AQ Khan: Pakistan's atom bomb hero, nuclear smuggler for most of the world

AQ Khan: Pakistan's atom bomb hero, nuclear smuggler for most of the world
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Pakistan nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan passed away on Sunday. Revered as a hero in his country he was also one of the most notorious nuclear smugglers in the world.

AQ Khan was brought to the hospital on Saturday night after his health deteriorated, reported Geo News. Later, he passed away today at 7:04 am. Doctors have said Dr AQ Khan died after his lungs collapsed. He was 85.

Khan, famously known as the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, was lauded as a national hero for making his country the world's first "Islamic nuclear power". He was awarded the Nishan-i-Imtiaz for his services to the country.

However, outside his country, he is considered responsible for nuclear proliferation as he smuggled technology to rogue states like North Korea, Iran and Libya.

Born in Bhopal, which was then part of British India, Khan immigrated with his family to newly-created Pakistan 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 received a degree in metallurgical engineering in 1967.

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

In 1972, he began working at Physical Dynamic Research Laboratory (FDO), a subcontractor of Ultra Centrifuge Nederland (UCN). Soon after starting work at FDO, Khan paying unauthorised visits to the advanced UCN enrichment facility in Almelo, Netherlands, according to a Washington-based think tank, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

After learning of India's nuclear test in 1974, Khan wrote to Pakistan's then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and joined his nation's clandestine efforts to develop nuclear power.

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

Khan was later convicted, in absentia, in Dutch court for conducting nuclear espionage and sentenced to four years in prison, according to the think tank.

In the 1980s, Khan acquired blueprints for the Chinese bomb that was tested in China's nuclear explosion in 1966.

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, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace added.

According to the think tank, Khan didn't stop there. 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 May 11 and 13. Pakistan responded with six nuclear tests in May.

In the years following the multiple nuclear tests in the Indian subcontinent, a massive global nuclear proliferation scandal came to light.

Pakistan leadership came under massive pressure from the international community.

Then Army chief and President Pervez Musharraf accused Khan of running a rogue proliferation network for nuclear material.

Khan confessed in 2004 to have helped supply materials necessary for making nuclear weapons to North Korea and Libya.

According to New York Times, Khan insisted that he alone was guilty, however, it is widely believed that Pakistan's powerful military was complicit in this exceeding trade.

Khan was pardoned and put under house arrest in 2004. But Pakistan was unable to hold to even that mild punishment.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said Dr Khan was loved by the nation because of his critical contribution to making Pakistan 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 said.

He added that he will be buried in Faisal Mosque "as per his wishes".