Pakistan's A.Q. Khan Is Said to Admit Nuclear Transfers to Iran, Libya, N. Korea
- -Pakistan Fires Top Nuclear Scientist
-Key Pakistani Is Said to Admit Atom Transfers
Pakistan Fires Top Nuclear Scientist
By John Lancaster and Kamran Khan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, February 1, 2004; Page A01
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Jan. 31 -- Pakistan's most
prominent nuclear weapons scientist, Abdul Qadeer
Khan, was fired from his government job Saturday after
investigators concluded that he made millions of
dollars from the sale of nuclear secrets to Iran and
Libya, officials said.
The wealth that Khan accumulated during 30 years as a
government servant, on a salary estimated now at
$2,000 per month, is part of evidence that officials
say led Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president,
to conclude that he had no choice but to take action
against Khan, the flamboyant, European-trained
metallurgist who is widely regarded as the father of
Pakistan's nuclear bomb.
Khan, 67, counts among his assets four houses in
Islamabad, a palatial lakeside retreat in the nearby
village of Bani Gala, ownership shares in two
restaurants and a hotel in Timbuktu, Mali, that he
named for his wife, who is of Dutch ancestry,
according to Pakistani investigators.
The decision to dismiss Khan from his post as a
science adviser to the prime minister came at a
meeting Saturday morning of the National Command
Authority, which is made up of senior military and
civilian officials and is chaired by Musharraf.
But Musharraf postponed a decision on whether to
pursue criminal charges against Khan, who
investigators say routed blueprints and other
technical assistance to Iran and Libya by means of a
nuclear black market in the Persian Gulf emirate of
Dubai and -- in the case of Iran -- through a program
to promote non-military nuclear technology. At least
one other nuclear scientist, Mohammed Farooq, is
accused of helping Khan in the scheme.
Khan has been ordered to remain at home as
investigators complete their work, officials said.
Farooq, whose family maintains his innocence, is among
five other current or former lab officials still being
held at undisclosed locations.
Musharraf is under heavy domestic pressure to go easy
on Khan, who is considered a national hero for his
pivotal role in developing the uranium-enrichment
technology that allowed the country to achieve nuclear
parity with arch rival India.
At the same time, Musharraf is eager to remain on good
terms with the United States and to demonstrate
Pakistan's commitment to curbing the spread of nuclear
weapons technology, in part by showing that he takes
the allegations against Khan and other scientists
Pakistan launched its investigation in November after
the International Atomic Energy Agency turned up
evidence that some of its scientists had helped Iran
and Libya design centrifuges used to make enriched
uranium, a key ingredient in nuclear weapons.
Among those present at Saturday's meeting was Lt. Gen.
Ehsanul Haq, the head of Pakistan's Inter-Services
Intelligence Agency, who presented the case against
Khan at the meeting and said firing him would "would
go a long way in establishing" Pakistan's "credibility
with the IAEA," according to a participant.
The same official quoted Prime Minister Zafarullah
Khan Jamali as telling the group, "We must tell the
world that Pakistan at no cost would allow
irresponsible scientists to run its nuclear program."
Khan has a history of strained relations with
Musharraf, who in 2001 forced his retirement as
director of the Khan Research Laboratories, the
uranium-enrichment plant that Khan founded nearly
three decades ago following his return to Pakistan
from the Netherlands.
His current job amounted to little more than a
sinecure. "I swat flies and read newspapers," an
associate recalled him saying about his duties several
Still, as recently as Friday, even some of Musharraf's
senior advisers were urging the president to avoid any
action that smacked of "public disgrace," as one
cabinet minister put it in an interview.
"How can you blame a person who enjoyed explicit
authority from the state to beg, borrow or steal for
no less than 20 years to deliver his nation its
nuclear bomb?" an army general said. "What harm has he
caused Pakistan by extending the same knowledge to
another Islamic country?"
Pakistani officials also acknowledge that a public
airing of the technology sales could prove
embarrassing for the military, which has principal
responsibility for the multitiered security system --
overseen by two army brigadiers and a special
detachment of the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency
-- that surrounds the top-secret Khan laboratory.
Moreover, while the investigation has focused
exclusively on transactions involving Iran and Libya,
U.S. officials also suspect Pakistan of bartering
uranium-enrichment secrets to North Korea in return
for help with ballistic missiles. U.S. officials have
said they believe that some of the dealings, in which
Khan is said to have played a prominent role, occurred
as recently as August 2002, almost three years after
Musharraf seized power. Pakistani officials deny the
According to investigators, Khan continues to maintain
his innocence, but he has made no public comment on
the allegations. A security officer who answered the
phone at Khan's residence Saturday said the former lab
director was not home and declined to take a message.
Phone calls to his personal secretary went unanswered.
An associate of Khan's, who spoke on condition of
anonymity, said the scientist told him earlier this
month that he and his wife had acquired much of their
money from the sale of properties in the Netherlands
that had been inherited from his mother-in-law several
Khan's official biographer, Zahid Malik, said in an
interview Thursday that Khan, with whom he spoke
earlier this week, does not dispute that blueprints
and technical specifications may have found their way
from Pakistan to Iran and Libya. Khan acknowledges
providing such material to Dubai-based middlemen, who
needed the documents to shop for nuclear-related
components in Germany, the Netherlands and Britain on
Pakistan's behalf, Malik said.
Khan now believes, Malik said, that "when those
middlemen or manufacturers came to know of the nuclear
ambitions of Iran and Libya, they approached the
concerned authorities of those countries" and passed
along the documents originally provided by Khan.
A government statement said Khan was dismissed "in the
background of the investigations into alleged acts of
nuclear proliferation by a few individuals and to
facilitate those investigations in a free and
A Flamboyant Career
Even if Khan escapes prosecution, as many officials
say they expect, the decision to dismiss him from his
government post amounts to a rare public rebuke of one
of Pakistan's most colorful and celebrated public
Born in 1936 in pre-independence India, Khan studied
in Germany and Belgium and then worked in the
Netherlands for several years at Urenco, a uranium
enrichment corporation, before returning home in 1974
to found Pakistan's uranium enrichment facility at
Kahuta, about 20 miles outside Islamabad, the capital.
His efforts quickly earned him enormous power and
prestige. A retired senior officer recalled that Khan
used to travel to army headquarters in the city of
Rawalpindi near here "in a motorcade escorted by
troops from the Special Services Group," Pakistan's
most elite commando unit. "There used to be decoy cars
in his entourage, which was always bigger than the
chief of the army."
In 1983, a Dutch court convicted Khan in absentia of
stealing designs for the centrifuges used in the
Pakistani facility, a charge he denied. The conviction
was later thrown out for technical reasons.
After Pakistan detonated a nuclear device in 1998, and
his stature assumed such mythic proportions that his
picture was affixed to garbage trucks, Khan boasted
openly of the black-market dealings that allowed him
to circumvent Western restrictions on the export of
dual-use technology he needed to equip his lab.
"I got the material from third sources, using
different routes," he told a Pakistani newspaper in
2001. Western governments, he added, "were always
watching over us, trying to dry up our resources and
block our passage, but I always made sure we stayed a
But Pakistani intelligence officials now say that
beginning about 1987, the same black-market contacts
and shell companies provided opportunities for Khan
and perhaps several others associated with his
laboratory, known as KRL, to peddle their expertise to
Iran and Libya.
They came to that conclusion after IAEA inspectors
toured Iranian nuclear facilities last fall, then
passed along what they had learned to Pakistan.
Quoting Iranian authorities, an IAEA official told the
Pakistanis that Khan had arranged for the delivery to
Iran of engineering drawings and a list of equipment
suppliers through a Sri Lankan middleman operating out
of Dubai, a Pakistani intelligence official said.
"The money trail that originated from Tehran reached
the bank account of this Sri Lankan citizen in Dubai,"
said the official, adding that the Sri Lankan also
acted as the middleman for a similar transaction
involving Libya. Khan acknowledged to investigators
that he had done business with the Sri Lankan, but
only in the context of buying components for
Pakistan's program, the official said.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, officials said,
Khan made at least two trips to Iran, ostensibly for
the purpose of sharing non-military nuclear technology
under a secret 1987 agreement between Pakistani
President Mohammed Zia ul-Haq and the Iranian
Pakistani officials said much of the evidence against
Khan was provided by Farooq, the director general of
processing and engineering at the lab, who also stands
accused of profiting from illicit transactions.
"Farooq had the most specific information on the
transfer of knowledge and technology to Libya and
Iran," one official said. "He put Khan in a very tight
Pakistani officials say they believe that Khan grew
rich from his black-market activities. He has divided
his time between his large Mediterranean-style villa
on the edge of the capital and an equally imposing
residence -- complete with lighted brick driveway and
dolphin-shaped fountain -- on the edge of Rawal Lake
in Bani Gala.
One of the Khans' more exotic investments,
investigators say, was the 24-room Hotel Hendrina Khan
in Timbuktu, which opened in March 2002 and was named
after the scientist's wife. It is outfitted with
carved-wood furniture that in 2000 was flown on a
Pakistani army C-130 aircraft from Islamabad to
Tripoli, Libya, from where it made its way to
Timbuktu, investigators said.
Abder Hamane Alphamaega, who identified himself as the
manager and owner of the property, said by telephone
from Timbuktu Saturday evening that he met Hendrina
Khan in 1999 when she and several Pakistani visitors
hired him as a tour guide. She subsequently helped him
get medical treatment in Islamabad in 2000, he said,
then gave him the money to build the hotel as a
"gift." He declined to say how much he received. He
said he had never heard of A.Q. Khan and that Hendrina
Khan retains no stake in the hotel.
Investigators say that Khan arranged for the load of
furniture to be flown to Tripoli in the army plane
that was kept available for his use. Farooq told
investigators that he accompanied the load.
New York Times
February 2, 2004
Key Pakistani Is Said to Admit Atom Transfers
By DAVID ROHDE and DAVID E. SANGER
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Feb. 1 - The founder of
Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, Abdul Qadeer Khan,
has signed a detailed confession admitting that during
the last 15 years he provided Iran, North Korea and
Libya with the designs and technology to produce the
fuel for nuclear weapons, according to a senior
Pakistani official and three Pakistani journalists who
attended a special government briefing here on Sunday
In a two-and-a-half-hour presentation to 20 Pakistani
journalists, a senior government official gave an
exhaustive and startling account of how Dr. Khan, a
national hero, spread secret technology to three
countries that have been striving to produce their own
nuclear arsenals. Two of them, Iran and North Korea,
were among those designated by President Bush as part
of an "axis of evil."
If the Pakistani government account is correct, Dr.
Khan's admission amounts to one of the most complex
and successful efforts to evade international controls
to stop nuclear proliferation.
The account provided by Pakistan on Sunday night came
after years in which the government strongly denied
that it or scientists at the Khan Research
Laboratories had given crucial technology to other
Officials detailed how Dr. Khan had presided over a
network that smuggled nuclear hardware on chartered
planes, had shared secret designs for the centrifuges
that produce the enriched uranium necessary to develop
a nuclear weapon, and had given personal briefings to
Iranian, Libyan and North Korean scientists in covert
Dr. Khan said he shared the technology because he
thought the emergence of more nuclear states would
ease Western attention on Pakistan, the senior
official told journalists. He also said he thought it
would help the Muslim cause.
The Bush administration offered no public comment on
the Pakistani announcement on Sunday. But in recent
weeks, administration officials have said that they
forced the government of President Pervez Musharraf to
confront the evidence, after Iran and Libya made
disclosures that showed their reliance on
"This is the break we have been waiting for," a senior
American official said. But the account provided by
Pakistani officials carefully avoided pinning any
blame on General Musharraf, the army or the Pakistani
intelligence service, despite the fact that some of
the material - especially what was sent to North Korea
- appeared to have been transported on government
Pakistani and American officials have said senior
Pakistani Army officials would have known if nuclear
hardware had been shipped out of a tightly guarded
The senior official told journalists that all nuclear
transfers ceased after General Musharraf established a
new National Command Authority to oversee the
country's nuclear arsenal in early 2002. But according
to American accounts, the nuclear transfers to Libya
continued through last fall.
The Khan laboratory has for years been the crown jewel
of the Pakistani nuclear program, and it received the
highest-level support after Dr. Khan stole the basic
technology for uranium enrichment from a European
consortium, Urenco, in the late 1970's.
Dr. Khan's house has been surrounded by Pakistani
security officials for several weeks, and he could not
be reached for comment on Sunday. A spokesman for the
families of Dr. Khan and six detained officials who
the government says aided him said they would respond
to the government allegations on Monday.
It was unclear whether Dr. Khan would be arrested, or
whether General Musharraf's government would be
further shaken by his decision to take on a man
revered as the creator of the first Islamic bomb.
At the briefing on Sunday night, the Pakistani
official insisted that the country's military and
intelligence officials had been unaware of Dr. Khan's
activities during the past decade, despite the huge
houses and lavish life he maintained on a relatively
modest government stipend.
"There were intelligence lapses on our part, and we
admit to them," the official said, according to the
journalists who attended the meeting. "We should not
have allowed this loose administrative and security
system to have prevailed."
There was no way to independently verify the senior
official's account, though senior American officials
said parts of it seemed in accord with intelligence
they had gathered and provided to Pakistan.
The news of the confession came a day after Pakistan's
government removed Dr. Khan from a senior government
post. The government has been gradually paving the way
for the announcement since December, when it first
admitted that its scientists might have operated "for
Until that time, accounts of secrets given up by the
Khan laboratory were met by a string of denials. But
after receiving detailed evidence last year from the
International Atomic Energy Agency and the United
States, Pakistan began an investigation into possible
nuclear transfers to Iran and Libya in November.
The investigation has gained speed ever since, and
General Musharraf personally questioned Dr. Khan,
American officials say.
The senior Pakistani official said Dr. Khan
transferred nuclear weapons-related designs, drawings
and components to Iran between 1989 and 1991,
according to the three journalists. He transferred
nuclear technology to North Korea and Libya between
1991 and 1997, they said, though American officials
believe that the transfers to Libya continued until
just four months ago.
Dr. Khan also transferred additional technology to
North Korea until 2000, the Pakistanis said. That is
particularly significant because North Korea has
denied, as recently as last month, that it has a
secret uranium enrichment project under way, in
addition to the plutonium project at Yongbyon that the
C.I.A. believes has already produced several weapons.
Details from Dr. Khan's confession, if made available
from the United States, could have a major effect on
the negotiations to disarm North Korea, American
The Pakistani official who briefed reporters said Dr.
Khan had met with Libyan nuclear scientists in
Casablanca, Morocco, and in Istanbul; American
officials were apparently unaware of the Istanbul
meeting. He also met Iranian scientists in Karachi,
Pakistan, and scientists in Malaysia, the journalists
Dr. Khan made direct shipments of nuclear hardware
through Dubai, in the Persian Gulf, and chartered
flights to North Korea that may have included the
shipments on government planes. American intelligence
officials believe that he visited North Korea more
than a dozen times.
He also tried to ship nuclear hardware by land from
Pakistan to Iran with the aid of a Karachi
businessman, the officials said.
According to the Pakistani account, centrifuges came
from a factory in Malaysia that had been built by a
Sri Lankan identified as "Tahir," who was one of
several middlemen Dr. Khan used to spread the
The Pakistani official said, and American officials
confirmed, that Tahir was in government custody in
Malaysia. Centrifuge components made in Malaysia were
intercepted en route to Libya in October, American
The other middlemen were three Germans identified by
the senior official only by their last names -
"Brummer," "Heinz," and "Liech" - the journalists
said. A Dutch citizen identified by Pakistani
officials as "Hanks" was also described as a
middleman, though American intelligence officials
believe that Hank is his first name. The man is
believed to have some connection to Urenco, the
European conglomerate where Dr. Khan once worked. Dr.
Khan was convicted in absentia for stealing technology
there, though the conviction was overturned on a
Dr. Khan smuggled out of Pakistan a mix of new and
untested centrifuges and centrifuge parts, the senior
official said. Some of the machines and components
were defective, by his account.
The Pakistani officials charged Sunday night that
after their government opened an inquiry into possible
nuclear transfers in November, Dr. Khan wrote to
Iranian officials and urged them to destroy some of
their facilities and to tell officials that the
Pakistanis who aided them had died. He also threatened
to kill one of his subordinates in 2001 if he told
anyone of the transfer, they said.
The senior government official told journalists that
the Pakistani government first heard rumors that
nuclear technology was leaving the country for North
Korea in 2000. The Pakistani Inter-Services
Intelligence agency conducted a raid on a plane
chartered by Dr. Khan that was bound for North Korea,
but found nothing on board.
Two years later, in the fall of 2002, an American
delegation to North Korea led by James A. Kelly, the
assistant secretary of state for East Asian and
Pacific affairs, confronted the North with
intelligence that the country had a secret uranium
enrichment facility. He based his charges on evidence
first collected by South Korean intelligence agencies.
According to the American account, North Korea
admitted to having such a project, though it later
insisted that it had been misunderstood, and had no
American officials relayed the information to
Pakistan, urging action. But when the news became
public, Pakistan denied that its scientists had any
role. On Sunday, however, the senior Pakistani
official acknowledged that the government had found
documents at the Khan Research Laboratories that
showed equipment had been shipped out of the facility.
In February 2003, American officials showed Pakistani
officials satellite images of Iran's large centrifuge
complex, whose existence was disclosed by Iranian
dissidents. American officials said the scale and
design of the project suggested that the Iranians were
getting aid from an advanced program like Pakistan's -
a charge that was confirmed when inspectors from the
International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations
nuclear regulatory body, toured the facilities.
The inspectors discovered that some equipment had been
contaminated with weapons-grade uranium, though it was
unclear whether Iran had produced that material, or
the equipment had been previously contaminated. The
senior official here told journalists that the high
enrichment level indicated that the equipment had come
from Pakistan, the journalists said.
Iranian officials also informed Atomic Energy Agency
officials that three Germans and two South Asians had
aided their program, prompting Pakistan to open its
inquiry in November. In mid-January, Libya informed
Pakistani officials that they too had received nuclear
aid from Pakistanis.
The senior official said Dr. Muhammad Farooq, the head
of overseas procurement, had played a critical role in
aiding Dr. Khan. He worked closely with the Sri Lankan
middleman, the official said. The Sri Lankan
established the factory in Malaysia that built
components based on Pakistani designs, the official
said. Dr. Farooq also traveled with Dr. Khan to the
meetings with Libyan officials in Istanbul and
Casablanca and recorded some of the conversations.
The senior official told journalists that General
Musharraf would address the nation about the results
of the inquiry, and any disciplinary action, shortly
after a series of national holidays, which end on
David Rohde reported from Islamabad for this article
and David E. Sanger from Washington.
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