humanitarian relief org for helping Afghan people which they had founded and had nothing to do with Al Qaedaís quest for WMD.

Since no evidence linking them to Al Qaedaís Abu Khabab project could be found, they were released but banned from traveling abroad. However, the US and, at its instance, the UN Security Council initiated action for banning their so-called humanitarian org and for freezing its bank accounts.

Since 9/11, one of the major concerns of US intel and counter-terrorism agencies has been over the dangers of Al Qaeda and its jihadi associates in the IIF managing to acquire a WMD capability. In this connection, attention was particularly focused on Pakistan as the most likely spot from which such leakage could occur. Pakistan has been the epicentre of State-sponsored nuclear proliferation since the late 80s. Having benefited from funds contributed by Libya, Iran and Saudi Arabia for its clandestine military nuclear project, the Pakistan State had to agree to requests from these countries for helping them in acquiring a similar capability.

Large sections of the media and the community of strategic analysts have been writing as if the Pakistan Stateís collusion with Iran in the nuclear field came to light only last year. In fact, this came to light in the early 90s when Nawaz Sharif was PM. The Pakistani political and military establishment, including Sharif himself, had then strongly refuted these reports.

If one goes back to the 90s - immediately before and after the 1991 Gulf war - one would find reports of the role played by Gen Mirza Aslam Beg, then COAS, and Dr AQ Khan in the clandestine nuclear co-operation not only with Iran, but also with Iraq. Dr Khan had been the honoured guest of Saddam Hussein on many occasions.

The reports of those years were dismissed by the apologists for Pakistan in the US on the following grounds:

- the reports about the co-operation with Iran came from sources in the anti-Teheran Mujahideen-e-Khalq, which were not reliable.

- it did not sound logical that Pakistan should be helping Iran as well as Iraq, both sworn enemies of each other.

Such arguments have no validity in the case of Pakistan. Duplicity has been the defining characteristic of Pakistanís foreign policy since 1947. It co-operated with China against India, and with the US against China. It co-operated with the US against Iran by allowing the CIA to use Pakistani territory for its ops against the Islamic regime in Iran and, at the same time, had no qualms about helping Iran in strengthening its conventional capability and developing a nuclear capability.

The political and military leadership of Pakistan clandestinely helped not only other Islamic countries, but also North Korea. Whereas in the case of the Islamic countries, the motivation was money and religion, in the case of North Korea it was the desire for the North Korean missile technology.

When Pakistan faced difficulties in the late 80s in developing its indigenous missiles (based on the Hatf series), it was to China it turned. Beijing helped it by supplying technology and fully tested short and medium range missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons up to Delhi and Mumbai, but was reluctant to supply long-range missiles capable of striking Chennai and Kolkatta.

It was then that Pakistan turned to North Korea, when Benazir Bhutto succeeded Nawaz in 1993. During her visit to North Korea from China, the agreement for co-operation in the missile field was concluded. Gen Musharraf, her DGMO, was made responsible for co-ordinating this project. He and AQ Khan had made many secret visits to North Korea in this connection - together as well as separately.

Initially, Pakistan paid for North Koreaís missiles and related technology with dollars and wheat purchased from the US and Australia and diverted to it. The supplementary agreement to help North Korea in developing a military nuclear capability was reached after Musharraf assumed power in Oct 1999.

Zia, Benazir, Nawaz, Beg, Gen Asif Nawaz Janjua [who succeeded Beg], Gen Abdul Waheed Kakkar, his successor, and Gen Jehangir Karamat, his successor and Musharrafís predecessor, were all privy to the clandestine nuclear/missile relationship with Iran, Libya and North Korea.

Right from its inception, the clandestine nuclear and missile projects in Pakistan were treated as a top secret intel op of the ISI to ensure deniability. All payments to the foreign suppliers were made not from the accounts of the Govt of Pakistan, but from private accounts in the BCCI, which collapsed in 1991, and other Dubai and Geneva based banks. These accounts were opened by the Gokul brothers of Geneva, one of whom was jailed for cheating in the UK after the collapse of the BCCI; Shaukat Aziz, Pakistanís present Finance
Minister, who was working in the Gulf for the Citibank in the 1990s; Dawood Ibrahim, the mafia leader who was designated by the US as an intl terrorist in Oct; Dubai-based Pakistani smugglers, and AQ Khan and other trusted Pakistani scientists.

The financial contributions from Libya, Iran and Saudi Arabia were transferred to these accounts from numbered Swiss accounts, and payments to the overseas suppliers were made from these accounts.

In response to periodic Western media reports about Pakistanís clandestine co-operation with these countries, Musharraf has been taking shifting stands just as he has been doing in the case of Paki links with Al Qaeda and other jihadi groups. When the first reports about Pakistanís clandestine co-operation with North Korea in the missile and nuclear fields appeared, he totally denied them and repeatedly maintained that Pakistanís medium and long-range missiles were totally indigenous and there was no North Korean role. In Oct last
year, during a visit to South Korea, he changed this stand and openly admitted for the first time North Korean inputs in Pakistanís missile programme.

However, he continues to deny any Pakistani inputs into North Koreaís nuclear programme. At the same time, he sought to blame the previous Govts of Nawaz and Benazir for the missile co-operation with North Korea as if he had no role in it.

After 9/11, when there was considerable speculation about the dangers of Pakís WMDs falling into the hands of Al Qaeda, he asserted on innumerable occasions that Pakistanís nuclear capability was in the secure hands of the military and that there was no question of its leakage to anybody outside Pakistan. However, after Libya and Iran made a clean breast of the inputs received from Pakistan, he has again shifted his stand. He is now trying to give the impression that this was the unauthorized doing of rogue elements in Pakistanís scientific community who, according to him, betrayed Pakistanís nuclear secrets out of greed for money.

He has been enacting an elaborate nuclear charade of detaining and "debriefing" A.Q.Khan and eight other nuclear scientists close to him and four ISI officers who had served in the Kahuta uranium enrichment factory and by projecting the proliferation which has taken place, which he no longer denies, as the act of these rogue elements.

When President Vladimir Putin of Russia visited India a year ago, he stated in an interview that Musharraf had repeatedly assured him that Pakistanís nuclear and missile assets were in the safe hands of the Army and that there was no question of their leakage to Al Qaeda or other jihadi terrorists.

Putin added that while he had no reasons to distrust Musharraf, he continued to be concerned over the dangers of individual members of the Pakistani scientific community helping the jihadi terrorists to develop a WMD capability. Even though he did not say so explicitly, it was apparent that he was having in mind the case of Sultan Bashiruddin and Abdul Majid and was worried that they represented only the tip of the jihadi rogue iceberg in Pakistanís nuclear and missile fields.

Putinís concerns have been justified by the recent discoveries of the role of over a dozen members of Pakistanís WMD community, civilian scientists as well as their military supervisors, in the proliferation of nuclear technology and material to Libya and Iran. Even if one were to accept Musharrafís unconvincing arguments that this was a rogue operation by greedy scientists without the knowledge of the military, these concerns would only be aggravated and not lessened because if greedy scientists were prepared to help other States in return for money, they would be equally capable of selling material and expertise to jihadi terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda, which can pay as well as these Islamic States.

If an Islamic fundamentalist orientation was an additional factor in their sale/transfer of these technologies to Iran and Libya, the international community would have reasons to be even more concerned. Till now, strategic analysts have been focusing only on the dangers of a possible Talibanisation or Al Qaedisation of the Pakistan Army. It is time now to pay more attention to the dangers of a Talibanisation or Al Qaedisation of Pakistanís scientific community.

The recent developments and the shifting stands of Musharraf only add to the misgivings in the minds of many about him. If he has been telling a lie by putting all the blame on individual scientists, it shows how he continues to be as unreliable as before befitting his reputation as "tricky Mush". If he is telling the truth, it shows how ineffective is his control over the jihadi elements in the Pakistani Army and scientific establishment.


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