News Professor Hassan Abbas’s new book delves into Pakistan’s hard nuclear facts

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SOURCE: INDIA TODAY

The story of Pakistan’s quest for nuclear weapons and the country’s involvement in its unprecedented selling of nuclear weapons designs to Iran, Libya and North Korea are carefully documented by Professor Hassan Abbas of the National Defence University in Washington DC, in his book Pakistan’s Nuclear Bomb: A Story of Defiance, Deterrence and Deviance. Abbas has also worked in Pakistan for Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and President Pervez Musharraf.

Professor Abbas primarily focuses on how Dr AQ Khan, Pakistan’s internationally disgraced and nationally revered respected metallurgist-turned-nuclear scientist, is said to have almost single-handedly sold the country’s nuclear secrets for personal enrichment, amongst other reasons.

These activities were reinforced by his pathological hatred for countries like India and the US, which he saw as hurdles to his ambitions. Pakistan provided Iran with crucial equipment and designs of “inverters” for nuclear enrichment and Libya was given designs of nuclear weapons, which were passed on by Libyan Leader Gaddafi to the IAEA, once he lost the resources and thirst for nuclear weapons.

Not surprisingly, Professor Abbas conveniently avoids any mention of China’s crucial contribution, not just to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme, but also its missile capabilities, apart from a passing mention of the supply of some medium range Chinese M-9 missiles to Pakistan. There is also a reference to the possibility of Pakistan developing plutonium reactors with China’s help. This is, to put it mildly, farcical, given the huge plutonium reactors and reprocessing facilities that Pakistan has already built with Chinese assistance.

The book does carry a reference to the fact that there are a number of nuclear scientists with Islamist inclinations in Pakistan, who would ideologically not be averse to collaborating with Islamic countries. What is, however, missing is the fact that the real ‘Father’ of Pakistan’s ‘Islamic Bomb’ was President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who justified Pakistan’s quest for nuclear weapons on the grounds that while the “Christian, Hindu and Jewish civilisations had nuclear capabilities” the Islamic civilisation did not.

Subsequent military rulers, like General Zia-ul-Haq and other assertive army chiefs, ensured that the nuclear programme was effectively firewalled, with Benazir Bhutto being denied all access to the nuclear weapons. The army, however, did not hesitate to use Benazir’s good familial relations with North Korean President Kim Il-Sung to get her to strike a deal providing nuclear enrichment technology, in exchange for North Korean liquid fuelled ‘Nodong’ missiles, christened as ‘Ghauri’ by Pakistan.



Pakistans Nuclear Bomb by Hassan Abbas, Allen Lane; Rs 699.
Given the fact that Abbas has worked for luminaries like General Musharraf, it is not surprising that he avoids virtually any reference to the fact that with the tight military security arrangements in Pakistan’s nuclear plants, there is virtually no way AQ Khan could have taken out sensitive designs and materials for handing over abroad, without tacit approval of the army.

Abbas has, however, unlike most Pakistani writers, candidly admitted that Pakistan regards the use of “proxy militant groups” as “legitimate” in Kashmir, instead of echoing the official Pakistani falsehood that it only provides “diplomatic, moral and political support” to jihadi groups.

While there is a cursory reference to the Kargil conflict, Abbas does not acknowledge the fact that the Kargil intrusion was a military debacle and political disaster, which inevitably led to yet another a coup in Pakistan, ordered on this occasion, by General Musharraf, with whom he has been associated.

This book is interesting and important for those who seek to understand what motivates Pakistan and, more importantly, its all powerful military, when it comes to relations with India. One can also acknowledge that Hassan Abbas has been moderate and nuanced in his references to India, with even his criticism voiced in terms many would regard as being reasonable.

The writer was India’s High Commissioner to Pakistan between 1998 and 2000.