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

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

"He helped us develop nation-saving nuclear deterrence, 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 Islamabad's Faisal mosque, according to his wishes.

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