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Monday, 12 March, 2001, 14:59 GMT
Pakistan promotes nuclear scientist
Satellite image of Pakistani missile installations
Khan is widely regarded as the father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme
By Zaffar Abbas in Islamabad

The father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme has been promoted to the inner circle of the country's military leadership.

Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan has been appointed special science and technology adviser to military ruler General Pervez Musharraf.

Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan
Dr Khan will be science and technology advisor to Pakistan's military leader
Dr Khan is currently the head of the country's premier uranium enrichment facility, the Kahuta Research Laboratories.

Another prominent nuclear scientist, Dr Asfhaque Ahmed, has also been elevated to ministerial status, after retiring as chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission.

National hero

For more than two decades, Dr Khan's key role in the development of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme has made him into a national hero.

Although the programme was secret until nuclear tests in May 1998, Dr Khan has long been seen as the country's leading nuclear scientist.

Pakistan became the world's seventh declared nuclear power when it conducted a series of tests in May 1998 following similar tests by India.

General Pervez Musharraf
General Musharraf now has two nuclear scientists in his inner circle
Although Dr Khan has due to retire for some years, he has been widely regarded as irreplaceable at the Kahuta Research Laboratories.

It is perhaps for this reason that the military government has given him public office instead of allowing him to slip into retirement.

Dr Ahmed has also been appointed a special advisor to General Musharraf, who took power in a bloodless coup in 1999.

Two relatively unknown scientists have been appointed to replace Dr Khan and Dr Ahmed.

Right-wing criticism

Some right-wing politicians have criticised the appointments as the first step towards the signing of the international nuclear test ban treaty (CTBT).

The military government insists, however, that there has been no change in the country's nuclear policy, describing the appointments as routine.

International concern has grown about security in South Asia after India and Pakistan tested nuclear devices.

Both countries remain opposed to the nuclear test ban treaty, saying it would prevent them from developing an adequate and essential nuclear deterrent.

They have faced massive US pressure to sign.

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See also:

21 Nov 00 | Americas
US waives China missile sanctions
22 Sep 00 | Middle East
Iran test-fires rocket
10 Aug 00 | South Asia
China accused over Pakistan missiles
12 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
China-US defence talks resume
16 Jul 00 | Media reports
Anxiety over Iranian missile launch
28 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
US-China military ties 'on track'
20 Mar 00 | South Asia
South Asia's nuclear race
05 Jan 01 | World
Q&A: What is the CTBT?
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