Munir Ahmad Khan - Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC)

Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC)

Shortly after the disintegration of East-Pakistan on 16 December 1971, President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto approved and gave authorisation of crash programme to develop an atomic bomb. On 20 January 1972, a secret meeting of scientists and engineers at Multan was arranged and held by Abdus Salam to meet with the President. Without wasting any moment, Bhutto invited Khan to take over the crash programme, a task that Khan threw himself into with full vigor. During this secret meeting, Bhutto exhorted the assembled scientists and engineers to develop the atomic bomb under Khan, despite he had been unknown to many senior scientists. Even though Khan was not a doctorate holder, he had gained extensive experience, first as a reactor engineer in the United States, and later as head of the IAEA's reactor physics division, which enabled him to direct senior scientists to working under him. Both Bhutto and the military were impressed with Khan's breadth of scientific knowledge and his unparalleled exposure in engineering, ordnance, metallurgy, chemistry and interdisciplinary projects that would differs the physics.

Within two months, he submitted a detailed plan to President Bhutto which envisaged the establishment of numerous manufacturing plants and facilities needed to master the complete nuclear fuel cycle. In November 1972, President Bhutto, accompanied with Khan and Salam, inaugurated country's first 137MWe commercial nuclear power plant, KANUPP-I— a commercial nuclear power plant. In December 1972, Munir Khan called a meeting with Salam to initiate conceptual and design work for building atomic bombs. On 20 December, Abdus Salam established the Theoretical Physics Group (TPG) in PAEC when two theoretical physicists working at the International Center for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), were asked by Abdus Salam to report to the Chairman of PAEC. After reporting to Khan, the TPG was fully functioned under his direction, and began the work on fast neutron calculations as well developing appropriate theoretical designs develop the designs of atomic bomb. Abdus Salam took over the work on fast-neutron calculations as the director of TPG which worked directly under the PAEC.

One of the important act was to called for a meeting for physical development of bomb at his PINSTECH building. Khan invited mechanical engineer Hafeez Qureshi of Radiation and Isotope Applications Division (RIAD), chemical engineer Zaman Shaikh of DESTO, and the Theoretical Physics Group's members including Riazuddin and Abdus Salam. There, it was decided to established Directorate for Technical Development (DTD), and busied themselves calculating mathematical calculations, and physical development to make the bomb. During the meeting the word "bomb" was never used, but the participants fully understood what was being discussed. The next day, Salam, Riazuddin and Khan chaired a last meeting with Lieutenant-General Qamar Ali Mirza and the Engineer-in-Chief of the Corps of Engineers to handle its part in atom bomb project, with first starting the construction of the Metallurgical Laboratories (MLab). Meanwhile, the DTD busied itself to developed the chemical explosive lenses, a sub-critical sphere of fissile material could be squeezed into a smaller and denser form.

Abdus Salam headed TPG until 1974 who previously reported to Zulfikar Bhutto; after Salam's departure, the TPG was instituted under Riazuddin directly reporting to Khan, and continued to develop new indigenous nuclear weapons designs which were tested in various cold tests by PAEC. In the months and initial years following Khan's taking over the atom bomb project, the PAEC entered into agreements with France, Belgium, Canada, and West-Germany for the supply of a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, a heavy water plant and a nuclear fuel fabrication plant, which were to be under IAEA safeguards. But following India's 1974 nuclear test (Smiling Buddha), these agreements were abrogated by the supplier states due to Pakistan's refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

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