‘Father of Pakistan’s bomb’ A.Q. Khan dies at 85

Abdul Qadeer Khan (Photo: Wikipedia)
ISLAMABAD — Abdul Qadeer Khan, celebrated as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program but accused of smuggling technology to Iran, North Korea, and Libya, died on Sunday at 85.اضافة اعلان

The nuclear scientist, who spent the last years of his life under heavy guard, passed away in the capital Islamabad, where he had recently been hospitalized with COVID-19.

Khan had long been hailed a national hero for transforming Pakistan into the world’s first Islamic nuclear weapons 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.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan joined a rapidly building chorus voicing grief at the news, lamenting that the country had lost “a national icon.”

Arrangements were quickly made for a state funeral Sunday afternoon at Islamabad’s Faisal Mosque, with all government ministers and armed forces officers asked to attend. Flags were also ordered to fly at half-mast.

According to Islamic tradition, burials should take place as soon as possible, usually within 24 hours of death. 

Just hours after news of Khan’s death broke, an orange mechanical digger was busy clearing a grave as mourners began arriving for the service at the giant mosque — the sixth-largest in the world.

It began raining heavily as Khan’s coffin, draped with a Pakistani flag, was carried through a sea of black umbrellas.

Amid tight security, a massive crowd gathered to bid him farewell, with many making videos and snapping pictures as the coffin was carried into a tent-covered area accommodating Khan’s family members, ministers and other top officials.

Nearby, thousands of members of the public crammed into an uncovered enclosure, getting soaked as they prayed in the downpour.
Black market 

Khan was lauded for bringing the nation up to par with India in the atomic field and making its defenses “impregnable”.

But he 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 — the UN nuclear watchdog — put Pakistani scientists at the center of a global atomic black market. 

Pardoned by the nation’s military ruler Pervez Musharraf, he was only put under house arrest for five years. 

“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 told AFP in an interview in 2008.

After his house arrest was lifted, he was granted some freedom of movement around the leafy capital, but always flanked by authorities, who he had to inform of his every move.

On Sunday, journalists gathered behind barriers blocking off the street leading to his home in the capital as a procession of cars entered and left the property.

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