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Pak allows 'wanted' scientists to escape

Pak allows 'wanted' scientists to escape

Author: Rahul Datta/New Delhi
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: November 23, 2001

Pakistan has allowed two nuclear scientists, wanted by the USA for questioning over their possible connivance with Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda, to slip away to Myanmar. The military junta of Myanmar has for long defied international opinion on a host of issues from human rights to supporting terrorists.

Senior officials of Pakistan's military Government had held talks with the Myanmarese authorities on sanctuary for the two scientists, Suleman Aziz and Kohammad Ali Mukhtar, sources said here on Thursday.

The USA had asked Pakistan to hand over two other nuclear scientists, Dr Bashir and Abdul Majid. The Pakistani authorities, it was reported, placed the two scientists under house arrest in Lahore.

These scientists, with fundamentalist leanings and a "soft corner" for the Taliban, had been closely associated with Pakistan"s nuclear programme.

Desperate to acquire nuclear weapons to hold the world to ransom, bin Laden had reportedly met these scientists over the last few years.

The USA learnt about these meetings when the crackdown against bin Laden's terrorist network Al Quaeda began after the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington.

Pakistan was asked to furnish details about the meetings. The Musharraf Government responded by placing Bashir and Abdul Majid under house arrest. The other two scientists, however, escaped US attention in the beginning. Subsequent investigations pointed to the alleged involvement of the two scientists with Osama, sources said.

In order to avoid international embarrassment, the junta allowed Aziz and Mukhtar to slip out of the country a few days ago. It was learnt that senior Pakistani officials had worked out the details of the scientists' secret flight from Pakistan to the host country.

The escape raises serious doubts about Pakistan's commitment to the international campaign against terrorism, sources said. The issue of a security cover against any nuclear terrorist outrage, meanwhile, came up for discussion in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday. Leader of the Opposition Manmohan Singh sought a reply from Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on the measures taken by the government to meet the challenge of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh was also present in the House during the short-duration discussion on terrorist attacks on the WTC and related developments.

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