348. Telegram From the Embassy in Pakistan to the Department of State1

7485. Subject: (C) Implications of Recent Incidents Involving Alleged Nuclear Sites in Pakistan. Ref: (A) Islamabad 7335;2 (B) Islamabad 7395;3 (C) Islamabad 7483.4

1. (C) Entire text.

2. Recent incidents in which French Ambassador Islamabad beaten near alleged nuclear site (ref A) and BBC correspondent beaten following his aggressive pursuit of nuclear story (ref B) have obvious disturbing implications. In addition tone of Foreign Advisor Agha Shahi’s press conference on nuclear issue (ref C)—at which BBC correspondent asked provocative questions shortly before he was attacked—can only heighten local tension over nuclear issue and foreign interest in it.

3. When these incidents are put in context of recent charges by Foreign Secretary here (Islamabad 6953)5 and Pakistani Ambassador [Page 816] in Washington (State 168104)6 that USG in some way bears responsibility for recent spate of stories on Pakistan developing nuclear weapons capability, there emerges possibility of some further incident here—either by chance or by contrivance—involving American. Consequently, I have convened meeting of Security Watch Committee to review what we know about situation and to consider our posture. There was consensus at meeting that—on fairly safe assumption that both incidents involving French Ambassador and BBC correspondent were ordered by some level of GOP—we should exercise particular caution in coming weeks so that no official American or visitor with official or journalistic connections wanders into situation that could lead to incident. It was also agreed that nuclear sites in Pakistan have been sufficiently mentioned in local press that their whereabouts are general knowledge. Most of these sites are in areas of no touristic or professional interest for official Americans. We are quietly passing the word that for the time being it would be well for official Americans to avoid these areas.

4. I have also asked concerned agencies to avoid any routine intelligence gathering activities that could be basis for incident (such as recent request by DAO for clearance to take aerial photographs).

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790300–0181. Confidential; Immediate; Exdis. Sent for information to Karachi, Lahore, London, New Delhi, Paris, and Peshawar (pouch).
  2. In telegram 7335 from Islamabad, June 28, the Embassy reported: “French Ambassador to Islamabad Le Gourrierec and his First Secretary (Political) Jean Forlot were attacked by thugs as they drove near village of Kahuta on the evening of June 26. Forlot, who was knocked unconscious in the fray, attributes the attack to a GOP attempt to discourage foreigners visiting the area around the alleged nuclear enrichment site at Kahuta.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790294–0180)
  3. In telegram 7395 from Islamabad, July 1, the Embassy reported the abduction and beating of BBC correspondent Chris Sherwell by six assailants on the night of June 28. The Embassy described Sherwell’s efforts to investigate Pakistan’s nuclear program and his direct questions about the program to Shahi at a June 30 press conference. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790298–0247)
  4. In telegram 7483 from Islamabad, July 2, the Embassy relayed a July 1 Pakistan Times article that refuted Pakistan’s putative program to develop a nuclear weapon. The article was based on the June 30 press briefing when Sherwell confronted Shahi (see footnote 3 above). (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790300–0929)
  5. In telegram 6953 from Islamabad, June 19, the Embassy reported Shahnawaz’s protest over a June 11 and 12 CBS Evening News story entitled “The Islamic Bomb.” Shahnawaz complained that Pakistan “was particularly concerned since presentation was made by Walter Cronkite, a figure of world-wide prestige. Fact that American officials appear on program and other unnamed officials were quoted could only be taken as official US sanction for public airing of Pakistan’s alleged nuclear intentions, which taking place despite every assurance to the contrary.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, [no film number])
  6. In telegram 168104 to Islamabad, June 29, the Embassy reported Newsom’s June 28 meeting with Sultan Khan, during which Cronkite’s reference to an “Islamic Bomb” (see footnote 5 above) was discussed. Khan conveyed the “concerns of his government regarding references to ‛official sources’ in the CBS program.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790295–0906)