Lahore: The architect of Pakistan’s nuclear program scored another court victory Friday in his quest to ease restrictions on his movement, though it appears he will remain subject to government surveillance.
Abdul Qadeer Khan was detained in December 2003, and in early 2004 he admitted on television that he operated a network that spread nuclear weapons technology to North Korea, Libya and Iran.
Despite international alarm over the evidence of proliferation, Khan was pardoned by then-president Gen. Pervez Musharraf and placed under de facto house arrest.
The scientist began protesting over the restrictions after Musharraf resigned in 2008.
Last year, the government eased the curbs on Khan’s movements under an agreement that he would not interact with the media. But government agents still guarded his home and trailed him when he moved around.
The Lahore High Court ruled on Friday that Khan was a free man and could travel as he wished so long as he informed authorities ahead of time. Unlike previous agreements, Khan no longer has to obtain permission from authorities to travel or meet someone, said his lawyer, Ali Zafar.
“Now, Mr Khan just needs to intimate the government about his movements," Zafar said.
He added that the government would be responsible for taking care of Khan’s security. It was not clear whether that meant that security forces would no longer be stationed around Khan’s home in Islamabad.
Khan told reporters that he was pleased with the ruling. “I hope the decision will be implemented, if not, we will move for contempt of court," he said.
Khan is regarded by many Pakistanis as a hero for his key role in developing the country’s nuclear weapons program.
Government officials say he is kept under close watch for his own safety, but many analysts say the powerful military and intelligence agencies restrict his movement because they fear he may implicate them in past nuclear proliferation.