ISLAMABAD: Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad, was likely behind bombings and phone threats on German and Swiss companies linked to Pakistan’s covert nuclear programme, a Swiss historian told a Swiss daily.
The claims were carried in a report in Neue Zurcher Zeitung, a Swiss German-language daily, which said that in the 1980s, Pakistan worked with Iran to produce nuclear weapons materials.
NZZ is often referred to as the Swiss “newspaper of record”.
At the time, Washington was extremely paranoid about the cooperation as it considered Tehran an enemy after the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and the ensuing hostage crisis as well as the Iran-Iraq War.
The 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan made the US value its partnership with Pakistan more deeply as it was planning on supporting Afghanistan’s mujahideen against Kremlin, using Islamabad as a middle man.
Hence, then US President Jimmy Carter decided not to intervene directly to avoid tarnishing relations with Islamabad.
The report says that instead of attacking nuclear facilities in Pakistan, Carter decided to deal with its European suppliers who were mainly based in Germany and Switzerland.
In 1981, his administration sent a diplomatic warning to companies based in the two nations asserting they are alleged to have provided technical support to Pakistan’s nuclear programme.
Within a few months of the US warning, three facilities linked to the European companies were bombed.
There was an explosion in the house of an employee of the German company Cora Engineering in the Swiss town of Chur on February 20, 1981.
There was another blast at a Walischmiller company factory in Markdorf, Germany on May 18, 1981, and another at the Heinz Mebus engineering office on November 6th, 1981, the report said.
Mebus was in talks with engineer Abdul Kadir Han from Pakistan, known as the owner of the nuclear project, in Zurich, Switzerland.
Threatening phone messages were sent to other commercial organisations, added the report.
The Mossad’s participation in the bombings was probable, but there is no “smoking gun” to prove involvement, Adrian Hanni, a historian and intelligence service expert, told the daily.
The confidential State Department documents that were released to the public in 2021 showed that the companies delivered components to Pakistan and were accused of assisting the nuclear programme.
“The suspicion that the Mossad might be behind the attacks and threats soon arose,” the daily noted.
“For Israel, the prospect that Pakistan, for the first time, could become an Islamic state with an atomic bomb posed an existential threat.”
A previously unknown entity that claimed responsibility for the explosions, the Organisation for the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in South Asia, was “never heard from” again following the incident, the NZZ noted.