Abdul Qadeer Khan, lionised as the ‘father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb,’ died on October 10 from COVID-19 complications. He was 85.
Khan tested positive for the coronavirus in August and was initially admitted to the Khan Research Laboratories Hospital. Later, the nuclear scientist was transferred to a military hospital in Rawalpindi, Reuters reported. After he was sent home several weeks later, Khan was readmitted as his conditioned deteriorated, said Al Jazeera.
“He was loved by our nation (because) of his critical contribution in making us a nuclear weapon state,” Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted after the scientist’s demise. “For the people of Pakistan, he was a national icon.”
Who was AQ Khan?
Khan was born in 1936 in Bhopal, India, but emigrated to Pakistan in 1951. He had a doctorate in metallurgical engineering from Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium.
In 1972, Khan began working in Netherlands at Physical Dynamic Research Laboratory (FDO), a subcontractor of Ultra Centrifuge Nederland (UCN).
After India conducted a nuclear test in 1974, Khan reportedly wrote to Pakistan's then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and joined his nation's clandestine efforts to develop nuclear power, according to news agency ANI.
He worked as a nuclear scientist for the government for nearly three decades, building Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities and testing its first nuclear device in 1998.
In 1981, Pakistan’s nuclear research complex was renamed Dr AQ Khan Research Laboratories by then ruler Mohammed Zia ul-Haq.
Revered at home as a national hero, Khan was considered a renegade by the West, secretly selling nuclear weapons technology to countries like Iran, Libya and North Korea.
Pressurised by the US, President Pervez Musharraf removed Khan from the national nuclear laboratory, although retaining him as a scientific adviser to the government.
In 2004, Khan apologised to the nation for his illicit proliferation activities in a public broadcast.
"I take full responsibility for my actions and seek your pardon," Khan had said.
While his supporters claimed he was scapegoated, the Pakistan government said he was a rogue actor and denied knowledge of his nuclear network.
Khan was later pardoned by Musharraf, but placed under house arrest at his palatial home in Islamabad. He was released in 2009, but his movements were strictly monitored.
(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)
First Published: IST