Shrouded in secrecy

Published: Saturday 31 May 2003

-- A fertiliser plant on the outskirts of Karachi in Pakistan recently received three surprise visitors -- inspectors from the Europe-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The motive behind their visit was made more apparent by the fact that during their daylong scrutiny of the premises of FFC Jordan Fertilizer Company, the media was barred from approaching them or going inside the plant.

Tipu Sultan, a director-general in the foreign office on disarmament, played down the officials' visit as a routine matter. "This inspection will benefit Pakistan as it will endorse our credibility as a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993," he claimed.

While Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali later told reporters that the inspectors had come earlier too -- "probably in 2001-2002", Sultan was certain that it was their first visit. He also maintained that the inspectors were not hunting specifically for chemical weapons. "They were here to check safety standards, environment and consumption of the chemicals imported for the plant," he stressed.

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