ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked Attorney General (AG) Khalid Jawed Khan or any of his nominees to meet former nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan and allay the latter’s concerns.
The directive came when the attorney general said he had gone through the earlier 2009 agreement before the Islamabad High Court (IHC), therefore he was extending an offer that the government was willing to facilitate Dr Khan but without prejudice to consistent security interest involved in this matter.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice Mushir Alam postponed proceedings for three weeks with a directive to the AG to meet Dr Khan or nominate someone to find out what his grievances were and how they should be redressed.
Advocate Taufiq Asif and Sheikh Ehsanuddin, who were representing Dr Khan, said the real issue was removal of restrictions on the movement of Dr Khan since he could not openly meet his relatives and friends, not even his lawyers.
The court directed that arrangements should also be made to facilitate meetings between Dr Khan and his counsel.
The apex court had taken up an appeal of Dr Khan seeking enforcement of his fundamental rights, including free movement. The appeal was moved against the Sept 25, 2019 Lahore High Court (LHC) judgement which had rejected Dr Khan’s plea on the ground that it lacked jurisdiction in view of special security measures adopted by the state.
Govt is ready to facilitate ex-nuclear scientist but without prejudice to consistent security interest, SC told
The IHC on Feb 6, 2009, while deciding Dr Khan’s habeas corpus petition, had declared him a free citizen and disposed of his petition in terms of Annexure-A, the contents of which were not to be issued to the press or made public as requested by both sides.
On May 14, 2020 Dr Khan had claimed before the Supreme Court that he was forced to sign his consent in the earlier habeas corpus petition as a result of which the IHC had disposed of his case.
Dr Khan claimed that the consent letter was not of his free will and requested that his fundamental rights should be safeguarded by the Supreme Court and he should be given an opportunity to be heard.
In his appeal, Dr Khan claimed that he was the pioneer of Pakistan’s nuclear programme and it was with the untiring efforts of the people at the helm of affairs that he succeeded in rendering Pakistan into a nuclear state and thus contributed to making the country’s defence impregnable.
“The petitioner feels proud for having done his bit to secure Pakistan from the evil eyes of the neighbours and other adversaries,” the petition said.
Dr Khan said that ever since he came to Pakistan and started working on the nuclear project, he enjoyed personal security befitting his status. But now personnel of the personnel of security agencies had stationed themselves in the house next door to ensure that no one should have access to him, he added.
He was allowed to neither move around nor attend social or academic functions without their prior approval, the petition regretted, adding this amounted to keeping him in virtual confinement.
This act of the security personnel was illegal since no such order had been conveyed to him warranting the treatment being meted out to him, Dr Khan bemoaned.
Needless to say that the employees of security agencies had no other assignment except to keep the petitioner confined to his house as if in solitary confinement, he said.
This situation started in Jan 2004 when Dr Khan was put under house arrest on the pretext of “security,” the petition said.
In Jan 2004, he was put under virtual house arrest on the pretext of security and since it was allegedly a sham pretext, illegal and in violation of his fundamental rights, he had no option but to approach the courts, it said.
He had no access to any friend so much so that his daughter or her children living a few houses away could not meet him, the petition said, adding so bad were the restraints that the petitioner even could not access the court.
The restraints were relaxed on the change of government in 2008 when the curtailment of his movement was relaxed, the petition said, adding he moved the high court by raising 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 Sept 25, LHC order of disposing of his petition was not in consonance with the law laid down by the apex court.
His services for the country has 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 Dr Khan’s fundamental right to move freely throughout the country and meet any one individually or in any assembly, the petition argued.
The petitioner was being kept under constant fear of being subjected to physical harm, the petition feared, adding he was an old man of 84 years suffering from different ailments and therefore could not be kept under constant restraint and fear of being subjected to physical harm. The petitioner was as good a patriot as anybody else, the petition said.
Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2020