KHAN!!! A Tale of Pakistani Perfidy and Persecution

Politico’s Arena has just run short piece I wrote that builds on a friend’s article on the activities of the father of Pakistan’s A-bomb. The piece follows:

A fascinating recent article by ArmsControlWonk
(and, full disclosure, good friend) Joshua Pollack sheds a
disturbing light on the nuclear smuggling network of Pakistani atomic bomb
builder, A.Q. Khan and on the nation that allowed all of this to happen.
The article, The
Secret Treachery of A. Q. Khan
appears in the most recent issue of
Playboy (so maybe don’t read it at work – but definitely
read it!)
Khan often articulated high-minded goals for his work, such
as re-balancing power away from the dominant super-powers and restoring
strength to the Muslim world.  But, as
Pollack shows (I won’t spoil the ending to this thriller) Khan’s real reasons
were tawdry and sad.  Tawdry because,
based on his clients, Khan was really only in it for the money.  Sad, because a great part of Khan’s
quest for money was in order to buy respect. 
Born in pre-partition India, Khan had (like millions of others) a
harrowing journey from his birthplace to the new nation of Pakistan.  He encountered endless humiliations and then faced
further setbacks establishing himself in his new country.
It is an interesting portrait of an individual whose private
demons have terrorized the world.  But it
is also an allegory for the nation-state of Pakistan itself.
Pakistan’s leaders, often employ Islamist rhetoric, while
capriciously enriching themselves. 
Reading Ayesha Siddiqa’s Military Inc. paints a picture of an all-powerful security establishment
slowly devouring the nation’s economy. 
(In fairness, Pakistan’s civilian leaders have hardly been exemplars of
But, like Khan, part of Pakistan’s national ethos is a sense
of being slighted by the world – especially in comparison to its powerful
neighbor.  This damaged pride leads
Pakistan to pursue great power status on the world stage at the expense of development
at home.
This is perhaps the saddest part of all.  Khan is obviously an individual of great
industry and intelligence and could perhaps have been successful – if not rich
and famous – without resorting to a massive crime that may have
world-shattering effects.
Similarly, the nation of Pakistan could have focused its
energies on development and education instead of its military.  Then Pakistan might be the economic miracle
of south Asia.  Instead it is slipping
further and further into poverty and disorder.
On the international stage, the challenge of Pakistan will
not recede anytime soon.  As this is
being written Pakistan and the United States are involved in a difficult contratemps
over what looks like an unfortunate friendly fire accident.
This recent article shows how the story of Pakistan is the
story of A. Q. Khan writ large.  As
policy-makers wrestle with developing an effective Pakistan policy, Pakistan’s
own perceptions (even if they are wholly unjustified) of its place in the world
are worth considering.

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