scientist A.Q. Khan's release could be conditional'
Islamabad, Feb 7 (IANS) The release from house arrest of Pakistani
nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan, accused of running an illegal
proliferation network, could be conditional since a portion
of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) order freeing him has been
kept secret. "The petitioner (Dr A.Q. Khan) is declared
a free citizen and writ petition is disposed of in accordance
with 'Annexure-A', contents of which shall not be issued to
the press or made public in any manner as requested by both
sides," said a one-page order released by IHC Chief Justice
Sardar Mohammad Aslam after a hearing in his chamber Friday.
The government had offered Annexure-A, spelling out the terms
and conditions of Khan's liberty, and his counsel "agreed
to the terms after initial hesitation", Dawn said Saturday.
"Analysts believe the agreement envisages only 'limited
freedom' for Khan," it added.
Even after the judgement, security in the area around Khan's
house "was still tight and intelligence personnel in
plain clothes were all over the place", the newspaper
As The News noted in an editorial: "Free he may be by
the direction of the court, but how free remains to be seen
- indeed it may be that he would wish to limit his own freedoms
in consideration of his own safety and security."
The editorial was aptly headlined "Nearly free".
Khan had been put under house arrest in 2004 after confessing
on state-run PTV to selling nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya
and North Korea and sought the nation's forgiveness. Then
president Pervez Musharraf did "forgive" him but
restricted his movements.
Khan, who was seen in public for the first time in four years
in May 2008, said the confession had been handed to him by
authorities and he was forced to read it on national television
in the "best interest of the nation".
In an interview to IANS in May 2008, Khan claimed that he
never sold nuclear technology illegally and that he should
have never made a confession to that effect four years ago.
Describing himself as "an innocent man", Khan had
said that Pakistan's nuclear assets and weapons were "quite
safe" and they could not be taken out of the country.
The civilian government had eased the restrictions placed
on the scientist in 2004.
Right from the time of Khan's confession, the US has been
persistently demanding permission to question him on his alleged
Pakistan has been equally consistent in denying this permission.
In this context, Dawn noted that the US, Britain and France
"have weighed in" on the court order releasing Khan
"with statements expressing concerns, even worries".
"All the statements expressed unease over the court decision,"
A White House statement sought assurances that Khan would
not get involved in nuclear proliferation again, while Britain
called on the Pakistani government to allow IAEA access to
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was "very
much concerned" about Khan's release because Washington
believed he was involved in leaking nuclear technology and
The US State Department said that Khan's release would be
"extremely regrettable" and "unfortunate".
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