Mr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani nuclear scientist who admitted to selling nuclear secrets to various nations, has just had the restrictions placed on his travels removed by a Pakistani court. With the restrictions, he felt, quote, "like a prisoner."
How do you react to a story like this? A man who admits to selling nuclear technologies to Libya, North Korea, and Iran is basically slapped on the wrist because of his national standing (he is seen as the father of Pakistan's nuclear capabilites), and placed under a token "house arrest" only to have those restrictions later removed. He is now allowed to do, basically, whatever he pleases.
This is not simply a snub to the U.S. and really the whole international community, this is nearly an act of unprecedented provocation. My mind refuses to see this as a simple human rights issue. There has to be something more to the story.
Let's break down the possible "behind-the-scenes" scenarios:
1. The "Gentleman's Agreement" Scenario: The Pakistanis agreed to "release" him, as long as he reports his future movements to the government. His cell phone and internet are monitored or restricted, and he is not allowed to go to his office and play with his toys.
2. The "Fuck Off" Scenario: He is released to scare the bejesus out of India and the US and the whole planet, apparently to show that Pakistan means business. However, Pakistan has a history of shooting itself in the foot, so to speak (read: The Taliban).
3. The "You're Coming Down With Us" Scenario: Pakistan is (and has been for some years) on the brink of collapse, whether from the threat of radical Islamist factions, an Indian/Pakistani war, a repressive military, a scheming intelligence service, or straight up economic collapse. One way to save themselves is to shake up the global power balance. What better way to do that than willingly spread nuclear weaponry like candy to schoolchildren! Suddenly, the few who have nukes are not so special and now have to deal eye-to-eye with newly emergent nuclear powers. Consequently, everything changes.
4. The "U.S. and Them" Scenario: The US agreed to allow Mr. Khan to be released, as long as they can monitor his every move. The US would only be too obliged to act (whatever that means) should Khan even make eye contact with a North Korean.
5. The "We're That Crazy" Scenario: Mr. Khan is a national hero and deserves his freedom of movement. No strings attached.
6. The "Double Agent" Scenario: Khan was "persuaded" to be an agent for ISI and/or CIA. They "free" him and wait for some unsuspecting nation or group to take the bait and approach him. A meeting is held, the G-Men jump out from behind the bushes, and another hopeful nuclear power is thwarted. The national hero now gets a statue cast in Karachi.
7. The "Osama Did It, Why Can't I?" Scenario: Khan is released, only to go off the radar a short time later. He disappears into Pakistan and is never heard from again. Stories planted that he was sighted in Somalia and Sudan.
Let's see what plays out. Although I'm sure we'll hear nothing from him ever again.