A Bomb with many Fathers Is A.Q. Khan a 'Patriot' or the 'Godfather of Proliferation'?
Part 2: "The Greatest Threat to Mankind"
President Musharraf, who controlled everything and everyone (after coming to power in a military coup in October 1999, he became president and continues to hold this office today, only resigning from his post as commander-in-chief of the military in November 2007), is likely to have sanctioned, perhaps even ordered, deals with North Korea and Iran. He apparently deceived his Western allies. Even though Pakistan did not sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Musharraf once said that Pakistan had to "prove to the world that we are a responsible nation and do not permit the spreading of nuclear weapons." Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei and US President George W. Bush agree that proliferation is the "greatest threat to mankind."
The news could hardly come at a less favorable time for Pakistan ("The Land of the Pure"), a country of 152 million people. The Islamic Republic, flanked by crisis-torn Afghanistan and its eternal rival India, faces international criticism as a hotbed of Islamist violence. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier recently accused Pakistan of often being a "starting point for terrorism in Afghanistan." US presidential candidate Barack Obama has said that he would launch military strikes without consulting with the regime in Islamabad if he had precise information about the whereabouts of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil.
Even the Bush administration, long soft on Musharraf, is now taking a tougher approach. In early July, it sent CIA Deputy Director Stephen Kappes to Islamabad, where he presented the Pakistani government with evidence of cooperation between the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, and Islamists in Afghanistan. Both US experts and their Indian counterparts are convinced that ISI agents were involved in the attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul on July 7, in which 54 people died. Taped conversations even allegedly prove that they acted with the approval of their superiors. "Pakistan's Army leadership and the Pakistani establishment" organized the insurgency, Kabul's intelligence chief, Amrullah Saleh, told SPIEGEL last week.
Pakistan is on the edge of an abyss, as reports from the last 30 days indicate. In Swat, the former tourist paradise only 200 kilometers (124 miles) from the capital, fanatics burned down 21 girls' schools and the country's only ski resort. In Waziristan, the tribal area where the central government has almost no say anymore, terrorist leader Baitullah Mehsud had 22 envoys from the capital killed when they came to the region to negotiate a ceasefire on behalf of the government. Dozens of new al-Qaida training camps in the border region represent "a direct and serious threat to Afghanistan, as well as to the entire West," says CIA Director Michael Hayden.
The Pakistani economy is also in disarray. In Multan, as in other major cities, there have been spontaneous and bloody riots in response to hours-long power outages at temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), as well as to a roughly 20-percent rise in the price of gasoline and staple foods in only one month. Foreign investors are pulling out and the stock market is plummeting.
The hopes that had been pinned on Pakistan's new civilian government, which came to power less than half a year ago in relatively free and fair elections, have almost disappeared. The coalition between the Pakistani Peoples' Party and the Muslim League, bitter foes for years, seems paralyzed. The intelligence agency remains a state within a state, while the army is ultimately in control. When Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani proudly proclaimed, in late July, that he had placed the ISI under the supervision of the Interior Ministry, military leaders dismissed his statements within hours. Ashfaq Kayani, 56, the new army chief, whom Washington values greatly, is seen as Pakistan's new strong man.
The coalition parties agree on one thing: their aversion to the president. Musharraf can expect to face impeachment proceedings soon for abuse of power, after the governing parties agreed last Thursday to introduce them. Musharraf even had to cancel his trip to Beijing to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games there. The 60 insubordinate judges the president fired during the national state of emergency he imposed last November are to be reinstated soon -- a development that a large majority of Pakistanis will welcome. But whether the parties will manage to scrape together the two-thirds majority in both houses of parliament needed for an impeachment remains questionable.
The entire country is abuzz with rumors. Is Musharraf fighting back? Will he dissolve the parliament? Or will he even attempt another coup, even though, in recent opinion polls, 83 percent of Pakistanis want to see him retire and Musharraf himself said in a SPIEGEL interview in mid-January that he would resign "on the day I am convinced that the majority of the people no longer want me?" Or will he go in to exile in Turkey?
It cannot be ruled out that a dossier from Islamabad will be the political nail in his coffin, a document written by a woman who fears for the life of her husband, one of the fathers of the Pakistani bomb.
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan.
- Part 1: Is A.Q. Khan a 'Patriot' or the 'Godfather of Proliferation'?
- Part 2: "The Greatest Threat to Mankind"