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Ahead of Obama swearing-in,US sends Pak a strong signal: sanctions on AQ Khan

In a strong diplomatic signal to Pakistan,the US today imposed sanctions on A Q Khan and a dozen members of his worldwide illicit nuclear trade network...

Written by Amitabh Sinha | New Delhi | Published: January 13, 2009 3:08:28 am

In a strong diplomatic signal to Pakistan,the US today imposed sanctions on A Q Khan and a dozen members of his worldwide illicit nuclear trade network including three companies despite the decision of former Pakistan President Musharraf to pardon Khan.

For five years,the US did not place Khan on the entities list,allowing the Pakistan government to carry out its internal investigations. In 2004,Khan even admitted to running an elaborate network violating all non-proliferation norms. The US found inscrutable evidence of his supplies reaching Libya,Iran and North Korea.

Considered the father of the Pakistan atomic programme,Khan is a national hero there and ran his operations from Kahuta. Under immense US pressure,Musharraf did place Khan under house arrest and started investigations which even led to certain revelations but in the end,did not amount to much. Not only was he pardoned,he also began retracting all his earlier statements in media interviews later.

Washington’s decision to impose sanctions five years after his network was broadly uncovered,sources said,is to be seen more as a strong diplomatic signal to the Pakistan state that had done all to protect Khan. Coming just a week before Barack Obama takes over as US President,the decision also indicates a shift in treating Pakistan more as part of the terror problem,and not just define it as a solution.

“The decision shows that the US is clearly very worried about what is happening in Pakistan. The worry is not just on account of apprehension that Pakistan might turn into a failed state but more importantly,relates to fears about the future of its nuclear weapons,its nuclear material in such an eventuality,” said Arundhati Ghose,India’s former permanent representative to the United Nations.

A US State Department statement said these sanctions will help prevent future proliferation-related activities by these private entities,provide a warning to other would-be proliferators,and demonstrate ongoing commitment to using all available tools to address proliferation-related activities.

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