Munir Ahmad Khan - Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) - 1971 War and Atomic Bomb Project

1971 War and Atomic Bomb Project

See also: Pakistan and its Nuclear Detterent Program

In 1972, the development efforts were directed to a plutonium-implosion type weapon, called Kirana-I. On 18 May 1974, Munir Ahmad Khan was in Peshawar for laying the foundations of an agriculture center at Nuclear Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA), when India surprisingly conducted a test of its device under a codename "Smiling Buddha"; therefore, Khan cancelled the meeting despite civil engineer Farhatullah Babar's recommendation and flew to Islamabad to hold talks with Zulfikar Bhutto. Farhatullah Babar has described Khan's response after Indian explosion:

The day (May 18, 1974) India immaturely exploded her device, Munir Khan was in Peshawar where he had laid the foundation of an agricultural center and had planned a press conference in the evening... When Munir Khan heard the news, he cancelled the press conference. I insisted to continue the conference as it was planned, Munir Khan refused and said: "You should not expect me to talk about potatoes and onions when the Indians are exploding a nuclear device close to our border....". —Farhatullah Babar,

As he returned to Islamabad, Khan wrote a lengthy and detailed paper titled "India's nuclear explosion: Challenge and Response", and published his paper in IAEA soon after. Sensing the political importance of the test, Khan launched the initiated secret work on uranium enrichment under Bashiruddin Mahmood, as a part of the project that Munir Khan codenamed "Project-706". In 1976, Abdul Qadeer Khan was invited by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to join "706", later separating toe project from PAEC. But, due to technical differences, the Corps of Engineers took over the command of Project-706 from Abdul Qadeer Khan as its part of the atomic bomb project, beginning the transferring the responsibility from the Directorate of Science and Technology to the military. By June 1976, the team of scientists and engineers under the physicist Ghulam Dastagir Allam began rotating the first experimental centrifuges at the Air Force Science Research Laboratories.

"We were not just making the bomb, but building science and technology....

—Munir Khan describing the atomic bomb efforts,

In 1976, Khan tasked Ishfaq Ahmad and Ahsan Mubarak to search for a suitable nuclear test site. With the backing and support of the XII Corps, the team searched for a high scalar altitude graphite-mountain that would be suitable to take more than ~40kn of nuclear force when the chain reaction from a uranium or plutonium-based nuclear device using lithium /or beryllium reflectors. The team completed the site selection and development work of the nuclear test sites at Chaghi and Kharan in Baluchistan by 1980. Meanwhile, the TPG now started to directly report to Khan after Salam, and completed the research on Fast neutron calculations, hydrodynamics, and the designing of the fission weapons by 1978 and by 1982–83, work on the bomb was completed by PAEC.

The joint work of the various groups working in the Directorate of Technical Development and the Theoretical Physics Group in PAEC led to the first cold-test of a working atomic bomb on 11 March 1983, without the fissile material to prevent the nuclear fission, on a site that Munir Khan codenamed Kirana-I. A test team headed by Ishfaq Ahmad, the test's preparation and calculations were oversaw by Khan; other invitees to witness the test included senior statesman that Ghulam Ishaq Khan, and senior military officers including general Khalid Arif.

One of Khan's achievements is his technical leadership of the atomic bomb project, modelled on the Manhattan Project that prevented the exploitation and politicisation of the atomic bomb project into the hands of politicians, lawmakers, and the military officials. Khan focused on developing the atomic weapons and a diverse nuclear program, and regarded this clandestine atomic bomb project as building the science and technology for the country.

1974 was a difficult year for Pakistan and it was anticipated that Pakistan would now have to face international embargoes and sanctions on acquisition of nuclear technology and equipment from supplier states. So a long-term effort was launched for the indigenous production of spare parts, equipment and components for the atom bomb and the energy project.

To oversaw the uranium enrichment programme, a Coordination Board was set up to manage and supervise the project with Khan remained the scientific director of atomic bomb project. This Board was headed by senior statesman Ghulam Ishaq Khan, and had AGN Kazi, Agha Shahi and Khan as its members. However due to management differences, the military took control of the Project-706 with General Zahid Ali Akbar as its director while Abdul Qadeer Khan was made its chief scientist.

During a visit to PAEC's Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology (PINSTECH), in November 1986, the President of Pakistan, General Zia-ul-Haq praised the work being carried out in PAEC. He wrote in the visitor's book:

It has been a matter of great pride and satisfaction to see what all is going on in (Pakistan) Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC). It was heartening to see the progress that has taken place..... I congratulate Munir and his associates for all that they have done.... The People of Pakistan are proud of their achievements and pray for their success in the future.

Read more about this topic:  Munir Ahmad Khan, Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC)

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