The Centrifugist – unwrapped for the masses

About Time, but its coverage reinforces two myths

From the Time magazine issue on A Q Khan.

And yet one year after Khan appeared on Pakistani television and confessed to selling some of that country’s most prized secrets, the world is only beginning to uncover the extent of his treachery—and comprehend how one man did more to destabilize the planet than did many of the world’s worst regimes.[Time]

Unfortunately, Time magazine’s popular account of the Khan story, written by Bill Powell and Tim McGirk, does not sufficiently examine the official complicity of the Pakistani military establishment in Khan’s activities. According to the article Gen Musharraf did an excellent job of feigning surprise, but the authors ignore the (US supplied) C-130 aircraft that he sent to North Korea after he signed up with the Americans. Again, while the article mentions that he pardoned Khan out of fear that the Centrifugist would name some important military figures, it does not stray beyond the Bush administration’s official formulation — that Khan acted alone. Not even a pair of single quotes, those famous marks of journalistic scepticism, find their way into the story.

Pakistan’s bomb program took years to mature, but in 1998, on the back of Khan’s labors, the country detonated five underground nuclear bombs. [Time]

While there are several critics of the popular account of the Pakistani military establishment’s relationship with Khan, a more successfully propagated myth is his involvement in Pakistan’s nuclear tests. Contrary to popular belief, it was another team of scientists from the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, led by Dr Samar Mubarakmand, that not only delivered Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, but also its Shaheen missiles. While Khan got (and still gets) all the public attention, Pakistan’s real nuclear workhorses remain largely outside international public consciousness.

Tailpiece According to the authors, it was none other than BSA Tahir, Khan’s man friday, who the mole. That is perhaps why he needs to be kept in custody — a witness protection programme of sorts.

Update: The Pakistani government has dismissed some of the allegations in the report as, well, “baseless”. Don’t they love that word!

8 thoughts on “The Centrifugist – unwrapped for the masses”

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  2. Hi,
    The whole nuclear proliferation racket being created presently is a dog and pony show, and the story implying that AQ Khan is somehow primarily responsible is a creative interpretation of reality. The US knew as far back as the late 1980’s that the Pakistanis had a nuclear capability and were involved in their proliferation. I remember reading several articles about this in Indian newspapers, which also complained about the refusal on the part of US authorities to acknowledge the validity of the evidence presented to them by the Indian govt on this score. It is also a dirty little secret that the primary sponsor of the Pakistani program was Saudi Arabia which provided financial support to the tune of a few billions to the programme. This is why the present fuss about proliferation to Iran is so curious, given that the Saudis are just as likely to have access to nuclear weapons, and are also potentially a more serious threat to American national security.

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