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Context of 'January 8, 1981: On Eve of Possible Change in US Policy on Pakistan, Scientist Publicly Claims Pakistan Nuclear Program in Trouble'

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A briefing by Pakistani scientist Ishrat Usmani saying that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program is experiencing difficulties is published in the influential European nuclear publication Nucleonics Week. According to Usmani, a former head of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, the program faces “severe difficulties” and is unlikely ever to be capable of producing even the crudest of nuclear devices. However, Usmani, who has worked for the United Nations and is a trusted figure in the West, knows that Pakistan’s program is actually going well and several operational cascades have already been built. It appears the misleading information finds its way into print as part of a plan to convince US lawmakers to enable a change to America’s policy towards Pakistan. The Pakistanis are to be given increased aid by the incoming Reagan administration despite their nuclear weapons program, in return for their support against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 79]

Entity Tags: Ishrat Usmani

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Sharifuddin Pirzada.Sharifuddin Pirzada. [Source: Aamir Qureshi / AFP / Getty Images]On September 15, ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed returns to Pakistan from the US, and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf holds a meeting with Mahmood and about a dozen other senior officers to discuss how Pakistan should respond to the 9/11 attacks. Musharraf will later recall that the group “made a dispassionate, military-style analysis of our options,” aware that on his decision hung “the fate of millions of people and the future of Pakistan.” For six hours, Mahmood, Lt. Gen. Muzaffar Usmani, Lt. Gen. Jamshaid Gulzar Kiani, and Lt. Gen. Mohammed Aziz Khan argue that Pakistan should not help the US at all in its imminent war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Mahmood states, “Let the US do its dirty work. Its enemies are our friends.” The Guardian will later call this “a stunning display of disloyalty.” However, Sharifuddin Pirzada, Musharraf’s legal counselor, and a high-ranking Pakistani army officer will claim in a 2007 book that Musharraf in fact did not disagree. He tells his advisers, “Pakistan has been deluged by terrorism for decades. We have learned to live with it. The Americans, too, should get used to the taste of blood.” But Musharraf also sees a strategic opportunity to manipulate the situation for Pakistan’s benefit. Pirzada will later recall, “Musharraf saw that for Pakistan it was 1979 all over again.” This is reference to the start of the Soviet-Afghan war, that led to billions of dollars in aid for Pakistan. “‘We should offer up help,’ Musharraf said, ‘and, mark my words, we will receive a clean bill of health.’” [Guardian, 5/25/2002; Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 313-314] Musharraf eventually silences the dissenting generals by suggesting that if Pakistan does not agree to the US demands, Pakistan’s long-time enemy India will gladly take the place of Pakistan in assisting the US. That evening, Musharraf speaks to Wendy Chamberlin, the US ambassador to Pakistan, and tells her that Pakistan has agreed to all of the US demands. However, he strongly hints that Pakistan needs immediate economic relief and an end to US economic sanctions in return. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 30-31] Musharraf has already offered the US unconditional help in its fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban (see September 13-15, 2001 and (Between 7:00 and 11:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). But just four days after this meeting, Musharraf gives a speech on Pakistani television implying that Pakistan’s alliance with the US is only a temporary and opportunistic necessity. He says, “I have done everything for Afghanistan and the Taliban when the whole world was against them. We are trying our best to come out of this critical situation without any damage to them” (see September 19, 2001).

Entity Tags: Taliban, Wendy Chamberlin, Sharifuddin Pirzada, Muzaffar Usmani, Jamshaid Gulzar Kiani, Al-Qaeda, Pervez Musharraf, Mohammed Aziz Khan, Mahmood Ahmed

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

Mullah Dadullah Akhund.Mullah Dadullah Akhund. [Source: Associated Press]Afghan President Hamid Karzai travels to Islamabad, Pakistan, and meets with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. Karzai hands Musharraf a list of Taliban leaders living in Quetta, Pakistan, and urges Musharraf to have them arrested. The list includes the names of senior Taliban leaders Mullah Omar, Mullah Dadullah Akhund, and Mullah Akhter Mohammed Usmani. All are believed to be in Quetta. The list is leaked to the press. The Pakistani government denounces Karzai and denies any Taliban leaders are in Pakistan. The US government declines to back the list, even though the US embassy in Kabul had helped make it. Journalist Ahmed Rashid will later explain: “The Americans were already deeply involved in Iraq and wanted no distractions such as a cat fight between the presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan. [The US] was unwilling to push the Pakistanis, and the Afghans were angry that the Americans had allowed Karzai’s credibility to suffer.” [Rashid, 2008, pp. 246]

Entity Tags: Mullah Dadullah Akhund, Hamid Karzai, Mullah Akhter Mohammed Osmani, Mullah Omar, Pervez Musharraf

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

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