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A Q Khan shock may be yet to come: Report

October 14, 2006 05:26 IST
The Toronto Star carried a front-page story on defamed Pakistani scientist, A Q Khan on Friday. Khan is, as widely reported and implicitly accepted even by the Pakistani authorities, the front man who sold nuclear technology to North Korea, Iran and Libya.

The story has several quotes from Gordon Corera's book 'Shopping for Bombs: Nuclear Proliferation, Global Insecurity and the Rise and fall of A Q Khan's Nuclear Network', it has quotes from US Ambassador to Pakistan, Ryan Crocket and details how in the Fall of 2003, the former CIA Director, Tenet, talked with the Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in New York hotel room and shared CIA's intelligence on Khan's activities and later then Secretary of State, Colin Powell 'followed up with a high pressure phone call to Musharraf in January 2004' and that resulted in the end of A Q Khan's 'network... and a house arrest (for Khan) compromise was concluded.'

People in Washington have made all efforts to talk to Khan but without any success, the story says. "I do not think that any of us have the whole story," US Ambassador Crocker is quoted as saying.

According to the Canadian daily, last week Crocker met the Pakistani national security chief Tariq Aziz '...to try to persuade Pakistan to come clean on the Khan network and share details that could prove vital to US national security' as 'it is important for the international community to know as we face the ongoing proliferation in North Korea and Iran.'

This report says that many people are worried 'that the real after shocks of Khan's 15 unfettered years of nuclear marketing may be yet to come'. 'This isn't an abstract or an abstract problem,' the report has quoted Harvard University national security professor Ashton Carter as saying.  'This (North Korea's test) is about as bad as it gets in the nuclear security area.'

Author Corera saw Khan's home earlier in 2006 but from the outside only.  He reportedly says 'you can't even stop as you drive by. There are guards outside and in the last few months the fence has actually been raised.'

Musharraf has good reason to keep A Q (as he's known) under lock and key. He perhaps has state secrets embarrassing to the government. The comfortable 'house arrest' arrangement, instead of prison, was a deal Khan bargained himself, Corera believes.

The big question in the Star story is whether the US can now squeeze Musharraf for more than the 'house arrest' that Collin Powell negotiated with him.

"America always wants to know more about the .AQ. Khan network" but "...has variety of policy needs when it comes to Pakistan and they can't necessarily get everything they want," believes Michael Levi, a security and technology expert at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Another potential nightmare problem for the US is "...if Iran used a nuclear weapon to attack American interests, a weapon, that is, that used North Korean technology or systems, then that should be treated as if North Korea had launched the weapon itself,' Levi reported argued.

His suggestion is that should be made clear.

Ajit Jain in Toronto