Father of Pakistan nuclear bomb dies at age 85
AP | Islamabad
The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com
Abdul Qadeer Khan, known as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, died Sunday after a lengthy illness, the country’s interior minister said. He was 85.
Khan launched Pakistan on the path to becoming a nuclear weapons power in the early 1970s. Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad said he died in a hospital in Islamabad. He did not elaborate, AP reports.
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. 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 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.
At home in Pakistan, Khan was heralded as a hero and the father of the nuclear bomb.
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 away at the KRL Hospital in the capital Islamabad after a protracted illness. He was to be buried with state honors Sunday afternoon at a mosque in the capital.