When Pakistan’s nuclear program was facing formidable teething troubles a young patriotic man wrote to then democratically elected Prime Minister of Pakistan Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto that he could help his country in the development of a nuclear weapons program. The young man Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan came to Pakistan in 1976 and subsequently fulfilled his sacred promise to the country. Whatever his other subsequent failings Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan was incorruptible as far as delivering on his promise to Pakistan was concerned. He never became a vulnerable target of all those foreign powers and vested interests which since 1976 sought to sabotage or abort Pakistan’s nuclear program. Khan delivered to Pakistan what has become the back-bone of its defense.
Now as the proliferation crisis got complicated this national hero, who won the hearts and respect of millions inside Pakistan, appeared before the nation in a television address on February 4 to shoulder all responsibility for exporting nuclear technology, for whatever his subordinates did at KRL and has asked the nation and the President to forgive him for his mistakes. Dr, Khan said he did whatever he did “in good faith.” He also put in a mercy petition to the President.
Significantly following his February 4 meeting with Qadeer Khan the President of the ruling party PML (Q) Chaudary Shujaat said that Qadeer Khan has not been corrupt and he has indulged in no wrong doing. Instead he accepted all responsibility to uphold “broader national interest.”
Given this statement and the public’s faith in Dr. Qadeer Khan’s patriotism, it comes as no surprise that people are generally unwilling to accept the veracity of A Q Khan’s televised statement. They believe the statement does not reflect the truth. Khan’s monitors may have asked them to make it, many have said. His monitors have meanwhile maintained that they had been checking A Q Khans’ activities since mid 2000. KRL facilities were also ‘raided’ reportedly by a security agency. Yet because he was a national hero his ‘monitors’ say did not go public with their concerns.
Whatever the truth the fact is that heroes, icons, generals and other entities, if unaccountable will never serve the nation well. Such unaccountable entities, especially those wielding power and authority, will create incongruities that will always militate against a smoothly functioning system of rule. Similarly a nation that allows its heroes, its great men or powerful generals to function beyond the pale of law, it does not serve them well. Unaccountable great men cease to be great for too long. Like the disobeying angel they can always turn to satanic ways. There is no escaping this law of Nature. Blame the unaccountable set-ups and those whoa re responsible for setting them up; not only those who take advantage of them.
These are the issues linked to the ‘responsibility question’ related to the workings of KRL. The army had control of the facility and hence they are responsible for any security breach. Some heads must roll from there too. Others refuse to believe that Qadeer Khan could take export nuclear technology on his own. The cry of scape-goating may not go away for a long time. It accentuates the civil-military divide within the realm of state and political power.
The abiding civilian grouse is that civilians get hanged for no mistakes while blundering generals through out history have gone scot-free. Only two days ago while the national icon’s ‘confession-statement’ was being shared with the media the general who surrendered in Dhaka, who made fantastic plans for battle, died peacefully in his home-town. He escaped all accountability despite what was documented in the Hamood ur Rehman Commission Report. Such are the ironies, the absurdities of Pakistan’s power equation. Law here is not yet an equalizer. Power mainly remains the decider. Our destination has to be the rule of law; law has to be the ‘equalizer’ and the Constitution the giver of law.
These are the issues of power, politics and governance that the proliferation crisis once highlights. As for security matters , those had to be dealt with in a manner that would avert any major crisis. It took Dr. Qadeer Khan’s statement to defuse the situation on the security front.
Whatever his statement Pakistanis will forever remain grateful to this patriotic, even if subsequently misguided son of the soil, who helped the nation fulfill a dire security need.
Pakistan’s people and state will probably together acknowledge that Pakistan’s defense is formidable because of your great contribution Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan. Your mistakes must be forgiven and forgotten. We are still proud of what you did for Pakistan.