US officials have privately warned Pakistan against releasing discredited scientist AQ Khan after investigations revealed that he might still be in possession of the design of a nuclear bomb, which is "easier to hide" and could become a "terrorist issue" in future.
The discovery, about the presence of blueprint of the sophisticated and compact nuclear weapon in Khan's computers network spread over Switzerland, Dubai, Malaysia and Thailand by US and IAEA investigators, has raised the possibility of his still having sensitive material.
The findings have given new grounds to the US officials to issue fresh warnings to the Pakistani authorities, who consider Khan's chapter as closed, against releasing him. He is currently under house arrest in Pakistan.
"We've been very direct with them that releasing Khan could cause a world of trouble," a senior US administration official, involved in the effort, was quoted as saying in the New York Times on Monday.
"The problem with Pakistan these days is that you never know who is making the decision the army, the intelligence agencies, the president or the new government", the unnamed official added.
Meanwhile, the compactness of the new design has also become a cause of concern, as the smaller warhead created from it is "more efficient and easier to hide," implying that one day it might become a "terrorist issue", another official was quoted as saying.
The warhead built from the blueprint design could fit atop a family of medium-range missiles that derive from North Korea's Nodong class of missiles. Those missiles include Pakistan's Ghauri and Iran's Shahab. All are about four feet wide, and any warhead atop them must, by definition, be smaller, the daily reported.