Pakistan's nuclear pioneer dies at 85

World | 11 Oct 2021

Abdul Qadeer Khan, the founder of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program who was accused of smuggling technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya, has died at 85.

The atomic scientist, who spent the last years of his life under heavy guard, died in a hospital in the capital Islamabad, where he was treated for Covid-19 in August.

Khan, who was born in Bhopal in pre-partition British-ruled India on April 1, 1936, had already returned home several weeks ago, but had to be brought back to KRL Hospital with lung problems, state-run media reported.

He was hailed a national hero for transforming Pakistan into the world's first Islamic nuclear power, and strengthening its clout against rival and fellow nuclear-armed nation India. But he was declared by the West a dangerous renegade for sharing technology with rogue nuclear states.

The news of his death sparked an outpouring of grief and praise for Khan's legacy. "Deeply saddened by the passing of Dr A Q Khan," Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted, stressing how loved the "national icon" had been in Pakistan.

The scientist was buried yesterday at Islamabad's majestic Faisal Mosque at his request.

Khan had found himself in the international crosshairs when he was accused of illegally sharing nuclear technology with Iran, Libya and North Korea. He confessed in 2004, after the International Atomic Energy Agency - a UN watchdog - put Pakistani scientists at the center of a global atomic black market.

Pardoned by the nation's military ruler Pervez Musharraf, he was instead put under house arrest for five years. When it was lifted, he was granted some freedom of movement around the leafy capital but was always flanked by authorities, who he had to inform of his every move.

"I saved the country for the first time when I made Pakistan a nuclear nation and saved it again when I confessed and took the whole blame on myself," Khan said in an interview in 2008.


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