‘Pakistani Bomb Father’ AQ Khan Dies at 85
ISLAMABAD: 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 aged 85, authorities said on Sunday.
The atomic scientist, who spent the last years of his life in custody, died in the capital Islamabad, where he had recently been hospitalized with COVID-19.
Khan died after being transferred to the city’s KRL hospital with lung problems, state broadcaster PTV reported.
He had been admitted to the same hospital in August with COVID-19.
But after being allowed to return home several weeks ago, he was transferred after his condition deteriorated, he added.
Khan has been hailed as a national hero for turning Pakistan into the world’s first Islamic nuclear power and strengthening his influence against his rival and compatriot India.
But he has been declared by the West a dangerous renegade for sharing the technology with rogue nuclear states.
News of his death sparked a wave of grief and praise for Khan’s legacy.
“Deeply saddened by the passing of Dr AQ Khan,” Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted, stressing how much the nuclear scientist had been loved in Pakistan because of “his essential contribution to making us a nuclear weapon state “.
“For the Pakistani people, he was a national icon. “
The prime minister said the scientist would be buried at his request in the majestic Faisal Mosque in Islamabad.
The funeral was to take place at 3:30 p.m. (10:30 am GMT) Sunday.
According to Islamic tradition, burials should take place as soon as possible, usually within 24 hours of death.
Khan was praised for putting the nation on a par with India in the atomic realm and making its defenses “impregnable”.
But he found himself in 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 United Nations watchdog – placed Pakistani scientists at the center of a global black market in atoms.
Pardoned by the country’s military leader, Pervez Musharraf, he was instead placed under house arrest for five years.
“I saved the country for the first time when I made Pakistan a nuclear nation and I saved it again when I confessed and took all the blame on myself,” Khan said in a statement. interview in 2008.
After the lifting of his house arrest, he obtained a certain freedom of movement in the verdant capital, but always flanked by the authorities, whom he had to inform of his every move.
Khan, who was born in Bhopal in pre-Partitional India under British rule on April 1, 1936, was also behind the country’s aggressive missile development program.