Rawalpindi, Feb. 9 (Reuters): Groups like al Qaida obtained neither nuclear weapons nor knowhow from Pakistan, despite a proliferation scandal linking a top scientist with Libya, Iran and North Korea, an official said today.
“We exclude the possibility,” military spokesman Major-General Shaukat Sultan said, when asked if Abdul Qadeer Khan’s leaked nuclear technology and hardware could have reached groups like al Qaida. “It has not come out of our investigations, or any other intelligence agency. There has been no such hint.”
Khan, revered as the father of Pakistan’s atomic bomb, has admitted to peddling nuclear secrets abroad, saying he acted alone and absolving the government and military of any blame.
A Pakistani investigation launched in November has thrown light on a nuclear black market involving middlemen in countries including Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Germany and the Netherlands. Khan, part of the network, is accused of helping Iran, North Korea and Libya acquire atomic weapons technology and equipment.
The US says it fears al Qaida-type groups might gain access to weapons of mass destruction to use against Americans.
Quoting sources close to al Qaida, a pan-Arab newspaper said yesterday Osama bin Laden’s shadowy network bought tactical nuclear weapons from Ukraine in 1998 and is storing them. Ukrainian officials denied the report today, saying the country never controlled the former Soviet arms on its territory which had passed straight into Russian hands.
Pakistan said today last week’s presidential pardon of Khan was conditional on his “cooperation” in the probe. President Pervez Musharraf issued the pardon on Thursday, a day after Khan made a public confession on state television.
“This is not a blanket pardon for the future. There are strict security restrictions on him and he is bound by them,” foreign ministry spokesman Masood Khan told a news briefing.
Pakistan says it investigated 11 people, seven of them scientists including Abdul Qadeer Khan, on charges of nuclear proliferation after the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency provided it with names of the Pakistanis involved. Masood Khan said investigations against colleagues and associates of the scientist were continuing and none would be “resuming” their work at nuclear research facilities.
The Pakistani government insists there have been no nuclear leaks from Pakistan since the National Command Authority was established in February 2000 to oversee the arsenal.