RANDOM THOUGHTS: Destiny - BY: Dr. A.Q. Khan

Dr. A.Q. Khan


Last week I told you how one person managed to totally change the course of my life and, ultimately, Pakistan’s fate. But for his intervention, our brave jawans may very well have been presenting a Guard of Honour to Advani or Modi.

After meeting Prof. Stark of Berlin Technical University, cancelling my departure for Nigeria and making up my mind to go to Berlin for higher education, I had one month time before the start of the semester. I decided to stay in Dusseldorf for that month and travel to other cities for sightseeing on the weekends. I had already been to Amsterdam and Rotterdam in Holland but still wanted to see The Hague, so I went there by train and saw the city and the beautiful beach. As was my habit, I wanted to send a postcard as souvenir to my younger sister, to whom I was very close (and still am). To this end I found a tobacconist/souvenir shop, selected a postcard and asked the lady owner for the required postage stamp to Pakistan. She didn’t know how much stamp was required, but a young lady (Henny) standing nearby took a stamp out of her purse and gave it to me, for which she refused payment. On her asking, I told her I was a student from Pakistan and would be going to Berlin for higher studies after three weeks. We got talking and she told me the shop belonged to her parents. After taking down her address, I went back to Dusseldorf and we started corresponding. I invited her to visit Dusseldorf over the long Easter weekend, which she did, and I showed her all the beautiful placed in both Dusseldorf and Cologne.

Shortly after that I went to Berlin. It was a world-famous university with about 10,000 students. There were quite a lot of foreign students there, mostly from India and Iran. There was only one other Pakistani, Akhtar Ali. He was studying electronics and was in the third year. He was an intelligent student and we soon became firm friends (and still are). We often used to cook together. During the summer holidays I used to work in the Accounts Department with the American Forces and earn enough money to see me through the rest of the academic year. After some time I invited my friend, Henny, from Holland to visit Berlin. She liked the city very much and showed interest in coming to work there. She applied with the American Forces and got a job in the Finance Department. With great difficulty she managed to find a room to rent; there was still a shortage of housing at that time. It was just a small room without many facilities, so she would come to my hostel after work, where we would cook, eat, chat and work before she left back to her own room. We developed a very good understanding and I soon proposed and on her 20th birthday we became engaged. We celebrated our engagement in the hostel with our student friends. During the following Christmas holidays we went to The Hague to visit her mother, who was now alone. There we discussed the possibility of my shifting to Holland for studies. Upon investigation I found that the nearby town, Delft, had a good Technical University. We met with the Head of the Metallurgy Department, Prof. Jongenburger, who showed willingness to admit me while recognizing all the credits I had earned in Berlin so that I wouldn’t lose any time. Back in Berlin I obtained a Transfer Certificate and was accepted into Delft into the third year, having to do only 2 subjects.

On 9th March, 1964 we got married in a nikkah ceremony at the Pakistan Embassy in The Hague. Mr. Qudratullah Shahab was the Ambassador at the time and Mr. Jamiluddin Hassan the First Secretary. Mr. Shahab acted as witness for me while Mr. Hassan performed the nikkah ceremony. They hosted a nice reception for us afterwards. After marriage we moved to a suburb of The Hague, Rijswijk, halfway between The Hague and Delft – a very picturesque village. Henny worked with an American oil exploration company while I studied. In June 1967 I obtained a Master in Engineering with the world-famous Prof.Dr. W.G. Burgers, who subsequently made me his Research Assistant. However, I was keen to go to a new place and received a very good scholarship offer from the University of Leuven, Belgium (best in Europe now). It was a small, university city where we had a very nice student residence and made extremely good friends. It was a very productive time and at the beginning of 1972 I obtained my Dr.Eng. degree. Soon after that I received a job offer from the famous Dutch firm Werkspoor (employing about 100,000 people) which produced many sophisticated products. When I joined I was immediately placed on the enrichment of uranium by the centrifuge method team. It was a challenging job in which I was required to solve metallurgical problems. Holland, Germany and England had been working on it for 20 years and it was a top secret programme.

All this makes me firmly believe in destiny – all roads led to Kahuta, directly or indirectly. The technology I learnt in Holland made me an expert in the uranium enrichment field. This enabled me to come back to Pakistan and set up an enrichment plant. Within 7 years my colleagues and I managed to make Pakistan into a nuclear and missile power. Unfortunately, we did not receive the gratitude and recognition one would have expected and (dirty) politics played a heavy role. My colleagues and I paid a heavy price for our patriotism.

Posted on Feb 06, 17 | 3:59 am