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Pakistan's Nuke Dad Goes Public

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Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of the Pakistani nuclear bomb, has started writing op-ed pieces in Daily Jang, the most read and published newspaper of Pakistan. The Urdu language newspaper has a center-right editorial policy and is considered among the relatively moderate critics of the United States in Pakistan (Jang publishing group also runs an English daily, and a translation of his op-ed can be read here). Dr. A.Q Khan, as he is known as in Pakistan as well as in global proliferation circles, gained international fame when news of his involvement in -- or rather masterminding of -- the proliferation of nuclear weapons surfaced on international media. He ultimately accepted his involvement and apologized to Pakistanis; Musharraf granted him clemency afterward.

During his two-decades of nuclear proliferation, Dr. Khan and his associates sold Uranium enrichment technology and related information to Iran, Libya and South Korea. Based on this information and nuclear spare parts, North Korea has already declared its nuclear capability. Libya back-rolled its nuclear program (after facing extreme international pressure) while Iran is trying its best to continue Uranium enrichment to a level where they have created enough resources to make a bomb. All of these developments are directly related to the A.Q Khan network.

He is worshipped like a hero in Pakistan, and, despite his overseeing of the whole nuclear trade, Pakistanis still take him as a patriotic figure that can tackle the advances of arch-rivals India and the Untied States. They are not even eager to pay heed to documented facts that he exported plane-loads of nuclear material to other countries. There is a deafening silence on this front as the Pakistani military, which might have direct involvement in this trade, is not eager to leak any details and face international mayhem.

Coming back to his op-ed piece, he has admitted that he visited Timbuktu, a city in Mali, four times between 1998 and 2002 (under full permission of the Pakistani government). He apparently built a hotel there that he named after his Dutch wife. Western intelligence reports claim that his visits were more than adventure tourism, as he traded in Uranium deals and met with the global actors of nuclear trade. Even some of his dissidents accede to this fact.

Although he is living an almost free life now after facing four years in house arrest, he is interested in expanding his horizons to a greater degree. He has already submitted a petition in this regard in Lahore High Court. While Pakistani authorities have repeatedly refused the requests of access to Dr. Khan, his open movements can create some major troubles.

Even if he is unable to get any relief from the court, he has found another means of reaching out to the masses -- i.e., by writing in newspapers. In his op-ed pieces, he denies his involvement in the proliferation and blasts India and the US for their exploitation of Muslims. Needless to say, his columns are widely read and discussed. Given his idol-like status in Pakistan and fragile political situation in this country, there is a possibility that he might again start his dirty business. Although Pakistan has set in place a reliable anti-proliferation network, Dr. Khan has no dearth of loyalists in the Pakistani nuclear program. His open movements would definitely alarm international players, but, until then: all eyes on the decision of Lahore court.

UPDATE: Lahore High Court has not given any clear decision and has instead asked both the parties concerned to come up with a mutually-agreed plan. In another development, Pakistani Supreme Court might allow him to travel internationally.