When will We ever Learn?
By Shireen M. Mazari

We certainly are a resilient nation, but as a State we never seem to learn from our history or our mistakes. So cyclically we see ourselves confronting crises -- some of which could certainly have either been avoided or resolved in a timely fashion.
The State also has a proclivity to accommodate, some would say appease, external players more readily and often excessively than domestic players. International developments on the nuclear proliferation issue are a clear reflection of this. As was stated in these columns a while back, it will serve little purpose to undergo a rigorous self-confessional path and go beyond international legal commitments in terms of giving access to our old equipment and so on since we will always be targeted on the nuclear issue and Dr Khan when we are to be pressured by the US and its allies -- and there is no ally more devout than Blair's Britain.
Sure enough, despite all our protestations and accommodation to international demands on the proliferation issue, periodically the Dr Khan factor and its suspected linkages to state functionaries and institutions comes up. This despite the US itself now having contravened its NPT obligations by signing the civilian nuclear deal with India. Meanwhile, we continue to accommodate some more; but that will only raise the ante against us since our nuclear assets sit uncomfortably with the West.
Take the recently released IISS publication from London, entitled "Nuclear Black Markets: Pakistan, A.Q. Khan and the rise of proliferation networks". The title itself shows the political bias built into the study. After all, the insinuation is that it was Pakistan and Dr Khan that gave birth to the proliferation networks and nuclear black market. Yet this is factually incorrect, even by the authors' own definitional framework where they state that "in this dossier the term 'nuclear black market' and '(illicit) nuclear trafficking' denote the trade in nuclear-related expertise, technologies, components or material that is being pursued for non-peaceful purposes and most often by covert or secretive means."
Going by this definition, illicit nuclear trafficking began from the US and Europe when they chose to covertly aid Israel's nuclear program. So heavy water went to Israel illegally and the US continues to give technological assistance to Israeli nuclear weapons development. Yet the IISS dossier barely focuses on this aspect! It is too bad that the IISS is exploiting its research and academic credibility to do what is primarily a highly biased, political work targeting Pakistan, with a few sections only devoted to the global problem of proliferation. While Israel is barely cited as a state that was acquiring clandestine nuclear technology much before Pakistan even got into the game, India is also spared despite its known proliferation record in terms of Iran, Iraq and its own program. In fact, US think tanks have elaborated on this issue.
The major part of the IISS study is more a project on Pakistan's nuclear program, various estimates relating to the number of nukes it possesses, details of the country's nuclear installations and so on. Yet the IISS claims that "the subject of this study is not a single country but the global problem of proliferation networks and nuclear black markets."
Are we taken to be fools? It would appear so, since Pakistani officialdom provided a fair amount of access to IISS personnel -- and this is reflected in some of the data and tables that they have printed and acknowledged! Certainly, Pakistani researchers are never given similar time and access, but that is another issue.
If one reads the sources cited on the various estimates of the nuclear weapons we may possess -- Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, SIPRI, Peter Lavoy and so on, those working on security issues in this country will realize the access these sources have always been provided! Of course, to give the devil its due, the IISS does grudgingly accept that we now have in place a robust command and control system and export laws, but that is not sufficient to satisfy them. They assume, with no proof cited, that somehow the state or elements within it are still proliferating despite our stringent controls and transparent National Command Authority.
Worse follows with claims that Dr Khan and Pakistan got off lightly. Given that the State of Pakistan was not the proliferator, unlike the State of India or France or the USA, why should it be penalized on any count in the context of nuclear proliferation especially since in any case Pakistan has never been a party to the NPT nor has it been asked to join the Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG)? Even Dr Khan did not break any of Pakistan's international legal commitments, and one is not sure exactly what national laws he contravened that would have required the State to give him harsher penalties than he already got.
Clearly, the dossier seeks to have Pakistan pressured into giving the West direct access to Dr Khan. In fact that is one of the options it suggests. So it is time Pakistan declared, with no ambiguity, that the issue is definitively over once and for all. Nor is that all that is being sought from Pakistan. There is talk of capping of its nuclear program in exchange for some vague security guarantees from the US. Who in Pakistan would find these credible is never examined, of course, since our ruling elites have historically seemed ever eager to embrace the US!
There is also the usual talk of "religious elements" gaining access to our nuclear assets -- as if Christian, Hindu and Zionist fundamentalists have never had access, or continue to have access, to the nuclear trigger in the US, India or Israel?
The timing of the dossier is also politically interesting. We know the US is trying to fast track a Fissile Material Control Treaty (FMCT) in the multilateral disarmament framework in Geneva (the CD), that does not deal with the issue of verifications or existing fissile stockpiles. The IISS recommends -- and this should come as no surprise given the propaganda tract that the dossier effectively is -- that Pakistan must be persuaded to accept this FMCT even though we have made it clear that we have some basic problems on the principles enshrined in the US version (supported by India but opposed by China) of the FMCT draft. So we should expect pressure on that count also but more on the issue next time.
The question is why we continue to be excessively open and accommodative to outsiders on sensitive issues? Worse still, our leaders are ever ready to make statements, which have tremendous repercussions on the well-being of the country per se -- rather than any particular government. Take the latest statement of Ms Bhutto in an interview with The Washington Times (28 April 2007). Even the worst enemies of Pakistan have not attempted to link the 9/11 hijackers to Pakistan. Yet, Ms Bhutto says, in response to a question on the war on terror: In 1993 Pakistan was about to be declared a terrorist state following the first attack on the World Trade Towers. However, I was elected soon thereafter and …my government stopped the spread of terrorism. After my overthrow, the terrorists regained the upper hand and planned the second attack on the World Trade Towers.
When will we ever learn? (Courtesy The News)


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