Jan. 4 (PTI): At least nine Pakistani nuclear scientists have “secretly” left the country, fuelling fears about the possibility of Islamabad’s nuclear dossier falling into wrong hands.
The defection of nuclear scientists, including those trained in China, started in 1997 with the maximum number leaving the country between February and October 2000, barely months after Pervez Musharraf overthrew the government of Nawaz Sharif.
The details about these “defections” were revealed in a memo sent by engineers of the Chasnupp nuclear power plant, built with Chinese assistance in central Pakistan, to higher authorities.
The memo, published by US-based online weekly South Asia Tribune, warned the authorities that “many more” of its 250 nuclear scientists and engineers were “planning to run” from the country because they were not getting a fair deal.
The memo, which gave a list of nine absconders, speculated that these engineers could have gone to the US, Canada or Australia. But nuclear monitors pointed out that they could have gone to any country as they had left without permission or informing the authorities.
It said most of the nuclear engineers and scientists working at Chasnupp “are unhappy with their salaries and other benefits and are thus looking for openings to leave the country quietly”.
“The working conditions of these nuclear scientists should be a cause for grave concern to everyone as unhappy engineers at nuclear facilities could mean troubles of all kinds,” the weekly quoted a retired Pakistani nuclear scientist as saying.
The weekly said the situation was ripe for any country needing their services to offer them a reasonable package and most would quietly disappear, travelling on passports which would not reveal their qualifications or experience.
The memo presented by the engineers of the nuclear plant had complained that engineers are made to work for 90 hours a week, instead of the stipulated 40 hours.
“Due to these extra-abnormal working hours, the safety of the plant is in a dangerous position,” it warned.
Despite the memo by scientists which was indicative that that Pakistan’s nuclear manpower was not averse to work for a rogue nation, the weekly said there had been no immediate improvement in their working conditions.
President Pervez Musharraf has said that the media had misinterpreted his remarks on the threats of “unconventional” war with India, adds our special correspondent in Islamabad.
Referring to suggestions that he had talked of the possibility of nuclear conflict with India, Musharraf said: “This is a distortion and I have been misquoted. No one in his right state of mind can talk of a nuclear war.”
Musharraf said he was speaking in the context of Kashmir and had said that if anyone tried to cross the Line of Control, there would be guerrilla warfare.
He said there was a freedom struggle in Indian-held Kashmir and if “they (India) tried to cross the LoC, there were 1,50,000 retired military personnel in Azad Kashmir, who would have surrounded any invading enemy troops”.