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Dr Salam Spied on Pakistan’s Nuclear Program – Z A Bhutto Banned him

By Dr Shahid Qureshi   : –

Dr Abdus Salam Nobel Prize winner is considered one of the intellectual giants of theoretical physics, not far behind Albert Einstein and Paul Dirac. His major scientific achievement was to take the first step towards an idea that his scientific peers still dream about: the unification of the four fundamental forces of nature. Scientists believe these forces to be: gravity; the `strong’ force between particles in an atom; the `weak’ force that causes radioactive decay; and electromagnetism.

Salam shared the 1979 Nobel Prize with Steven Weinberg and Sheldon Glashow for showing that the weak force and electromagnetism are one and the same. Salam’s theoretical work was successfully demonstrated at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN) in 1983.

Professor Abdus Salam was a Pakistani. However, as Anthony Tucker’s obituary in The Guardian (22 November 1996) noted that `in spite of his powerful influence in world physics, his eminence in the West and lifelong commitment to science in developing countries, in his own country Abdus Salam is blamed for the starvation of important areas of science through encouraging theoretical and nuclear physics and by inference, weapons research’. In 1961, President Ayub Khan appointed Abdus Salam his scientific adviser and a member of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC). He would accordingly visit Pakistan, once or twice in a year, be received as a celebrity and gave his advice directly to the president.

The former PAEC (Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission) chairman, Munir Ahmad Khan (also Qadiyani – Lahori Group) , said after Abdus Salam’s death that in the early 1960s he had proposed to Ayub Khan the setting up of a nuclear reprocessing plant but the idea was shot down by the country’s finance officials. However, this was not the impression of other leading scientists in Pakistan nor of Munir Ahmad Khan’s own predecessor at the PAEC.

Abdus Salams’s position as scientific adviser, however, came to an abrupt end in 1974 when the ministry of interior told the PAEC not to allow him anymore into its laboratories. Abdus Salam had just arrived in Islamabad and was staying as the commission’s guest. Abdus Salam visited the commission and was given the usual VIP reception, but. He was not taken on the usual tour of its laboratories. One scientist who was present on the occasion found Abdus Salam to be quite observant.. He remembered all the old faces, noted the new ones and went to them and asked them about their work.

They all felt so honored being greeted by a Nobel laureate. Abdus Salam later visited China where. He was received as an eminent Pakistani scientist’ and, it is probable, the Chinese ‘, spoke to him freely about their cooperation with Pakistan’s nuclear program. It may have been just a coincidence but the Pakistan `Islamic bomb’ became news soon after.

The BBC -1 TV current affairs program, Panorama, aired in June 1980, mentioned Abdus Salam as one of those who were present at a 1972 ‘ meeting where Zulfikar AIi Bhutto had ‘ allegedly taken a decision to make a nuclear bomb.

A London based journalist rang Abdus Salam at the ICTP (International Centre for Theoretical Physics) in Trieste and asked was he present at any such meeting held by Bhutto? Is it true that Bhutto had asked him to help Pakistan acquire a nuclear capability; and, if so, what was his response?

Dr Salam listened calmly and said (words to that effect): Was there such a TV program? Yes. It is something serious. I am going to he in London after two days and I will tell you when I am there. This is my telephone number in London. Subsequent calls to the telephone number given by him were never answered.

Anthony Tucker also said that Abdus Salam `was a vigorous supporter of Pugwash’ and he `sought nuclear disarmament’. His unwillingness to contribute to the development science in Pakistan can also be attributed to his being a committed and proselytising member of the heretic Qadiyani community (founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiyani who claimed to be a prophet). At Trieste Dr Salam would lead, as imam, unknowing Muslim students from across the world in Friday prayers, and distributed Qadiyani tracts about the `persecution of Ahmadiya Muslims in Pakistan’.

Shakeel Ahmed, another prominent old Ravian, a scientist also Qadiyani based in London told me few years ago told that: “Dr Abdus Salam was drugged and kidnapped by the Israelis while he was visiting Malaysia. He was also my cousin”. I said to him that: “keeping in view your (Qadiyanis) relations with Israel, he could have walked in and there was no reason for Israelis to kidnap Dr Salam”.

In September 1995, The News reported that “during the Afghan war highly skilled Israelis provided guerrilla training to some Afghan groups and in the later stage of the Afghan war the chief of Pakistan’s most respected intelligence service [ISI] had held a top secret meeting with a senior Mossad official in Vienna.”

In May 1996, another report suggested that Pakistani law enforcement officials met with the top brass of Israeli intelligence during a conference on counter-terrorism in the Philippines. In several one-on-one sessions during the conference, two senior major generals and three brigadiers from Israeli intelligence met the senior Pakistani officials to listen and explain their methods and strategies to deal with the worse wave of terrorism facing the two nations.

The Tel Aviv-based Jafee Center for Strategic Studies has recommended four models for Pakistan to recognize Israel:

1.    The Turkish Model: Pakistan can recognize Israel without establishing diplomatic relations immediately.
2.    The Iranian Model: Pakistan can follow the precedent set by the Shah of Iran and recognize the Jewish State, but maintain its relationship under wraps.
3.    The Jordanian Model: It can imitate the Jordanians prior to full recognition and maintain close political as well as military relations with the Jewish State without granting any official recognition.
4.    The Chinese Model: It can adopt the Chinese example and view military contacts as a means of promoting political relations.

Dr A Salam with late Qadiyani leader Mirza Tahir
Qadiyani Khalifa Late Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih IV with Dr. Abdus Salam


For all his generally assumed culpability in the break up of the country, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who succeeded Yahya Khan was the first world class statesman that Pakistan had got after Qxaid-e-Azam Jinnah (d.1948) and Liaquat Ali Khan (d.1951). He had not been so at the outset; from being a bridge and boon companion to Iskandar Mirza in his young and playful days, Bhutto learnt realpolitik the hard way and had come know the world, as it happened to be.

Beyond the Veil only shows how Bhutto’s views had evolved over time. In September 1957 when Feroz Khan Noon was still foreign minister, he was representing Pakistan at the UN Conference of the Law of Sea in Geneva. Israeli archival material shows `a different picture of Bhutto’ in those early days.

Then he met and dined with his Israeli counterpart Shabbatai Roseanne’ whose mother had been a cousin of Sir. Godfrey, Davis who had been the chief justice of Sindh, the province from where Bhutto’s family came. According to her, Bhutto disliked Arabs and the way they conducted their politics, but he believed the 1947 decision of the General Assembly [to partition into Arab and Jewish states] was bad, and was correctly opposed by Pakistan then’. However, he now thought that `it would be in Pakistan’s interest to recognize this fact’ [Israel].

It was different in 1973, when Prime Minister Bhutto `could hardly contain his delight’ as Egyptian forces crossed the Suez Canal. He told his service chief on 11 October that a `ceasefire will not do’ and `it is essential that Arab territories held by Israel – illegally by Israel – should be vacated. Pakistan air force pilots are also believed to have taken part in the October War on the Syrian front.

Bhutto now also showed a vision, again, a long time after Liaquat Ali Khan. In the words of his daughter, Benazir Bhutto, who herself became prime minister (12 December 1988-6 August 1990 and 19 October 1993-5 November 1996): `He carved out this bloc of Islamic countries … uniting the countries of the Muslim world, which gave birth not only to [the Organization of] the Islamic Conference … but also to a new found assertiveness.” After the East Pakistan debacle, he probably also wanted to redeem himself.

He packed off M M Ahmad, purged almost all the known Qadiyani generals from the army and did what no one had dared to do before him: he amended the constitution to define the legal status of the Qadiyanis, a non-Muslim minority, and set Pakistan on course to building its own nuclear deterrent.

Later Bhutto ordered the chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission not to take the Qadiyani Nobel laureate Professor Abdus Salam round the Pinstech (Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology) labs, anymore, when he visited them the `following day’. Abdus Salam had been a celebrity scientific adviser to all heads of the government since Ayub Khan and perhaps few knew that he was opposed to any third world country acquiring nuclear defence capability.

Z A Bhutto’s approach to the Qadiyani problem had probably little to do with theology. He had come to see the Qadiyanis purely as a political and security problem, which explains the sequence of policy decisions along side the strategic decision about acquiring nuclear deterrence.

Not only did Z A Bhutto lose power but also ultimately his life because, for all his sharp intellect, he had made the mistake of fighting on two fronts. The feudal within him did not allow him to conciliate enough with his own people and build a strong internal front and the international visionary in him could not but scare all those who would not think of Muslim and third world countries coming into their own.

Paradoxically for those who had, in the words of Henry Kissinger, `wanted to make an example’ of Bhutto, his successor, an unimpressive looking chief of army staff, General Ziaul Haq (chief martial law administrator and president 5 July 1977-17 August 1988, d.1988), too was to prove no less difficult than the prime minister he had deposed.

Like Bhutto’s wining and dining with Shabbatai Roseanne, Ziaul Haq had his past as well. As military adviser to the Jordanian army, he had been closely involved in the suppression of the PLO uprising in September 1970. Not as well profound or experienced in international affairs as Bhutto, Ziaul Haq was showing national and international ambitions similar to Bhutto.

The Americans were constantly telling him to desist and forget the idea of making an `Islamic bomb’, but he behaved as if he was not hearing those words. He ignored all pressures and pressed ahead with the country’s nuclear program. He also decided, on his own, to go forward and support the Afghan mujahideen even if President Carter was prepared to acquiesce and let the historically neutral Afghanistan go under the Soviet sphere of influence. However, as the US realized that the Afghans were, nevertheless, going ahead in their jihad against the other superpower, it jumped on the jihad bandwagon. And gradually the Americans occupied the `jihad’ itself.

Supping with the devil had due consequences for both Ziaul Haq and Pakistan. Perhaps for the first time, the US deliberately introduced Israeli `experts’ ostensibly to give some specialized training to the mujahideen, and Pakistan had knowingly admitted them. The Americans were also pimping for Israel and promoting discreet liaisons between Pakistan and Israel. At the same time, they were telling Ziaul Haq that if Pakistan recognized the Zionist entity, it would help the administration at the Capitol Hill where pro-Israeli legislators tried generally to obstruct most aid proposals for Pakistan.

`Will do,’ one can imagine Ziaul Haq or one of his highly placed aides saying to the Americans, `but let us first prepare our national public opinion.’ And so for the first time the Pakistanis read a press statement issued in the name of Pir Muhammad Ashraf, saying it was time Pakistan recognized the Zionist entity. The Pir was a nominated member of Ziaul Haq’s majlis-e-shoora (consultative assembly) and generally taken as an `honorable member from the intelligence party’.

In the end, the liaison was to cost dearly to Ziaul Haq and to Pakistan, but there is no evidence that Pakistan had been on the way to recognizing Israel. The continuing moral of Ziaul Haq’s story is that supping with the devil can never pay.

(Dr Shahid Qureshi is senior analyst with BBC and editor of The London Post. He writes on security, terrorism and foreign policy. He also appears as analyst on Al-Jazeera, Press TV, MBC, Kazak TV (Kazakhstan), LBC Radio London. He was also international election observer for Kazakhstan 2015 and Pakistan 2002. He has written a famous book “War on Terror and Siege of Pakistan” published in 2009. He is a PhD in political psychology and also studied Law at a British University)

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