Pakistan's top nuclear scientist Abdul Qadir Khan, currently being questioned for allegedly assisting Iran in its nuclear programme, has denied the charges even as the government publicly assured him of support to tide over the crisis.
Khan, known as the father of the Pakistan's nuclear bomb, told a private TV channel last night that he was being 'targeted' internationally because he was responsible for his country equipping itself with nuclear bombs and missiles.
Denying that he had any role in the Iranian or Libyan nuclear programmes as alleged by the International Atomic Energy Commission (IAEA), Khan told Geo TV channel: "I am being accused for nothing, I never visited Iran, I don't know any Iranian, nor I know any Iranian scientist."
"I will be targeted naturally because I made the nuclear bomb, I made the missile," he said.
In the brief interview, Khan also said Pakistan has to develop its nuclear programme to defend itself and to 'retain' its strategic stakes in Kashmir.
The interview came as a surprise as earlier in the day, he declined to speak to the press at a seminar, which he attended along with Pakistan Science Technology Minister Atta-ur Rehman.
Rehman assured Khan that the government stood by him in the wake of ongoing investigations following Iran's report to the IAEA about its nuclear programme. "We will always stand beside you firmly. Let us not be daunted by these things that are happening (to you)," he said.
Khan made his first public appearance as chief guest in the final session of the International Seminar on Science and Technology for Socio-Economic Development in OIC nations.
Besides refusing comment on reports of 'debriefing', Khan also refused to react to the minister's assurances. He also declined to speak on concerns expressed by his daughter Dina Khan that he was 'being made a scapegoat'.
Rehman, who was flanked by Khan at the seminar, was quoted in the media as saying: "We are really proud that you are one of us. It's a privilege to be beside you in spite of all the ups and downs that you have faced during the last two decades and you seem to be facing now."
"Being an engineer has its own advantages. You do not have to do much. You just have to put a few parts of a machine together and ... and you have done your job. This is how the nuclear programme was done," Khan said addressing the seminar.
Support for Khan also came from a senator belonging to the ruling coalition. Chairing a session of the seminar, Mushahid Hussain warned about the serious implications of the media trial of the country's nuclear scientists for international considerations.
Hussain, who was information minister in the Nawaz Sharief government and later turned Musharraf loyalist, said, "Let's avoid making individuals as scapegoats. Rather than harassing and hounding scientists because of international considerations, there should be collective responsibility and institutional responsibility."