US mainly responsible for Pakistan’s nuclear fangs, says new book

New Delhi(IANS) : Even as it wages a global war on terror, the United States is chiefly to blame for Pakistan’s growth as a nuclear power and its emergence as the mother of all the “nuclear-tinged crises” in the world today, says a new explosive book.

“For three decades, successive US administrations, Republican and Democrat, as well as the governments in Britain and other European countries have allowed Pakistan to acquire highly restricted nuclear technology,” says “Deception” (Penguin), a fascinating study of Pakistan’s nuclear programme.

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Authors and investigative journalists Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark seek to correct the impression that Pakistan’s clandestine nuclear sales were the work of just one man, the now disgraced A.Q. Khan, known as the father of the “Islamic bomb”.

On the contrary, it was “the foreign policy of a nation, plotted and supervised by Pakistan’s ruling military clique, supposedly a key ally in America’s war on terror. The true scandal was how the trade and the Pakistan military’s role in it had been discovered by high-ranking US and European officials, many years before, but rather than interdict it they had worked hard to cover it up”.

In a damning indictment of the US, the book alleges that key state assets were misdirected and countermanded in Washington in order to disguise how Pakistan had sold the nuclear technology to what came to be branded as rogue states, North Korea included.

“Intelligence gathering in the US was blunted while federal agencies, including the Departments of State and Defense, were corralled into backing the White House agenda and forced to sidestep the Congress and break federal laws.

“Officials who tried to stop the charade were rough-housed, smeared or purged, inflicting terrible damage on America and Europe’s ability to see sharply.”

The book reveals that intelligence analysts in the US and Britain spotted right from the start how Khan, after returning to Pakistan from Europe in 1975, sent his agents to shop in Europe and North America for the equipment his country needed to make a bomb.

“US officials converged on Islamabad carrying cash and the message that America would ignore Pakistan’s growing nuclear programme.”

When it became increasingly difficult to keep a lid on Pakistan’s bomb programme, “evidence was destroyed, criminal files were diverted, Congress was repeatedly lied to, and in several cases, in 1986 and 1987, presidential appointees even tipped off the Pakistan government so as to prevent its agents from getting caught in US Customs Service stings that aimed to catch them from buying nuclear components in America”.

The US also sought to bury the deepening Pakistan-China nuclear relationship, “including Beijing’s gift to Islamabad of bomb blueprints, radioactive isotopes and technical assistance without bounds. In return, US companies won deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars from Chinese nuclear power contractors”.

By the time Ronald Reagan’s term ended in 1989, Pakistan was “in possession of a deployable and tested nuclear device, much of the programme even funded using US aid, hundreds of millions of dollars of which had been diverted by the Pakistan military”.

Although “a mountain of incredibly precise evidence portrayed Pakistan as the epicentre of global instability” and as “a host and patron for Islamist terrorism” by the time George W. Bush took office in 2001, the US continued to ignore the dangers.

“Despite overwhelming evidence of a building nuclear crisis, in which a state leaking nuclear technology was also concealing terrorists who were seeking it, the White House decided to do nothing,” the book says. And Washington sat on intelligence that proved that Pakistan was the most dangerous proliferator.

“By 2007, Pakistan’s nuclear sales network was flourishing again. they (Pakistanis) were selling to anyone who could come up with the cash. Pakistan’s arsenal, developed at Washington’s grace and favour, was sliding out of control as terrorists gained new footholds in Islamabad”.

Today, as the world battles to deal with a new generation of global terrorism, the quagmire in Iraq, a showdown with Iran and a stand-off with North Korea, “Deception” reveals “how all of these nuclear-tinged crises emanated from the mismanagement of one wellspring: Pakistan”.