Abdul Qadeer Khan, the disgraced scientist who mentored Pakistan’s nuclear programme, has declined to comment on the veracity of a letter he is supposed to have written to his wife five years ago. The publication of the missive has raised fresh concerns about his role in nuclear proliferation.
"I cannot comment on the report of Sunday Times because I have so far not gone through it," Dawn quoted him as saying on Thursday.
"As the matter of my alleged involvement in nuclear proliferation is sub judice, I cannot comment on the new media report. I have become tired of clarifying my position, but I know that this is an unending controversy," Khan added.
According to the Sunday Times, Dutch secret agents recoverd the four-page letter from Khan's daughter in 2004. Dated Dec 10, 2003, and addressed to the scientist's Dutch wife Henny, the letter begins: "Darling, if the government plays any mischief with me take a tough stand."
Outlining Pakistan's nuclear cooperation with China, Iran and North Korea, and also mentioning Libya, the letter ends: "They might try to get rid of me to cover up all the things they got done by me."
Sunday Times quoted the letter as saying: "We put up a centrifuge plant at Hanzhong (250km southwest of Xian). The Chinese gave us drawings of the nuclear weapon, gave us 50kg of enriched uranium, gave us 10 tons of UF6 (natural) and five tons of UF6 (three per cent)." (UF6 is uranium hexafluoride, the gaseous feedstock for an enrichment plant.)
The publication of the letter prompted an immediate reaction from the US, which said that Khan was still a "risk for proliferation".
In February 2004, three years after his retirement, Khan had confessed on national television to having passed on nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea. Then president Pervez Musharraf "pardoned" him but placed him under house arrest.
On Iran, the letter said: "Probably with the blessings of BB (Benazir Bhutto, who became prime minister in 1988) and (now-retired general) General Imtiaz (Benazir's defence adviser, now dead) asked… me to give a set of drawings and some components to the Iranians…The names and addresses of suppliers were also given to the Iranians."
On North Korea, the letter said: "(A now retired general) took $3 million through me from the N Koreans and asked me to give some drawings and machines."