ISLAMABAD, July 4: Detained nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan on Friday accused President Pervez Musharraf and the army of being involved in transferring nuclear technology to North Korea.
Dr Khan’s statements given to foreign news agencies and his remarks later made in interviews with national TV channels created a lot of confusion. In his first statement to Associated Press he directly accused the president and the army of sending consignments of centrifuges to North Korea in 2000.
But later, in DawnNews’ programme ‘News-Eye’ he said the secret had already been unveiled by the president in his book ‘In the Line of Fire’ which was launched in the United States on Sept 25, 2006.
He said no sensitive shipment could be sent to any country from any airport in Pakistan without the knowledge and supervision of the army.
“People know that a military aircraft or a foreign country’s plane was used for sending the consignment,” he said.
In one of his statements, Dr Khan said that the uranium enrichment equipment had been sent from Pakistan in a North Korean plane which was loaded under the supervision of Pakistani security officials.
Asked what was his involvement in the transfer of nuclear technology, he said only that centrifuges had been picked from Kahuta.
Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar said that being a scientist Dr Khan should not have given such statements to the media. “Such statements can be harmful for the country” and could also create more problems for Dr Khan who was already under virtual house arrest.
The scientist who had confessed to being involved in the illegal transfer of nuclear technology to some country in 2004 later said that he had been pressurised to make the confession and that he had been made scapegoat at that time.
Dr Khan said the army had “complete knowledge” of the shipment of used P-1 centrifuges to North Korea and that it must have been sent with the consent of Musharraf, who was the army chief and president.
“It was a North Korean plane and the army had complete knowledge about it and the equipment,” Dr Khan said.
“It must have gone with his (Musharraf’s) consent.”
When asked why had he taken the sole responsibility for the nuclear proliferation, Dr Khan said he had been persuaded to do so by friends, including PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujjat Hussain, a key figure in the ruling party at the time.
They said that it was in the best national interest.
He said that he had been promised complete freedom in return, but “those promises were not honoured”.
Dr Khan also said that he had travelled to North Korea in 1999 with a Pakistan army general to buy shoulder-launched missiles.
Meanwhile, the government is reported to be contemplating how to respond to the series of statements and interviews that Dr Khan has been giving since restrictions imposed on him were relaxed by the PPP government.
Now he has access to telephone and frequently gives interviews and statements.
Analysts said even today Dr Khan enjoys support of a majority of people but such statements from him could create problems for the country.
It is learnt that the government is considering to make public details of interrogation in which Dr Khan talked about his nuclear proliferation activities.
In this regard a detailed briefing has been given to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.
PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif has also been briefed on the interrogation.
AP adds: Dr Khan’s allegations, reported earlier on Friday by the Japanese news agency, Kyodo, are his most controversial yet and could prove deeply embarrassing for both the army and Musharraf.
Army and Foreign Ministry spokesmen declined to give immediate comment.
Musharraf’s spokesman said he would respond to Khan’s allegations after speaking to the president.
“No flight, no equipment could go outside without the clearance from the ISI and SPD and they used to be at the airport, not me,” Dr Khan said, referring to the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency and the Strategic Planning Division that manages Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.
Dr Khan said he had visited North Korea twice, in 1994 and then in 1999, when he was sent to procure missiles during the so-called Kargil conflict.
Dr Khan told Kyodo that the missiles were shoulder-fired SA 15.
Dr Khan told AP that Musharraf had requested him to make the second trip and he did so accompanied on a special plane by General Iftikhar Hussain Shah.