RANDOM THOUGHTS: Youm-e-Takbeer - BY: Dr. A.Q. Khan

Dr. A.Q. Khan


The 28th May, 1998 is an unforgettable day in the history of Pakistan. This day is as important to us as the 14th August, 1947. In 1947 we gained our homeland and in 1998 we became a nuclear power, the first and only country in the Muslim World and the 7th in the world. This gave Pakistan an impregnable defence and the citizens a feeling of pride and satisfaction. Having managed to separate East and West Pakistan, it stopped the Indians from their next goal - to break up West Pakistan. But the Almighty has told us in the Holy Quran that, thought our enemies might be conspiring to harm us, He would be planning to do otherwise and He is the best planner of all. Thus those who were plotting against us failed in their endeavours. I am grateful that the Almighty chose me to help achieve this goal.

Our nuclear journey actually started on 16th December, 1971 when our army suffered a humiliating defeat in East Pakistan at the hands of the Indian army. Those scenes will stay with me forever. I was preparing to defend my Dr.Eng. thesis. After completing my Ph.D. I was offered a job in Amsterdam by the biggest industrial company of Holland with 100,000 employees. I had received many job offers, but we preferred to live in Holland as my wife’s parents were there. It was while working there that I learnt all about the state-of-the-art uranium enrichment technology by the centrifuge method. The centrifuge technology was a very sensitive one developed by Holland, Germany and England over a period of nearly 20 years and at a cost of billions of dollars. It was a highly classified project and hardly any other countries knew about it.

It had been a long journey before I reached this far. After migrating to Pakistan in 1952, I attended DJ Sindh Government Science College and obtained a B.Sc degree. I worked for 3 years as Inspector of Weights and Measures in Karachi and then enrolled in the famous Berlin Technical University. I departed in 1961 and joined the University after having completed the compulsory 6 months practical training and language studies in Dusseldorf. After 2 years I moved to Delft, Holland so that my fiancé could be near her elderly parents. In 1966 I obtained an M.Sc. Technology degree and then worked for a year as Assistant to my Professor. I was then offered a Ph.D. (Dr.Eng) scholarship in Leuven, Belgium, which I completed in early 1972.

I felt that the Indian nuclear explotion was a direct threat to our existence as a nation. This embolded me to write a letter to Mr. Bhutto stressing that we needed to give a fitting response. In December 1974 Mr. Bhutto called me for a meeting at which Munir A. Khan, Chairman PAEC had been called to listen in. I briefly told them what the technology was about and stressed that it was the only option left to Pakistan. I asked for a group to be formed to obtain the technical details and initiate work. I then returned to Holland, coming to Pakistan again in December 1975 for our annual holidays. Gen. Imtiaz Ali, a cousin of Akhtar Ali, my former fellow student at Berlin, asked me to review what work had been done by PAEC. I visited the facilities that had been created in Islamabad and Karachi, but soon realized that nothing worthwhile had been achieved. Gen. Imtiaz took me to see the PM, whom I informed accordingly. All of the sudden the PM asked me to remain in Pakistan and work for the country. I was in a quandary. I had a good job with excellent prospects, even had an offer of a professorship, my wife’s elderly parents were there and all my technical literature and books were in Holland. After lengthy discussion with my wife, we decided that I should remain and she would go back to pack up and then join me. We were given a house in F-8/1, the very outskirts of Islamabad at that with no transport at our disposal and no furniture until our things arrived 3 months later. My appointment was as Advisor to PAEC with a salary of Rs. 3,000 per month, the first of which I received after 6 months. After 6 months, when no progress had been possible, I wrote to the PM laying down the facts and telling him I wanted to return to Holland. The PM asked Mr. Agha Shahi (SG Foreign Affairs), Mr. A.G.N. Kazi (SG Finance) and Mr. Ghulam Ishaq Khan (SG Defence) to sort things out. They offered me the Chairmanship of PAEC, which I refused and suggested, for security reasons, that they put up a separate organization under my control – problem solved – Engineering Research Laboratories was born. Security was strict and only my immediate colleagues and I knew what it was all about. My work experience and expertise from Holland, the dedication of a competent team of engineers and scientists and working 18 hours a day 24/7, made it possible for us to become a nuclear power within 6 years, though the actual explosion took place much later. There were 4 people who greatly appreciated our work and knew how much effort was put in: Gen. Zia, Gen. S.A.Z. Naqvi, Mr. Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Mr. Agha Shahi. After putting the weapon’s programme on a solid basis, we also worked on missiles and defence equipment.

After serving diligently for 25 years, I retired with a pension of Rs. 4,467 per month. My efforts, and that of many of my colleagues, were “rewarded” by being placed under house arrest by Musharraf who, upon a single call from President Bush, had no qualms in sacrificing us all and the dignity of Pakistan. This while we had not signed the NPT or NSG and were under no obligation to discuss or disclose our nuclear activities.

I am extremely grateful to the millions of Pakistanis who express their admiration, love and gratitude to us and call me “Mohsin-e-Pakistan”. May the Almighty bless them all – Ameen.

Posted on May 30, 17 | 2:17 am