Pakistan's nuclear hero, villain to West
Pakistani atomic scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan is hailed as a national
hero for transforming his country into the world's first Islamic nuclear
power but regarded as a dangerous renegade by the West.
Atomic Scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan
Revered as the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, Khan was lauded for
bringing the nation up to par with arch-rival India in the atomic field
and making national defence "impregnable". But he was surrounded by
controversy when he was accused of illegally proliferating nuclear
technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea.
Khan was placed under effective house arrest in 2004 after he
admitted running a proliferation network to the three countries. In
February a court declared him a free man but the government restricted
his movements. Khan Tuesday said those restrictions had been lifted
after he complained to the high court.
Born in Bhopal, India on April 1, 1936, Khan was just a young boy
when his family migrated to Pakistan during the bloody 1947 partition of
the sub-continent at the end of British colonial rule.
He did an 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.
The 72-year-old's crucial contribution to Pakistan's nuclear
programme was the procurement of a blueprint for uranium centrifuges,
which transform uranium into weapons-grade fuel for nuclear fissile
He was charged with stealing it from The Netherlands while working
for Anglo-Dutch-German nuclear engineering consortium Urenco, and
bringing it back to Pakistan in 1976. On his return to Pakistan, then
prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto put Khan in charge of the
government's nascent uranium enrichment project. By 1978, his team had
enriched uranium and by 1984 they were ready to detonate a nuclear
device, Khan later said in a newspaper interview.
Khan's aura began to dim in March 2001 when then president Pervez
Musharraf, reportedly under US pressure, removed him from the
chairmanship of Kahuta Research Laboratories and made him a special
adviser. But Pakistan's nuclear establishment never expected to see its
most revered hero subjected to questioning. The move came after
Islamabad received a letter from the International Atomic Energy Agency,
a UN watchdog, containing allegations that Pakistani scientists were the
source of sold-off nuclear knowledge. AFP