The man at the head of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, Abdul Qadeer Khan,
reportedly has confessed to transferring nuclear technology to Libya, Iran and
Officials involved in Pakistan's two-month long probe into alleged proliferation
say that Abdul Qadeer Khan has "accepted" he was involved in leaking nuclear
secrets to underworld groups working for Iran, Libya and North Korea.
It is the first time North Korea has been named in the government's investigation.
The unnamed officials told a group of Pakistani reporters late Sunday that
Mr. Khan in a written statement has said the proliferation took place between
1989 and 2000. He reportedly said the leaks happened without the knowledge
of the government.
Six other people under investigation, including nuclear scientists, are also
said to have confessed to leaking nuclear know-how outside Pakistan.
Political commentator and columnist Talat Hussain was among the few reporters
who attended the briefing. He says the officials told them the National Command
Authority will decide whether Mr. Qadeer Khan, a national hero, and the others
will be put on trial.
"The decision about the fate of A.Q. Khan will be decided by NCA, which is
the premier nuclear authority headed by the president of Pakistan," he said.
The probe was begun after the United Nation's International Atomic Energy
Agency in November warned Pakistan of possible nuclear leaks. The letter mentioned
names of those who might have been involved in transferring nuclear technology
to Iran, Libya and North Korea for personal profit.
President Musharraf is expected to address the nation soon after the Muslim
festival of Eid al-Adha, which began Monday, to disclose the findings of the
Mr. Qadeer Khan, known as the father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons development
program, could not be reached for comment.
His house in Islamabad is under 24-hour watch and his security has been increased
since he was fired as a government adviser on Saturday.
Details of his large personal fortune and expensive lifestyle have been reported
in the Pakistan media in the past several days.
Opposition parties and religious leaders have condemned the investigation
of Mr. Qadeer Khan, and have called for a day of protest on Friday.
Some government critics say if nuclear secrets were traded, Mr. Qadeer Khan
was acting at the behest of the Pakistani military, which was desperate to
develop a nuclear bomb. They insist the investigation must be expanded to include
senior military and intelligence officials, who may have known about Mr. Qadeer
Khan's dealings abroad. The government officials said two former heads of Pakistan's
military were questioned but denied having approved trading nuclear secrets.
Mr. Hussain says it is "inconceivable" that sensitive nuclear technology
was transferred without the knowledge of top military officials in Pakistan.
"The issue, however, is that what was the loophole in the system that allowed
Dr. A.Q. Khan to actually carry out this operation not just with on country
but three countries, not just for a year but a period stretching over 11 years?
That will become a big political issue in Pakistan in the coming days," said
But Mr. Hussain says officials told them they do not intend to widen the
investigation because they have gotten what they say is the whole gang.