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The ‘Agreement’ That Set A.Q. Khan Free

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In return for his “freedom” from de facto house arrest in 2009, Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb who was accused of running a proliferation ring, agreed with the Pakistan government to a stringent set of conditions that restricted his movement and curtailed his interactions, ensuring that his release remained by and large symbolic.

The conditions, never publicised before but much speculated about as they were ordered to be kept secret by a court in Pakistan, are contained in a U.S. diplomatic cable. Thanks to  WikiLeaks, we now know of Pakistan Interior Secretary Kamal Shah assuring the U.S. Ambassador that the court decision provided legal cover to the government in dealing with the disgraced scientist, as his previous detention had no legal basis.

The document reveals the Pakistan People’s Party-led government’s tight-rope walk between domestic public sentiment that revered Dr. Khan as a national hero and wanted him freed, and U.S. and international pressure not to release him.

Dr. Khan was placed under virtual house arrest by President Pervez Musharraf in 2004 after his confession on national television that he had sold nuclear secrets to Libya, Iran and North Korea. The confession followed U.S. investigations into what is now known as “the A.Q. Khan network.” Dr. Khan later retracted the confession and said he had been forced to make it.

After President Musharraf stepped down in August 2008, the Bhopal-born Pakistan scientist moved the Islamabad High Court for his release. By then, the PPP government, which had been elected to power just months earlier, was already under tremendous pressure to release him.

Ministers made conflicting statements as they tried to satisfy, on the one hand, public opinion at home, and on the other, the international nuclear order that still held the 75-year-old to be a proliferation risk. As a WikiLeaks cable published last year revealed, the U.S, in particular, conveyed to Pakistan that he should not be released.

In February 2009, the court declared Dr. Khan a “free citizen,” but only after it had brokered a “secret agreement” between him and the government. The court prohibited either side from making the details public.

Dr. Khan accepted, among other conditions, that he would not request any visits to any “strategic organisations or their subsidiaries.” He would not call any person working in those organisations for a meeting “without the prior permission of the Authorities.” He would inform the authorities of any visit to outstation destinations “48/24 hours in advance.” And in case Karachi was his destination, such information would be given “03/02 days prior to planned movement.”

Guest lists to functions at his home, a restaurant or a hotel “must be cleared by local security staff amicably,” but foreigners were not allowed. Nor would he be allowed to travel abroad.

He was ordered by the court to keep his movements “secret and avoid visits to public places.”

Then there were certain conditions that Dr. Khan did not accept. These the court said it was ordering “in view of the peculiar nature of the case, its international ramifications and considering all surrounding circumstances.” He “shall join the pending inquiry/investigation on proliferation, as and when required by competent officials;” return “any material or document etc. on Pakistan’s nuclear program, if any, in his control;” refrain from “exploiting specific media personnel to influence public opinion on various national/international issues without Government clearance;” refrain “from indulging in any political activities and high profile socialization, whatsoever.”

Within minutes of the court pronouncing him a “free citizen,” Dr. Khan had held an impromptu press conference outside his plush E-7 villa in Islamabad. Mr. Shah expressed regret to Ms. Patterson “that Khan had been able to make comments to the press, but told the Ambassador that the impromptu press conference outside of Khan’s home had been conducted prior to the formal release of the court’s decision and had thus caught the law enforcement agencies unprepared.”

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SOUTH ASIA

Pakistani Anti-graft body wants travel ban on Nawaz Sharif, kin

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Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog has asked authorities to place ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law on the Exit Control List to prevent them from leaving the country.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) sent a formal request to the ministry of interior. The interior ministry officials confirmed that the NAB wrote that names of Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar should be put on the Exit Control List (ECL), which listed individuals not allowed to leave Pakistan.

The NAB argued that as the trial of the three nears its conclusion, it is feared that they would leave the country.

Earlier, a similar request to place name of finance minister Ishaq Dar on ECL was not accepted, allowing him to go to London and never return.

Sharif, 68, and his family this week filed an application with the accountability court seeking a fortnight’s exemption from personal appearance from February 19 onwards to let them go to London to see Sharif’s ailing wife. Three cases were filed against Sharif and his family last year, including Avenfield properties, Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment, and Flagship Investments.

Maryam and Safdar are accused only in Avenfield properties case. The NAB had filed two supplementary references against Sharif, his sons Hasan and Hussain regarding Al-Azizia Steel Mills & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship Investment cases.

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Pakistan “breaches obligations’ on nuclear arms reduction, UN court told

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The Hague: Pakistan is violating its “obligations” to the international community by failing to reduce its nuclear arsenal, the Marshall Islands told the UN’s highest court on Tuesday.

The small Pacific Island nation is this week launching three unusual cases against India, Pakistan and Britain before the International Court of Justice.

Majuro wants to put a new spotlight on the global nuclear threat, its lawyers said yesterday, by using its own experience with massive US-led nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s.

“Pakistan is in breach of its obligations owed to the international community as a whole,” when it comes to reducing its nuclear stockpile, said Nicholas Grief, one of the island nation’s lawyers.

Islamabad and its nuclear-armed neighbour India “continue to engage in a quantitative build-up and a qualitative improvement” of their atomic stockpiles, added Tony deBrum, a Marshallese government minister.

DeBrum warned that even a “limited nuclear war” involving the two countries would “threaten the existence” of his island nation people.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.

In 1998, the rival neighbours both demonstrated nuclear weapons capability.

The ICJ’s judges are holding hearings for the next week and a half to decide whether it is competent to hear the lawsuits brought against India and Pakistan — neither of which have signed the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

A third hearing against Britain — which has signed the NPT — scheduled to start on Wednesday will be devoted to “preliminary objections” raised by London.

The Marshalls initially sought to bring a case against nine countries it said possessed nuclear arms: Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.
Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.

But the Hague-based ICJ, set up in 1945 to rule in disputes between states, has only admitted three cases against Britain, India and Pakistan, because they have accepted the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction.

Pakistan’s lawyers did not attend Tuesday’s hearings.

It did however file a counter-claim against Majuro’s allegations saying “the court has no jurisdiction to deal with the application” and insisting that the case is “not admissible”, said ICJ President Ronny Abraham.

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

New Delhi: Bangladesh is likely to drop Islam as its official religion following a series of attacks on people from other faiths in the country. The country’s Supreme Court is hearing a plea challenging the status of the official religion of the country to Islam.

Bangladesh, which was declared a secular country after its formation in 1971, was declared an Islamic country following a constitutional amendment in 1988.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, the plea has challenged the declaration of Islam as the national religion of the country.

The move is being supported by leaders from the minority communities like Hindus, Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

Bangladesh has 90 per cent of Muslims, 8 per cent Hindus and remaining constitutes Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

In last month, a Hindu priest was hacked to death following an attack on a temple in Panchgarh district. Two others were seriously injured in the attack. There have been several lethal attacks on writers and bloggers.

According to a report in the Independent, Islamist groups Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh and Ansarullah Bangla Team are believed to have carried out at least seven attacks on foreign and minority people in Bangladesh in the past year.

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