Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan is hailed by the masses as a national hero and father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb. He was born on April 27, 1936 at Bhopal in central India. From paternal side he belonged to the Turkish origin of Ghauri Tribe, who arrived in India in 12th Century A.D. while from maternal side his lineage belonged to the Mughals. His father Abdul Ghafoor Khan, who had graduated from Nagpur University in 1896, was one of the most respectable and honorable members of the community, and his mother Zulekha Begum was known as religious-minded woman. Some of his family members migrated to Pakistan immediately after independence but he migrated exactly after five years on August 15, 1952.
Abdul Qadeer Khan got his primary education in Ginnori Primary School and passed his Middle examination from Jehangiria Middle School. From Alexandria High School later named Hameedia High School, he got his matriculation. Later he got admission in D.J Sindh Government Science College, Karachi. From Karachi University he achieved his B.Sc. degree and the following year he succeeded in the competitive examination. He served as Inspector of Weights and Measures for three years but then he left for West Germany to get higher education. In Berlin he achieved high competence through attending several courses in metallurgical engineering. He obtained the degree of Master of Science (Technology) in 1967 from Delft University of Technology, Belgium and then earned a doctorate in metallurgy from the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium) in 1972. He excelled as a metallurgist — an expert at building centrifuges — hollow metal tubes that spin very fast to enrich natural uranium in its rare U – 235 isotopes, which is an excellent bomb fuel.
No sooner had India declared their nuclear designs than Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto opted for the nuclear weapon even earlier than India went ahead for nuclear explosion on May 18, 1974. In a meeting of scientists hurriedly called on January 20, 1972, Bhutto urged the Pakistani scientists to carry out the task of ‘fission in three years’. The task was assigned to Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission. Dr A. Q. Khan at that time was studying in Holland. On September 17, 1974, while he was working for Anglo-Dutch-German nuclear engineering consortium Urenco, the Netherlands, he wrote a letter to Prime Minister Bhutto through Pakistan Ambassador in Belgium. He informed him about the nature of his job and offered his services with a suggestion for taking a shortcut of uranium enrichment. He met Bhutto in December 1974 and convinced him to manage nuclear deterrence for Pakistan.
A.Q. Khan initially worked with Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), headed by Munir Ahmad Khan, for a short period. But since he was not satisfied with this set-up, Bhutto gave A.Q. Khan in July 1976 autonomous control of the Kahuta Enrichment Project that had been already operative as Project-706 since 1974, two years prior to A.Q. Khan’s arrival in Pakistan. When Dr. A.Q. Khan joined, it was called Engineering Research Laboratories (ERL). However, on 01 May 1981, ERL was renamed through an order by Gen. Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq as Dr. A.Q. Khan Research Laboratories (KRL). On May 28, 1998, Pakistan successfully tested its first nuclear device and emerged as the only Muslim country to join the nuclear club.
The scientific contributions of Dr. A. Q. Khan have been recognized in several ways. As an active scientist and technologist, he has published more than 188 scientific research papers in international journals. Under his supervision, the process of Uranium enrichment was effectively accomplished and significant development was also made with the successful test firing of Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles, Ghauri 1, in April 1998 and Ghauri II in April 1999. Dr Khan received honorary degrees of Doctor of Science from the University of Karachi in 1993, from Baqai Medical University in 1998, Doctor of Science from Hamdard University, Karachi in1999, and from the University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore in December 2000. For his contributions in the field of science and technology, Dr Khan was awarded Nishan-i-Imtiaz in 1996 and again in 1998. Thus he is the only Pakistani to have received twice the highest civil award. He is also a recipient of Hilal-i-Imtiaz During 1990s, there were reports in the Western media that Dr. A. Q. Khan had been involved in the sale of centrifuge parts to Libya and Iran. In November 2003, Pakistan was warned of possible nuclear leaks and according to an IAEA report, Dr. Khan was accused of having at the centre of an international proliferation network. Consequently he was retired from KRL and was appointed as Advisor to the President.
In the beginning Dr. Khan denied any kind of personal involvement in the nuclear proliferation. However on February 4, 2004 in a television appearance he took “full responsibility” for his action and seeked “pardon” from the nation. Since then he is in safe custody and no one is allowed to see him.
This article was last updated on Wednesday, Jan 06, 2010
Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan,[note 1]NI, HI, FPAS ( ( listen); Urdu: ڈاکٹر عبد القدیر خان; born 27 April 1936), known as A. Q. Khan, is a Pakistani former nuclear physicist and a metallurgical engineer, who founded the uranium enrichment program for Pakistan's atomic bomb project. Khan founded and established the Kahuta Research Laboratories (KRL) in 1976, serving as both its senior scientist and Director-General until he retired in 2001. Khan was also a figure in other Pakistani national science projects, making research contributions to molecular morphology, the physics of martensite alloys, condensed matter physics, and materials physics.
In January 2004, the Pakistani government summoned Khan for a debriefing on his active role in nuclear weapons technology proliferation in other countries after the United States provided evidence of it to the Pakistanis. Khan formally admitted his responsibility for these activities a month later. The Pakistani government dismisses allegations that Pakistani authorities sanctioned Khan's activities.
After years of official house arrest during and following his debriefing, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on 6 February 2009 declared Abdul Qadeer Khan to be a free citizen of Pakistan, allowing him free movement inside the country. The verdict was rendered by Chief Justice Sardar Muhammad Aslam. In September 2009, concerned because the decision also ended all security restrictions on Khan, the United States warned that Khan still remained a "serious proliferation risk".
Khan was born in 1936 in Bhopal in a Pashtun Family, he often said that he is a pathan in many interviews. He in an interview also said that he belongs to Yousafzai tribe as many pashtuns in Bhopal belongs to this tribe including many other pashtun tribes. Bhopal had been a centre of pashtuns in times of nawabs. Many pashtuns migrated from Afghanistan and Pakistan to India specially in Madhya Pradesh in various places like Bhopal, Sironj, Silwani, Shujalpur, Jaora etc. British India. His mother, Zulekha (née Begum), was a housewife. His father, Abdul Ghafoor, was an alumnus of Nagpur University and an academic who served in the IndianEducation ministry then permanently settled the family in Bhopal State after he retired in 1935. After the partition of India in 1947, his family emigrated from India to Pakistan in 1952, and settled in Karachi, Sindh. Briefly attending the D.J. Science College, he enrolled at Karachi University in 1956 to study physics. In 1960, he graduated with a degree in physics with a minor in mathematics, while his degree concentration was in solid-state physics.
For a short time, Khan worked for the city government as an inspector of weights and measures. In 1961, he went to Germany to study metallurgy at the Technical University in Berlin but made a transfer to Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands in 1965. At Delft, he obtained an engineer's degree in technology (equivalent to MS) in 1967 and joined the Catholic University of Leuven for his doctoral studies. Supervised by Dr. Martin Brabers at Leuven University, Khan received a D.Eng. degree in metallurgical engineering in 1972. His doctoral thesis included fundamental work on martensite and its extended industrial applications to the field of morphology.
Research in Europe
Main articles: Nuclear power in the Netherlands and Netherlands and weapons of mass destruction
Receiving his doctorate engineering in 1972, Khan joined the senior staff of the Physics Dynamics Research Laboratory in Amsterdam from a recommendation by his mentor, Martin J. Brabers. His initial studies were on the high-strength metals used in the development of centrifuges.Gas centrifuges were first conceived by AmericanphysicistJesse Beams as part of the Manhattan Project but the studies were discontinued in 1944. The Physics Laboratory was a subcontractor for Urenco Group which was operating a uranium-enrichment plant in Almelo, Netherlands. Established in 1970, Urenco employed the centrifuge method to assure a supply of enriched uranium for nuclear power plants in the Netherlands. When Urenco offered him to join the senior scientific staff there, Khan left the Physics Laboratory where he performed physics experiments on uranium metallurgy, to produce reactor-gradeuranium usable for light water reactors.Urenco used the Zippe-typegas centrifuges— a method invented by Germanmechanical engineerGernot Zippe in the Soviet Union's program.Enrichment of uranium is an extremely difficult physical process, as U235 exists in natural uranium at a concentration of only 0.7%; Urenco used the Zippe method to separate the fissileisotopesU235 from non-fissile U238 by spinning UF6 gas at up to ~100,000RPM. His pioneering research led to the improvement of the Zippe method, which at that time, was an emerging technology whose publications were classified by the Soviet Union. Khan's leading-edge research in metallurgy brought laurels to Urenco, which had him as one of the most senior scientists at the facility where he researched and studied. His pioneering research greatly improved the technological efficiency of the Zippe method; eventually, Urenco gave Khan access to the blueprints for the Zippe centrifuge to find mathematical solutions for the physics problems in the gas centrifuges.
1971 war and return to Pakistan
Main articles: Operation Smiling Buddha, Project-706, and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto § Father of the Nuclear weapons program
On 20 January 1972, PresidentZulfikar Ali Bhutto approved a crash program to develop an atomic bomb after a seminar – the Multan meeting – with scientists at Multan. Reporting directly to Bhutto, the program was managed by Munir Ahmad Khan, the chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC); the outcomes of the 1971 war had greatly threatened Pakistan's strategic position. Earlier efforts had attempted Implosion-type nuclear weapons using military-gradeplutonium.
Before 1974 Khan had no knowledge of the program, which calls into question his "father-of" claim. Following India's surprise "Smiling Buddha" in 1974, Bhutto accelerated Pakistan's effort to attain atomic capability. Sensing the importance of the test, Munir Ahmad launched the secretive Project-706.
After learning of the nuclear test, Khan wanted to contribute to the military posture. He approached Pakistan government officials, who dissuaded him, saying it was as "hard to find" a job in the PAEC as a "metallurgist".
Undaunted, he wrote to Prime Minister Bhutto, highlighting his specific experience, and encouraged him to develop an atomic bomb using military-gradeuranium. According to Kuldip Nayyar, although the letter was received by Prime minister Secretariat, Khan was still unknown to the Pakistan government, leading Bhutto to ask the ISI to run a complete background check and prepare an assessment report on him. The ISI assessed him as "incompetent" but Bhutto was unsatisfied and eager to know more about him, eventually asking Munir Ahmad to dispatch a PAEC team to meet him. The PAEC team, including Bashiruddin Mahmood, arrived at the Almelo at his family home at night. After an interview, the team returned to Pakistan and Prime Minister Bhutto decided to meet with Khan, and directed a confidential letter to him. Soon after, Khan took a leave from Urenco, and departed for Pakistan in 1974.
Initiation and atomic bomb project
Main article: Project-706
In 1974, Abdul Qadeer Khan went to Pakistan and took a taxi straight to the Prime minister Secretariat. The session with Bhutto was held at midnight and remained under extreme secrecy where Qadeer Khan met with Bhutto, Munir Ahmad, and Mubashir Hassan– the Science Adviser. At this session, he enlightened the importance of uranium as opposed to plutonium, but Bhutto remained unconvinced to adopt uranium instead of plutonium for the development of an atomic bomb. Although Bhutto ended the session quickly, remarking: "He seems to make sense." Early morning the next day another session was held where he focused the discussion on HEU against plutonium with other PAEC officials presented. Even though, he explained to Bhutto why he thought the idea of "plutonium" would not work, Qadeer Khan was fascinated by the possibility of atomic bomb. Many of the theorists at that time, including Munir Khan maintained that "plutonium and the fuel cycle has its significance", and insisted that with the "French extraction plant in the offing, Pakistan should stick with its original plan." Bhutto did not disagree, but saw the advantage of mounting a parallel effort toward acquiring HEU fuel. At the last session with Zulfikar Bhutto, Khan also advocated for the development of a fused design to compress the single fission element in the metalisedgun-type atomic device, which many of his fellow theorists said would be unlikely to work.
In 1975, Khan finally joined the atomic bomb program, and became a member of the enrichment division at PAEC, collaborating with dr. Khalil Qureshi– a physical chemist.Calculations performed by him were valuable contributions to centrifuges and a vital link to nuclear weapon research. He continued to push his ideas for uranium methods even though they had a low priority, with most efforts still aimed to produce military-gradeplutonium. Because of his interest in uranium, and his frustration at having been passed over for director of the uranium division (the job was instead given to Bashiruddin Mahmood), Khan refused to engage in further calculations and caused tensions with other researchers. He became highly unsatisfied and bored with the research led by Mahmood; finally, he submitted a critical report to Bhutto, in which he explained that the "enrichment program" was nowhere near success.
Kahuta Research Laboratories
Main articles: Engineering Research Laboratories and Kahuta Test
Prime MinisterBhutto sensed great danger as the scientists were split between military-gradeuranium and plutonium. Therefore, he called Khan for a meeting and with the backing of Bhutto, Khan took over the enrichment division from Bashiruddin Mahmood at PAEC; thus separating it into founding the Engineering Research Laboratories (ERL). Wanting no PAEC involvement, Khan's request to work with the Corps of Engineers was granted by the Pakistan government in 1976. The Engineer-in-Chief directed BrigadierZahid Ali Akbar of Corps of Engineers to work with Qadeer Khan in ERL. The Corps of Engineers and Brigadier Akbar quickly acquired the lands of the village of Kahuta for the project. The military realised the dangers of atomic experiments being performed in populated areas and thus remote Kahuta was considered an ideal location for research. Bhutto would subsequently promote Brigadier Zahid Akbar to Major-General and handed over the directorship of the ERL, with Qadeer Khan being its senior scientist.
On the other hand, the PAEC did not forgo the electromagnetic isotope separation research and a parallel program was conducted by theoretical physicistG.D. Alam at Air Research Laboratories (ARL) located at Chaklala PAF base, though G.D. Allam had not seen a centrifuge, but only had a rudimentary knowledge of the Manhattan Project.
At first, the ERL suffered many setbacks, and relied heavily on the knowledge from URENCO brought by Qadeer Khan. Meanwhile, in April 1976, theorist GD Allam accomplished a great feat by successfully rotating the first generation centrifuges to ~30,000 RPM. When the news reached Qadeer Khan, he immediately requested to Bhutto for G.D. Alam's assistance which was granted by the PAEC, dispatching a team of scientists including GD Alam to ERL. At ERL, Khan joined the team of theoretical physicists headed by theorist G.D. Alam, working on the physics problems involving the differential equations in the centripetal forces and angular momentum calculations in the ultra-centrifuges. On 4 June 1978, the enrichment program became fully functional after G.D. Alam succeeded in separated the 235U and 238Uisotopes in an important experiment in which A.Q Khan also took part. Contrary to his expectation, the military approved to the appointment of Major-General Zahid Ali as the scientific director of the entire uranium division.
In 1981, when General Akbar was posted back to combat assignments, Khan took over the operations of ERL as its interim director and senior scientist. In 1983, his appointment as director of ERL was personally approved by President Zia-ul-Haq who renamed the ERL after him. Despite his role, Khan was never in charge of the actual development of atomic bombs, mathematical and physics calculations, and eventual weapons testing. Outgoing General Zahid Ali recommended Munir Ahmad appointment as the scientific director of the atomic bomb project. This appointment came as a shock to Khan and surprised many in the government and the military as Munir Ahmad was not known to be aligned to conservative military. The government itself restricted to provide full scientific data of atomic projects and had him required the government security clearance and clarifications of his visits of such secret weapons development sites, which he would be visiting with senior active duty officers.
In 1984, the KRL claimed to have carried out its own cold test of a nuclear weapon, which was unsuccessful while PAEC under Munir Khan had already carried out another test in 1983, codenamed: Kirana-I.
PAEC's senior scientists who worked with him and under him remember him as "an egomaniacal lightweight" given to exaggerating his scientific achievements in centrifuges. At one point, Munir Khan said that, "most of the scientists who work on the development of atomic bomb projects were extremely "serious". They were sobered by the weight of what they don't know; Abdul Qadeer Khan is a showman." During the timeline of atomic bomb project, Qadeer Khan pushed his research into rigorousTheoretical Physics calculations and topics to compete, but yet failed to impress his fellow theorists at PAEC, generally at the physics community. In later years, Abdul Qadeer Khan became a staunch critic of Munir Ahmad Khan's research in physics, and on many different occasions tried unsuccessfully to belittle Munir Khan's role in the atomic bomb projects. Their scientific rivalry became public and widely popular in the physics community and seminars held in the country over the years.
Uranium tests: Chagai-I
Main articles: Chagai-I and Chagai-II
Many of his theorists were unsure that gaseous uranium would be feasible on time without the centrifuges, since Alam had notified to PAEC that the "blueprints were incomplete" and "lacked the scientific information needed even for the basic gas-centrifuges." However, calculations by Tasneem Shah, and confirmation by Alam showed the possibility of improvise transformation of different centrifugal methods. Against popular perception, the URENCO's blueprints were based on civilian reactor technology; the blueprints were filled with serious technical errors. Its SWU rate was extremely low that it would have to be rotated for thousands RPMs on the cost of taxpayer's millions of dollars, Allam maintained. Calculations and innovation came from the team of his fellow theorists, including mathematician Tasnim Shah, and headed by theorist G.D. Alam, who solved the centrifugal problems and developed powerful versions of the centrifuges. Scientists have claimed that Qadeer Khan would have never gotten any closer to success without the assistance of Alam and others. The issue is controversial; Qadeer Khan maintained to his biographer that when it came to defending the "centrifuge approach and really putting work into it, both Shah and Alam refused.
In 1998, India conducted the series of nuclear tests at the site located in Pokhran, Rajasthan. Political momentum in Pakistan began to build up on conservative Prime MinisterNawaz Sharif by the influential political circle to authorize the nuclear testing program. Together with PAEC, Khan repeatedly lobbied in seeking the permission in favor of the tests. At the NSC meetings with Prime MinisterNawaz Sharif, Khan even maintained that the tests could be performed at the controlled test site in Kahuta. But this was rebuffed by the military and Prime MinisterSharif ordered Ishfaq Ahmad of PAEC to perform the tests in Chagai due to their long experience of performing the tests in the past.
When the news reached him, a furious Qadeer Khan was badly upset and frustrated with the Prime minister's decision. Without wasting a minute, Khan drove to Joint Staff Headquarters where he met with the Chairman joint chiefs General Jehängir Karamat, lodging a strong protest.General Karamat thereupon called the Prime minister, and decided that KRL scientists, including Qadeer Khan, would also be involved in the test preparations and present at the time of testing alongside those of the PAEC. It was the KRL's HEU that ultimately claimed the successful detonation of Pakistan's first nuclear devices on 28 May 1998, under codename Chagai-I. Two days later, on 30 May, a small team of scientists belonging to PAEC, under the leadership of Samar Mubarakmand, detonated a plutonium nuclear device, codename Chagai-II. The sum of forces and yields produced by devices were around ~40.0kt of nuclear force, with the largest weapon producing around 35–36kn of force. In contrast, the single plutonium device had produced the yield of ~20.0kt of nuclear force and had a much bigger impact than uranium devices.
Many of Qadeer Khan's colleagues were irritated that he seemed to enjoy taking full credit for something he had only a small part in, and in response, he authored an article, Torch-Bearers, which appeared in The News International, emphasising that he was not alone in the weapon's development. He made an attempt to work on the Teller design for the hydrogen bomb, but PAEC had objected the idea as it went against government policy. Known for taking full credit of something he had only small contribution, he often got engrossed in projects which were theoretically interesting but practically unfeasible.
Proliferation of URENCO technology
See also: Atomic proliferation
Proliferation network was established to acquire knowledge on electronics materials for centrifugetechnology at the ERL by Khan, in the 1970s. This atomic network was subsequently used by Libya, North Korea, Iran and China as media reports first surfaced on trade negotiations between China and Pakistan for the sale of (UF6) gas and HEU. Allegations were made that "Khan paid visit to China to provide technical support to Chinese nuclear program when building a HEU plant in China's Hanzhong province. The Chinese government offered nuclear material from their side, but Pakistan refused, calling it a "gift of gesture" to China. According to an independent IISS report, Zia had given a "free hand" to Khan and given unlimited import and export access to him. The report showed that his acquisition activities were on the whole not supervised by Pakistan governmental authorities; his activities went undetected for several years.
Court controversy and US objections
Main article: Operation Brasstacks
Pakistan's scientific activities rapidly attracted the attention of the outside world, which quickly suspected outside assistance. Suspicions soon fell on Khan's knowledge obtained during his years working in the Urenco Group. In 1983, Khan was sentenced in absentia to four years in prison by the local court in Amsterdam for attempted espionage. When the news reached to Pakistan, BarristerSM Zafar immediately travelled to Amsterdam and filed a petition at the Court. Zafar teamed up with Qadeer Khan's old mentor professor Martin Brabers and his Leuven University to prepare evidence for the case. At the trial, Zafar and Martin argued that the technical informations supplied by Khan were commonly found and taught in undergraduate and doctoral physics at the university. The sentence was overturned on appeal on a legal technicality by the Court. Reacting on the suspicion of espionage, Qadeer Khan stated: "I had requested for it as we had no library of our own at KRL, at that time". He strongly rejected any suggestion at Pakistan's proliferation attempts and stressed: "All the research work [at Kahuta] was the result of our innovation and struggle. We did not receive any technical "know-how" from abroad, but we cannot reject the use of books, magazines, and research papers in this connection."
In a local interview given in 1987 he stated that: the U.S. had been well aware of the success of the atomic quest of Pakistan. Allegedly confirming the speculation of export of nuclear technology, the Pakistan Government sharply denied all claims made by Qadeer Khan. Following this, Khan was summoned for a quick meeting with President Zia-ul-Haq, who used a "tough tone" and strongly urged Khan to cease any information "he'd been providing in statements, promising severe repercussions if he continued to leak harmful information against the Pakistan Government." Subsequently, he made several contacts with foreign newspapers, denying any and all statements he had previously released. After U.S. terminating major aid to Pakistan, Benazir government reached an understanding with the United States to "freeze" and "capped" the program to LEU which is up to 3–5%. Later, the program was restored back to 90% HEU in 1990, and on July 1996, he maintained, "at no stage was the program of producing 90% weapons-grade enriched uranium ever stopped".
North Korea, Iran and Libya
Trade and diplomatic relations were established between Pakistan and North Korea since Prime MinisterZulfikar Bhutto's period in the 1970s. After Prime MinisterBenazir Bhutto's state visit to North Korea in 1990, it was reported that the highly sensitive information was being exported to North Korea in exchange for missile technologies. On multiple occasions, Khan alleged that Benazir Bhutto had "issued clear directions" for that matter. In 1993, downloaded secret information on uranium enrichment was delivered to North Korea in exchange for information on developing ballistic missiles.
In 1987, Iran wanted to purchase a fuel-cycle technology from Pakistan, but it was rebuffed. Zia decided that the civil nuclear co-operation with Iran was purely a "civil matter" and part of maintaining good relations with Tehran; Zia did not further approve any nuclear deals, but Khan passed over a sensitive report on centrifuges in 1987–89. It was only in 2003 that the nature of such agreements were made public when the Iranian government came under intense pressure from the Western world to fully disclose its nuclear program.
Accepting the tough IAEA inspections, it revealed that Iran had established a large enrichment facility using centrifuge based on the Urenco, which had been obtained "from a foreign intermediary in 1989". The Iranians turned over the names of their suppliers and the international inspectors quickly identified the Iranian gas centrifuges as Pak-1's–the gas centrifuges invented by Khan during the atomic bomb project.
In 2003, the IAEA successfully dismantled Libya's nuclear program after persuading Libya to roll back its program to have the economic sanctions lifted. The Libyan officials turned over the names of its suppliers which also included Khan. The same year, the Bush administration launched its investigation on Khan's leak in 2001 and 2002, focusing on Khan's personal role.
Dismantlement and revelation
Libyan government officials were quoted saying that Libya bought nuclear components from various black market dealers, including Pakistan. US officials who visited the Libyan plants reported that the centrifuges were very similar to the Pak-1 centrifuges in Iran. By the time evidence against Khan had surfaced, he was a public icon in the Pakistan and the government's Science Adviser. His vigorous advocacy for atom bombs and missiles became an embarrassment to the Pakistan government. On 31 January 2004, Khan was dismissed from his post, and the government launched a full-fledged investigation of the allegations surrounding him. The Wall Street Journal quoted unnamed "senior Pakistan government officials" as conceding that Khan's dismissal from KRL had been prompted by US suspicions. On 4 February 2004, Khan appeared on state-owned media Pakistan Television (PTV) and confessed to running a proliferation ring, and transferring technology to Iran between 1989 and 1991, and to North Korea and Libya between 1991 and 1997.
Although Khan was not arrested, national security hearings were launched by the joint law officers from JAG Branch. The debriefings implicated the former chief of army staff general Mirza Beg. The Wall Street Journal quoted US government officials saying that Qadeer Khan had told the military lawyers that General Beg had authorized the transfers to Iran. According to IISS reports, for several years Khan had security clearances over import and export operations which were largely unsupervised and undetected. Khan's security has been tightened since the 1970s, and he never travelled alone; always accompanied by the secret agents of the Pakistani military establishment.
Pardon, IAEA calls, and aftermath
Main article: Benazir Bhutto atomic technology controversy
See also: Pervez Musharraf atomic proliferation controversy
On 5 February 2004, President Musharraf pardoned him as he feared that the issue would be politicised by his rivals. The Constitution allows the President of Pakistan to issue presidential pardons. The hearings of Khan badly damaged the political credibility of President Musharraf and the image of the United States. While, the Pakistan media aired sympathising documentaries, the political parties on the other hand used that issue politically to the fall of Musharraf. The US Embassy had pointed out that the successor of Musharraf could be less friendly towards the United States; this restrained the United States from applying further direct pressure on Musharraf due to a strategic calculation that may led the loss of Musharraf as an ally.
Strong calls were made by many senior IAEA officials, U.S. and European Commission politicians, have Khan interrogated by IAEA investigators, given the lingering scepticism about the disclosures made by Pakistan regarding Khan's activities. All such requests were however strongly dismissed by the Prime minister Shaukat Aziz and the Pakistan government, terming it as "case closed".
In December 2006, the WMDC headed by Hans Blix, a former IAEA chief and UNMOVIC chief; said in a report that Abdul Qadeer Khan could not have acted alone "without the awareness of the Pakistan Government". Blix's statement was also reciprocated by the United States government, with one anonymous American government intelligence official quoting to independent journalist and author Seymour Hersh: "Suppose if Edward Teller had suddenly decided to spread nuclear technology around the world. Could he really do that without the American government knowing?".
In 2007, the hearings were suspended when Musharraf was succeeded by General Ashfaq Pervez Kiani as chief of army staff. Officially, all security hearings were terminated by the ChairmanJoint Chiefs General Tariq Majid on November 2008; Khan was never officially charged with espionage activities nor any criminal charges were pressed against him. The military maintained that the debriefings were the process of questioning Khan to learn and dismantle the atomic ring. The details of debriefings were marked as "classified" and were quickly wrapped up quietly following the fall of General Pervez Musharraf.
In 2008, in an interview, Khan laid the whole blame on Musharraf, and labelled Musharraf as a "Big Boss" for proliferation deals. In 2012, Khan later implicated Benazir Bhutto in proliferation matters, pointing out to the fact as she had issued "clear directions in thi[s] regard." Domestically it is believed by some that Khan was made a scapegoat by President Musharraf to prove his uttermost loyalty to the West whose support was urgently and desperately needed for the survival of his presidency.