Abdul Qadeer Khan, the founder of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program who was accused of smuggling technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya, died at age 85, authorities said Sunday.
The atomic scientist, who spent the last years of his life under heavy surveillance, died in the capital Islamabad, where he had recently been hospitalized with Covid-19.
Khan died after being transferred to the city’s KRL hospital with lung problems, state broadcaster PTV reported.
He had been admitted to the same hospital in August with Covid-19.
But after he was allowed to return home several weeks ago, he was transferred back after his condition deteriorated, he said.
Khan was hailed as a national hero for transforming Pakistan into the world’s first Islamic nuclear power and strengthening its influence against its rival and nuclear-armed nation, India.
But the West declared him a dangerous renegade for sharing technology with rogue nuclear states.
The news of his death sparked a torrent of grief and praise for Khan’s legacy.
“Deeply saddened by the passing of Dr. AQ Khan,” Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted, highlighting how much the nuclear scientist had been loved in Pakistan because of “his pivotal contribution to becoming a nuclear-armed state.”
“For the people of Pakistan he was a national icon.”
Deeply saddened by the passing of Dr. AQ Khan. He was loved by our nation because of his pivotal contribution to becoming a nuclear-weapon state. This has provided us with security against a much larger aggressive nuclear neighbor. For the people of Pakistan he was a national icon.
– Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) October 10, 2021