Pakistan: Bhutto to give UN atomic watchdog access to A.Q. Khan

Washington, 26 Sept. (AKI/DAWN) - Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto said on Tuesday that a government under her Pakistan People’s Party would give the UN nuclear watchdog access to the disgraced nuclear scientist, Dr A.Q. Khan, who lives under house arrest in Islamabad.

“The International Atomic Energy Agency would have the right to question A.Q. Khan," said Bhutto when asked at a Washington function if she would allow representatives from the US and other Western countries to interrogate the nuclear scientist.

Khan, considered the father of Pakistan's atomic bomb, has lived under virtual house arrest in Islamabad since he confessed in early 2004 to leaking sensitive nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya.

Bhutto said giving the IAEA access to Khan would satisfy the international community's desire to know more about the network of nuclear proliferators Khan had allegedly headed.

Bhutto recalled that Khan had confessed to violating the law which prevented him from sharing Pakistan’s nuclear secrets with anyone. She said that a future PPP government would also hold parliamentary hearing to determine if Khan alone was responsible for selling Pakistan’s nuclear secrets to other states or “other elements were also involved.”

Bhutto also said that she had asked PPP member Makhdoom Amin Fahim to file nomination papers as the party’s candidate for the 6 October presidential election.

She offered three conditions to President Gen Pervez Musharraf for PPP’s support and said that his response would determine the degree to which her party would take part.

The conditions she offered to Musharraf include the demand for him to resign his post as army chief, to revoke the two-term ban on the re-election of a prime minister and an across-the-board amnesty for all political leaders. The president is required to announce his response before the presidential election scheduled for 6 October.

Bhutto has announced plans to return home on 18 October.

She said if Musharraf decided to retain both posts, that of the army chief and the president, then PPP would have no option but to resign from the national and provincial assemblies. If the president responded positively, “then we will not resign, whether rest of the opposition does,” she added.

Bhutto said the PPP had decided to field a candidate for the presidential election because it wanted to remain in the political process and have the option to decide what to do in case Gen Musharraf did not accept its demands.

“We are doing this because we want to put ourselves in a better position to have more options. The issue of General Musharraf’s legitimacy is foremost in the minds of Pakistani people,” she told a meeting of the Middle East Institute at the Russell Senate Building in Washington.

“So as a precaution, we are filing our candidate,” she said, while noting that Musharraf had enough support in the current assemblies to win.


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