Pakistani government may appeal against A.Q. Khan’s release

February 9th, 2009 - 12:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Feb 9 (IANS) Bowing to international pressure, the Pakistani government may appeal against the release of A.Q. Khan, the scientist who mentored the country’s nuclear programme and who was accused of running an illegal proliferation network.
Quoting government sources, Dawn said Monday the Islamabad High Court decision last week freeing Khan from house arrest “might be challenged because of concerns expressed by the United States and the United Kingdom”.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told a TV news channel Saturday before leaving for Munich to attend an international security conference that the government reserved the right to file an appeal against the court’s decision.

At the same time, Qureshi said Khan had already been relieved of his duties and had nothing to do with the country’s nuclear-related policies.

“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,” Qureshi said.

“A.Q. Khan is history,” he added.

The Islamabad High Court (IHQ) Friday declared Khan a “free man” and released him from four years of house arrest.

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 seeking 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.

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.

Commenting on Khan’s release, a White House statement sought assurances that he 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”.

Despite the charges against Khan, “a large number of Pakistanis still regard him as a hero for making the country a nuclear state,” Dawn said.

However, security around Khan’s house “remains tight with intelligence operatives in plainclothes posted around it. He cannot leave his residence and cannot meet anyone”, the newspaper added.

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