Washington: Pakistan has once again been caught in the act of nuclear smuggling and illicit acquisition of missile technology. This incident came to light following the indictment in United States of five Pakistanis associated with a Rawalpindi-based front company called “Business World” on charges of smuggling American technology for Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programme.
According to the US justice department, the five men, based in Canada, Hong Kong, and UK, “operated an international procurement network of front companies to acquire US-origin goods for the Advanced Engineering Research Organisation (AERO) and the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), and to cause those goods to be exported from US to entities without export licenses in violation of federals law.”
“The defendants smuggled US origin goods to entities that have been designated for years as threats to US national security for their ties to Pakistan’s weapons programmes,” US assistant attorney general for national security John C Demers, said in statement, adding, “This indictment … stands as an example of the kind of deceptive behaviour US businesses need to watch out for in designing appropriate export control and sanctions compliance programs.”
The five indicted men were named as Muhammad Kamran Wali (Kamran), 41, of Pakistan; Muhammad Ahsan Wali (Ahsan), 48, and Haji Wali Muhammad Sheikh (Haji), 82, both of Ontario, Canada; Ashraf Khan Muhammad (Khan) of Hong Kong; and Ahmed Waheed (Waheed), 52, of Ilford, Essex, UK They are charged with conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Export Control Reform Act.
Significantly, the US statement indicated that busting of the Pakistani smuggling ring also has a security bearing on India. “The alleged behaviour of these five individuals presented more than a violation of US export laws, it posed a potential threat to the national security interests of the US and to the delicate balance of power among nations within the region,” said Jason Molina, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
According to the justice department, both AERO and PAEC were on the commerce department’s entity list, which imposes export license requirements for organisations whose activities are found to be contrary to US national security or foreign policy interests. PAEC was added to the Entity List in 1998. AERO was added to the Entity List in 2014, after US government found that it had used intermediaries and front companies to procure items for use in Pakistan’s cruise missile and strategic UAV programmes.
It was exactly 16 years ago that Pakistan was caught in a nuclear smuggling and proliferation scandal involving AQ Khan, a metallurgist whose theft of centrifuge designs from a Dutch company largely enabled Pakistan to develop the atomic bomb in the 1980s. Pakistan subsequently sold and bartered the technology to North Korea with China’s help to develop ballistic missiles, even as Khan hawked nuclear wares to Libya and Iran.