23 March, 2003  was a terrifying, soul shattering night. When the airstrikes hit Baghdad, the destruction campaign against her was christened as “Shock and Awe” by George W. Bush, the then Republican President of USA. And America was not alone in bringing an ultimate doom to Iraq, Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister of Britain, facilitated and allied for this misadventure. In reaction to Tony Blair keeping the House in the dark about the impeding military action on the pretence of Saddam Hussein stocking Weapons of Mass Destruction--which later memos disclose were thoroughly discussed by the two leaders at Bush’s private ranch at Crawford, Texas  in 2002--- people protested against the choice of military action when the peaceful options were available and unexhausted by the UN sanctioned weapons inspection team which had a worldwide acceptance. But based on weak, or even false intelligence reports of the presence of WMDs, US led UK to go in Iraq to topple the Iraqi Government of Saddam Hussein, a dictator envied by his people, which at first welcomed this action before the things started slipping away.

Earlier, the United Nations, and United States jointly sent about 1,625 inspectors to inspect 2,000 Iraqi sites for two years in Iraq. According to this report’s conclusion presented by the UN Inspector’s team, Saddam Hussein’s regime had destroyed all of its WMDs and its capability to produce them dwindled over the years, owing to the sanctions imposed on it following its invasion of Kuwait in 1990, and its debacle in Iran before. However, a year later of the war that was imposed based on the CIA Iraq’s Survey Group established in 2004 that there were no weapons of mass destruction present in Iraq; however, it maintained that Iraq had the intention of acquiring WMDs once the sanctions were lifted. This in itself was in serious contradiction to earlier intelligence reports that led the then US Secretary of State, Colin Powell to have complete confidence in declaring that Iraq indeed had weapons of mass destruction, hence the war to take place there was justified. Tony Blair also followed lead on M16 reports of the presence of weapons in Iraq. The reports were later declared wrong, and Tony Blair in his TV interview in 2015, admitted to this folly. This comes in stark contradiction to the basis established by the Bush administration of a “smoking gun”. This was never highlighted in the international arena with as much vigor as it deserved because of many stakes involved with the world’s two superpowers destroying Iraq---for it would have meant severed ties of the countries aligned with UK and US. And more sadly so, the public protests prior to Iraq invasion was never appropriately addressed in the House of Lords.  

During my time working at the UN as an intern 2007, I reported on the Security Council briefing on the situation on Iraq where the then Under Secretary for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe had presented his report on the progress made in Iraq through the involvement of UN sanctioned Multi National Forces. On the security situation, he said that the overlapping series of sectarian, political and ethnic conflicts have “proved beyond the capacity of any one actor or policy initiative to resolve.”  The polarity within the Permanent members of the Security Council was obvious. The US Special Representative had persistently claimed  the situation in Iraq to be stable under MNF while the Special Representative from Russia claimed otherwise. However, what we all witness today that Iraq is far from being stable and for that all the claims of US and UK that Iraq is becoming stable should be brought to question and scrutiny for misleading the world.

That war was unjustifiably imposed. Though the initial goal of toppling the government was achieved, but with it came with extreme political and security vulnerability of the country that could not be contained or controlled by the invading forces. It sparked the Shia-Sunni tensions, hundreds of thousands of people had to die because of it and many more had to be displaced. This land became a breeding ground for proxy wars, and triggered ISIS and Al-Qaida networks to find safe havens there and spill over to other neighboring countries. Terrorist attacks in Iraq are rampant, which has landed this country as one of the most dangerous places to live in.

The report recently published by Iraq Inquiry, led by John Chilcot who was commissioned by the then Prime Minister of UK, George Cameron in 2007, has established damning conclusions on UK Government’s decisions taken between 2001-2007, and has opened a plethora of questions that has called to seriously question the intelligence reports, the decision to go into war, and legitimizing of going into war without any UN approval by the then Attorney General, Goldsmith.

This has naturally prompted Tony Blair’s rather long press statement defending his position, especially that there were reports of WMD proliferators in touch with North Korea, Libya and also with Iraq which made him feel compelled to side with USA. This is a serious issue for us, as the proliferators he mentioned about in the press statement was the Abdul Qadeer Khan’s network. In fact, Tony Blair mentioned A Q Khan’s network twice, and claimed that had the action against Iraq was not taken, then Libya would not have ceased its program on acquiring nuclear technology, and that AQ Khan network stopped as a consequence. With Tony Blair under fire, and severe backlash that is expected from it can lead to his trial on public pressure and everything that Tony Blair has claimed in his defence will be heavily scrutinized--which has the potential of  also bringing former Bush administration in its loop should a war criminal trial takes place against Tony Blair.

In this backdrop, Pakistan should be cautious and take its handling of Abdul Qadeer Khan more seriously, as it has been deliberately ignored by the US up until now for as long as they consider Pakistan a strategic partner in War on Terror and Afghanistan issue.  A Q Khan himself formerly confessed on state TV that he had made unauthorized deals with some governments on sale of nuclear technology, but the Government of Pakistan has always insisted that A Q Khan’s activities were lone, and the state had nothing to do with them. The period of his activities ran between 1989-2000, however, the government never prosecuted him over his confession, and it did not make any matter related to him public either. This is a cause of concern, as the government’s position lacks clarity on whether A Q Khan worked on his own or had its patronage of the deals made. With the dwindling relations with the US that Pakistan is facing following Mullah Mansoor’s death within its border, and should Pakistan chose to break its alliance with the US (which it cannot afford), the consequences would be disastrous, as many stakes of Pakistan in its war on terror could be exposed against its disadvantage.