SC orders govt to arrange A.Q. Khan’s meeting with lawyer

Published May 14, 2020
Nuclear scientist wants to address court during hearing of his appeal seeking enforcement of fundamental rights. — AFP/File
Nuclear scientist wants to address court during hearing of his appeal seeking enforcement of fundamental rights. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the federal government to arrange a meeting between former nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan and his counsel Taufiq Asif at the former’s residence.

The court order required that except for the team of Dr Khan’s lawyers, no one else should be present in the room where the meeting would take place.

The order came when Mr Asif told a two-judge bench comprising Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Yahya Afridi that he could only exchange greetings with Dr Khan on the premises of the apex court but could not seek instructions from him in the presence of officials of intelligence agencies.

Dr Khan was brought inside the premises of the Supreme Court but was not produced before the bench hearing an appeal by Dr Khan seeking enforcement of his fundamental rights, including free movement.

“I want an exclusive meeting with my client in complete privacy where no one, not even the government’s lawyer, should be present,” Mr Asif insisted, adding Dr Khan should also be allowed to address the court in person.

Nuclear scientist wants to address court during hearing of his appeal seeking enforcement of fundamental rights

Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan told the court that a meeting between Dr Khan and his lawyer would be arranged.

Dr Khan has filed the appeal to challenge the Sept 25, 2019 Lahore High Court (LHC) judgement which had rejected Dr Khan’s plea on the grounds that it lacked jurisdiction in view of special security measures taken by the state.

The matter will again be taken up by the court on Thursday.

The petition requested the apex court to pronounce that fundamental rights, including freedom of movement, could not be abridged, curtailed or denied arbitrarily and under the garb of reasonable restrictions.

On Wednesday, Dr Khan also filed a one-page application before the apex court to seek a direction for the government to produce him before the apex court in the interest of justice so that he could address the bench hearing the case.

The application stated that Dr Khan’s appeal was pending adjudication before the Supreme Court and was fixed for Wednesday. The petitioner was brought to the Supreme Court building on the direction of the court for his meeting with his advocates, but no exclusive meeting with the advocates was allowed in violation of the court’s direction since some officials of the intelligence agencies insisted on remaining present during the meeting.

Dr Khan also sought permission to appear before the Supreme Court in person to address the court and explain that it was his fundamental right to be a free person as his movement had not been restricted under any law but on baseless excuses.

The application contended that no compromise on constitutional provision was possible and in case if this case was sent again to the high court, he would have no scope of justice.

“I [have] served this nation, do not allow these powerful persons to make me a rolling stone,” Dr Khan pleaded in the application, adding he had pinned hopes on the apex court.

In his appeal, Dr Khan claimed he was the pioneer of the nuclear programme of Pakistan. Dr Khan said ever since he started working on the nuclear project, he enjoyed personal security befitting his status. But the personnel of security agencies had stationed themselves in the house next door to ensure that no one had access to him. He was allowed neither to move around nor to attend social or academic gatherings without their prior approval, Dr Khan regretted, adding that this amounted to being kept him in virtual confinement.

“This act of them is illegal since no such order had been conveyed to the petitioner warranting the treatment being meted out to him,” the petition said.

This situation started in Jan 2004 when Dr Khan was put under house arrest on the pretext of “security”.

In Jan 2004, he was put under virtual house arrest on the pretext of security and since it was a sham pretext, illegal and in violation of his fundamental rights, he had no option but to approach the courts, as he was virtually kept under complete isolation, the petition said.

He had no access to any friend so much so that neither his daughter nor her children living a few houses away could meet him, the petitioner said, adding the restraints were so severe that he even could not access the court.

The restraints were relaxed on the change of government in 2008 when the curtailment of movement was relaxed, the petition said, adding he moved the high court to raise grievance about his being kept in illegal custody without there being any fault on his part.

Now in the petition before the apex court, the petitioner argued that the LHC order of disposing of his petition was not in consonance with the law laid down by the apex court.

Dr Khan’s services for the country had been recognised many times and he had been awarded, the petition said, adding the treatment being meted out to him was violative of his inviolable constitutional right of dignity as enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution.

It was his fundamental right to move freely throughout the country and meet anyone individually or in any assembly, the petition said.

The petitioner was being kept under constant fear of being subjected to physical harm, the petition feared, adding Dr Khan was an old man of 84 years suffering from different ailments and therefore could not be kept under constant restraint.

The petitioner was as good a patriot as anybody else, the petition said.

Published in Dawn, May 14th, 2020

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