Alpesh Patel’s Political Sketchbook: The Most Dangerous Man in the World and Me

Alpesh Patel Wednesday 13th October 2021 05:23 EDT

AQ Khan is dead. The former Head of the CIA called him one of the most dangerous men in the world. He was the ‘father’ of what the BBC called the ‘Islamic’ nuclear bomb – Pakistan’s nuclear bomb.

That he stole nuclear secrets from the Dutch is not why Western Spies called him dangerous. Nor that he was behind unstable Pakistan’s nuclear bomb – that would be dangerous enough given the cry each time their army fires mortars towards India – “Allah o Akbar” – that religious extremism is the force behind their nuclear bombs is bad enough.

No, the CIA and MI6 considered him dangerous because he gave nuclear secrets to North Korea and Iran.

If you think it’s fair the West has nuclear bombs, why should religious or mentally unstable fanatics have it too – take a look at your passport.

I first came across AQ Khan’s work in the mid-1990s when I worked in the US Congress for Congressman Eliot Engel. My Congressman was lobbying the US White House and State Department to have Pakistan declared a terrorist State.

My job working for Eliot was to collect signatures from other US Senators and members of Congress. I got to visit CIA too. It is like in the movies – the entrance does have the wall with the stars for lost agents in the field. I had access to laser disc libraries of articles and documents to do research, including the Journal of Atomic Physics. Without which I would not have found an article in which AQ Khan admitted to having built the bomb. This was 1994 remember.

I recall finding it. I couldn’t believe it. The fool, the arrogant fool – AQ Khan – his vanity, he admitted he’d done it. I was sitting in one of the Library rooms reserved for Congressional staff. My heart was pounding. It was late evening in around November time. I hit print. Three times. One copy for Eliot and another for my files (I still have it), and a third for another Government.

I didn’t think then and don’t today that the US Government did enough to protect its citizens. When Bin Laden was found in Pakistan – it was proof the US Government had not done enough to shut down the Pakistani terrorist network. Mix the nuclear weapons issues, and you saw why.

I shared what I found with relevant people of another Government. They were not, but if they were Israeli, I am pretty sure they would have done to AQ Khan what the Israelis did to Iranian nuclear scientists. Dead. Assassinated. Extra-judicial? Unlawful? Grow up!

In the end, no Government finished Khan – Covid did.

The CIA is correct; he was the world’s most dangerous man. And that is why Pakistanis love him. Understand this. Our values and the values of those who regard Khan as a hero are diametrically opposed.

My miniscule screams at two Governments to do more amounted to nothing. But I think it was the most important work of my life.

Let it be known – we are everywhere and we are legion in numbers today – those who believe in liberalism and democracy and human rights and equality between religions and gender. We are in your Governments – Korean, Pakistani, Iranian, Afghan, Syrian.

comments powered by Disqus

to the free, weekly Asian Voice email newsletter