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'Pakistan's nuclear reprocessing will disrupt ties with the US'

Updated Jan 26, 2017 10:06am

The following is an excerpt from a declassified document released online by America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as part of a searchable database on its website Reading Room. Declassified documents were previously only available to the public at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.

In a declassified document from the early 1980s, a top CIA official alerts the US government of Pakistan’s reprocessing plant for extracting plutonium.

The remarks were made by then Deputy Director of Central Intelligence to the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory, November 1982, in a document titled World Events Affecting the US.

Marked under the subheading "Pakistan's nuclear weapons development", the document contains a brief entry of US officials' knowledge of Pakistan's attempts at the time towards building a nuclear weapon.

"The Pakistanis continue to move toward the fabrication of a nuclear explosive device. They are buying components and equipment for building a nuclear implosion weapon and reportedly will start up the reprocessing plant for extracting plutonium within the next two months or so. President Zia knows that any reprocessing operations -- even those which the Pakistanis may consider "legal" -- could disrupt the US-Pakistani security relationship.

In the entry, the official also adds that no additional information has come to light in the interim bearing on Chinese involvement in Pakistan's nuclear activities or Indian reactions.

One declassified Worldwide Report on "Nuclear development and proliferation" features a July 1981 German newspaper report detailing how German scientists and then Libyan head of state Qadhdhafi 'secretly' helped Pakistan become an atomic power.

"Only a few days ago, Pakistani dictator General Zia-ul-Haq still claimed that his country had no intention of developing atomic weapons, but in secret high-pressure work is going on to make a bomb. Pakistan’s helpers: FRG [Federal Republic of Germany] scientists and Libyan head of state Qadhdhafi with his oil millions," the article starts.

It goes on to describe a meeting between three Germans and four Pakistanis, including "a high government official".

Screengrab from report.
Screengrab from report.

"Production has been going on since April 1980. By 1982 at the latest, Pakistan will have enough fissionable material to be able to build its first atom bomb, something the U.S., Soviet and Israeli intelligence services have been afraid would happen ever since the mid-seventies. Details are not known by them, however—particularly not the way Germans have seen to it that Pakistan is rising to the level of an atomic power."

The report further claims that "Qadhdhafi and Bhutto agreed in a secret accord that Islamabad would build the bomb, and that Tripoli would fund it, receiving finished nuclear weapons in return."

Screengrab from report.
Screengrab from report.

The article goes on to claim that Qadhdhafi transported 500 million dollars to Karachi on PIA planes.

"To prevent Qadhdhafi’s oil millions for building the “Islamic bomb” from going through state accounts checked by the IMF, the deal between the two states was executed like among smugglers. In regular planes of the state airline Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), Qadhdhafi’s couriers transported suitcases full of wads of dollars via Rome to Karachi."

Screengrab from report
Screengrab from report

The above-mentioned document is part of a database of 930,000 previously confidential files released by the CIA on January 17, 2017. The CIA had disseminated historical declassified documents to its CIA Records Search Tool (Crest) since 1999.

To view Dawn.com's compilation of extracts from the declassified CIA documents, click here.