M A I N   N E W S

Pakistan sacks top N-scientist

Islamabad, January 31
The father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb Abdul Qadeer Khan has been removed from the post of the Scientific Advisor to Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali for his alleged involvement in the proliferation of sensitive technology to Iran and Libya.

The action followed a meeting of the National Nuclear Command Authority, chaired by President Pervez Musharraf, who reviewed the entire investigation process and the fallout of it.

He was removed to “facilitate” an ongoing probe into the suspected transfer of nuclear technology to Iran and Libya, officials here said.

Dr Khan regarded as founder of the country’s nuclear programme was earlier designated as Advisor to President and after the last year’s elections he was made advisor to Prime Minister following his forced retirement in 2001 as the head of premier nuclear installation, Khan Research Laboratories (KRL), named after him.

The administrative action removing Dr Khan as Scientific Advisor, a post which bestowed Cabinet rank on him, was seen as a prelude to take drastic action against him, possibly his arrest.

The Pakistan government was under pressure from the opposition and Islamist parties not to take action against him for his contribution to the country.

The Islamist alliance Muthahida Majlis-e Amal (MMA) has threatened mass agitation if any action is taken against him.

Dr Khan has emerged as the key suspect in the investigation, launched in November following information provided by Iran to the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA).

Significantly the administrative action against Dr Khan followed contradictory statements by Pakistan ministers and officials for the past few days.

Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat said recently that no action was contemplated against Dr Khan as he was not a suspect.

But, official APP news agency last night quoted a spokesman of the Interior Ministry as clarifying that Hayat has been quoted wrongly. “The news items quoting the minister as saying that Dr A.Q. Khan was not a suspect in the transfer of nuclear know-how to any other country, was not correct.”

According to the spokesman, what Hayat had actually said was that until the complicated process of investigation was completed, it would be premature to say anything.

“If anyone is found to be involved in any wrongdoing, his deeds would be brought before the nation”, he said, adding that speculation at this stage would not be in the interest of anyone.

The minister had said that among other scientists, Dr Khan was also being questioned but as yet he had not been found guilty, the spokesman said.

Dr Khan’s removal also followed a meeting between General Musharraf and Jamali.

Today’s meeting of the National Nuclear Command Authority, which is headed by Musharraf and consists of top military officials, was the first since probe was launched.

It may be recalled that US Secretary of State Colin Powell had reportedly asked Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to place Abdul Qadeer Khan under “house arrest” almost two years ago for his alleged collusion in the transfer of nuclear know-how to other countries.

Powell had made this request while on a tour of eight Asian countries in the summer of 2002, reports the Dawn.

Powell is believed to have told General Musharraf then that Khan needed to be questioned over the alleged secret trading of Pakistan nuclear technology to North Korea, going to the extent of saying that he had irrefutable evidence to back this accusation.

He is said to have categorically told General Musharraf that a US spy satellite had recorded images of a Pakistani transport plane being loaded with missile parts in North Korea.

It was, the US believed, part of a barter deal trading Pakistani nuclear know-how for missiles, the paper further goes on to say in its report.

According to sources in Washington, Powell had even offered General Musharraf assistance for an inquiry into Khan’s activities.

Quoting a report issued by The Guardian, the Dawn has learned that money, equipment and lie detectors for the interrogation had been offered, but General Musharraf had rejected it.

Now, for all practical purposes, Khan is effectively under house arrest here, waiting to hear if he will face charges of treason.

The evidence is being considered as embarrassing for Pakistan, whose scientists are at the centre of an alleged illegal and dangerous trade in nuclear secrets.

Khan, however, has denied any involvement with Iran. “I am being accused for nothing, I never visited Iran, I don’t know any Iranian, nor do I know any Iranian scientist. I will be targeted naturally, because I made the nuclear bomb, I made the missile,” he had said last month. — ANI, PTI



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