Pakistan's Nuclear Programme

We  know  that  Israel  and  South Africa  have  full  nuclear
capability. The  Christian, Jewish  and  Hindu  civilizations
have  this  capability. The  communist  powers  also  possess
it. Only  the  Islamic  civilization  was  without  it,  but  that
position  was  about  to  change.


On Feb. 7, 1992 Pakistani Foreign Minister Shahryrar Khan stated in an 
interview with the Washington Post that Pakistan had the components to 
assemble one or more nuclear weapons. This goes farther than statements 
from any other "non-weapon state" in admitting to the existence of a nuclear 
arsenal. Pakistan had previously admitted to having fabricated pits for fission 
weapons. In July 1993 General (retired) Mirza Aslam Beg, former army chief 
of staff, claimed that Pakistan had tested a nuclear device. Since no information
 about an actual nuclear explosion has come to light, this presumably refers
 to a hydronuclear (zero-yield) test of a design.

The Pakistani nuclear weapons program began in great secrecy the 1970s after the Indian test of a nuclear device in 1974. Serious work commenced in 1976 with the establishment of the Engineering Research Laboratories (ERL).

The source of the intelligence gathered at URENCO, and the driving force behind its development into an industrial scale process in Pakistan, is a Pakistani metallurgist named Dr. Abdul Qader Khan, who can be fairly called the father of the Pakistani nuclear program.

A. Q. Khan
         Dr. Abdul Qader Khan in 1993

A. Q. Khan was employed from 1972 to 1975 by Ultra-Centrifuge Nederland (UCN) the Dutch partner in the URENCO consortium where he worked with two early centrifuge designs, the CNOR and SNOR machines. In 1974 UCN asked Khan to translate classified design documents for two advanced German machines, the G-1 and G-2. He left then Europe, before his espionage was detected, and assumed technical leadership of the program at ERL. Due to his efforts, the slow recognition of the program by western intelligence, and the weak export controls at the time, Pakistan made rapid progress in developing U-235 production capability.

In recognition of Khan's contributions the ERL was renamed the A.Q. Khan Research Laboratories by President Zia ul-Haq in 1981.

The uranium enrichment facility is the Kahuta gas centrifuge plant near Islamabad. This facility began operating in the early 1980s, but suffered serious start up problems. Dr. Khan announced that Kahuta was producing low enriched uranium in 1984. US intelligence believes that uranium enrichment exceeded 5% in 1985, and that production of highly enriched uranium was achieved in 1986. At that time Pakistan had reportedly manufactured 14000 centrifuges, but had only 1000 operating. By 1991 about 3000 machines were operating according to US intelligence. This implies a production capacity of 45-100 kg U-235/year depending on the tails concentration and production efficiency, enough for 3-7 implosion weapons. Shahryar Khan has said that the cost of Kahuta was relatively modest, less than $150 million.

 SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) estimates that Pakistan had acquired 120-220 Kg of enriched uranium by the end of 1991 (8-15 weapons).

On the testimony of General Beg  it would appear that this has probably progressed to the stage of hydronuclear tests of a complete weapon design. Pakistan probably acquired the ability to build a nuclear weapon soon in 1986, or soon after.

Pakistan has built a second enrichment plant at Golra, 6 miles from Islamabad. It is expected to be even larger than Kahuta, with more advanced centrifuges. It may not yet have begun production though due to difficulty in obtaining the necessary parts now. In March 1996 the New York Times reported that last year China had sold Pakistan 5000 ring magnets suitable for use in gas centrifuges.

Pakistan is developing weapons-related nuclear technology in other areas as well. It has a pilot plutonium reprocessing plant called "New Labs" at the Pinstech complex near Rawalpindi. Currently Pakistan's known reactors are all safeguarded by the IAEA, and thus unavailable for use in a weapons program. Pakistan is known to have been developing a "swimming pool" reactor in the late 80s using domestically produced enriched uranium fuel, which may already be in operation. Pakistan is also manufacturing reactor-grade graphite, presumably for a natural uranium plutonium production reactor. It currently possesses one power reactor with an output of 137 MW electrical. A 300 MWe pressurized water reactor for electricity which is under construction by the China National Nuclear Corporation at Chashma.

It has been reported recently that a 50 MWe "multi purpose" heavy-water reactor, entirely constructed by Pakistani engineers, has been completed near Khusab, in Punjab.It is said to be used for isotope production for export and for doping silica for use in solar energy applications. This has since been dismissed as "inaccurate and baseless" by Pakistani sources, but a "small experimental reactor" at Khusab.

                                                First  Pakistan's  Nuclear  tests