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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan: Our nation’s pride and a true patriot

Hailed as an icon for creating Pakistan's military nuclear capability in the face of a four-time bigger India, Khan, commonly known as Dr. AQ Khan, had been a villain for different countries for various reasons. Also known as "Mohsin-e-Pakistan," complaisant of Pakistan in English, Khan was the only Pakistani to receive the country's top civilian awards thrice.

If Allama Iqbal dreamt of the idea of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam endeavored to create the State of Pakistan, then Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan truly saved Pakistan from being reduced to a footnote in history. Pakistan has truly lost a national treasure in the form of Dr. A.Q Khan, as his contributions to the scientific realm within Pakistan are second to none. He allowed Pakistan to dream big and gave us the ability to look deep inside the souls of our enemies and tell them squarely not to test our resolve. He restored a countries pride and kept alive the two-nation theory, which seemed to have been momentarily jeopardized with the fall of Dhaka.

The Nuclear Arms race in South Asia began when India deceived its Eastern and Western counterparts and conducted the ‘Smiling Buddha Nuclear Tests’ in  Rajasthan in 1974. Pakistan sent its Ambassador Sahabzada Yaqub Khan to Washington, to gain assurances for a nuclear umbrella under the wings of United States, order to counter the Indian threat. Henry Kissinger the Secretary of State at the time, brushed off Pakistan’s plea’s by stating that India’s defiance of the Nuclear testing conventions, was “a fait accomplice and that Pakistan would have to learn to live with it”.

Read more: How Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan saved Pakistan by making it a nuclear weapon state?

America’s betrayal and repercussion for Pakistan

This is not to mention the betrayal by the Americans who sanctioned Pakistan in 1965, for using American weapons to defend itself when India crossed the International border for the first time. The U.S again isolated Pakistan by being neutral when Indian-sponsored terrorists caused civil unrest in East Pakistan, which led to the fall of Dhaka. The Nuclear Tests by India were the final straw for Pakistan’s patience with the U.S as it proved to be an unreliable and unfaithful partner.

As Agha Shahi put it “if negotiations had gone better and the US had come to Pakistan’s aid, you would never have heard of A.Q Khan”. Born in Bhopal in 1936, he was witness to the events of Partition and after migrating in 1952, he stated upon crossing the border “…When I entered Pakistan I felt like a caged bird which was set free”. His love for Pakistan was a constant theme in his letters with Government and Security officials as he always stated he wanted to “gift  services to my country”.

When A.Q Khan finally met Bhutto in 1974, he explained how centrifuge technology could be developed at twice the speed of the existing Plutonium process run by Munir Ahmed Khan at PAEC. Khan convinced Bhutto that India’s Nuclear budget in 1974 was $130 million and that New Dehli had spent upwards of $1 billion to conduct the program because of older technologies it had inherited by facilitators such as France, Canada and Russia. Using the technological breakthrough in Uranium enrichment at URENCO, Khan estimated that if he fed the material through the centrifuge 65-70 times, it would be feasible enough to reach 90% enrichment, in just fifteen days.

Read more: Remembering the legacy of Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan

The payload of each nuclear weapon contained approximately 15 kg of highly enriched Uranium, and with a market value of $22 per kg for raw uranium, it would roughly cost Pakistan $60,000 to manufacture enough fissile material for a bomb. This fits perfectly with Bhutto’s mantra “…we will eat grass or leaves, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own (Nuclear weapon)”.Khan then proceeded to put the cherry on top by stating that a geologist, Khalid Aslam at PAEC, had discovered raw uranium within the foothills of Pakistan’s Suleiman Mountain range in 1963, and the country had a plentiful stockpile.

How Dr. AQ Khan saved Pakistan by making it a nuclear state?

The Nuclear Weapons developed by Khan are the only point of difference between Pakistan existing and Pakistan being reduced to the state in which Iraq, Libya and Syria find themselves. All three countries at a time in history had a program of their own, which was either bombed like Iraq in 1981, Syria in 2007 or diplomatically sanctioned into submission like Libya’s program when it ended in 2003. If one is to see why the three ostensibly mentioned countries are in absolute ruin and Pakistan has managed to rise out of the ashes like a phoenix; then it is because of A.Q Khan and Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons program, keeping the hyenas and the hawks of the world at bay.

For someone who sacrificed a lucrative career to serve the nation he migrated to, his name should be preserved as a model patriot, who was never wooed by the materialism of Europe but set forth an unwavering loyalty to a nation, he was born to serve. From the many compromises that General Musharraf provided to the Americans, Dr. A.Q Khan should’ve been shielded from the humiliation which was unfairly vetted out to him. After all, Pakistan never handed over General Javed Nasir despite the calls of the International Criminal Tribunal over his support and defense of Bosnian Muslims, then why go to such lengths to appease an ally whose isolationist strategies led us to Nuclear Weapons in the first place.

But despite what General Musharraf did, it never lowered Dr. A.Q Khan’s stature as a model patriot amongst the public, where he received a hero’s welcome no matter where he went. Dr. A.Q Khan truly embodied the notion that it is better to be despised by the world and loved by your own people than to be loved by the world and despised by your own people; like a Noble Laureate of ours.

Read more: Let me be Free: Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan pleads before Supreme Court

Dr. A.Q Khan will continue to live in the hearts of millions of Pakistanis within the country as well as abroad, who gave back to Pakistan at a time when many were in it for their own selfish gains. Alvida Mohsin-e-Pakistan, may Allah grant you the highest of places in Jannah, for serving your country and displaying to the world that when Pakistan wants something it will achieve it no matter the cost or the obstacles that are placed before it.


The writer is a Defence and Political Analyst with a Masters in International Relations from Deakin University, Australia. He specializes in Asia-Pacific Regional Dynamics and Conflict & Security studies. Sameed Basha can be contacted at basha@deakin.edu.au. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.