Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan

A Legend in His Own Right

By Abid Azhar | November 2021

The dawn of Sunday, October 10, 2021, brought about the demise of the brightest star of the country, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan. After the founder of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, no one commanded the respect that Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan had earned through his great services to Pakistan. He was truly a national hero, an exceptional scientist and nuclear physicist as well as the chief architect of Pakistan’s nuclear programme.

Born on April 1, 1936 in Bhopal in India, Dr. Khan completed his graduation from the University of Karachi in 1956 and pursued his further studies in Metallurgical Engineering from Berlin. However, his significant advancement came after the completion of his advanced studies from the Netherlands and Belgium. He started working for the Anglo-Dutch-German Nuclear Engineering Consortium (URENCO), providing him a golden opportunity to hone his proficiency in Nuclear Physics. Later on, Dr. Khan returned to Pakistan and took charge of the country’s uranium enrichment project. Doing so, he virtually laid the foundation of what later came to be recognised as Pakistan’s deterrence programme, allowing Pakistan to become the first nuclear state of the Muslim world.

Despite all odds, Dr. Khan continued to enrich isotopes and redesign a technology-oriented defence policy. He worked day and night to make Pakistan a nuclear power, initiating various other programmes to establish a formidable defence system for the country.

Despite a relentless character assassination of him by international forces, Dr. Khan remained committed to his goal of serving the nation. “My objective in making the atomic bomb was that Pakistan becomes safe,” and “What happened in 1971 should never be repeated,” he often used to say. This is what established the late scientist as a legend in his own right. Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan is the only Pakistani to have twice received the highest civil award ‘Nishan-e-Imtiaz’, in 1996 and 1999.

The writer with Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan.

Dr. Khan was also engaged in social work and helped establish many health and educational institutions. I became part of his circle and came to know about his exceptional qualities after joining the Dr. A.Q. Khan Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering (KIBGE), established by him at the University of Karachi. I found him always respectful towards his colleagues and the people around him. A lively and buoyant individual with a great sense of humour, he was fond of art, literature, poetry and music. Dr. Khan was a sensitive and thoughtful person who was always ready to go to any extent to support those in need. I last met him on July 29, 2021 when he came to Karachi to attend the meeting of the Governing Council of KIBGE. Incidentally, it turned out to be his last visit to Karachi.

The entire nation will remember him for his contributions to Pakistan’s defence technology, which made the country unassailable. Being one of Pakistan’s most accomplished and ingenious scientists, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan will continue to live in the hearts and minds of his colleagues, friends, and the entire nation at large.