Pakistani nuclear scientist AQ Khan dies at center of proliferation scandal

KARACHI, Pakistan (Reuters) – Abdul Qadeer Khan, a Pakistani nuclear scientist who acknowledged being part of a nuclear proliferation network, died on Sunday. He was 85 years old.

Khan was admitted to Khan Research Laboratories Hospital on Aug. 26 after testing positive for COVID-19 and was later transferred to a military hospital in Rawalpindi, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan said.

“He was loved by our nation because of his pivotal contribution to becoming a nuclear-armed state,” Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Twitter. “For the people of Pakistan he was a national icon.”

He was at the center of a global nuclear proliferation scandal in 2004 that involved the sale of nuclear secrets to North Korea, Iran and Libya. After a confession on national television, Khan was pardoned by then-President Pervez Musharraf, but remained under house arrest for years in his palatial Islamabad home.

In his confession, Khan said he acted alone without the knowledge of state officials. However, he later said that he had been a scapegoat.

“He helped us develop nuclear deterrence to save the nation, and a grateful nation will never forget his services in this regard,” Pakistani President Arif Alvi said in a tweet.

Prime Minister Khan, who is not related to AQ Khan, said the scientist would be buried at the Faisal Mosque in Islamabad, according to his wishes.

(Reporting by Syed Raza Hassan; Edited by William Mallard)

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