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Pakistan's Religious Parties Denounce Probe on Transfer of Nuclear Technology - 2004-01-26

Pakistan's government is coming under political pressure as it tries to determine whether any of its scientists gave information on nuclear weapons technology to Iran or Libya. The country's religious parties are furious over what they see as an investigation undertaken only to please the United States.

Pakistan's powerful alliance of religious parties is denouncing the probe into possible proliferation by some of the country's nuclear weapons experts.

The Muttahida Majlis-e Amal, known as the MMA, says the scientists and other nuclear officials detained and questioned during the month-long investigation are national heroes, who should not be subjected to such treatment.

The government says the investigation stemmed from concerns by the United Nations that the Pakistani experts shared information with Iran and Libya, both of which have admitted to carrying out nuclear-weapons research.

Syed Munawar Hasan, the secretary general of the MMA's largest constituent party, complains that many other nations may have contributed to the Iranian and Libyan research, but only Pakistan is carrying out such a probe.

"Only Pakistan is being victimized, since our rulers are in the hands of Americans, and have become stooges for Americans," he said.

Pakistan, which declared itself a nuclear power in 1998, says that if any proliferation of its technology took place, it was the action of individuals acting for personal gain, and not government policy.

But Mr. Hasan says he doubts any such sharing of nuclear expertise could have taken place without the consent of the military.

"Without the involvement of [the] army, it is not possible that any scientist on his own, at an individual level, can give any support to any nuclear program in any country," he commented.

As a result, he said, any individuals charged in the case would be scapegoats, sacrificed to please the Western powers.

The government is expected to announce the results of the investigation soon, and reports say those accused of proliferation could include Abdul-Qadeer Khan, widely revered as the father of Pakistan's atomic bomb.

The MMA held small demonstrations against the investigation over the weekend, but Mr. Hasan says the government should expect major street rallies and protest actions if Mr. Khan or any of the others scientists is formally charged.