The Pakistan government was quiet about Friday’s Lahore High Court interim order that no restrictions must be placed on the movement of A.Q. Khan, the nuclear scientist whose self-confessed involvement in a proliferation racket five years ago continues to give the world jitters about the security of the country’s nuclear weapons.
But it is doubtful if, despite the court ruling, Pakistan can afford to annoy the United States and the rest of the international community by giving the disgraced scientist the unfettered freedom he seeks, especially when fears are expressed time and again about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons or the know-how falling into the hands of Al-Qaeda.
The U.S. and the International Atomic Energy Agency have often demanded access to the scientist to question him to find out the extent of his self-confessed proliferation activities.
But Dr. Khan, who is mistakenly often referred to as a nuclear scientist but is in fact a metallurgist, sounded optimistic at the interim relief granted to him by the court while it takes a final decision on his petition asking for the removal of the restrictions imposed on him by “official protocol”.
Talking to reporters at his sprawling home in the plush E-7 sector in the capital, he described the court order as an “excellent decision” and “heart warming.” He expressed the hope that it would send a message to the government to “get off my back” and allow him to live life as a “free private citizen”.
Dr. Khan said if the government did not remove the restrictions on him even after this, he would move the Supreme Court to obtain his freedom.
“I was living life as a prisoner under the official protocol,” he said. “I do not need official protocol. I want to go freely.”
The scientist said he wanted to travel to Karachi to visit his brother, who is unwell.
Separately, he told Geo News that if he continued to be treated badly by the government, he would reveal “sensitive secrets”.
Since the 2009 verdict, Dr. Khan has been quiet, and has given no interviews, possibly under the terms of his restricted freedom. His only visible activity is a weekly column in The News, but even this has not been entirely free of controversy.
A letter-writer to the daily, a Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon, pointed out earlier this week that large chunks of his recent column on computer education were lifted paragraph for paragraph from the undergraduate prospectus of the University of Sussex, the website of London’s Imperial College and the University of Cambridge.
There have been no reactions to the accusation of plagiarism, and the newspaper published the second part of the column titled “Science of Computers” this week.