Asia-Pacific - 10:24, 09 November 2013 Saturday
Pakistan refutes Saudi funding, weapons claims

The godfather of Pakistan's nuclear program has denied a recent BBC report that Saudi Arabia had helped fund the nuclear program

Pakistan refutes Saudi funding weapons claims

World Bulletin/News Desk

The godfather of Pakistan's nuclear program has denied a recent BBC report that Saudi Arabia had helped fund the nuclear program and that Pakistan had produced nuclear weapons – to be delivered on demand – for the oil-rich Gulf kingdom.

"This is a totally baseless and concocted report," Abdul Qadeer Khan said in an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency on Friday. "I can only laugh at these types of reports."

The BBC claimed that Saudi Arabia had struck a secret deal with Pakistan, where by the kingdom invested in Islamabad's nuclear program in return for access to nuclear weapons.

Pakistan's former top nuclear scientist, however, dismissed such claims.

"As pioneer of the nuclear program, I can tell you that we had never received even a single penny from any foreign country in this regard," he asserted.

"The total expenditure of Pakistan's nuclear program was around $300 million," said Khan, considered the architect of the program.

He insisted that, in his capacity as program head, he had been fully aware of the use and flow of program funds.

He said the country's nuclear program had been entirely funded by the Pakistani government.

Khan, 67, retired as head of Khan Research Laboratories, Pakistan's premier nuclear research site, in March 2001.

Since January 2006, Khan has been disassociated with nuclear and strategic issues due to nuclear proliferation allegations made against him.

Samar Mubarik Mund, another top Pakistani nuclear scientist, likewise dismissed the Saudi nuclear funding claim as "rubbish."

"This is completely unfounded," he told AA.

"I have been a witness to the entire nuclear program," noted Mund, who was involved in the program from 1977 to 2007.

Pakistan reportedly first launched its nuclear program in the early 1970s, but was only able to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon by 1986.

There are no official figures about Pakistan's nuclear warheads, but unconfirmed media reports put the figure at between 60 and 70 warheads.

Special conditions

Pakistani nuclear scientists insist that, even if Islamabad was willing to deliver nuclear weapons to Saudi Arabia, the latter lacked the human resources and infrastructure to handle them.

"Nuclear weapons need a very careful handling and permanent maintenance process, which is not an easy job," said Dr. Khan.

"Even if Pakistan provides fully prepared parts of nuclear warheads, Saudi Arabia will still need over a dozen well-trained nuclear scientists and engineers to assemble them," he explained.

"Let's suppose Saudi Arabia has well-trained and well-equipped nuclear scientists, engineers and sites to maintain and store nuclear warheads," Khan said. "Even then, the Saudis cannot dare to procure nuclear warheads while sitting in [the] US lap."

Mund, the founder of the National Engineering and Scientific Commission (NESCOM), responsible for the preparation of nuclear weapons and delivery systems, agrees.

He said that Saudi Arabia did not have the capability – especially the necessary storage sites, nuclear scientists and engineers – to handle nuclear warheads.

"It [a nuclear program] needs a lingering technical and scientific process. It also requires very special and sensitive sites to store and maintain them," he asserted.

Mund, who has been a member of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission since 2000, refuted the claim that Pakistani nuclear weapons were ready for delivery to Saudi Arabia at will.

"The weight of a launchable nuclear warhead is between 25 and 30 tons, which is assembled only at the eleventh hour if [it] needs to be launched," he explained.

"It is stored in three to four different parts at three to four different locations," added the nuclear scientist.

"If a nuclear weapon doesn't need to be launched, then it is never available in assembled form."

According to Dr. Khan, the BBC report wasn't the first time such allegations were made.

"These kinds of reports have always been there," he noted. "This is just a tactic to put pressure on the Pakistani government."

"The US and the West know very well that there is no such deal whatsoever," added the godfather of Pakistan's nuclear program.

"The fact is, the US and the West have never accepted our nuclear program," he asserted.

"Therefore, they keep on circulating such laughable stuff."