- The Washington Times - Friday, May 11, 2007

The black-market nuclear network established by the father of Pakistan’s nuclear program, A.Q. Khan, broken up in 2004, may be dormant but could resume operations in the future, according to a just-released report by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The IISS study found no evidence to indicate that Pakistan sanctioned or encouraged the sales of nuclear technology and equipment to Iran, Libya and North Korea as a means to fund its own nuclear program.

The report by Mark Fitzpatrick, a former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation, found Khan ran a black-market operation beyond the reach of the Pakistani government. However, the truth behind Khan’s activities is unlikely to ever be fully revealed. “Pakistan would never allow any foreign intelligence organization to question Dr. Khan,” said Mr. Fitzpatrick.

He added that the CIA had some knowledge of Khan’s proliferation activities while they were in progress, yet did not pay enough attention. “There’s no doubt that the CIA knew about some of Khan’s activities at various stages of his proliferation,” Mr. Fitzpatrick told a group of journalists in Washington. “There’s also no doubt that the CIA didn’t give enough attention to this area of private sector proliferation in looking at Iran’s nuclear development program over the years.” The CIA, much like other Western intelligence services, was more focused on state-to-state activities rather than on individuals, like A.Q. Khan’s network, he said.

Mr. Fitzpatrick, the lead author of a dossier revealing the activities of the A.Q. Khan network, said Khan’s sales to Libya, for example, “were almost exclusively private business transactions, beyond state control.” The centrifuges Khan’s black-market operation sold to Libya were produced in Malaysia, Turkey, Europe and South Africa and shipped via Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, according to the report.

But given Pakistan’s control over its nuclear technology it is hard to imagine Khan did not enjoy the protection, if not the outright support, of Pakistan’s intelligence services — the ISI — known to be supportive of the Taliban in Afghanistan and other radical Islamist organizations, such as Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda.

However, Mr. Fitzpatrick’s report identified some “gray areas.” It remains questionable whether prior to September 11, 2001, Pakistan’s government did not have knowledge of Khan’s illicit activities or to what degree certain groups within the Pakistani government did not facilitate Khan’s nuclear proliferation activities. Soon after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, Washington communicated to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf — in no uncertain terms — to stop Pakistan’s support of Islamist groups.

In an interview with Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, Mr. Fitzpatrick said former Pakistani army chief Gen. Aslam Beg “encouraged” the Khan network’s sales to other countries. “Ego, money, nationalism and a sense of Islamic fraternity” motivated Khan and his supporters to sell nuclear technology to other Muslim countries, he said. “Different motivations in different cases.”

Mr. Fitzpatrick said in his report he did not think Pakistan sold its nuclear technology in order to raise money for its nuclear program.

Additionally, Mr. Fitzpatrick also found no link between Khan’s network of nuclear proliferators and the terrorist group responsible for the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon just outside Washington.

Although Khan was removed from Pakistan’s nuclear program in January 2004 and placed under house arrest by President Musharraf, he remains a very popular and revered figure in Pakistan. However, despite an official pardon from Mr. Musharraf, Khan remains under house arrest. After Khan’s arrest, Washington declared the network had been shut down. But according to Mr. Fitzpatrick’s report published by the IISS, it is believed some of Khan’s associates have escaped law-enforcement attention and “may resume their black-market business.”

According to Mr. Fitzpatrick, Khan established a procurement network to keep Pakistan’s nuclear program operational. Mr. Fitzpatrick said the Khan network was made up of about 50 members that included operators from Dubai, Turkey, Malaysia, Switzerland and Germany, as well as from Pakistan.

Given strong demand for nuclear technology by governments and terrorist groups, there remains a distinct possibility of Khan reactivating his black-market network.

Claude Salhani is international editor for United Press International.

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