Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan’s statements are being treated as an individual act of desperation. Far from that the ease of restrictions upon him after the Feb 18th elections, his repeated interviews with national and international press and his recent utterances all point to that context of deliberate encouragement and moral support in which he has launched his salvos against Musharraf, army and thus by implication the state of Pakistan.
But who were the ones egging him on? This “motley crowd” consists of the politicians whose hate of Musharraf extends beyond the necessities of politics; ultra-nationalist retired army officers and the Islamists like Qazi Husain Ahmed who treat Musharraf as an American appendage and the civil society activists who think that exit of Musharraf will reduce American influence, cut army to size and will strengthen constitutionalism. Except for the politicians whose reasons against Musharraf are purely emotional; the common uniting theme among the other groups is mistrust of the United States and hatred of Musharraf.
Khan’s utterances –that have progressed in a very calculating fashion since the easing of restrictions upon him- are supposed to meet two strategic objectives: One, to malign Musharraf in Pakistani politics providing popular symbols of hatred against him now that the chief justice has started to fade; Second is the hope that this “great disclosure” will put Mascara’s sympathizers within the US on defensive, will shrink his support and will help in kicking him out.
But will this really happen? Let’s look at the second possibility: international scene. This “great disclosure” comes almost eight years after the alleged transfer of centrifuges to North Korea. And these eight years have changed the field and issues in many ways. No denying that in his mind–and to some researchers looking for sensational topics for their new books, or second editions – Dr. Qadeer, itching to speak out to announce his truth, is still very important. But many others- who are actually interested in the subject of non-proliferation rather than obsessed with Muslim bomb-will remember that since he was removed as head of the KRL laboratories in 2001, he has little real relevance to the networks that now exist.
Also the six–party talks with North Korea have moved much ahead; and though both sides still have reservations but North Korea has agreed in principle to dismantle its nuclear installations and the US has agreed in principle to take her out of the list of the “Axis of Evil”. President Bush already announced easing trade sanctions imposed against North Korea under the “Trading with the Enemy Act”.
And given the tacit understanding between the Bush Administration and the Mush government, after Khan’s dramatic confessions in 2004- that whatever happened did happen in the past – the biggest requirement of the US and the international community has been that Pakistan should strengthen its export controls and oversight abilities. And repeatedly the visiting US officials and non-proliferation experts have expressed their confidence in Pakistan’s institutional controls, put into place with the establishment of Strategic Planning Division. (SPD). Also a very significant development has been the proposed Indo-US nuclear civil co-operation deal that is once again being given a shot before the end of the Bush Presidency and that has changed the whole subject and discussion of non-proliferation in a considerable fashion.
Now it is true that to some this issue provides an opportunity to curtail the autonomy of the Pakistani state by raising temperature inside Washington beltway within the next few weeks. However many others will also be reading the real intentions and ideological leanings of the motley crowd that is pushing the agenda against Musharraf.
Now coming back to the first possibility: the domestic scene; it is apparent that people on the street see Dr. Khan as a national hero humiliated by Pervez Musharraf under American tutelage. This can certainly strengthen the hands of the anti-Musharraf forces as they make another fresh bid to throw him out through show of street force. However by employing Dr. Khan as a symbol of political unity they are again going to demonstrate their serious disconnect with the world around them. This is a repeat of the confusion seen at the eve of the “Lal Masjid crisis”.
Musharraf, and as we look at the fruitless antics of the political lot since February 18, has started to look like a visionary; at least someone with a coherent world view. And by attempting to use Dr Khan as a political symbol, this “motley crowd” might force his supporters internally and externally to cling more desperately around him thus giving him longevity. Finally the net outcome of all the mud wrangling can be increased leverage of the US over Pakistani army forcing the army to make even bigger concessions in the war against terrorism. And this alone testifies to the worldview of the “motley crowd” that encouraged the wizard of the KRL to launch his missiles.
The writer, a Chevening scholar from the London School of Economics, works for Geo TV. Email: mp846@ columbia.edu
The News, 8/7/2008