| A friend greets Lahore-based jeweller Mohammad Asghar (right) after the FBI cleared his name from its most-wanted list. (AFP)
Islamabad, Jan. 8 (Reuters): Pakistan today rushed to the defence of Abdul Qadeer Khan, revered by many as the father of its nuclear bomb, after reports implied he had links to nuclear weapons programmes in countries including North Korea.
Islamabad is sensitive to suggestions it has traded nuclear technology or equipment with the reclusive Communist state, which has triggered a diplomatic standoff with Washington by threatening to reactivate a nuclear facility mothballed in 1994 and expelling UN inspectors.
The Dawn newspaper, in a story from Washington, said it had received a copy of a pamphlet distributed by the secret ive Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) at Kahuta, southeast of Islamabad, offering vacuum technology for sale.
The pamphlet has a Rawalpindi address, PO Box 502, and has pictures of the equipment it was promoting. It also has a picture of Dr Khan wearing medals awarded by the government of Pakistan.
A message distributed with the pamphlet said: “Besides manufacturing of vacuum components and systems, our vacuum constancy services are also available for system design, operational troubleshooting, quality assurance, maintenance, system development and human resource training.”
A key US ally in the war on terror, Pakistan has denied reports it helped Pyongyang with equipment to make materials needed for a nuclear arms project in return for missile parts.
Today, it turned its attention to Khan, who before his retirement in 2001 had headed the KRL, credited with making the nuclear bomb.
“The spokesman dismissed (newspaper reports about Khan) as absolutely false, baseless and motivated,” said a statement from Pakistan’s foreign ministry. “Concocted and fabricated speculation, devoid of any actual fact, cannot in any matter affect the credibility of Dr Khan, his contribution to Pakistan’s defence, or his country.”
Khan broke his silence over Pakistan’s nuclear security, telling reporters in Lahore: “This is a totally baseless allegation against Pakistan that it has transferred its nuclear technology to any other country.”
Pakistan’s foreign ministry called Khan a “distinguished scientist and national icon” in a sharp attack on the newspaper reports.