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Abdul Qadeer Khan, man who built Pakistan’s nuclear bomb and ‘gave away secrets’

Abdul Qadeer Khan was awarded Pakistan’s highest civilian honour Nishan-i-Imtiaz twice, but was also accused of selling nuclear secrets to North Korea, Iran and Libya.

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New Delhi: Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan died Sunday at the age of 85 in Islamabad. Commonly known as A.Q. Khan, he was considered the father of Pakistan’s nuclear programme, and is known by the title Mohsin-i-Pakistan (saviour of Pakistan).

But he was also seen as a controversial figure, who was accused of giving nuclear technology to “rogue states”.

According to reports, Khan’s health deteriorated Saturday due to lung issues. He was taken to KRL Hospital Sunday morning, where he died.

Bhopal-born scientist, controversial figure

A.Q. Khan was born in Bhopal in 1936, but after Partition in 1947, his family decided to move to Pakistan. He studied metallurgy at Karachi University.

He came into the limelight when Pakistan tested its first atom bomb on 28 May 1998, just two weeks after India’s Pokhran-II tests on 11 and 13 May that year. Khan lived under heavy security in Islamabad.

In 2004, Khan was named in the global nuclear proliferation scandal in 2004 that involved the sale of nuclear secrets to North Korea, Iran and Libya. He was accused by then-army chief and President Pervez Musharraf of running a nuclear material dissemination network.

Shortly after Musharraf’s announcement, a recorded confession by Khan was circulated in which he took full responsibility for all nuclear proliferation. He was arrested in 2004 and kept under house arrest till 2009. However, he later retracted his confession. He also accused Musharraf of waging a vendetta against him.

He is the only person in Pakistan to have been awarded the country’s highest civilian award, the Nishan-e-Imtiaz, twice.

Also read: Pakistanis don’t care about 700 citizens in Pandora Papers but Imran Khan’s absence matters

Mourning on social media

Just last month, Khan had expressed disappointment in Imran Khan’s government of Pakistan, accusing it of not enquiring about his health.

“I am quite disappointed that neither the prime minister nor any of his cabinet members has enquired after my health,” he had said.

PM Imran Khan did, however, tweeted after his demise, calling him a “national icon”.

Pakistani President Dr Arif Alvi also expressed grief, tweeting: “Had known him personally since 1982. He helped us develop nation-saving nuclear deterrence, and a grateful nation will never forget his services in this regard. May Allah bless him.”

Defence Minister Pervez Khattak tweeted: “Deeply grieved at the sad demise of Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan. Great loss! Pakistan will forever honor his services to the nation.”

Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar appreciated his contribution to Pakistan.

Shehbaz Sharif, Leader of the Opposition in the country’s National Assembly, said Khan’s passing is a huge loss.

Abdul Basit, Pakistan’s former ambassador to Germany and former High Commissioner to India, tweeted: “He will be remembered for aeons for his unmatched services to our beloved Pakistan. I as Director Disarmament attended many meetings presided over by him in 1998-2001.”

(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)

Also read: I am offshore Pakistani General. My establishment beat India in Pandora Papers


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