Targeting us to make money

Shireen M Mazari The nuclear issue sells, especially when it relates to Pakistan, Iran, the Muslim World and Dr Khan - the man who defied the West and brought uranium enrichment technology to developing Pakistan Of course, there are far bigger stories relating to proliferation, plutonium the-ft, missing fissile material stolen by Americans also working for Israel, Indias trade offs to acquire clandestine nuclear technology and fissile material - but all that is pushed aside on the backburner to remain as covert as possible. After all, revelations relating to Israel and India would drag in the big state players like the US, UK France and the then Soviet Union and now Russia. On the other hand, Iran, Pakistan and Muslims in general but Dr Khan in particular bring out the old hatreds and biases prevailing in the West and therefore create ready villains with no questions asked as to motive or even authenticity. The US media has of course led the field, followed closely as always by little Britains media, in its anti-Pakistan exposes and not just in the nuclear field. Stories are conjured up to time with certain US government policies or actions and the latest drama has come from The Washington Post (WP) entitled Pakistani scientist Khan describes Iranian efforts to buy nuclear bombs. Is it a mere coincidence that the story comes at a time when the issue of sanctions against Iran is once again in the forefront of the Obama Administrations radar. Given the pathetic policy failures of Obama so far, this may be his last desperate bid for some foreign policy success The WP story gives an account of Pakistan giving Iran access to nuclear centrifuge designs and so on, courtesy not just Dr Khan but the Pakistan military Now what could sell better than this in the West? The details of how an Iranian official visited Islamabad and the strange theatrics that followed will certainly get the attention of the readers; but the fact is that even if one were to accept all this as the truth rather than an account which seeks to implicate others while trying to show how one man acted only in the nations interests, so what? None of the Pakistanis allegedly involved broke any of their countrys international commitments at the time - after all, we too were involved in developing a clandestine nuclear programme then. This is unlike the US breaking its NPT commitments by aiding Israels nuclear development and signing the nuclear deal with India. So let us not go into a trauma in Paki-stan over these repetitive stories of the past being churned out primarily to make money for the newspapers and journalists involved while aiding their countries negative agendas against Pakistan and Iran. Back to the WP story, which basically deals with information that Dr Khan allegedly gave to a British journalist Simon Henderson who then used it himself and now has presumably sold it to the WP - thus making money on Dr Khan twice over. Dr Khan meanwhile was equally adamant in informing this scribe that he had not given any document to any foreign journalist. Instead, he accused General Musharraf of intercepting his mail to his family and passing it on to the US - but to a journalist or the government he could not say. So maybe another monetary gain was there along the way for someone? Of course, whoever gave the document, it does imply that there was such a written account which it appears arrived in the hands of the Dutch intelligence. But again, how and why did it land up with a journalist? Is this the normal practice of the Dutch government to hand over sensitive documents to journalists? These are just one set of questions. Equally interesting is a very basic question as to why neither Henderson nor the WP will actually publish the document they claim to possess? The WP in fact becomes almost absurd when it states midway in their story that the account and related documents were shared with The Post by former British journalist Simon Hende-rson, now a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP). The Post had no direct contact with Khan, but it independently veri-fied that he wrote the documents. So the WP merely took Henderson at his word and never even tried to contact Dr Khan - a basic rule in reporting I would have thought As for its claim that it independently verified that Dr Khan had indeed written the documents - how could they do this unless they spoke to the source itself. Who else could have authenticated the documents unless they had witnessed their writing in the first place? Since Dr Khan has been under house arrest and isolated since the Musharraf era, who would have witnessed his writing of these documents? There are just too many ifs and buts and it is a pity that in order to keep making money and also serving US Establishment interests, the WP is unwilling to print the documents once and for all and be done with it instead of periodically churning out one sensationalist piece after another targeting Pakistan and Iran. As for the argument that libel may be incurred, is the WP unaware that this whole issue is sub judice anyway in the case that Dr Khan has filed in the Pakistani courts on his incarceration at home? The government, in response, has already asked the court to clarify this issue of these documents - whether or not Dr Khan did write them. So if the WP was so concerned about legal issues, they would have taken this point into consideration. Again, perhaps economic lures were far too great Interestingly, Henderson now works at the WINEP which is highly critical of Iran and supportive of US efforts to undermine the Iranian government. Now is all this a coincidence also? Should one not connect the dots to see certain patterns where the Western media can target its favourite whipping boys and make money at the same time? Finally, for us Pakistanis it is critical that we prevent landing ourselves and our nation in such vulnerable positions simply to whitewash our actions as being in the national interest while implicating others as the evil doers. The Western media and their governments are not our friends and will use every opportunity to undermine our nuc-lear capability. As for Dr Khan, he does not need to whitewash anything. He is a major contributor to our nuclear capability and his achievements were against all odds at a time when we were under minute Western scrutiny. But like all of us, he is also human and fallible and unfortunately was put under immense pressure by a weak leadership vulnerable to external pressures. He was and still is being treated rather shabbily as many Pakistanis have been before and after him. But the collective national good must always remain supreme. After all, the founder of our nuclear weapons programme, ZA Bhu-tto paid with his life. No individual, foreigner or Pakistani, must now be allowed to compromise on this.

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