Daddy's Girl

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MARCH 29, 2004

Daddy's Girl

On February 4, Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear
bomb, admitted he had sold nuclear technology to rogue states like
North Korea and Libya. The United States responded by praising
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf for having exposed Khan's
wrongdoing. Last month, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage
told reporters that Musharraf is "the right man [for Pakistan] at
the right time." Even after Musharraf publicly pardoned Khan and
refused to allow international inspectors to investigate Pakistan's
nuclear program, the Bush administration still refrained from any
criticism. Politically, the Bushies argued, Musharraf had done the
best he could--after all, Khan was one of the most popular men in
the country.Yet Musharraf's motives for the pardon may have been less political
and more personal. High-level sources in the Pakistani government
say Khan's daughter Dina possesses highly incriminating documents
and audiotapes showing that senior army officials, including
Musharraf himself, knew for years about Khan's nuclear black
market. Dina, they say, has wielded these documents as a weapon,
using them to prevent the Pakistani government from jailing her
father.

Khan was taken into Pakistani custody in early February after
intelligence reports suggested he had sold nuclear centrifuges to
Iran, Libya, and North Korea. Once in custody, Khan quickly
confessed, and Musharraf told Western reporters that no one in the
Pakistani military or government had been involved in his
proliferation efforts. "Gen Musharraf reiterated that he had heard
nothing of A. Q. Khan's nuclear smuggling" until now, Financial
Times reported last month after a lengthy interview with Musharraf.
The White House seemed to take the general at his word, with
Secretary of State Colin Powell continuing to praise Musharraf for
his cooperation in counterproliferation efforts.

But Musharraf should not be taken at his word. Pakistani government
insiders say that, as international pressure mounted on Islamabad
in late January to do something about Khan, Musharraf decided to
initiate legal action against the scientist and some of his
associates. In fact, they say, Musharraf's government began
building a case against Khan for violating Pakistan's Official
Secrecy Act by selling the country's nuclear know-how to foreign
bidders. Pakistani officials had even found a former Khan associate
willing to testify against the scientist in a potential trial.

At the eleventh hour, however, these plans were derailed. The
reason? Pakistani authorities discovered that Khan had given his
daughter a variety of documents and tapes. The documents, Pakistani
intelligence officials say, suggest that since 1977 all of
Pakistan's army chiefs of staff, including General Musharraf, were
aware of Khan's dealings with North Korea and other rogue states.
Some of the documents, they say, contain the signatures of former
top defense ministry officials. (Musharraf's office has refused to
comment on these allegations.) What's more, Khan told interrogators
that the documents show top military officials taking millions of
dollars in cuts from his shadowy nuclear deals. If necessary, the
scientist warned, his daughter would take the documents to the
press. "Doctor Khan revealed the existence of these documents to
his interrogators and told them that these are in the safe custody
of his daughter," said one source. That millions of dollars could
have been siphoned from the deals is hardly unfeasible: The New
York Times reported this week that Khan's network received $100
million just for the technology it sold to Libya.

By the time Pakistani interrogators learned of the documents, Dina
was safely out of Pakistan and back in London, where she lives.
"She was asked to defend her father from abroad in case the
country's military government initiated legal proceedings against
him," said one intelligence source privy to the negotiations with
Dina. Government insiders say that, after the document revelations,
senior government officials, including the head of Pakistan's
powerful internal security agency, InterServices Intelligence, held
exhaustive meetings with Khan. Khan's threat terrified Islamabad:
The government had already been embarrassed, in late January, when
two former government ministers revealed to the local media that
several senior army officials had, in the 1990s, advocated selling
nuclear technology to Iran. What's more, says one government
insider, Musharraf feared that, if the documents were publicly
revealed, Pakistan's enemies, including India, would gain
comprehensive knowledge of the country's nuclear program.

Frantic, Islamabad backed down. The government told Khan it would
offer him a conditional pardon, as long as he apologized to the
nation, and the audiocassettes and documents were handed over to
the government. In the wake of the agreement, several intelligence
sources said, Khan signed a paper admitting his guilt and recorded
an interview in which he apologized to the nation, taking sole
responsibility for his actions and seemingly shifting blame away
from Musharraf and the army establishment. The following day,
Musharraf held a press conference to announce Khan's pardon.

But not everything has gone according to plan. Though Khan promised
to get the documents back, Dina has not returned them. No one knows
for sure why. Some intelligence officials believe she is holding
onto them because she is worried that the government might harm her
father once it took possession of all the incriminating evidence.

Consequently, Musharraf has stepped up the pressure on Khan.
Recently, a government spokesman announced that Khan had not
received a blanket pardon and could still be prosecuted for crimes
discovered since the initial pardon was granted. What's more,
sources close to Khan say, the government has disconnected all of
Khan's telephones, increased the police presence around his
Islamabad home, essentially restricted him to his house, and
prevented him from meeting with most visitors. "They have changed
all his phone numbers. When I sent my son to find out about his
health, he was not allowed to meet [Khan]," says one friend of the
scientist. As a result of this pressure, friends of Khan say, the
68-year-old scientist recently suffered a minor heart attack and
was taken to a military hospital in Rawalpindi, the Pakistani army
compound. (The Pakistani government denies Khan had a heart
attack.)

Even Bush administration officials appear to be growing suspicious
of the machinations in Pakistan. This week, The New York Times
reported that Powell admitted that the Pakistani military might
have been more extensively involved in Khan's proliferation efforts
than previously thought. If Dina spills the beans, we'll know for
sure.

By Massoud Ansari

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