Pakistani court sets A.Q. Khan free (Lead)

February 6th, 2009 - 4:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Nawaz SharifIslamabad, Feb 6 (IANS) Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan, who has been accused of running a proliferation network, Friday walked out a free man after more than four years with the Islamabad High Court ending his house arrest. “These things happen. We should forget and look forward,” Khan told reporters after the verdict.

Khan said Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had also been “inside”.

“The government had made arrangements and nobody could hurt me. Now also, the government will take care,” Khan said.

The allegations against Khan of nuclear proliferation have not been “substantiated”, Geo TV reported.

Chief Justice Sardar Muhammad Aslam, while announcing a verdict on several petitions filed against Khan’s house arrest, declared him a free citizen and said he was free to move across the country.

Due to security reasons, Khan should inform the government about his movements in advance. The court has directed the government to immediately provide security to Khan, the report said.

Khan is free to express his views, talk to media and carry out research and get treatment from any doctor of his own choice.

“I greet the whole nation (with the news) that the court has declared Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan as a free citizen of Pakistan,” TV channel Dawn News quoted Khan’s lawyer Ali Zafar as saying.

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 new civilian government had eased restrictions on Khan placed in 2004.

Khan said he was “forced” by “some elements” in the Musharraf-led government to confess in January 2004 to presiding over an illegal network supplying nuclear technology to countries such as North Korea and Libya.

He said he was told this would be in national interest. “I think the confession was my mistake,” he said.

Soon after his January 2004 confession, when he “apologised” for smuggling nuclear bomb formula to other countries, Khan was pardoned by then president Pervez Musharraf but placed under house arrest.

Khan was born in India and went over to Pakistan in 1952, five years after the birth of the Islamic country.

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