Pioneer of Pakistan’s nuclear programme given state funeral; Laid to rest in Islamabad; Nation mourns; National flag flies at half-mast
Sarwar Awan Islamabad
Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, Mohsin-i-Pakistan, the ‘father of Pakistan’s atomic weapons programme’ and notable nuclear scientist passed away in Islamabad on Sunday at the age of 85.
Dr Qadeer Khan’s health started deteriorating Saturday night, after which he was brought to the KRL hospital Sunday morning in an ambulance, at 6:00am.
Sources said the nuclear scientist experienced discomfort in breathing after which he was brought to the hospital. However, his health took a turn for the worse when his lungs started bleeding.
Doctors tried their best to save the renowned scientist’s life but were unable to do so, resulting in his death at 7:04am. Doctors have said Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan passed away as his lungs collapsed.
Earlier, 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.
However, on Saturday night Dr Qadeer’s condition suddenly worsened. He was taken to a nearby hospital where he breathed his last early morning Sunday.
Last month, Dr Khan had complained that neither PM Imran nor any of his cabinet members inquired after his health while he was under treatment at a hospital.
He was given a state funeral at Faisal Mosque before being laid to rest at the H-8 graveyard. A large number of people, including cabinet members, parliamentarians and military officers, attended the funeral prayers.
The government had decided to give Dr Qadeer a state funeral. In this regard, a meeting was summoned by Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid at the Capital Development Authority headquarters to finalise the funeral arrangements for Dr Qadeer.
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid said the funeral prayers of Dr Qadeer would be offered at Faisal Mosque at 3:30 pm. He had added that the government has alternate burial arrangements at the H-8 graveyard in addition to Faisal Mosque.
However, in a statement issued in the afternoon, Rashid said after consultation with Dr Qadeer’s family, the deceased scientist will be laid to rest in sector H-8 as per his last will. The local administration has been directed to dig another grave in the said graveyard, he added.
Rashid said two graves were prepared; one at Faisal Mosque and another at the H-8 graveyard. He later said his family decided that as per his will he would be buried at the H-8 graveyard.
“The whole nation is grieving,” the minister said, adding that the flag would be flown at half-mast.
Born in 1936 in Bhopal, India, Dr Khan had migrated along with his family to Pakistan in 1952 after partition of the subcontinent.
He received 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.
In 1967, Khan obtained an engineer’s degree from a university in Netherlands and later joined the doctoral program in metallurgical engineering at a university in Belgium. He was the first Pakistani to receive three presidential awards including Hilal-e-Imtiaz.
After learning of India’s nuclear test in 1974, he joined the nation’s clandestine efforts to develop nuclear power. He had founded the Khan Research Laboratories in 1976 and was its chief scientist and director for many years.
Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan became a national hero overnight, not only in Pakistan but in the Islamic world as well, when on May 28, 1998 Pakistan gave a befitting response to India by conducting its nuclear tests.
Following the tests, Pakistan became the sole nuclear power in the Muslim world and the seventh country to possess nuclear weapons.
In 2004, Dr Khan was at the centre of a massive global nuclear proliferation scandal. In a series of dramatic developments, he was accused by the then army chief and president Pervez Musharraf of running a rogue proliferation network for nuclear material.
Shortly after Musharraf’s announcement, a 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.
Later, he had filed a plea in the Lahore High Court seeking enforcement of his fundamental rights, including free movement.
The LHC had rejected the plea in 2019 on the grounds that it lacked jurisdiction in view of special security measures adopted by the state.
He had then moved the Supreme Court against the LHC’s decision, which had asked the attorney general to meet the nuclear scientist and allay his concerns.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, in a condolence message, 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, adding that he would be buried in Faisal Mosque “as per his wishes”.
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.
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif said that the nation had lost “a true benefactor who served the motherland with heart and soul.”
“The passing away of Dr Khan is a huge loss for the country. His role in making Pakistan an atomic power remains central,” he said.
Pakistan Muslim League-N vice president Maryam Nawaz, expressing sorrow over the sad demise of Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, in a tweet, said that Dr Khan played a very important role in making defense of Pakistan invincible.
She prayed to Allah Almighty to rest the departed soul in eternal peace and grant courage to the bereaved family to bear this loss with fortitude.
Defence Minister Pervez Khattak said he was “deeply grieved” over his passing and called it a “great loss”.
“Pakistan will forever honour his services to the nation! The nation is heavily indebted to him for his contributions in enhancing our defence capabilities,” he said.
Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar said that Dr Khan had played an important role in making the country “invincible”. He also offered prayers for the deceased.
“The entire nation is saddened by the death of Dr Khan,” wrote Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry. He added that Dr Khan had rendered countless services for Pakistan.
Former president Asif Ali Zardari too expressed grief over the death of Dr AQ Khan. In a statement, Zardari said that the Pakistani nation could never forget the services of Dr Qadeer to the nation.
Pakistan People’s Party Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also expressed sorrow on the demise of AQ Khan. He said the Pakistani nation will remain indebted to Dr Qadeer for his “unforgettable” services.