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Pakistani President Pardons Nuclear Scientist

BY Admin  February 5, 2004 at 2:40 PM EDT

Khan admitted providing nuclear weapons expertise and equipment to Iran, Libya and North Korea, saying he did so without authorization from the Pakistani government.

“My dear brothers and sisters, I have chosen to appear before you to offer my deepest regrets and unqualified apologies to a traumatized nation. … There was never ever any kind of authorization for these activities by the government,” he said in English on Pakistani television. “I take full responsibility for my actions and seek your pardon.”

Khan agreed to speak on television in return for assurances that he would not be prosecuted for transactions that Pakistani investigators say provided him millions of dollars over a period of almost two decades, according to a Cabinet minister and an individual outside of the government involved in brokering the agreement, The Washington Post reported.

The claim that the government did not know about the proliferation of nuclear technology and hardware from facilities guarded by the military was met with skepticism in the international community.

A trial could have led to embarrassing revelations about government officials and would have been unpopular among those who regard Khan as a national hero for developing a nuclear deterrent against India.

Khan led Pakistan’s nuclear program, which remained covert until the country conducted its first nuclear test in 1998.

The government said Khan admitted to spreading nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya until 2000, according to CNN.

Pakistan began its investigation in November after Iran told the IAEA it obtained nuclear technology from Pakistan.

Khan wrote a letter to Iran to destroy facilities when Pakistani officials opened an investigation, CNN reported.

Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency, called Khan “the tip of an iceberg” in the nuclear black market. “He was an important part of the process. … [But] Dr. Khan was not working alone. There’s a lot of chain of activity that we need to follow through on,” ElBaradei said.

Musharraf said Pakistan would not submit to any U.N. supervision of its weapons program and would provide no documents to the IAEA.