The world may look on Abdul Qadeer Khan as a rogue scientist who sold Pakistan's nuclear secrets in the international black market. But former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto remains unconvinced.
In the final part of an exclusive interview with rediff.com Senior Editor Shyam Bhatia, Bhutto, who calls herself the mother of Pakistan's missile programme, admits that she had approached the late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung for help in missile development. But she also says she had put in some safeguards against nuclear proliferation and whatever Khan is alleged to have done could not have been accomplished without the complicity of General Pervez Musharraf himself. Khan, she says, was probably sacrificed to protect the general, a man she deeply distrusts.
Did the uranium for the 1998 tests come from the '80's, or was it the result of a rogue operation?
Not rogue. My information says that the material came from the time which we had collected it upto '89. We were not aware of any rogue operations. We know they crossed the line, we know there was an explanation given that there was certain degeneration; we know that there were certain security measures put in so in future the government would be asked rather than this be done on their own.
In 1998 we detonated six nuclear devices and we obviously had to go back -- under Nawaz Sharif, I assume -- to uranium enrichment to make up for what we had detonated. Because six is quite a lot.
We had a lot of shortage of funds. It was after my dismissal in '98 that there was a financial crunch. It is then that they might have thought they could earn money by selling. So I suspect Libya and North Korea took place post-'98. Iran they have tracked down to 1987. What I have read is that it went on in 1987 under Zia, but actually the cooperation started after my dismissal in 1990 and ended in '93 or '94 after I became PM.
When I went to North Korea, A Q Khan told me we can get their [missile] technology [so] that we can compare to our own. So I took [it] up with Kim Il Sung. I had given commitment not to export. Neither commitment was asked not to import and no commitment was given we would not import.
December '93 I talked to him [Kim], he agreed and some time in 1994 -- and it was cash, they needed money and so it was done for cash. It was paid in instalments of computer discs.
What did North Korea give you?
They gave us the missile technology, whatever they had developed, in return for cash. We paid them in instalments because we also had foreign exchange to keep in mind for other things because we were buying tanks and planes and all sorts of things.
What about the rogue nuclear issue?
What rogue issue? The world has accepted it was the rogue issue, but I suspect it was Musharraf because the time lag I am looking at, both Libya and North Korea were squarely under Musharraf's watch as chief of army staff and chief executive of Pakistan and it is Musharraf who goes to Libya in 2000.
North Korea is also in that 1999 onwards period?
It has to be after because when I was there, we had the technology and they wanted to develop it because we had the money. But by the time I am dismissed the country's economy goes into a tailspin, we no longer have money. So if they need something, they need to pay for it, so what do they do?
What about Khan and Iran?
This is what we have to see through an investigation whether Mr Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Mr Nawaz Sharif have changed the policy after my dismissal.
Do you think Khan was given a villa on the Caspian Sea and caviar rights?
I think Khan got a pittance of the money. He couldn't even leave the country without somebody on his left hand and right hand watching everything he did and to accept that Khan ran an international operation, that Israeli businessmen were involved and Indian businessmen were involved, that parts were coming from South Africa and Malaysia without anyone knowing, is unbelievable.
Khan was asked to fall on the sword in the name of national interest, which means cover up for Musharraf.
Maybe there were people who came. This is what I want an investigation on.Because if this is government policy that changed, I got bizarre recommendations which I used to veto. So if I got bizarre recommendations, Musharraf would have got them and it was his job to veto. If he did not veto, there should be accountability.
You have been quoted as saying you are the mother of the bomb.
No, I am the mother of the missile technology. My father was the father of the nuclear thing. They said, you know, that they are against Benazir because of corruption, but Qadeer Khan can keep the hundreds of millions he made through corruption and he's still a hero because he helped with the nuclear and the missile programmes. My father is the father of the nuclear programme, I am the mother of the missile programme, and I don't even admit I'm guilty, I say I'm innocent, and they are not willing to forgive me. He says he is guilty and they are willing to forgive him. So it's not me they oppose, it is the policies I espouse that they oppose. They want to crush the democratic movement in Pakistan because they have a different agenda.
Did you ever think India would use nuclear weapons against Pakistan?
Well, we thought our nuclear deterrent would prevent India from doing a war against us, we didn't think they would use it because they are militarily superior. So [it is] the party which is militarily inferior that has first use. The way the war scenario was picked up it was that Pakistan could sustain a war for two or three weeks, until we built the Multan pipeline, but after that we had greater fuel capacity, but we still lacked essential items and the embargo via the sea route would hurt.
Unless we had another route through Afghanistan or Iran, it would make it very difficult for us to continue fighting a war beyond a limited period of time, as we saw in '65 and '71. Ultimately, the Indians had greater military resources than we did, they are five times larger than we are, and they can fight for five times longer than we can.
So we would need the world community to intervene, but if they failed to intervene the only way to stop an Indian advance was to threaten a retaliation.
Which Indian city would Pakistan have launched against?
I don't know if we would have launched it, we did have capability to launch from several places. With missile technology you have capability to launch from several sites...
I mean, where in India would you have targeted?
I don't know, they would have targeted a city and we would have targeted a city if it came to war.
Looking back, what other thoughts do you have about the nuclear programme?
Basically, if Libya and North Korea happened under Musharraf's watch, then it is a nightmare scenario in the West. Because then it turns out [that] their key ally has been going out with what is called the 'Axis of Evil.'
I find the West is unprepared to accept that Musharraf did this, they are prepared to accept that Qadeer Khan did it, either to save Musharraf the embarrasment, or prepare for Musharraf to cover up for his colleagues.
What they want to know is the infrastructure, the people involved, and the network. They will follow it through and one will lead to another... Musharraf, however, is not stupid, he's cunning.
He's using the March offensive against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the tribal areas and peace moves with India as diversionary tactics to take the heat off him on the nuclear issue.
He is a maverick and he will behave if he feels there will be pressure on him. It was my view that the country needed internal unity and everyone should have been brought on board to tackle this issue and there should have been a debate on how we should handle it to get out of it.
Obviously, what has happened is a matter of great concern and of huge repercussions. It's naive to believe it can all be swept under the carpet. This is the best time to deal with it when the world needs us. If we fail to deal with it now, then when the can of worms opens later, Pakistan could face a great deal of difficulty. Musharraf is a military dictator who needs to explain why he visited Libya, why his commerce minister took out this advertisement in The News in 2000.
Image: Uday Kuckian