Nirupama Subramanian

Control authority established in the Foreign Ministry

ISLAMABAD: Still trying to live down the A.Q. Khan scandal, Pakistan on Monday sought to reiterate its non-proliferation commitments with an announcement that it was establishing a national "export control authority" in its Foreign ministry.

The announcement came as an NPT "preparatory committee" conference, which will prepare the ground for the 2010 five-year review conference to assess the implementation of the treaty, began on Monday in Vienna. Pakistan is not an NPT signatory but a delegation is participating in the conference.

The Foreign Ministry announced that Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz had approved the setting up of the "Strategic Export Control Division" and its oversight board under the Ministry's control.

In a statement, it said the creation of the division was further to the 2004 Export Control Act on Goods, Technologies, Materials and Equipment.

Pakistan passed the Act in the wake of the A.Q. Khan scandal that saw the country's topmost scientist, also known as the "father" of its nuclear bomb, publicly confess to having sold nuclear secrets abroad.

Pakistani media reported last week that the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies was preparing to release on May 2 a report on Dr .Khan's proliferation network.

The oversight board has already been constituted, and it will oversee the setting up of the new division, the Foreign Ministry said. "The SECDIV will formulate and enforce rules and regulations for the implementation of export controls in accordance with the Export Control Act 2004 and also act as a licensing body," the release said.

In October 2005, Pakistan notified a control list of goods, technologies, materials and equipment incorporating the lists of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the Australia Group (AG) dealing with biological agents and toxins, and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).

"Export of items on the Control List from Pakistan will only be possible after approval by the SECDIV."

The SECDIV is to be manned by "representatives of the concerned Ministries and organisations responsible for the implementation and enforcement of export controls, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Strategic Plans Division (SPD), Ministry of Commerce, Central Board of Revenues and others, as required', the release stated.

The Foreign Ministry said the establishment of SECDIV was a "manifestation of Pakistan's strong commitment to non-proliferation and its determination to fulfil its national and international export control commitments".