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Pakistan behaves like a rogue state

Pakistan behaves like a rogue state

Author:
Publication: The Telegraph
Date: February 4, 2004
URL: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2004/02/04/dl0401.xml&sSheet=/portal/2004/02/04/ixportal.html&secureRefresh=true&_requestid=143385

There was something shocking about the photographs of a garlanded Abdul Qadeer Khan after Pakistan had exploded its first nuclear bomb. The reasons for the test were obvious - arch-rival India had detonated a similar weapon a couple of weeks before - but fêting such a devastating device with flowers had a sinister ring. Pakistan was rejoicing in heightened tension in a region that Bill Clinton was later to call the most dangerous in the world.

Nearly six years on, that unease appears more than justified. Dr Khan not only developed Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, but in the process also passed on the designs and technology for producing enriched uranium to Iran, North Korea and Libya. The first two are part of George W Bush's "axis of evil", while the third has recently agreed with America and Britain to dismantle its programme for developing weapons of mass destruction. Islamabad, a key ally of the West in the war on terror, has turned out to be a proliferator on a par with Pyongyang.

These highly embarrassing revelations have shown General Pervaiz Musharraf in a poor light. First, he attempted to ascribe the nuclear "leaks" to the greed of Dr Khan and his fellow scientists, acting on their own. That never rang true; nuclear policy has long been tightly controlled by the army. Now it is believed that the president will pardon Dr Khan rather than put him on trial for treason. The garlanded scientist is such a hero that the army fears the political consequences of letting the law take its course. Moreover, in the witness box he might well implicate Gen Musharraf and other officers in the sale of nuclear technology. The Khan case has again demonstrated the limits of the president's power. First over guerrilla infiltration into Kashmir and Afghanistan, now over nuclear proliferation, he falls well short of what the West would like.

The problem for Washington and its allies, for which they deserve sympathy, is that a successor to Gen Musharraf, especially of the Islamist variety, might be a good deal worse. For that reason, the Bush Administration is likely to accept any pardon of Dr Khan through gritted teeth, arguing that Pakistani proliferation is a thing of the past. Washington still needs Gen Musharraf's co-operation in lowering tension with India and in allowing Afghanistan to hold elections under its new constitution.

The Democrats hoping to challenge Mr Bush in November are unlikely to fall in with such realpolitik. They will argue that he is condoning actions worthy of a rogue state, and thereby sending a disastrous signal to other would-be proliferators. In that, they will be backed by the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency, to which Iran has admitted it was a recipient of Pakistani nuclear technology.

Mr Bush finds himself caught between particular needs in one theatre of operations and a strategic determination to halt proliferation. The contradiction is among the most striking thrown up by the seismic shock of September 11.
 


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