Profile: Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was a participant or observer in the following events:
India detonates a nuclear device in an underground facility. The device had been built using material supplied for its ostensibly peaceful nuclear program by the United States, France, and Canada. The test, and this aspect of India’s nuclear program, is unauthorized by global control mechanisms. India portrays the test as a “peaceful nuclear explosion,” and says it is “firmly committed” to using nuclear technology for only peaceful purposes.
Kissinger: 'Fait Accompli' - Pakistan, India’s regional opponent, is extremely unhappy with the test, which apparently confirms India’s military superiority. Due to the obvious difficulties producing its own nuclear bomb, Pakistan first tries to find a diplomatic solution. It asks the US to provide it with a nuclear umbrella, without much hope of success. Relations between Pakistan and the US, once extremely close, have been worsening for some years. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger tells Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington that the test is “a fait accompli and that Pakistan would have to learn to live with it,” although he is aware this is a “little rough” on the Pakistanis.
No Punishment - No sanctions are imposed on India, or the countries that sold the technology to it, and they continue to help India’s nuclear program. Pakistani foreign minister Agha Shahi will later say that, if Kissinger had replied otherwise, Pakistan would have not started its own nuclear weapons program and that “you would never have heard of A. Q. Khan.” Shahi also points out to his colleagues that if Pakistan does build a bomb, then it will probably not suffer any sanctions either.
Pakistan Steps up Nuclear Program - Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto then decides that his country must respond to this “grave and serious threat” by making its own nuclear weapons. He steps up Pakistan’s nuclear research efforts in a quest to build a bomb, a quest that will be successful by the mid-1980s (see 1987). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 11-14; Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 39-40]
After India’s first successful nuclear test on May 18, 1974, Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan, at this time working in a centrifuge production facility in the Netherlands, begins to approach Pakistani government representatives to offer help with Pakistan’s nuclear program. First he approaches a pair of Pakistani military scientists who are in the Netherlands on business. He tells them he wants to help Pakistan’s nuclear program, but they discourage him, saying it would be hard for him to find a job in Pakistan. Undaunted, Khan then writes to Pakistani President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He sets out his experience and encourages Bhutto to make a nuclear bomb using uranium, rather than plutonium, the method Pakistan is currently trying to adopt. Pakistan will examine Khan’s idea and find it a good one (see Summer-Autumn 1974). [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 48]
Pakistani government leaders consider a secret proposal made by Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan that it build a uranium bomb (see After May 18, 1974) and find it to be a good idea. Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto writes of Khan, “He seems to be making sense.” Siddique Butt, an employee of Pakistan’s embassy in Belgium who will go on to help Khan’s future nuclear smuggling ring, investigates Khan and finds he is a top scientist who can be helpful to Pakistan. Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, another future key associate of Khan’s, is asked to write another assessment, which finds that, if implemented, Khan’s ideas could give Pakistan enough uranium for a bomb by 1979. Based on these reports, the Pakistani government starts working with Khan, who begins to steal secrets for them (see October 1974). [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 49-50]
A. Q. Khan, a Pakistani employee of the Dutch nuclear equipment company Urenco, travels to Pakistan and meets Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Munir Khan, head of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission. Khan again tells Bhutto that Pakistan should build a uranium, not plutonium bomb, and agrees to continue with his job in the Netherlands, where he is stealing secrets for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program (see October 1974). [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 51-2]
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]
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and White House Chief of Staff Dick Cheney unsuccessfully lobby for the construction of a nuclear reprocessing plant in Iran. The two men devised the scheme because, they say, Iran needs a nuclear power program to meet its future energy needs. This is despite the fact that Iran has considerable oil and gas reserves. The deal would be lucrative for US corporations like Westinghouse and General Electric, which would make $6.4 billion from the project. During negotiations over Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger offers Pakistan access to this facility for reprocessing of its nuclear fuel. In return, Pakistan would not build its own reprocessing plant, which the US suspects will be used for a nuclear weapons program. However, Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto rejects the deal, and the plant is not built in Iran anyway. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 46]
US intelligence discovers that Pakistan has begun a “crash program” to build a nuclear weapon. The weapon is to be a plutonium bomb made using fuel from a reprocessing plant that will be built in Pakistan by the French and financed by Libya. The Ford administration attempts to pressure Pakistan to give up these attempts, and in a meeting in August 1976 Secretary of State Henry Kissinger will offer Pakistan over a hundred fighter planes in return for its giving up the efforts. He will also threaten to “make a horrible example” of Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Pakistan will not respond to these threats, but will eventually abandon this program in favor of attempts to build a uranium bomb by Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 62-63]
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]
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