WASHINGTON, June 28: The Khan network of nuclear proliferators is out of business, says the US State Department, rejecting a claim by some American lawmakers that the network is still active.
The department’s remarks followed a congressional hearing where several lawmakers demanded direct US access to Dr A. Q. Khan now living under house arrest in Islamabad.
Some lawmakers, especially those associated with the Indian caucus on Capitol Hill, also used the opportunity to attack Pakistan.
But at the State Department, spokesman Sean McCormack insisted that “the network as we knew it is out of business” and credited Pakistani authorities for doing so.
Commenting on a report by London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies which claims that the Khan network is still running, Mr McCormack said while he could not say whether “any copycats or other elements” associated with the group were attempting to continue these illicit activities, the network itself no longer existed.
Earlier, IISS official Mark Fitzpatrick told the US House Subcommittee on South Asia that “at least some of Dr Khan’s associates appear to have escaped law-enforcement attention and could, after a period of lying low, resume their black market business.”
But Mr Fitzpatrick conceded that so far he had seen no evidence to suggest that the network was still operating.Another witness at the congressional hearing, Lisa Curtis, endorsed his views.
At the State Department, spokesman McCormack said the Khan network was still a matter of interest for the US and the international community because they still did not know everything about its activities.
Asked if the US would like to see Dr Khan held accountable for the activities of the network he had allegedly founded, Mr McCormack noted that the scientist was under house arrest and Pakistani authorities had taken steps to prevent his engaging in those kinds of activities.
“Fundamentally, it’s up to the Pakistani government to deal with him,” he added.
Mr McCormack said he did not know if US authorities were ever given direct access to Dr Khan.
Asked if the US was satisfied with the level of investigation Pakistani authorities had conducted, the spokesman said he could not respond to it immediately but added that the US was “not the primary lead on that sort of investigation”.
“But would it be fair to say this is still a matter of great concern in the administration,” he was asked.
“It’s a matter of continuing interest certainly to us. And the larger issue of trafficking in these kinds of nuclear technologies, WMD technologies is of deep interest to us,” he answered.
“We have spent a lot of effort to track down individuals, groups, states who might be engaged in this sort of illicit traffic and make sure it doesn’t happen. It’s hard to get your arms around.”
Qudssia Akhlaque adds from Islamabad: The Foreign Office on Thursday categorically stated that the network of nuclear proliferators no longer existed in Pakistan and pointed to the possibility of such networks operating out of elsewhere.
When Dawn sought Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam’s reaction to US lawmakers’ demand for direct access to Dr Khan on the premise that the network he had set up was still active, she asserted: “Pakistan has carried out full investigations and shared our findings with the IAEA and some other countries. The network has ceased to exist as far as Pakistan is concerned.”
However, she added: “As the testimonies point out, it is possible that such proliferation networks are active elsewhere.”
She underscored that Pakistan had taken all necessary steps to ensure against any proliferation from the country and declared: “We have established strong command and control as well as export controls.”