Father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb starts political party
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb has started a political party, which plans to participate in the next presidential election slated for early 2013.
Abdul Qadeer Khan has started a 100-day campaign to tour Pakistan, starting with Kahuta, home to the first nuclear facility in Pakistan, established just outside Islamabad, during the 1970s.
“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,” Khan said.
Though Khan’s sentiments echo a popular sentiment in Pakistan, observers say the introduction 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,” said 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 added.
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.
Khan was put under house arrest for five years after his confession, and while restrictions were relaxed on him amid public pressure, he still lives under tight military security.
To the United States 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 across 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 news 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 he added that he had told Pakistani authorities that nuclear technology “is mine to give to whomever I want.”
Khan has not specifically mentioned any plans, though he has played on the Pakistani public’s desire to clean up corruption among the political class and bring in new young professionals.
According to Zaman, the party has attracted more than a million people, and most of them are young people.
“We have received tremendous response, especially on social media.” he said, adding that they are getting invitations for Khan to speak from all over the country.