May 29th, 2008 15:36 EST
Founder of Pakistan's nuclear program breaks silence
The founder of Pakistan`s nuclear program has broken a long silence, following four years under house arrest for selling banned nuclear technology. However, Abdul Qadeer Khan now rejects the nuclear proliferation allegations that tarnished his reputation in Pakistan as a national hero.
Four years ago, Abdul Qadeer Khan publicly confessed to selling banned nuclear technology to countries like Iran, Libya and North Korea.
President Pervez Musharraf quickly pardoned him, citing his key role in enhancing the country`s security. Ever since, Khan has been under house arrest and barred from meeting with anyone but close family members.
A day after the 10th anniversary of the nuclear tests that made him a hero in Pakistan, Khan claims that President Musharraf was acting under pressure from the United States to go after him and the proliferation charges against him are baseless.
"They [United States] can tell lies and they are good at it," said Khan. "The only thing that hurts you a little bit is that our people become their stooges for just their personal favor and gains. There was no truth in the allegations just like there was no truth in allegations against Iraq."
But Khan refused to discuss his public confessions, saying doing so could damage Pakistan`s interests. He also refused to say if he believes he was made a scapegoat to protect some top military officials who may have known about the proliferation.
Professor Ishtiaq Ahmed is a defense analyst and professor in Islamabad. He says the proliferation evidence against Khan is substantial.
"There are no two opinions in fact about his principal role in the affair," said Ahmed. "Now, one can argue that there might have been other figures representing the state establishment who may have also benefited from A.Q. Khan-led network`s engagement in nuclear proliferation. But you cannot really rule out his principal role in the affairs."
Khan says his health has deteriorated since he was put under house arrest. He blamed Western opposition to Pakistan`s nuclear program mainly because it was the first Islamic nation to have achieved the capability.
He blamed President Musharraf and his policies for a lack of economic and political progress as well as a rise in extremism in Pakistan.
"When we were working on the weapons program we had the same feeling and the same determination and same ideology as those people who were making Pakistan," said Khan. "If we could achieve a master technology in seven, eight years which other countries took 15-20 years and billions of dollars and thousands of scientists and engineers, we could do a lot of other things."
Despite Khan`s pride in his work for Pakistan`s domestic nuclear program, he is best known for running the international nuclear proliferation ring. When asked how he feels about that legacy, he says his Pakistani accusers will one day clear his name.