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09/19/2013

Pakistan boosts security for nuclear scientist to thwart possible U.S. raid

Screen shot 2013-09-19 at 8.18.23 AM

Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan waves after his release in 2009 from house arrest in Islamabad. Mian Khursheed/Reuters

Fool me once, shame on you.

Fool me twice, shame on me.

That old saw seems to be resonating in Pakistan where defence ministry officials have ramped up the security detail assigned to protect Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear program.

The officials are worried that the U.S. may swoop in and capture or kill Khan in a raid styled after the Abbottabad raid that left Osama bin Laden dead, according to a new report by journalist Umar Cheema in The News of Pakistan.

“A repeat of Abbottabad-like incident would be a national shame for us," an unnamed government source told Cheema.

Cheema reports that there are now 120 constables assigned to protect Khan and four senior officers. In the past, Khan had 40 guards and two colonel-rank officers. A convoy of 10 vehicles is now assigned to escort Khan's bullet-proof jeep during trips within Islamabad.

Cheema explains some of the rules for residents who live in the neighbourhood around Khan: no Europeans or Americans are allowed. Arab nationals can rent an accommodation in the vicinity but only after securing security clearance.
Khan said he's no fan of the bolstered security.

“It is like death that comes uninvited,” he said, adding he did not request the redoubled security.

The U.S. government has long viewed Khan with suspicion.

In 2004, a report from the Central Intelligence Agency said Khan provided Iran's nuclear program with "significant assistance," including the designs for "advanced and efficient" weapons components. He is also known to have offered advice to North Korea and Libya and confessed to as much.

But four years after his confession, Khan retracted his apology, saying he had been coerced into it. "It was not of my own free will," Khan told The Guardian newspaper. "It was handed into my hand."

Khan was under house arrest in Islamabad from 2004 until 2009. He last year said he was mulling a move into politics as a candidate in Pakistan's national elections.

Rick Westhead is a foreign affairs writer at The Star. He was based in India as the Star’s South Asia bureau chief from 2008 until 2011 and reports on international aid and development. Follow him on Twitter @rwesthead

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