Thursday, June 15, 2006

Pakistani Nuclear Program 5-5

“PAKISTAN’S NUCLEAR HISTORY:SEPARATING MYTH FROM REALITY”
extensive research on our nuclear initiative and puts the record straight.
[MA CHAUDHRI]

PART 5-5

PREPARING THE NUCLEAR TEST SITES

By 1976, the PAEC selected the sites in Chaghi and Kharan and their geologists went to work on these sites. In Kharan there is a desert and they went for a vertical shaft. It is like a vertical well that is 300-400 feet deep and at the bottom of the well there is a horizontal tunnel having an L-shaped configuration.

In Chaghi, where there was a mountain range, the Ras-Koh range, the PAEC went for an underground horizontal tunnel. The overburden available was about 400 feet. That was the height of the mountain available for containment of the explosion.

The designing of the tunnels was also a very intricate thing. It was not just blasting a hole into a mountain. If there was a straight tunnel and a bomb was put at the end of the tunnel, and the tunnel was plugged with concrete if one were to explode the bomb, the concrete would certainly blow out and all the radioactivity would leak out through the mouth of the tunnel. This had to be taken care of. The tunnel was designed in the form a double-S shape and when the bomb was detonated inside, the pressures would be very great. These pressured had the power to move the mountain outward and the force of the bomb was used to seal the tunnel. In this process when the rock would expand under the explosion, the rock would move in the direction so that it sealed the tunnel and so the tunnel would collapse inward by the force of the explosion, which would seal the tunnel in the process. Dr. Mansoor Beg of PAEC was an expert in this. Therefore, in 1976, the PAEC selected the sites for the atomic tests. In 1980-81, both the sites were complete and the shafts were all made. [lxxxiv]

The first preparations for eventual nuclear tests also started early - in 1976. Dr. Ishfaq Ahmad, Member (Technical) and Dr. Samar Mubarakmand of the PAEC were dispatched to Balochistan to conduct helicopter reconnaissance of potential test sites with the assistance of the Army Corps located at Quetta. The PAEC requirement was for a mountain with a completely dry interior capable of withstanding an internal 20 KT nuclear explosion. After a one-year survey of the site, completed in 1977, plans were finalized for driving a horizontal tunnel in the Ras Koh range for a future test. The tunnels for the tests were ready by 1980.[lxxxv]

PAKISTAN'S "FINEST" HOUR

In the wake of the Indian nuclear tests on May 11th and 13th, 1998, respectively, a meeting of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) was convened on the morning of 15 May 1998 at the Prime Minister’s Secretariat, Islamabad, to discuss the geo-political situation and strategic crisis arising out of the Indian nuclear tests. The meeting was chaired by the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif who himself was holding the portfolio of defence and attended by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gohar Ayub Khan, the Minister of Finance & Economic Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, the Foreign Secretary, Shamshad Ahmed Khan and the three Chiefs of Staff of the Army, Air Force and Navy, namely General Jehangir Karamat, Air Chief Marshal Pervaiz Mehdi Qureshi and Admiral Fasih Bokhari respectively.

Since Dr. Ishfaq Ahmed, chairman of the PAEC, was, at the time, on a visit to the United States and Canada, the responsibility of giving a technical assessment of the Indian nuclear tests and Pakistan’s preparedness to give a matching response to India fell on the shoulders of Dr. Samar Mubarakmand, Member (Technical), PAEC. Dr. Mubarakmand was in charge of the PAEC’s Directorate of Technical Development (DTD), one of the most secretive organizations in the labyrinth of Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure. It may be said that the DTD established by Munir Ahmed Khan in 1974 is the forerunner of the National Development Complex (NDC), the designers and manufacturers of, among other things, Pakistan’s solid-fuelled Shaheen class of medium and intermediate range ballistic nuclear missile systems. Dr. Mubarakmand had supervised several cold tests since 1983 and was responsible for overseeing all of PAEC’s classified projects.

Dr. Mubarakmand added that if it is decided that Pakistan should go ahead with nuclear tests of its own, then the PAEC is fully prepared and capable of carrying out the nuclear tests within 10 days. The chairman of the PAEC, Dr. Ishfaq Ahmad, cut short his foreign trip and returned to Pakistan on 16 May 1998. The next day, on the morning of 17 May 1998, he received a call from the Pakistan Army GHQ, Rawalpindi informing him to remain on stand-by for a meeting with the Prime Minister. He was thereafter summoned by the Prime Minister House, Islamabad where he went accompanied by Dr. Mubarakmand. The Prime Minister asked the PAEC chairman for his opinion on the two points which were discussed in the DCC meeting of 15 May 1998 wherein it was discussed whether Pakistan should test in response to India's challenge and if the PAEC was ready to conduct the tests. Dr. Ishfaq Ahmad told the Prime Minister that the decision to test or not to test was that of the Government of Pakistan. As far as the PAEC preparedness and capability was concerned, they were ready to do their duty as and when required to do so. The Prime Minister said that eyes of the world were focused on Pakistan and failure to conduct the tests would put the credibility of the Pakistan nuclear programme in doubt and would encourage India into embarking on a misadventure against Pakistan – a concern expressed by many quarters. The PAEC chairman's reply was, “Mr. Prime Minister, take a decision and, Insha’Allah, I give you the guarantee of success.” He was told to prepare for the tests but remain on stand-by for the final decision.

Once the DCC had decided that Pakistan would give a matching response to the Indian challenge, a meeting was convened in the PAEC to decide the modus operandi, quantity and size of the nuclear tests to be conducted. This meeting was chaired by Dr. Ishfaq Ahmed and attended by Dr. Samar Mubarakmand and other high-ranking executives, scientists and engineers of the PAEC. It was decided that since the Indian nuclear tests had presented Pakistan with an opportunity to conduct nuclear tests for the first time after 14 years of having conducted only cold tests, the maximum benefit should be derived from this opportunity. It was, therefore, decided, that multiple tests would be carried out of varying yields as well as the live testing of the triggering mechanisms. Since the five horizontal shaft tunnels at Ras Koh Hills and the single vertical shaft tunnel at Kharan had the capability to collectively host a total of six tests, therefore, it was resolved that six different nuclear devices of different designs, sizes and yields would be selected, all of which had been previously cold tested.

Immediately afterwards, began the process of fitness and quality checks of the various components of the nuclear devices and the testing equipment. A large but smooth logistics operation also got under way with the help of the Pakistan Army and Air Force. This operation involved moving men and equipment as well as the nuclear devices to the Chagai test sites from various parts of the country.

On 19 May 1998, two teams comprising of 140 PAEC scientists, engineers and technicians left for Chaghi, Balochistan on two separate PIA Boeing 737 flights. Also on board were teams from the Wah Group, the Theoretical Group, the Directorate of Technical Development (DTD) and the Diagnostics Group. Some of the men and equipment were transported via road using NLC trucks escorted by the members of the Special Services Group (SSG), the elite commando force of the Pakistan Army and Pakistan Army Aviation AH-1 Cobra gunship helicopters.

Various support facilities were established at both the test sites, including instrumentation bunkers and observation posts. All the installations including the tunnel portals and the instrumentation and fire control cables leading into the tunnel shafts were camouflaged using canvass and net. The facilities were made to look like a small hamlet using adobe huts so as to deceive satellite surveillance. The tunnel portal itself was located inside an adobe hut. Barbed wire was placed around all the facilities so as to minimise the number of tracks and to keep pedestrian and vehicular movement on designated tracks. Vehicle tracks caused by incoming and outgoing trucks and jeeps were continuously erased by a team of soldiers assigned to the task. Support camps were established a few hundred yards away from Ground Zero at both the sites. These included lodging, food and water, restroom, shelter and communications facilities. These too were camouflaged. At Ras Koh, these support facilities were located directly south of the mountain in which the shafts had been bored.

The nuclear devices were themselves flown in semi-knocked down (SKD) sub-assembly form on two flights of PAF C-130 Hercules tactical transport aircraft from PAF Chaklala in northern Punjab to Dalbandin Airfield, situated in the Chagai District south-east of the Chagai Hills in Balochistan, escorted even within Pakistani airspace by four PAF F-16s armed with air-to-air missiles. At the same time, PAF F-7P air defence fighters, also armed with air-to-air missiles, were on CAP guarding the aerial frontiers of Pakistan against intruders. Both the nuclear devices (the bomb mechanism, the HMX explosive shields and casing) and the fissile material (the highly enriched uranium components) were divided into two consignments and flown separately on two independent flights of the Hercules. The PAEC did not want to put all its nuclear eggs in one basket in case something adverse was to happen to the aircraft. The security of the devices and the fissile material was so strict that that PAF F-16 escort pilots had been secretly given standing orders that in the unlikely event of the C-130 being hijacked or flown outside of Pakistani airspace, they were to shoot down the aircraft before it left Pakistan’s airspace. The F-16s were ordered to escort the C-130s to the Dalbandin airfield in Balochistan with their radio communications equipment turned off so that no orders, in the interim, could be conveyed to them to act otherwise. They were also ordered to ignore any orders to the contrary that got through to them during the duration of the flight even if such orders seemingly originated from Air Headquarters.

Once at the Dalbandin airfield south-east of the Chagai Hills, the sub-assembled parts of the nuclear devices were carefully offloaded from the aircraft and were separately taken in sub-assembled form to the test sites at Ras Koh Hills and Kharan presumably on Pakistan Army Aviation Mil Mi-17 helicopters. At Ras Koh Hills in Chagai, they were taken into the five ‘Zero Rooms’ located at the end of the kilometre long horizontal tunnels. Dr. Samar Mubarakmand personally supervised the complete assembly of all five nuclear devices. Diagnostic cables were thereafter laid from the tunnel to the telemetry. The cables connected all five nuclear devices with a command observation post 10 kilometres away. Afterwards, a complete simulated test was carried out by tele-command. This process of preparing the nuclear devices and laying of the cables and the establishment of the fully functional command and observation post took five days to complete.

On 25 May 1998, soldiers of the Pakistan Army’s 12 Corps arrived to seal the tunnel. They were supervised by engineers and technicians from the Pakistan Army Engineering Corps, the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) and the Special Development Works (SDW). Dr. Samar Mubarakmand himself walked a total of 5 kilometres back and forth in the hot tunnels checking and re-checking the devices and the cables, which would be buried forever under the concrete. Finally, the cables were plugged into the nuclear devices. The process of the sealing the tunnels thereafter began with the mixing of the cement and the sand and their pouring into the tunnels. It took a total of 6,000 cement bags to seal the tunnel and twice the amount of sand.

The tunnels were sealed and plugged by the afternoon of 26 May 1998 and by the afternoon of 27 May 1998, the cement had completely dried out due to the excessive heat of the summer desert. After the engineers certified that the concrete had hardened and the site was fit for the tests it was communicated to the Prime Minister via the GHQ that the site was ready.

The date and time for Pakistan’s rendezvous with destiny was set for 3:00 p.m. on 28 May 1998.

Thursday, 28 May 1998 dawned with an air alert over all military and strategic installations of Pakistan. The PAF had earlier been put on red alert to respond to the remote, but real possibility of a joint Indo-Israeli pre-emptive strike against its nuclear installations. Pakistan thought it fit to be safe rather than sorry. PAF F-16A and F-7P air defence fighters were scrambled from air bases around the country to remain vigilant and prepared for any eventuality.

Before twilight, the automatic data transmission link from all Pakistani seismic stations to the outside world was switched off.

At Chaghi, it was a clear day. Bright, warm and sunny without a cloud in sight. There was a slight breeze. All personnel, civil and military, were evacuated from ‘Ground Zero’ except for members of the Diagnostics Group and the firing team. They had been involved in digging out and removing some equipment lying there since 1978.

Ten members of the team reached the Observation Post (OP) located 10-kilometres away from Ground Zero. The firing equipment was checked for one last time at 1:30 p.m. and prayers were offered. An hour later, at 2:30 p.m., a khaki-brown battle-camouflaged Pakistan Army Aviation Mil Mi-17 helicopter carrying the team of observers including PAEC chairman, Dr. Ishfaq Ahmed, KRL Director, Dr. A.Q. Khan, and four other scientists from KRL, including Dr. Fakhr Hashmi, Dr. Javed Ashraf Mirza (who later became Director, KRL on Dr. A.Q. Khan’s retirement from the post in March 2001), Dr. M. Nasim Khan and S. Mansoor Ahmed arrived at the site. Also accompanying them was a Pakistan Army team headed by Lt. Gen. Zulfikar Ali Khan, Chief of the Combat Division.

At 3:00 p.m., a truck carrying the last lot of the personnel and soldiers involved in the site preparations passed by the OP. Soon afterwards, the all-clear was given to conduct the test as the site had been fully evacuated.

Amongst the 20 men present, one young man, Muhammad Arshad, the Chief Scientific Officer, who had designed the triggering mechanism, was selected to push the button. He was asked to recite “All Praise be to Allah” and push the button. At exactly 3:16 p.m. Pakistan Standard Time (P.S.T.), the button was pushed and Muhammad Arshad stepped from obscurity into history.

As soon as the button was pushed, the control system was taken over by computer. The signal was passed through the air-link initiating six steps in the firing sequence while at the same time bypassing, one after the other, each of the security systems put in place to prevent accidental detonation. Each step was confirmed by the computer, switching on power supplies for each stage. On the last leg of the sequence, the high voltage power supply responsible for detonating the nuclear devices was activated.

As the firing sequence passed through each level and shut down the safety switches and activating the power supply, each and every step was being recorded by the computer via the telemetry which is an apparatus for recording readings of an instrument and transmitting them via radio. A radiation-hardened television camera with special lenses recorded the outer surface of the mountain.

As the firing sequence continued through its stages, twenty pairs of eyes were glued on the mountain 10 kilometres away. There was deafening silence within and outside of the OP.

The high voltage electrical power wave simultaneously reached, with microsecond synchronization, the triggers in all the explosive HMX lenses symmetrically encircling the Beryllium/Uranium-238 (2) reflector shield and the ball of Uranium 235 (3) around the initiator core in all five devices.

When the electrical current ran through the wires to the lenses, an explosion was triggered in all five of the devices. Because of the symmetrical nature of the placement of the explosives, a spherically imploding shock wave was set off, instantly squeezing the Berylium/Uranium-238, the Uranium-235, and the initiator. The Berylium/Uranium-238 shield was pushed inward by the explosion, compressing the grapefruit-sized ball of Uranium-235 to the size of a plum in a microsecond. The Uranium-235 went from a subcritical to a supercritical density, and the initiator at the centre was similarly squeezed. The process of atoms fissioning - or splitting apart - began.

Neutrons released from the initiator began striking and bombarding the Uranium-235 at an extremely rapid rate. In each instance in which a neutron hit a Uranium atom, the atom split, creating two more neutrons, which in turn hit two more atoms, which split into four neutrons, which found four new atoms, thus splitting into eight neutrons, sixteen, thirty-two, sixty-four, one hundred and twenty-eight, two hundred and fifty-six and so on. This was the runaway chain reaction. With the splitting of each atom, a terrific amount of energy was released along with a variety of lethal atomic particles.

A short while after the button was pushed, the earth in and around the Ras Koh Hills trembled. The OP vibrated. Smoke and dust burst out through the five points where the nuclear devices were buried. The mountain shook and changed colour as the dust from thousands of years was dislodged from its surface, its dark granite rock turning white as de-oxidisation occurred from the fierce radioactive forces operating from within. A huge thick cloud of beige dust then enveloped the mountain.

In the OP, shouts of “Nara-e-Takbeer” and “Allah-o-Akbar” (God is Great) went up.

The time-frame, from the moment when the button was pushed to the moment the detonations inside the mountain took place, was thirty seconds. For those in the OP, watching in pin-drop silence with their eyes focused on the mountain, those thirty seconds were the longest in their lives. It was the culmination of a journey which started over 20 years ago. It was the moment of truth and triumph against heavy odds, trials and tribulations. At the end of those thirty seconds lay Pakistan’s date with destiny.

Sources in the Directorate of Technical Development, Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, said that the tests were performed with devices buried deep into the bellies of rocky mountains in Chagai range. "Observers present at the test site reported that the mountain structure -- originally composed of black granite rocks -- changed colour into greyish white in a split second due to the intense heat produced by the test,"

The immense shock wave produce was detected and monitored by Seismic centres in the US, Russia, Australia and many other countries, said the Directorate of Technical Development. A statement issued by the PAEC Directorate of Technical Development said that it had fulfilled its mission by not only successfully producing a variety of potential nuclear devices, but also by performing perfect hot tests which resulted in near expected yields and providing invaluable scientific data.

The statement said: "The mission has, on the one hand, boosted the morale of the Pakistani nation by giving it an honourable position in the nuclear world, while on the other hand it validated scientific theory, design and previous results from cold tests. This has more than justified the creation and establishment of DTD 20 years back.

"Through these critical years of nuclear device development, the leadership contribution changed hands from Mr. Munir Ahmed Khan to Dr Ishfaq Ahmad and finally to Dr Samar Mubarakmand (Member Technical).

These gifted scientists and engineers along with a highly-dedicated team worked logically and economically to design, produce and test an extremely rugged device for the nation which enable the Islamic Republic of Pakistan from strength to strength. By the grace of Almighty Allah, the PAEC as an organization has proven to be the pride of the Pakistani nation."[lxxxvi]

Interestingly, soon after the 1998 tests when the CTBT debate had surfaced in Pakistan, A.Q. Khan told the people that there was no harm for Pakistan in signing the CTBT while Munir Ahmed Khan in an article in The News, titled "Let us face realities on CTBT", dated 29th, November, 1998, Islamabad, was of the view that " Any claim that CTBT will not adversely affect the further development of Pakistan’s nuclear capability is, therefore wrong. If it were so, the US and others would not insist on India and Pakistan signing the CTBT. …CTBT is aimed at keeping the level of Indian and Pakistani arsenals to that of the mid 1960s." Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood was one of the most vocal opponents of Pakistan signing the CTBT. He resigned from the PAEC in protest over reports that the government was considering signing the CTBT under American pressure.

DRAWING CONCLUSIONS- MYTHS AND REALITIES

Therefore, in the light of the above discussion, it is clear that the PAEC remained the overall incharge of the entire nuclear programme, both civil and weapon, of all the 23 out of 24 difficult steps, before and after uranium enrichment, each step as crucial to bomb making as enrichment itself, and remained closely linked to uranium enrichment all along.

Because of the covert 1972-98 period of the nuclear weapons programme, A.Q. Khan was able to parley his position into unprecedented autonomy (financial, administrative and security). Second, because it was indeed a covert period, A.Q. Khan was encouraged to pose as the Father of the Bomb, even though he was responsible for just one of 24 steps, each crucial to making nuclear weapons. Those responsible for the other 23 steps all worked under the Member (Technical) of the PAEC, who in turn reported to its chairman. The PAEC initiated the Kahuta Enrichment Project under Mr. Munir Ahmed Khan and remained closely associated with all the technical aspects of enrichment. However, the PAEC never enjoyed such sweeping and unaccountable autonomy as KRL did under A.Q. Khan, and the very strict financial, security and administrative controls in PAEC right up to Chairman, after Munir Ahmed Khan became Chairman, ensured that no “material leaks” or financial bungling would take place, despite the fact that the PAEC had its own "secret funds" and was a much larger organization in terms of efficiency, size, manpower, resources, with a much diverse scope of activities and mandate in the nuclear programme as compared to A.Q. Khan. Perhaps because of that, the only proliferation charges relate to the one step Abdul Qadeer Khan was responsible for, and not for the other 23 for which the PAEC remained responsible. [lxxxvii]

In the PAEC, there were 15-20 Directorates, each dedicated to a part of the nuclear weapons programme. Each Directorate had 700-800 people and their work for over 25 years was done consistently, without greed, publicity and without quarreling with each other. There was a tremendous team spirit in the PAEC. Nobody worked in the PAEC for money or fame. They did not believe that by publicizing it, anyone could do sensitive work, but on the contrary believed that the objectives could only be achieved by working quietly and so there was no lust for fame in the PAEC. There was honesty, dedication and motivation. And the captain of this dedicated team who burnt mid night oil to give nuclear capability to Pakistan was Munir Ahmed Khan. Even inside KRL, there were many unsung heroes who never saw the light of fame or glory because they believed in working quietly, minus A.Q. Khan and his clique.

Over the years, domestic political compulsions, the power of the media, the obsession of the West with the so-called Islamic bomb, the lack of public knowledge about what goes into bomb-making, and the penchant and insatiable appetite of A Q Khan for self projection, all combined to distort the correct and objective perspective about Pakistan's nuclear programme and history. Successive governments have known the true picture but went along with the claims made by AQ Khan for domestic political reasons. Gen. Zia, for example was instrumental in creating an environment wherein A.Q. Khan managed to manipulate the domestic political situation to his own advantage and to build up his image as the savior of the nation (Mohsin-e-Pakistan) and later into the self-styled "father of the bomb" and "architect of the nuclear programme". Zia needed the Islamic bomb and the nuclear programme to give legitimacy to his rule, along with Islam, and A.Q. Khan needed Zia to bring him to the limelight. It was a perfect combination.

After the 1983 cold tests conducted by the PAEC, a bizarre incident happened that showed how Munir Ahmed Khan was made the target of character assasination and was hounded, revolves around the publication in the early 1980's of a book "Islamic Bomb" by some foreign publisher. It detailed Pakistan's clandestine efforts to make the bomb and made several mentions in a positive way of Munir Ahmed Khan and also of A. Q. Khan.

It was in the bookstores for some time but just when cold nuclear tests had been conducted and Munir Khan was calling for nuclear restraint, army generals, bureaucrats, government leaders and leading scientists were surprised to receive free copies of the book by post. Why would a foreign publisher want to freely distribute the book in Pakistan?

It soon turned out that in the new edition, all positive references to Munir Ahmed Khan had been deleted and replaced with derogatory comments. For instance a reference to Munir Khan as "a patriot and a man who would do anything and everything to bring atomic power and atomic weapons to his homeland", in the original edition, read "Mr. Munir Khan is not a patriot, he would do anything to keep atomic weapons away from Pakistan", in the revised edition. This is just one example. There were several other such references in the new edition, not found in the original version. The publisher was flabbergasted, disowned the new edition which he said was fake and demanded an inquiry. [lxxxviii]

The 1983 cold tests conducted by the PAEC was a historic accomplishment and marked the confirmation of nuclear capability of Pakistan, yet it had been a closely guarded secret. Munir Ahmed Khan himself was responsible for this secrecy for he thought that advertising it would harm the national interest, but for this sense of responsibility he and his associates in the PAEC paid a heavy price. His detractors had a field day condemning him as a failed nuclear scientist. The unkindest cut came when he was even accused as being unpatriotic. He was ridiculed and jeered. Munir Ahmed Khan endured it silently. He believed that nuclear technology required a very high sense of maturity and responsibility and must never be used for personal aggrandizement.

Munir Khan never indulged in cheap popularity and never advertised the PAEC’s achivements. He kept a low profile because he believed that bravado, brandishing nuclear capability or advertising his achievements was not in national interest.

It was a difficult decision in the making of which he also paid a heavy personal price. He remained unsung. He realised it but it was his conscious decision and that was perhaps why he endured it so courageously and in the manner of a sportsman. It was indeed a measure of his patriotism. [lxxxix] He was very modest, and shied away from the counter-productive boasting of his rivals. He saw Pakistan’s strength as lying in more than having a bomb, as equally dependent on a secure economic and political future and non-isolation in the world. [xc]

Today Munir Ahmed Khan stands accused in the dock of ‘paid writers and ignorant supporters”. The cooked up charges and accusations against Munir were part of a decade’s long sordid character assassination campaign to demonize him in the eyes of the people, and was done at the behest of a handful of proliferators and their supporters.

Munir Khan remained bitter until his death in 1999, warning several times that A.Q. Khan's freewheeling ways would cause trouble for Pakistan.[xci] In the late 1980s Munir Ahmed Khan had repeatedly complained to his old friend and Z.A. Bhutto's Finance Minister, Mubashir Hasan, that A. Q. Khan was corrupt and, more important, that he was involved in selling Pakistan's nuclear-weapons technology abroad. According to Hasan, Munir Ahmed Khan had taken the same complaints the authorities in charge at the time, and of course nothing had been done.[xcii] This clearly shows that A.Q. Khan had grown larger than the state of Pakistan itself, someone who was effectively above the law.

Anyone who would try to criticise A.Q. Khan or would seem to come in his way, would instantly earn the wrath of paid publicists and eulogizers who would brand such an individual as an American CIA agent, or hatch up a conspiracy theory of him or her belonging to the so-called anti-Kahuta lobby. The fact of the matter was that A.Q. Khan as an FDO employee at Urenco had just completed his PhD in 1972, where he was middle level metallurgist-cum-translator. He never enjoyed any lucrative career or important scientific, technical or administrative position in FDO at that point in time and the lavish lifestyle, the power and influence and the fame and glory in Pakistan that he was able to acquire for himself was something he could never have dreamed of while he was in Holland. Thus the myth that he sacrificed a lucrative scientific career for Pakistan should be understood in this context.

Interestingly enough, two important stories have emerged in the western press that raise serious question marks. One such story is the recent revelation that India was able to acquire equipment for its enrichment programme from the A.Q. Khan's network. [xciii] The second is an interview given to a Dutch radio, VPRO Argos Radio, on August 9, 2005, by Dr Rudd Lubbers, the former Dutch Prime Minister, who revealed that Dr Khan was arrested in 1975 for espionage and in 1988 for illegal entry into Holland. On both occasions he was allowed to go scot-free because of the CIA's intervention. In 1992, according to Dr Lubbers, A.Q. Khan wanted to visit Holland to see his ailing father-in-law (his wife is a Dutch). While he was for refusing visa to Dr. A.Q. Khan, the case for visa was sponsored by no less a person than the head of the Dutch secret service, BVD, Arthur Dokters Van Leeuwen. A BVD person received Dr Khan on his arrival at Schipol airport. The BVD was presumably acting under instructions from American intelligence agencies.[xciv]

In sharp contradiction to A.Q. Khan, Munir Ahmed Khan was generous in acknowledging the contributions of other scientists and engineers.and believed that the credit for making Pakistan nuclear was essentially collective and no single man could claim sole credit for giving Pakistan nuclear capability. His last meeting with his colleagues and friends was at the Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology (PINSTECH) where a ceremony was held on March 20th, 1999, to honour those who helped Pakistan become a nuclear power. Munir Khan paid glowing tributes to all-scientists, engineers, politicians and successive governments, in the development of nuclear capability. So many different individuals had built the pyramid of Pakistan’s nuclear programme brick by brick, and no single person could claim sole credit for it, he said. History had taught him the fragility of structures dependent upon individuals. What mattered most were institutions and not individuals, he said. With a sense of nostalgia he also recalled the meeting of the country’s scientists on Jan 20,1972, at Multan for a face to face dialogue with the President. That meeting, Munir recalled, was the turning point and a watershed mark in the country’s nuclear programme. For the first time, he said, the scientists were clearly tasked and promised full financial and political support by the political leadership to make Pakistan nuclear.[xcv]

By the time Munir Ahmed Khan retired as PAEC Chairman in 1991, he had become a ”Father” figure for the Commission’s scientists and engineers Although Munir remained unsung in his lifetime, after his death in 1999, scientists and engineers who worked with him for 19 long years in the nuclear programme paid him rich tributes and homage for his contributions to Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme and for heading the team effort that eventually enabled Pakistan to become a nuclear power. Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood who began Pakistan's uranium enrichment programme in 1974 and designed the Khushab plutonium reactor under Munir called him the "architect of nuclear Pakistan" in his obituary titled "A Great Loss for The Nation".[xcvi] Dr. Ishfaq Ahmad who served under Munir as Member (Technical) and later succeeded him as PAEC Chairman in 1991 remarked that Munir Ahmed Khan's name would be written in ”golden letters” in the annals of Pakistan's nuclear history. Dr. Samar Mubarakmand, Chairman National Engineering and Scientific Commission (NESCOM) and the head of the nuclear test team at Chaghi in 1998 credited Munir with acquiring nuclear capability and said that ”Pakistan’s nuclear capability was confirmed the day in 1983 when PAEC carried out cold nuclear tests under the guidance and stewardship of late Munir Ahmed Khan”. Dr Samar further said, that the 1983 tests, however, were not publicly announced because of the international environment of stiff sanctions against countries, which sought to acquire nuclear capability. Fifteen years after the development of Chaghi sites and cold nuclear tests, it fell to the luck of Dr Samar to lead the PAEC team, which blasted the bombs.

Samar said that “Munir Khan was both a visionary and a doer who planned goals and targets at least 10 to 15 years in advance and then set out in all earnestness to achieve those goals,” and recalled "how Munir Ahmed Khan nurtured, guided and inspired his younger colleagues in the implementation of the nuclear programme ranging from uranium prospection, mining, making of uranium hexaflouride gas, fabrication of nuclear fuel, to the making of the nuclear device and to the selection and development of test sites in Chaghi mountains in Balochistan so that when the time came, the actual blast could be carried out at a short notice." Dr Samar said that the initial work for the setting up of the Kahuta enrichment plant was also carried out under the stewardship of Munir Ahmed Khan, who selected its site and put in place the basic infrastructure of manpower, machines and materials for it.[xcvii]

Many of the above mentioned scientists and engineers, inlcuding Dr. Ishfaq Ahmad, Engineer Pervez Butt, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, Dr. Inam-ur-Rahman, Dr. Samar Mubarakmand, Dr. N.M.Butt, Dr. Riazuddin and former Foreign Secretaries, Abdul Sattar and Niaz Naik and Senator Farhatullah Babar among others gathered in Islamabad in April 2005, on Munir Ahmed Khan's sixth death anniversary to pay him rich tributes and called Munir "a great patriot" and an "unsung hero" of nuclear Pakistan . Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood called Munir Khan as a "great hero" and that "history will sing the praise of Munir Ahmed Khan, more with each passing year" and that "the imposter has been exposed and he will explode!” Dr. Samar Mubarakmand recalled that Munir Khan had confided in him prior to his death in 1999 that "Samar, I have made a mistake all my life, that I kept a very low profile which allowed A.Q. Khan to not only hijack the credit from the PAEC but also indulge in illegal activities like proliferation and massive corruption. It was our duty, we the technical people, who should have raised our voice and stopped him from his actions which have and will bring harm to the nuclear programme". Dr. Ishfaq Ahmad said that the system of immense secrecy that Munir Khan had established in PAEC enabled the programme to succeed wherein each scientist and engineer knew only his own sphere of work and only a few people at the highest levels of the PAEC knew the over all picture. He further said that today the heroes of nuclear Pakistan had gathered to pay tributes to Munir who was the leader of all these heroes and that Munir's name would be written in "golden letters" in the country's nuclear history. Senator Farhatullah Babar called Munir the "nuclear sage of Pakistan".

A.Q. Khan, however, has been ascribed almost supernatural qualities in the public imagination. The most extreme belief happens to be that Qadeer actually gave Zulfikar Ali Bhutto the idea of making an atom bomb, even though the idea had been presented much earlier by Munir Ahmed Khan, while he was still with the IAEA in Vienna, before Bhutto became the Prime Minister, and Bhutto himself had made it a national goal at the 1972 Multan Conference.Then there is the belief that Qadeer gave the idea of the enriched uranium route, even though that route had been decided at the same Multan Conference of 1972. And then there is the belief, very common, and persisting even now, that Qadeer made the bomb, even though he carried out only one of the 24 bomb-making steps, and had no role in the design or manufacture of the bomb itself. KRL did come up with a design, but it failed cold tests. And the biggest myth of all, which has become part of the national psyche, that Qadeer initiated and built the Kahuta Enrichment Project, which infact was PAEC's project-706, initiated in 1974, before Qadeer returned to Pakistan. [xcviii]

In 1990, A.Q. Khan gave a speech in which he boasted that, “Usually, in setting up an industrial plant, the sequence is the idea, decision, feasibility report, basic research, applied research, construction of a table model, construction of a pilot plant, engineering for the real plant and construction of the facility itself. This is a long chain of steps and usually takes a very long time…. We took a very bold step and started with all the steps simultaneously.” (Text of speech published in The Frontier Post, ‘Capabilities and potential of Kahuta project,’ 10 October 1990). Well, obviously, if you can draw on work done by others i.e. PAEC, it is not that bold a step to start everything altogether, because you know more or less it is going to work. As for the idea and decision, that had been taken at the Multan Conference in 1972.

Then there is the grossly misplaced and mistaken belief that A.Q. Khan was the founder, architect and head of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme. This is exactly the myth that A.Q. Khan managed to cultivate and instill in the minds of ordinary Pakistanis through the mudslinging campaign that he had launched right after the 1983 cold tests conducted by the PAEC, against the PAEC as an institution and particularly its head, Munir Ahmed Khan, while Qadeer had been presenting himself as the ’savior’ and god-father of Pakistan’s security and survival. Anyone who dared to differ or stand up to his wrongdoings was instantly branded as a ’traitor’ and a fifth columnist and an American agent. But despite the massive propaganda campaign, A.Q. Khan was never the head of the nuclear programme, who was always the PAEC chairman, a position which he always wanted to acquire. However, A.Q. Khan himself became the public face of the nuclear weapons programme and in this process became larger than the state of Pakistan itself, and effectively above the law and no government could dare to put any checks on him, until Musharraf retired him in 2001.

When Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto came to power after General Zia-ul-Haq died in a mysterious plane crash in 1988, A.Q. Khan asked her to oust Munir Khan and install him instead as head of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission. When Benazir rebuffed him, he shifted his loyalty to her chief adversaries, Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg, the army chief of staff, and Ghulam Ishaq Khan, the president. A few months later, the president pinned the country's second-highest medal, the Hilal-i-Imtiaz on A.Q. Khan for his contributions to the nuclear programme. The same medal was pinned on Munir Ahmed Khan as well in the same year (1989) who was also rewarded with the status of Minister of State, something A.Q. Khan was not able to secure for himself. But after Munir Khan retired in 1991 as PAEC chairman, A.Q. Khan successfully lobbied for the highest civil award, the Nishan-i-Imtiaz, which he managed to secure twice, one in 1996, and the other after the 1998 tests. Munir Ahmed Khan however has still not been able to get one, even after almost seven years have passed since his death in 1999.

In August 1990, at Beg's urging, the president used his authority to dismiss Benazir Bhutto. Later that year, in a speech at the National University of Science and Technology, A.Q. Khan boasted that he had repeatedly asked Beg to get rid of Benazir Bhutto because she was hindering the nuclear programme, Hassan Abbas, wrote in his 2005 book, "Pakistan's Drift Into Extremism: Allah, the Army and America's War on Terror."[xcix]

The truth however was more complex. The 1998 nuclear tests at Chaghi was the beginning of the end of A.Q. Khan’s all encompassing and self professed monopoly over nuclear accomplishment when the PAEC under Dr. Ishfaq Ahmad was entrusted the task of conducting the tests, with Dr. Samar Mubarakmand as the test team leader, and not A.Q. Khan.

But history has been falsified, deliberately. A.Q. Khan was used as a decoy to divert attention from the PAEC, where the real work was being done. KRL’s scientists were only a fifth of the PAEC’s and perhaps KRL was over manned. However, the mythmakers are stuck with the myth itself, and Qadeer has received adulation and honors, and his accomplishments have been blown grossly out of proportion. Even though it was clearly exposed in 1998 at the time of the Chaghi tests, that his role in the nuclear programme was important, but not major, and not most important and all encompassing as is popularly perceived, the myth of him being the nuclear father persists to this day. Qadeer is in fact a metallurgist who got his specialization in physical/copper metallurgy in 1972, the same year that PAEC began its quest for the atomic bomb under Munir Ahmed Khan. At the time of the 1998 Chaghi tests, Dr. Samar Mubarakmand had reportedly said “We (PAEC) invited Dr. A.Q. Khan to the Chaghi test site to show him what a nuclear explosion looks like!” [c] and at another point that " A.Q.Khan's contribution to the entire nuclear weapons programme is not more than 5% of the entire effort!"

The PAEC team under Munir Ahmed Khan kept their silence about their activities and work and publicly never admitted that they had anything to do with nuclear weapons, as it was state policy throughout the covert period of 1972-98, never to officially admit that Pakistan was a declared nuclear weapons state or was pursuing a nuclear weapons programme. This enabled AQ Khan to claim and get away with what was actually performed by PAEC. They religiously adhered to the policy of secrecy about their work and did not believe in any cheap publicity or counter-productive boasting on the part of the scientists and engineers about their achievements.

There is one important point to note while examining whether there was state approval of proliferation: only KRL was leaking. Had there been state policy, the other 23 groups should have been leaking also. Qadeer only leaked what he could (the so-called Libyan blueprints might turn out to be the rival KRL design which could not be constructed). [ci]

Therefore, the “title of Father of the Bomb applies at the political level to Z.A Bhutto, and at the technical level to Munir Ahmed Khan and his team of scientists and engineers at PAEC”. In an interview with United Press International, in February, 2004, former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and the daughter of the man who began the nuclear weapons programme in Pakistan in 1972, Prime Minister Z.A.Bhutto, remarked that,

”Indeed Munir Ahmed Khan was the long-term Chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) and considered by many as the real father of Pakistan's bomb.” [cii]

In another interview given in 2004, regarding the beginning of the nuclear weapons programme and her father Z.A.Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto said that "The main person around it was Munir Ahmed Khan, who became chairman of PAEC, and my father put together the team of scientists for this and he followed two paths to nuclear status. One was the reprocessing plant and he negotiated an agreement with France for a reprocessing plant and then he did a uranium enrichment plant." [ciii]

The National Development Complex was another success story of PAEC, and today NESCOM is one of the most important strategic organizations, which essentially has its roots in the success of NDC as a subsidiary of the PAEC, thus again bearing testimony to the vision, competence and patriotism of successive PAEC Chairmen and their equally capable teams of scientists and engineers. After A.Q. Khan and PAEC Chairman Dr. Ishfaq Ahmad (1991-2001) were both retired, the nuclear weapons development was taken out of PAEC and placed under the National Engineering and Scientific Commission (NESCOM), with Dr. Samar Mubarikmand as its head. NESCOM is also running the missile programme with the development of the Solid fueled Shaheen ballistic missiles and the Babar Cruise Missile. It has its roots in the National Development Complex (NDC). This was the same Samar who conducted the 1998 tests at Chaghi and who was called a protege of Munir Ahmed Khan by A.Q.Khan. He had served as Member (Technical) of PAEC under Dr. Ishfaq Ahmad. When the PAEC concluded an agreement with Chian to acquire the solid fueled M-11 ballistic missiles from China in 1989, A.Q.Khan soon after managed to get the liquid fueled "Ghauri", from North Korea, and again hit the public imagination as the man who also gave Pakistan the delivery system for the bomb. The fact was that with the foundations of NDC having being laid in 1990, the PAEC was already on its way to start work on the solid fueled "Shaheen" ballistic missile, before the Ghauris or the Taepodongs and Nodongs became operational.

Therefore, in the light of the above discussion, the falsification of the country’s nuclear history must be done away with and the facts should be accepted as they are, not as they have been distorted and told to the public for many years now, in order to restore the credibility of Pakistan’s nuclear programme and honor those who served Pakistan with impeccable honesty, selfless devotion and intense patriotic zeal, and gave Pakistan the means to safeguard her independence, despite acute resource constraints and sanctions, without using the nuclear programme for personal aggrandizement or financial corruption and who have enabled us to safeguard our honor as a nation.

As the continuing revelations of Abdul Qadeer Khan's proliferation activities show, his and his accomplices' greed and his own insatiable appetite for fame at the cost of other scientists, and his willingness to sacrifice Pakistan's security interests for personal gain are remarkable. The PAEC scientists' silence, dedication and willingness to forego glory in order to get the mission accomplished, stands in striking contrast to Dr.A.Q.Khan's behaviour. One can only hope that the people of Pakistan one day realize who their true heroes are.

Note: For feedback kindly contact at: m_a_chaudhri@yahoo.com

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