'Afghan war was a blessing for Pak nuclear programme'
Western countries did not 'actively oppose' Pakistan developing its nuclear weapon in the late 1980s as they were "too scared" and pre-occupied with the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and its future consequences, disgraced atomic scientist A Q Khan has said.
Khan, who has been slapped sanctions by the US for running a clandestine nuclear network, also said the West ignored Pakistan's nuclear program as it needed the country's support to push the then Soviet Russia out of Afghanistan.
"The Afghan War was a blessing for our nuclear programme," Khan said in an interview to the Newsweek's inaugural Pakistani edition.
"It was not that the Western countries actively supported it but that they were too scared and (pre) occupied with the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and its future consequences to actively oppose it," he said.
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Image: Disgraced Pakistani atomic scientist A Q Khan
'CIA chief Leon Panetta was a liar'
Khan said neither the Americans nor the British had a clue about the status of Pakistan's nuclear programme until 1990.
"After the Afghan War, they (US and UK) slapped sanctions on us to extract concessions from (former Pakistani president) Benazir Bhutto's government, but (former president) Ghulam Ishaq Khan and (former Army chief) Gen Aslam Beg frustrated their nefarious designs," Khan said.
The disgraced atomic scientist alleged CIA chief Leon Panetta was a "liar", when asked about Panetta's statement that Pakistan is now the headquarters of Al-Qaeda.
"The CIA chief -- like his bosses and those before him is a liar. There is no headquarters of Al Qaeda in Pakistan. Yes, Pakistan has become very unsafe due to foreign troops in Afghanistan. Our cohesion has been shattered," he said.
Image: Photo of leaders of the Pakistani nuclear weapon test team and weapons development scientists at the site of the Pakistani 1998 Chagai-I nuclear weapons test
Pakistan's nuke is a deterrent against India
He also said the "spineless political leaders" have turned Pakistan -- a nuclear and missile power with 175 million people -- into a "beggar state", a third-rate country.
"If there had been any pride left in our leaders, they would have responded appropriately and nobody would have dared to say such things in the first place," he said.
Khan said Pakistan's nuclear weapon is a deterrent against India.
"Our nuclear program has ensured our survival, our security, and our sovereignty... I am proud to have contributed to it together with my patriotic and able colleagues," he said, adding that Pakistan is not a threat to any country.
'Dirty' nuke is a Western myth and phobia
Khan said if Western troops withdraw from Afghanistan, there would be peace and tranquility in Pakistan.
"If Western troops withdraw from this area (Afghanistan) we would once again have peace and tranquillity here. I still hope that someday we will find honest, God-fearing leaders to turn this country into one of prosperity and peace," Khan said.
He said the country's nuclear weapons programme was safe and secure.
"This is again a Western myth and one of their phobias. A nuclear weapon -- good or dirty -- is a highly complicated and sophisticated device. A large number of parts are needed, and expertise is required to assemble such a device.
"Even scientists and engineers without the relevant experience are not able to do this, let alone to talk of illiterate, untrained terrorists," he said.