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Pakistan spills its nuke beans

New Delhi, April 5: The father of Pakistan’s nuclear programme, A.Q. Khan, has finally yanked the veil off Islamabad’s nuclear capability.

At an anniversary function of the Defence Residents’ Society in Karachi last week, he said Pakistan’s atom bomb was ready way back in 1984. The nuclear tests Islamabad conducted in May 1998, in response to India’s Pokhran II, were only a formal announcement of its nuclear capability.

Khan, who was the Pakistani Prime Minister’s special adviser on strategic programmes, is credited with developing Islamabad’s nuclear arsenal. He claimed in Karachi that Pakistan had enough atomic bombs to destroy major Indian cities three times over. As the audience applauded, Khan said Islamabad could even nuke Delhi or Mumbai within five minutes.

“I have often been accused of making incendiary remarks regarding Pakistan’s nuclear capability. The fact of the matter is that I am requested to make such statements,” he was quoted as saying by the Nation, an English-language daily in Pakistan.

“The late General Zia or deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif could not say that Pakistan could target Indian cities. So they asked me to do that. I can say that Pakistan can destroy Delhi and Bombay in five minutes and get away with it,” Khan said.

According to Khan, he was a student in Germany when he wrote to then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, urging him to do something after Pakistan’s defeat at the hands of India in 1971.

“My wonderment knew no bounds when I actually received a reply from Mr Bhutto asking me to see him. In 1976, he and I agreed to initiate a programme aimed at making the atomic bomb. If then we had not started the programme, we would have been sitting in Bharat at the moment.”

In 1984, he told General Zia-ul-Haq, the Pakistani President then, that the nuclear device was ready to be detonated. “I even urged the General to make it public that Pakistan had made the atomic bomb.”

“But the foreign office dissuaded him on the plea that American aid to Pakistan would stop if the world learnt that the country had the atomic bomb in its nuclear arsenal,” Khan said.

In May 1998, he said he wrote to Nawaz Sharif, then Prime Minister, urging him to detonate the nuclear device if he did not want to go down in history as a cowardly leader.

It was revealed later that Bill Clinton, the US President then, had promised a $100-million deposit in the personal bank accounts of Sharif and his brother if Pakistan refrained from detonating the nuclear device, Khan said.

The Pakistani nuclear scientist’s remarks and admission prove what Delhi has been saying for long. A major reason for India’s May 1998 nuclear tests was to keep ahead of Islamabad’s secret nuclear programme. According to Delhi, much of Pakistan’s nuclear and missile technology was handed over by China and North Korea through secret deals.

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