WASHINGTON — U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) yesterday defended Pakistan’s decision to pardon top nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan for his transfers of nuclear technology abroad (see GSN, Aug. 9).
It would have been difficult for President Pervez Musharraf to prosecute Khan, largely due to the high esteem in which the public holds the scientist for his role as the “father” of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, Lugar said.
“Mr. Khan is a national hero, an icon, in part because he produced the nuclear weapons that would counter India,” he said, during remarks following a speech here at the National Press Club.
Early this year, Khan reportedly told Pakistani authorities that he transferred nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea. Shortly after Khan confessed, he received a pardon for his activities from Musharraf in exchange for fully cooperating with the investigation into the international nuclear network used by the scientist to transfer materials.
While Pakistan has shared information on the network learned from Khan with the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency, it has refused to provide either with direct access to the scientist. Late last month, a group of U.S. lawmakers in the House of Representatives introduced legislation that would limit U.S aid to Pakistan if it did not increase its cooperation, including providing direct access to Khan and his associates.
Describing Musharraf as a “stalwart friend” of the United States, Lugar yesterday praised Pakistan for the information it had already provided on the nuclear black market, saying it aided in the dismantlement of Libya’s WMD efforts. Information provided by Pakistan has also “pinned down” aspects of Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programs that were previously only suspected by U.S. intelligence, Lugar said.
“Now at the end of the day, we’re expecting much more from the Pakistani government. This is not the end of the case. And as a result, I think we will get more,” he said.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Richard Lugar serves on the Nuclear Threat Initiative board. NTI is the sole sponsor of Global Security Newswire, which is published independently by National Journal Group.]