Pakistan judge delays ruling on nuclear scientist

A judge on Wednesday delayed a ruling on a government petition aimed at questioning Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan over recent media reports that Islamabad arranged the transfer of nuclear technology to Iran, a lawyer said.

Naveed Inayat Malik, the deputy attorney general, said the Lahore High Court had also asked the attorney general to appear on March 29 to explain the allegations that Khan was the source of the information for the reports in The Washington Post.

Khan is regarded as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear program. He was detained in December 2003, and in early 2004 he admitted on television that he operated a network that spread nuclear weapons technology to North Korea, Libya and Iran.

Despite international alarm over evidence of proliferation by Khan’s network, he was pardoned by then-President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and placed under de facto house arrest. The scientist began protesting over restrictions on him after Musharraf resigned in 2008. Last year, the government eased restrictions on Khan’s movement under a deal that he would not interact with the media.

But government agents still guard his house and trail him when he moves around. The Lahore High Court is considering a separate petition by Khan asking that all security surrounding him be removed.

The latest government move came after The Washington Post published stories in March based on an account allegedly written by Khan that said Iran had tried to buy nuclear weapons from Pakistan in the late 1980s. The stories say Pakistan instead gave Iran bomb-related drawings and other nuclear technology.

Malik said the judge might rule on the government request about questioning Khan over the report on March 29.

Khan is regarded by many Pakistanis as a hero for his key role in developing its nuclear weapons program. Government officials say he is kept under close watch for his own safety, but many analysts say the powerful military and intelligence agencies restrict his movement because they fear he may implicate them in past nuclear proliferation.

Associated Press