Absurd UN gives Pakistani helm of IAEA watchdog
by Salim Mansur
How absurd are things inside the UN and its agencies in New York, Geneva or Vienna?
Consider, as an example, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency recently electing Pakistan's envoy, Ansar Parvez, to the chair of its governing body for the 2010-11 session.
Those uninformed about the IAEA's chief function and mystified why anyone should lose sleep over who is the chair of its governing body, might want to read up on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the agency's role in securing the safeguards against nuclear proliferation.
Now, one has got to be from some other planet to be unaware of Pakistan as one of the more notorious members of the UN club of rogue and failed states.
Since the end of the Cold War, fear of nuclear proliferation and its consequences has been centred on the world's three most troubled and conflict-ridden regions: The Middle East, South Asia and Northeast Asia.
Of the three regions, the Middle East is the greatest concern. Iran is determined to acquire nuclear weapons, while permanent members of the Security Council have been unable to agree on how to prevent this from occurring.
Pakistan has been the rogue nuclear proliferator, connecting Iran to North Korea. It was Pakistan's nuclear mastermind, Abdul Qadeer Khan, a metallurgist by training, who secretly fulfilled the wish of Pakistani leaders to acquire the nuclear bomb.
Khan's story is more compelling than any of John le Carre's spy-thrillers. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the late president of Pakistan and father of Benazir Bhutto — the first female elected to head the government of a Muslim-majority state, later assassinated in December 2007 — famously declared his people would eat grass if necessary to acquire the nuclear bomb.
Ali Bhutto ran afoul of his generals and was hanged in April 1979. But his commitment to secretly acquiring the nuclear bomb was realized two decades later, even as his people were impoverished — just as he boasted — to figuratively eat grass.
Khan learned of centrifuge technology while working for Dutch partners of the European uranium enrichment consortium (Urenco) in the Netherlands. He convinced Ali Bhutto in 1975 to invest in this technology to build Pakistan's first nuclear bomb.
Khan stole highly classified centrifuge designs from his Dutch employers for work inside Pakistan. Later he organized a black market to sell his knowledge and key components of nuclear bombmaking to countries such as Libya and Iran.
Khan's black market in nuclear technology was busted when Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi made full disclosure of his country's secret nuclear activities in December 2003 after Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq was overthrown.
From Libya came the confirmation of Pakistan supplying key components and designs for nuclear weapons. This disclosure compelled Pakistan's military dictator, Pervez Musharraf, to publicly chastise Khan and put him under house arrest in early 2004.
Then in 2005, the IAEA was informed that inspectors in Iran had uncovered a document from 1987 indicating the shadowy role of Pakistan in Tehran's nuclear quest.
Five years later, IAEA's board of governors went ahead electing for its chair Pakistan's envoy, Ansar Parvez, with inside knowledge of his country's illegal nuclear proliferation activities.This is how absurd things are with the UN.