The Pakistani national hero and nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan passed away in Islamabad this morning at the age of 85.
According to Pakistani media, he was admitted to a local hospital with lung problems where his health deteriorated early this morning.
He was then given a state funeral at Faisal Mosque.
Dr Khan had been admitted to Khan Research Laboratories Hospital on August 26 after he tested positive for COVID-19. Later he was shifted to a military hospital in Rawalpindi but was discharged after recovering from the virus.
Prime Minister Imran Khan said Dr Khan was loved by the nation because of his critical contribution in 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.
President Dr Arif Alvi said that he had personally known Dr Khan since 1982. “He helped us develop nation-saving nuclear deterrence, and a grateful nation will never forget his services in this regard,” he said.
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said: “The whole nation is grieving,” adding that the flag would be flown at half-mast.
Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa as said Khan had rendered invaluable services to strengthen Pakistan’s defence capabilities.
Born in 1936 in Bhopal, India, Dr Khan immigrated along with his family to Pakistan in 1947 after partition.
He did a science degree at Karachi University in 1960, then went on to study metallurgical engineering in Berlin before completing advanced studies in the Netherlands and Belgium.
After learning of India’s nuclear test in 1974, he joined the nation’s clandestine efforts to develop nuclear capability. He founded the Khan Research Laboratories in 1976 and was its chief scientist and director for many years.
He was awarded Pakistan’s highest honour – the Nishan-i-Imtiaz – for his services to the country.
But in 2004, Dr Khan was at the centre of a massive global nuclear proliferation scandal. He was accused by then army chief and president Pervez Musharraf of running a rogue proliferation network for nuclear material – specifically, trying to help Libya, Iran and North Korea achieve nuclear capability.
Shortly after Musharraf’s announcement, a seemingly forced recorded confession by Khan was aired in which he took sole responsibility for all the nuclear proliferation that had been revealed. He was subsequently placed under house arrest.
A court ended his house arrest in February 2009, but his movements were strictly guarded and he was accompanied by authorities every time he left his home in Islamabad.