AQ Khan: Father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb jumps into politics
AQ Khan, lauded by many Pakistanis for giving the country the bomb, has launched a political movement targeting the youth vote. He has been accused of selling nuclear secrets to North Korea and Iran.
The father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb has launched a political party, which plans to participate in the next presidential election slated for early 2013.Skip to next paragraph
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“The current leadership in Pakistan is corrupt and it needs to change. I will go around the country to appeal to students, professionals, and the civil society to vote for the right people, since the upcoming elections are around the corner. They look up to me so they will listen to me,” Dr. AQ Khan said in a telephone interview.
Though Khan's sentiments echo a popular sentiment in Pakistan, observers say that the launch of his party, the Tehreek-e-Tahaffuz Pakistan or Save Pakistan Movement, highlights a desire for change within Pakistan.
“Like in the United States, Obama was the face of change; we have these new players, too,” says Ayesha Siddiqa, a columnist for the Dawn newspaper. “Currently, there is a dire need in Pakistan to go through rejuvenation, and people like Dr. AQ Khan, or Imran Khan [the cricketer-turned-politician], fit the bill,” she adds.
In Pakistan, Khan is considered a national hero for helping transform the country into a nuclear power.
Khan is accused, however, of providing nuclear research to Libya, Iran, and North Korea. In 2004 he confessed on Pakistani television to selling nuclear secrets. But he later claimed that he was forced to confess by the then president of Pakistan, Gen. Pervez Musharraf. He was put under house arrest for five years following his confession, and while restrictions were relaxed on him after public pressure, he still lives under tight military security.
To the US and nuclear investigators around the world, he is a rogue scientist who has failed to reveal the extent of the dangers posed by the underground network he created.
In Kahuta, posters put up around the city by the local lawyers' bar association read “we welcome the Savior of Pakistan in Kahuta.”
Earlier, his party spokesman, Chaudhry Khurshid Zaman, said in a press conference that “every political party in the country wants Khan to ally with them, but we will provide support to those politicians who are non-corrupt and honest.”
In his speech to the lawyers in Kahuta, Khan reiterated that nuclear proliferation accusations against him were false, but did add that he had told Pakistani authorities that nuclear technology "is mine to give to whomever I want.”
Khan hasn't specifically mentioned any future plans, though he has played on the Pakistani public's desire to clean up current corruption among the political class and bring in new young professionals.