Questioning President Musharraf’s hero?

We wonder how Dr Khan feels about this. Even though it was Pakistani President Musharraf who relieved Dr Khan of his job and put him in house arrest in February 2004, Musharraff has always been protective of him. In the past, he said, He is my hero. He always was and still is, because he made Pakistan a nuclear power (Shopping For Bombs, p 214). That helps explain why Musharraf has steadfastly refused to allow Dr Khan to be interrogated by outsiders.

Yet yesterday Pakistani ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto, vowing to restore democracy and combat extremism, said in Capitol Hill in Washington that her party would field a presidential candidate against General Pervez Musharraf.

Fighting the Taliban and Al-Qaeda requires a national effort that can only flow from legitimate elections, she said, appealing to the United States to drop its deep-pocketed backing for Musharraf.

Bhutto, who has been locked in on-off talks with Musharraf from her exile in Dubai and London, said that if Pakistan’s Supreme Court rejects his nomination but still allows the election to go ahead, any official candidate has a chance.

So as a precaution, we are filing our candidate, she said, while noting that Musharraf has enough support in Pakistan’s current parliament to win.

Bhutto also said yesterday that if returned to power, she would allow UN inspectors but not Western powers to question Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb.

Many Pakistanis are cynical about whether AQ Khan could have done this without any official sanction, Bhutto said at a Middle East Institute seminar, promising to hold parliamentary hearings on the question if re-elected prime minister.

While we do not agree at this stage to have any Western access to AQ Khan, we do believe that IAEA… would have the right to question AQ Khan, she said, referring to the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency.

As one might expect the Pakistani government is not thrilled with Ms Bhutto’s intentions. Senator Tariq Azim, minister of state for information and broadcasting, while condemning Benazir Bhutto’s statement, said that government of Pakistan had conducted investigations in this connection and would investigate further if needed:

[Azim] There can be no compromise on Pakistan’s national interest, nor will any foreign power be allowed to interfere with our nuclear programme. As far as Dr Qadir Khan’s case is concerned, we ourselves investigated his case; and everyone is satisfied with this [investigation]. Now there is no need to reopen this case. If some new information comes out, and if there is a need, Pakistan itself will look into it.

Sources: ‘Bhutto’s party to take on Musharraf in Pakistan vote’, Agence France Presse – English, September 26, 2007 Wednesday 2:17 AM GMT; and PTV News, Islamabad, in Urdu 0600gmt 26 Sep 2007.

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