Pakistani nuke scientist A.Q. Khan finally walks free (Roundup)

February 6th, 2009 - 8:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Nawaz SharifIslamabad, Feb 6 (IANS) Five years after publicly confessing to illegally proliferating Pakistan’s atomic secrets, being pardoned and then placed under house arrest, A.Q. Khan, the scientist who mentored the country’s nuclear programme, finally walked free Friday after a court here said the charges against him could not be substantiated. Chief Justice Sardar Muhammad Aslam of the Islamabad High Court, while announcing his 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.

“I am satisfied with the decision of the court, setting me free is a matter between me and the government. This has no connection with the US,” The News quoted Khan as saying.

The US has been consistently demanding permission to interrogate Khan, whom it accuses of proliferating nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

Pakistan had been equally insistent it would not provide this permission.

“These things happen. We should forget and look forward,” Khan told reporters outside his house after the verdict.

He pointed out that Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had also been “inside” (jail).

He said that he didn’t want to delve in the past incidents, he only wanted the development of the country.

He said: “I pray that the God save the country.”

The nuclear scientist said that the god has already punished former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf, as he can’t freely come out on the roads today and that he would not take action against anybody for keeping him in detention.

He said that he would be focusing on education and setting up of welfare organizations would be his top priority.

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

“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.

Khan had in January 2004 confessed to having proliferated the country’s secrets. On February 5, 2004, then president Pervez Musharraf announced he had pardoned Khan.

Khan, who was seen in public for the first time in four years in May, 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 restrictions on Khan placed in 2004.

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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