Who Built Pakistan’s Bomb?

One might assume that that is a silly rhetorical question after all Pakistan built its nuclear weapons on their own didn’t they? Perhaps. But, where did the technical knowledge and equipment come from giving Pakistani scientists the ability to create the Islamic bomb. As they call it. A speech given by President Dwight D. Eisenhower deliver at the on December 8, 1953 called Atoms for Peace in which he laid a vision for the peaceful uses for atomic energy might be a good starting point as discussed in an article by Catherine Collins and Douglas Frantz which appeared in the November 29, 2007 issue of the Asia Times.  

Its their assertion that Pakistan’s bomb isn’t one which was produced ingeniously but was a cooperative of the worlds major industrial powers and the multinational corporations which provided the necessary infrastructure for the manufacture of the components not only for the atoms peaceful uses but for the weapons these countries felt were needed for their national defense. What effects did the Atoms For Peace program have?

Homi Sethna, chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission, spelled out the program’s impact after his country tested its first nuclear device in 1974. “I can say with confidence,” he wrote, “that the initial [Atoms for Peace program] cooperation agreement itself has been the bedrock on which our nuclear program has been built”.

As we all know it was the development of not only of India’s nuclear weapons but its complete nuclear program which gave Pakistan the impedes for creating its own nuclear program and the weapons that finally came with it.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the late Pakistani prime minister and father of Benazir Bhutto, first talked publicly about nuclear weapons in the early 1960s when he was Pakistan’s energy minister. In his 1967 autobiography, Bhutto wrote, “All wars of our age have become total wars … and our plans should, therefore, include the nuclear deterrent.” But Pakistan’s generals rejected his ideas, arguing that the cost of producing a nuclear bomb would cut too deeply into spending on conventional weapons. It wasn’t until after Bhutto became prime minister that he officially launched Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program in 1972.

A.Q. Khan is the father of Pakistan’s nuclear development program. Born in Bhopal India his family would emigrate to Pakistan in 1952. After graduating university in Pakistan A.Q. Khan would receive advanced degrees from the university of  Delft in the Netherlands and Catholic University in Leuven Belgium. Upon graduation he would return to the Netherlands to work at Physical Dynamics Research Laboratory (FDO) the year was 1972.

In May 1974, India carried out its first nuclear test, code named Smiling Buddha, to the great alarm of the Government of Pakistan. Around this time, Khan had privileged access to the most secret areas of the URENCO facility as well as to documentation on the gas centrifuge technology. A subsequent investigation by the Dutch authorities found that he had passed highly-classified material to a network of Pakistani intelligence agents; however, they found no evidence that he was sent to the Netherlands as a spy nor were they able to determine whether he approached the Government of Pakistan about espionage first or whether they had approached him. In December 1975, Khan suddenly left the Netherlands; he returned to Pakistan in 1976.[4].

The former Dutch Prime Minister, Ruud Lubbers, said in early August 2005 that the Government of the Netherlands knew of Dr. A.Q. Khan “stealing” the secrets of nuclear technology but let him go on at two occasions after the CIA expressed their wish to continue monitoring his movements

For the authors the development of Pakistan’s nuclear program is equal to what today is called globalization with the number of countries that provided Pakistan with technical and scientific assistance in their quest for a nuclear weapons. This is best expressed in letters they obtained written by A.Q. Khan discussing which countries are either providing equipment or actual guidance to help them meet their goal.

These are some excerpts from those letters

It was an exciting time for Pakistan’s fledgling nuclear program. On June 4, 1978, A Q Khan wrote to Aziz Khan, describing early tests of his centrifuge designs, referring to the process of substituting helium for uranium gas as putting “air in the machine”.

“June 4 is a historical day for us. On that day we put ‘air’ in the machine and the first time we got the right product and its efficiency was the same as the theoretical … As you have seen, my team consists of crazy people. They do not care if it is day or night. They go after it with all their might. The bellows have arrived and like this we can increase the speed of our work.”

Khan’s international nuclear shopping spree was soon on display as he wrote proudly to his Canadian friend just a week later to recount the trip made by a member of his clandestine procurement network to Japan to obtain some critical, though unexplained help. “Colonel Majeed is back from Japan and thanks God all the problems have been solved. Next month the Japanese would come here and all the work would be done under their supervision.”


So, who built Pakistan’s bomb? Just the major industrial and nuclear powers of the world all starting from a speech given by Dwight D. Eisenhower to the U.N in 1953.    


  1. pointing this out. I try to look at AToL pretty much every day, but don’t always manage it. They do some very excellent reporting on a part of the world much underserved by US-based media.

  2. CANNOT be published too often. You go.

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