RANDOM THOUGHTS: Lest You Forget - BY: Dr. A.Q. Khan

Lest You Forget
Dr. A.Q. Khan


At Kahuta, we were not only a team of colleagues, but all part of one family. We were all working for one goal – to make nuclear weapons (and later, a guided missile for delivery) – for the defence of our beloved country. Starting in 1976, by 1983 we were able to detonate a nuclear device. Before retiring, I decided to set up a museum in which to honour senior colleagues. On the door was a plague reading: “Lest you forget, we were the pioneers”. The museum has photos of all the pioneers and of the stages of the program.

This reminds me of the ghazal by Shad Azimabadi, made immortal by Abida Perveen. Dhundoge agar mulkun mulkun; milne ke nahin nayab hein ham. Tabir he jiski hasrato ghaun ae hamnafso,wo khwab hese ham lakuhn hi musafir chaltay hen.Manzil pe puhunchtay hen do ek eh ehle zamana qadr karo, nayab na hun kamiab hen ham. (Free translation: while you search for us in many countries, you will not be able to find us because we are unique. The meaning of it being only desire and grief. Oh dear one, we are that dream. Hundreds walk towards that goal but only one or two manage to reach it. Oh you people! Respect us, we may not be unique, but we are successful.) This is such a beautiful ghazal and Urdu is very poetic language – it can put a whole book into a single page.

Benefactors of our country are first and foremost, Quaid-e-Azam, creator of Pakistan, who gave a country to the Muslims of the sub-continent. Shad’s verses represent him well. M.A. Jinnah fought against tremendous odds and succeeded. We live in an independent country but, unfortunately, the essence of Quaid’s dream has not been fulfilled.

After the Quaid-e-Azam, I personally rate Mr. Bhutto as a great benefactor of Pakistan. Our army was defeated and the country dismembered before his rule, yet he still went to India with head held high to seek release of our prisoners and for the return of occupied land. He managed to achieve both those aims without compromising our stand on Kashmir. When the Indians exploded an atom bomb in 1974, many of us were in shock and feared that soon India would strike (West) Pakistan and finish us off as an independent country. My letter to Mr. Bhutto suggesting we go for a matching response, met with a positive reaction. Since the two methods of making a bomb – diffusion and plutonium – were barred to us, I suggested we go all out for the little known centrifuge method. Mr. Bhutto had the foresight and the determination to take the decision to see this materialize. This method had been proven viable by a British, German and Dutch Consortium. It had taken them around 20 years and an investments of around $ 2 billion to prove this. Mr. Bhutto suggested I see him at the first possible opportunity, which arose when we visited Pakistan in December 1974 on a family visit. At that meeting I explained the pros and cons of the method. He asked the Chairman of PAEC to see me and I asked him to set up a preliminary team and to research available literature. We returned to Holland in January, coming on vacation again in December 1975. I again met with Mr. Bhutto and he asked me to see what progress PAEC had made in the past year. I visited their facilities and was greatly disappointed to learn that nothing had been achieved. Considering all the difficulties, Mr. Bhutto tentatively suggested I drop everything in Holland and remain in Pakistan. It came as a bombshell to us – our home was there, all my books, literature, etc. were in the office and I would have to give official resignation. After lengthy discussions with my wife, and despite the fact that her elderly parents lived in Holland, she agreed and I was appointed as Advisor to PAEC. It was a very difficult start – no facilities, no powers and no salary (I only received my first salary, a meager Rs. 3,000, after 6 months). Since I could not achieve anything under these circumstances, I informed Mr. Bhutto after 6 months that it was a waste of time and money and that I wanted to return to Holland. He asked for some time to consider and then requested Mr. A.G.N. Kazi, Mr. G. Ishaq Khan and Mr. A. Shahi (all Secretary Generals) to discuss the problem. They suggested the enrichment programme be detached from PAEC and to make an independent project directly under the PM. Mr. Bhutto agreed and the three above-mentioned Secretary Generals became Members of a Board of Coordination to help me. They were given PM’s powers to do so. This was a far-sighted decision, leading to the success of our project. These Board Members proved to be indispensable. When I retired in 2001 after serving the country for 25 years, my pension was Rs. 4,467.

Another irreplaceable personality was Ms. Benazir Bhutto. We had started producing nuclear weapons in 1983/84 and now needed a delivery system. I discussed the matter with COAS Gen. Aslam Beg and we took up the matter with BB. She immediately agreed. We decided to produce an M-11 type missile with a range of 500 km with the consent of Admiral I.A. Sirohey, then Chairman JCSC. I was appointed Chief Coordinator of the Guided Missile Programme and Brig. Saeed Beg, my Civil Works Officer, did a wonderful job in constructing excellent facilities near Khanpur Dam within a short span of time. Mr. Nawaz Sharif took over when BB’s government was dismissed and he refused to grant us any more funds for the project. When Ms. Benazir Bhutto returned to power once again, the matter of a long-range missile was discussed with the then COAS, Gen. A. Waheed Kakar. He went to the PM and she immediately agreed, after which we managed to produce and test Ghauri. Money was later also released for a shoulder-fired, anti-aircraft missile, Anza.

These are the people who meet the criteria of Shad’s ghazal: Dhundoge agar mulkon mulkon, milne ke nahin nayab hein hun!

Posted on Dec 31, 18 | 5:15 pm