Articles Pakistan Affairs

Nuclear Programme of Pakistan | History and Overview

Historical Perspective:

Pakistan successfully detonated its six nuclear devices at Chaagi on 28 may 1998. If we go into past, Although Pakistan recognized as an independent state on 14th August 1947. Our first door neighbor India never endure Pakistan as a state.  They always use to torture and destabalise Pakistan when they got an opportunity. Wars in 1948, 1965 and 1971 shows Indian wrath and rage for Pakistan.

As Pakistan was relatively fragile state than India, they have a continuous fear of physical confrontation from her neighbor. In reaction to the India’s demonstration as a nuclear state on 18th may 1974, Pakistan also decided to establish some Nuclear institutes in order to overcome the threats of the world particularly India. The two most important reasons behind Pakistan setting up of nuclear institutes are

  • India’s rash and imprudent decision to make a series of explosions.
  • Jubilation in India after adopting aggressive and hostile stance against Pakistan.

The impartial survey proves that Pakistan did their best to convince India to keep south Asia free from Nuclear weapons but Indian bosses’ didn’t’ accept any offer from Pakistan. Even they were not ready to negotiate with Pakistan.

In these circumstances it was very vital for Pakistan to establish some atomic research centers to balance the power of threatening states. Pakistan could only compete his foe after establishing Nuclear weapons, so that a message would convey to their opponents for MAD (mutually assured destruction). This would help a lot to prevail peace in south Asia. Pakistan, after becoming a nuclear state: the visible change in the temper and tone of Indian’s prime minister and his top brass leaders has been noticed.

Before the nuclearisation of Pakistan, world didn’t pay any heed on the issue of Kashmir. But just after nuclearisation Kashmir became a global issue and entire world realized that Kashmir is a route cause of all the issues. None of the states can become peaceful without resolving Kashmir problem.

Foremost reason behind the detonation of nuclear weapons by Pakistan was continuous threats of security by his neighborhood. The Territorial dispute of Kashmir between Pakistan and India compelled Pakistan to nuclear explosions.

Pakistan’s Nuclear Programme


The proposal to formulate an atomic energy programme for Pakistan owes its origin to President Dwight Eisenhower’s 1954 atoms for peace proposal. Pakistan contrive its first atomic energy institute in January 1955 that was encouraged by United States. This was followed by the setting up of the Pakistan atomic energy commission (PAEC) in 1956. Nazir Ahmad was appointed as the first chairman of PAEC but as he was not a scientist himself and also he didn’t get any support from the government of Pakistan, Therefore PAEC under his supervision didn’t make any progress.

Doctor Usman Era:-

In 1960 Dr I.H USMANI was appointed as the head of commission. He was very able and physicists by training. Under his supervision PAEC made a lot of progress and during his era PAEC was emerged as a nucleus of nuclear decision making in Pakistan. Atomic energy programme was given a boost for peace in 1963. He established two energy centres

  • Pakistan Institute Of Science And Technology (PINSTECH) at Nilore near Islamabad
  • Karachi Atomic Nuclear Plant (KANUPP) at Karachi.

KANUPP started working in 1971. It started generating electricity with Canadian assistance and it was inaugurated by Munir Ahmad Khan (new chairman of PAEC in 1972). Usmani sent many scientist in abroad for training, who came back equipped with latest knowledge of nuclear scientists. Along with Dr Abdul Salam, Usmani was encouraged and supported by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who was the minister in charge of the atomic energy.

In 1964 when India started reprocessing its spent fuel from its power reactors for military use Bhutto began thinking of exercising the nuclear weapon option. In 1970 Pakistan negotiated with France for reprocessing plants but for dismay Paris went back on its written commitment due to the pressure forced by Washington.

Canadians also stopped supplying fuel to Pakistan for KANUPP. PAEC began enriching uranium to be used as a fuel for Kanupp. In spite of deprived from Canadians support Pakistan was able to generate electricity from enriching uranium.

At a meeting held on 2 January 1972 at Multan Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto addressed to the audience:

“I had always wanted Pakistan to take the nuclear road but no one listened to me”

Turning to the scientists he queried “anyone can do it” they said “yes we can” but if you provide us facilities, in reply to that Bhutto said I will provide a complete assistance to you.

After some time Bhutto was informed about Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan who was working at the Almelo Plant in Netherlands. He was very efficient and had the capability to built nuclear weapons by centrifuge method. Dr A.Q khan obtained his doctorate in physical metallurgy

While working in Netherlands he was not happy for being removed from sensitive post and he applied in Karachi for job in steel mill that was newly established at that time. Bhutto got in touch with him and asked him to come back in Pakistan. when he met prime minister, he was asked to” forget about steel mill”. He was enquired of how to start work on uranium enrichment plant.

When he came back in Pakistan in 1975 Bhutto asked him to work on plant. He was given free hand by government. The work on plant was started in 1976. All the upcoming governments including Zia ul Haq supported him and he established Khan Research Laboratory (KRL). It was quite autonomous in his work.

Nuclear reaction by uranium was not an easy process. Nuclear reaction is only carried by U-235

That is present in very scarce quantity in U-238. U235 can be only separated from natural uranium at very high speed by centrifuge. Pakistan declared that it had succeeded in producing weapon grade uranium in Feb 1984. The nation acquired nuclear capability in 1987. Pressure began to applied by United States and uranium enriching plant was frozen between 1994-1997. Gen Aslam Baig denied that Pakistan didn’t freeze this testing because of outside pressure but because there is no further need of it.

At last because of Indian’s nuclear testing on 13 may 1998 Pakistan detonated its 5 nuclear weapons on 28 may 1998 and one at 30 may 1998 at Chaagi. In this way series of 6 nuclear testing by Pakistan was accomplished.

About the author

Muhammad Awais Bukhari

Leave a Comment