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Nuclear programme running at full steam — Khan

Highly secured system ensures that key assets do not fall into hands of militants and external forces, scientist says

Abdul Qadeer Khan
Image Credit: AP
Abdul Qadeer Khan
Gulf News

Islamabad: Pakistani nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan said in an interview published here Sunday that the country's nuclear programme had been "running without any break" over the last decade.

"Although I have not been associated with the programme for the past 10 years, I know that it has been running without any break and the process of uranium enrichment is in progress," English language daily Dawn quoted the scientist as saying.

He was interviewed on Saturday on the occasion of the 13th anniversary of nuclear weapon tests by Pakistan in 1998 in reaction to atomic detonations earlier by India in the same month.

Khan said although the departments concerned were not giving the "final shape to new nuclear weapons", the material was being prepared and they could be assembled any time if required.

He said neither the Taliban nor any external force could seize the country's nuclear assets because of a "highly secured system which has been improved gradually". These assets have been safe from the onset and no country should be worried about them, he added.

"We know how to protect our strength [nuclear weapons]," he said in reply to a question about statements from Washington and New Delhi that terrorists could seize the nukes.

He said nuclear weapons were not stored at one place and very few people knew about their location.

"You can count these people on fingers who exactly know about the location of nuclear arsenals," he added.

Most of the nuclear weapons made by the Khan Research Laboratories and other departments concerned had been handed over to the military authorities and the practice still continued, he said. "These weapons are lying in tunnels and safe houses where no one can access them, except very few, relevant people."

Khan, widely acclaimed in the country as nuclear hero, remained cloistered for years with restrictions on his movements in the wake of his confession in 2004 that he had passed on nuclear secrets to some other countries. He was given a conditional pardon by then military ruler Perez Musharraf.