Pakistan’s government took steps to ease concerns about control of its nuclear weapons program by introducing legislation to tighten export control restrictions. The move comes several months after the February disclosure that Abdul Qadeer Khan, the former lead Pakistani nuclear scientist, had passed nuclear secrets to Iran and Libya, among others.
The “Export Control on Goods, Technologies, Material and Equipment Related to Nuclear and Biological Weapons and their Delivery Systems Bill” was introduced in June. The legislation allows the government to oversee export, re-export, transshipment, and transit of goods, technologies, and equipment as well as to maintain control lists of goods and technologies subject to licensing requirements under the bill. Exporters must also maintain records of all transactions and report these to designated authorities.
The bill carries a penalty of up to 14 years in prison, a fine of up to five million rupees—more than $85,000—and also authorizes the seizure of property and assets of those found guilty of conducting illegal exports covered by the bill. Once passed, the law will apply to all Pakistani citizens, people in the service of Pakistan visiting or working abroad, and anyone on Pakistani territory. All ships and aircraft registered in Pakistan also will be subject to the order.
At a nonproliferation conference sponsored by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace June 21, Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Ashraf Jehangir Qazi said that an oversight board will monitor the bill’s implementation.
The bill was put forth by Pakistan’s foreign ministry and approved by Pakistan’s cabinet May 5, several days after the UN Security Council unanimously approved Resolution 1540, which mandates that all states work to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to nonstate actors by implementing domestic legislation strengthening controls on sensitive materials and technologies. Pakistan notified the United States of the bill in mid-May.
The bill is expected to receive the required approval of both the National Assembly and Senate. Pakistani officials expressed hope that the bill will fulfill Pakistan’s UN obligations and quell criticism about its nuclear activities.
Pakistan has come under fire for insufficiently guarding nuclear secrets since Khan admitted in February that he had secretly provided nuclear technology and expertise to other countries (Iran and Libya were identified as two customers) in return for a presidential pardon from Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf. (See ACT, March 2004.) Pakistani officials claim, however, that Khan’s pardon is conditional and may be affected by the adoption of the bill.
In particular, Qazi said that Khan’s personal property is being confiscated but that property and assets in the name of other family members would likely not be seized. He emphasized that Pakistani officials were more interested in obtaining relevant information from Khan that will allow authorities to roll up the proliferation network, rather than imposing harsh penalties for his misbehavior. To date, Pakistan has not allowed U.S. or International Atomic Energy Agency officials to question Khan.
On July 24, Pakistani officials released three suspects who had remained detained by the Pakistani government, including a top nuclear scientist and two former army officers, all of whom were on Khan’s staff. None of the staff members suspected by Pakistani investigators and detained for long periods for questioning have been charged, and now only one of at least 26 Pakistanis detained remains in custody: Khan’s director-general of procurement, Mohammad Farooq.
Although the Bush administration has commended Islamabad for its efforts, rewarding Pakistan with major non-NATO ally status June 16, critics remain. The report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States informally known as the 9/11 Commission made special mention of Pakistan, criticizing the Bush administration for taking the Pakistani government at its word that it knew nothing of Khan’s activities, despite strong indications to the contrary. At the same time, the report called on the U.S. government to stop this period of ambivalence and mistrust and commit to sustained aid.
Some House members also doubt Islamabad’s claims, contending that Pakistan is not doing enough to stem the spread of nuclear materials. In late July, they introduced a bill to impose sanctions on “foreign entities that engage in certain nuclear proliferation activities.” The proposed Nuclear Black Market Elimination Act, introduced by Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), ranking member on the House International Relations Committee, specifically targets Pakistan, calling for sanctions unless the U.S. president certifies that Islamabad has fully disclosed relevant information regarding the international nuclear network and provided full access to those suspected of involvement, including Khan.
But across Capitol Hill, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) defended Pakistan from allegations that Islamabad is not sufficiently active or cooperative in investigating Khan’s network. During an Aug. 11 speech at the National Press Club, Lugar commended Pakistan’s efforts and noted the progress resulting from the information Pakistan has provided. Lugar asserted that the United States has been able to track suspicious activities in North Korea, Iran, and Libya, asserting that Pakistan’s contribution has “pinned down, intelligence-wise, a great deal we did not know before.”