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Khan pays for PR campaign

Islamabad's cab drivers, whose vehicles were adorned with pictures of Bollywood actresses, are now obsessed with AQ Khan's picture.

india Updated: Feb 21, 2004 12:49 IST

ISLAMABAD'S CAB drivers, whose vehicles were adorned with pictures of Bollywood actresses, are now obsessed with AQ Khan's picture.

Many carry rear window re posters saying: "A Q Khan, please forgive us. The nation is ashamed of the shabby treatment that you have received. We don't deserve a hero like you!"

But many cab drivers frankly admit they are carrying the posters because they have been paid to do so.

"I am not concerned whether he is a criminal or not. I have replaced the poster of Kareena Kapoor with Khan because I have been promised a monthly sum of Rs 1,200 for this ad-campaign. I have already been paid the half money," said one driver, Kamran Ali.

When asked who pays them, most cite a local cleric. "I was given this project by Qari Yousaf. He promised a monthly sum of Rs 1,200 plus Rs 10,000 if I would have the poster displayed on cabs running around Islamabad and Rawalpindi," said another cabbie Jamil Ahmad. Qari Yousaf, prayer leader at a mosque in Rawalpindi, denied the taxi drivers? claim. "But I fully support what the posters inscribe. I fully support the campaign. Dr Saheb is our hero. He has been made a scapegoat. But I have nothing to do with this so-called publicity campaign. This must be a conspiracy hatched against me."

Reliable sources say the campaign has been initiated by the family members of the other detained nuclear scientists of Khan Research Laboratories.

These include Dr Mohammad Farooq, the laboratories' director, Dr Nazeer Ahmad, the chief engineer of its metallurgy department, Brigadier Sajawal Khan, one of the laboratories' former director-generals and Dr Naseemuddin, currently head of missile manufacturing.

The campaign is not limited to posters on taxis. Khan's aficionados have bribed a number of Islamic prayer leaders to vindicate and glorify him during Friday sermons among many of the thousands of mosques in Rawalpindi and Islamabad. '

According to one source, the price of a pro-Khan sermon is 3,000 rupees. Currently, Khan has bought the services of 1,500 prayer leaders.

"You can expect anything from Khan because he is such a 'publicity' hound that he would not refrain from employing any cheap tactic to make stories," says a student at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad.

First Published: Feb 21, 2004 12:49 IST