Pakistani authorities have enough evidence that implicates US diplomats and trainers in spying on Kahuta, one of the prime nuclear facilities in the country.
What is stunning for most Pakistanis is that elements in the elected government, and especially the Interior Ministry, appear to be facilitating the Americans despite protests from police and intelligence officials.
The issue brings into question, once again, the role of Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik. A trail of internal ministry documents sharply bring Mr. Malik’s role into focus, especially in a case where his ministry appears to have permitted US defense contractors to conduct suspicious activities on Pakistani soil without informing Pakistani intelligence agencies. Those activities have included allowing at least one US defense contractor to conduct a large scale recruitment of retired Pakistani military officers.
In a report titled, US Spying On Kahuta Since 2003, Pakistan’s The Nation newspaper revealed the following on Oct. 23:
“Despite the fact that Americans have been permanently housed near Pakistani nuclear installations at Kahuta since 2003 in the guise of imparting training at the Police College Sihala, neither the military nor the PPP regime has dared to dislodge them. According to reliable sources, the PPP government paid no attention at all to the hue and cry raised by senior police officials against the dubious movements and installation of the American trainers. It has been learnt that some senior police officials have been continuously raising questions about the quality of training courses being offered by the Americans to the senior police recruits. These officials say that Pakistani police trainers could impart much better training than that the Americans. But the government turned a deaf ear to all these concerns of senior police officials and made no efforts to close the American training base allegedly involved in monitoring Pakistani nuclear activities.
Several senior police officials are asking, on condition of anonymity, that even if this training by the Americans was necessary, why had this very sensitive area been chosen and why this training has continued, risking the secrecy and sensitivity of nuclear installations of Pakistan. They were of the view that the Americans had no interest in the area except the intention to monitor the activities at the Khan Research Lab in Kahuta.”
The Commandant Police Training College Sihala, Mr. Nasir Khan Durrani, wrote a letter on Aug. 15 to senior Pakistani police officers drawing their attention to the suspicious activities of American ‘trainers’ at Sihala. Mr. Durrani is widely respected within the officer corps of Pakistan’s police service. Some of his ideas, like Rescue 15, were implemented nationwide.
Durrani’s letter was not without basis. In his report, titled, Agency wants survey of site to assess equipment, Mr. Ansar Abbasi, editor investigations at The News International, revealed that there was some evidence that radiation measurement equipment has been installed by the Americans at the training facility. He reported that US diplomats have been caught making frequent visits to the facility, attempting at one point to get into the high security perimeter around Kahuta. Amazingly, someone from FIA, the interior minister’s former employer and a lead civilian spy agency, helped release the arrested American diplomats.
An excerpt from Mr. Abbasi’s report:
“Pakistani authorities suspect that Americans involved in training of the Punjab Police at the Sihala Police College may have been involved in espionage near the Kahuta nuclear site located close by. However, US diplomats strongly deny this.
A credible government source said at least one Pakistani security agency has clearly indicated in its report submitted to the government that the Americans might have installed radiation detection devices at their Anti-Terrorism Assistance Programme (ATAP) camp situated in the college to monitor activities in the Kahuta nuclear site.
“Concerned authorities may be asked for a joint survey of the ATAP Camp by incorporating technical experts to assess if any interception equipment to detect radioactive rays has been installed or not,” the report said.
The report also revealed that following US pressure, the Ministry of Interior vide its letter number 1/41/2003-Police dated June 29 also granted a no objection certificate (NoC) for import of explosive material by the office of the ATAP.
Like the case of Inter-Risk, now banned, the Interior Ministry issued the NoC for the import of explosives without getting any security clearance from the intelligence agencies.
Interestingly, initially the Interior Ministry decided to issue the NoC but it was subject to clearance by two intelligence agencies — the ISI and the IB — which sought clarification about the quantity and type of explosive and detail of courses.
Consequently, the Sihala College administration was approached, which sought details from the ATAP camp. But instead of providing the details, Robert A Clark and Bob of the ATAP Camp contacted the US embassy, which used its influence and managed to get the NoC bypassing the rules.
The ATAP base camp is located just nine kilometres away from the Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) and housed within the premises of the Sihala college but even the commandant of the college is not allowed to go there. Of late, the US embassy wanted additional space apparently for training purposes but the Punjab government refused to oblige the Americans.
Top authorities in the Punjab government also confirmed to The News that US Ambassador Anne Patterson not only personally met Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif but also wrote to him requesting for additional space at the Sihala college.
They offered additional training to the Punjab Police in the field of firearms and raids. “But we politely refused to offer any additional space,” the source confided to The News, admitting that serious questions are being raised about the presence and conduct of US trainers already present at the Sihala college. A senior spokesman for the Punjab, when approached, confirmed this.
Interestingly, in the last several months no training course for the police officials has been conducted by the ATAP at the college, but American’s presence is well pronounced. Commander of the police academy Nasir Khan Durrani also formally wrote to the top authorities in the Punjab to express his concerns over the activities of the ATAP officials.
Sources also said that US embassy officials were also found visiting the camp quite regularly. They revealed that two Americans working at the Sihala ATAP Camp along with four other Americans of the US embassy were intercepted near Kahuta in July 2009 by security officials of the KRL.
They were detained for 2-3 hours as they could not satisfy the KRL security personnel regarding their visit to the sensitive region.
However, a retired assistant director of the FIA, working with Americans at the ATAP Camp, was sent to take them back who, introducing himself as an FIA officer, freed the Americans and took them back to the camp. The sources disclosed that those Americans along with Pakistani staff riding on 4×4 vehicle, tried to trespass into the restricted area of Kahuta.
The Interior Ministry spokesman was not available to offer any comment on suspected spying of the country’s nuclear programme by Americans or to explain why the Interior Ministry issued an NoC to the Americans for the import of explosive material without getting clearance from security agencies.
The Interior Ministry spokesman, Rashid Mazari, never returns any call from The News. He was contacted by different staffers of The News Investigative Wing during recent weeks but he never responded.”
The suspicions of Mr. Durrani, Commandant Police Training College Sihala, turn out to be legitimate. Mr. Durrani might have expected to be rewarded for keeping a vigil on the country’s vital interests. To his surprise, instead of a citation, Mr. Durrani was reprimanded by the Federal Interior Ministry.
On Oct. 22, The Nation published a report whose title, Rehman Malik Defends US interests, warns Durrani, said it all.
“The Interior Ministry is browbeating the Commandant Police Training College Sihala as to why he has written a letter to the Punjab, Inspector General of Police (IGP), expressing his concerns over the presence of US security officials in the premises of the institute, the sources told TheNation.
Sources privy to the developments said that the Ministry was annoyed with Nasir Khan Durrani, Commandant Police Training College Sihala as to why he had written a letter to IGP seeking clarification from the Interior Ministry and Foreign Office about the terms and conditions of US security officials’ presence as well as the duration of their stay in the college premises.
The sources said that the Ministry had expressed its displeasure over the action of Commandant and in its reply to the IGP it was stated that the matter could have been discussed verbally and there was no need to write about it.
According to Ministry sources, the Interior Minister, Rehman Malik in his harsh reply to the IGP made it clear that US security officials would not be relocated from the centre and directed him to hush up the matter and stop propagating against it, otherwise Durrani would have to face the music.
The Ministry was also critical of leakage of such sensitive and confidential information to media and directed the IGP to keep secrecy of such sensitive matters in the larger interest of the state, the sources further disclosed.
Nasir Khan Durrani had written a letter to IGP on 15th of August that on the concurrence of Interior Ministry, US security officials were using the site which was part of the college and now it had become a “no go” area for the college administration.
In the letter, it was also said that high explosive material was stored within the premises of the site under the possession of US personnel, which was a security risk for the trainees of the college.
It is pertinent to mention here that Kahuta Research Laboratories (KRL) are only a few kilometres away from the Sihala College and it is suspected that Americans had installed sensitive monitoring equipments to monitor the activities of KRL.
The spokesman and Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Ministry were contacted for comments; the spokesman was not available for comments while PRO replied that he was admitted in the hospital and thus unable to comment on the issue.”
The US Embassy in Islamabad, under a new policy of aggressively countering what it alleges to be ‘anti-Americanism’, responded to these accusations but conveniently kept silent on the alarming incident of the arrest of US diplomats in July as they tried to survey the area around Kahuta.
Evidence is piling up that the present ‘elected’ government in Islamabad is racing against time to plant enough Americans inside Pakistan to counter the Pakistani military and the country’s strong intelligence setup. [See the video US Terror In Pakistan]
On Oct. 20, The Nation ran a story titled, Blackwater arms warehouse in Capital? . The report began as follows:
“Kestral Logistics, a warehouse located in the industrial area of Sector I-9/3, and involved in arms trading, is working as the subcontractor of US security company, Xe Worldwide (Blackwater), TheNation has learnt. The sources claimed that the company had arms deals with Blackwater and was importing heavy arms as well as ammunition for the US company for its ongoing illicit operations in Pakistan. The sources said that Kestral Logistics was also involved in importing sensitive monitoring instruments for Blackwater, which had been installed at Sihala by the said security company to monitor activities of Khan Research Laboratories (KRL), Kahuta, as well as to keep an eye on the nuclear assets of Pakistan.”
Kestral is run by a former Pakistani military officer. Another officer was arrested last month and his license cancelled after his security firm imported illegal weapons into the country with the help of the US Embassy in Islamabad.
The US public opinion is told that anti-Americanism is on the rise in Pakistan but US government officials and the US media keeps mum on these suspicious activities inside Pakistan that are feeding the sudden rise in opposition to American presence.
No one is demanding severing ties with Washington. We need them and they need us. The question is: Why can’t Pakistan conduct its business with the United States on the basis of respect, non-interference, and mutual benefit. That is much better than the client-state model that former president Musharraf and the current pro-American Pakistani democrats are pursuing.