A little over four months have passed and still the silence is deafening. Many in the world community expressed significant concern upon the release on February 6, 2009 of the disgraced Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan. Dr. Khan is a Pakistani national superhero turned corrupt proliferator of nuclear technology. But has all been forgotten from one of the world's most dangerous men? Although time and our short attention spans divert attention from imminent dangers, our memories cannot be erased. Dr. Khan's words live on. This is augmented by the fact that the stability of Pakistan has become more and more precarious in the past few months with the increasing influence of the radical Taliban, making the release of Dr. Khan even more perplexing while revealing. We cannot allow the "worst case scenario" to leave the top of our concerns.
A. Q. Khan's mindset is painfully obvious. After five years of house arrest in his sprawling home, Khan didn't mince words. In his first interview, Khan wasted no time in lashing out to the international community:
"Let them talk. Are they happy with our God? Are they happy with our Prophet? Are they happy with our leaders? Never. So why should we bother what they say about us?" He added: "I would be more worried about what you (Pakistani journalists) say about me, not what Bush says or what Dick Cheney says. I don't damn care."
The similarities are obvious between what Khan says here, and has said frequently before, with what some of the most dangerous leading Islamists in the world have said. Consider and compare some of the following comments from the most obvious Islamist enemies of the United States:
"The UN structure is one-sided, stacked against the world of Islam ... The wave of the Islamic revolution will soon reach the entire world."
— Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – President of Iran
"Those killed fighting the American forces are martyrs given their good intentions since they consider these invading troops an enemy within their territories but without their will … although they are seen by some as being wrong, those defending against attempts to control Islamic countries have the intention of Jihad and bear a spirit of the defense of their homeland."
— Yusuf al-Qaradawi – Popular Arab cleric and spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood
"So why are the Muslims saying Osama bin Laden is right or wrong. I reject them. Bombing in Nigeria. Osama bin Laden. Headlines. We don't know. They don't know. And if you ask my view. If you know the truth. If he's fighting the enemies of Islam, I am for him. I am not in touch with him. I don't know him personally. I read the newspapers. If he is terrorizing the terrorists, if he is terrorizing America, the Terrorist, the biggest terrorist, I am with him. Every Muslim should be a terrorist. The thing is that if he is terrorizing a terrorist, he is following Islam. Whether he is or not, I don't know. But you as a Muslim without checking up laying allegation is also wrong. I am with those people who are hearing the Qur'an even if the full world is against them"
— Dr. Zakir Naik – Leading Indian Islamist scholar, physician and PeaceTV icon
At the end of the day, it is a simple fact: the Islamist mindset is one entrenched in victimization, apologetics, and most significantly a global Islamist hegemony (of political Islam) that transgresses national boundaries and sovereignty. The fervor of anti-American sentiment from Islamist enemies of America is no more obvious than in the comments of A. Q. Khan.
The words of Khan are very telling and so important from a man who is now released and public ready again to spread havoc. He not only entirely lacks any remorse – much less responsibility – for what he has done, but he promotes an ideology which can with frightening ease dismiss the spread of cataclysmic nuclear weapons from within the eschatological context of the one religion.
Ideological motivations of his nuclear proliferation are nothing new for Khan. To review, Khan co-authored a number of articles with his colleagues in Islamabad that were published as a series in the late 1980s. In those pieces, Khan openly expressed disdain for Western control of nuclear proliferation and even publicly presented information about centrifuge assembly and components – information considered classified by Western standards – was promoted in a type of advertising for potential customers. Khan would soon graduate to establish and profit from what Selig Harrison terms a nuclear Wal-Mart of sorts – a one-stop shop for nuclear technology and equipment. Khan met either directly or indirectly with Iranians, Iraqis, Libyans and the North Koreans and even made trips to Afghanistan between 1997 and 2003.
It is no wonder that the former director of the CIA, George Tenet, referred to A.Q. Khan as "at least as dangerous as Osama bin Laden." Yet today, Khan is a free man and given the breadth of his knowledge, perhaps an internationally popular one as well.
But that was George Tenet commenting in the past. What about now? In the U.S. House of Representatives in February 2009, the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Howard Berman, said that the promised aid to Pakistan could suffer since he was "deeply concerned" that Pakistan may be giving Khan "license to resume, perhaps directly, his past actions to aid, abet and profit from the spread of nuclear weapons." Also, Hillary Clinton exhibited a heightened concern when questioned about the disgraced nuclear scientist before the House Foreign Affairs Committee stating: "With respect to A.Q. Khan, there's no doubt he is probably the world's greatest proliferator. The damage that he's done around the world has been incalculable." However when asked about the conditions to be imposed on Pakistan in lieu of the billions of dollars of U.S. aid, Clinton gave a particularly weak response stating, "It's a little bit like the Goldilocks story. If they're too weak, we don't get changes. If they're too strong, we get a backlash. So we're trying to figure out sort of what is the area that will influence behavior and produce results." It hardly seems appropriate to be talking about "conditions" as opposed to "demands" when global nuclear non-proliferation is at stake and the words, ideology, behavior and results of Dr. Khan have already been ominously demonstrated to the entire world.
The one public figure who has not let the A.Q. Khan matter die is former Vice-President Cheney. In a recent national security speech which quite effectively outlined the gravity of the national security threat to America, Vice-President Cheney noted twice how dismantling A.Q. Khan's network was the highest of priorities for the Bush Administration.
Should we not be asking why Khan was released in the first place and why at this particular juncture in time when Pakistan is so concerned about its own stability against Taliban forces? One could postulate many theories. All are inexplicable. Basically, the Pakistani leadership may have wanted to placate public opinion or express disdain over the continuing American drone attacks in Pakistan. Regardless, the release of A.Q. Khan is an act of profound irresponsibility consistent with the decades old pathology of the Pakistani governments over facilitation of political and radical Islam in Pakistan. Sadly, hardly any attention is currently being drawn to what the release of A.Q. Khan meant for the future of nuclear non-proliferation. There have been unconfirmed reports that A.Q. Khan may have met with the Taliban, which Khan emphatically denies.
More troubling, however, are his alleged actions. In an almost surreal article in the Asia Times, it is noted that A.Q. Khan actually attended and was an "honored guest" at an openly held Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) event in April 2001. Accompanying Khan was Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, another Pakistani nuclear scientist and plutonium expert, who actually met Osama bin Laden. The U.S. declared LeT a terror organization in December 2001 and Pakistan banned LeT in January 2002 after a terror attack on India's parliament. LeT was recently connected to the Thanksgiving 2008 bombing of the synagogue in Mumbai.
Under the circumstances in today's terror-filled world, should we not demand an immediate and unconditional interrogation of Khan, perhaps a "pre-condition" of "conditions" and as part of an errant Pakistani government that does not walk the talk? What would Goldilocks do?
In all seriousness, with such sobering stakes, this may be the tip of the iceberg. The leadership of Pakistan must be put on notice to publicly come to its senses, think globally, and act rationally.