Documents obtained by Fox News suggest that for decades Pakistan spread nuclear weapon technology around the globe in exchange for cash, political influence and help with its own atomic bomb program. Among those on the other side of the deals: China, Iran, North Korea and Libya.
The charges are contained in two documents written by A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani nuclear arms trafficker long thought to be the mastermind behind an elaborate global supply and procurement network: a thirteen-page confession to government authorities and a dramatic letter hastily written to his wife as an international manhunt tightened around him.
In a Fox News exclusive, never-before-seen Khan photographs and documents will be featured in an upcoming special: "Fox News Reporting: Iran's Nuclear Secrets," airing Sunday at 9 p.m. ET. The documents include the thirteen-page confession, the letter to his wife, and a Pakistani intelligence service report on Khan. The exclusive photographs show the Khans in a variety of intimate settings, including under house arrest. Fox News is also releasing the documents and photographs over the Internet today.
The extent of official Pakistan government involvement with Khan is a matter of intense and at times acrimonious debate among counter-proliferation experts. Was Khan a master criminal operating outside the system—or was he part of the system?
The documents obtained by Fox News are A.Q. Khan’s version of events. They should be carefully weighed against other available evidence. But with U.S.-Pakistan relations severely strained by the killing of Usama bin Laden and the imminent draw-down of U.S. troops in neighboring Afghanistan, the question of nuclear-armed Islamabad spreading weapons of mass destruction takes on a new urgency.
At one time, Khan feared his own government might kill him.
“Darling,” he writes to his wife in December 2003, “if the government plays any mischief with me take a tough stand.” He warns her, “they might try to get rid of me to cover up all the things (dirty) they got done by me in connection with Iran, Libya & N. Korea.”
A scientist and strong-willed bureaucrat known as “the father of the Islamic bomb,” Khan was a popular figure in Pakistan.
But prodded by the United States over mounting evidence of smuggled nuclear shipments to Libya, Pakistan began tightening the noose around Khan in 2003.
In early 2004, the ISI, Pakistan’s Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, brought Khan in for questioning. Khan’s written confession is a result of those sessions.In February 2004, Khan appeared on Pakistan television and offered a brief confession. The next day, President Pervez Musharraf pardoned Khan and sentenced him to house arrest. In recent years, the terms of Khan’s house arrest have been modified, but he remains under tight government control.
In his televised confession, Khan put the blame on himself, saying that “proliferation activities…over the last two decades” were “inevitably initiated at my behest.”
The documents, revealed in full here for the first time, suggest a different story.
On China, Khan writes in the letter to his wife: “We had cooperation with China for 15 years. We put up a centrifuge plant at Hanzhong. We sent 135 C-130 plane loads of machines, inverters, valves, flow meters, pressure gauges.” From China, Pakistan received “drawings of nuclear weapons” and fifty kilos of “enriched uranium”—a key component for a nuclear bomb.
On North Korea: “Gen. Jehangir Karamat took $3 million through me from the N. Koreans and asked me to give them some drawing and machines” related to uranium enrichment. General Karamat was Pakistan’s Army Chief of Staff from 1996 to 1998 and ambassador to the United States from 2004 to 2006.
In an email to Fox News, General Karamat of Pakistan said “I categorically deny this baseless allegation.” The claim that he accepted money from Khan, he wrote, is “preposterous, false and a malicious fabrication.”
Fox News did not receive a response to emails to North Korean authorities requesting comment on Khan’s claims.
On supplying Iran with nuclear material, Khan writes that he gave “a set of drawings and some components to the Iranians,” as well as “the names and addresses of suppliers.” He writes that he was directed to do so by Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s defense adviser, General Imtiaz Ali, “probably with the blessing of BB.” General Imtiaz died in 2003.
In a note on the letter’s margin, Khan says the documents and parts were delivered to Iran by a Bhutto family confidant.
“Must have got money for it ($1 million).”
On Libya—the immediate source of his 2004 downfall—Khan is evasive. “If the Libyans have any papers/drawings bearing our name or signatures,” he writes in the confession, “they must have obtained them from Farooq [a Sri Lankan working with Khan], Tahir or our old suppliers.” But the game was up. Khan’s associate, Tahir, was in custody in Malaysia. The CIA had been closely tracking the Libyan supply operation.
Khan declined Fox News requests for an interview.
In the letter to his wife, Khan is desperate; in the confession, defiant. “Without my knowledge and experience, Pakistan could never—repeat never—have become a nuclear power. It was only because of my initiative, knowledge and achievements that our nation can walk straight and tall today!”
His dealings with other countries, he says, were largely a matter of Pakistani foreign policy. “I have done nothing against the interests of Pakistan and whatever I did could not have resulted in the proliferation of nuclear weapons. It was primarily meant to keep up our friendship with those countries that had been helping Pakistan from time to time.”
Pakistan officials did not respond to Fox News requests to discuss Khan’s claims.
Fox obtained the documents from Simon Henderson, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. While some of the contents of the Khan documents have been reported by other news organizations, they have never been released to the public. Until now.
Fox News also obtained from Henderson a Pakistan government report based on the questioning of Khan and others by the ISI. Sources tell Fox News that the ISI report was circulated to Western intelligence agencies after Pakistan refused to produce Khan for questioning
The report says nothing about China or North Korea.
“Fox News Reporting: Iran’s Nuclear Secrets” is the result of an 18-month international investigation into Iran’s nuclear program.
The special will offer new details on Saddam Hussein’s obsession with Iran, including an interview with his FBI interrogator; exclusive photos of A.Q. Khan; analysis of the Khan documents; new satellite photos; and details of China’s role in alleged proliferation activities.
Additional reporting by Pamela Browne, Cyd Upson & Gregory Johnson.