This partial transcript from The Big Story With John Gibson, November 12, 2001. Click here to order the complete transcript.
JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Pakistan, a key ally in America's war on terror. For now, President Musharraf has been able to keep a tight lid on extremists there, but what if he were to lose control? Could Pakistan's nuclear weapons fall into the wrong hands, namely Usama bin Laden?
Joining us once again, nuclear scientist Mansoor Ijaz, who has met regularly with the leaders of Islamic nations on matters related to combating terrorism, which is a long way of saying he has met with President Musharraf.
About Pakistan's nukes, we now learn that shortly after September 11th, President Musharraf moved them. At that point, was he the only person in the world concerned about them or was the United States as well?
MANSOOR IJAZ, NUCLEAR PHYSICIST: Well, let's be clear about when he did that. He actually did not make those decisions to move them to the six new locations geographically around the country until October 7th when the bombing campaign started. And that decision was made because we did not know what the immediate reactions would be either inside Pakistan or from Afghanistan once that bombing campaign had started.
GIBSON: What is the more likely danger that someone like Usama bin Laden acquiring Pakistan's nuclear weapons? (A) someone betrays Pakistan, steals them and gives them to him; (b) bin Laden undermines Musharraf and essentially takes over the country with extremist elements?
IJAZ: Well, if you give me only those two options, it be more B. And I think there's no chance of A. But let me put that in context if I may. Pakistan's nuclear program has two inherent safeguards. The first one is about the nuclear weapons themselves. They are not kept in one place. They are kept in segments in assembelable parts. But they're all — the parts are kept in different places at different times.
The second inherent safeguard is the intellectual infrastructure is divided much like the CIA is on a need-to-know basis. So if you wanted to, for example, build a nuclear weapon, one that has the real boom type of capability, that can only be done if you have assembled a core of scientists, not just one or two or three, you have to have maybe a hundred different scientists that can actually help you to put the entire thing together, deliver the device and actually detonate it.
GIBSON: But Mr. Ijaz, that doesn't make any sense. You have — Pakistan has these weapons in order to defend itself if India were to launch.
GIBSON: You're not telling me they've got to drive around to six different locations, assemble the parts, get a hundred guys together, put the thing together, and somehow get it launched while India's are incoming?
IJAZ: I'm talking about someone trying to do this from scratch, which is what bin Laden would have to try and do. As far as Pakistan's deterrent to India is concerned, in all likelihood, one or two, certainly at least one or two weapons are in an assembled format so that they can easily be deployed in a missile. But only one or two people have control of that.
GIBSON: Let's talk about bin Laden. He has made the claim, kind of a vague claim but nonetheless a claim, that he has nuclear deterrent. If the United States were to use nuclear weapons in Afghanistan, he could respond. Does that make sense to you? Where would he have gotten these?
IJAZ: I think there is a zero percent probability that he has a nuclear weapon. If he is referring to anything, it has to be radiological materials which would be theoretically available from the former Soviet Union. As we all know, over the last 10 years, there have been 175 incidents of either theft or attempted theft of nuclear materials from the former Soviet republics. But when he refers, it's very important that in that interview that he did, he used the word "we" have the deterrent. In the concept of the Islamic omah, the community, bin Laden, when he says "we" is not referring to himself. He is referring to the fact that he knows where he can get his hands on it. And that would point to a state sponsor, and my guess is that that state sponsor is more likely Iraq than it is Pakistan.
GIBSON: Why would it be Iraq? Iraq is secularist. They lock people like bin Laden up. Bin Laden wants to kill people like Iraq. Why would they get together?
IJAZ: I think that overestimates his real belief in what Islam's values are all about. These are terrorists. And terrorists, no matter what they're ilk, could unite. For example, we don't know yet here in the United States whether anthrax was domestic or foreign. If it turned out to be domestic, you have people who took advantage of it, who wrote Allah in a letter, but used the — took advantage of the religious beliefs to be able to try and make something bigger out of it. So these are people who unite for a very different reason than we would ever believe.
GIBSON: There's 30 seconds so it's got to be a quick answer. Is Musharraf stable? Is his position in Pakistan stable?
IJAZ: At this moment, I think he has no problem. I think if the bombing campaign turned into civilian casualties of an inordinate magnitude — 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 people — that would cause a big problem. And I don't see our bombing campaign going in that direction.
GIBSON: Mansoor Ijaz, who is familiar with the area, familiar with the people, speaks the language, American citizen advising us.
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