Pakistan's A.Q. Khan strikes again

The disgraced Pakistani nuclear scientist reemerged from five years of house arrest as a columnist, only to be caught for heavily plagiarizing the websites of British universities.

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN – The world’s most infamous agent of nuclear proliferation, Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, has added a fresh feather to his cap following revelations that a newspaper column he penned two weeks ago for Pakistan's The News heavily plagiarized websites of British universities.

Fondly known to many in his homeland as the “father of the bomb” for his role in developing Pakistan’s uranium enrichment and nuclear weapons programs, Dr. Khan was placed under house arrest in 2004 following a confession made to former military ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf that he had leaked nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya, and North Korea. (See the Monitor's profile of Khan shortly after his house arrest was imposed, when we described his public persona in Pakistan as a cross between a CEO and a sports star.)

The newspaper column in question, “Science of computers — part I,” appears to have been lifted almost verbatim, from the computer science homepages of the University of Sussex, Imperial College London, and the University of Cambridge. A blow-by-blow comparison can be viewed in a letter to the editor of Pakistani daily The News, the same paper which carried the original column. (In the letter, the link to the University of Sussex is broken. Click here for the correct page.)

Reaction on the Pakistani blogosphere has been harsh, with one blog carrying the item under the headline “A.Q. Khan Plagiarizing Op-Ed Pieces After Lifetime Of Stealing And Selling Nuclear Secrets” in reference to the allegations of espionage that dogged Mr Khan’s tenure as head of Pakistan’s nuclear program.

A ruling by a Pakistani court in February ordered that he be released from his five-year house detention. But he continued to be dogged by security personnel and his movements were restricted until Aug. 28, when the Lahore High Court stepped in to intervene, securing his freedom. A fresh court order on Wednesday restricting his movements “for his own safety” now appears to throw this into doubt, however.

On Tuesday, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters, "Our concerns over the potential for ... proliferation activities by Dr. Khan are well known to the Pakistani government. We believe that he remains a proliferation risk."

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