If Benazir Bhutto was floating a trial balloon when she talked about allowing IAEA inspectors to question Dr Khan I think it safe to say the results are in. And it appears, to paraphrase Franklin D Roosevelt, the only thing Dr Khan has to fear is not Benazir Bhutto. Consider some of the subsequent reaction, courtesy of BBC Monitoring International Reports, September 27, 2007:
The following is a selection of quotes from editorials published in 26 Sep editions of Urdu-language Pakistan newspapers available to BBCM
Nawa-i-Waqt [Islamabad; pro-Muslim League]: Pakistan People Party’s Chairperson Benazir Bhutto has said if she came to power she would provide International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] access to Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan [founder of Pakistan’s nuclear programme] but no pressure would be accepted in this regard. We believe Benazir is confused, which can be proved from her recent statement. We pray to Almighty Allah to save Pakistan from the time when any pro-US government is elected here and hands over Dr Khan to foreign powers. This would be final stage of national humiliation from which may Allah save us.
Pakistan [Peshawar; moderate]: We maintain that only one meaning can be derived from Benazir’s statement rather her ‘promise’ with the United States and the West that she is least concerned about feelings of people of Pakistan.
Ausaf [Islamabad; pro-Islamist]: We want to make it clear on Benazir that matter of Dr Khan is very delicate and sensitive, therefore she should be very careful before commenting on it. Military generals and political leaders should adopt careful attitude about Dr Khan and avoid hurting 160 million people of the country.
And those were the more restrained comments. For something a bit stronger see the following.
It’s the wrong statement at the wrong time, and its sole purpose is to please the United States, Sheikh Rashid, Pakistan’s Railways Minister and a confidant of President Pervez Musharraf, told the Geo news channel. Dr Khan was our hero yesterday and he will remain our hero tomorrow, Rashid said, adding that his government would never allow anyone to directly contact Khan. The ex-chief of the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence military spy agency, Hameed Gul, described Bhutto’s statement as shameful.
She is capable of selling her father’s grave to the US for power, Gul told the Aaj news channel in a reference to the late prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who launched the country’s nuclear programme in the 1970s.
- Indo-Asian News Service, September 26, 2007 Wednesday
And it appears Ms Bhutto has lost the support of the vital cricket constituency:
Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and hardline Islamists also criticised Bhutto for saying that she would allow UN inspectors, but not Western powers, to question scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan. This is highly shameful statement, Imran Khan said, adding that Bhutto wanted the blessing of the United States to take power and rid herself of corruption cases.
Two-time premier Bhutto faces several graft claims which forced her abroad in 1999.
Benazir Bhutto is doing everything to appease the United States, said Liaquat Baloch, a senior member of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, or United Action Front, the country’s main alliance of Islamic parties.
She wants to gain power and the people of Pakistan know that to achieve her objective she is ready to compromise the country’s nuclear programme, he told AFP.
Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, leader of the pro-Taliban Jamiat-Ulema-e-Islam party, said Bhutto’s statement was against the solidarity and integrity of the country.
- Agence France Presse - English, September 26, 2007 Wednesday 12:14PM GMT
The above would help explain the subsequent clarification put out by Ms Bhutto’s office.
PPP has no intention of violating domestic or international law regarding personal rights of anyone, least of all of Dr A Q Khan, said Farhatullah Babar, media person of Benazir Bhutto, in a press release on Wednesday.
The statement he issued was probably an effort at damage control to remove the impact of hurt found in the people caused by BB’s remarks about Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, whom people consider national hero.
Babar said: During the question and answer session at a public event in Washington DC, Benazir Bhutto was asked the hypothetical question whether a government, led by her, would cooperate with the Internaional Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in investigating charges against Dr A Q Khan.
What she meant was that a PPP government would extend full co-operation to the International Atomic Energy Commission. Babar said,The position is not very different, from what the current government says or any other responsible government in Pakistan would say.
It is unfortunate that Bhutto’s words are being distorted to imply that she promised any unlawful handing over of anyone to foreigners. PPP seeks to establish rule of law, and there is no question of violating Pakistani or international law in relation to the freedom and personal rights of anyone, including Dr A Q Khan, said the clarification.
- Business Recorder, September 27, 2007 Thursday