Islamabad: Disgraced Pakistani scientist AQ Khan was sacked as the head of a key atomic weapons research facility after he resisted oversight of his operations by the nuclear command and control set-up, according to a new book.
After the National Command and Control Authority was set up in February 2000, the Strategic Plans Division – which maintains the nuclear arsenal – started looking into the work of strategic organisations.
It immediately met resistance from Khan, who did not want anyone to pry into his domain, says the book.
When Khan resisted oversight of his operations, he was removed as chairman of the Khan Research Laboratories, says the book ‘The genesis of South Asian nuclear programme: Pakistan`s perspective’ authored by Brig (retired) Naeem Ahmad
The book was launched yesterday.
Salik, who retired four years ago, was part of a small group of officers who conceived and set up the nuclear command and control structure and framed Pakistan`s nuclear policy after the May 1998 atomic tests.
He now teaches at the National Defence University and is associated with the Department of Nuclear Politics and Strategic Stability.
When the SPD began examining the working of strategic organisations, there were indications that something was amiss.
But without concrete evidence, laying hands on a person of Khan`s stature could have meant political suicide for the government, it adds.
A decision was then made to relieve Khan as the chairman of KRL and he was retired on the expiry of his term of office.
Khan was put under house arrest in early 2004 after admitting on state-run television that he had run a clandestine nuclear proliferation network.
He retracted his confession last year and a court declared him a "freeman" early this year.
However, Pakistani authorities continue to keep a close eye on his activities and strict restrictions have been imposed on his movements.
Salik says that throughout his procurement efforts, Khan used Dubai as a staging point where he reportedly had a warehouse managed by two Sri Lankan associates.
At some stage in the late 1980s, Khan realised that Pakistan`s programme was reaching a plateau and he could profitably use his technical expertise, knowledge of European suppliers and personal rapport with them by reversing the flow of enrichment technology.
In addition, Khan had developed a more efficient second-generation centrifuge known as P-2. As the P-2s replaced earlier centrifuges, he had a surplus inventory of used P-1 machines.
The book refers to an allegation that Khan`s first contact with Iranians took place in Switzerland and was facilitated by a German engineer named Gotthard Lerch, a supplier and long-time friend of the Pakistani scientist.
The "first substantive exchange" reportedly occurred in Dubai in 1987, when Khan`s network handed over a one-page handwritten offer to the Iranians that detailed packages with prices ranging from millions to hundreds of millions of dollars.
Investigations by Pakistani officials and other sources established that most of Khan`s proliferation activities reportedly occurred during 1988-99.
Speaking at the launch of the book, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, Gen (retired) Ehsanul Haq said the initial vulnerability of Pakistan`s strategic assets was over and the nuclear weapons are now "fully secure under multi-layered safeguards”.
Robust custodial measures and a strong export control regime too are in place, he said.
Haq said nuclear deterrence has been the cornerstone of strategic stability in South Asia and pointed out that Pakistan`s nuclear programme is India-centric.
"We were not the first to test a nuclear device and hope (we) will not conduct more tests unless India does so," he said.
Pakistan cannot afford and does not want to enter into a nuclear arms race with India though it has the capability to thwart any aggressive designs of an adversary, Haq said.