ISLAMABAD: A court yesterday freed the father of Pakistan’s atomic bomb, Abdul Qadeer Khan, from five years of house arrest. Khan confessed on television in 2004 to selling nuclear secrets to Iran, North Korea and Libya, but was immediately pardoned by the government, although his movements were restricted to effective house arrest.
Khan’s lawyer Ali Zafar said the Islamabad High Court declared yesterday that Khan was not involved in nuclear proliferation or criminal activity and there was no case against him. “The court has ruled that he’s a free man,” Zafar said.
The government had for long maintained that Khan was not officially under house arrest but was being held for his own security. It was not immediately clear to what extent security agencies would still restrict his movements. Pakistan has never let foreign investigators question Khan, saying it had passed on all relevant information about his proliferation activities.
The government declined to comment on the court decision but said as a responsible nuclear-armed state, it had taken all necessary measures to promote the goal of nonproliferation. “The so-called A.Q. Khan affair is a closed chapter,” the Foreign Ministry said.
The United States said the release would be “extremely regrettable” and “unfortunate.” State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid told reporters that Khan remains a “serious proliferation risk.”
France voiced unease. “We are obviously a little concerned by this decision,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier. “We hope that the proliferation activities of Khan and his network in the past are absolutely over.”
Asked about the reaction of Western government, Khan struck a defiant tone. “Are they happy with our God? Are they happy with our Prophet (pbuh)? Are they happy with our leader? Never,” he said. “I don’t care about the rest of the world. I care about my country. (President Barack) Obama cares about America, not about Pakistan or India or Afghanistan.”
He said he did not intend traveling abroad, except to Makkah to perform Umrah and express his gratitude to Allah. About his future plans, the scientist said he would like to educate the younger generation.