Sunday, September 20, 2009



It was known in 2004 that A.Q.Khan, Pakistan's nuclear scientist, who is wanted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Vienna, for interrogation in connection with his nuclear proliferation to North Korea, Iran and Libya, had left a letter with his wife Henny of Dutch origin and their daughter giving some details of his proliferation activities with the knowledge, if not prior approval, of the political and military leadership. The reported purpose of the letter was to tell his people that whatever he did, he did at the instance of the political and
military leadership of the country and that he was not acting as a rogue proliferator as was sought to be made out by the leadership of the country.

2. He reportedly wanted his wife to release the letter to the public if any harm came to him. People close to him had also leaked to sections of the Pakistani media information about the letter written by him to his wife and daughter to be released if he was harmed. He feared that he might be prosecuted and jailed on the basis of confessions extracted under duress or handed over to the IAEA for interrogation and
prosecution under US pressure.

3. Neither of these contingencies happened. The Pervez Musharraf Government pressured him to admit those proliferation activities, which had already come to the notice of the US and the IAEA and project them as carried out by him on his own independent initiative without the knowledge of the political and military leadership. In return, he was promised that he would be merely kept under house arrest to satisfy the US and not prosecuted or handed over to the IAEA for interrogation. He agreed to this deal.

4. After the Pakistan People's Party (PPP)-led Govrernment headed by Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani came to power in March last year, it removed some of the restrictions on his meeting others in his house. He took advantage of this to tell some Japanese correspondents that his contacts with North Korea were within the knowledge of Musharraf. The Government of Gilani denied his allegations and reimposed the restrictions on his interactions with journalists and other members of the public. On an appeal filed on his behalf, he was released from house arrest by a court, but was told by the court that he could not travel inside the country without the prior permission of the Government. The restrictions on his meeting journalists remained.

5. He again took up the matter before the Lahore High Court, which ordered the removal of all restrictions on his movements inside the country. These restrictions have been re-imposed by the Government by a fresh order.

6. Apparently angered by the continuing restrictions on him, his wife or daughter seems to have released the letter written by him to them in December,2003, giving some details of his proliferation activities undertaken, according to him, at the instance of the Benazir Bhutto Government in the case of Iran and an unnamed Army General in the case of North Korea. It also gives details of the assistance received by Pakistan from China for the development of an atom bomb. The letter has reached the hands of a journalist by name Siman Henderson, who has published a story based on it in the "Sunday Times" of London of September 20,2009. The journalist, in his story, has sought to give the impression that he had got hold of the letter independently through his contacts unconnected to the Khan family and that it has been in his possession since 2007, though he decided to make it public only now. It has to be noted that even now he has not published the entire letter which, according to him, ran to two pages. He has published only three or four paras. He has given some details of what the letter contained about China, North Korea and Iran. He says that the letter also refers to Libya, without specifying what.Is there an attempt by him to potect Libya? If so, why?

7. The "Times" article gives only details of his proliferation activities undertaken with the knowledge, if not at the instance, of the political and/or military leadership of Pakistan. It is silent on the proliferation activities undertaken by him at his own instance such as the supply of nuclear equipment to Libya and the setting up of facilities in Malaysia with the help of a Muslim of Indian/Sri Lankan origin for the manufacture of enrichment centrifuges for supply to Iran and Libya. It is also silent on his missile proliferation activities. The details given by Khan are meant to implicate his political and military leadership without enabling the IAEA and the US to have a full idea of the nuclear capabilities of Iran and North Korea. Khan has taken care to see that scanty details given by him could not be used by the US and the IAEA against Iran and North Korea.

8. Puzzlingfly, the maximum details given by him in his letter are regarding the assistance received by Pakistan from China for the development of a military nuclear capability. According to his letter, "we put up a centrifuge plant at Hanzhong (250km southwest of Xian).The Chinese gave us drawings of the nuclear weapon, gave us 50kg of enriched uranium, gave us 10 tons of UF6 (natural) and 5 tons of UF6 (3%)." The role of China in helping Pakistan develop a military nuclear capability,including the supply of the drawings of the first Chinese
atomic bomb, were known earlier through human and technical intelligence reports, but this is the first time such authentic details have come from the scientist who developed Pakistan's military nuclear programme. The details from the letter as revealed in the "Times" article do greater damage to China than to Iran and North Korea.

9. While there has been considerable international focus on Pakistan's nuclear proliferation activities through AQ Khan, a similar focus on China's role in nuclear proliferation has not been there so far. There have been many congressional enquiries in the US on China's missile proliferation activities, but not on its nuclear proliferation activities. It is the copies of the A-bomb drawings passed on by China to Pakistan which were subsequently passed on by AQ Khan to Iran and Libya. India and Israel have been the worst sufferers of the Chinese nuclear
proliferation in favour of Pakistan----India directly and Israel indirectly.

10. Apart from reviving the demand for the interrogation of AQ Khan outside Pakistan by an independent IAEA team of experts, the IAEA should also ask for a full disclosure by China of its nuclear proliferation to Pakistan. An enquiry into this should also be taken up by the relevant US Congressional committees.

11. At a time when efforts are being made by the Government of India to discourage the anti-Chinese hysteria in our media over the reports of Chinese troop intrusions into Indian territory, the disclosures in AQ Khan's letter of details of the Chinese assistance in developing an atomic bomb for possible use against India would add to the suspicions and fears in the Indian civil society over what they see as China's
malevolent attitude towards India. If China really values improved relations with India, it should volunteer a full disclosure of its nuclear supply relationship with Pakistan and give credible assurances to the Indian people that such instances will not recur in future. Unless and until this is done the trust deficit between the two countries will continue to remain wide. (20-9-09)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )




Al Qaeda has reportedly warned of a terrorist strike in Germany, similar to the past strikes by pro-Al Qaeda elements in Madrid (March 2004),London (July 2005) and Mumbai, if the German voters do not vote against the present Government of Germany in the elections being held on September 27,2009.

2. The video message, the warning contained in it and the reference to Madrid are meant to influence the voting through intimidation and bring about a reversal of the German policy of participating in the NATO operations in Afghanistan. While the references to the Madrid and London attacks are clear, it is not clear from the message whether the reference to Mumbai seeks to recall the multiple explosions in
suburban trains in July,2006, or the commando-style attacks with hand-held weapons and explosives by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) on multiple-targets in November,2008, or both.The responsibility for the July-2006 attacks has not been conclusively established so far.

3. The message seeks to give the impression of Al Qaeda being confident of carrying out its threat in reality if its warning is not heeded. A detailed analysis of the message by Nick Grace, an American counter-terrorism analyst, is available at the web site of the "Long War Journal" of the US, which monitors systematically all developments bearing on international terrorism. It may be seen at . The "Long War Journal" and its analyses enjoy a very high level of credibility in international counter-terrorism circles.

4. According to the analysis by Nick Grace, the warning message has been issued by Bekkay Harrach, alias Al Hafidh Abu Talha al Almani, a person of Moroccan origin, who grew up in Germany and then gravitated to Al Qaeda. He is presently believed to be somewhere in the Af-Pak region. Nick Grace points out in his analysis that this is the third warning issued by Harrach this year. Nick Grace says: "His previous
warning to Germany, on Jan. 17, 2009, coincided with a massive car bomb attack on the heavily guarded German embassy in Kabul that was orchestrated by the notorious Haqqani Network. Four Afghan civilians and an American soldier died in the attack." His mention of the Haqqani network refers to Jalalludin Haqqani and his son Serajuddin Haqqani, who are reported to be operating from the North Waziristan area of Pakistan. While some sources attributed the huge explosion outside the Indian Embassy in Kabul in July last year to the LET, other sources suspected the Haqqani network to have been responsible. The Haqqani network is as close to Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence as the LET.

5. To quote again from Nick Grace's analysis:Harrach has "warned that if Chancellor Angela Merkel is reelected on Sept. 27, Germany will be directly attacked." Nick Grace adds: "The latest video by Harrach is most striking because its themes and packaging are targeted almost exclusively for a Western audience. Speaking softly in fluent German, without the usual militant or religious props featured in past al Qaeda messages, he stares directly into the camera and only occasionally looks down to turn over the pages of his speech. He never wags his finger or raises his voice. The video carries no subtitling in Arabic. "

6. The picture of Harrach as he appears in the video message has been reproduced by the "Long War Journal" along with the analysis. He is clad in typical Western attire with a suit and a tie. His attire reminds one of the attire worn by the volunteers of the Hizbut Tehrir, which advises its followers to avoid dressing themselves in a manner typical of Muslims. It is likely that if Al Qaeda already has its volunteers in Germany to carry out the threat they may not be attired like Muslims and they may avoid going to mosques and other places frequented by Muslims in order not to draw suspicion upon themselves.

7. If Al Qaeda carries out the threat, will it be an attack with timed explosives as in Madrid and Mumbai--July 2006 or a suicide attack as in London or a commando-style attack with hand-held weapons as in Mumbai--26/11? Will it be an attack confined to public transportation systems as in Madrid, London and Mumbai-July 2006 or will it be in public places as in Mumbai--26/11? These are important questions, which
would certainly be factored into by the German counter-terrorism authorities while planning their strategy to frustrate the plans of Al Qaeda.

8. The message, as analysed by Nick Grace, carries an implied assurance that the town of Kiel might not be attacked. This assurance is puzzling because on August 20,2006, the German police had arrested a Muslim from the Lebanon studying in the Kiel University on a charge of placing a timed explosive device (a suitcase bomb) on a commuter train in Dortmund on July 31,2006. It failed to explode. They managed
to identify him through a closed circuit TV footage, which showed him placing the suitcase in a train. Another suitcase bomb,timed to explode at the same time, had been placed in a train at Koblenz. That too failed to explode. It is not known whether the police were able to identify and arrest the person who placed the second suit case bomb. The German media had reported that the identification of the first
man was made possible by a tip-off from an unnamed foreign intelligence agency. These two incidents had indicated as early as 2006 that pro-Al Qaeda elements were wanting to target the public transportation system in Germany.

9. This is the second instance when there has been a reference to Mumbai in messages attributed to Al Qaeda.In a telephonic message to the British Broadcasting Corporation in the second week of February,2009,Mustafa Abu-al Yazid, who has been projected since 2007 as in charge of Al Qaeda operations in Afghanistan in liaison with the Neo Taliban of Mulla Mohammad Omar, warned India in the following words: “We send a short and succinct message to the Indian Government. The Mujahideen will never allow you to invade the Muslims and their lands in Pakistan. If you beguile yourselves into doing this, know well that you will pay a very heavy price, which you will regret much. We will call upon our whole Muslim nation, its Mujahideen and its martyrdom squads against you. We will strike your interests and your economic lifelines wherever they may be until you are demolished and bankrupt as America is being demolished and going bankrupt today. The Islamic nation which produced the audacious and heroic martyrs of Bombay, who struck you in the midst of your homes and humiliated you, is able to produce thousands more like them. You cannot be more powerful or have more ability than the Soviet Union which was
destroyed on the rocks of the Afghanistan mountains nor Americans whose nose we rubbed in the dirt of Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.” The authenticity of the message could not be established. ( 20-9-09)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )