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Pakistan and proliferation issue

Pakistan and proliferation issue

Author: Dr Manzur Ejaz
Publication: The Jang
Date: December 22, 2002
URL: http://www.jang.com.pk/thenews/dec2002-daily/22-12-2002/oped/o5.htm

Pakistani nuclear scientists should get their resumes and passports ready to move somewhere else: they are considered the weakest link in proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Elements in Pakistan's nuclear programme are suspected of helping not only the North Koreans but Iraqis and Iranians as well. While North Korea may get by the Bush administration's wrath, Iraq and Iran cannot. As a matter of fact, a debate is on in Washington whether Iran should be invaded even before Iraq.

In recent weeks Pakistan's nuclear programme has come under a close scrutiny. After the disclosure that Pakistan helped North Korean nuclear programme anti-Pakistan forces are gaining momentum within the Bush administration. It is difficult to tell if the US will re-impose economic sanctions on Pakistan or not but one thing is clear that pressure against Pakistan is increasing, according to David Albright, president and founder of a small think-tank, Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS).

Mr Albright raised the spectre of Pakistani scientists' involvement in the Iranian nuclear programme. London Time's story of a Pakistani scientist offering to build Iraq's nuclear arsenal also fits in the pattern of stories circulating in Washington. It appears that either the forces within the Bush administration are leaking out these stories on purpose or some other anti-Pakistan elements are trying to discredit the Pakistani government due to some ulterior motives. Nevertheless, it is clear that Pakistan has been served a notice to control the spread of nuclear capability it has achieved or face the wrath of Washington. Many insiders believe that Pakistan will be in a big trouble if it was found playing games.

For now, Washington circles are convinced, that the Musharraf government is sincerely trying to control the spread of nuclear technology. Nonetheless, rogue elements in Pakistani scientists' community may be selling (or passing on) technical know-how to other countries, opined Mr Albright. The Americans fear that there is no easy way to control hundreds of Pakistani nuclear scientists. The US has similar apprehensions about Pakistani nuclear scientists that they had about the Russians after the Soviet empire collapsed and the country was pauperised. Eventually, the US instituted programme to lure and absorb Russian scientists to keep them from falling in the hands of hostile states like Iraq and Iran. Such a programme is not there yet but one can expect that the US may entice Pakistani scientists by giving them green cards and lucrative jobs in American universities and other institutions.

The US is very sensitive about the role the technical know-how or the intellectual capital plays in opening up of the new scientific horizons. Immigrant scientists have played a pivotal role in the scientific breakthroughs in the US: father of the US nuclear bomb, Albert Einstein, was an immigrant from Germany. Now, the US does not want other countries to benefit from the intellectual labour of other countries.

The movement of intellectual capital or the mental labour has become much easier with the advent of new information technology and increased mobility of workers across states. Furthermore, the intellectual labour is much more self-conscious about its international market value due to enhanced means of communications. The intellectual capital can be sold or bought in the market much more swiftly now than ever in the history. The US fears that Pakistani nuclear scientists have become such hot commodity in the international market. If their know-how is allowed to be bought by the US adversaries, the status quo of nuclear powers can undergo a drastic change. Therefore, Washington has started concentrating on their movements. For one, the US forced the Musharraf government to push-up Pakistani bomb's father, Abdul Qadeer Khan to a higher position. The US was assured that Mr Khan was promoted to a higher level because his movements can be monitored easily in that elevated position, said Mr Albright.

Due to various reasons, Pakistani troubles may take some time to invoke the US economic sanctions. However, Iraq and Iran are in the category of the Middle Eastern states where the US has already decided to undertake a set of actions. An overwhelming majority of the US policy makers believe that to affect a change in the Middle East, political systems in Iraq and Iran have to be reconfigured. US intentions about Iraq are no secret to anyone: everyone knows that the US will not be satisfied unless the Iraq regime is replaced with a much more US friendly government.

Stories about Iranian nuclear programme are part of the campaign. Some groups in the US policy-making circles argue that there is no need to invade Iraq because it is already neutralised and its ability to undertake any adventurous action is eliminated. On the other hand, they argue, Iran is progressing smoothly and may become very strong in coming days if the US does not take a direct action against it now. Some circles are encouraging the Israelis to attack its nuclear plants before it acquires the capability to enrich uranium and produce nuclear weapons.

The US may follow varying tactics to control the Middle East or Pakistan but the immigrants from these countries are discriminated on the similar scale. Every visiting male from key Muslim countries will be fingerprinted and registered with the Immigration and Naturalisation Service. Such discrimination against a religious group is unprecedented in the recent US history. More importantly, Pakistan's inclusion in the list is indicative of some unpleasant things to come in the near future. Most probably, Pak- US honeymoon is coming to an end.

(The writer is a freelance journalist based in Washington DC, manzurejaz@yahoo.com, Washington Diary)

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