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Profile: Muhammad Zia ul-Haq

Positions that Muhammad Zia ul-Haq has held:

Muhammad Zia ul-Haq was a participant or observer in the following events:

Pakistani military dictator Muhammad Zia ul-Haq disbands the civilian committee that oversees operations at Kahuta Research Laboratories (KRL), a facility working on producing a nuclear weapon for Pakistan. The committee had been put in place by Zia’s predecessor, civilian ruler Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, to keep the military away from the project, but the deposed Bhutto has recently been sentenced to death. The committee’s role is taken over by Army Chief of Staff General Khalid Mahmud Arif. Zia tells Arif that KRL’s uranium enrichment program needs to be successful not only for Pakistan, but for all Muslim countries. Arif and KRL chief A. Q. Khan already know each other, having worked together on the construction of Kahuta. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 52-53)

A. Q. Khan launches a worldwide recruiting campaign with ads in newspapers around the world to lure expatriate Pakistani scientists back home to help him with his nuclear weapons work. The campaign is the result of Khan’s prior failure to lure scientists, such as the Canada-based A. A. Khan (see 1977), to Pakistan, and is approved by Pakistani military dictator General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq. The ads promise large salaries and new homes in Islamabad. Applicants should contact their local Pakistani embassy and say they are applying to work at the Institute of Industrial Automation (IIA). Khan writes to A. A. Khan about the campaign and asks him to recommend people, which he does. The IIA address is the same as that used by Khan for deliveries of components for his nuclear work. For example, Henk Slebos, a European procurement agent, will later say he uses the address for deliveries. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 54, 471) Presumably, after A. A. Khan is arrested and his correspondence with Khan seized (see August 29, 1980), investigators learn that the address is linked to Khan’s operations.

Muhammad Zia ul-Haq.Muhammad Zia ul-Haq. [Source: Associated Press]General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq seized power in Pakistan in a 1977 coup and declared himself president. The US stopped all economic and military aid to Pakistan as a result of the coup and Zia ruled cautiously in an attempt to win international approval. But immediately after the Russian invasion of Afghanistan (see December 8, 1979), the US allies with Zia and resumes aid. This allows Zia to use Islam to consolidate his power without worrying about the international reaction. He passes pro-Islamic legislation, introduces Islamic banking systems, and creates Islamic courts. Most importantly, he creates a new religious tax which is used to create tens of thousands of madrassas, or religious boarding schools. These schools will indoctrinate a large portion of future Islamic militants for decades to come. (Gannon 2005, pp. 138-142) Zia also promotes military officers on the basis of religious devotion. The Koran and other religious material becomes compulsory reading material in army training courses. “Radical Islamist ideology began to permeate the military and the influence of the most extreme groups crept into the army,” journalist Kathy Gannon will write in her book I is for Infidel. (Gannon 2005, pp. 138-142) The BBC will later comment that Zia’s self-declared “Islamization” policies created a “culture of jihad” within Pakistan that continues until present day. (Hardy 8/5/2002)

On a trip to New York, Pakistani dictator Muhammad Zia ul-Haq meets with former US President Richard Nixon. The meeting is to discuss the Soviet-Afghan War, but Pakistan’s nuclear program also comes up. General Khalid Mahmud Arif, who accompanies Zia, will later say that Nixon makes it clear he is in favor of Pakistan gaining nuclear weapons capability. Nixon does not say that he is acting for Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan, but, according to authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clarke, “his comments signal […] the way ahead,” as the future Reagan administration will enable Pakistan to continue work on its nuclear weapons program without being sanctioned. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 76)

Pakistani dictator Muhammad Zia ul-Haq initiates a second program to design a warhead to deliver Pakistani nuclear weapons. The program is to be headed by nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan and is to be based at his research facility in Kahuta. It will compete with another warhead design team that has been working since 1974 (see March 1974), but has not yet completed its task. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 91)

Pakistan produces its first weapons-grade uranium. The sample is produced by a team led by scientist A. Q. Khan that is working on building a nuclear weapon. Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will later call this “a colossal breakthrough on the path to manufacturing a nuclear bomb.” Khan informs Pakistani dictator Muhammad Zia ul-Haq of the breakthrough. Zia then visits the facility where Khan works, renaming it after Khan in May. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 84) Khan had first enriched uranium three years previously, but that apparently had not been weapons grade (see Shortly Before or on April 4, 1978).

Pakistani dictator Muhammad Zia ul-Haq orders nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan to prepare for a cold test of a nuclear weapon. The instruction is given shortly after Khan tells Zia that he has managed to enrich uranium to weapons grade (see (March-April 1981)), and after Zia visits the facility where Khan works, re-naming it after him. The CIA will soon learn of this instruction. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 84-85, 90)

CIA covert weapons shipments are sent by the Pakistani army and the ISI to rebel camps in the North West Frontier province near the Afghanistan border. The governor of the province is Lieutenant General Fazle Haq, who author Alfred McCoy calls Pakistani President Muhammad Zia ul-Haq’s “closest confidant and the de facto overlord of the mujaheddin guerrillas.” Haq allows hundreds of heroin refineries to set up in his province. Beginning around 1982, Pakistani army trucks carrying CIA weapons from Karachi often pick up heroin in Haq’s province and return loaded with heroin. They are protected from police search by ISI papers. (McCoy 2003, pp. 477) By 1982, Haq is listed with Interpol as an international drug trafficker. But Haq also becomes known as a CIA asset. Despite his worsening reputation, visiting US politicians such as CIA Director William Casey and Vice President George H. W. Bush continue to meet with him when they visit Pakistan. Haq then moves his heroin money through the criminal Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). A highly placed US official will later say that Haq “was our man… everybody knew that Haq was also running the drug trade” and that “BCCI was completely involved.” (Scott 2007, pp. 73-75) Both European and Pakistani police complain that investigations of heroin trafficking in the province are “aborted at the highest level.” (McCoy 2003, pp. 477) In 1989, shortly after Benazir Bhutto takes over as the new ruler of Pakistan, Pakistani police arrest Haq and charge him with murder. He is considered a multi-billionaire by this time. But Haq will be gunned down and killed in 1991, apparently before he is tried. (McCoy 2003, pp. 483) Even President Zia is implied in the drug trade. In 1985, a Norwegian government investigation will lead to the arrest of a Pakistani drug dealer who also is President Zia’s personal finance manager. When arrested, his briefcase contains Zia’s personal banking records. The manager will be sentenced to a long prison term. (McCoy 2003, pp. 481-482)

In November 1982, US Representative Charlie Wilson (D-TX) travels to Islamabad, Pakistan, and meets with President Muhammad Zia ul-Haq. He promises Zia to deliver a crucial weapons system that has so far been denied by the US—the latest radar systems for Pakistan’s F-16 fighter planes. Wilson also meets with CIA Station Chief Howard Hart, who is in charge of providing support for the Afghan resistance to the Soviets. He urges Hart to expand the program and stresses that vast amounts of money can be made available. (Crile 2003, pp. 106-129) The next month, President Zia comes to the US to meet with President Reagan. Zia first meets with Wilson in Houston and expresses his gratitude for helping Pakistan acquire F-16 radar systems (see November-December 1982). Wilson then broaches the subject of Pakistan secretly purchasing arms from Israel for the Afghan War. Zia agrees to this in principle. (Crile 2003, pp. 131-132)

According to Alfred W. McCoy, author of The Politics of Heroin, in 1983 Pakistani President Muhammad Zia ul-Haq allows Pakistani drug traffickers to deposit their drug profits in the BCCI bank without getting punished. The criminal BCCI bank has close ties to the Pakistani government and the US funding of the Afghan war. It will be shut down in 1991. BCCI also plays a critical role in facilitating the movement of Pakistan’s heroin money. By 1989, Pakistan’s heroin trade will be valued at $4 billion a year, more than all of Pakistan’s legal exports. (McCoy 2003, pp. 480)

Representative Charlie Wilson (D-TX) travels to Israel where he meets with Zvi Rafiah and other Israeli officials. From Israel he travels to Egypt and then Pakistan, where he secretly negotiates a major weapons deal with Pakistan (see November-December 1982) on behalf of the Israelis in support of the mujaheddin fighting Soviets in Afghanistan. Among other things, the deal includes the delivery of T-55 tanks. Author George Crile will later comment, “The Israelis were hoping this deal would serve as the beginning of a range of under-the-table understandings with Pakistan that the congressman would continue to quietly negotiate for them.” (Crile 2003, pp. 141)

Paula Hawkins.Paula Hawkins. [Source: Public domain]In 1984, Senator Paula Hawkins (R-FL) meets with Pakistani President Muhammad Zia ul-Haq in Pakistan. During the meeting, she mentions that she is concerned about a Pakistani bank that is laundering money out of the Cayman Islands. Her staff later clarifies to Zia that she was referring to BCCI (which technically is not a Pakistani bank, but almost all of its top officials are Pakistani). As a result, Abdur Sakhia, the top BCCI official in the US, meets with Hawkins in the US a short time later and assures her that BCCI is not laundering money out of the Cayman Islands. Then officials from the Justice Department, State Department, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) meet with Hawkins’s staffers and assure them that BCCI is not the subject of any investigation. Weeks later, the State Department formally notifies the Pakistani government that BCCI is not under investigation. As a result, Hawkins drops her brief interest in BCCI. However, by this time the State Department, Justice Department, and DEA have all been briefed by the CIA about BCCI’s many criminal activities. Apparently, this information is deliberately kept from the senator. (Beaty and Gwynne 1993, pp. 324-325)

An ailing Agha Hasan Abedi in 1991.An ailing Agha Hasan Abedi in 1991. [Source: Associated Press]NBC News later reports that CIA Director William Casey secretly meets with the head of the criminal Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) from 1984 until 1986, shortly before Casey’s death. The NBC report, quoting unnamed BCCI sources, will claim that Casey met with BCCI head Agha Hasan Abedi every few months in a luxury suite at the Madison Hotel in Washington. The two men allegedly discussed the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages transactions and CIA weapons shipments to the mujaheddin in Afghanistan. The CIA denies all the allegations. (Gordon 2/21/1992) But books by Time magazine and Wall Street Journal reporters will corroborate that Casey repeatedly met with Abedi. (Scott 2007, pp. 116) Casey also meets with Asaf Ali, a BCCI-connected arms dealer, in Washington, DC, and in Pakistan. On one occasion, Casey has a meeting in Washington with Abedi, Ali, and Pakistani President Muhammad Zia ul-Haq. (Beaty and Gwynne 1993, pp. 308)

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)

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)

Arnold Raphel.Arnold Raphel. [Source: Robert Nickelsberg / Time Life Pictures / Getty Images]Pakistan’s president Muhammad Zia ul-Haq is killed in an airplane crash. The plane went into a steep dive, then recovered regaining altitude. Then it dove a second time and crashed. (Yousaf and Adkin 1992, pp. 91-92) ISI Director Akhtar Abdur Rahman, US ambassador to Pakistan Arnold Raphel, and other Pakistani and US officials are also killed. A joint US-Pakistani investigation fails to definitively explain what caused the crash. (Coll 2004, pp. 178-179) According to Mohammad Yousaf, the ISI’s Afghan Bureau chief, the crash was due to sabotage. Yousaf does not know who was responsible, but later says that the US State Department was instrumental in the cover-up. Yousaf points out several reasons why the State Department might want to cover up the crime even if the US were not involved in the assassination itself. (Yousaf and Adkin 1992, pp. 91-92) Richard Clarke, a State Department analyst who later will become counterterrorism “tsar” for Presidents Clinton and Bush Jr., believes that Zia’s death and the destruction of a major weapons stockpile used by the CIA and ISI around the same time (see April 10, 1988) were both ordered by the Soviets as revenge for being defeated in Afgnanistan. Clarke says, “I could never find the evidence to prove that the Soviet KGB had ordered these two acts as payback for their bitter defeat, but in my bones I knew they had.” (Clarke 2004, pp. 50)

US agents uncover photographs showing Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) has ties with the Pakistani ISI. Several weeks after the World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993), US agents come to Pakistan to search for Ramzi Yousef for his part in that bombing. Searching the house of Zahid Shaikh Mohammed, Yousef’s uncle, they find photographs of Zahid and KSM, who is also one of Yousef’s uncles, with close associates of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. (Bokhari et al. 2/15/2003) According to another account, the pictures actually show Zahid with Sharif, and also with Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, president of Pakistan until his death in 1988. (Jacquard 2002, pp. 66) Pictures of Osama bin Laden are also found. US agents are unable to catch Yousef because Pakistani agents tip him off prior to the US raids. Yousef is able to live a semi-public life (for instance, he attends weddings), despite worldwide publicity naming him as a major terrorist. The Financial Times will later note that Yousef, KSM, and their allies “must have felt confident that their ties to senior Pakistani Islamists, whose power had been cemented within the country’s intelligence service [the ISI], would prove invaluable.” (Bokhari et al. 2/15/2003) Several months later, Yousef and KSM unsuccessfully attempt to assassinate Benazir Bhutto, who is prime minister of Pakistan twice in the 1990s (see July 1993). She is an opponent of Sharif and the ISI. (Bhutto 9/21/2001; Gunaratna 3/3/2003) The Los Angeles Times will later report that KSM “spent most of the 1990s in Pakistan. Pakistani leadership through the 1990s sympathized with Osama bin Laden’s fundamentalist rhetoric. This sympathy allowed [him] to operate as he pleased in Pakistan.” (McDermott 6/24/2002)

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