x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Hearing delayed for father of Pakistan's atom bomb

A Pakistani court delays hearing a plea from the nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan for alleged security restrictions to be lifted.

A Pakistani court today delayed further hearing a plea from disgraced nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan for alleged security restrictions to be lifted, court officials said. The security arrangements were imposed on Khan after a five-year period of house arrest for operating a proliferation network was lifted in February. Khan's lawyer Ali Zafar said the hearing was delayed until further notice because one of the judges failed to attend a scheduled session.

"Today there was no hearing because one of the judges did not attend," Mr Zafar said. "The court has still not fixed another date for the next hearing." A court official, who was not authorised to give his name, said the chief justice of the Lahore High Court would fix the next date for the hearing. Pakistan's deputy attorney general, Aamir Rehman, who challenged the verdict on behalf of the federal government, said he had been busy attending an oath-taking ceremony of new judges today.

Khan, the father of Pakistan's atomic bomb, claimed in court that the security arrangements amounted to restrictions on his movement. The court then ordered the government to respond to Khan's claim. In 2004, the scientist admitted in a televised statement that he leaked nuclear secrets to Iran, North Korea and Libya, although he later retracted his remarks. The United States warns that Mr Khan, 72, still represents a nuclear proliferation risk and has long raised fears about the scientist.

In March, US politicians introduced legislation aimed at cutting off military aid to cash-strapped Pakistan, which is fighting Islamist militants on multiple fronts, unless US officials could question Mr Khan. In February, a court in Pakistan's capital Islamabad declared Mr Khan a free man, five years after he was effectively put under house arrest. The ruling was the result of a compromise between the government and Mr Khan's lawyers in which he had to inform the authorities of his movements in advance.

After Mr Khan's televised "confession" in 2004, the then president Pervez Musharraf pardoned the scientist, who is revered in Pakistan as a national hero, but he was kept at his residence, guarded by troops and intelligence agents. * AFP