Pakistan Loses a National Hero
The father of Pakistani nuclear technology, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan has been ousted and available for social service, especially after foregoing Chief Executive General Pervez Musharraf's offer of becoming federal minister and military advisor to the CE. Also asked to leave was Dr Ashfaq Ahmed, head of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC).
Ironically, the CE declared that Dr. Khan and Dr. Ahmed had served a number of extensions, and this time the government did not give them another. The issue is that even if Dr. Khan was over 60 years old, he was not working with his hands but rather with his brain, and the brain does not retire at that age. There are many examples to illustrate this point. For instance, judges in the U.S. retire only when they deem fit, and Allen Greenspan, US Chairman of Federal Reserve has crossed a few decades over the retirement age but still works to serve his country because the presidents needs him.
Dr. Khan has long been seen as the country's leading nuclear scientist, and was partly responsible for making Pakistan the world's seventh declared nuclear power
Addressing the 16th annual lunch of the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), the CE--conscious of the popular reaction--said "One would be a traitor if one did that [rolled back the nuclear program]. How could I ever imagine of going back on the strategic program?''
Despite the official explanations, the people are not ready to buy the government's story, especially when these sackings coincide with certain other events, such as the U.S. bipartisan congressional members' visit to Pakistan, the CE's meeting with key US officials, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's visit to Pakistan, and India's willingness to talk.
Some feel that the World Bank, which like the UN serves specific interests, had a role to play in Dr. Khan's removal, reportedly threatening that no further loans would be provided until the enrichment of the uranium stopped. Being a metallurgist and possessing the secrets of building centrifuges for uranium enrichment, Dr. Khan was in the right job at the right time.
Although the program was secret until nuclear tests in May 1998, Dr. Khan has long been seen as the country's leading nuclear scientist, and was partly responsible for making Pakistan the world's seventh declared nuclear power.
Although he was due to retire for some years, he has been widely regarded as irreplaceable at the Kahuta Research Laboratories.
Dr. Khan, who was educated in Germany and the Netherlands, started Pakistan's nuclear program after India conducted the 1974 nuclear test. The seed of Pakistan nuclear program was sown on July 31, 1976, a day marking a turn in the country's destiny, when the Engineering Research Laboratories, an autonomous organization was formed.
He built a team of top Pakistani scientists at the KRL where the uranium enrichment facility became one of the best in the world. KRL has produced the Ghouri ballistic missile, which can be tipped with nuclear weapons, and missiles like the Anza series of missile.
Dr. Khan, whose contract is due to expire on March 31, is being succeeded by Deputy Chairman KRL Dr. Javed Mirza who was appointed to the present position by Dr. Khan himself during the period former prime minister Nawaz Sharif empowered him (Dr. Khan) to make appointments on his own in the KRL.
The laboratory later upgraded to KRL, but the entire journey of the nuclear program has been an uphill task with enemies of Islam and Pakistan doing their utmost to derail the project.
Both Nawaz Shareef and Benazir Bhutto were determined to rollback the program, and Gen. Musharaf's foreign minister has openly talked bout the 'benefits' of signing the CTBT.In such a situation, many Pakistanis say that Pakistan cannot afford to lose its nuclear program at this critical juncture, especially when India has become so close to the world's powers. Critics say that certain foreign interests have invested a great deal in Pakistan's political, military, and bureaucratic infrastructure to ensure corruption and the prompt removal of any patriotic Pakistani.
The Western defense industries would like Pakistan to barter away its nuclear deterrence, take more loans, and buy their offerings. Some fear that the military regime is fishing for foreign legitimacy and approval for extended rule.
Regardless of his recent demise, Dr. Khan's key role in the development of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program has made him into a national hero, and for that he will be missed.
Adam Naqqad is a writer on international affairs and lives in the Washington D.C. area..
Topics: Abdul Qadeer Khan, Nuclear Technology, Pakistan