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Context of 'November 1979: Britain Regulates Sale of Components Wanted by A. Q. Khan'

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Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan and people related to him start to travel to Britain to purchase components for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. Khan’s link to the program is already known to Western intelligence agencies, but it is unclear how closely he and his associates are followed at this time. On one trip in August 1977, Khan meets British businessmen Peter Griffin and Abdus Salam, who supply equipment for Khan. The meeting is also attended by a number of Pakistanis: Brigadier Sajawal Khan Malik, a civil engineer building a nuclear facility for Khan, Dr. Farooq Hashmi, his deputy, Dr. G. D. Alam, Khan’s computer expert, and a brigadier general named Anis Nawab. Griffin will become a key supplier for Khan, and Pakistanis will frequently visit him in London. Khan sometimes comes himself if a large order is to be placed, but most times he sends a representative, Colonel Rashid Ali Qazi, and other scientists. After each visit, Griffin receives a telex specifying exactly which parts Khan wants. Griffin also becomes friends with Khan and is invited to visit him at his home in Pakistan. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 39-40]

Entity Tags: Farooq Hashmi, Abdul Qadeer Khan, Anis Nawab, Peter Griffin, Abdus Salam, Rashid Ali Qazi, Sajawal Khan Malik

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan obtains 20 high-frequency inverters, a key piece of machinery for producing enriched uranium, from Europe. The inverters are ordered by a German contact called Ernst Piffl, based on Canadian literature apparently supplied by an associate of Khan’s named A. A. Khan. They are supplied by Emerson Industrial Controls, a British subsidiary of the US giant Emerson Electrical. Emerson had supplied the same equipment to a British nuclear plant, but does not raise the alarm over such equipment being shipped for Pakistan. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 53-54]

Entity Tags: Ernst Piffl, Emerson Industrial Controls, Abdul Aziz Khan, Abdul Qadeer Khan

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

British Energy Secretary Tony Benn announces an inquiry into the sale of British equipment to Pakistan for use in that country’s nuclear weapons program, and suspends such sales. The action results from a tip-off about operations run by Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan from a disgruntled former supplier. Ernst Piffl had supplied Khan with 20 inverters, but Khan was unhappy with the price and switched suppliers (see Before July 1978). Piffl then blew the whistle on the business, alerting Frank Allaun, an MP for the British Labour Party, that the components were for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons industry. Allaun, who is associated with the anti-nuclear movement, began to ask questions about the parts in parliament and Benn then decides to suspend sales and start an inquiry. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 54] The inquiry will report back in the fall (see November 1979).

Entity Tags: Anthony Neil Wedgwood Benn, Ernst Piffl, Frank Allaun

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan mentions inverters, a piece of equipment he needs for his nuclear weapons work, in a letter to an associate named A. A. Khan, who is based in Canada (see June 13, 1978). A. Q. Khan writes: “Perhaps you must have read in some newspapers that the English government is objecting about the inverters. Work is progressing but the frustration is increasing. It is just like a man who has waited 30 years but cannot wait for a few hours after the marriage ceremony.” The reference to the “English government” concerns the suspension of exports to Khan by Great Britain (see Before July 1978). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 54] A. A. Khan’s papers will subsequently be seized when he is arrested by the Canadian authorities for assisting the export of nuclear-weapons-related items to Pakistan (see August 29, 1980), and this letter will presumably be among the papers the Canadians obtain.

Entity Tags: Abdul Aziz Khan, Abdul Qadeer Khan

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Export control measures put in place by British and US authorities begin to have an effect on the efforts of Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan to build a nuclear weapon. The measures were adopted to prevent Khan from purchasing in the West the equipment he needs to produce enough uranium to make his project succeed. Authors David Armstrong and Joe Trento will later comment, “Khan’s supply network had been interrupted, and he was now having difficulty obtaining critical centrifuge components and other equipment for [his research facility in Pakistan].” Khan himself will write to an associate in Canada, “They are even stopping screws and nails.” By October 1979, reports are starting to surface saying that Khan’s research facility has come to a standstill. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 98]

Entity Tags: Abdul Qadeer Khan

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

British authorities begin surveillance of Abdus Salam, a businessman based in Britain who supplies equipment for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, in particular through his company SR International (see Summer 1976). The surveillance is apparently prompted by public controversy in Britain over the sale of components that are used in Pakistan’s nuclear program. According to the Pakistani book Long Road to Chagai, Salam is “kept under surveillance,” and a secret search of his office reveals “documents and drawings which were traced to the Urenco plant in the Netherlands,” where Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan used to work (see October 1974). The book’s author, Shahid Ur-Rehman, will say that this information “was revealed in background interviews by Dr. A. Q. Khan himself” and was confirmed by another source. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 100, 246] Salam’s associate Peter Griffin is interviewed by British customs some time in the next year (see 1980).

Entity Tags: Abdus Salam, Shahid Ur-Rehman, SR International

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

The British government places high-frequency inverters, equipment purchased by A. Q. Khan in Britain for his nuclear weapons work, on its export control list. This makes it practically impossible for Khan to obtain the parts in Britain. The move follows an official inquiry into the sale of British equipment to Khan (see July 1978). The inquiry found that a previous sale of inverters to Khan, arranged by British businessman Peter Griffin, was legal at that time. However, British Energy Secretary Tony Benn comments: “We acted in a way that was right and proper. But I have a sort of feeling it wasn’t effective, and that what President [actually Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali] Bhutto began and President [Muhammad] Zia [ul-Haq] continued is going to be, if it isn’t already, a nuclear weapon in Pakistan.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 55]

Entity Tags: Anthony Neil Wedgwood Benn

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

British businessman Peter Griffin is unable to obtain a license to export inverters to Pakistan, where they are wanted by his customer A. Q. Khan for nuclear weapons work. Griffin tries to obtain the inverters from Emerson Industrial Controls, which had previously supplied Khan with them through both Griffin and another intermediary (see Spring 1978). However, Griffin’s applications for an export license are refused twice. This is because the British government is now aware of the transactions and has placed inverters on its export control list (see November 1979). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 55]

Entity Tags: Emerson Industrial Controls, Peter Griffin

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Acting on a tip-off from British authorities, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police monitors two officials working for the A. Q. Khan nuclear purchasing ring as they enter Canada. The officials are Anwar Ali and Imtiaz Ahmad Bhatti, of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission. They come to Canada on diplomatic visas to purchase parts to make inverters—equipment that Khan needs to be able to produce weapons-grade uranium in Pakistan. The parts were formerly purchased in Britain, but that country is more aware of Khan’s attempts now, so he is forced to send people to Canada. Unaware of the close surveillance, Ali and Bhatti make contact with a local purchasing network of three naturalized Canadian citizens, Salam Elmenyami, Mohammad Ahmad, and A. A. Khan, who has been an associate of Khan’s since 1977 (see 1977). Over the next few weeks, the Canadians watch as the three men use a shopping list given them by Ali and Bhatti to buy resistors, capacitors, condensers, and other equipment through two electrical supply shops in Montreal. The gear comes from the US, from companies including General Electric, Westinghouse, RCA, and Motorola. The two shipping agents for moving it to Pakistan include Khalid Jassim General Trading, a Khan front organization operating out of the United Arab Emirates (see Before September 1980). The trio make at least 10 shipments of parts and equipment to Pakistan, with a total value of over half a million Canadian dollars. However, they are arrested in late August (see August 29, 1980). [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 103]

Entity Tags: Imtiaz Ahmad Bhatti, Abdul Aziz Khan, Anwar Ali, Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Salam Elmenyami, Mohammad Ahmad

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Three purchasers working for the A. Q. Khan nuclear proliferation ring are put on trial in Canada. The three men, A. A. Khan, Salam Elmenyami, and Mohammad Ahmad, had been monitored by Canadian authorities (see July-August 29, 1980) and arrested in August 1980 (see August 29, 1980). They are charged with a variety of offences, including failing to get export licenses, exporting goods imported from the US without adding value, and violating a law that regulates nuclear sales to other countries.
A. A. Khan's Defense - Restrictions on hearsay evidence mean that prosecutors cannot fully reveal A. Q. Khan’s role in the purchasing ring, so A. A. Khan is able to explain away cryptic correspondence with A. Q. Khan seized upon his arrest. For example, A. Q. Khan referred to enriching uranium as “put[ting] air in the machine,” but A. A. Khan claims this is a reference to producing cooking gas. He also claims that components they purchased to make inverters—equipment necessary to enrich uranium—are actually for textile and food processing plants.
Testimony about Invertors Curtailed - In addition, a witness who works for the British arm of the company Emerson Electric refuses to provide details of the sale of inverters to Pakistan through third parties, meaning that only portions of his testimony are admitted to the jury. Chief prosecutor Guy Gilbert will say that if the jury had got this testimony, it would have provided a “clear demonstration” the exported parts would be used for building inverters.
Sentences - At the end of the two-month trial, Almenyani and Ahmad are convicted on one count of exporting goods without a proper licence and fined $3,000 (Canadian). The maximum penalty for this offense is a fine of $25,000 (Canadian) and five years in prison. A. A. Khan is acquitted entirely. In a reference to many other failed prosecutions of A. Q. Khan’s associates in the west, authors David Armstrong and Joe Trento will write that this result will “become familiar in the years ahead.” Gilbert will later allege that the judge deliberately favored the defense (see April 10, 2006). [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 105]

Entity Tags: Guy Gilbert, Abdul Aziz Khan, Emerson Electric, Salam Elmenyami, David Armstrong, Mohammad Ahmad, Joseph Trento

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network


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