Today’s article is meant to draw attention to an important event in our history. On December 10, 1984, the director security of KRL, Col A Rahman, Maj Gen Anis Ali Syed and I had a meeting with the then president Ziaul Haq.
We first met Gen Mian Abdul Waheed, COS to the president, and gave him a historic letter for the president informing him that we had carried out a number of successful cold tests. I also stated that the KRL could carry out an actual explosion at a week’s notice. When we were ushered into the president’s office we were met by a beaming Gen Zia who warmly shook hands and congratulated us and then proceeded to hug me. He told us that he would refer back to us about a hot test.
Gen Zia called a meeting after a few days in which he informed us that it was his well-considered opinion that, since the US was providing substantial financial and military aid, we should hold out on a hot test for the time. The appropriate time to do so was forced on us by India in May 1998. This letter has been confirmed by Gen K M Arif in his interview published in the book ‘Deception’ by Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark (Walker & Co, NY, 2007, page 112). In the same book, Ghulam Ishaq Khan is also said to have mentioned it.
Since it will soon be the anniversary of the historic event of our nuclear explosions of May 28, 1998, some issues need clarification. Some people have tried to distort facts and give credit where it was not due. They have claimed that this work was not done at the KRL.
In an attempt to put an end to this controversy once and for all, I am reproducing here an authentic document written by none other than the redoubtable late Ghulam Ishaq Khan, who very closely supervised the nuclear programme for almost two decades. He knew me personally for almost 27 years. This letter was written to Zahid Malik, a noted journalist, and nobody can doubt Ghulam Ishaq Khan’s integrity, impartiality, honesty and objectivity.
“My dear Malik Sahib,
Thank you for your letter asking me for my views on Dr A Q Khan’s personality….
I have been...associated in various official capacities with the work and doings of Dr A Q Khan...for over two decades. Early in our association I could perceive in him a person imbued with a noble mission in life, difficult to achieve but not impossible for a man with his attributes of character. Later, of course, I would witness how assiduously he applied himself to move with steadfast determination towards achievement of the goal that he had set for himself. It was...with great delight and admiration to listen in our regular monthly meetings to his report on the progress made and the distances travelled...
“It is said that ‘an institution is the lengthened shadow of one man and the length of the shadow is largely influenced by the appointments he makes….’ Working practically on a green field, one of the first tasks which Dr A Q Khan addressed when he accepted the challenge of developing Pakistan’s nuclear programme was … establishing the Kahuta (KHAN) Research Laboratories (KRL) and manning them by a team of loyal, trustworthy and dedicated engineers and scientists with professional excellence. By now, KRL has emerged as one of our most outstanding institutions, on par with some of the best in the world in the field of defence production and research. It comprises facilities for uranium enrichment to weapon grade levels, ... together with state of the art workshops, amenities and equipment... for the indigenous production of missiles (including Ghauri) and a whole range of other battlefield weapons from antitank devices, multi-barrel guns, and night vision appliances, etc.
“This was the first major step towards attainment of self reliance in defence technology and KRL, under the able leadership of Dr A Q Khan, has thereby made invaluable contributions to the defence and security of the country.
“To invest KRL with its present capabilities constituted a real challenge for its architect; technical problems confronted for the first time had to be resolved; man-made hurdles had to be circumvented and even natural hazards had to be conquered. …. Often bans were imposed at critical times on export of critical items, validly and openly contracted, even paid for, which then had to be fabricated locally through experimentation, trial and error or the long drawn-out tedious process of reverse engineering.
“Again, on at least three occasions, the elaborate array of hundreds of extremely delicately balanced, fast revolving centrifuges, painstakingly erected, were knocked flat down by severe jolts of unexpected earthquakes…. These had to be reconstructed and recreated at a great cost of labour and time. In these circumstances any other person not endowed with the indomitable will and tenacity of Dr A Q Khan would have thrown in the sponge.
“These events, however, simply spurred him to work with still greater vigour and determination, with the result that … not only would the colossal damage be restored, but … design parameters improved. Today KRL and its allied outfits stand as a shining monument to the foresight, and patriotic vision and hard work of its architect. It also vividly illustrates that, given the opportunity, a modicum of resources, some encouragement and, above all, a wise, dedicated and selfless leadership, dreams can indeed be turned into reality.
“The nation owes a debt of gratitude to its nuclear scientists and engineers for transforming an essentially technologically backward country into the 7th Nuclear Power state in the world. In bringing about this radical change the most vital and crucial contribution, in my judgment, was made by Dr A Q Khan and his research organizations. Using weapon grade enriched uranium, a product of KRL, as ‘fuel’, they had developed by the 2nd half of 1984, a nuclear explosive device which could be assembled and detonated at a short notice.”
To be continued