'Stabbed in the Back' Hendrina Khan on the Pakistani Government's Role

In an account published in SPIEGEL, the wife of Pakistan's A.Q. Khan -- the man accused of running a global nuclear weapons bazaar -- alleges that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf lied about her husband's role in the country's nuclear program. She says her husband was pressured to make a false confession and that he only carried out government orders.


Editor's note: This feature is part of a package. You can read the main background story here.

He did everything he could to achieve his goal and to create a nuclear bomb for Pakistan. He worked 12 to 15 hours a day, seven days a week. He traveled and was out of the country for a total of about five months a year. It didn't come easily and that makes it so sad to see the way he is being treated today, with a character assassination campaign being conducted against him.

He has already been living in Islamabad under house arrest for four-and-a-half years now, without having been accused of or prosecuted for anything. At least I have been able to leave the house for the last few months without a security guard. At no point has he been allowed in any way to defend himself against all the government-sponsored distortions of the truth and the outright lies contained in General Pervez Musharraf's memoir.

In the "Line of Fire," the president wrote: "On the basis of the thorough probe that we conducted in 2003-2004, I can say with confidence that neither the Pakistan Army nor any of the past governments of Pakistan was ever involved or had any knowledge of Abdul Qadir's proliferation activities. The show was completely and entirely Abdul Qadir's."

That statement is quickly refutable if you look at the security measures that were in place at at my husband's offices and places of work at the firm KRL in Rawalpindi, the nuclear facility in Kahuta and the satellite offices at Sihala and Golra. Despite General Musharraf's claim, the factual position is that, right from day one, the security and logistics of the project were in the hands of the army. There were hundreds of personnel serving under a brigadier; about half of these were in active service while the other half were retired military personnel. When I say hundreds, I mean a figure closer to 1,000 than 500.

In concrete terms, the air force and army personnel there served under a departmental general director. They were the ones who packed all the consignments and took them to the airplane for dispatch. Army personnel -- along with the secret service Interservices Intelligence (ISI) and later the Strategic Planning Division (SPD), which controlled all nuclear activities, both military and civilian -- supervised the loading and dispatch of the goods to foreign countries. They were also led by a general.

Similarly, all incoming consignments were received by KRL personnel in the presence of the ISI (and later the ISI and SPD), loaded onto the firm's own trucks and taken to their final destinations. There are official records of all of this. Under these circumstances, how would it have been possible for anyone to virtually run his own security? Consequently, if the army personnel knew exactly what was coming in and what was going out, how could Dr. Khan have acted alone? General Musharraf, on the other hand was three things at one time: He was the Army chief, chief executive and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. Does it then seem likely that he knew nothing?

On Feb. 5, 2004, the president of the then-ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Q) Party and later prime minister, Chaudry Shujaat, told the newspaper Dawn in an interview, "Dr. A.Q. Khan had saved the country from a major crisis by taking full responsibility for the nuclear proliferation issue. Dr. Khan has taken full responsibility himself in the national interests." It was the same Shujaat who was the intermediary between the government and my husband. He knew the country was under great pressure from outside -- from the Americans. He was very concerned about the country and was looking for a way out of the dilemma. For political reasons he was of the opinion that my husband should take sole blame. My husband, being a great patriot, went along with the idea.

On the same day as Shujaat's interview, President Musharraf announced at a press conference at the Army House in Rawalpindi that he had "accepted the cabinet suggestion and pardoned Dr. Khan. He also said: "He is a free man, but he is not allowed to go abroad."

We never even dreamed that Shujaat or the government would try to harm my husband or that the promises made would not be carried out. The promised freedom -- for travel inside Pakistan, for example -- never materialized. With the exception of a visit to the Academy of Sciences, the house arrest has never been lifted. Today my husband is treated as a traitor and he is constantly harassed.

Literally overnight he was cut off from communication with the outside world and any intellectual stimulation. This active man became a virtual couch potato. Our mobile phones are monitored, our whole house is fitted with listening devices. Anywhere we sit or walk, guards are conspicuous everywhere. Every aspect of our lives is determined by these guards.

When my husband needs to go to the dentist, appointments are arranged at night. The clinic staff are made to wait until it is dark. Doctors are the only people he is allowed to see outside the house.

In order to cope with the tremendous stress he was under, my husband was on anti-depressants for more than three years. My husband's health has been getting steadily worse. Radical prostate surgery in 2006 was followed only a few months later by deep vein thrombosis. This has also been very difficult for me.

The authorities claim that my husband's life is in danger. That is why they say he is not under "detention" but rather "protective custody," but it is definitely detention. That some foreign powers would like to question my husband is beyond doubt, since they feel that the information supplied to them by the Pakistani government has been edited and they only passed on what they wanted to be known. Whether they would actually go so far as to abduct him as the authorities here claim is an open question. When he was still working actively as a scientist, nobody did anything for my husband's safety. At the time his life was in real danger.

If the truth were to come out, it would cause the Pakistani Army great embarrassment because it would prove they were not as innocent as they claim to be and that the blame does not rest solely on one person as they have tried to make the whole world believe. For the concerned government, it is of course too late today to admit or to confess everything. The consequences for the country would be too drastic, especially from the Americans who have been supporting Musharraf through thick and thin.

The fact that many of the claims made by General Musharraf in his memoirs are false can be verified in documentation available in the KRL office. Of course the government would never give permission for those to be scrutinized. Most of the documents that prove my statements were removed when the Army ransacked our house in April 2006. But a few documents are still in our possession.

The worst thing for my husband is that he was stabbed in the back by his own people. I often ask myself what crimes it was supposed to be that my husband actually committed. His duty was to execute the instructions he was given by the Pakistani government. Pakistan was not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and no Pakistani laws were broken.

My husband traveled to North Korean twice, the second visit was made at the specific request of Gen. Musharraf. Pakistan and North Korea had enjoyed close cooperation since the days of then-Prime Minister Zulphikar Ali Bhutto's first visit to the country in 1976. My husband never traveled to Iran, he never visited Libya and he was not involved in any deals there in any way, as is alleged.

Musharraf and his supporters claim my husband did it all for money. They allege we are supposed to have millions of dollars stashed away in bank accounts in Pakistan and abroad. To this day they have not come up with a single sheet of evidence to support their claims. Not even our tax returns have been questioned.

We know who truly profited from the business with Libya and North Korea, and the government and Army also know. At this point, we are not willing to divulge any names. That would be taking too much of a risk.

Of course, ideally, no country should have the bomb. However, until such a time as there is a fair deal between the "haves" and the "have nots," and as long as the "haves" go on building up larger arsenals of weapons and continue further research, the "have nots" will not feel safe. They know full well that, when push comes to shove, they will only have themselves to depend on no matter how many treaties they may have with other countries. Politics is a dirty game.

So why is the world so afraid of the Pakistani bomb? And why is it even called the "Islamic Bomb"? Was the American one a "Christian Bomb"? The Israeli a "Jewish Bomb"? Was the Chinese a "Buddhist" or "Atheist" bomb? Was the Indian one a "Hindu Bomb"? Right from the time it first became known that Pakistan had a nuclear program, the whole Western world, with America and Britain at the forefront, were up in arms and did all they could to prevent our success. All sorts of media hype immediately started -- from accusations of stolen documents to spy stories of James Bond proportions.

In any case, the Pakistani security forces will do everything in their might to prevent the truth from ever coming out. Most of all, I fear they will keep my husband under these conditions until the day he dies. That all of those people who suffered in one way or another for the sake of the project and gave their best will be remembered with a stigma attached to their name.

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