A.Q. Khan’s network successfully broken: Pakistan government


Islamabad : Describing nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan as “history”, Pakistan said Saturday the network he had established for illegally proliferating the country’s secrets had been “successfully broken”. “We have successfully broken the network that he had set up and today he has no say and has no access to any of the sensitive areas of Pakistan,” Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told reporters here.

Support TwoCircles

“A.Q. Khan is history,” Qureshi added.

The Islamabad High Court (IHQ) Friday declared Khan a “free man” and released him from four years of house arrest but it now emerges that this could be conditional since a portion of the order freeing him has been kept secret.

“The petitioner (Dr A.Q. Khan) is declared a free citizen and writ petition is disposed of in accordance with ‘Annexure-A’, contents of which shall not be issued to the press or made public in any manner as requested by both sides,” said a one-page order released by IHC Chief Justice Sardar Mohammad Aslam after a hearing in his chamber.

The government had offered Annexure-A, spelling out the terms and conditions of Khan’s liberty, and his counsel “agreed to the terms after initial hesitation”, Dawn said Saturday.

“Analysts believe the agreement envisages only ‘limited freedom’ for Khan,” it added.

Even after the judgement, security in the area around Khan’s house “was still tight and intelligence personnel in plain clothes were all over the place”, the newspaper noted.

As The News noted in an editorial: “Free he may be by the direction of the court, but how free remains to be seen – indeed it may be that he would wish to limit his own freedoms in consideration of his own safety and security.”

The editorial was aptly headlined “Nearly free”.

Khan had been put under house arrest in 2004 after confessing on state-run PTV to selling nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea and sought the nation’s forgiveness. Then president Pervez Musharraf did “forgive” him but restricted his movements.

Khan, who was seen in public for the first time in four years in May 2008, said the confession had been handed to him by authorities and he was forced to read it on national television in the “best interest of the nation”.

In an interview to IANS in May 2008, Khan claimed that he never sold nuclear technology illegally and that he should have never made a confession to that effect four years ago.

Describing himself as “an innocent man”, Khan had said that Pakistan’s nuclear assets and weapons were “quite safe” and they could not be taken out of the country.

The civilian government had eased the restrictions placed on the scientist in 2004.

Right from the time of Khan’s confession, the US has been persistently demanding permission to question him on his alleged proliferation activities.

Pakistan has been equally consistent in denying this permission.

In this context, Dawn noted that the US, Britain and France “have weighed in” on the court order releasing Khan “with statements expressing concerns, even worries”.

“All the statements expressed unease over the court decision,” it added.

A White House statement sought assurances that Khan would not get involved in nuclear proliferation again, while Britain called on the Pakistani government to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency access to the scientist.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was “very much concerned” about Khan’s release because Washington believed he was involved in leaking nuclear technology and secrets.

The US State Department said that Khan’s release would be “extremely regrettable” and “unfortunate”.