Sunday, March 11, 2012

The need for Pakistan to develop a nuclear deterrent to meet India's nuclear capacity.

Aqil Khan  
The need for Pakistan to develop a nuclear deterrent to meet India's nuclear capacity.

After India's nuclear test — code name “ Smiling Buddha” in May 1974,Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto sensed and saw this test as final anticipation for Pakistan’s  death. In a press conference, held shortly after India's nuclear test, Bhutto said, "India's nuclear program is designed to intimidate Pakistan and establish "hegemony in the subcontinent”.

Despite Pakistan’s limited financial resources, Bhutto was so enthusiastic about Pakistan’s nuclear energy project, that he is reported to have said "Pakistanis will eat grass but make a nuclear bomb”.
During the early stage of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission proposed to develop  the plutonium-based nuclear weapons for which few bureaucrats/ officials  advised  Mr. Bhutto  to buy a Nuclear reprocessing plant which later proved to be misleading  because of following  main reasons:
Ø  No fuel was available for reprocessing at that time as only a 135 MW  KANUPP commercial  nuclear reactor commissioned in 1972 was quite insufficient to produce/generate required amount of fuel to be reprocessed  for plutonium based programme.
Ø  Pakistan was not economically/technologically  in a position to invest and build more reactors indigenously  to produce fuel for reprocessing and to develop  the lengthy and expensive  infrastructure at that time.
Ø  Like KANUPP, if more  reactors were built , would had been under the supervision of International atomic energy agency and it was not possible to get the fuel from there for reprocessing.
Ø  After 18 years of efforts with the help of Chinese, Khushab Plutonium project (KCP-I),  only  a 50 MWe pressurized heavy water reactor (PHWR) near Khushab, was built, Known as Khushab-I, it went critical and started its operations in April 1998. Pakistan detonated five nuclear devices in the Chagai on 28 May 1998 and till that time Pakistan was having only enriched Uranium from KRL for detonation.

 Late  Mulana Kausar Nyazi of PPP mentioned in his book that the then bureaucrats/ officials had misled Mr. Bhutto and he sought on a long journey to try to get Nuclear fuel reprocessing plant from France.
After knowing huge investment, nonavailability of infrastucture, lengthy procedure and internatoinal restrictions for achieving plutonium base project, Mr Bhutto called Dr.Abdul Qadeer Khan from Holand.
A.Q.Khan after finishing his college in Karachi ,went to Europe in 1961 to continue his studies. First in Germany he attended the Technische Universität of West Berlin, then in Holland where he received a degree in metallurgical engineering at the Technical University of Delft in 1967. Finally Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan received a Ph.D. in metallurgy from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium in 1972. After Ph.D., A.Q. Khan went to work for the Physical Dynamics Research Laboratory (FDO), a subsidiary of Verenigde Machine-Fabrieken, in Amsterdam Holland in May 1972. FDO was a subcontractor to Ultra-Centrifuge Nederland (UCN) - the Dutch partner of the tri-national European uranium enrichment centrifuge consortium URENCO, made up of Britain, Germany, and the Netherlands.
In spring of 1976,Kahuta Reserch Facility, then known as Engineering Research Laboratories (ERL), was established by Prime Minister Z,A. Bhutto as part of codename Project-706. The program was separated from the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) and was brought under nuclear scientist  Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan and the Pakistan Army Corps of Engineer’s Lieutenant-General  Zahid Ali Akbar. Dr. A.Q. Khan was to report directly to the prime minister Z. A. Bhutto.
 Bhutto sought an advantage in establishing another comparatively low-cost parallel programme, the uranium enrichment base programme under Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan.

Centrifuge Enrichment Process:

Several methods now exist to enrich uranium. Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program is primarily based on enriched uranium produced with centrifuges. Without going into technological details of tiny steel ball bearings used in centrifuges, metal membranes, and steel springs used to dampen centrifuges, here we briefly discuss the process led by Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan of high speed gas centrifuges, devices that spin at very high speeds for extended period of time. First the Uranium is combined with the fluorine to produce uranium hexafluoride gas UF6. Then the centrifuge is filled with the gas and spun very rapidly. The molecules   of 238UF6 are slightly heavier  tend to concentrate in the outer areas of cylinder, leaving the slightly lighter molecules 235UF6 near the center of centrifuge. Gas is extracted from the region where the molecules of 235UF6 concentrate and feed to the next centrifuge.This procedure is repeated again and again, a few thousand times, depending upon the desired level of enrichment.

Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto mentioned that: "No less than any other nation did what Dr.Abdul Qadeer Khan is doing; the Soviets and Chinese; the British and the French; the Indians and the Israelis; stole the nuclear weapons designs previously in the past and no one them but rather tend to be quiet”.

According to Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan in an  interview, the first low enrichment was done at Kahuta on 6th April 1978. The plant was made operational in 1979 and by 1981 was producing substantial quantities of enriched uranium and A.Q.Khan sent a memo  on the successful  enrichment to Ghulam Ishaq Khan( the then Pakistan Minister of Finance).

In recognition of A. Q. Khan's contributions the ERL was renamed the A.Q. Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) by President Zia ul-Haq on 1st May 1981.

The underground iron-steel tunnels having been long constructed by Provincial Martial Law Administrator Lt.General Rahimuddin Khan during the 1980s for nuclear tests in Chagai Blochistan.

Role of  General Zia ul haq in Pakistan's nuclear program.

 Dr.A.Q.Khan with President of Pakistan Farooque Laghari and Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. 

In 1997, a publishing house in Lahore, Pakistan released a collection of mid-1980s to mid-1990s lectures by A. Q. Khan entitled Dr. A.Q. Khan on Science and Education.

After the Indian nuclear weapons tests in May1998, Abdul Qadeer Khan repeatedly met with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, asking for permission to test the atomic bomb in Chagai.

Finally, on 28 May 1998, a few weeks after India's second nuclear test (Operation Shakti), Pakistan detonated five nuclear devices in the Chagai Hills, Balochistan.

Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan displaying his Gold Medal awarded by President of Pakistan Rafiq Tarrar in Lahore after the 1998 tests.

Pakistan nuclear weapons program was developed to stop India from launching a war like 1971 and no one can disagree that presence of nuclear weapons have achieved that objective in last three decades and helped nation to maintain peace with honor in South Asia.

Tribute to Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan Mohsin-e-Pakistan.