Dr AQ Khan, the immortal saviour of Pakistan 

ISLAMABAD - Architect of Pakistan’s atomic programme Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan passed away on Sunday morning. He was 85.

Dr Abdul Qadeer was born on April 1, 1936, in Bhopal, India. He became a national hero and was held in high esteem in the Muslim world after Pakistan conducted its nuclear tests during May 1998, in a befitting response to the earlier tests performed by India. After developing nuclear deterrence, Pakistan emerged as the sole nuclear power in the Muslim world. The achievement also enabled Pakistan to counter Indian growing aggression.

During 1960s, Dr Khan graduated from the University of Karachi. Later, he pursued his studies abroad, first in West Berlin and then in the Netherlands, from where he received a master’s degree in metallurgy in 1967. During 1972, he earned a doctorate in metallurgical engineering from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium.

Dr Khan was a recipient of Nishan-e-Imtiaz and Hilal-e-Imtiaz, as the highest acknowledgement for his meritorious services to the nation and country.

Making Pakistan an atomic power:

Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan was working in the Netherlands when the then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had requested him in 1976 to join Pakistan’s hatchling nuclear programme two years after India conducted its first “successful” nuclear test in 1974.

Prior to his joining, Pakistan had signed an accord with France for procurement of a nuclear reactor but the deal was later cancelled by France on the US pressure.

Under Khan’s leadership, Pakistan had silently developed its nuclear programme in the 1980s and officially tested it in May 1998.

When tensions broke out between India and Pakistan in 1986 following the launch of Operation Brasstacks by New Delhi, Pakistan quickly responded with manoeuvres of its forces, first mobilising the entire 5th Corps and then the Southern Air Command, near the Indian state of Punjab. In January 1987, Pakistan put its entire nuclear installations on “high alert”.

As the crisis heightened, late President Gen Ziaul Haq got an invitation from the Board of Cricket Control of India to watch a cricket match between the two countries in February 1987.

Although Ziaul Haq did not meet formally with then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, both of them met briefly at the airport lounge where he had told Gandhi that Pakistan had a nuclear bomb.

Later, an adviser to Rajiv Gandhi, Behra Manan, acknowledged that Ziaul Haq delivered a stern message that in case the conflict goes out of hand, he will use nuclear buttons. A month later both the countries agreed to withdraw 150,000 troops in the disputed Kashmir region, followed by a second agreement to withdraw more troops in the desert area.

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