Pakistan tells US it will control A.Q. Khan’s movements (With US to raise A.Q Khan’s release issue with Pakistan)

February 10th, 2009 - 2:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Feb 10 (IANS) Pakistan has assured the US it would restrict the movements of rogue nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan after Washington voiced concerns that his release from house arrest could lead to a revival of his illegal proliferation network.

“Pakistan has told the United States it will control at least some of the movements of freed scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan to prevent him from becoming a nuclear proliferation threat,” The News reported Tuesday.

The assurances were given to US Ambassador to Pakistan Pakistan Anne Patterson during a meeting in Islamabad, it added. Khan, who mentored Pakistan’s nuclear programme, had been accused of clandestinely peddling the country’s secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

“Whatever it is that they decide in terms of putting additional restrictions on Khan’s movements, we will have to see,” the newspaper quoted an unnamed State Department official as saying.

“I understand that he has to notify his government 48 hours in advance if he wants to travel outside Islamabad. That is one of the things they have communicated to us,” the official said.

“I am sure there is more that the Pakistanis can do, and we expect and hope that they will do more to make sure that he is no longer a proliferation risk,” the official maintained.

Noting that Washington was still sceptical about how far Pakistan would go on following through its assurances, the official said: “We want to make sure these assurances are solid and that they can explain to us as to how they plan to do so.”

The comments were in line with those of State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Wood, who said at a briefing in Washington that senior US officials attending an international security conference in Munich had discussed the Khan issue with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

“We believe (Khan) he remains a potential proliferation risk,” Wood said.

Was Khan’s release tantamount to releasing Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, a journalist asked.

“Well, I don’t like to make comparisons here from the podium, but let me just say A.Q. Khan’s track record has been one of great concern to us and a number of other countries around the world,” Wood replied.

On Monday, there were reports that the Pakistani government might challenge the Islamabad High Court decision last week freeing Khan.

Quoting government sources, Dawn said the decision “might be challenged because of concerns expressed by the United States and the United Kingdom”.

Foreign Minister Qureshi told a TV news channel Saturday before leaving for Munich 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.

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.

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