AQ Khan, ‘father of Pakistan's Nuclear bomb’, dies of Covid-19 – All You Need to Know

AQ Khan had faced criticism in 2004 after he was blamed for nuclear technology proliferation. The evidence showed that he had been selling parts of centrifuges and material to North Korea, Libya and Iran. 

Created On: Oct 11, 2021 12:32 IST
AQ Khan passes away
AQ Khan passes away

Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, a scientist known as the father of Pakistan’s Nuclear Programme, passed away at the age of 85 on October 10, 2021, after a brief illness. The nuclear physicist had faced criticism in 2004 when he was forced to accept the responsibility for nuclear technology proliferation and was forced to live a life of official house arrest.

Reportedly, AQ Khan was brought to the hospital early in the morning as he was facing difficulty in breathing.

 As per the doctors, Khan’s health deteriorated after bleeding in his lungs and he could not survive after his lungs collapsed. The Interior Minister of Pakistan, Sheikh Rasheed informed that all the efforts were made to save his life.

President of Pakistan, Arif Alvi extended his condolences via Twitter: “Deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan. 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…”.

Prime Minister Imran Khan said that he was deeply saddened by the passing of Dr. AQ Khan. In a tweet, PM said, “He was loved by our nation because of his critical contribution in making us a nuclear weapon state. This has provided us security against an aggressive much larger nuclear neighbour. For the people of Pakistan, he was a national icon.”

AQ Khan: Father of Pakistan’s Nuclear bomb

Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan was revered as a National Hero in Pakistan for making the country a nuclear power.

In 1998, Islamabad had detonated its first nuclear weapon when AQ Khan was leading the Khan Research Laboratories (KRL). It was a uranium enrichment facility that has been expanded to many other fields of science over the period of time, in Kahuta, near Islamabad.

After India’s nuclear test in 1974, Khan joined Pakistan’s efforts for developing nuclear technology. For this purpose, Khan founded the Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) in 1976. He was its Chief Scientist and director for many years until he was removed by Musharraf in 2004 over the accusation of running a rogue proliferation network for the nuclear material.

AQ Khan: Stealer of nuclear secrets

Months after the United States confronted Parvez Musharraf, then military ruler of Pakistan, with evidence that AQ Khan had been selling parts of centrifuges and material to North Korea, Libya and Iran, Musharraf in 2004 was forced to take action. In an address to the nation, he denounced Khan for his actions publicly in a strong language.

Following this, AQ Khan made a confession on national television and called it an ‘error of judgement’.

After he admitted to his role in a massive nuclear proliferation scam, Khan, amid tight security, had been living a secluded life at his residence in the upscale neighbourhood of Islamabad since 2004.

Musharraf sacked him from his position, however, using his discretionary powers, he also granted Khan clemency. AQ Khan was under house arrest till 2009.

Details of International network for proliferation of nuclear equipment

The State Department of the United States said in 2009 that AQ Khan had run an extensive International network for the proliferation of nuclear equipment and know-how that provided ‘one-stop’ shopping’ for the nations seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

As per the US State Department, this network’s actions had irrevocably changed the proliferation landscape and also had a lasting impact on international security.

Western diplomats had always doubted whether Khan was acting alone. While talking to foreign media in the past, he had claimed that confession ‘was handed into my hand’.

Personal Life

Abdul Qadeer Khan was born in Bhopal, India in 1936 and had migrated along with his family to Pakistan after the partition.

Khan had studied metallurgical engineering in Berlin after he completed a degree in Science from Karachi University in 1960. Later, he went for advanced studies in Belgium and Netherlands.

After years of being under house arrest, Khan successfully filed a lawsuit against the government of Pakistan at Islamabad High Court, whose verdict declared his debriefing unconstitutional and freed him in 2009. He was put under house arrest in 2004 over the charges of running a proliferation network for nuclear material.

On August 26, 2021, he was tested positive for COVID-19 and was shifted to a military hospital. He was discharged a few weeks ago, however, his health took turn for worse when he started feeling discomfort in breathing.

Khan was given a state funeral at the Faisal Mosque in Islamabad before his burial at the city’s H-8 graveyard.

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