A Pakistani court on Friday suspended the "security protocol" accorded by the government to nuclear scientist A Q Khan, accused of running a clandestine proliferation network, and directed authorities not to restrict his movements. Acting on a petition filed by Khan, the Lahore High Court said the scientist is a free man and can go wherever he wants.
Justice Ijaz Chaudhry, who heard the case, suspended the security protocol provided to Khan and ordered that there should not be any hindrance to his free movement. "We have also gone through the experience of being imprisoned in the name of security," Chaudhry said during the hearing, referring to the restrictions imposed on the judiciary when former President Pervez Musharraf imposed emergency in late 2007. The judge also issued notices to senior police and civil officials in Islamabad, asking them to explain why action should not be taken against them for contempt of court as the Islamabad High Court had already declared Khan a "free man." Chaudhry said the officials were not implementing the Islamabad court's order in letter and spirit and asked them to respond to the notices at the next hearing on September 4.
Reacting to the court's order, Khan told reporters in Islamabad that it was an "important development". He said he could not step out of his house without getting permission from authorities and this was a violation of the Islamabad High Court's order. Khan claimed that he had been detained after "false allegations" about his involvement in nuclear proliferation were levelled against him. He said he had no plans to take legal action against those who had detained him as "god would decide their fate."
Khan said Musharraf, who had ordered his detention, was currently living outside the country and would not even get "space to be buried in Pakistan." He expressed the hope that he would now be able to move freely after the court's order. Khan's counsel S M Zafar had told the court that his client was leading a "prisoner's life" because of the security personnel deployed at his residence in Islamabad. Zafar said Khan was followed wherever he went. Zafar said this was being done in the name of the security protocol which Khan had never asked for.
Khan was put under house arrest in February 2004 after he confessed on state-run PTV to running a proliferation ring that supplied nuclear equipment and know-how to countries like Libya and North Korea. Khan retracted the confession last year, saying it was made under pressure.