ISLAMABAD - Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, who is regarded as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, has registered a new political party to contest for the first time general elections expected next year, officials said Wednesday.
Many Pakistanis regard Khan, 76, as a hero for building the Muslim world’s first atomic bomb but in the West he is considered a dangerous renegade since admitting in 2004 to selling nuclear secrets on the black market.
In July, he set up the Tehrik-i-Tahafuzz Pakistan to contest the 2013 elections and to campaign for an end to endemic corruption.
But attendance at his public meetings has been sparse and Dr Khan is unlikely to emerge a serious contender at the ballot box despite his popularity.
A spokesman for the Election Commission of Pakistan confirmed to AFP that the Tehrik-i-Tahafuzz Pakistan was among 19 new political parties whose registration was approved on Tuesday.
The election is expected to mark the first time that a democratically elected civilian government in Pakistan completes a full term in office and hands over to a new, elected administration.
The party’s secretary general Chaudhry Khurshid Zaman said Dr Khan had yet to decide whether to stand himself for election but that as chairman, he would guide the party through the campaign.
“Our party has been registered, we will take part in the elections with full strength,” Zaman told AFP.
“The whole country is burning, price hikes, unemployment, the energy crisis, poverty and other heinous problems have made public life miserable.
“Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan has joined politics to change this face of Pakistan and he is the only hope. All other political parties have failed.”
No date has been announced for the polls, but state media has quoted Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira as saying they would be held in May.
Rohail Akbar, a spokesman for Tehrik-i-Tahafuzz Pakistan, said the party would form an alliance with right-wing parties, but not those in government or main opposition party Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz headed by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
Dr Khan admitted to selling nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea, but later retracted his remarks.
In 2009, he was freed from house arrest in Islamabad, although he remains under pressure from the authorities to keep a low profile.