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free nuclear scientists after no evidence of links to al
27 (Internews): Pakistan is to free two of its top
nuclear scientists taken in by the authorities to question alleged links
to Osama bin Laden and his group al Qaeda.
"They will not be required for questioning in a day or two," the
military government's spokesman Maj Gen Rashid Qureshi has said when
approached for comments.
When asked whether Sultan Bashiruddin Mehmood and Chaudhry Majeed would be
released soon, he replied in the affirmative, saying that nothing
objectionable has been found against them.
Gen Qureshi regretted that foreign media had carried wild stories about
the arrest of the two scientists. One report wondered whether the
scientists had passed on some chemical weapons-related information or
material to the Taliban. Another speculated whether they had given some
nuclear material to al Qaeda.
He emphasised that the scientists had no links with Osama bin Laden in
"There is absolutely no suggestion that either of the two were in any
way involved in passing on information about Pakistan's nuclear
programme either to the Taliban or to bin Laden's al Qaeda movement,"
another senior official said.
The government admitted earlier this week that the authorities are
holding two nuclear scientists over alleged links with Afghanistan's
ruling Taliban regime.
Mahmood was arrested in Lahore and is "in protective custody" with
fellow nuclear scientist Majeed. Both are retired senior officials of
the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and helped the country to become a
Mahmood has called for a ceasefire in the American-led attacks in
Afghanistan. He was a project director in the lead up to Pakistan's
nuclear tests in May 1998 and won the prestigious Sitar-e-Imtiaz civil
award for his work.
But he resigned after the then government agreed to sign the
Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which he said would wreck
Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme.
Military spokesman Qureshi said that they were investigating links
between the Taliban and a non-governmental organisation engaged in
relief work in Afghanistan set up by Mahmood.
"Mahmood had been visiting Afghanistan and we are simply investigating
the contacts that exist between his relief agency and the Taliban," he
said. "His detention has nothing to do with any nuclear aspect."
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