AQ Khan: Controversial architect of Pakistan’s ‘Islamic’ bomb

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Pakistan’s nuclear scientist Abdul Qadir Khan passed away on Sunday. Regarded as a hero in his country, he was one of the world’s most notorious nuclear smugglers.

Islamabad: The man behind Pakistan’s ‘Islamic’ atomic bomb, AQ Khan had a controversial and rather shady career as a ‘scientist’.

Pakistan’s nuclear scientist Abdul Qadir Khan died on Sunday. Regarded as a hero in his country, he was one of the world’s most notorious nuclear smugglers.

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According to the news of Geo News, AQ Khan was brought to the hospital on Saturday night after his health deteriorated.

He passed away later today at 7:04 am. Doctors say that Dr AQ Khan died due to lung collapse. He was 85 years old.

Known as the father of Pakistan’s atomic bomb, Khan was hailed as a national hero for making his country the world’s first “Islamic nuclear power”. He was awarded the Nishan-e-Imtiaz for his services to the country.

However, outside his home country, he is blamed for nuclear proliferation as he smuggled technology into rogue states such as North Korea, Iran and Libya.

Born in Bhopal, which was then part of British India, Khan immigrated to newly-formed Pakistan with his family in 1952.

In 1961, Khan moved to Europe to complete his studies, first in West Berlin and later at the Technical University in Delft, Holland. He obtained a degree in metallurgical engineering in 1967.

Khan then obtained his PhD in metallurgical engineering from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium.

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In 1972, he began working at the Physical Dynamic Research Laboratory (FDO), a subcontractor of Ultra Centrifuge Netherlands (UCN). According to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington-based think tank, Khan made an unauthorized visit to the advanced UCN enrichment facility in Almelo, Netherlands, shortly after he began work at the FDO.

After learning of India’s nuclear test in 1974, Khan wrote to the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and became involved in his country’s covert efforts to develop nuclear power.

In I975, Khan abruptly left for Pakistan with copied blueprints for centrifuges and other components and contact information for about 100 companies.

According to the think tank, Khan was later, in absentia, convicted of nuclear espionage in a Dutch court and sentenced to four years in prison.

In the 1980s, Khan acquired the blueprint for the Chinese bomb, which was tested in the 1966 nuclear explosion of China.

In the late 1980s, Khan and his international network reportedly began nuclear transfers to Iran. A decade later in 1992, Pakistan began missile cooperation with North Korea, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said.

According to the think tank, Khan did not stop here. In 1997, Khan also began supplying centrifuges and centrifuge components to Libya.

In 1998, India detonated a total of five devices in nuclear tests on 11 and 13 May. Pakistan responded with six nuclear tests in May.

In the years following several nuclear tests in the Indian subcontinent, a massive global nuclear proliferation scandal erupted.

The leadership of Pakistan came under immense pressure from the international community.

Then Pakistan’s army chief and President Pervez Musharraf accused Khan of running a rogue proliferation network for nuclear material.

Khan confessed in 2004 that he had helped supply North Korea and Libya with the materials needed to build nuclear weapons.

According to the New York Times, Khan insisted that he was the sole culprit, however, it is widely believed that Pakistan’s powerful military was complicit in this excessive trade.

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Khan was pardoned and placed under house arrest in 2004. But Pakistan could not stop even that light punishment.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said that Dr Khan was loved by the nation because of his significant contribution in making Pakistan a nuclear weapon state.

“It has given us security against an aggressive and large nuclear neighbour. For the people of Pakistan, he was a national symbol,” he said.

He said he would be buried at Faisal Mosque “as per his wish”.

First published:October 10, 2021, 3:02 PM

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