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Expose of Operation Cover Up

T.C.A. Rangachari

By Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark
Penguin, Delhi, 2007, pp. 586, Rs. 595.00


Two decades ago, at the height of the Brasstacks exercise close to the Indo-Pak border by the Indian military, Pakistan decided that it would make public its possession of nuclear weapons. The intention of the military rulers who then ruled Pakistan was to put India on notice that Pakistan had acquired a nuclear deterrent that rendered India’s conventional superiority impotent. The instrument they chose for the purpose of this public confession of a hitherto strictly clandestine operation was A.Q. Khan who in Strangelove-ian fashion earned himself the sobriquet of ‘Father of the Islamic Bomb’.   Pakistan had never made secret of its ambition to acquire the Bomb. Iqbal Akhund, a former Pakistani diplomat, has recorded that as far back as in 1965, when Zulfiqar Ali Bhuttto became Foreign Minister in the military regime of Field Marshal Ayub Khan, he had gathered together a team to work on this project. Agha Shahi noted that 1965 was a critical year. ‘We made a pact with China that ushered in decades of assistance that we could not have got elsewhere.’ It did not get very far at that time partly because Pakistan then lacked the human and material wherewithal and the Ayub regime was unable and unwilling to make the investment for it and partly because Bhutto’s own tenure in government was shortlived. He revived that project in 1972 when he became the first civilian Chief Martial Law Administrator following the humiliation of the Pakistan Army and the country’s break up. By 1974, he had come to the conclusion that A.Q. Khan, then at URENCO in Holland, was the ‘only man’ who could fulfill his dream. Khan returned to Pakistan in 1975 and within months had the authorization to build the Engineering Research Laboratories in Kahuta that later came to be named after him. The chosen route was uranium enrichment; the time-frame seven years.   How did Pakistan manage to make the bomb during times when the country was the largest CIA station and awash with intelligence and other operatives and most of the countries who were the source of the large amount of foreign assistance that poured in were united in the single purpose of ousting the Soviet presence from Afghanistan and not in permitting Pakistan to become the possessor of the first ‘Islamic Bomb’? The Pakistani rulers had made their intentions clear to the Reagan administration at the very outset. General K.M. ...

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