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Islamabad: Abdul Qadeer Khan, the man regarded as the “father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb” breathed his last aged 85 after a brief illness in Islamabad on Sunday.
He breathed his last at 7 a.m. at the Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) Hospital.
Khan’s health deteriorated after bleeding in his lungs, according to doctors. He could not survive after his lungs collapsed.
Khan was brought to the KRL Hospital early in the morning after he faced difficulty in breathing, Geo News reported.
Earlier on August 26, Khan had been admitted to the KRL Hospital after he tested positive for Covid-19, according to the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan, PTI reported.
He was later shifted to a military hospital in Rawalpindi but was discharged after recovering from the virus.
Khan, who was born in 1936 in Bhopal and migrated to Pakistan along with his family after the Partition in 1947, is revered at home as a hero.
Considered as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, he was also called a man who built the Muslim world’s first atomic bomb.
The nuclear physicist was disgraced in 2004 when he was forced to acknowledge responsibility for nuclear technology proliferation and was forced to live a life of official house arrest.
Khan played an important role in making Pakistan a nuclear power, Radio Pakistan reported.
Khan, who was awarded Pakistan’s highest civilian honour ‘Nishan-i-Imtiaz’, lived as semi-secluded in Islamabad’s posh neighbourhood of E-7 sector under the watch of security agencies since 2004.
He, however, later retracted his statement, which he said was made under duress exercised by then military dictator General Pervez Musharraf.
He said Pakistan would never have achieved the feat of becoming first Muslim nuclear country without his “services”.
Referring to the treatment meted out to him under Musharraf, Khan said the country’s nuclear scientists have not been given the respect that they deserve.
The Islamabad High Court had in 2009 declared Khan to be a free citizen of Pakistan, thereby allowing him free movement inside the country.
Earlier in May 2016, he had said that Pakistan could have become a nuclear power as early as 1984 but the then President General Zia ul Haq, who was Pakistan’s President from 1978 to 1988, “opposed the move”.
Khan had also said that Pakistan has the ability to “target” Delhi from Kahuta near Rawalpindi in five minutes.
Kahuta is the home to the Kahuta Research Laboratories (KRL), Pakistan’s key uranium enrichment facility, linked to the atomic bomb project. He was instrumental in setting up the country’s first nuclear enrichment plant at Kahuta.
Pakistani-American scholar and academic Hassan Abbas has in a 2018 book “Pakistan’s Nuclear Bomb: A Story of Defiance, Deterrence And Deviance” highlighted Khan’s involvement in nuclear proliferation in Iran, Libya and North Korea.
Abbas wrote that the origins and evolution of the Khan network were tied to the domestic and international political motivations underlying Pakistan’s nuclear weapons project.
He also examined the role of China and Saudi Arabia in supporting its nuclear infrastructure. Khan is reported to have intimate links with China’s nuclear establishment.
Khan had run an “extensive international network for the proliferation of nuclear equipment and know-how that provided ‘one stop shopping’ for countries seeking to develop nuclear weapons”, the US State Department said in 2009.
This network’s actions had “irrevocably changed the proliferation landscape and have had lasting implications for international security”, as per the US State Department.
Khan has largely been forgotten, despite the fact that his fingerprints are all over the world’s most volatile nuclear hot spots,” said an article dated January 31, 2018, published in the Foreign Policy magazine “Outside of Pakistan”.
Prez, PM Condole Death. National Flag Shall Fly At Half-Mast On Sunday
Meanwhile, the political leaders in Pakistan condoled Khan’s demise with Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed stating the national flag shall fly at half-mast on Sunday.
“The Prime Minister has directed to bury Dr Qadeer with full (state) honours,” he said.
Condoling Khan’s death, President Arif Alvi said on 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.”
Prime Minister Imran Khan said that he was deeply saddened by Khan’s demise.
“Deeply saddened by the passing of Dr A Q Khan. He was loved by our nation bec 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,” he tweeted.
Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa lauded Khan’s “significant” contributions in making Pakistan’s defence stronger.
Defence Minister Pervez Khattak called Khan’s demise a “great loss”.
“Pakistan will forever honour his services to the nation! The nation is heavily indebted to him for his contributions in enhancing our defence capabilities,” he said, PTI reported.
The funeral prayers for Khan were held at Islamabad’s Faisal Mosque. He was buried at the H-8 graveyard.
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