A Pakistan court declared nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan a "free citizen" Friday under an out of court deal between him and the government. He will now be allowed free movement, subject to certain mutually agreed upon security arrangements.
AQ Khan had publicly confessed he had leaked atomic weapons technology to countries including Iran, North Korea and Libya.
Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan had been put under house arrest in January four years ago, after a public confession that he had been involved in leaking atomic weapons technology to countries including Iran, North Korea and Libya. Then President Pervez Musharraf eventually pardoned Dr.Khan but restricted him to home stating security reasons.
Soon after the court ruling that declared him a free citizen, a smiling Khan emerged from his house to address dozens of print and electronic media reporters face-to-face for the first time since January 2004. The court instructed the government to facilitate the scientist's movement, this however would be subject to mutually agreed upon security arrangements.
Freedom with some restrictions
Dr.Khan himself played down any threat to his life. “I was traveling all over the world when I was making the bomb, and no body could hurt me. Now I have been away from the project for the last eight years, they say they will provide the security they were providing me before I was not hurt by anybody, I think so nothing will happen,” said Khan.
The jubilant Khan also told reporters he would not be talking about Pakistan's nuclear program. Neither does he want to initiate any action against former president Musharraf, who had ordered the detention following international criticism of Dr. Khan's alleged role in the nuclear proliferation network. At the time, Khan had confessed on television to passing on nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea; but he retracted his remarks later.
Matiullah Jan has been following Dr.Khan's court case and says the scientist will not be as free as one might expect. He said that the international media were raising questions about the court’s judgement that there are no charges or cases against Dr. Khan. “The first impression was now the nuclear scientist has been set free. That is not the case even after this judgment. The freedom of movement to Dr. Khan will be subject to security measures as agreed upon between the government and Dr. Khan,” said Jan.
Concern among international community
The French government has expressed its concerns after the court decision. Despite a negative reaction from neighbouring India, too, former ambassador and analyst Tayyab Siddiqi says the international reaction to Dr.Khan's release is not likely to be harsh.
“Now international reaction will be negative, but fact of the matter is that this was the policy pursued by the neocons under President Bush and now that we have a different administration, the issue has lost its sting, urgency I would say. There would be of course some reaction but not to the extent as would have been expected by the Bush administration,” says Siddiqui. He added that the new democratic government in Pakistan would also provide a kind of cushioning effect against all kinds of adverse or negative reaction or international pressure.
The Pakistani ministry of foreign affairs said Dr. Khan's case was a closed chapter and the Indian reaction to his release was misplaced. Once allowed to move around, Dr. Khan is likely to generate news and attract domestic as well as international attention.