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A.Q. Khan Release by Pakistan

The New York Times reports:

A Pakistani court freed one of the most successful nuclear proliferators in history, Abdul Qadeer Khan, from house arrest on Friday, lifting the restrictions imposed on him since 2004 when he publicly confessed to running an illicit nuclear network.
Mr. Khan, 73, considered in the West as a rogue scientist and a pariah who sold technology to North Korea, Libya and Iran, is revered as a national hero in Pakistan for his role in transforming the country into a nuclear power.

The ruling to set him free seemed as much a political decision as a legal one, intended to shore up support for the government of President Asif Ali Zardari, which has been derided in the Pakistani press as being too close to the United States. The government has been under intense domestic pressure to free Mr. Khan, and that outweighed the backlash that Mr. Zardari knew the action would cause in Washington.

Issued by a court of limited jurisdiction set up under the previous government, the decision came just days before the Obama administration’s special enjoy to the region, Richard C. Holbrooke, was scheduled to visit Islamabad. The Pakistani Foreign Ministry said, “The so-called A. Q. Khan affair is a closed chapter.”

Mr. Khan, taking to reporters after the ruling, credited the new civilian government of Pakistan for arranging the deal that won his freedom and said “I don’t damn care” about the international reaction to his release.

This does not seem like good news.

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Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.