Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Monday said Pakistan's new government would like to lift restrictions on disgraced nuclear scientist AQ Khan, who has been under house arrest since 2004 following his admission of proliferating nuclear secrets.
"I do not want to see his (Khan's) movements restricted as they've been in the past," said Qureshi, a senior leader of the ruling Pakistan People's Party. "He is a respected Pakistani."
Khan is a "national hero" and would not be handed over to the IAEA under any circumstances, Qureshi told Dawn news channel.
He said, "I think he (Khan) should be allowed to see friends, to go for a drive (and) to go have a meal at a restaurant. I see no reason why we should deprive him of that.
"On the other hand, we also have to be concerned about his security and his health," the minister added.
Khan, who was placed under house arrest in February 2004 after he admitted to passing atomic secrets to Iran, North Korea and Libya, said in an interview to a Urdu newspaper last week that he is under "illegal detention" and hopes the new government will lift restrictions on his movement.
He said the main cause of his poor health is his "solitary confinement".
Khan was hospitalised briefly last month and has undergone several medical check-ups in the past few weeks.
Despite his public admission on state-run television about proliferating nuclear secrets, Khan is regarded as a national hero in Pakistan. Several political parties, including the PML-N that is part of the ruling coalition, have said he should be freed.
Officials of Pakistan's nuclear establishment have said Khan is kept under detention for his own security.