Pak coalition appears divided over Dr AQ Khan's release: Paper

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Sydney, Apr 5 : Differences among the coalition partners in the new Pakistan government came to the fore last night when a senior PML-N leader demanded "immediate release" of detained nuclear scientist Dr AQ Khan, while the largest party the PPP chose not to respond to the demand.

He said that failure to free him "would negate our very existence as a nation".

PML (N) senior vice-president Javed Hashmi said that Dr Khan, who has been under house arrest for four years after proliferating nuclear technology, should be released immediately, reported The Australian.

His demand followed a statement by Dr Khan on his 72nd birthday earlier this week when he complained he was being held under "illegal detention" and said he hoped the new Government would release him.

The doctor had recently suffered a heart attack, but survived. He has been since keeping unwell.

Dr Khan is generally esteemed as a national hero but he has been accused of the widespread leaking of secrets to the likes of North Korea, Libya and Iran, and has intimate knowledge of the degree to which Pakistan's military was involved in this. The powerful Pakistan Army and Musharraf are determined that he should remain under detention, and the PPP knows this.

The Army is also determined that Dr Khan should not be allowed freedom that might put him in a position to face questioning by the US.

In his statement earlier this week, Dr Khan complained about being held in "solitary confinement" and said his health was deteriorating because of it. He described as "a lame excuse" claims that he was beingheld under detention for his own security.

The Army's rejection of freedom for Dr Khan is in contrast to the support it has shown for the new democratic Government by ensuring the smooth transfer of much of its power to the new administration.

According to the paper, also dogging the new Government are reports that the PPP might be rethinking its commitment to reinstate judges sacked by President Pervez Musharraf last November. PPP co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari guardedly recommitted the PPP to the reinstatement of chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and other superior court judges by the end of the month.

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