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Lahore bar association seeks AQ Khan's release

The Lahore High Court Bar Association said Khan was being kept under illegal detention without any lawful justification and reasons.

india Updated: Jan 26, 2007 15:28 IST

The Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) has filed a petition challenging the detention of renowned scientist and national hero Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan.

The petitions have been moved in the superior courts of the country.

Invoking Article 184(3) of the Constitution, the LHCBA claimed that the architect of Pakistan's nuclear weapons was under house arrest since 2004, and this was engineered to please the United States.

"He has developed life-threatening ailment and his life is in danger. The nation suspects that he is being slow poisoned.

It will be a great loss not only for the nation, but for the entire Muslim world, if he dies under incarceration," The News quoted the LHCBA as saying in a statement.

Describing AQ Khan as the pride of the nation, the LHCBA said he was being kept under illegal detention without any lawful justification and reasons.

In the second writ petition, Iqbal Jafri, an advocate, challenged Khan's detention, and the need for converting his house into a sub-jail.

Long celebrated as the "Father of the Pakistani Bomb", Khan deserves credit for providing Pakistan with the means for producing nuclear weapons, for without the uranium enrichment gas centrifuge plant built under Khan's leadership, using classified and proprietary plans and technology that he stole from his former employer URENCO.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Western governments became increasingly convinced that covert nuclear and ballistic missile collaboration was taking place between China, Pakistan, and North Korea.

The activities of the Khan Research Laboratories led to the United States terminating economic and military aid to Pakistan in October 1990; following this, the Pakistani government agreed to a freeze in its nuclear weapons development programme.

Khan's open promotion of Pakistan's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile capabilities became something of an embarrassment to Pakistan's government.

The United States government became increasingly convinced that Pakistan was trading nuclear weapons technology to North Korea in exchange for ballistic missile technology.

Khan's official career came to an abrupt end in March 2001, when he and PAEC Chairman Ishfaq Ahmed were suddenly retired by order of General (and now President) Pervez Musharraf. What prompted this move can only be speculated.

In 2002, the Wall Street Journal quoted unnamed "senior Pakistani Government officials" as conceding that Khan's dismissal from KRL had been prompted by the US government's suspicions of his involvement in nuclear weapons technology transfers with North Korea.

It was alleged in December 2002 that US intelligence officials had found evidence that an unidentified agent, supposedly acting on Khan's behalf, had offered nuclear weapons expertise to Iraq in mid-1990, though Khan strongly denied this allegation.

In January 2004, he confessed to having been involved in a clandestine international network of nuclear weapons technology proliferation from Pakistan to Libya, Iran and North Korea.

On February 5, 2004, the President of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, announced that he had pardoned Khan.

Despite this political scandal he is still regarded as the Hero of the Nation by virtually all Pakistanis.

Neither Khan nor any of his alleged Pakistani collaborators have yet to face any charges in Pakistan, where he remains an extremely popular figure.

Though he remains gagged and under house arrest, he is still seen as an outspoken nationalist for his belief that the West is inherently hostile to Islam.

First Published: Jan 26, 2007 15:28 IST