Pak court bans AQ Khan from giving media interviews



Lahore: In a setback to disgraced atomic scientist AQ Khan, A Pakistani court on Monday restrained him from talking to the media on the country's nuclear programme and leaking sensitive information.

In its judgement in response to a petition filed by 74-year-old Khan seeking the removal of restrictions on his movement, the Lahore High Court ruled that Khan was not allowed to talk about nuclear weapons technology.

However, the court lifted restrictions on Khan's free movement and directed the federal government to provide him security so they can accompany him wherever he goes.

"AQ Khan is a free man now and the government will provide him security," Ali Zafar, the scientist's lawyer, told reporters.

Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry gave the judgment during in-camera proceedings. He had earlier deferred his verdict three times and asked Khan and the government to settle the matter out of court.

During the hearing, the government filed two petitions one seeking restrictions on the free movement of the scientist and restraining him from giving interviews and another seeking permission to probe claims attributed to Khan by The Washington Post about the transfer of nuclear secrets to Iran and Iraq.

Khan also submitted an affidavit today in which he claimed he had not given any interview to The Washington Post or other publications regarding Pakistan's nuclear programme.

During today's proceedings, the Attorney General said the federal government will ensure the "free movement" of Khan and provide him foolproof security.

He said Khan will have to inform the government 30 minutes in advance if he travels within Islamabad and a day before his movements outside the federal capital.

The Pakistan government has been facing immense pressure from the US to restrict Khan's movements and to restrain him from interacting with media.

In two recent reports, The Washington Post reported that Khan had tried to help Iran and Iraq develop nuclear weapons and those deals allegedly occurred with the knowledge of the then government.

The government said the contents of these reports had national security implications for Pakistan, as they contained certain allegations related to the nuclear programme and atomic cooperation.

Further, the articles were an attempt to affect friendly ties with Iran and Iraq, the government lawyer said. The now defunct Islamabad High Court too had declared Khan a "free man" following a tacit agreement between the scientist and security agencies.

However, Khan was not satisfied with this arrangement and approached the Lahore High Court for the removal of all restrictions imposed on him. Khan, who was detained in December 2003, admitted on television that he operated a network that spread nuclear weapons technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya.

Khan, regarded by Pakistanis as a hero for building the country's first nuclear weapon, was pardoned by the then President Pervez Musharraf, but immediately placed under house arrest.

The scientist later retracted from his televised statement and has since challenged government imposed restrictions on him in the courts.

PTI