Pakistan’s ‘national hero’ scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, who got his nation the secrets for a nuclear bomb has pleaded with the country’s Supreme Court to be allowed freedom of movement .
Khan was on Time magazine’s cover “The Merchant of Menace” in 2005 that exposed his sinister role in not only securing the secrets for Pakistan’s bomb by subterfuge and theft but also in selling the same to Iran, North Korea and Libya.
In a handwritten letter to apex court about a fortinight ago, the architect of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, Abdul Qadeer Khan, said that he is being kept prisoner and also being restrained from pleading for his free movement.
The 84-year old ‘deactivated’ nuclear scientist presently under house arrest also requested Pakistan’s apex court to safeguard his fundamental rights and allow him to be heard.
Presently he has no access to the internet, phone, computer device, and even visitors are barred to enter his residence.
Khan’s last public appearance was on 4 February 2004, when he appeared on national television and admitted to having helped supply materials necessary for making nuclear weapons to rogue nations, North Korea and Libya.
Several years ago, influential Abdul Qadeer Khan used to take a stroll into a park across the street from his mansion in Islamabad’s King Faisal Mosque and feed the monkeys that lived in the woods.
In his driveway sits a large Jasmine bush, trimmed into an odd but unmistakable shape – a mushroom cloud. Some say it was a sadistic gesture to have a nuke cloud in front of his palatial house was a dream to nuclearise the Muslim countries.
Once he was catapulted to fame as a national hero after Pakistan detonated five underground nuclear bombs in 1998 amid high tension with neighbouring India over disputed Kashmir.
Hand-painted portrait of “Father of Nuclear Bomb” adorned on the backs of trucks and buses all over the country, also celebrated in textbooks. He was twice awarded Pakistan’s highest civilian honour, the Hilal-e-Imtiaz medal.
Khan was born in Bhopal, India, in 1936, 11 years before the independence of Pakistan. When he immigrated to Pakistan in 1952, Khan had developed an interest in science and loathing for India.
He has told his biographer of witnessing the massacre of Muslims by Hindus that followed the partition in 1947 after the end of British Raj, which Rawalpindi’s military hawks interpreted his extreme form of patriotism.
Overzealous of India’s nuclear programme, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto appointed ‘Doctor Nuke’ to run Pakistan’s nuclear-research establishment, to develop a weapon.
In a decade, Khan stopped walking in the wooded park in Islamabad to feed the monkeys. The national hero turned a multimillionaire, owner of a fleet of vintage cars and properties from Dubai to Timbuktu.
Whether motivated by greed or ideology or both, Khan decided to go into business for himself. The father of the nuclear bomb masterminded a clandestine and profitable enterprise selling to rogue leaders in Libya and North Korea, the technology and equipment to produce nuclear arsenals.
He donated $30 million to various Pakistani charities and had enough money left over to buy his staff and colleagues cars and pay for the higher education of their children.
With his accumulated fortune, he paid to restore the tomb of Sultan Shahabuddin Ghauri, an Afghan who conquered Delhi, Khan put up a portrait of himself next to the Sultan.
White House claimed that Khan’s customers were the notorious regime of Iran and North Korea – two countries identified by Bush administration as members of the “axis of evil”.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna says so far it has not found definitive proof that Iran has a weapons programme. Well, not enough proof that Khan gave those countries including Islamic Iran the rudimentary but effective designs for nuclear warheads.
Western intelligence could not find solid evidence of business with Al Qaeda and there is reason to suspect the link had existed. The Rawalpindi GHQ intelligence apparatus had worked closely with Khan in his role as the government’s top nuclear scientist, are known to sympathise Osama bin Laden.
It remains a mystery how Pakistan’s nuclear blue-eye nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan outwitted Western intelligence to build a global nuclear-smuggling network that made the world a more dangerous place. #
(Saleem Samad, is an independent journalist, media rights defender in Bangladesh. He is recipient of Ashoka Fellowship and Hellman-Hammett Award. Twitter @saleemsamad; he could be reached at email@example.com)