A member of the staff of the Pakistan High Commission is to be expelled from Britain, accused of helping Pakistan in its nuclear weapons programme.
Mohammed Saleem was yesterday served with a deportation order at his home. According to the Home Office, Mr Saleem was to be deported because of his involvement in matters relating to security and "the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction".
The Pakistanis seemed eager to wash their hands of Mr Saleem, or at least to distance themselves from him. A spokesman yesterday emphasised that Mr Saleem - who was hired locally in the UK and does not have diplomatic status - was dismissed last week because he was "considered not desirable by the host government".
Mr Saleem was officially said to have been "a junior clerk in the accounts department". He is a permanent resident of the UK, and has lived here for 18 years. British officials yesterday refused to confirm suggestions that he might have been involved in espionage.
Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme has been a constant source of tension, both regionally and internationally. India recently test-fired a long- range version of the Prithvi missile, which has nuclear capability. The President of Pakistan, Farooq Leghari, described the missile as "a very serious and new threat for Pakistan".
Mr Leghari warned: "We can also put in our effort to produce an indigenous missile, but we wish to avoid such a race." Neither India nor Pakistan is a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. It is now assumed that both India and Pakistan have nuclear arms.
In 1990, Britain expelled a Pakistani diplomat, Ahmed Jamil, for similar reasons. Mr Jamil was believed to be an associate of the leading Pakistani nuclear scientist, Abdul Qader Khan. There have also been several recent reported incidents in which Britain has blocked the proposed export to Pakistan of equipment that could be used in a nuclear programme, including laser-measuring equipment from Sweden and a solid state laser from Hungary.
Mr Saleem still has the right of appeal against yesterday's deportation order. The conciliatory reaction of the Pakistan authorities to the proposed expulsion makes it clear that Pakistan does not want a confrontation with Britain. Nor, however, does it appear ready to back down from its nuclear ambitions.