Pakistan’s foreign minister ruled out any future investigation into whether the military helped a disgraced scientist spread nuclear weapons to rogue states.
The scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan said last week that Pakistan’s army supervised a 2000 shipment of used P-1 centrifuges to North Korea. It must have been sent with the approval of President Pervez Musharraf, the then-army chief who took power in a 1999 coup, he claimed.
“It was a North Korean plane, and the army had complete knowledge about it and the equipment,” Mr Khan said of the shipment. “It must have gone with his (Mr Musharraf’s) consent.”
Yesterday, Pakistan’s foreign minister said the case was closed and there would be no further comment or future investigations.
“What had to be found out, was found out. The steps that were required, were taken,” Shah Mahmood Qureshi said.
“The idea was to keep the world secure, and to keep the assets secure, and to make sure that an incident of this nature does not happen in the future. And all those objectives have been met.”
Mr Qureshi said Mr Khan, “as far as we are considered, is history”.
“AQ Khan no longer has any official status. The network that he put together has been effectively broken,” he said.
“He has no access to any vital information, or to our vital assets any more, so he is neutralised vis-a-vis any proliferation activity.”
Mr Musharraf’s spokesman, Rashid Qureshi, has said of Mr Khan’s claims, “I can say with full confidence that it is all lies and false statements.”
Still, Mr Khan’s allegations would match expert assessments that running such a network would have been difficult without some involvement from Pakistan’s security apparatus.
He has been agitating for an end to his virtual house arrest and backed off his 2004 confession that he was solely responsible for spreading nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya.
Mr Khan is regarded as a hero by many in Pakistan for his key role in giving it the Islamic world’s first nuclear bomb in 1998, seen as a deterrent against historic arch-rival India.
After his confession and a televised statement of contrition, Mr Khan was pardoned by Mr Musharraf but has effectively been confined at home in Islamabad.