Abdul Qadeer Khan, celebrated in Pakistan as the father of the country’s atomic bomb, has died at the age of 85 after a long illness.
- Abdul Qadeer Khan played a key role in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program in the 1970s
- He later admitted to selling nuclear secrets to North Korea, Iran and Libya
- Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan says the nation has lost a “national icon”
The controversial nuclear scientist died at the hospital in the capital Islamabad on Sunday after receiving COVID-19 in August, Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad said.
Dr Khan helped launch Pakistan on its way to becoming a nuclear power in the 1970s, but later became embroiled in scandal after admitting to selling secret nuclear technology to North Korea, Iran and Libya.
Pakistani President Arif Alvi said Dr. Khan “helped us develop a national-saving nuclear deterrent, and a grateful nation will never forget his services in this regard.”
Prime Minister Imran Khan, who had no relation to the scientist, said the nation had lost a “national icon”.
“He was loved by our nation because of his critical contribution to making us a nuclear-weapon state,” Khan said.
A hero in his homeland
Thousands of people attended Dr Khan’s state funeral at the massive white marble Faisal Mosque in the capital.
His body was carried by an honor guard. Military and political high-ranking officials offered funeral prayers while flags of Pakistan flew at half-staff.
Dr. Khan offered to launch Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program in 1974, after neighboring India conducted its first nuclear bomb test.
Still suffering from the loss of East Pakistan in 1971, which became Bangladesh, as well as the capture of 90,000 Pakistani soldiers in India, then-Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto accepted the offer, saying famously: “We will eat grass, even get hungry, but we will get our own [nuclear bomb]. “
Since then, Pakistan has relentlessly pursued its nuclear weapons program in line with arch-rival India.
The two countries conducted tit-for-tat nuclear weapons tests in 1998.
‘The biggest nuclear proliferation crisis in the nuclear age’
Dr. Khan was at the center of a notorious nuclear proliferation scandal and admitted in 2004 that he had sold nuclear secrets to North Korea, Iran and Libya.
Pakistan was accused of selling nuclear weapons technology to North Korea in exchange for No-Dong missiles that could carry nuclear warheads.
A 2003 US Congressional research report said that while it was difficult to identify the origins of Pakistan’s nuclear cooperation with North Korea, it probably began in the mid-1990s.
Analysts and UN officials said Dr. Khan’s illegal network, which specializes in helping countries break international sanctions, created nuclear power’s biggest nuclear proliferation crisis.
After confessing on national television, Dr. Khan pardoned by then-President Pervez Musharraf.
He remained under house arrest for years in a paladial home in Islamabad, surrounded by armed guards.
In his confession, Dr. Khan that he acted alone without the knowledge of officials.
He later said he had been made a scapegoat.
After the Pakistani authorities were tipped off by the CIA, Mr. Musharraf described dr. Khan’s recognition of guilt as the most embarrassing moment of his presidency.
Pakistan never allowed foreign investigators to question Dr Khan, saying it had passed on all relevant information about his nuclear proliferation activities, despite repeated calls for access from Western officials and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
ABC / wires