By Aamir Latif, IOL Correspondent in Pakistan and Afghanistan


ISLAMABAD, Oct 24 (IslamOnline)- Two of Pakistan’s leading nuclear scientists have been taken into custody by government security forces on suspicions of being connected to Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban, well-placed sources and the wife of one of the arrested scientists confirmed to IslamOnline Wednesday.

Dr. Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, the former Director General of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) and Chaudry Abdul Majeed, a senior nuclear scientist were taken into custody in Lahore. An associate of the scientists was also arrested.

Currently, Mahmood is the chairman of a non-governmental Afghan Relief Agency, the “Ummah’s [Muslim community] Reconstruction”, which he had formed after he resigned from the PAEC in 1999.

Mahmood resigned from the commission after having developed differences with then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

He strongly opposed the campaign launched by Nawaz Sharif, which was aimed at paving the way for the signing of the test ban accord.

The main objective of the “Ummah’s Reconstruction” is to attract foreign investment, especially from Muslim countries, to Afghanistan for the rehabilitation of the war-ravaged country.

Mahmood is considered by authorities to be a vehement supporter of the Taliban government.

According to reports, Mahmood has been taken into custody by Pakistan’s powerful secret agency, the Directorate of Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI).

No ISI official was available to confirm or deny the reports.

Another unidentified government official confirmed the arrest of the nuclear scientists saying, “They have not been arrested but taken into custody as a safety measure.”

However, they could not elaborate on what kind of threat has prompted the scientist to be “taken into custody”. So far, charges have not been filed against the scientists.

“Dr. Sultan and his aides have been shifted to a Safe House in Islamabad where they are being interrogated or having alleged relations with Taliban,” a close associate of Mahmood alleged on the condition of anonymity.

Sources claimed the U.S. secret agencies suspected that Mahmood had provided nuclear information and assistance to the Taliban or Osama Bin Laden.

However, this claim was not independently verified.

Mahmood is known as a practical Muslim and terms Pakistan’s nuclear capability as “the property of a whole Ummah.”