Islamabad: Hours after a report in one of the leading US newspapers reported that China had provided weapons-grade uranium, sufficient for making two atomic bombs, to Pakistan in 1982, Islamabad has rejected the report terming it as ‘baseless’.
“Pakistan strongly rejects the assertions in the article that is evidently timed to malign Pakistan and China,” The Dawn quoted Foreign Office spokesperson Abdul Basit, as saying.
“This is yet another attempt to divert attention from the overt and covert support being extended by some states to the Indian nuclear programme since its inception and intensified more recently,” Basit added.
According to disgraced nuclear scientist Dr. A Q Khan’s accounts in The Washington Post, the transfer of nuclear fuel was ‘part of a broad-ranging, secret nuclear deal approved years earlier by Mao Zedong and Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto that culminated in an exceptional, deliberate act of proliferation by a nuclear power.’
“The uranium cargo came with a blueprint for a simple weapon that China had already tested, supplying a virtual do-it-yourself kit that significantly speeded Pakistan`s bomb effort. The transfer also started a chain of proliferation,” the newspaper quoted Khan, who is currently under house arrest in Pakistan, as saying.
“China sent Pakistan 15 tons of uranium hexafluoride (UF6), a feedstock for Pakistan`s centrifuges, which were difficult to produce on our own. The gas enabled the laboratory to begin producing bomb-grade uranium in 1982. Chinese scientists helped the Pakistanis solve other nuclear weapons challenges, but as their competence rose, so did the fear of top Pakistani officials that Israel or India might pre-emptively strike key nuclear sites,” he added.
Khan, 72, has been effectively under house arrest in Islamabad since February 2004, when he confessed on television to sending nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea, although he later retracted his remarks.
Military ruler and then president General Pervez Musharraf pardoned Khan in 2004, but he was kept at his residence, guarded by troops and intelligence agents.