So much for punishing an infamous nuclear proliferator.
Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan, who ran a global network of nuclear-weapons technology -- catering to such clients as Libya, Iran and North Korea --was placed under house arrest by strongman Pervez Musharraf in 2004 under pressure from the Bush administration. House arrest was a compromise: Musharraf feared imprisoning Khan, a national hero, due not only to popular outrage but fear that Khan might disclose collaborators in Musharraf's government. Now, however, the AP reports
that Khan is "virtually a free citizen," and has been for "several months," according to Pakistani officials:
In what is believed to be his first public comment in about three years, Khan told The Associated Press that he was recovering from treatment for cancer, but declined to discuss other topics.
Khan, the architect of Pakistan's nuclear program, confessed in 2004 to heading an international ring of smugglers that supplied sensitive technology to Iran and others.
President Gen. Pervez Musharraf pardoned him while confining him to his tightly guarded villa in the capital, Islamabad. He has been permitted few visitors.
Musharraf refused to allow U.S. intelligence officials to question Khan, and Congress has raised questions
over whether the proliferation network Khan created is truly out of business. Meanwhile, Musharraf's grip on power is loosening
, raising the prospect that Khan's newfound freedom is a cynical pander by an increasingly desperate dictator.