If there is one country in the world which has been systematically violating with impunity all nuclear and missile proliferation regulations and from which there is a real danger of leakage of weapons of mass destruction and related technologies to al Qaeda and other pan-Islamic terrorist organisations belonging to Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front for jihad against the Crusaders and the Jewish people, that country is Pakistan.
The United States' double standards in this matter are evident from the alacrity and vigour with which it acted against Iraq despite the lack of any credible evidence against it and the care with which it protects the regime in Pakistan, despite all the evidence available against it.
Before October 2003, no other leader of a nuclear power had made stronger statements than Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf about the safety and security of its nuclear and missile assets.
How many statements he had made since he seized power in October 1999 that Pakistan's nuclear and missile assets were under the effective control of the army and that not even a fly could sit on them without the army knowing about it!
How many statements he has made since October 2003, when Pakistan's proliferation activities in Iran, Libya and North Korea were exposed, absolving himself and the army of any responsibility in this regard and putting the blame totally on a group of about a dozen scientists headed by Abdul Qadeer Khan, the so-called father of Pakistan's atomic bomb!
This group brought in suitcases with millions of dollars in cash; bought real estate and invested millions of dollars in companies in Pakistan and abroad; travelled dozens of times every year all over Europe, Africa and Asia; carried sensitive drawings and designs abroad; invited foreign dignitaries from Iran, Libya, Saudi Arabia and North Korea to visit Pakistan's nuclear and missile establishments into which even Pakistan's elected political leaders were barred access by the army and the Inter-Services Intelligence; received foreign scientists and engineers for training in the nuclear and missile establishments; invited North Korean scientists to witness its nuclear tests of 1998; invited North Korean and Iranian scientists to witness the Ghauri (nothing but North Korea's Nodong re-baptised) missile test of 1998; and sent to Libya, Iran and North Korea uranium hexafluoride and other sensitive material by special aircraft into which they were loaded in Pakistani airports.
And, yet, Musharraf tells us that all these were rogue operations by this small group of which the Pakistan Army and the ISI had no inkling till the US and the International Atomic Energy Agency brought them to his notice.
He has even had the audacity to find fault with the US for not detecting the rogue activities of his scientists even earlier and alerting him about them.
One is told that these scientists did it for greed. Even if one accepts for argument's sake his explanation of greed as the motive, one could understand how the scientists must have been tempted by offers of millions of dollars by oil-rich Iran and Libya. But where is the question of greed as the motive in the case of North Korea, a bankrupt State, which did not even have a few thousand dollars in its coffers with which it could bribe the scientists?
One has lost count of the number of times Musharraf has changed his prevaricating statements.
Initially, he was saying that none of the Pakistani leaders, political or military, had any knowledge of these transgressions and hence they could not be held responsible. As the international concern and furore refused to die down, he changed his stand and started hinting that the controls over the scientists weakened while the elected political leadership was in power and hence such transgressions became possible.
His repeatedly asserted contention has been that after the interception by the intelligence agencies of the US and the UK of a ship in October 2003 -- which was carrying to Libya a clandestine consignment of centrifuges for uranium enrichment manufactured at A Q Khan's instance, by a company in Malaysia, with the assistance of a Sri Lankan Muslim -- he became aware of the extensive non-proliferation activities of the A Q Khan group and immediately acted against them.
According to Musharraf, details of the clandestine travels and the proliferation network of A Q Khan came to notice during the subsequent investigation.
Not many experts and analysts of the world have been convinced of the innocence of Pakistan's military in this affair.
Many of us have been pointing out that this proliferation started and continued at the instance and with the blessing of Pakistan's military leadership. I have also been pointing out in many articles that while the Pakistan's late military dictator Zia-ul-Haq, who ruled the country from 1977 to 1988, authorised the proliferation to Iran, Musharraf himself had authorised that to Libya and North Korea and was totally in the picture.
But, unfortunately, for reasons of realpolitik, the US administration chose to accept Musharraf's denials of military responsibility. It not only gave him a clean chit, but even rewarded him and his country by conferring on it the status of a Major Non-NATO Ally.
Despite Musharraf's efforts -- with the benediction of the US -- to keep his cupboard tightly shut, nuclear skeletons keep popping up here, there and everywhere much to his consternation.
The skeletons are everywhere -- if only the US wants to look at them.
The nuclear ghost of Pakistan's past doings continues to pop up from different and often unexpected quarters. On November 23,2004, the Central Intelligence Agency put on its web site edited extracts from a report on nuclear proliferation worldwide during the second half of 2003 submitted by it to the Congress. It had another bombshell for Pakistan.
The CIA report said: 'Before the reporting period, the A Q Khan network provided Iran with designs for Pakistan's older centrifuges as well as designs for more advanced and efficient models and components.'
What did the CIA mean by 'designs for more advanced and efficient models and components'? Pakistani analysts maintained it meant more advanced centrifuges.
But in an analytical article, The New York Times, as quoted in the Daily Times of November 27, 2004, interpreted it otherwise.
It said: 'A new report from the CIA says the arms trafficking network led by Pakistani scientist A Q Khan provided Iran's nuclear programme with significant assistance, including the designs for advanced and efficient weapons components.'
The Daily Times wrote: 'The [NYT] story is aimed at alleging that Pakistan gave a warhead design to Iran and wants to create exactly this impression. This is obvious from the reference to a closed-door speech to a private group by former CIA Director George Tenet and references to unnamed CIA officials. According to the NYT, Tenet described Mr Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear weapon's programme, as being at least as dangerous as Osama bin Laden because of his role in providing nuclear technology to other countries.'
As more and more disclosures emerge and as more and more inconvenient questions are asked, most analyses are coming back to the question: Could Dr Khan and a small group of scientists close to him have done this as a rogue operation without the approval and involvement of the political and military leadership of the country? Should the outside world be satisfied with Musharraf's contention that Khan had been thoroughly interrogated and that all the information given by him has been shared with others and that no further interrogation is needed? Definitely not by outsiders, Musharraf says.
Should the world be satisfied with Musharraf's assurance that it was a rogue operation by a small group of greedy scientists and that there is nothing more to be learnt?
One thing stands out clearly from the recent developments -- the entire truth has not come out. Only part of the story, as given out by Musharraf, has come out.
Is it not necessary for the safety of the lives of billions of innocent civilians, who face the threat of a possible use of weapons of mass destruction by jihadi terrorists, to find out the truth?
There is only one man in Pakistan who has the entire picture right from the day the late Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto launched a clandestine project for acquiring military nuclear capability in the 1970s, and made Khan -- then a young scientist working in Holland -- in charge of it.
Since then, scientists have come and scientists have gone, but Khan remained a constant, shining star in Pakistan's nuclear firmament. Leaders have come and leaders have gone, but Khan continued undisturbed as Pakistan's nuclear czar and became the blue-eyed boy of all leaders -- political or military, to whichever side of the political spectrum they belonged.
Without having him interrogated by an independent outside panel, the truth will never be known.
In a report from Washington carried on March 3, the Dawn of Karachi quoted a report of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security as saying as follows: 'In addition to money, Qadeer [A Q Khan] was also motivated by pan-Islamism and hostility to Western controls on nuclear technology.'
Till now, the focus of the investigation by the US and the IAEA has been on Khan's role in creating and running a Nuclear Wal-Mart for state aspirants to military nuclear power such as Libya, Iran and North Korea. How about non-State aspirants such as bin Laden's al Qaeda whose pan-Islamic ideology he shares?
In my past articles, I had referred to the suspected penetration of Islamic fundamentalist and jihadi terrorist elements into Pakistan's nuclear and missile communities. I had also drawn attention to reports carried by the Pakistani media on the annual conventions of the Lashkar-e-Taiba at Muridke near Lahore. These reports had referred to the presence of unnamed Pakistani scientists at these conventions. The LET is a member of bin Laden's International Islamic Front.
There is a greater danger of al Qaeda and other jihadi terrorists getting hold of nuclear and radiological weapons/materials from the supporters of their pan-Islamic ideologies in Pakistan's scientific community -- such as A Q Khan -- than from any other quarter.
Unless A Q Khan is interrogated outside Pakistani territory by a group of international experts not connected with Pakistan, the international community will never be able to establish the progress made by the terrorists in their efforts to acquire WMD weapons/materials.
If the international community is to prevent or pre-empt the use of nuclear or radiological weapons by the terrorists, it is of the utmost importance for the UN Security Council to force Pakistan to hand over A Q Khan to an outside agency for a thorough interrogation.