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|July 8, 1998||
Pak physicist picks holes in fugitive scientist's claims
A week after a Pakistani man came forward with claims to secret knowledge about a possible nuclear strike against India, his story is raising increasing doubts.
Iftikhar Khan Chaudhary, who asked US authorities for political asylum, has been disavowed by his own father and now by a Pakistani physicist at Princeton university, Zia Mian.
"It was like Alice in Wonderland,'' Mian said yesterday of an hour-long interview with Khan. "It had no connection to reality.''
Somewhat more diplomatically, state department spokesman James P Rubin said there were "significant discrepancies'' in the story Khan told US government officials.
Khan, who claimed to be a nuclear scientist, said last week he had fled to the United States in search of political asylum to protest against Pakistan's alleged plans to carry out a pre-emptive nuclear strike.
Mian debunked the notion that Khan had received extensive training in the nuclear field, saying Khan's account of his education was inconsistent with university requirements in Pakistan.
Khan claimed to have earned a medical degree, then decided to work as a nuclear plant technician even though he could have earned more as a doctor. He said he earned a master's degree in physics in 1995 from Karachi University.
Asked about his time in the physics department, whose instructors are all known to Mian, Khan apparently made up names of his professors, the former said.
"He couldn't name anybody who was there. He couldn't name any of the courses that he took. He couldn't even locate the physics buildings'' on the campus, Mian said. Khan's father told Pakistani television last week that his son studied business, not nuclear science.
Mian said Khan's English was so poor that early in the interview the conversation switched to Urdu. Joining in the interview was A H Nayyar, a Pakistani physicist who is doing research this summer at Princeton.
"His English should have been fairly fluent,'' Mian said, as all graduate-level science instruction in Pakistan is in English, because most of the world's technical literature is in English.
Khan claimed to have studied physics in his native Urdu, which the two Pakistani professors considered impossible.
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