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July 8, 2008

Mordechai Vanunu


July 8, 2008

In the 1970s, nuclear scientist, A Q Khan, mysteriously escaped from Europe and came to Pakistan. A decade later, Israel's Mossad kidnapped and smuggled a renegade Israeli scientist, Mordechai Vanunu, as he flew from London to Rome. Dr Khan is a fallen hero. Vanunu was a traitor who exposed his country's nuclear secrets. We in Pakistan are too soft. We should learn from a western democracy like Israel. Dr Khan almost begged the government for a pardon on his wrongdoings. Everyone who dealt with him, including those who interrogated him, called him 'sir'. And no one has censored his explosive telephone interviews.

Compare this with Vanunu, who spent 18 years in prison, 11 of them in solitary confinement. His speech and movement were restricted when he was released in 2004. He was re-arrested several times when he violated those restrictions, including giving various interviews to foreign journalists and attempting to leave Israel. Exactly one year ago, Vanunu was sentenced to a further six months in prison for speaking to foreigners.

This is not to suggest that Dr Khan should receive similar treatment. He is a hero who served his nation well. That's why he received a presidential pardon. But Pakistanis, and especially politicians, should be about politicizing his case. Would it be wise for Dr Khan to get what he wants, which is absolute freedom of movement without any security restrictions? He continues to be a targeted man. There are powerful and resourceful people in the world who would like to see him taken out of Pakistan and debriefed. If this happens, it will be the ultimate breach of our national security.

Ardeshir Hassanpour was Iran's prized nuclear expert. He died in Isfahan in January 2007. Stratfor, the US-based private intelligence company, alleged that Mossad had killed him. Tehran quietly announced his death and that was the end of it. If Mossad didn't do it, then he was possibly done in by his own people for being in contact

with outsiders.

Strong nations do no tolerate a breach of their national security. But in Pakistan, the state has become a punching bag. When Dr Khan almost created another crisis for the country last week, our nuclear and strategic establishment looked to the nation's leaders for someone to 'own' it and come to its defence. There was no one. You know we have hit rock bottom when this happens. Such is the magnitude of political failure in Pakistan today.

The past two years have seen a rapid collapse in the power of the state. Something is intrinsically wrong with our political system when an elected government releases terrorists and foreign-aided separatists in Balochistan without taking any guarantees that they won't resort to violence again. Even worse is the fact that our elected representatives are more prone to foreign pressure – and more willing to accept it – than any previous military rulers have. In today's Pakistan, we need a Putin and not a Gorbachev.

It's time for the Pakistani state to practice some 'strategic arrogance'. Turning around the image of Pakistan from a punching bag to a 'tough' state has become a priority. And this cannot happen without reorganizing the country's political system. This system breeds instability and weakness. No country can have stability with multiple and conflicting centers of power and decadent politics monopolized by a few. The solution might entail something bordering on dictatorship. But there should not be any apologies when survival is at stake.

Unless the Pakistani state is strengthened and the system is cleared of paralyzing power conflicts at the top, we will continue to see the likes of Jamshed Gulzar Kiyani coming out with state secrets and Dr. A Q Khan casually spilling juicy details of how we built our strategic assets. We can do without these dazzling displays of freedom. Others don't tolerate it. Why should we?

The writer works for Geo TV. Email: [email protected]

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