Khan was venerated in Pakistan, but the West viewed him as a dangerous rebel for smuggling nuclear technology to other nations.
On Sunday, Abdul Qadeer Khan, who was regarded as the founder of Pakistan’s nuclear program, passed away.
In Pakistan, he was praised for making it the first Islamic nuclear weapons power. However, the West viewed him as a perilous rebel who was responsible for smuggling technology to rogue states.
After recently being treated for COVID-19 in a hospital, the nuclear scientist died at the age of 85 in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital.
He was regarded as a national hero for elevating the nation’s nuclear defenses to the level of India’s neighbor and making them “impregnable.”
However, when he was accused of illegally disseminating nuclear technology to Iran, Libya, and North Korea, he found himself in the middle of controversy.
After Khan admitted to running a proliferation network in the three nations, he was placed under effective house arrest in Islamabad in 2004.
He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2006, but he underwent surgery to recover.
In February 2009, a court lifted his house arrest, but his movements were closely monitored, and authorities accompanied him whenever he left his home in a posh area of leafy Islamabad.
Khan was born on April 1, 1936, in Bhopal, India. His family moved to Pakistan during the bloody partition of the subcontinent in 1947, marking the end of British colonial rule.
In 1960, he earned a science degree from Karachi University. After that, he studied metallurgical engineering in Berlin and advanced his education in the Netherlands and Belgium.
The acquisition of a blueprint for uranium centrifuges, which turn uranium into weapons-grade fuel for nuclear fissile material, was Pakistan’s most important contribution to its nuclear program.
While working for the Anglo-Dutch-German nuclear engineering consortium Urenco, he was accused of stealing it from the Netherlands and returning it to Pakistan in 1976.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the PM at the time, appointed Khan as the government’s new uranium enrichment project upon his return to Pakistan.
Khan later stated in an interview with a newspaper that his team had enriched uranium by 1978 and were prepared to detonate a nuclear device by 1984.
After Pakistan’s nuclear test in 1998, international sanctions were imposed and its economy plunged into freefall.
In March 2001, then-President Pervez Musharraf made Khan a special adviser and removed him from his position as chairman of Kahuta Research Laboratories, according to reports.
However, Pakistan’s nuclear establishment never anticipated questioning of its most revered hero.
The move was made following allegations that Pakistani scientists were the source of sold-off nuclear knowledge in a letter from the International Atomic Energy Agency, a United Nations watchdog.
In a 1990 speech to the Pakistan Institute of National Affairs, Khan stated that while developing Pakistan’s nuclear program, he had business dealings on global markets.
He stated, “We were unable to manufacture each and every piece of equipment within the country.”
“I saved the nation”
After Khan confessed, Musharraf granted him a pardon, but he later changed his mind.
Khan told the AFP news agency in an interview in 2008 while under effective house arrest, “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.”
The nuclear defense was the scientist’s preferred method of deterrence.
Khan stated that Pakistan “never wanted to make nuclear weapons, it was forced to do so” after Pakistan conducted atomic tests in 1998 in response to India’s tests.
Khan tried his hand at politics nearly a decade ago. In July 2012, he founded the Tehreek-e-Tahafuz Pakistan (Save Pakistan Movement) party in the hopes of winning votes because he still commands respect in Pakistan.
However, a year later, after none of its 111 candidates won seats in national elections, he disbanded it.
In the same year, Khan also sparked a new controversy when, in an interview with the Urdu newspaper Daily Jang, he claimed that he had transferred nuclear technology to two nations under the direction of Benazir Bhutto, the deceased prime minister.
He didn’t say which countries or when Bhutto, the PM who had been elected twice and was killed in 2007, had supposedly given the orders.
He was quoted as saying, “I was not independent but was bound to abide by the orders of the prime minister.”
The Pakistan Peoples Party of Bhutto rejected the claim, calling it “baseless and unfounded.”
Even after years, it does not appear that any of the controversies have diminished Khan’s popularity.
He frequently contributed op-ed pieces to the well-known Jang group of newspapers, frequently emphasizing the importance of scientific education.
His portrait is featured on the signs, stationery, and websites of numerous Pakistani schools, universities, institutes, and charity hospitals.