Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan now a ‘free bird’

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, who had admitted leaking nuclear secrets to Iran, North Korea and Libya, said Tuesday that restrictions on his movements had been lifted.

Asked if restrictions on his movements had been lifted, as reported in local newspapers, Khan told AFP: ‘By the Grace of Allah, yes.’

A Pakistani court declared Khan a free man in February, five years after the man – reputed to be the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb – was effectively put under house arrest accused of operating a proliferation network.

The 72-year-old Khan complained to a high court last week that his movements were still being restricted. The court ordered the government to respond to Khan’s claim on September 4.

Local media have quoted Khan as saying that the restrictions had been withdrawn ahead of Friday’s hearing.

‘The reports that you have read in newspapers are correct,’ Khan told AFP, adding that he could not elaborate because the court had barred him from giving interviews to foreign media. He was, however, free to speak to local press.

A senior Islamabad police official told AFP that his force was not restricting Khan’s movements.

‘As far as Islamabad police is concerned we are not restricting his movements,’ said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The United States in February had expressed concern that Khan’s release could lead to renewed nuclear proliferation. To allay fears, Pakistan said he had no access to atomic facilities.

Khan’s lawyer Syed Ali Zafar said that if he continued to be free of restrictions by Friday’s court hearing then he would not proceed with his legal action.

‘If the current situation remains on the fourth of September also, then it would mean that our prayer has borne fruit,’ Zafar said.

A spokesman for the interior ministry was unavailable for comment.

Access to Khan’s sprawling residence in one of the most upmarket areas of Islamabad was unhindered on Tuesday. ‘We are not stopping anyone from meeting Mr A.Q. Khan,’ a plain-clothed security official at the main gate told AFP.

The official, who asked not to be named, said there were no restrictions on the scientist’s movements. ‘He can go anywhere on a prior notice so that security can be provided to him.’

In February 2004 Khan confessed to sending nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea, although he later retracted his remarks. Then president Pervez Musharraf pardoned the scientist, revered by many Pakistanis as a national hero, but he was kept at his residence, guarded by troops and intelligence agents.

US lawmakers in March introduced legislation aiming to cut off military aid to Pakistan unless US officials are able to question the alleged nuclear proliferator. -AFP


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