Threat of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal falling into the hands of the army sponsored Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is a possibility that spurs fears of Islamic Nuclear Terror, says a new study.
It points out that the very fact that Pakistan army and not the civilian leadership has control over the nuclear infrastructure heightens the possibility of uranium and plutonium falling into the hands of LeT which has replaced al Qaeda as the Islamist terrorist No 1.
The Policy Research Group, (POREG), which conducted the study, has sounded the caution using three bench marks.
One level of radicalization of army.
Two level of interaction between groups like LeT and the army.
Third adherence to the Islamic features introduced by Gen Zia-ul-Haq even after the latest 18th amendment to the Constitution which has cut the powers of President Asif Ali Zardari.
“The nuclear infrastructure is firmly under the control of Pakistan Army. This could have been a reassuring fact but for the mounting evidence of radical men and officers within the forces. Even if the radicalized officers and men are fewer in number, the number of officers and men sympathetic to radical ideologies and terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is quite significant”, says Poreg report.
The country is dotted with Lal Masjids in close proximity to the army formations and it is there the army men come in daily contact with the radical Islamists, it opines.
“The religious leaders (Mullahs) too have become adept at using weapons and guerrilla strategies, acquired from their masters in uniform, to pursue their ideological battles beyond the walls of madrasas and the international borders”.
Pakistan is not a signatory to the International Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (ICPPNM). It is the first global instrument to deal with protection of uranium and plutonium when they are in transit, and when they are kept in storage.
Examining the danger of Pakistan based terrorists either acquiring or making a dirty bomb locally, Poreg authors are concerned that the stated objectives of the Lashkar-e-Taiba is acquisition of nuclear weapons.
“LeT’s supremo Hafiz Saeed often invokes religious principles and quotations to justify the use of weapons of mass destruction. Saeed also states that his group’s ultimate goal is to establish Caliphate, for which it will go to any length, including using nuclear weapons”.
The study brings out clearly the hobnobbing of rogue nuclear scientists A.Q. Khan and Sultan Bashiruddin with the LeT. “Khan was a regular visitor and speaker at the three-day annual congregations of the LeT in Lahore till he was placed under house arrest during the Musharraf regime. Several letters written by Bashiruddin to LeT leaders have been found in the al Qaeda hideouts in Afghanistan”.
Turning to Army and radical elements, the Poreg study gives several examples that show Army officers, serving and retired, are working shoulder-to-shoulder with the terrorists.
“A Major Abdul Rahman Hashim was the handler of LeT member David Headley presently facing trail in Chicago. Another Headley contact was Illyas Kashmiri, who was formerly with elite commando force, the Special Services Group. The master mind of Mumbai’s 26/11, Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi was working with ISI Brigadiers in planning and executing the attacks. The lone surviving attacker, Ajmal Amir Kasab, had confessed that a ‘General Sahab’ used to visit the training camp where he and others were trained by the army commandos, and tested them for accuracy in using weapons”.
“The Pakistan military”, says the report, “is more religiously radicalized than ever, growing exponentially as it did after General Zia ul-Haq had sowed the first seeds of radical Islam among the ranks and office corps of Pakistan Army”. Present Army chief Gen Kayani and the chief of Pakistan Intelligence Service, Lt Gen Pasha are known to be highly religious.
Other observations: “Pakistan has never faced such an acute political, social and economic crisis as it is going through today. This crisis is clearly visible in the continuous decline or absence of institutions of governance in a country which has to feed, educate, employ and protect a population of over 220 million in another decade.
“With the political process remaining a victim to corruption and apathy, Pakistan faces increasing social and economic disparities, widening the existing deep fault-lines within a society afflicted with a complex identity crisis.
“These multiple crises have strengthened the military and the mullah, the two sets of interests who have had an incestuous relationship in keeping Pakistan hostage to radical ideologies and extremist persuasions. In the past six decades Pakistan has witnessed the military using the mullah to further its domestic, national as well as strategic interests. The mullah, in turn, has benefited from this alliance in furthering its regional as well as global aspirations, although not with such visible success.
“Out of this unholy alliance, a Frankenstein of terror has emerged in Pakistan which today threatens to destabilize the world so that Islam could dominate. Against this background, the threat of nuclear holocaust emanating from Pakistan becomes a reality”.