ANALYSIS & EDITOR’S COMMENT: The blowback has yet to come

Crisis in Pakistan: Administration officials see few options for U.S.

For more than five months the United States has been trying to orchestrate a political transition in Pakistan that would manage to somehow keep Gen. Pervez Musharraf in power without making a mockery of President Bush’s promotion of democracy in the Muslim world.

On Saturday, those carefully laid plans fell apart spectacularly. Now the White House is stuck in wait-and-see mode, with limited options and a lack of clarity about the way forward.

General Musharraf’s move to seize emergency powers and abandon the Constitution left Bush administration officials close to their nightmare: an American-backed military dictator who is risking civil instability in a country with nuclear weapons and an increasingly alienated public. [complete article]

Editor’s Comment — While the neoconservatives are waging a hysterical campaign targeting unrealized nuclear risks in Iran, the fearmongers have had little to say about the nuclear actualities in Pakistan. Indeed, we now know that for decades American administrations and Congress looked the other way while Pakistan both developed its own weapons program and created the most extensive clandestine proliferation network ever known – a network that is believed to remain in tact and in operation even though in February 2004 its chief of operations, AQ Khan, was forced into what could best be described as early retirement. Paradoxically, while the drumbeat for bombing Iran grows increasingly loud, there is a stunning silence in response to the preeminent risk for nuclear terrorism. Washington’s Faustian pact with General Musharraf is now unraveling, yet we are blithely assured that Pakistan’s weapons and nuclear materials will remain safe, whoever rises to power. We have seemingly entered a Through-the-Looking-Glass world where nuclear weapons that do exist are less dangerous than those that can be imagined.

For more revelations on Washington and Islamabad’s twisted relations, read this:

‘Bush winked at Pakistan’s nuclear proliferation’
Chidanand Rajghatta, Times of India, September 5, 2007

Successive US administrations winked at Pakistan’s clandestine nuclearisation and its rampant proliferation activities, and Washington continues the charade of normalcy although proliferation activities continue to this day, an explosive new book on the subject has revealed.

The disclosures in the book Deception: Pakistan, the United States and the Secret Trade in Nuclear Weapons by Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, which is to be released next week, are nothing short of stunning.

It charges US President Bush of perpetuating deceit in an elaborate American charade that forgave Pakistan for its nuclear transgressions as a price for keeping it from becoming an even more dangerous proposition – in other words, succumbing to Pakistani blackmail.

Describing the episode in which US officials confronted Pakistan’s military ruler Pervez Musharraf with evidence of its nuclear proliferation, the authors say “American officials knew that Musharraf had known about the nuclear trade all along. And Washington had itself not only turned a blind eye to Pakistan’s nuclear bomb project for decades but had covered it up for imperative geopolitical reasons, even when Islamabad began trading its secret technology.”

The authors credit then Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage of conceiving the drama in which Musharraf would promise to shut down Pakistan’s nuclear black market in return for winning continued US support for his unelected regime.

It was agreed that A Q Khan and his aides would be arrested and blamed for “privately” engaging in proliferation. “The country’s military elite – who had sponsored Khan’s work and encouraged sales of technology to reduce their reliance on American aid – were left in the clear,” the authors say, adding that “Bush subscribed to the deceit.”

However, in a worrying new claim for Washington’s non-proliferation pundits, who have spent the last two decades chasing WMD phantoms in all the wrong places, Pakistan’s proliferation has not stopped even now.

They say new intelligence reports show that Pakistan is procuring a range of materials and components that “clearly exceeds” what Islamabad needed for its domestic nuclear program.

KRL labs, A.Q.Khan’s old facility, had continued to coordinate the Pakistani sales programme and now runs a network of front companies in Europe, the Gulf and southeast Asia which deployed all the old tricks: disguising end-user certificates by shielding the ultimate destinations from sellers, and lying on customs manifests.

Most alarming, say the authors, was the finding that hundreds of thousands of components amassed by Khan, including canisters with radioactive material, had vanished since he had been put out of operation.

In other words, they write, Pakistan has continued to sell nuclear weapons technology (to clients known and unknown) even as Musharraf denies it – “which means either that the sales are being carried out with his secret blessing or that he is no more in control of Pakistan’s nuclear program than he is of the bands of jihadis in his country.”

The book then quotes Robert Gallucci, a former US diplomat who tracked Islamabad’s nuclear program from inception in 1972, as describing Pakistan as “the number one threat to the world at this moment.”

“If it all goes off, a nuclear bomb in a US or European city, I’m sure we will find ourselves looking in Pakistan’s direction,” says Gallucci.

Such observations, and other disclosures in the book, hasn’t made the slightest impression on Washington, which continues a decades-long wink-wink policy that has made Pakistan’s into what experts are increasingly
describing as the world’s most dangerous country.

The Bush administration continues to back Musharraf and is trying to engineer a coalition between the military ruler and former PM Benazir Bhutto. The latest experiment does not address the nuclear proliferation issue, where Washington is yet to even question A.Q.Khan even as Pakistan spirals out of control.

“The tragedy is that America’s gamble on Musharraf has not paid off…Musharraf presides over a country that is not only still a nuclear proliferator but the real source of the Islamist terrorism menacing the West,” say Levy and Clark-Scott.,prtpage-1.cms

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