Profile: Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC)
Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) was a participant or observer in the following events:
Following discussions with fellow Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan, on February 15, 1975, head of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) Munir Khan proposes that Pakistan formally establish a uranium enrichment program, to go with the plutonium enrichment program it already has. The $450 million plan calls for a centrifuge plant, a uranium mine, and a facility to produce uranium gas, which would allow Pakistan to produce a nuclear weapon. The proposal is approved by Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and a scientist known as Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood is placed in charge of the program. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 52-3]
Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan is appointed director of Pakistan’s uranium enrichment program, replacing Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood. The program is also separated from the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), and Khan is to report directly to the prime minister. The changes are a result of complaints Khan made about Mahmood and PAEC chief Munir Khan. In letters to both Munir Khan and Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Khan had threatened to resign and said that progress with uranium enrichment was very slow: “Each week passing is putting the project behind by at least two to three months.” In a meeting with Bhutto, Khan calls the PAEC chief and his associates “liars and cheats,” and points out there is no way they can carry out a promised test for a plutonium bomb by the deadline they have set. The separation of the plutonium bomb project under Munir Khan and the uranium bomb project under A. Q. Khan does have a benefit for Pakistan: the world is focused on frustrating Munir Khan’s plutonium project, and for a short while A. Q. Khan can “move forward relatively unhindered.” [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 57-59]
Two retired Pakistani Army officers travel to Britain for the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission. They are Major Mohammed Sadiq Malik, a procurement officer, and Captain Fida Hussein Shah, an assistant administrative officer. When interviewed by British officials, they say that Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan is their project director. Khan is currently leading an effort to build a uranium bomb. They also say they will visit a company called SR International, which is a front for Khan’s technology procurement efforts linked to two of his associates, Abdus Salam and Peter Griffin (see Summer 1976). [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 101]
A group of Pakistani companies headed by Pakistani businessman Shaik Mohammad Farooq assists the A. Q. Khan nuclear smuggling ring, although details are sketchy. According to the book The Islamic Bomb, in 1979, a procurer for the network uses one of Farooq’s companies, Asiatic Chemical Industries Ltd., “as a conduit for the Pakistani Atomic Energy Commission.” According to a US State Department cable, another of Farooq’s companies, Arshad Amjad & Abid (Pvt.) Ltd., purchases a coordinate measuring machine from Japan and resells it to the Pakistan Chemical Corp., a front for Khan. MI5 will also list Arshad Amjad & Abid as a company of “proliferation concern” due to its participation in “weapons of mass destruction programs.” In addition, Khan’s biography will thank Farooq and Arshad Amjad & Abid for playing “a very commendable and daring role” in obtaining equipment for Khan from a long list of mostly European countries. Farooq serves as the chairman of the A. Q. Khan Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering and is on the board of other institutions with Khan. He will also host a reception for Khan in 2001 and accompany him during an altercation over a mental hospital in 2002. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 185] Khan will also visit one of Farooq’s companies in Dubai (see Late March 2000).
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]
A 2007 satellite image of the Khan Research Laboratories in Kahuta. [Source: GeoEye]Richard Barlow, an analyst working on Pakistan’s nuclear program who was released by the State Department in the early 1980s (see 1981-1982), is hired by the CIA’s Office of Scientific and Weapons Research (OSWR). Barlow re-analyzes the data and confirms his earlier conclusions—that Pakistan is pursuing a covert nuclear weapons program. Barlow learns about the trade in dual-use components—tools and equipment that can be used to make nuclear weapons, but also for other, non-nuclear purposes, meaning trade in them is hard to spot and regulate. One example of this is a California couple that exports dozens of high-speed cathode-ray oscilloscopes and special cameras to Hong Kong, where they are picked up by Pakistani agents. Barlow realizes that such a large number of oscilloscopes must be for nuclear weapons manufacturing, and also finds a link between the purchase and the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC). Barlow will later comment, “There was tons of it and most of it was ending up in [Pakistan]. Pakistan had a vast network of procurers, operating all over the world.” Barlow also finds that the material is going to a secret nuclear facility near Islamabad, the Khan Research Laboratories, where sensors pick up high levels of enriched uranium in the air and in dust on [trucks] leaving the laboratories. [New Yorker, 3/29/1993; Guardian, 10/13/2007] Despite this, in order to prevent Congress from cutting of aid to the anti-Soviet mujaheddin, which flows through Pakistan, US authorities will repeatedly insist Pakistan is not working on a nuclear program (see August 1985-October 1990).
Pakistan test fires two ballistic missiles that are capable of carrying nuclear weapons. The missiles are fired in the Thar Desert on the border with India, and apparently have a range of between 50 and 200 miles, meaning that Pakistan could hit Delhi and Mumbai. They were developed by the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) using Chinese designs, and are given the name Hatf 1 and 2 (Hatf means “lethal” in Arabic, and is the name the prophet Muhammad gave his sword) by PAEC chairman Munir Khan. The test will be discovered by the US Defense Intelligence Agency, and soon reported in the Western press. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 198, 498]
Pakistan conducts a second test firing of its Hatf 1 and 2 missiles, which are able to carry a nuclear payload. This follows a first test in May of the previous year (see May 1988). The missiles are launched from mobile pads on Pakistan’s Merkan coast, which is towards the border with Iran. The tests will be revealed by General Aslam Beg, chief of army staff, in a speech to students at Pakistan’s National Defence College. Beg comments that the missiles are “extremely accurate” and can carry up to 500 kg. Beg also thanks Munir Khan of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission for his team’s work on their development, and indicates that Pakistan’s development of a tank is progressing. This is intended as a message to the US that Pakistan is becoming less and less reliant on it for purchases of military hardware. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 198, 498]
China begins to provide assistance to Pakistan with the construction of a plant to manufacture missiles that can carry nuclear warheads. China has been supplying missiles to Pakistan for some time (see 1989 and 1991), and the plant is to produce a generic version of one of the Chinese missiles that is being delivered, the M-11. The facility is to be operated by the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, which is run by Dr. Samar Mubarakmand. Blueprints of the M-11 will be used to produce a Pakistani version of the missile called the Hatf 3, which will have a range of 150 miles. US intelligence picks up on these developments, and they are reported to Gordon Oehler, the US national intelligence officer for weapons of mass destruction. Estimates indicate that if the rapid progress is maintained, the facility will be completed by 1998. In addition, Oehler warns his superiors that if Pakistan does succeed in building the missiles and loading nuclear warheads onto them, it will probably sell this technology to other countries. However, the Clinton administration takes no action on this intelligence at this time. Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will comment: “If the president accepted the assessment, he would have to impose sanctions that would potentially cost American companies billions of dollars in lost revenues if Beijing lashed out at being censured by Washington—particularly Boeing, which was negotiating a major contract with the Chinese aviation industry, and Westinghouse Electric Corporation, which had a valuable deal with the China National Nuclear Corporation. However, not to act on Oehler’s analysis, backed as it was by hard intelligence, would have enhanced Pakistan’s nuclear capability, to the detriment of India.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 257]
A. Q. Khan (left) and Pervez Musharraf (right). [Source: CBC] (click image to enlarge)After CIA Director George Tenet visits Pakistan and pressures the Pakistani government to take stronger action against the charity front Ummah Tameer-e-Nau (UTN) (see Early October-December 2001), the CIA learns more about the organization. The CIA was previously aware that the two prominent nuclear scientists who co-founded UTN, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Chaudiri Abdul Majeed, had met with Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, and advised them on how to make a nuclear weapon (see Mid-August 2001). However, the CIA discovers that other nuclear scientists are also connected to UTN, including Mirza Yusef Beg, a former member of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), and Humayun Niaz, also formerly with the PAEC. At least two senior Pakistani military officers are also connected to UTN. All these men are brought in and questioned by US officials. But the CIA is unable to question two others connected to UTN, Muhammad Ali Mukhtar, a nuclear physicist who worked for the PAEC as a weapons expert, and Suleiman Asad, who worked at A. Q. Khan’s Kahuta Research Laboratories (KRL) in its weapons design division. The CIA reasons that these two scientists would be the type of nuclear bomb makers bin Laden was most interested in. However, the Pakistani government claims that the two are in Burma working on a top secret project and cannot be brought back to Pakistan for questioning. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 320-321] Shortly after 9/11, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf called one of the leaders of Burma and asked if the two scientists could be given asylum there. [New York Times, 12/9/2001] The CIA is also interested in talking to Hamid Gul, a former ISI director and UTN’s honorary patron, but Pakistan will not allow him to be questioned either, even though he had met with Mahmood in Afghanistan around the time Mahmood met with bin Laden and al-Zawahiri. As a result, the CIA is unable to learn just how much UTN could have assisted al-Qaeda with weapons of mass destruction. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 320-321]
Entity Tags: Suleiman Asad, Ummah Tameer-e-Nau, Pervez Musharraf, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, Mullah Omar, Humayun Niaz, Hamid Gul, Chaudiri Abdul Majeed, Central Intelligence Agency, Muhammad Ali Mukhtar, Osama bin Laden, Kahuta Research Laboratories, Mirza Yusef Beg
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network
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