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Context of '(Early 1985): High-Ranking Pakistani Officials Decide to Proliferate Nuclear Weapons'

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Pakistani officials decide to try to sell the nuclear weapons technology and expertise they have acquired in the last decade to other countries. The decision is taken because the Pakistanis’ nuclear weapons project is extremely expensive and they realize that the US money and goodwill that is keeping it alive is finite. Former Pakistani foreign minister Agha Shahi will say: “[Pakistani President Muhammad] Zia [ul-Haq] began to see the truth in something I had long argued. We were now deep inside the US pocket. Pakistan needed to win independence so as not to suffer when the inevitable happened and the US dropped us. Pakistan needed to broker new alliances and develop a revenue stream that was dependable and outside the scope of the US-run Afghan war.” Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will write: “KRL [Khan Research Laboratories] was Pakistan’s money pit, costing hundreds of millions of dollars to maintain, but it was also potentially a cash cow, [A. Q.] Khan’s advances in the field of uranium enrichment being unique and extremely valuable. Out of the handful of countries that had mastered enrichment technology, including China, France, Pakistan, the US, and the Soviet Union, only China and Pakistan were free to share it, having refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).… This technology was worth millions if Pakistan was able to sell it.” Therefore Zia and senior cabinet members begin a series of “highly secretive meetings to explore trading KRL’s skills and assets.” The urgency of this project increases further after the Soviet Union decides to end the Afghan war in 1986 (see November 1986-November 1987). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 132-133]

Entity Tags: Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, Agha Shahi

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

A delegation from Pakistan’s foreign ministry holds its first talks about possibly selling the nuclear technology and know-how it has acquired with representatives of the Iranian, Syrian, and Libyan governments. The talks, ostensibly about the wider topic of strategic co-operation, follow on from a conscious decision by Pakistani leaders to sell what they have (see (Early 1985)).
No Qualms - Although it is possible the US would be angry if it finds out, and could cut off significant aid to Pakistan, according to authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, “no one at Army House in Rawalpindi perceived it as immoral or considered the risk too large to take.” General Khalid Mahmud Arif will say: “Having seen the US so flexible in the past, everyone doubted that it would sanction us at all. Also, few of us held the NPT [Nuclear Proliferation Treaty] in high regard. We referred to it as a monopoly, to service the West’s interests. There were so many countries that had been allowed to arm and proliferate—Israel, South Africa, Argentina—countries that slotted into the US’s foreign policy requirements and were allowed to do as they please.”
Shia Iran Not a Problem - Although the Pakistanis want to sell the bomb to other Muslim countries, Pakistani leader General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, a hardline Sunni, is wary of sharing it with Shia Iran. However, according to Levy and Scott-Clark, because Iran is currently at war with Iraq and threatened by Soviet troops in Afghanistan, it is not perceived as such a threat at this time: “The Shias were a contained and localized minority, the underdogs to the US-backed Sunni elite of Islamabad, Amman, Cairo, and Riyadh. No one contemplated a time when that Sunni strength and wealth would be threatened by war in Iraq and a Shi’ite awakening with its epicentre in Iran.” Nevertheless, Pakistan will not sell completed nuclear weapons to Iran, only technology for enriching uranium. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 133-134]

Entity Tags: Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, Khalid Mahmud Arif

Timeline Tags: US International Relations, A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Edvard Shevardnadze.Edvard Shevardnadze. [Source: US Defense Department]The Politburo of the Soviet Communist Party decides that the Soviet-Afghan War should end “within one year or two.” This follows on from a tentative and secret agreement within the Politburo the previous year to eventually withdraw from Afghanistan. The withdrawal will be formalized in an agreement signed in Geneva in April 1988 (see April 1988) and the last troops with leave Afghanistan in February 1989 (see February 15, 1989). Soviet Foreign Minister Edvard Shevardnadze will inform US Secretary of State George Shultz of the decision the year after it is taken and the CIA will learn of it by November 1987. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 132-3, 486]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, George Shultz, Soviet Union, Edvard Shevardnadze

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

Although the US is already aware that the Soviet Union intends to withdraw from Afghanistan (see November 1986-November 1987) and a formal agreement on the Soviet withdrawal will be signed in four months (see April 1988), the US Congress approves aid of $480 million for Pakistan, despite its nuclear weapons program. Legislation has been passed that automatically cuts off aid to countries with illicit nuclear weapons programs (see August 1985 and August 1985), but this legislation is not invoked. Despite apparently knowing of the Pakistani program, Congress decides that supporting the war in Afghanistan is more important (see July 1987 or Shortly After and Late 1980s). Some lawmakers and officials will later say that at this time “everybody in Congress” knows that Pakistan has a nuclear weapons program (see Late 1980s), and anti-proliferation Senator John Glenn (D-OH) will later say the threat of nuclear proliferation “is a far greater danger to the world than being afraid to cut off the flow of aid to Afghanistan,” adding, “It’s the short-term versus the long-term.” [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]

Entity Tags: John Glenn, Pakistan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network, War in Afghanistan

In an agreement signed in Geneva, Switzerland, the Soviet Union pledges to withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan by February 15, 1989. They will end up withdrawing the last of their soldiers on that exact date (see February 15, 1989). At the time, the Soviets have slightly over 100,000 soldiers in Afghanistan. [New York Times, 2/16/1989]

Entity Tags: Soviet Union

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

A convoy of Soviet tanks leaving Afghanistan.A convoy of Soviet tanks leaving Afghanistan. [Source: National Geographic]Soviet forces withdraw from Afghanistan, in accordance with an agreement signed the previous year (see April 1988). However, Afghan communists retain control of Kabul, the capital, until April 1992. [Washington Post, 7/19/1992] It is estimated that more than a million Afghans (eight per cent of the country’s population) were killed in the Soviet-Afghan War, and hundreds of thousands had been maimed by an unprecedented number of land mines. Almost half of the survivors of the war are refugees. [New Yorker, 9/9/2002] Richard Clarke, a counterterrorism official during the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations and the counterterrorism “tsar” by 9/11, will later say that the huge amount of US aid provided to Afghanistan drops off drastically as soon as the Soviets withdraw, abandoning the country to civil war and chaos. The new powers in Afghanistan are tribal chiefs, the Pakistani ISI, and the Arab war veterans coalescing into al-Qaeda. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 52-53]

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Richard A. Clarke

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

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