WASHINGTON: Alleging that Pakistan has long had links with terrorrist groups, US lawmakers and experts have opposed any American move to pursue a civil-nuclear deal with the country and claimed that Pakistani scientists had even discussed making nuclear bombs with Osama bin Laden.
“Pakistani scientist even met Osama bin Laden in 1998 to discuss, how to create a nuclear bomb. The full extent of the (A Q Khan) network’s illicit proliferation remains unknown because Pakistan just would not come clean. Pakistan’s ties with terrorists do not end with discussions about nuclear weapons,” Congressman Ted Poe said.
Congressman Ted Poe
Pakistan has a history of supporting terrorist proxies by way of increasing its leverage in the region, he said.
“Pakistan maintains close links with the Afghan Taliban, even allegedly holding direct meetings with senior leaders and coordinating attacks,” he said.
Instead of talking about a civil nuclear deal, the US should talk about consequences to Pakistan for its “bad behaviour”, said Poe, chairing the Congressional hearing on ‘Civil Nuclear Cooperation with Pakistan: Prospects and Consequences’ by House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Non-proliferation and Trade.
Pakistan continues to support terrorist groups that have killed American troops, he alleged. “This has got to cease.”
Subcommittee Ranking Member Bill Keating said no nuclear deal is likely to happen with Pakistan in the near future. Recent talks between US and Pakistan on this topic seemed preliminary and Pakistan is unlikely to accept any constraint on its nuclear arsenal on which the US would insist.
Keating said several analysts fear that Pakistani nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists. Pakistan has a history of proliferation, he said.
Pakistan sold nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea, he alleged.
Keating alleged that elements in the Pakistani government have provided “active support” to extremist organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba in Kashmir and Haqqani network in Afghanistan.
“Perhaps most disturbingly, Pakistan’s intelligence service ISI is reported to provide considerable assistance to LeT in planning the November 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai,” he alleged.
Congressman Brad Sherman said there is no chance that a civil nuclear deal with Pakistan would be approved by the Congress.
“Pakistan does not just confuses anyone who studies it. It is in fact confused. Just the military elements are simultaneously fighting terrorists on the ground at great cost and supporting terrorists at the same time,” he said.
George Perkovich, vice president for Studies at the top US thinktank Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said any consideration of nuclear cooperation with Pakistan must begin by acknowledging that the network led by AQ Khan proliferated nuclear weapon-related equipment and know-how to North Korea, Iran, and Libya.
“This is why Pakistan was dubbed the ‘nuclear Wal-Mart’ by a former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who did not mean the remark kindly. While key suppliers in this proliferation network operated in several European, Middle Eastern, and Southeast Asian countries, the motive force was a central figure in the Pakistani nuclear establishment,” he said.
Henry D Sokolski, executive director at Nonproliferation Policy Education Centre, argued that no effort to moderate Pakistan’s nuclear posture or the threat of an Indo-Pakistani nuclear war is likely to succeed unless the US get Pakistan and Indian officials to negotiate limits that are binding on both their countries.
Daniel Markey, Senior Research Professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, expressed concern that by turning senior-level attention to a nuclear deal, Washington sends a wrong and counterproductive message to Pakistan.
Husain Haqqani, former Pakistani ambassador to the US, told lawmakers that the expectation that Pakistan would limit its nuclear arsenal is similar to the unrealistic expectation during the 1980s that supplying Pakistan with large amounts of economic aid and state-of-the art military equipment, including F-16 aircraft, would lead Pakistan to stop short of developing nuclear weapons altogether.
“It stems from failing to understand Pakistan’s policies and ambitions in South Asia,” he said.
“Notwithstanding attempts in the US to sell the prospect of a deal as a restraint on Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities, Pakistan’s leaders see parity with India as the only reason they should seek a civil nuclear deal with the US. Ever since the US-India civil nuclear deal of 2005, Pakistan’s leaders have sought a similar deal to affirm that the two South Asian neighbours are equal in status and prestige,” Haqqani said.