Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40 - 59)



  Q40  Mr Olner: Given that this thing has surfaced and is now in the public domain, are you satisfied that Pakistan is now taking sufficient steps to stop anything like this occurring again?

  Dr Samore: I am not sure if I would go that far. I think that President Musharraf is serious about putting A Q Khan out of business and at least for now controlling any further occurrences, but I do not think we can necessarily be confident that in the future, perhaps under a different leadership, Pakistan might very well judge again that it is in its interests to share this technology. I think it is a matter that requires very close vigilance to try to continue maintaining a political relationship with Pakistan that puts us in a position to influence their decisions.

  Q41  Mr Illsley: My question follows straight on from that. Given that Pakistan is outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, given that a future government might have different views to Musharraf, given that perhaps Musharraf might be embarrassed by any further revelations about Pakistan's nuclear problem, what else can we, the Western governments, do to try and prevent and stop any further proliferation by Pakistan?

  Dr Cheema: I am very happy to answer that. One answer is that Pakistan needs to be brought into the international non-proliferation regime by specifically addressing two questions. One is that Pakistan is threatened by India, conventionally as well as from the nuclear point of view. In the past before this 9-11 alliance with the United States of America, Pakistan was acutely short of money itself and, secondly, it has been denied technology and weapons systems by the United States and other Western countries. These might be the reasons which compelled Pakistan to follow the kind of problem we are addressing today. If Pakistan is brought into that non-proliferation framework, if Pakistan's conventional military capability—and I am talking purely as a professional, not as someone who has specific sympathy for Pakistan—has some kind of an equilibrium with India, it will bring down its level of threat on the use of nuclear weapons. It immediately resorts to using nuclear weapons because it does not have sufficient conventional military capability to deal with India. That is one problem which needs to be addressed.

  Dr Samore: Could I add one point? I completely agree with Dr Cheema that the more Pakistan feels confident and secure and economically prosperous, the less likely it is that it will feel the need to resort to further transfers of nuclear technology. I completely agree with that. But it is worth remembering that the initial transfers to Iran took place in the late 1980s at a time when the US and Pakistan were extremely close, and the US was providing Pakistan with a tremendous amount of military and economic assistance. Although I think we do need to try to integrate Pakistan as much as possible, nonetheless we have to be worried about the possibility that in the future a Pakistani government or a different Pakistani government might decide to trade nuclear assets for other things they feel they need.

  Dr Cheema: My assessment is different to that. If you recall 1988, when General Moazzem Begg was Chief of Army Staff, in my opinion, it was not the establishment entirely; the Government of Pakistan was involved in the transfer of this technology to Iran. General Moazzem Begg happened to be a Shiite, and a known Shiite with an inclination towards Iran at that time, and he was openly speaking about the United States of America and the West. He opposed the first Gulf war and did not allow, despite permission from the Pakistani Prime Minster, troops to be sent along with the other allies in the first Gulf war. He did not permit the Pakistani troops to participate in combat. It is in that period perhaps that we are talking about the transfer of technology to Iran taking place. The individual motives of General Moazzem Begg play as great a role compared with those of the government or the establishment of Pakistan in that. By that time, the United States Special Amendment had come into effect because of the American President certifying that he cannot say Pakistan does not possess a nuclear weapons capability. In my view, there was a different environment at that time.

  Q42  Mr Illsley: I can understand the arguments about perhaps making Pakistan more secure in regard to its relations with India but again that is a difficult process, a historical process, with their not being able to get agreement over the last 50 years. I could see difficulties in the international community providing Pakistan with more conventional weaponry on the basis that it scales down its nuclear weaponry, but again the objection is that we are just proliferating weapons. Is that the way forward or do we in the international community need just simply to put pressure on Pakistan and say, "For God's sake, stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons"?

  Dr Samore: I have worked on Pakistan for 20 years and the problem about putting pressure on Pakistan is that it might break. It is a very fragile country. Now it is armed with nuclear weapons. I really think we have to tread very carefully. Obviously, Washington and London have decided to put their eggs in Musharraf's basket for the time being, both because I think they believe he is serious about ending the nuclear trafficking and also because he is co-operating against terrorism and with the peace process with India. I think for now probably our best bet is to try to support President Musharraf as much as we can. That is not a guaranteed strategy. We do not know whether President Musharraf will survive the next attempt on his life. We do not know what kind of government will emerge if he is gunned down.

  Andrew Mackinlay: I understand the last point you made, Dr Samore, about how fragile and sensitive Pakistan is. It struck me that when the President of Pakistan said—I am not sure if these are the correct words he used—"I have forgiven", from the absence of any sort of anger or indignation from the big players, from the United States, the United Kingdom and others, it seemed to me an extraordinary response, or lack of response. It begs the question of whether or not, and we have known about it for a long time, the regime change in Pakistan was because we knew about this. I certainly find the present President of Pakistan the most favourable one we have had. Nevertheless, it just seemed to me that this gentleman or others know where some bodies are buried, for the want of a better term. It is an extraordinary limp response from the West. I find it incredulous. Really, I suppose my question is: why did that happen? Is it simply because of what you said, it is so fragile, or is there something which we are going to read about 15 or 20 years down the road?

  Q43  Chairman: In short, what was the trade off?

  Dr Samore: I think the calculation in Washington and London was that the most important thing was to finally end the nuclear trafficking. Washington had been complaining to Pakistan for at least a few years about A Q Khan's activities. Finally, that evidence accumulated; Islamabad was so embarrassed that it finally had to take action. Then Washington decided that in exchange for a genuine effort on the part of President Musharraf, to end any further trafficking, Washington was prepared to suspend disbelief about the story that A Q Khan did this all on his own and not add to Musharraf's burdens by insisting that he investigate his predecessors, and perhaps even himself, in terms of who knew about A Q Khan's activities, particularly in light of the co-operation Pakistan was providing on counter-terrorism and on the peace process with India. I think it was a perfectly rational calculation made for supreme reasons of state. Yes, it would have been nice if A Q Khan had been punished but, understanding the bigger issues at stake, it was perfectly reasonable that Washington decided not to press for that.

  Dr Cheema: I think we have to take into account that Pakistan as a country is one of the most sanctioned, pro-Western and allied countries of the United States and the West. In terms of the proliferation versus non-proliferation debate, the entire pressures and sticks have proved counter-productive. Pakistan has never, under any regime, no matter what the name of the regime, whether democratic or military, given up its development of nuclear weapons capability because it has not found an alternative for its security. I am saying that if the Pakistani security question is addressed, in whatever alternative—and I am not suggesting one particular course—I think that might influence Pakistan to moderate the development of nuclear and missile capability, whether that involves finances, politics, economics or technological issues. That has to be the framework that is taken into account.

  Q44  Ms Stuart: Given what you have just said about Pakistan being one of the most sanctioned countries and given that somehow at an international level we need to come up with measures which deal with proliferation, and both the International and Atomic Energy Authority and President Bush have called for a tightening, what do you think we should do more at an international level, given that the kind of focus on individual countries does not seem to have worked?

  Dr Cheema: There are a few international issues that are much wider than the debate at the moment in which we are involved and they are pending resolution. For example, what is the status of India and Pakistan? They are de facto nuclear weapons states but they are not de jure nuclear weapons states. If they are incorporated within the NPT[2] framework, in my opinion they will be more co-operative with the international non-proliferation regime and will feel: all right, we have joined the club, we are being offered every kind of assistance and help, we are part of that now, so let us stop any further proliferation. That might happen. I am not saying that the proliferation should be legitimised. I am only saying that reality has taken place and I am asking how you deal with this reality. The other aspect is this. Can you force India and Pakistan to draw back and be non-proliferation countries which do not possess nuclear weapons? In my opinion, that would be a very difficult proposition. If India will not give them up, Pakistan will not give them up. One has to decide that question at the international level: what kind of involvement are you looking for? That is a very important question. Where do Pakistan and India each stand in terms of NPT and CTBT[3], in terms of the fissile material which might come off in the immediate future? That is a very important question one has to keep in mind. The second point of the question is: Pakistan has a significant militant Islamic element within Islam, within its body politic. Whenever regular, free and fair elections have taken place in Pakistan, they have been, except this one, tolerated. Until this election, they have never had more than 15 to 16 members in the Pakistan Parliament. This is the only election that has happened. For me, the impartiality and the entire neutrality of this election have been questioned by the European Union report, which you might have seen, and by many international analysts. Given the fact that the MMA[4] has now agreed with General Musharraf on the legal framework order, has allowed them to keep the uniform and has sanctioned the presidential powers, which tilt the balance of power from the Prime Minister to the President—I may be wrong—it makes me think that indicates the MMA is not really a force against Musharraf.

  Dr Samore: I think the A Q Khan network was absolutely unique. By putting it out of business and by uprooting all the individuals and companies that were involved, that by itself will contribute more to strengthening the global regime than any other step you could take.

  Q45  Ms Stuart: You seem to have pre-empted my next question, which is: do you expect we will find a similar network anywhere other than Pakistan?

  Dr Samore: No. I think this is unique. In my understanding, the Libyans have provided a tremendous amount of detail about the companies and individuals we are dealing with and my understanding is that there is a number of different investigations under way into various companies and citizens who were involved. I hope that the governments and jurisdictions over those companies are in a position to take strong legal action.

  Q46  Ms Stuart: Do you also subscribe to Dr Cheema's theory that there is a direct relationship between the desire to acquire nuclear weapons and what you call conventional military capacity?

  Dr Samore: I think Pakistan has both. I think Pakistan believes that it must have a nuclear deterrent to defend itself against a much larger enemy in every way. Even if you sold Pakistan every single conventional weapon on its wish list, I do not believe Pakistan would be willing to give up its nuclear deterrent.

  Dr Cheema: I need to clarify my position. I do not say that if Pakistan is helped to acquire conventional military capability, it would give up nuclear weapons. No, I am not saying that. I am only saying that it would moderate itself and would not so frequently threaten the use of nuclear weapons or invoke nuclear weapons in a crisis or conflict situation, as it is currently doing. I am saying that.

  Q47  Mr Chidgey: I would like to turn now to Pakistan and the Taliban. I think both of you are familiar with the comments of Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld and the Afghan President, Mr Hamid Karzai, in February when they said: "We strongly believe there is evidence that they are defeated. The Taliban movement does not exist any more." That was in the Herald Tribune, and yet, since August of last year, over 400 people have been killed, apparently by the Taliban, and certainly we get the impression it is not safe to travel beyond Kabul. My question really is: how serious a threat does the Taliban still pose?

  Dr Cheema: If you will kindly permit me, I would like to be more frank and honest and therefore I have to go back a little further than you are going.

  Q48  Mr Olner: You had better be if you giving evidence.

  Dr Cheema: You can reach a viable solution only if you are true and honest to yourself and to everybody. If you are trying to push things under the carpet, you will never find a solution. Osama bin Laden and the Taliban were a creation of the policy of the United States of America in 1994/95/96 when they were looking at an alternative to the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, which was being helped by Iran and the Central Asian states and perhaps to a limited extent by Russia at that time. Americans put up the money. I am a witness to that. I know the amount of money being provided but I am sorry I cannot say that. The Pakistanis provided the training. It was a coalition by both of them to create the Taliban in 1995/96. The United States of America had at its disposal a massive information network to say that Pakistan did this and they did not do that. In a pragmatic, short-term policy you generate forces which become monstrous later on and become a problem for you, and that is exactly what the United States and Pakistan both did in 1995 and 1996, like the United States again, including Mr Rumsfeld, created Mr Saddam Hussein when he was fighting a war against Iran at that time. He was being helped. I am sorry to include Britain in that.

  Q49  Mr Chidgey: Dr Cheema, that was then. What about now?

  Dr Cheema: That was then. Now we take into account that this was a problem not created by Pakistan alone; it was a product of the politics of Afghanistan. Let us cumulatively deal with that by a common framework and policies which can do that. I am sure that President Musharraf is doing his best to help the international community, Britain and the United States, to deal with the Taliban as it is, primarily because, first of all, the Taliban are a threat to his own life.

  Q50  Mr Chidgey: May I just summarise what you have said because I think it wraps up several of the other questions I was about to ask? Am I right to believe that you are telling us now that, yes, there were strong links between Pakistan and the Taliban throughout the Nineties with the support of whoever?

  Dr Cheema: Yes.

  Q51  Mr Chidgey: But those links have now been broken and Pakistan is now doing whatever it can to tackle the Taliban?

  Dr Cheema: It is doing that.

  Q52  Mr Chidgey: That leads me back to my first point. Can you gauge for us how serious the threat is that the Taliban still pose, given this change of direction, and do you believe that Pakistan would do any more than it is doing if there was additional and more international pressure on Pakistan? In a nutshell, are you telling us that Pakistan has virtually changed sides, so to speak, and really it is doing everything it can do to suppress and contain the Taliban, or it is perhaps just doing enough to convince us that it is doing it?

  Dr Cheema: I will be very brief and very clear. It is a significant threat. Pakistan is doing its best, but it needs help, international help, to complete the process it is doing.

  Dr Samore: May I make a few brief points? I think Pakistan believes that its ability to attack the Taliban will be assisted if the Pushtun community in Afghanistan believes that it has a legitimate representation in the new government in Kabul. I think, from Pakistan's standpoint, their ability to marshal forces against the Taliban depends directly on whether or not the new Afghan government has a role for the Pushtun community. Obviously that is a domestic issue for Pakistan as well since there is a large Pushtun majority group in the north-west. Second, I think that there is a concern in Pakistan that once the Taliban is completely defeated and once Osama bin Laden is killed or captured, the US will once again, in Pakistan's view, have no further need for Pakistan and will leave them adrift. I think there is a genuine concern in Islamabad that when the fight is over, the US will abandon them as, in Pakistan's view, the US has done in the past. I think part of the reason why Pakistan is stepping up its efforts right now is in part to try to improve its image in the wake of the nuclear scandal. I think that certainly to some extent Pakistan is compensating by trying to demonstrate to the US its greater co-operation in the war against terrorism.

  Q53  Mr Pope: I am getting a confusing image here about Pakistan and President Musharraf. On the one hand, it appears that action is being taken. I see in today's Times it says that thousands of Pakistani troops are prepared to launch a renewed offensive in the remote region of Waziristan against al-Qaeda forces, but Musharraf was in Peshawar yesterday making a speech, a very tough speech, which I am sure will go down very well with Prime Minister Blair and President Bush. At the same time, there seems to be a curious lack of action in other areas. One of the things we know is that the Taliban were able to flourish in the madrasas of Pakistan, in the religious schools. A few years ago this was recognised publicly by the Pakistan Government and yet it seems that absolutely nothing has been done. I wondered if you could give me a better steer on what appear to be competing images. One of the things we hear very often is about the gap between spin and reality. Is some of what President Musharraf has been involved in just spin to give the West hope that real action is being taken but actually on the ground not much is really happening?

  Dr Cheema: Let me say that the last statement of Dr Samore made I agree with 100 per cent. Pakistan has very genuine concerns vis-a"-vis what happens in Afghanistan and what kind of policy it has. That has domestic as well as regional and international implications for Pakistan. Therefore, Pakistan is very seriously concerned about that. The Taliban were a threat, a significant threat in my opinion, but their capability has been again significantly reduced. Pakistan has very effectively done that, in my opinion, as effectively as possible, but it depends on how much resources are available and at the disposal of Pakistan, resources not only in monetary terms but resources in technological terms, resources in terms of surveillance intelligence at the international level, and resources in terms of combating forces being deployed today for that kind of threat. That is one thing. One has to keep in mind that this is an issue which has domestic implications for Pakistan and therefore an element of backfiring might take place. Already the Musharraf Government is very genuinely sensitive that this issue might backfire and therefore this has to be done gradually, consistently and with patience, rather than in a rush to crush the Taliban. The policy would be slowly and effectively to eliminate their capability, or whatever, and individual elements which exist at that time, given the fact that they have connections within the body politic of Pakistan.

  Dr Samore: As far as I can tell, within the constraints that Dr Cheema has described, Islamabad is trying to step up its efforts, at least to capture Osama bin Laden. I think President Musharraf's speech that was reported in the paper today is an appeal to the tribal leaders of the north-west area to give him up or face the possibility that they will find more Pakistani troops in their midst.

  Q54  Mr Pope: That is helpful. Could I go back to the issue of the madrasas because I think this is a good example? I can understand that there is a problem in the remote areas where there is some tribal autonomy and it is difficult, but this is a problem that goes right to the heart of Islamabad and the major cities of Pakistan, that President Musharraf recognised that the madrasas were a breeding ground for religious extremism, jihadism, support for the Taliban. He said that there would be a crack down. To date, it would appear that absolutely nothing has been done. This is not really just about resources. It would not cost anything. He said he would: register the madrasas so they had a clear idea who was actually running them; regulate the curriculum so that the curriculum was not run by people who supported jihad; stop the use of madrasas as centres of political extremism; establish government-run schools which would become models of educational excellence. To date, I think, from the figures I have here, 300 students are in government-run centres of excellence and 1.5 million students attend unregulated ones. I just cannot really understand why President Musharraf will not get a grip on what seems to me a cancer within Pakistani culture.

  Dr Samore: President Musharraf has made a formidable accommodation with the MMA against the two larger civilian political parties, so I assume that limits his freedom of action in terms of taking measures against the madrasas.

  Q55  Mr Pope: We really are where we have been before with military rulers in Pakistan. All right, the rhetoric is "tough on the Taliban and tough on the causes of the Taliban" but the practicality of it is doing an accommodation with religious extremists because that is actually domestically useful in building up a coalition against a secular opposition to Musharraf.

  Dr Samore: President Musharraf cannot fight on all fronts at once. He has got to pick his battles. He is in great jeopardy, it seems to me, of antagonising his entire political base. If he makes a deal with India on Kashmir he angers the Punjabis, and if he makes a deal with the United States to crush the Taliban he angers the Pushtuns. Also, he does not want to take on the very small fraction of population that strongly supports the fundamentalists. He is a man in a very difficult position.

  Dr Cheema: I have spent 30 years in the field of education. My view is that Pakistan has to be convinced, influenced and helped in every way to give up this dichotomous system of education, that on the one had you have madrasas teaching people and, on the other hand, you have schools, colleges and universities teaching people. These are entirely different and at times there are opposing curricula for teachers. That has to be given up. There has to be one system of education, which should also provide religious education. I am not against religion. I am a Muslim. I am a born Muslim and I my entire being is Muslim. Therefore, that means that religious education should be taught in Pakistani institutions but it has to be taught within the colleges, universities and schools, which is the main educational system of the country, rather than having a separate system for teaching religious education. That would greatly help and moderate the Pakistani society.

  Q56  Mr Pope: What then is your judgment on President Musharraf and almost marks out of 10: is he a steadfast ally in the war on terrorism or could he do better?

  Dr Samore: I think he is doing about as good as a Pakistani leader can do.

  Mr Pope: That was my judgment, too.

The Committee suspended from 3.52 p.m. to 5 p.m. for a division in the House

  Q57  Sir John Stanley: I do not have any financial interest to declare, but I wish to put on record that I am a former research associate of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. I want to ask you, Dr Samore, some questions about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. I would like to begin by your own Institute's report of 9 September 2002, your report, which, I am sure entirely by coincidence, bore exactly the same title as the Government's as far as the main heading was concerned: Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction. It was, of course, published 15 days before the Government's own September dossier. First, were you requested at any point to submit any advance copies of the drafts of your own dossier to the Government before you published it?

  Dr Samore: In the course of editing this document I provided drafts to a number of experts inside and outside government in order to get their personal comments on the substance of the material, but I never shared drafts with governments per se.

  Q58  Sir John Stanley: Were you at any point asked by the British Government to provide any advance drafts?

  Dr Samore: No, not that I am aware of.

  Q59  Sir John Stanley: You did, of course, draw on the expertise of certainly two current civil servants. One of course was the late Dr Kelly, and it would not be proper to make any reference to his contribution, but I would like to refer to the contribution made by the other current civil servant, who was described as "Mr A" when he gave evidence to the Hutton Inquiry. Mr A, who gave evidence off the record, without being seen, described himself as a casually employed civil servant with the Counter-Proliferation Arms Control Department within the Ministry of Defence. The question I would like to ask you is: was Mr A's involvement in the drafting of the International Institute for Strategic Studies' report on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction with the Government's approval and consent or was this involvement one that he was doing in his own spare time?

  Dr Samore: I do not know who Mr A is, to tell you the truth, but all of the individuals I dealt with I dealt with as individuals, so I have no way of knowing whether any of them contacted their superiors and informed them of what they were doing. I sent drafts to officials in the American Government, the French Government, the British Government, as well as to people outside government, but I always dealt with people as individuals. I said, "This is an unclassified document that we are preparing and I would appreciate any comments you can provide." I do not have any way of knowing what they said to their superiors or colleagues in the Government about the draft that I had sent them for comment.

2   Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Back

3   Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Back

4   Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2004
Prepared 29 July 2004