Last Wednesday, an interview with Pakistan’s infamous nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan (more widely known as AQ Khan), was released by The Nation, [see “AQ Khan, “the Father of the Atomic Bomb” wants Freedom”]. In the news piece, which gained some traction among Western media outlets last week, Khan asserted his desire to be freed from house arrest because of his “deteriorating health.” In 2004, the nuclear scientist, interchangeably known as the “father” of Pakistan’s atomic bomb, confessed on television to “running a proliferation network” and passing nuclear secrets on to Iran, North Korea, and Libya. Although he was pardoned by President Pervez Musharraf, he has been under house arrest since the widely publicized confession.
The rare interview was further bolstered, when, in a phone conversation with the AFP on Sunday, AQ Khan said “he took the blame” for passing nuclear secrets four years ago in order “to save his country.” He told the news agency, “I saved the country for the first time when I made Pakistan a nuclear nation and saved it again when I confessed and took the whole blame on myself…Even Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Mushahid Hussain said I saved Pakistan by accepting the whole blame myself.” Although Khan stated he had had no contact with the new government, The News cited a “report,” which said the government has decided to ease the restrictions placed on the nuclear scientist. According to the news agency, Khan would be allowed to meet his friends and close relatives at least twice a month, and have meals with them. He would be able to meet at least six close friends and relatives as nominated by him. On Monday, newly appointed foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said in an interview with local television, “Yes, I don’t want to see his movement restricted…He is a Pakistani, a respected Pakistani, I think that he should be allowed to see his friends and I think that he should be allowed to go for a drive…I think he should be allowed to go and have a meal at a restaurant, I see no reason why he should be deprived of that, on the other hand we also have to be concerned about his security and health.”
The funny thing is, AQ Khan is not just any Pakistani. He is a nuclear scientist, the man responsible for making Pakistan a “nuclear nation.” He is both a hero and a villain to Pakistanis. And he is also the man allegedly responsible for selling secrets to “contentious” states. To treat him like a regular Pakistani citizen demeans the very premise of why he was put under house arrest in the first place. [The above image was the cover of TIME magazine in February 2005, the title reads: The Merchant of Menace, Exclusive: How AQ Khan Became the World’s Most Dangerous Nuclear Trafficker].