Posts Tagged ‘AQ Khan’

As we approach 2010, blogs and media agencies everywhere are compiling their lists of the past year and decade – the best music, movies, political events, scandals, the list goes on. Rather than give you a somber top 10 for Pakistan, I wanted to list some of the funniest and most memorable quotes of the year:

  1. From RehmanMalik.com, “A welcome massage by Mr. A. Rehman Malik – Minister for Interior.” (Just in case you don’t feel relaxed when you’re in Pakistan.)
  2. Columnist Nadeem Paracha defines Imran Khan as, “A man who still thinks the Taliban is a brand name for a series of chubby, cuddly teddy bears.” (Funny because it’s true.)
  3. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to PM Yousaf Raza Gilani, “Excellency you are not a simple politician but a political magician and I am deeply impressed by your way of governance.”  (Hey, Jadoogar. Harry Potter called. He wants his wand back.)
  4. Lollywood’s sweetheart Meera, exclaiming, “Oh no jaani no, I work for people day and night, for poor people.” (Poor Meera, she can be such a layer.)
  5. A GEO Television reporter, after meeting Tehreek-e-Taliban head Hakimullah Mehsud, said, “Hakimullah is a lively man. He told us he could give us two gifts. One was the Humvee military vehicle that his fighters had captured during a recent raid in Khyber Agency on an Afghanistan-bound supply convoy for Nato forces. The other was a jeep that his men had snatched from UN employees in Khyber Agency.” (I mean. What a gentleman.)
  6. The Pakistan Cricket Board’s TMI press release: “The medical board has reported that Shoaib Akhtar was suffering from genital viral warts, and electrofulguration was done on May 12, 2009.” (Shoaib Akhtar was itching to get back on the field after that procedure.)
  7. AQ Khan wants us to know more about his special interest in the Makrani people: “Makrani children are extremely cute…They looked very much like African pikaninis with dark curly hair and shiny eyes.” (He also wants us to pray for divine intervention, visit Timbuktu, and continue reading his “Random Thoughts” column.)
  8. In response to whether Rehman Malik will be arrested after the National Reconciliation Ordinance was declared null and void, PM Gilani told reporters, “Interior Minister arrests people. So who can arrest him?” (Details, shmetails.)
  9. President Obama, in an interview to Dawn this summer, “Oh, keema … daal … You name it, I can cook it. And so I have a great affinity for Pakistani culture and the great Urdu poets.”  Dawn: “You read Urdu poetry?” Obama: “Absolutely.” (I also can play concertos blind-folded while plucking a banjo with my toes.)
  10. Pakistani cricketer Shahid Afridi: “I would like them to remember me as the craziest cricketer that ever played for Pakistan.” (Boom Boom, Afridi.)

The above quotes were my personal favorites, but there were plenty more. Write in with your own memorable Pakistan-related quotes of the year in the comments section!

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He Said What?!

I love you Makranis! Yes I do!

"I love you Makranis! Yes I do!"

If you haven’t had a chance to read Dr. AQ Khan‘s “Random Thoughts” column in The News today, you are missing out. In the piece, entitled, “Pleasant Memories,” the father of Pakistan’s atomic bomb unveils his “special interest” in the Makrani people, an ethnic group of African descent [also known as the Sheedis] who live in Baluchistan and Sindh. He wrote,

They were an extremely jolly people, with shiny eyes and smiling faces. Most of the men worked at Keamari port, as guards at cinema houses or plied donkey carts for the transportation of goods. Those of us who have seen their donkeys have not failed to notice how healthy these are and how well they are treated. There seems to be an understanding between owner and donkey and this is apparent in every behavior. I noticed at the time that they would stop work punctually at 4 p.m., return home to rest for a short while and then take their donkeys to a place near our building and let them roll in the sand. After this they would brush them down, often hugging and kissing them in the process. Never once did I see a Makrani mistreating his donkey…

AQ Khan proceeds to discuss the Makrani and their donkeys for, oh, another five sentences – the Makrani donkey cart races, how they got the donkeys to speed up, the list goes on. He then goes on to describe the Makrani children. This is the line that got me, “Makrani children are extremely cute…They looked very much like African pikaninis with dark curly hair and shiny eyes.” [Pikanini or pickininy refers to an old derogatory term used by the plantation owners in the south of the United States to describe slave children.] Dear God.

It could very well be that AQ Khan, from the confines of his home, is launching a PR campaign to keep his status as “Pakistan’s hero,” alive [his personal website could be exhibit A]. However, this column is yet another failed attempt to re-brand himself as someone other than the man accused of selling nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya, and North Korea. Instead of humanizing himself in this piece, he comes across as clueless and ignorant, reminiscent of a batty distant relative you pray won’t make politically incorrect remarks at dinner. And this wasn’t his first faux pas. On August 19, AQ Khan’s column topic, “Science of Computers: part 1” was reportedly plagiarized from the University of Sussex, Imperial College London, and Cambridge University, [revealed in this letter to the editor, and covered in Ahsan’s post at Five Rupees].

These columns form the backdrop of AQ Khan’s back-and-forth “he’s been released – no just kidding” narrative in the news media.  News of a smuggled letter written to his wife Henny in 2003, unveiling Pakistan’s nuclear cooperation with China, Iran, Libya and North  Korea and how Khan would be the fall guy, has added yet another dimension to the saga. The story, revealed by Simon Henderson in the Sunday Times, was so riddled with intrigue that it could spark a book deal and a movie spin-off.

In his recent Dawn column, Cyril Almeida wrote, “…there is another reason to worry if Khan remains in the media limelight: we will be unable to focus properly on present-day issues regarding nuclear doctrine, command and control systems and safety and security.” He added, “Perhaps what is needed to bury the issue …is for a concerted, public campaign to put Khan’s role in the nuclear program in the correct perspective. Unmask the ‘father of the bomb’ and diminish, accurately, his role and he may choose to stay quiet himself.” Given that the U.S. Kerry-Lugar Bill passed Wednesday, and such aid is partly contingent on Pakistan’s cooperation “to dismantle nuclear supplier networks,” this issue will likely crop up again.

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Pakistan Releases AQ Khan

Media outlets are reporting that Abdul Qadeer (AQ) Khan, the father of Pakistan’s atomic bomb, was freed from five years of house arrest by a court and immediately declared that he can now “lead a normal life.” According to the Guardian, “In an interview with the Guardian after this morning’s court ruling, the metallurgist said he had no plans to travel abroad or engage in domestic politics. Looking relaxed and well, the 72-year-old strolled in the front garden of his plush villa in Islamabad, playing with a pet dog and receiving well-wishers.” He later told the news agency, “It’s a nice feeling, the worry is gone. I can lead a normal life now, as a normal citizen. It’s a fine feeling.” Khan was placed under house arrest by former President Musharraf after confessing to passing nuclear secrets and materials to Iran, Libya, and North Korea. However, after last year’s parliamentary elections, which effectively ended the Musharraf era, Khan began speaking to the media by phone, saying he had been made a scapegoat for others involved in the scheme to sell Pakistan’s nuclear technology, [see CHUP’s coverage of his interview with The Nation last April]. [Left image from Reuters]

The NY Times commented on the decision to release AQ Khan in its coverage, reporting, “The court that lifted the travel restrictions on Dr. Khan…is a new court of limited legal jurisdiction established under the former president, Pervez Musharraf, and it appeared that the move Friday was as much a political decision by the civilian government as a legal one.” The Times cited Talat Masood, a retired Army general, who asserted the move served to pacify “the powerful conservative lobby in Pakistan,” [since AQ Khan is still widely regarded as a national hero] adding, “This has taken away pressure on the government…It has brought good will on the government because of his [Khan’s] popularity.” The Daily Times’ Rafia Zakaria told the Times, “A.Q. Khan’s release is a good symbolic move that is likely to restore faith in the civilian government’s bid to sustain its sovereignty…Something which is essential if Pakistanis are to believe that the war on terror is not just being fought at America’s behest and is something in their own interest.”

How has the international community reacted to today’s development? The BBC’s Barbara Plett in Islamabad stated that despite Friday’s ruling, Dr Khan’s proliferation activities still arouse international concern, although Pakistan regards the case as closed. And, according to The Nation, France has voiced their “unease” with the court’s decision. Foreign ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier noted, “We know what role Mr Khan and his network played in the spread worldwide of nuclear technology for military use. We hope that this release will not lead to the pursuit of these activities which are illegal, dangerous and very worrying for international security.” However, when news agencies asked Dr. Khan to comment on the international reaction to his release, he exclaimed, “Are they happy with our God? Are they happy with our prophet? Are they happy with our leader? Never…I don’t care about rest of the world. I care about my country. [President Barack] Obama cares about America, not about Pakistan or India or Afghanistan.”

AQ Khan will still have to give 48 hours notice if he wants to leave Islamabad, but indicated today that he has no intention of traveling abroad. According to the Guardian, “He said he might travel to Karachi, where his siblings live, or to visit friends in Lahore, but he had no wish to go abroad, except for a pilgrimage to Mecca. American and UN weapons experts have repeatedly said they want to question him about his alleged proliferation activities and he would risk arrest if he went overseas,” [see related post on sanctions placed on Khan’s alleged proliferation network].

Despite these international concerns, it appears that today will be AQ Khan’s day in the sun, as supporters thronged his residence to congratulate him on his release. Khan waved to cameras, and asserted to reporters, “There are no winners, no losers. I think it has been a good judgment at least I have got some [of] my freedom.”

**Interesting note: Check out AQ Khan’s official website, which I believe was recently launched, [someone correct me if I’m wrong]. Clever timing.

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Yesterday, media outlets reported that sanctions have been placed on 13 people and three companies “for their involvement in the A.Q. Khan nuclear proliferation network.” AQ Khan is, of course, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, although he allegedly operated an international black market in nuclear material to a number of states with a history of poor relations with the United States. He was arrested for these connections in February 2004, but was eventually pardoned by former President Musharraf, [see related piece on AQ Khan]. CNN cited a U.S. State Department statement that noted the sanctions, which follow a U.S. review of the network, “will help prevent future proliferation-related activities by these private entities, provide a warning to other would-be proliferators, and demonstrate our ongoing commitment to using all available tools to address proliferation-related activities.” The statement added, “While we believe the A.Q. Khan network is no longer operating, countries should remain vigilant to ensure that Khan network associates, or others seeking to pursue similar proliferation activities, will not become a future source for sensitive nuclear information or equipment.”

According to the Associated Press, “Most of those sanctioned have for years been mentioned in the media over their links to Khan: Turkish businessman Selim Alguadis and his firm EKA Elektronik Kontrol Aletleri Sanayi ve Ticaret AS, Pakistani scientists Muhammad Farooq and Muhammad Nasim ud Din, Sri Lankan scientist Buhary Seyyed Abu Tahor, German engineers Gerhard Wisser and Gotthard Lerch, Swiss engineer Daniel Geiges and British businessmen and brothers Paul and Peter Griffin.” The AP added in its coverage, “In line with a number of US laws and decrees, the sanctions bar these individuals and firms from obtaining any private or government loans and forbid the US government from having any commercial links with them.”

News of this development comes just days after the NY Times released an article by David Sanger on Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities. Entitled, “Obama’s Worst Pakistan Nightmare,” the sub-heading read, “The biggest fear is not jihadists taking control of the border regions. It’s what happens if the country’s nuclear arsenal falls into the wrong hands.” With President-elect Barack Obama‘s inauguration fast-approaching, President Bush‘s aides reportedly gave Obama’s transition team a lengthy review of policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, concluding that in the end, “the United States has far more at stake in preventing Pakistan’s collapse than it does in stabilizing Afghanistan or Iraq.” An author of the report told Sanger, “Only one of those countries has a hundred nuclear weapons.” For Al Qaeda and the other Islamists, he went on to say, “this is the home game.”

Sanger wrote about one nuclear scientist, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, who was reportedly facinated by the connections between science and the Holy Quran. The NY Times reporter noted, “While [A.Q] Khan appeared to be in the nuclear-proliferation business chiefly for the money, Mahmood made it clear to friends that his interest was religious: Pakistan’s bomb, he told associates, was “the property of a whole Ummah,” referring to the worldwide Muslim community. He wanted to share it with those who might speed “the end of days” and lead the way for Islam to rise as the dominant religious force in the world.” Although Mahmood was “forced” to take an early retirement in 1999, he soon set up an Islamic charity, Ummah Tameer-e-Nau, and reportedly met with Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in August 2001, a month before the 9/11 attacks. Sanger noted, “There is little doubt that Mahmood talked to the two Qaeda leaders about nuclear weapons, or that Al Qaeda desperately wanted the bomb.” In order to quell rising U.S. panic, Musharraf arrested Mahmood, and, although he was never prosecuted, is still under house arrest today, reportedly under “tight surveillance.”

The article, adapted from Sanger’s new book, The Inheritance: The World Obama Confronts and the Challenges to American Power, is likely to further justify U.S. fears about Pakistan. The nuclear angle has recently gained traction with Pakistan’s increased security issues, as well as with the rising Indo-Pak tensions in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks. A U.S. official said he worries what would happen if Pakistan  moved its nuclear weapons, explaining that the “United States feared that some groups could try to provoke a confrontation between Pakistan and India in the hope that the Pakistani military would transport tactical nuclear weapons closer to the front lines, where they would be more vulnerable to seizure.”

However, let’s take such fears with a grain of salt – could it be a case of overblown rhetoric? Today, Ejaz Haider at the Daily Times took issue with Sanger’s piece. Although he said he would not entirely fault Sanger or his U.S. government sources “for conjuring up worst-case scenarios regarding Pakistan’s strategic arsenal,” since they are looking at the world through the “American ideological prism,” he noted that “there is much wrong with the U.S./Sanger approach.” Haider assessed:

Sanger’s piece, for obvious reasons, conveniently ignores Pakistan’s doctrinal position on nuclear deterrence and the fact that a conventional force build-up cannot and should not be assumed to lead to an automatic escalation to the nuclear dimension even if one or both sides are wedded to “first use” (Kargil and the 2001-2002 standoff are cases in point).

He added:

But the fact is that while nuclear weapons are irrelevant to fighting asymmetric and irregular conflicts — and this is true for possession of such weapons by all nuclear-weapons states — nuclear weapons do provide the inter-state balance of terror. If there has been no war between India and Pakistan following Mumbai, much of the credit for that must be given to where it belongs.

Ultimately, the topic draws up an interesting debate on whether the possession of nuclear weapons is a deterrent or a threat for future conflict. Both Pakistan and India have owned nuclear weapons for some time now – that is the reality. Have the posession of these weapons deterred open warfare between our countries? I’ll leave you with a brilliant line from Ejaz Haider’s op-ed: “…As should be evident from Sanger’s own quote of Robert Gates — “there is no human vetting system that is entirely reliable” — the Pakistani nuclear arsenal is as safe or unsafe as the U.S. arsenal. As they say about “foolproof”, for every proof there is always a fool.” [Image from the NY Times]

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Last Wednesday, an interview with Pakistan’s infamous nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan (more widely known as AQ Khan), was released by The Nation, [see “AQ Khan, “the Father of the Atomic Bomb” wants Freedom”]. In the news piece, which gained some traction among Western media outlets last week, Khan asserted his desire to be freed from house arrest because of his “deteriorating health.” In 2004, the nuclear scientist, interchangeably known as the “father” of Pakistan’s atomic bomb, confessed on television to “running a proliferation network” and passing nuclear secrets on to Iran, North Korea, and Libya. Although he was pardoned by President Pervez Musharraf, he has been under house arrest since the widely publicized confession.

The rare interview was further bolstered, when, in a phone conversation with the AFP on Sunday, AQ Khan said “he took the blame” for passing nuclear secrets four years ago in order “to save his country.” He told the news agency, “I saved the country for the first time when I made Pakistan a nuclear nation and saved it again when I confessed and took the whole blame on myself…Even Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Mushahid Hussain said I saved Pakistan by accepting the whole blame myself.” Although Khan stated he had had no contact with the new government, The News cited a “report,” which said the government has decided to ease the restrictions placed on the nuclear scientist. According to the news agency, Khan would be allowed to meet his friends and close relatives at least twice a month, and have meals with them. He would be able to meet at least six close friends and relatives as nominated by him. On Monday, newly appointed foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said in an interview with local television, “Yes, I don’t want to see his movement restricted…He is a Pakistani, a respected Pakistani, I think that he should be allowed to see his friends and I think that he should be allowed to go for a drive…I think he should be allowed to go and have a meal at a restaurant, I see no reason why he should be deprived of that, on the other hand we also have to be concerned about his security and health.”

The funny thing is, AQ Khan is not just any Pakistani. He is a nuclear scientist, the man responsible for making Pakistan a “nuclear nation.” He is both a hero and a villain to Pakistanis. And he is also the man allegedly responsible for selling secrets to “contentious” states. To treat him like a regular Pakistani citizen demeans the very premise of why he was put under house arrest in the first place. [The above image was the cover of TIME magazine in February 2005, the title reads: The Merchant of Menace, Exclusive: How AQ Khan Became the World’s Most Dangerous Nuclear Trafficker].

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On Wednesday, a very interesting interview in Pakistan’s The Nation garnered the attention of several Western media outlets. In the interview, published today by The Nation’s Urdu language newspaper, Nawa-i-Waqt, Pakistan’s infamous nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan, (widely known as AQ Khan) said he hoped to be freed by the new Pakistani government and called his detention “illegal.” The Nation quoted him stating, “My health is deteriorating and the claims of the government about my physical well-being do not carry weight.” According to Khan, the major cause of his poor health has been his solitary confinement. Khan, “hailed as a hero by many Pakistanis for transforming the country into the Islamic world’s first nuclear power,” was placed under house arrest by President Pervez Musharraf after he confessed on television in early 2004 to passing nuclear secrets and materials to Iran, Libya, and North Korea, (he was later pardoned by Musharraf). According to the AFP, “He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2006 and was hospitalized last month with complications.”
In his first “face-to-face” interview in four years, AQ Khan told Nawa-i-Waqt, “The real hooliganism is that I have been confined, and it is the cause of all my ills.” Khan also rejected the government’s assertions that he was kept under house arrest “for his own safety,” adding, “It is nothing but a lame excuse…It is simply irrational. I was roaming around the world freely at times when in 1979 numerous fake cases had been registered against me in Holland and I faced no security threat.” In the interview, Khan did not address his public confession made in 2004.
India and Pakistan both conducted nuclear tests in 1998, therefore garnering the title of “nuclear states.” According to sources, Pakistan is the first Islamic country known to have built an atomic bomb. Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister at the time, gained prestige from the nuclear tests. While campaigning for the February elections, the former PM indicated that AQ Khan should be freed from house arrest. However, a source close to the government told Reuters, “that he doubted Khan would be released any time soon, and the matter hadn’t been seriously raised during policy discussions.” The interview and potential responses are significant, regardless of whether you perceive AQ Khan in a positive or negative light. While the nuclear scientist garnered prestige following the 1998 nuclear tests, he was largely disgraced following his 2004 confession. Do you villify AQ Khan for turning Pakistan into a nuclear state, or do you glorify his achievements? Moreover, should AQ Khan be blamed for a government policy that allowed Pakistan to go nuclear in the first place? [Image courtesy of Reuters]

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