Abdul Qadeer Khan, a controversial figure known as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, died Sunday after a lengthy illness, the country’s interior minister said. He was 85.
Connection with Pakistan
Khan launched Pakistan on the path to becoming a nuclear weapons power in the early 1970s. Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad said he died in a hospital Islamabad. He didn’t elaborate.
Accused of stealing
Khan was mired in controversy that began even before he returned to Pakistan from the Netherlands in the 1970s, where he had worked at a nuclear research facility. He was later accused of stealing the centrifuge uranium enrichment technology from the Netherlands facility that he would later use to develop Pakistan’s first nuclear weapon, according to research done by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Launching Pakistani nuclear weapons
Khan, who held a doctorate in metallurgical engineering from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, offered to launch Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program in 1974 after India conducted its first “peaceful nuclear explosion.”
Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program
He reached out to then-Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto offering technology for Pakistan’s own nuclear weapons program. Still smarting from the 1971 loss of East Pakistan, which became Bangladesh, as well as the capture of 90,000 Pakistani soldiers by India, Bhutto embraced the offer. He famously said: “We (Pakistanis) will eat grass, even go hungry, but we will have our own (nuclear bomb).”