Thief, traitor, smuggler, scammer: How the west remembers AQ Khan – Times of India

WASHINGTON: A brazen thief, smuggler, and traitor, who far from being a scientist of repute, actually stole/purloined/pilfered technology from the west to make Pakistan a nuclear power.
That was the broad consensus among western analysts and media on AQ Khan, whose death on Saturday occasioned mourning, sorrow, and a state funeral in Pakistan, where he was regarded as a national hero, but whose record of nuclear skullduggery and proliferation evoked derision and distaste elsewhere in the world.
Dubbed “The Merchant of Menace” on one Time magazine cover, Khan’s nefarious proliferation record was the focus of most reports about his death, with almost no mention or acknowledgement of his science or engineering background.
“I would submit his greatest accomplishment was in fact convincing everyone that he was actually a nuclear scientist when in fact he was just the world’s most dangerous and brazen smuggler,” Vipin Narang, Professor of Nuclear Security at MIT observed in a tweet, responding to a fellow expert Christopher Clary, a Fellow at the thinktank Stimson Center, who questioned Khan’s self-professed centrality to Pakistan’s nuclearisation, saying, his “greatest accomplishment was convincing the world that he mattered more than he did. He did not start from scratch and his role in the 1998 tests was marginal.”
The western media also noted that he was metallurgist and not a scientist, with the New York Times describing him as a “worldwide dealer in weapons technology” who “built, bought, bartered and stole the makings of weapons of mass destruction.”
Reports on his death also recalled Pakistan’s international shaming and embarrassment when his proliferation activities were exposed soon after 9/11, including then CIA Director George Tenet confronting Pakistan’s military ruler Pervez Musharraf about the fiasco, leading to Khan being mothballed into retirement. Khan never recovered from the humiliation and gradually became an embittered old man, frequently lashing out at the Pakistan establishment, including the current Imran Khan dispensation, which he accused of ignoring his health problems after he contracted Covid19 in September.
While the Imran Khan government declared state honors for the Bhopal-born AQ Khan, whose pathological hatred for India arose from the Partition events in 1947, and who said he wanted Pakistan to go nuclear to prevent a repeat of the 1971 war in which Pakistan lost half its territory, few government dignitaries attended the funeral that took place in Islamabad amid in a downpour.
Some Pakistanis in fact questioned the national narrative and deification of Khan, dismissing the proposition that he enhanced Pakistan’s national security.
“I covered #AQKhan several times & heard him spk at many occasions in Pakistan. He was: a war monger & spoke of nuking #India, a closet Islamist spewing hatred against Ahmadis, involved with nuclear proliferation with the help of #PakistanArmy. Can we stop eulogizing such a man?” tweeted Taha Siddiqui, a Pakistani scribe in exile in France.
Some experts also said his death would come as a relief to some in a nuclear non-proliferation community, which never really managed to bring him to account for his infractions.
“It is telling that access to #AQKhan – possibly the world’s most significant nuclear proliferator – fell off the wishlists of the non-proliferation enforcement community. With his demise, a lot of culpable parties are likely breathing sighs of relief, and not just in Pakistan,” noted Dhruva Jaishankar, a scholar with the Observer Research Foundation.

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Thief, traitor, smuggler, scammer: How the west remembers AQ Khan – Times of India

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