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Context of 'Late 1993: Pakistan Military Tells Own Prime Minister No Sales of Nuclear Weapons Technology Are Being Made'

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A. Q. Khan (right) and Benazir Bhutto (center).A. Q. Khan (right) and Benazir Bhutto (center). [Source: CBC] (click image to enlarge)After becoming prime minister of Pakistan following the victory of the Pakistan People’s Party in elections, Benazir Bhutto does not play a large role in Pakistan’s nuclear policy, according to US analysts. It is unclear whether she chooses not to do so, or is cut out of it by the military. In her absence the two senior figures overseeing the program are President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and army head General Aslam Beg. (Hersh 3/29/1993)

Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 1991.Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 1991. [Source: BBC]Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto tells a joint session of the US Congress: “[W]e do not possess nor do we intend to make a nuclear device. That is our policy.” The statement receives “thunderous cheers” from members of both houses. However, Bhutto has been aware of Pakistan’s nuclear program for some time (see After November 16, 1988) and recently received a detailed briefing on it from the CIA (see June 1989). (Hersh 3/29/1993)

Newly re-elected Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto asks Pakistan army chief General Wahid Kakar about rumors she has heard of sales of nuclear equipment linked to Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan. Kakar denies that such sales are being made, but they do agree on one measure: giving the military control of access to Khan’s main research plant in Kahuta (see Late 1993). Bhutto will later say that at the start of her second term she made a decision not to become involved with Khan and his work, as she blamed it and her participation in it for her being thrown out of office at the end of her first term. She will also say that Khan was much changed by this time: “He was not the man I had met in my first term. The humility was gone. He was stubborn. Different. Rude. He was, having been awarded that strange title, ‘Father of the Bomb,’ now quite insufferable.” She also adds that Khan had become more religious and conservative, “quite the maulvi [religious scholar].” (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 198, 498)

The Pakistani military sets up a control ring around Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) in Kahuta. The ring comes about following a conversation between Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and Pakistan army chief Wahid Kakar (see Late 1993). Bhutto will later say Kakar tells her, “Why don’t we set up a command and control for KRL so the scientists can’t go in and out without passing through the army ring?” At the time she thinks this is a good idea, as the labs will be cut off from the outside world and the military will be in charge of the perimeter. KRL will therefore be “airtight” and the scientists will not have the opportunity to smuggle things out, which she has heard may be a problem. However, Bhutto, who is never trusted by Pakistan’s military, will later say that this solution “ultimately played into the military’s hands and weakened my own.” One reason is the person who is put in charge of the project: General Khawaja Ziauddin. Bhutto will comment: “I didn’t know him. It was only later I found out that he was connected to the ISI and the forces pitted against me.” Ziauddin is the nephew of General Ghulam Jilani Khan, a former ISI chief who had helped make Bhutto’s rival Nawaz Sharif. In addition, he is close to army chief General Aslam Beg and powerful former ISI boss General Hamid Gul. Ziauddin will go on to become a key player in Pakistan’s nuclear proliferation activities. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 198, 498)

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