Former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto said yesterday the architect of the country's atomic bomb Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan was "covering up" for President Pervez Musharraf by publicly confessing to transferring nuclear technology to other countries.

Benazir, an arch-foe of Musharraf, suggested that Khan's life could be in danger "because he knows too much about the people who ordered him to export nuclear technology."

"We believe that he's covering up for Musharraf," Benazir, the Pakistan People's Party leader, told BBC television's Breakfast with Frost current affairs programme.

"And we think that if Musharraf has endangered our nuclear assets and endangered our country's reputation by involving himself in the export of nuclear technology he has no business to remain in power.

"People in my country think that A.Q. Khan is being made a scapegoat and they believe that he's being kept under arrest and he could even be killed to silence him forever because he knows too much about the people who ordered him to export nuclear technology," Benazir claimed.

She added: "I know Qadeer Khan and I find it very hard to believe that he could have exported nuclear technology on his own. One person could not do it because of the enormous security."

The former premier's party, the Pakistan Peoples Party, yesterday accused President Pervez Musharraf of endangering the nuclear assets of Pakistan and demanded a full-scale parliamentary inquiry into the nuclear expert scandal.

The sale of nuclear hardware was publicly advertised through open tenders in July 2000 under Musharraf, said a party statement issued from London after the two-day meeting of the top PPP leaders, which ended early Sunday.

The PPP meeting – spread over four sessions – said in a resolution that Musharraf was suspected of being responsible for the export of nuclear technology and as such he must be immediately step down and be held responsible for undermining the country's security and integrity.

Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Mian Raza Rabbani, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Barrister Sultan Mahmood, Raja Pervez Ashraf, Syed Khursheed Shah and Syed Qaim Ali Shah were among the prominent members who attended the meeting.

The meeting called upon the release of Benazir's husband, Zardari, and other political leaders for the withdrawal of all politically motivated cases.