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The Fallen Angel

23 January, 2006

By Sohail Iqbal


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The Hill Side road at the foot of Margalla hills in sector E-7 in Islamabad is a thoroughfare with safety bumps on the road to slow the traffic flow. No one is allowed to halt the vehicle as vigilant security staff posted in and around Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan`s residence keep the flow of traffic in motion.

 Khan, known for providing Pakistan with the means of producing nuclear weapons, is struggling with his deteriorating health, isolated in a spacious single-story house near the Faisal mosque.

  A. Q Khan`s official career came to an abrupt end in March 2001, when he and PAEC Chairman Ishfaq Ahmed were suddenly retired by order of President Pervez Musharraf. Khan played a key role in developing Pakistan`s nuclear bomb. He was later detained after he confessed that he sold weapons technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

  The `Father of Pakistan`s Bomb,` Dr A. Q Khan has been under protective custody (house detention) for more than two years now, living with his Dutch wife Hendrina under heavily guarded security of Pakistan army.

  The health of disgraced Pakistani nuclear scientist Dr A Q Khan is believed to be failing, as he is continuously suffering from high blood pressure. During the initial months of his detention, he also suffered a mild heart attack. The current deterioration in his health crisis is definitely a result of acute mental pressure and virtual emotional torture to which he is being subjected to.

  The facilities for Dr Khan`s treatment are not consistent. During the initial days of his detention, Khan was allowed a regular medical check up by family medical doctor of KRL Hospital, which itself was founded by Dr Khan. However, with the passage of time, the authorities withdrew the facility of family doctor and Khan was left with no option but to depend on the services of a medical doctor from the army hospital at Rawalpindi. Seldom and during odd hours, Khan is allowed medical checkups at this military hospital.

  Khan, who is now consuming most of his time in isolation, trying to keep himself busy through reading and writing, was in a habit of keeping pets and used to take a sack full of pets` food each day when he walked into the wooded Margalla Hills across from his home, to feed  the monkeys.

  So much has changed since Khan was disgraced. Before Khan faced the  hammer, a retired Brigadier used to shop for food of his pets. Today his personal attendant for long years shops for Khan`s food, and that also after through security checks.

  Khan`s only source of pleasure is occasional meeting with his younger daughter, Aysha, and her kids Sasha, (10-Years), Aleena (8-Years) and Shanaya (6-years). Khan`s elder daughter Dina who is living in the UK occasionally visits her father in detention along with her daughter  Tanya (13-Years).

  Though two daughters and grand daughters are free to meet Khan one them almost daily-some time, even they have to seek permission to meet their father. Quite often, the permission is granted after a gap of a week or so by the officer-in-charge of the security. The military officer with his security staff is stationed at a guest house adjacent to Dr. Khan`s residence and is authorized by the "high-ups" to "manage" each and every telephone call besides regulating meetings of family members.

  Khan is arguably the most popular and charismatic Pakistani alive. His aura has loomed like a titan over Pakistan, ever since Pakistan exploded its nuclear bombs on May 28 and 30, 1998, in the mountains of Chaghai, Balochistan, close to the border with Iran, in response to its arch-rival India`s gratuitous nuclear blast of three weeks earlier. He won the heart of every Pakistani, young and old, for having armed the country with a credible deterrent against India`s nuclear demon. Dr. Qadeer was seen as Pakistan`s savior, guaranteeing its territorial integrity against a rapacious India

  In Pakistan, Khan is also respected as gracious figure as he was kind enough to support community welfare projects and charity organizations across the country. From education to child welfare, he was engaged in almost every sort of civil society activity potentially beneficial to Pakistanis. Rightly so, he was a considered a grand figure, not just by the people of this country but the populace of the entire Muslim world.

  A resident of Khan`s locality who choose not to be named told Paktribune that different entrepreneurs, prosperous groups and common citizen of Pakistan had blind faith and trust on Khan and they used to donate million of rupees for welfare projects being supported by the nuclear scientist. "What an irony! A national icon who shares co-equal status with Jinnah, Pakistan`s founder, is facing a trial of a crime that he never committed," commented a resident of Sector E/7, Islamabad.

  It was the Indians who did not like him for obvious reasons. Or, it was the United States and the Western world, where his image was not that great. Again for obvious reasons! For years, they portrayed Khan`s single-handed nuclear pursuit as leading to the development of dangerous kind of A-bomb  an "Islamic Bomb," as the Western authors, toeing the Israel`s decades-long consistent theme on Pakistan`s nuclear quest, called it.

  Back in the 70`s, especially after the so called Peaceful Nuclear Explosion by India in 1974, Pakistan`s nuclear programme was in a budding stage. Dr Khan was then living in Holland, working as a nuclear scientist. He abandoned the West, returned to his beloved homeland. It was the former prime minister of Pakistan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who had invited Khan to come to the rescue of his country after the first Indian nuclear explosion in the desert of Rajhastan After contributing for almost three decades to help ensure Pakistan`s very survival as an independent nation vis-à-vis India`s ever growing desire to dominate it, as well as the rest of South Asia living a life of near-seclusion must be a painful experience. And, that also, in his own homeland! The ironies in Dr Khan`s tale are many, each one more tragic than the other.

  Ever since Dr Khan admitted at the start of 2001, in a nationally televised interview, that he sold nuclear technology for a price, the West`s intelligence hounds have been on his tail, seeking every opportunity to interrogate him. The interrogation hasn`t ended, as he is being consistently forced to answer questions, no different from previous questions, by intelligence sleuths, allegedly even "from across the Atlantic," as some sources confide . However, for now, one thing is for sure, say Pakistani security officials: He won`t be handed over to the U.S. or any other country because he may spill secrets regarding transfer of nuclear technology that have so far been hooded in mystery.

  Should a country treat its leading hero, a living legend, in such a calous fashion? Does he desrive isolation? Don`t we, as a nation, have the guts to stand up to external pressures to keep such an icon in chains? Such are the questions that people of the locality, or those who knew this most popular, yet most humble, Pakistani personality, or his tremendous contribution to national security.

End.

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