Pakistan’s most famous nuclear scientist AQ Khan passes away

ISLAMABAD:Pakistan’s most famous nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan passed away after his health deteriorated due to lungs problem in Islamabad on Sunday morning. He was 85.

Khan was admitted to KRL hospital with lung problem. His health deteriorated Saturday night and he was facing difficulty in breathing. Last month, he was tested Covid-19 positive and was treated at the Al-Shifa Hospital and the Military Hospital. Later, he was successfully treated and was at home. Khan died of COVID-linked complications leading to lungs bleeding and failure.

AQ Khan, who is also known as “father of Pakistan’s atomic weapons program”, was born on 1 April 1936 in India in Bhopal, India. After his matriculation from a local school in Bhopal, Khan immigrated to West Pakistan in 1952, and in 1960, he graduated from the University of Karachi with a degree in metallurgy.

Later, he acquired his nuclear engineering degree in the Netherlands in 1967. In 1972, he earned a doctorate in metallurgical engineering from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. He was the laureate of three Pakistani presidential awards. He pioneered studies in phase transitions of metallic alloys, uranium metallurgy, and isotope separation based on gas centrifuges.

Khan joined his nation’s efforts to develop atomic weapons when he founded the Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) in 1976 and was both its chief scientist and director for many years.

In January 2004, he was subjected to a debriefing by the Musharraf administration over evidence of nuclear proliferation handed by the United States. Khan was accused of selling nuclear secrets illegally and was put under house arrest since 2004 when he confessed to the charges and was pardoned by then President Gen Pervez Musharraf.

After years of house arrest, Khan successfully filed a lawsuit against the Federal Government of Pakistan at the Islamabad High Court whose verdict declared his debriefing unconstitutional and freed him on 6 February 2009.

The United States reacted negatively to the verdict and the Obama administration issued an official statement warning that Khan still remained a “serious proliferation risk”.

On September 17, 1974, Khan wrote to Pakistan’s prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, offering his assistance in preparing an atomic bomb.

His family is of Orakzai (a Pashtun tribe) origin. His father, Abdul Ghafoor, was a schoolteacher who once worked for the Ministry of Education, and his mother, Zulekha, was a housewife with a very religious mind. His older siblings, along with other family members, had emigrated to Pakistan during the partition of India.