Dialogue July- September, 2005, Volume 7  No. 1

Musharraf & The US: The Fatal Attraction

B. Raman

The London explosions of July 7,2005, have once again focussed the spotlight on Pakistan and its President Gen.Pervez Musharraf.

2. Even before July 7, American and European media was replete with reports voicing concern over the fact that Pakistan was continuing to be the main hub of jihadi terrorism in the world despite the seeming crack-downs against terrorist and extremist organisations ordered by Musharraf from time to time since 9/11.

3. Amongst the developments, which triggered off these media reports were the following:

         ²   A report submitted by the security experts of the European Union (EU) to the European Parliament in October last year, which highlighted the large number of Pakistanis or persons of Pakistani origin detained for questioning by the law-enforcing agencies of different EU countries after the Madrid blasts of March,2004. The fact that none of them could be prosecuted for want of sufficient evidence of their involvement in acts of terrorism did not mean that the agencies’ suspicion against them was unwarranted.

         ²   The arrest at Lodhi near Sacramento in California in June this year of a US resident of Pakistani origin (Hamid Hayat), who reportedly admitted during his interrogation that during a visit to Pakistan he had undergone jihadi training in a camp near Rawalpindi. The camp is suspected to have been run by the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), a founding-member of Osama bin Laden’s International Islamic Front (IIF) for Jihad against the Crusaders and the Jewish People. Its then Amir, Maulana Fazlur Rahman Khalil, was also a co-signatory of a fatwa issued by the Al Qaeda and other members of the IIF in 1998 calling for attacks against US and Israeli nationals and interests. Two facts ascertained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) shocked the American authorities and large sections of their public. Firstly, Hamid Hayat reportedly stated during the interrogation that during the training the trainees practiced firing on a portrait of President Bush. Thus, a training camp in which the trainees were motivated to hate Bush to such an extent as to create in them an urge to kill him was being run right under the nose of the military-intelligence establishment. Secondly, a Pakistani cleric, hailing from a well-known anti-US madrasa of Karachi, had managed to obtain a resident visa for working as a cleric in a Lodhi mosque. What shocked American observers most was that openly this cleric was condemning the Al Qaeda and jihadi terrorism and participating in inter-faith meetings against terrorism, but covertly he was supporting the activities of the HUM and the Al Qaeda and motivating young Muslims in the US to go to Pakistan for training.

         ²   Thirdly, the report carried by the “Herald”, the prestigious monthly journal of Karachi published by the “Dawn” group of publications, giving details of the revival of jihadi  terrorist training camps in the Manshera area of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). After the publication of this report, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) started harassing Mr.Amir Mir, the journalist who discovered the revival of the training camps and wrote on it. This brought to public memory two past instances of similar harassment of journalists in 2002. In the first instance, the then Editor of the “News” of Islamabad was harassed for carrying details of the interrogation of Omar Sheikh, the mastermind behind the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl, the US journalist, in defiance of a directive from the ISI not to publish them. The Editor, who was sacked by the publishers under military pressure, went away to the US fearing a threat to his life from the ISI. In the second instance, a journalist of a periodical was illegally detained and allegedly tortured following the publication by his journal of an investigative report by him, which showed that, contrary to the denials of the Pakistani authorities, Dawood Ibrahim, the Indian trans-national mafia leader, wanted for his involvement in acts of terrorism and other offences in India, was living in Karachi under the protection of the Pakistani agencies. This report created considerable embarrassment for Musharraf, who has been consistently denying Dawood’s presence in Pakistan. The present harassment of the journalist of the “Herald’ for writing the report about the revival of training camps in Manshera has led to a number of journalists’ organisations of the West such as the Reporters Without Borders of France addressing communications to Musharraf, expressing their concern over the dangers of the ISI getting this journalist killed by criminal elements and then projecting his death as due to a traffic accident.

          4.   The suspicion that Musharraf has been double-dealing with the international community on the question of continued Pakistani support to the jihadi terrorists and the involvement of the Pakistani military establishment in the proliferation activities of Dr.A.Q.Khan, the nuclear scientist, has been further strengthened by some recent developments.

          5.   The first of these developments is the upsurge in attacks on US and Afghan troops in Afghan territory by Pakistan-based remnants of the Al Qaeda, the Taliban and Gulbuddin Heckmatyar’s Hizbe Islami since the end of the last winter in March,2005. The stepped-up activities of these elements from Pakistani territory have already cost the lives of 45 US troops and nearly 700 members of the Afghan Army, Police and other Government supporters.

          6.   Since the US launched its military strikes against the Al Qaeda and the Taliban on October 7,2001, this is the highest casualty rate sustained by the US forces in Afghanistan. Suicide terrorism, which had practically disappeared from Afghan territory for nearly three years, has made its appearance once again. For the first time since the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom on October 7,2001, Afghanistan witnessed violent anti-US riots instigated by the Pakistan-based Hizbut Tehrir in protest against the alleged desecration of the Holy Koran by the US guards at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Fifteen persons were killed in the riots.

          7.   Who is responsible for this disturbing upsurge in terrorism and other acts of political violence in Afghan territory? If they are from Pakistan as alleged by the Afghan authorities and even by the junior and middle level US officers fighting and bleeding in Afghanistan, who do not agree with the projection of Musharraf by Washington as a stalwart ally against terrorism, how are they able to move back and forth across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border despite Musharraf’s claims of having effectively sealed the border to make such infiltration difficult? How has there been an increase in their ranks since the beginning of this year? After 9/11, Musharraf effectively controlled acts of jihadi terrorism directed against the US from Pakistani territory, while taking no action against terrorism directed against India. Now, he is not controlling—or at least not able to control——even terrorism directed against Afghan and US troops. What is this change of policy, which could ultimately cost him the support of the West, due to?

          8.   These are questions crying out for an answer as more and more US and Afghan troops die in Afghanistan at the hands of jihadi terrorists operating from sanctuaries in Pakistan. But, the Bush Administration is evading addressing these questions lest its examination prove its policy of trusting and lionising Musharraf to have been seriously wrong.

          9.   The Bush Administration in the US and the Government headed by Mr.Tony Blair in the UK share a common trait——a dogged refusal to admit their errors. We saw it and continue to see it in their refusal to admit that their unwarranted over-demonisation of Saddam Hussein on the basis of fabricated and incorrect intelligence has been responsible for the current mess in Iraq. And we have been seeing it in their refusal to admit that their policy of trusting Musharraf and closing their eyes to his charade of acting against jihadi terrorism and Islamic extremists could create for them a similar mess in Afghanistan.

        10.   It is widely known in Pakistan that:

                l    The ISI helped the survivors of the Taliban, including its Amir Mullah Mohammad Omar, find sanctuaries in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), Balochistan and the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and keep their fighting capability intact.

                l    It helped Gulbuddin Heckmatyar and his followers in the Hizbe Islami to re-enter Pakistan from Iran, where they had taken sanctuary before 9/11, and facilitated an understanding between the Taliban and the Hizbe Islami to operate jointly in Afghan territory.

                l    While claiming to have effectively sealed the border during the US’ Operation Tora Bora against Osama bin Laden and other survivors of the Al Qaeda towards the end of 2001, the Pakistan Army quietly let them take shelter in Pakistani territory.

                l    The ISI and other Pakistani intelligence agencies rounded up only those operatives of the Al Qaeda about whose presence in Pakistani territory, the US agencies had independently procured precise intelligence and avoided action against those, including bin Laden and his No.2 Ayman al-Zawahiri, about whose location the US agencies were unable to get such precise intelligence.

                l    The Pakistani Army and intelligence agencies allowed many of the survivors of the Al Qaeda and the Pakistani jihadi organisations, which are members of the IIF, to go to Iraq in 2003 to start a new front of the jihad against the US. Now that the jihad in Iraq has become self-sustaining as a result of the induction of a large number of Saudis, Syrians, Kuwaitis and others, those who went from Pakistan have been sent back to Pakistan on the orders of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, the leader of the Al Qaeda in Iraq, in order to re-activate the original front of the global jihad against the US. The Pakistani agencies closed their eyes to the return of these jihad-hardened terrorists to Afghanistan through Pakistani territory.

        11.   There has been a certain method in the manner in which Musharraf has repeatedly hoodwinked the US and other countries of the West—whether in matters relating to jihadi terrorism from Pakistani territory or nuclear proliferation from Pakistan to Libya, Iran and North Korea.

        12.   First, totally deny any wrong-doing by Pakistan so long as he feels the international community has no strong evidence against him. Second, admit the wrong-doing, wholly or partly, when he feels the US has got hold of some evidence against Pakistan, but blame the wrong-doing on others— the fundamentalist and jihadi organisations in the case of terrorism and A.Q.Khan in the case of nuclear proliferation— and deny any complicity of the Pakistani Army. Third, launch a flurry of actions against the wrong-doers as projected by him.Four, slow down and ultimately call off the actions when he feels the US and international attention is diverted elsewhere. Five, re-start the charade when he finds that their attention is back on him and Pakistan.

        13.   We have been seeing the re-start of the charade on the jihad in Afghanistan since May,2005. Till May 2005, Musharraf and his officers were indignantly denying allegations emanating from US diplomats and military officers in Afghanistan about the activities of the Taliban, the Al Qaeda and the Hizbe Islami from sanctuaries in Pakistani territory. After the deaths of a growing number of US soldiers at the hands of the terrorists operating from Pakistan, they have been grudgingly admitting that infiltrations into Afghanistan have been taking place despite the claimed sealing of the border by the Pakistani troops. At the same time, they have been blaming the fundamentalist coalition called the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), which is in power in the NWFP and is part of the ruling coalition in Balochistan, for these infiltrations and promised to act against them.

        14.   In media interviews, Maulana Fazlur Rahman, the leader of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam (JUI), which is an important constituent of the MMA, has strongly denied any MMA role in the recent infiltrations into Afghanistan and the subsequent upsurge in attacks on the US and Afghan security forces. He has alleged that it was the Army itself, which has facilitated these infiltrations and that it is now trying to put the blame on the fundamentalists.

        15.   The “News”, the prestigious daily, in its issue of August 8,2005, has quoted the Maulana as saying as follows: “ If people are being sent to Afghanistan, then it must be seen who is transporting people to Afghanistan via black road after crossing military checkposts. Is any common civilian capable of doing so? Similarly, if people are taken to military camps, then who takes them to the camps in Manshera and elsewhere? Neither the tribal elders nor the common people can do that. Whom such allegations (against the fundamentalists) are meant to deceive—Washington, the West or our own nation?”

        16.   The same day, the prestigious “Daily Times” of Lahore quoted the Maulana as saying as follows: “They (the Army) must also give the nation the identities of the men being moved from Waziristan to militant camps in Manshera. This is hypocrisy. The rulers are not only trying to deceive the US and the West, but also hoodwinking the entire nation. We ask the rulers to reveal the identities of the people being transported to Afghanistan from Waziristan in private vehicles. Reveal who is supervising their trouble-free entry into Afghanistan and reasons for their infiltration. We will have to openly tell the world whether we want to support jihadis or crack down on them. We can’t afford to be hypocritical anymore.” The Maulana warned that if pressured he would reveal more facts that would open a Pandora’s Box. Musharraf has maintained a discreet silence on the allegations against the Army.

        17.   Thus, everybody in Pakistan is agreed that there has been large-scale infiltration of jihadi terrorist elements into Afghanistan from Pakistan since May,2005, and that they are responsible for the current upsurge in attacks on the US and Afghan forces. The only difference is as to who is responsible for this infiltration and why. Musharraf and the Army blame the MMA Government in the NWFP for facilitating this infiltration. MMA leaders strongly deny this and accuse the Army of facilitating this infiltration and putting the blame on the fundamentalists.

        18.   Why should Musharraf covertly facilitate this infiltration and the attacks on the US and Afghan forces, while openly condemning it——in a double-dealing and an act of dissimulation, which bring to mind the act of the cleric in the Lodhi mosque in California, who was active in joining inter-faith groups campaigning against terrorism as one of their staunch allies and at the same time, was covertly helping the Al Qaeda and the HUM?

        19.   Two reasons are cited by well-informed sources in Pakistan for Musharraf’s duplicity. First, to save his own life and to prevent these pro-bin Laden jihadis from creating trouble for him in Pakistan, they say that he has made a secret deal with them. Under this deal, he would allow them to operate freely in Afghanistan so long as they do not operate in Pakistani territory. They point out that there have been no more attempts by the pro-bin Laden jihadis and their supporters in the Army to kill Musharraf since the two failed attempts in December, 2003. There have been no major terrorist attacks attributable to the Al Qaeda and its allies in Pakistani territory since the middle of last year, when they unsuccessfully tried to kill Mr.Shaukat Aziz, the then Finance Minister and presently the Prime Minister.

        20.   The second reason cited is the concern in the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment over the implications of a long stay of the US and other NATO forces in Afghan territory to Pakistan’s strategic objective of using Afghanistan as a rear base for its activities against India.

        22.   It would be logical to ask: By following such a deceitful policy, Musharraf runs the risk of losing the hard-earned American political, economic and military support to his regime. Would it not be suicidal for him to do so? That is Musharraf in a nutshell. Not hesitating to indulge in deceitful actions if they were in his and Pakistan’s interests, so long as there is no danger of his being caught in his duplicity.

        23.   This duplicity, which became evident in the two seeming crack-downs on jihadi terrorists, extremists and madrasas ordered by him after 9/11, has again become evident in the implementation of the third crack-down ordered by him after the investigation by the London Police into the July 7 explosions determined that three of the four terrorists involved in the explosions were British citizens of Pakistani origin, who had visited Pakistan in the months before the explosions. One of them had stayed in the headquarters of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) at Muridke, near Lahore, and met a member of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), who was allegedly involved in a terrorist strike on a church congregation at Islamabad in March,2002, in which the wife of an officer of the National Security Agency (NSA) of the US and their daughter were killed.

        24.   A literal army of Western journalists descended on Pakistan not only to investigate the activities in Pakistan of these three perpetrators of the July 7 blasts, but also to enquire into the effectiveness of the implementation of the two crack-downs ordered by Musharraf in 2002 with great fanfare, which won him praise from the Bush administration as the US’ stalwart ally in the so-called war against terrorism.

        25.   What did they find?

                l    That the jihadi terrorist organisations ostensibly banned by Musharraf in 2002 continue to function under different names and run terrorist training camps.

                l That the LET, one of the banned jihadi organisations, was co-ordinating the activities of the IIF on behalf of the Al Qaeda and had opened secret cells in a number of Western countries.

                l That the leaders and cadres of these organisations arrested in 2002 on the orders of Musharraf or placed under house arrest, have been released on the ground that there was no evidence of their involvement in acts of terrorism in Pakistani territory.

                l That the freezing of the bank accounts of the banned organisations under the UN Security Council Resolution No.1373 has not affected the flow of money into new accounts opened by them under different names.

                l That there is a free flow of heroin money from Afghanistan into Pakistan adding to the coffers of the Al Qaeda and other terrorist organisations.

                l That no action has been taken by the Pakistani agencies to trace bin Laden and al-Zawahiri and to prevent the flow of money and volunteers to Iraq.

                l That only a half of the about 12,000 madrasas had complied with an order issued by Musharraf in 2002 to register themselves with the Government under the Societies Act. The remaining had defied his orders and refused to register themselves. No action had been taken against them.

                l That the decision to launch a jihad in Southern Thailand in January,2004, was taken at a secret meeting of the jihadi leaders held in Lahore and that 1,200 Muslims from Southern Thailand, known locally as Pattanis, are studying in the Pakistani madrasas.

        26.   In 1993, the Pakistani agencies, reportedly on a tip-off from the US’ Federal Bureau of Investigation, had found a brother of Hambali of the Jemaah Islamiya (JI) and some other Indonesians and Malaysians studying in a madrasa of the LET in Karachi. They arrested them and deported them to their countries.

        27.   Thereafter, Musharraf had ostensibly issued an order for a strict control over the admission of foreign students into the madrasas. Their admission was made conditional on their governments issuing a no objection certificate. Despite this, nearly 6,500 foreign students were studying in the madrasas as on July 7,2005. Of these, 2,500 were the children of the Afghan refugees staying in the NWFP, Balochistan and the FATA. About 1,400 had joined the madrasas legally after obtaining a study visa from the Pakistani diplomatic mission in their country for the specific purpose of joining a madrasa. The remaining 2,600 had joined the madrasas illegally. That is, they arrived in Pakistan on tourist visas, joined a madrasa and overstayed their stay or got their stay regularised with the help of their contacts in the Pakistani jihadi organisations.

        28.   Apparently embarrassed by these disclosures, Musharraf admitted during a talk with foreign media personnel that the two crack-downs ordered by him in 2002 had not been satisfactorily implemented because of fears of a backlash from the religious elements at a time when he feared a military confrontation with India. He assured them that the third crack-down ordered by him after the London blasts would be implemented seriously.

        29.   What are the details of the crack-down ordered by him after the London blasts and how are they being implemented?

                l    He has ordered the police to arrest the leaders and cadres of all organisations banned in 2002 under whatever name they may be operating. Nearly a month after the issue of the orders, only about 200 cadres have been arrested. None of the leaders has been arrested,

                l    He has ordered all unregistered madrasas to register themselves before December 31,2005. At the same time, Government spokesmen have assured the officials of the madrasas that the purpose of the registration is to maintain a correct data-base of the madrasas in the country and that the registration would be voluntary. Non-registration would not entail any penal consequences.

                l    Organisations registered under the Societies Act are required to submit annual audited statements of their accounts, indicating details of income and expenditure and identifying the sources of funding. If the Government is not satisfied with the auditing, it could order an independent audit. The madrasas have been assured that they need not identify the sources of their funding and that the provision for an independent audit would not apply to them.

                l    He has ordered the expulsion of only the 1,400 foreign students who have legally enrolled themselves in the madrasas. The 2,500 children of Afghan refugees have been exempted from the expulsion orders. They are the recruiting reserves of the Taliban and the Hizbe Islami. The expulsion orders have not been made applicable to the 2,600 foreign students, who have enrolled themselves illegally on the ground that the Government does not have data regarding them. The illegal enrollments have been mostly in the madrasas controlled by the Jamaat-e-Islami, the Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam, the LET, the Jaish-e-Mohammad, the Jammat-ul-Fuqra (JUF) and other fundamentalist and jihadi terrorist organisations. They would thus be spared of expulsions. Those, who have legally enrolled themselves, are mostly in madrasas run by genuine educational foundations, who have already registered themselves and are not linked to fundamentalist and jihadi organisations. They have been regularly feeding to the Government details of foreign students studying in them.

                l    As he did in 2002, Musharraf has once again announced that the madrasas would be required to include general subjects like science, computer literacy, Urdu, English etc  in their curricula and that the extra expenditure in this regard would be met by the Government. To do this effectively, the Government has to either amend the Societies Act, which deals with only the submission of annual accounts and not the curricula, or bring forward a separate law to regulate the accounts and curricula of the madrasas. He has so far shown no inclination to do so.

                l    The Governments of all Islamic countries have been informed of  the identities of their students being expelled from the madrasas, but no such intimation has so far been sent to the Governments of non-Islamic countries.

        30.   According to Mr.Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, Minister of the Interior (“News” of August 8,2005), of the 1405 legally enrolled foreign students from 56 countries in the madrasas, 42 are from the US, 23 from the UK, over 20 from France, four from Canada and others are from Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and other countries.

        31.   Since Musharraf does not admit the presence of jihadi terrorist training centres in Pakistani territory——whether directed against India or the West or other countries— the post-July 7 orders issued by him do not relate to them.

        32.   Since the beginning of 2004, the jihadi terrorist organisations, which are members of the IIF, have modified their training methods. While those meant for operations against India, are being trained in large numbers in their camps in the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK), the Northern Areas (Gilgit and Baltistan) and the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, those meant for operations in South-East Asia, West European countries and the US are being trained in small cells of not more than four or five each in the safe houses of these organisations——with members of each cell not knowing the identities of the members of the other cells.

        33.   According to reliable sources, 20 volunteers from the UK divided into five cells, 15 from Italy divided into four cells and about 10 from France divided into two cells were thus trained last year in the safe houses of the HUM, the LET, the JEM and the JUF and sent back to their respective countries for organising terrorist strikes at a time and against a target of their choosing. These numbers do not include those trained by Al-Zarqawi’s set-up in Iraq.


        34.   The methods followed by Musharraf for hoodwinking the international community (to use the phrase of Maulana Fazlur Rahman) have again become evident in his recent admission in an interview to the Kyodo news agency of Japan that Dr.A.Q.Khan had supplied centrifuges for uranium enrichment to North Korea.

        35.   Musharraf had admitted the role of Khan in the supply of centrifuges and other material to Libya only after the British and American officials, acting jointly, had intercepted off the Italian coast a consignment of centrifuges manufactured by a Malaysian company at the instance of Khan. After Libya made a clean breast of the project, Musharraf came out with more details.

        36.   He admitted the role of Khan in the supply of centrifuges to Iran only after Teheran admitted this to inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of Vienna, who found traces of enriched uranium in some of the centrifuges in the Iranian plant. The Iranian officials strongly denied US allegations that the presence of these traces indicated that Iran has already embarked on uranium enrichment. They contended that the traces seemed to have come from the plant of the suppliers—meaning Pakistan—from whom it had bought them second-hand.

        37.   Musharraf and other Pakistani authorities had for long been denying any nuclear or missile supply relationship with North Korea, even though Mrs.Benazir Bhutto under whose prime ministership it started had been talking about it.

        38.   Musharraf himself admitted the missile supply relationship in a press interview before a visit to South Korea two years ago, but he continued to deny any nuclear supply relationship with North Korea till now. He has now admitted that Khan did supply centrifuges to North Korea, but has insisted that Khan would have had no role in helping North Korea acquire a military nuclear capability since his expertise was confined to uranium enrichment.

        39.   Why did Musharraf find himself constrained to make this admission now? For many months, the IAEA had been demanding that Pakistan should hand over to it some of its old centrifuges from the Kahuta plant in order to enable it to compare them with the centrifuges in the Iranian plant to see whether the Iranian contention was correct.

        40.   Musharraf resisted this demand till March last, when Ms.Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, visited Pakistan. After the visit, Musharraf agreed to hand over some of the centrifuges to the IAEA. Media reports from Vienna indicate that the examination of the centrifuges handed over by Pakistan indicate that the Iranian contention was correct.

        41.   In the 1990s, Khan had got the centrifuges of the 1970 vintage in Kahuta replaced by new ones. Of the replaced old centrifuges, he supplied some to Iran and some to North Korea and allegedly some to Iraq of Saddam Hussein .

        42.   After the US invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003, there were reports from reliable sources in Pakistan that before the US occupation, Khan had taken a plane to Damascus and airlifted from there to Pakistan some nuclear-related “material”, which had been moved by road from Baghdad to Damacus.

        43.   What were those materials? According to some sources, those were second-hand centrifuges from Kahuta and documents relating to their assembling. It was  said that the Saddam Hussein Government had not been able to install them and that they were lying in a godown. To prevent their falling into American hands, Khan managed to have them brought back to Pakistan via Damascus.

        44.   It is likely that the IAEA might ask Pakistan how many centrifuges were replaced in Kahuta and where did the replaced centrifuges go? Any detailed enquiry would have brought out not only their supply to Iran and North Korea, but also to Iraq.

        45.   In the hope of pre-empting a detailed enquiry, Musharraf has admitted the supply of some of the centrifuges to North Korea. He feels that while he could limit the damages, if any, to Pakistan’s relations with the US by admitting the supplies to North Korea, he may not be able to do so if the supply to Iraq is exposed. He is frantically trying to limit the enquiries to North Korea.

        46.   Unless the US takes Khan into its custody and interrogates him outside Pakistan, it might not be able to establish Khan’s relationship with Iraq and the details of the complicity of the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment in the nuclear trade of Khan.

        47.   Annexed is an article written by me on April 8,2003, on the Pakistan-North Korea Nexus. (28-8-05)


PAKISTAN-NORTH KOREA NEXUS (My article of April 8,2003)

Pakistan’s arms supply relationship with North Korea dates back to 1971 when the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, then foreign minister under the late General Yahya Khan, visited Pyongyang and sought North Korean arms supplies to strengthen the Pakistani armed forces in the face of a looming war with India.

Pakistan then did not have diplomatic relations with North Korea. The visit led to the signing of an agreement on September 18, 1971, 10 weeks before the outbreak of the war with India, for the supply of North Korea-made conventional weapons to Pakistan.

Under another agreement signed the same day, the two countries agreed to set up mutual consular relations, which were upgraded to full-fledged diplomatic relations on November 9, 1972.

Under the September agreement, Pakistan received from North Korea, in return for payment in US dollars, many shipments of items such as rocket launchers, ammunition, etc. In the 1980s, Pakistan also acted as an intermediary in facilitating arms supply agreements concluded by Pyongyang with Libya and Iran. During the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, North Korea became the principal supplier of weapons to Iran, which was the target of an arms embargo imposed by the Western countries.

To escape detection by Western intelligence agencies, North Korean arms shipments meant for Iran used to be received by sea at Karachi and from there transported in Pakistani trucks to Iran across Balochistan. Amongst the supplies made by North Korea to Iran via Karachi were more than 100 Scud-B (known as the Hwasong 5 in North Korea) ballistic missiles and equipment for the assembly, maintenance and ultimate production of these missiles on Iranian territory.

In this transaction, Pakistan played a double game. On one hand, the then ruling military regime of the late Zia-ul-Haq collaborated with the US Central Intelligence Agency and Iraqi intelligence in destabilisation operations directed at the Sunni Balochis living on the Iranian side of the border. At the same time, it clandestinely allowed the transport by road of North Korean arms and ammunition meant for use by the Iranian army against the Iraqis. Pakistani army officers were also sent to Libya to help train Libyan army officers in the use and maintenance of North Korean weaponry.

During the Zia regime, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and its North Korean counterpart collaborated closely for the clandestine acquisition of nuclear- and missile-related equipment and technology from erstwhile West Germany and other Western countries. Since North Korea did not have either a presence or funds and other capability to indulge in clandestine procurement from the West, it gave lists of its requirements to the ISI, which procured them and passed them on.

This co-operation between the two countries, the foundation for which was laid by Bhutto, was strengthened during the two tenures of Benazir Bhutto as prime minister (1988-90 and 1993-96). It was during this time that Pakistan failed in its efforts to develop indigenous missile production capability (the Hatf series) and sought Chinese and North Korean supplies of missiles as well as technology for their production in Pakistan.

In her second tenure, Benazir Bhutto visited Pyongyang during which the scope of the arms supply agreement concluded when her father was foreign minister was expanded to include co-operation in the nuclear and missile fields — including the training of Khan Research Laboratories’ scientists and engineers in North Korea, the training of North Korean scientists and engineers at the Pakistani uranium enrichment plant at Kahuta, and the supply of No-Dong missiles and related technology to Pakistan.

Earlier, during Nawaz Sharief’s first tenure as prime minister (1990-93), Lieutenant General Javed Nasir, then director-general of the ISI, visited Pyongyang to sign a secret agreement with North Korea’s intelligence organisation for joint production, through reverse engineering, of the US-made, shoulder-fired Stinger missiles and their batteries. Some of the missiles in the Pakistani army’s stock were given to North Korean intelligence for this purpose. Iranian intelligence agreed to fund the project.

It is not known whether this project succeeded in producing an imitation of the Stingers and their batteries. The ISI was particularly interested in the batteries because it was unable to use a large number of the Stinger missiles in its stocks since the life period of the batteries supplied by the US before 1988 for use of the missiles against the Soviets in Afghanistan had expired.

Throughout the 1990s, whoever was at the helm in Islamabad, the trilateral co-operation involving Pakistan, Iran and North Korea in the development and production of the Scud-C (called Hwasong 6 in North Korea) and the No-Dong missiles continued without interruption, despite Tehran’s anger against Pakistan for backing the Taliban and failing to prevent the periodic massacre of Pakistani Shias and Iranian nationals by the Sunni extremist Sipah-e-Sahaba and its militant wing, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

In 1992, when Nawaz Sharief was prime minister, a team of Pakistani scientists and engineers had visited North Korea’s missile development centre, reportedly for joint examination of some technical problems encountered by the Koreans in the development of the No-Dong. The same year saw a visit by Kim Yong-nam, then North Korea’s foreign minister and deputy prime minister, to Syria, Iran and Pakistan in July-August. Pakistani and Iranian scientists and engineers visited North Korea in May 1993 to witness the launching of one No-Dong and three Scud missiles (model not known).

Benazir’s visit to Beijing and Pyongyang in December 1993 was followed by the visits of a number of North Korean personalities to Pakistan in 1994-95 to discuss bilateral nuclear and missile co-operation. Important amongst these were:

In April 1994, Pak Chung-kuk, deputy to the Supreme People’s Assembly, visited Iran and Pakistan with a team of officials from the North Korean foreign ministry and the nuclear and missile establishment.

In September the same year, Choe Hui-chong, chairman of the State Commission of Science and Technology, visited Pakistan at the head of a team of North Korean nuclear and missile experts.

In November 1995, a delegation of North Korean military officers and nuclear and missile experts headed by Choe Kwang, vice-chairman of the National Defence Commission, minister of the People’s Armed Forces and marshal of the Korean People’s Army, visited Pakistan. The delegation met senior officials of the armed forces and visited Pakistan’s nuclear and missile establishments, including KRL. The team included senior officials of the fourth machine industry bureau of the second economic committee and the Changgwang Sinyong Corporation (also known as the North Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation).

During the visit, KRL and the Changgwang Sinyong Corporation signed an agreement to supply Pakistan with No-Dong missiles as well as fuel tanks and rocket engines. The agreement also provided for stationing North Korean missile experts in KRL to train their Pakistani counterparts in the use and maintenance of the missiles supplied by North Korea and for the supply and development of mobile erector launchers for the missiles.

These visits contributed to the speeding up of Pakistan’s missile programme and culminated in KRL firing the Ghauri missile on April 6, 1998. Pakistan projected Ghauri as its own, indigenously developed missile.

Despite this, the US state department imposed a two-year sanction against KRL and the Changgwang Sinyong Corporation on April 24, 1998, which expired on April 23, 2000.

KRL had earlier been the subject of similar sanctions imposed by the state department in August 1993 for its clandestine procurement of M-11 missiles from China.

The sanctions imposed on March 24, 2003, are the third against KRL. These sanctions have had no effect either on Pakistan or North Korea.

KRL and the North Korean corporation are State-owned entities, run and managed by officers of the armed forces of the two countries. Pakistan used a US-supplied aircraft from its air force for transporting the missiles. Missiles and other weapons sent by North Korea to Iran in the 1980s transited through Pakistan, escorted by Pakistani troops. Pakistan and North Korea have a joint project for reverse-engineering US-made Stingers.

North Korean scientists witnessed Pakistan’s Chagai nuclear tests in May 1998. Pakistan has been helping North Korea in the development of its uranium enrichment facility. The two countries have been training each other’s nuclear and missile scientists in their respective establishments. In return for North Korea’s assistance, Pakistan diverted to it wheat purchased from the US and Australia, paying for the grain from its huge dollar reserves built up after 9/11, thereby enabling Pyongyang to withstand the economic boycott imposed by the West.

To hoodwink US intelligence, Pakistan transported some of the Chinese and North Korean missiles by road via the Karakoram Highway. Pakistan’s diplomatic mission in Pyongyang is generally headed and staffed by serving or retired army officers, who had previously served in the ISI’s clandestine nuclear and missile procurement set-up. The latest instance in this regard is Major General (retd) Fazle Ghafoor.

For the US to pretend, despite all this, that Pakistan’s repeated violations of nuclear and missile-related regulations are the misdeeds of errant individual entities for which the State cannot be held responsible shows the extent to which it is prepared to close its eyes to what Pakistan has been doing.

If there is one country in the world which has been systematically violating all regulations relating to nuclear and missile proliferation and from which there is a real danger of leakage of weapons of mass destruction and related technologies to pan-Islamic terrorists, it is Pakistan.

        US’s double standards in this matter are evident from the alacrity and vigour with which it has acted against Iraq despite the lack of credible evidence against it and the care with which it protects the regime in Pakistan, despite all the evidence available against it.


Dialogue (A quarterly journal of Astha Bharati)

              Astha Bharati