By Srinivasan Laxman
Did the world's most dangerous man Osama bin Laden, who was killed by American forces on Sunday, seek nuclear weapon know how from Pakistan? His death has triggered a debate among a section of the Indian nuclear fraternity which includes two of its former chiefs, whether Pakistan backed al-Qaida's ambition to join the elite global nuclear club. … Some time back the CIA and the British intelligence released documents to prove that the al-Qaida had built a small dirty bomb at a laboratory in Herat in Afghanisthan.
It seems that in its desperation to create sensational news in the wake of OBL’s demise, the TOI is trying to pass off old and hackneyed ‘wine’ in a new bottles. What’s more, the premiss that the CIA and British Intelligence had released documents to prove that al-Qaida had built a small dirty bomb at a laboratory in Herat lacks veracity. These agencies collected the evidence that Journalists and academics had garnered from the alleged training areas of the al-Qaida and interviews with third parties. Their findings indicated that attempts at research being carried out were too amateurish to conclude that Al-Qaida had developed the expertise to put together any form of radiation weapons; and that they lacked the fissile material to make a ‘dirty bomb’. If the author had done his research properly he would have found that the CIA had named four other Pakistani nuclear scientists, other than Abdul Majeed and Bashiruddin Mahmood, that they suspected of complicity in the al-Qaida’s nuclear aspirations and wished to interrogate.
Under pressure from Washington, Islamabad made Majeed, Bashiruddin and two others available for interrogation by the CIA, none of whose area of expertise would have benefitted OBL’s nuclear plans. However, Musharraf is reported to have made Islamabad’s inability to produce the other two nuclear scientists named by the CIA on the grounds that they had gone to Myanmar, a surrogate of China, and one with whom Islamabad had no extradition Treaty! Convenient, but if the author had taken the pains to unearth the names of the two defaulting scientists, their area of expertise in matters nuclear, and how and when they departed for Myanmar, raking this issue up at this point of time would have given this wishy-washy news reporting some substance. Finally there is the issue of over half a dozen Pakistani nuclear scientists having gone ‘walk about’ without the knowledge of the PAEC; and two others allegedly kidnapped from nuclear facilities by the Taliban, and we have a case to put Pakistan on the rack.