Death of an icon

 
October 11, 2021

With the passing away of Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan , the man known as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear programme, an era in Pakistan’s history effectively comes to an end. Given the title of...

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With the passing away of Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan (Dr A Q Khan), the man known as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear programme, an era in Pakistan’s history effectively comes to an end. Given the title of Mohsin-e-Pakistan, Dr A Q Khan placed Pakistan on the map as the first Muslim country to develop nuclear capability, which was successfully tested in May 1998. In his death at the age of 85 years, Pakistan has lost a top scientist and an enthusiastic educationist and philanthropist. Dr A Q Khan was for years seen and respected as a hero in the country and was decorated three times with the nation’s top awards for civilians. It is understood that Dr Khan had tested positive for Covid-19 in early September, though it is not clear if this contributed to his final death on a ventilator. He was given a state funeral on Sunday, and condolences have poured in from all parts of the country, including politicians, dignitaries and the public.

While Dr A Q Khan’s legacy was not without complications post-2004 when he was accused of participating in illegal nuclear proliferation, the story of how he made Pakistan nuclear-efficient is fascinating and almost unreal. Dr Khan wrote extensively about the process of setting up Pakistan’s first nuclear plant at Kahuta. For all the controversy that arose in the latter part of his life, however, Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan will always be seen as a man who served his country well. The nuclear weapons he developed are essential to Pakistan’s defence network and make Pakistan a nuclear power able to hold its own. It is unfortunate then that he is reported to have spent some of his later years amidst a shadow of sadness, feeling abandoned by the nation he had served.

In a world where there has been growing resentment on the way the West treats non-Western nuclear capability, Dr A Q Khan’s work in Pakistan – and the allegations against him afterwards – may have made him a pariah for the West but cemented his place as a national icon for the people of his own country.

Dr Abdul Qadeer will live on in the memory of people as a man who made enormous contributions to Pakistan and to its security. He also built institutions to carry forward his work. We hope these efforts will benefit young scientists and enable them to take forward research and scientific investigation so that Pakistan can make its contribution in this field both for its own people and for the people of the world. This is what Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan would have wanted. Success in developing much needed scientific education in Pakistan would also help further Dr Khan’s legacy.



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