Pakistan asks court to let it reopen probe of nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan

By R. Jeffrey Smith
Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Pakistani government on Monday sought a court's permission in Lahore to reopen its probe into scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan and his role in nuclear weapons-related discussions and transactions with Iran and Iraq.

If the court agrees, the inquiry could create new headaches for Khan, who has been under a form of house arrest since detailed information about Pakistan's exports of nuclear gear first became public in 2004. Khan, who is widely considered the father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, now is shepherded everywhere by security personnel and generally prohibited from meeting with foreigners or traveling abroad, restrictions that have caused him to protest to the court.

The government cited two recent articles in The Washington Post about Khan in making its request.

Although a Pakistani aid bill approved by Congress in September calls for some funds to be withheld until President Obama certifies that Islamabad has provided "relevant information from or direct access to Pakistani nationals" involved in past nuclear commerce, the Pakistani government has so far blocked U.S. experts from interviewing Khan.

It also has withheld damaging allegations by Khan in his official written account of his past dealings with North Korea, Iran and Libya, a document recently provided to The Post. Among them are Khan's claims that Pakistan's military leadership approved of his exports to North Korea of advanced centrifuges for enriching uranium and of his exports to Iran of centrifuges and bomb design information.

"We have sought the court's permission to look into this matter after the appearance of certain articles in media, in which claims were made about Dr. A.Q. Khan's alleged assistance to Iran and Iraq to help develop nuclear programs, and the counterclaims or denials made by Dr. A.Q. Khan," government attorney Naveed Inayat Malik said in an interview. "So our plea before the court is that we want to investigate or probe this matter."

Khan's attorney, Ali Zafar, could not immediately be reached, but Reuters quoted him Monday as saying that the government's proposal was meant to prevent the court from easing some restrictions on Khan's movements.

A widely circulated article by the official Iranian news agency last week quoted Khan as describing The Post's account of his dealings with that country as baseless. But Khan's daughter Dina, in a statement Monday to Reuters and others from her home in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, said that her father had been misquoted by the Iranians and that his denial "referred to claims made about him and Iraq" in a new book by Washington author David Albright. Khan, she said, "did not deny" what The Post had reported.

Albright has criticized The Post's reporting of Khan's allegations, arguing that it has attached too much weight to what the scientist said. He also said Monday that Khan's daughter is "not a credible source" regarding what Khan told the Iranian news agency.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company