BY Azhar Masood
Detained Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan said he took the blame four years ago for passing atomic secrets to Iran, North Korea and Libya in order to “save his country”. Dr.A.Q.Khan’s son-in-law Nauman Shah said, “My father-n-law has been under effective house arrest since confessing on television in 2004 to running a proliferation network”, added that the country’s new government had not yet contacted him about his possible release.
Khan was pardoned by President Pervez Musharraf after his confession but has remained in detention. Musharraf denied any state involvement in Khan’s activities but has rejected international requests to quiz the scientist. “I saved the country for the first time when I made Pakistan a nuclear nation and saved it again when I confessed and took the whole blame on myself,” Khan told AFP in a telephone interview from his Islamabad villa late Sunday.
Khan is hailed as a hero by many Pakistanis for transforming the country into the Islamic world’s first nuclear power. Pakistan carried out nuclear tests in 1998 in response to detonations by neighbouring India. “Even Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain (former prime minister) and Mushahid Hussain (a senator from the party that backs Musharraf) said I saved Pakistan by accepting the whole blame myself,” he added.
Musharraf’s political allies were routed in elections in February and a new government formed by slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto’s party and the grouping of former premier Nawaz Sharif has taken power. Members of the new government have indicated that they may consider freeing Khan as they review Musharraf’s policies over the past nine years and seek to roll back his powers.
But Khan said he had had no contact with the new administration. “No government official has so far contacted me about my release nor would I contact any of them to do so,” Khan said. “You had better ask this question of the government.” Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Monday he favoured lifting restrictions on Khan. “Yes, I don’t want to see his movement restricted,” Qureshi said in an interview with local Dawn television. “He is a Pakistani, a respected Pakistani, I think that he should be allowed to see his friends and I think that he should be allowed to go for a drive,” the minister said. “I think he should be allowed to go and have a meal at a restaurant, I see no reason why he should be deprived of that, on the other hand we also have to be concerned about his security and health.”
Khan was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2006 and was briefly hospitalised last month with complications. “I have faith in Allah and believe that wisdom is hidden in everything. I believe in positive thinking and get comfort by reading the Holy Koran during my detention,” he said.