Controversial father of Pakistan nuclear bomb dies at age 85

Oct 9, 2021, 11:51 PM | Updated: Oct 10, 2021, 8:24 pm
Soldiers carry the national flag-wrapped casket of Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan du...

Soldiers carry the national flag-wrapped casket of Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan during his funeral prayer, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021. Khan, a controversial figure known as the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, died Sunday of COVID-19 following a lengthy illness, his family said. He was 85. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

(AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Abdul Qadeer Khan, a controversial figure known as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, died Sunday of COVID-19 following a lengthy illness, his family said. He was 85.

Khan, who launched Pakistan on the path to becoming a nuclear weapons power in the early 1970s, died in a hospital in the capital Islamabad, Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad said.

Thousands of people attended a state funeral at the massive white-marble Faisal Mosque in the capital. His body was carried by an honor guard and military and political dignitaries offered funeral prayers.

Flags in Pakistan flew at half-staff.

Khan was mired in controversy that began even before he returned to Pakistan from the Netherlands in the 1970s, where he had worked at a nuclear research facility.

He was later accused of stealing the centrifuge uranium enrichment technology from the Netherlands facility that he would later use to develop Pakistan’s first nuclear weapon, according to research done by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Khan, who held a doctorate in metallurgical engineering from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, offered to launch Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program in 1974 after neighbor India conducted its first “peaceful nuclear explosion.”

He reached out to then-Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto offering technology for Pakistan’s own nuclear weapons program. Still smarting from the 1971 loss of East Pakistan, which became Bangladesh, as well as the capture of 90,000 Pakistani soldiers by India, Bhutto embraced the offer. He famously said: “We (Pakistanis) will eat grass, even go hungry, but we will have our own (nuclear bomb).”

Since then, Pakistan has relentlessly pursued its nuclear weapons program in tandem with India. Both are declared nuclear weapons states after they conducted tit-for-tat nuclear weapons tests in 1998.

Pakistan’s nuclear program and Khan’s involvement have long been the subject of allegations and criticism.

Khan was accused by the U.S. of trading nuclear secrets to neighbor Iran and to North Korea in the 1990s after Washington sanctioned Pakistan for its nuclear weapons program. For 10 years during the Soviet occupation of neighboring Afghanistan, successive U.S. presidents certified Pakistan was not developing nuclear weapons. The certification was necessary under American law to allow U.S. aid to anti-communist Afghan rebels through Pakistan.

But in 1990, just months after the 1989 withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, Washington slapped Pakistan with crippling sanctions ending all aid to the country, including military and humanitarian.

Pakistan was accused of selling nuclear weapons technology to North Korea in exchange for its No-Dong missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. A 2003 Congressional Research Report said that while it was difficult to pinpoint the genesis of Pakistan’s nuclear cooperation with North Korea, it likely began in the mid-1990s

At home in Pakistan, Khan was heralded as a hero and the father of the nuclear bomb. Radical religious parties called him the father of the only Islamic nuclear bomb.

Khan was rejected by Pakistan’s dictator President Gen. Pervez Musharraf after 2001, when details of Khan’s alleged sales of nuclear secrets came under renewed scrutiny. Khan bitterly denounced Musharraf and his attempt to distance the state from his activities, always denying he engaged in any secret selling or clandestine nuclear weapons technology exchanges.

In recent years, Khan mostly lived out of the public eye and tributes from fellow scientists and Pakistani politicians began soon after his death.

Prime Minister Imran Khan called him a “national icon,” whose nuclear weapons program “provided us security against an aggressive much larger nuclear neighbor. For the people of Pakistan he was a national icon.”

Fellow scientist Dr. Samar Mubarakmand said Khan was a national treasure who defied Western attempts to stifle Pakistan’s nuclear program.

“It was unthinkable for the west that Pakistan would make any breakthrough but finally they had to acknowledge Dr. Khan’s achievement of making the country’s nuclear weapons,” he said.

Khan passed at the KRL Hospital in in Islamabad.

____

Associated Press writer Zarar Khan contributed to this report

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, left, and Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka toast each other...
Associated Press

Japanese leader’s trip to China in ’72 was diplomatic gamble

TOKYO (AP) — The Japanese leader who normalized relations with China 50 years ago feared for his life when he flew to Beijing for the high-stakes negotiations at the height of the Cold War, according to his daughter, a former Japanese foreign minister. Kakuei Tanaka’s mission to normalize relations with China just two months after […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

Musk faces deposition with Twitter ahead of October trial

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Tesla CEO Elon Musk is scheduled to spend the next few days with lawyers for Twitter, answering questions ahead of an October trial that will determine whether he must carry through with his $44 billion agreement to acquire the social platform after attempting to back out of the deal. The deposition, […]
20 hours ago
FILE - Former NFL quarterback Brett Favre speaks to the media in Jackson, Miss., Oct. 17, 2018. The...
Associated Press

Texts: Favre also sought welfare money for football facility

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — After Mississippi spent millions of dollars in welfare money on Brett Favre’s pet project, a university volleyball arena, the retired NFL quarterback tried two years later to get additional cash from the state’s welfare agency for another sports facility, new court documents show. The governor at the time, Republican Phil Bryant, […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

Police: Man arrested in California plotted mass shooting

CHICO, Calif. (AP) — A 37-year-old man was arrested Sunday in Northern California on suspicion of threatening to kill police officers and planning a “Las Vegas-style” mass shooting, authorities said. The suspect was taken into custody by SWAT officers at a Super 8 motel in Chico after detectives obtained evidence of his plot, according to […]
20 hours ago
FILE - Rihanna attends an event for her lingerie line Savage X Fenty at the Westin Bonaventure Hote...
Associated Press

Rihanna to headline the next Super Bowl halftime show

NEW YORK (AP) — Rihanna will take center stage at February’s Super Bowl halftime show. The singer, who declined to perform in the 2019 Super Bowl halftime show out of solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, will headline the 2023 Super Bowl, the NFL announced Sunday along with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation and Apple Music. Rihanna posted an […]
20 hours ago
A sedan is wedged between a small, black pickup truck and the Bagel Time Cafe in Wildwood, N.J., ea...
Associated Press

Official: 2 killed amid crashes during pop-up NJ car rally

WILDWOOD, N.J. (AP) — A pop-up car rally over the weekend in southern New Jersey led to multiple crashes and the deaths of at least two people riding in a golf cart, officials say. Wildwood Mayor Pete Byron told NJ Advance Media on Sunday that there were a series of car crashes related to the […]
20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
...
Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?
Controversial father of Pakistan nuclear bomb dies at age 85