A.Q. Khan Discusses Pakistan’s Nuclear Program

Pakistan was ready to test a nuclear weapon just six years after it first began to enrich uranium, according to A.Q. Khan, the architect of the Pakistani nuclear program and an infamous proliferator of nuclear weapons designs and technology.

“It was 6 April 1978 when we achieved our first centrifugal enrichment of uranium,” Khan recalled in a chatty, wide-ranging interview with Pakistani television (pdf) last week. “We had achieved 90 percent [enrichment] by early 1983.”

“I wrote a letter to General Zia on 10 December 1984, telling him that the weapon was ready and that we could detonate it on a notice of one week,” Khan said.

In addition to a timeline for the Pakistani nuclear weapons program, the Khan interview discusses the costs and logistics involved, and his successful efforts to evade export controls.  “They could not outmaneuver us, as we remained a step ahead always,” he said.

The interview also provides “interesting information about Pakistan’s supply chains, which he says were the same for Iran and Libya as well,” said Ivanka Barzashka, an FAS researcher who is studying the proliferation of centrifuge technology.

The interview with A.Q. Khan, who was recently released from house arrest, was broadcast in Karachi on August 31.  It was helpfully translated from the Urdu by the DNI Open Source Center.  The translated interview has not been publicly released, but a copy was obtained by Secrecy News.  See “Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan Discusses Nuclear Program in TV Talk Show,” Aaj News Television, August 31, 2009.

No Responses to “A.Q. Khan Discusses Pakistan’s Nuclear Program”

  1. Musa Abbasi September 9, 2009 at 5:32 AM #

    The history of Islamic nation of Pakistan might not be all that long but surely it is rich to say the least. Without taking into account the politicians or their politics, there are many many examples of heroic deeds and excellent services to the nation. I am sure millions and millions of my Pakistani brothers and sisters would join me to salute Dr. A Q Khan for his treasured contribution to our national defences.

    Pakistani nation owes our HERO all the gratitude and corresponding recognition. My personal and on behalf of millions and millions of others, it would be only reasonable to advise that present government should make arrangements to award Dr. A Q Khan the highest national ‘Honour’ and the day should be celebrated by issuing special commemorative postal stamps as well as currency coins. Furthermore, Dr. Khan should be strenuously recommended for the award of “Nobel Prize” for providing service and protection to MANKIND.

  2. captbilly September 16, 2009 at 12:19 AM #

    To: Musa Abbasi. There is absolutely no precedent for a weapons scientist (much less a weapons proliferator, and nuclear at that) receiving a Nobel prize. Nobel created the Nobel prize partially out of guilt from his own part in developing weapons, so it would be completely out of the realm of reason to think that the Nobel prize committee would even think of awarding a prize to Khan.

  3. Robert Sherman September 19, 2009 at 11:31 PM #

    The only function of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons can be to fight a nuclear war with India, in which both sides will lose very badly. So a fitting honor to AQ Khan would be to name the first India-caused nuclear bomb crater in Pakistan after him. Given his pecuniary history, we shouldn’t be surprised to find him selling tickets to the Khan Crater.

  4. Umar Farooq September 22, 2009 at 9:43 AM #

    In my view, there is not a single nuclear armed country in the entire world which has not or is not proliferating. Take the case of USA. They knew that they would need a bomb to end the war quickly and keep the sufferings away from mainland America and thus they developed the bomb with the help of “allied” scientists from U.K etc. Help was sought from even those scientists who were captured or had “turned themselves in”.

    Then the Soviets had spies on the American A-bomb project from the very birth of the Manhattan project and they were also successful in developing the bomb.

    To counter the growing threat of a Communist nuclear attack on allied Europe, the USA helped arm France and U.K. The Americans, French and U.K helped the Israelis develop the bomb AND allegedly covered it up for decades. The French helped the South-Africans. The Soviets helped the Chinese, and later the Indians develop the bomb.

    But the strange outburst on nuclear proliferation comes when the Chinese help Pakistan build the bomb . More surprisingly, Dr A.Q Khan admits that the Pakistanis ONLY “advised” Iranians, Libyans and North Koreans on the Nuclear blackmarket as Pakistan needed a missile system which could carry the A-bomb; and the world labels him as the biggest proliferator in the sad history of mankind.

    The double standards are quite visible when the West labels Pakistan’s nuclear bomb as an “Islamic Bomb”. The question arises: Why don’t you call Israel’s weapon a Jewish bomb and Indian’s bomb the Hindu bomb? Same goes for the other countries.

    I personally don’t oppose Israel’s or India’s quest for an A-bomb, I think that both probably felt threatened by hostile neighbours. Same goes with Pakistan; We were threatened by a Nuclear enemy that was already much ahead of us in the conventional league, was 6 times bigger than us in land area and was economically much more strong than we were. So, we went for the bomb. And the “world” labels it as an ISLAMIC BOMB.

    As for the proliferation drama : Why doesn’t the world worry or inquire about the hundreds of nuclear scientists who went “missing” after the fall of Soviet Union? What about the nuclear material that went missing in the same time?

    My answer is: Double standards!

  5. Nikhil September 23, 2009 at 7:07 PM #

    Umar Farooq,

    You said, “But the strange outburst on nuclear proliferation comes when the Chinese help Pakistan build the bomb”.

    - The nuclear non-proliferation treaty came in to existence in the 1970′s. Since then, only Pakistan and China have proliferated nukes as official policy on either strategic or religious grounds. So, the outburst is justified. We all know how the nukes were used as a barter for missile technology from the North Koreans.

    You said, “the West labels Pakistan’s nuclear bomb as an “Islamic Bomb”

    - It was Pakistan, not the West, which proudly labeled its nuclear bomb as protector of Islamic world and called it the Islamic bomb. AQ Khan has gone on record saying that his bomb protects Islamic Pakistan and has happily offered the technology to other Islamic nations such as Libya, Iraq and Iran. (Ironically, Iraq refused)