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Inside Pakistan's Drive to Guard Its ABombs

Inside Pakistan's Drive to Guard Its ABombs - NOTICE This...

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By *PETER WONACOTT* November 29, 2007; Page A1 RAWALPINDI, Pakistan -- Inside Pakistan's nuclear program, scientists are allowed to grow long beards, pray five times a day and vote for this country's conservative Islamist politicians. Religious zeal doesn't bar them from working in top-secret weapons facilities. But religious extremism does. It's up to the program's internal watchdog, a security division authorized to snoop on its employees, to determine the difference -- and drive out those who breach the boundaries. [Pervez Musharraf] In an interview, a top security official for Pakistan's nuclear program outlined a multilayered system put in place over the past two years to try to avoid the kind of devastating lapses uncovered in recent years. A series of rogue scientists were found to have sold secrets or met with al Qaeda leaders, finally spurring a screening-and-surveillance program along the lines the U.S. uses -- but with a greater focus on weeding out an increasingly religious generation of would-be scientists and engineers. With the regime of Gen. Pervez Musharraf wobbling, the eyes of the world have refocused on the security of the atomic arsenal of Pakistan, long regarded as the most politically unstable of nuclear powers. Mr. Musharraf's move yesterday to relinquish his military leadership provided at least momentary calm. But worries that weapons technology or materials might leak out remain amid Pakistan's continuing turmoil. Pakistani officials say the most far-reaching change in their nuclear-security web is the Personnel Reliability Program, named after its model in the U.S. It involves a battery of checks aimed at rooting out human foibles such as lust, greed or depression that might lead one to betray national secrets. Like the security methods of other nuclear powers, the new Pakistani program delves into personal finances, political views and sexual histories. But it probes most deeply into degrees of religious fervor. One employee recently was booted from the nuclear program for passing out political pamphlets of an ultraconservative Islamic party and being observed coaxing colleagues into joining him at a local mosque for party rallies, said the security official, a two-star general who declined to be identified, citing the sensitive nature of his job. Even though the employee did nothing illegal, his behavior was deemed too disturbing. "We don't mind people being religious," said the general, sitting in a spartan office behind a code-locked door in a military compound, outside Pakistan's capital Islamabad. "But we don't want people with extreme thoughts." Security officials try to draw a line at people who are inclined to force their religious beliefs upon others, especially in the workplace; urging colleagues to attend Islamist political rallies is
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seen as less acceptable than quietly taking a break from work to pray.
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