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I will make Dr A Q Khan available to IAEA: Bhutto
Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC
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September 27, 2007 09:24 IST

Former Pakistan prime minister and president of the Pakistan People's Party Benazir Bhutto [Images], for the second successive day at a Washington, DC, news conference said that if she returns to power she would make available the father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Bhutto's own party in a statement from Islamabad had said her answer had been distorted when she first made it.

The PPP in a statement had said that Bhutto's answer was "not very different from what the current government says or any other responsible government in Pakistan would say," and added that "it is unfortunate that Mohtarma Bhutto's words are being distorted to imply that she promised any unlawful handing over of anyone to foreigners."

"The PPP seeks to establish rule of law and there is no question of violating Pakistani or international law in relations to the freedom and personal rights of anyone, including Dr A Q Khan," the statement said.

But on Wednesday, at a press conference organized by the Middle East Institute -- which had also organised her appearance on Capitol Hill on Tuesday -- and choreographed by the PPP's high-priced lobbying firm in Washington, Burston Marstellar, Bhutto reiterated that "while the People's Party would not grant the West access to A Q Khan, we will give access to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is the international watchdog."

While pointing out that it was "a hypothetical question because the IAEA has not asked for the access and the government of Pakistan has also stated yesterday that they have put the questions to Khan that the IAEA wanted. They have given the IAEA and the West the answers that A Q Khan gave," she said, "So we are moving now in the theory of hypothesis."

"But if there is a situation than yes... giving access to the IAEA, but we certainly want to protect Pakistan's nuclear assets and we take pride in fact that Zulfikar Bhutto (former prime minister and her late father who was executed by the erstwhile military regime of President Mohammed Zia-ul Haq) was the father of Pakistan's nuclear programme."

In her convoluted answer, that perhaps was both to appease the Bush administration and US lawmakers, who believe Khan should be handed over to the US or IAEA to be interrogated, and also not to raise the ire of the Pakistani people who still consider Khan a hero -- and hence the statement by the PPP claiming her answer on the first day was distorted -- Bhutto declared, "We take pride in the fact that under my government, Pakistan's nuclear assets remained safe and Pakistan also acquired missile technology."

"But my government also had a very clear policy of no export of nuclear technology," she emphasised, and added, "we believe that the protection of our nuclear assets lie in giving a clear signal that the government of Pakistan does not protect those who illegally proliferate."

Bhutto kept repeating that "this is a hypothetical question," and said, "The IAEA has not made any requests to me."

However, she reiterated, "If under a PPP government the IAEA makes a request to give them access to A Q Khan, we certainly will do that because the People's Party will not cover up or collude in the cover up of proliferation activities."

This was also the second successive day in which she had insinuated that the Pakistani military was involved in the illegal weapons technology export blackmarket that was run by Khan, although he was not acting alone and was likely part of a larger conspiracy.

"We believe that Pakistan's nuclear assets will only be safe if we can signal to the world community that Pakistan is a law abiding nation," she said.

"The A Q Khan affair has harmed Pakistan and it has harmed our nuclear assets. It has given the impression that we are a rogue nation," Bhutto added.

"It is a wrong notion and it is unfair to the people of Pakistan," she said and then in some political pandering, obviously both for domestic and international consumption, the exiled leader, declared, "I want to send a message of the real Pakistan, of the great people of Pakistan, who do not believe in illegal activities and who do not want to export nuclear technology, who did not want proliferation, but who acquired nuclear technology so that we could defend our homeland and parity with our neighbour India."

She said that it was "because of that parity there has been no major war between India and Pakistan in such a long time."

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