ISLAMABAD, Jan. 17, Reuter: Doubts about Pakistan’s nuclear intentions just will not go away.
President Reagan signed a waiver on Saturday so that U.S. aid could keep flowing to Pakistan despite Congressional fears that Islamabad was preparing to build a nuclear bomb.
Scarcely was this hurdle passed when a fresh scandal erupted, this time in West Germany. Bonn announced it was investigating allegations by an informer that a West German firm, Nukem, had illegally sold materials for making nuclear bombs to Pakistan.
The charges, like so many before, were hotly denied in Islamabad.
An official source quoted by the government owned news agency APP on Sunday dismissed them as baseless and part of a calculated campaign to malign Pakistan.
Late last year a Foreign Ministry spokesman denied a report in London’s financial times that Pakistan was building a uranium enrichment plant at Golra, northwest of Islamabad.
Another embarrassment has been the case of a Pakistan born Canadian, Arshad Pervez, convicted by a U.S. court in December of trying to illegally export to Pakistan two metals used in nuclear weaponry.
Pakistan has still not resolved a 10yearold quarrel with France, which pulled out of a contract to build a nuclear power plant over fears it would be used to make bombs. Last week a Pakistani spokesman said no progress had been made in its claims for compensation.
Pakistan’s official position is simple; its modest nuclear program is entirely peaceful, aimed at medical, agricultural and scientific applications and at resolving the country’s serious energy problem.
Many Western officials and independent scientists think otherwise. They say Islamabad has been engaged in an all-out campaign to illegally acquire from several Western countries the technology to enrich uranium to levels where it could be used in bombs.
The result has been a steady of allegations from governments and private bodies, provoking an equally steady stream of denials from Islamabad.
At the heart of the matter lies Pakistan’s troubled relationship ~ with its giant neighbor India. Since the two countries were carved out of the old British Empire, in 1947, they have fought three wars.
Mutual hostility and suspicion still dominate their security concerns to an extent little understood in the West, according to many Western analyses in Islamabad.
India exploded a nuclear device in 1974, prompting the then Pakistani Prime Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, to declare that Pakistan would develop its own nuclear bomb even if its people had to “eat grass” to do so.
Though Western experts generally believe India has not so far used its nuclear potential to develop weapons ready for use, there is a lobby in Pakistan that argues openly that acquiring nuclear arms: is the best way to prevent another war in the region.
They argue that India’s armed forces would be inhibited from: using their superior weight by fear of a Pakistani nuclear response. Tensions between the two countries are never far from the surface and only last February the two armies were squaring up along the border.
Pakistani officials accuse India of conducting a propaganda campaign to persuade the United States to stop its multibillion dollar aid package over the nuclear issue.
Islamabad is also indignant about what it sees as U.S. double standards. Officials say while Congress is regularly exercised about unproven allegations concerning
Pakistan, it turns a blind eye to the activities of Israel, South Africa, and above all India in the same field.
An independent team of U.S. specialists said last Thursday India had far greater potential for making nuclear bombs than Pakistan.
A report sponsored by the ceasefire endowment for international peace said that by 1990 India could make more than 100 bombs similar in size to the one dropped ‘on the Japanese city of Hiroshima in 1945. Pakistan could make 15.
The government of President Mohammad ZiaulHaq has repeatedly offered to sign any of a host of pacts and treaties pledging to abstain from nuclear capability, if India does so too,
New Delhi has rejected all such proposals as propaganda.
Pakistan’s role as Washington’s closest ally in the region, in particular its support for anti-Soviet guerrillas in Afghanistan, has in the past protected it from U.S. sanctions,
In 1981 Congress exempted Pakistan from a law barring aid to countries developing nuclear bombs, that waiver expired at the end of September and a new six year package of economic aid and military loans was suspended while some Senators and representatives sought to make the suspicion permanent.
But in December the Senate voted to allow the 4.02 billion dollar package to go ahead if President Reagan would certify that it met U.S. National Security Interests. He did so on Saturday.
“This waiver action was based on the recognition that disrupting one of the pillars of the U.S. relationship would be counterproductive for the strategic interests of the United States”, the White House said in a statement.