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Pakistan’s Nuclear Security

Filed under: Naeem Malik — naeemmalik @ 12:43 pm

Transcript of Dr. A Q Khan interview:
“It is impossible to reach there. We had constructed the site in 1976, and ever since, we have maintained impregnable security around the premises.”



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Christina Lamb on Nuclear Security

Semour Hersh on Nuclear Security

Pakistan: Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan Discusses Nuclear Program in TV Talk

Show Islamabad Tonight with Nadeem Malik

SAP20090902008002 Karachi

Aaj News Television in Urdu 1400 GMT 31 Aug 09

[From the “Islamabad Tonight” discussion program hosted by Nadeem Malik. Words

within double slant lines as received in English.]

[Host Nadeem Malik] Pakistan owes its impregnable defense to a scientist called Dr

Abdul Qadeer Khan, who is our guest today.

[Malik] What difficulties were you facing when you started the nuclear program of


[Khan] //Industrial infrastructure// was nonexistent at that time in Pakistan. Immediately

after the Indian nuclear tests in 1974, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto summoned a meeting of

scientists in Multan to ask them to make a nuclear bomb. After the debacle of East

Pakistan in 1971, Bhutto was extremely worried about Pakistan’s security, as he knew

that Pakistan had become very //vulnerable//. He removed Usmani when the latter told

him that they could not go ahead with their plan of acquiring a nuclear bomb, because

the basic //infrastructure// was not there. Usman was not wrong in his capacity. The

Atomic Energy Commission was the only relevant institution at that time, but it lacked

the required expertise. India’s nuclear test in 1974 caused hysteria in Pakistan. I was in

Belgium in 1971, when the Pakistan Army surrendered in the then East Pakistan and

faced utmost humiliation. Hindus and Sikhs were beating them with shoes, and their

heads were being shaved in the //concentration camps//. I saw those scenes with

horror. When India tested its bomb in 1974, I was living in Holland and working in a

//nuclear field//. It was a very useful field. At that time, there were only three countries in

the world that could enrich uranium centrifugally. Though the United States, France,

China, and Russia were leaders in uranium enrichment technology, they would use the

//diffusion// method, instead of enriching it centrifugally. The centrifugal method of

enrichment was being used only in the United Kingdom, Germany, and Holland.”

[Malik] Who contacted you from Pakistan for this purpose?

[Khan] I was not contacted from Pakistan. After the Indian test in 1974, I thought I must

approach Bhutto [Zulfikar] and tell him about my capability of making the bomb. Though

it was a very rare technology, I had a firsthand experience of that technology and I knew

how it worked. I wrote a letter to Bhutto in September 1974, telling him that I had the

required expertise. Bhutto’s response was very encouraging, and he wrote me back

after two weeks, asking me to return to Pakistan. I came to Pakistan in December 1974

to meet Bhutto. I briefed Munir Ahmed Khan and his team about the technology and

asked them to start creating the //infrastructure// before returning to Holland. I came

again in 1975. I used to come every year to meet my family in Karachi. Bhutto asked me

to inspect the site in 1975 to check the progress if there was any, but it was

disappointing to see that no progress had been made by that time. I told Bhutto that I

had to return to Holland; however, he insisted that I could not go and was to stay here. I

told him that I had a job there and I had to go. I told him that I could only provide some

direction to local scientists. My daughters had their education in Holland, and my wife

had to look after her elderly parents. I asked Bhutto to give me time to ponder and

discuss with my wife. When I told my wife that we were not supposed to return to

Holland, she was shocked and rejected the plan, saying a few moments later that

because of my //credibility// of not lying, she felt I could have done something for my

country. I said to her that I could claim without exaggeration that no one could do it for

Pakistan but me. That is how she changed her mind and decided to stay in Pakistan.

She said we could visit Holland as frequently as we liked.”

[Malik]: “Whose decision was it to make the bomb?

[Khan] It was Bhutto’s decision.

[Malik] Who else was attending the meeting between Bhutto and you, when you were

being asked to stay in Pakistan?

[Khan] General Imtiaz was accompanying Bhutto in that meeting, but when I finalized

my decision and met Bhutto again, there were a few more officials with him, namely,

Ghulam Ishaq Khan [former president] and Agha Shahi [former foreign minister].

[Malik] How did you gather the team for this program?

[Khan] It is a pity that we have so many educated people in this country but none of

them is experienced. Our people lack the training in taking an initiative. Though there

were foreign qualified persons available, they did not have the experience. No one had

the courage to undertake this program. I had to pick qualified people from wherever I

could find them. For instance, I picked men from the Atomic Energy Commission. I also

picked some from the United Kingdom. I trained them all. It took us three years to build

a proficient team.

[Malik] Where will the funding come from?

[Khan] We had very limited //funds//. I had written an article to tell that it was not an

expensive program. Our annual budget was just $20-25 million, with the help of which

we searched a location for the program and sketched out a detailed map of the

construction site. We purchased land from the local people. We hired scientists for the

program and started purchasing the required material from abroad and so on. Our total

budget for 25 years was less than half the amount of 58 billion rupees given as loan by

the previous government and which Pervez Musharraf had decided to write off in the


[Malik] So it all started in Kahuta.

[Khan] We had an office near Rawalpindi in the beginning. My colleagues advised me to

shift the office to a better place, but I wanted to start the work without wasting time.

There were some old sheds there, which were the property of the Royal Pakistan Air

Force; we started our work there; however, we shifted our office to Kahuta after having

selected the location.

[Malik] When did you develop the centrifuges?

[Khan] We started developing centrifuges in our Rawalpindi office. It was 6 April 1978

when we achieved our first centrifugal enrichment of uranium.

[Malik] Was it weapons-grade enrichment?

[Khan] No, it was of low grade; however, it was enough to confirm the //viability of the

project//. We had become capable of //uranium enrichment// by that time.

[Malik] When did you come to believe that now you had the weapons-grade uranium?

[Khan] In Kahuta, we achieved 60 percent result in our enrichment program; it was a

very difficult task though. We faced a lot of challenges in the ensuing stages but

successfully managed to overcome them, and we had achieved 90 percent result in the

//enrichment// program by the early 1983.

[Malik] So when was the bomb ready?

[Khan] It was ready by 1984. I wrote a letter to Gen Zia on 10 December 1984, telling

him that the weapon was ready and that we could detonate it on a notice of one week.

[Malik] Why did you not decide to test that device as soon as it was ready?

[Khan] We were allying with the United States in the Afghan war. The aid was coming.

We asked Gen Zia and his team to go ahead with the test, but they said they could not

conduct the test as it would have serious repercussions. They argued that, since the

United States had to overlook our nuclear program due to our support in the Afghan

war, it was an opportunity for us to further develop the program. They said the tests

could be conducted any time later.

[Malik] You had admitted in an interview that the Afghan war provided you an

opportunity to develop and enhance the nuclear program.

[Khan] Yes, I maintain that the war had provided us with space to enhance our nuclear

capability. The credit goes to me and my team, because it was a very difficult task,

which was next to impossible. But given the US and European pressure on our

program, it is true that had the Afghan war not taken place at that time, we would not

have been able to make the bomb as early as we did.

[Malik] How did you develop your //supply chain//?

[Khan] Since I had been living in Europe for 15 years, I knew about their industry and

suppliers very well. I knew who made what. People accuse me of stealing lists of

European suppliers, but that is rubbish. I had a doctorate in engineering. I had a

valuable job in Holland; I would travel from one corner of Europe to the other. I also

knew the addresses of all the suppliers. When I came to Pakistan, I started purchasing

equipment from them until they proscribed the selling of equipment to us. Then we

started purchasing the same equipment through other countries, for example, Kuwait,

Bahrain, UAE, Abu Dhabi, and Singapore. They could not outmaneuver us, as we

remained a step ahead always.

[Malik] Did you have support from the successive governments?

[Khan] Everyone had patriotic feelings for the nuclear program. No one had ever

objected to the program. Benazir Bhutto had once advised to shift the //high

enrichment// program into a lower gear to divert the US pressure. This was not her sole

decision; Gen Mirza Aslam Baig [the then of Army chief] and all others were onboard.

She said that if we were able to shift our enrichment program into lower gear, she could

have convinced the United States to keep providing us with aid.

[Malik] Was that Benazir Bhutto’s first government?

[Khan] Yes, that was her first government.

[Malik] So we suspended the high enrichment and switched over to low enrichment.

[Khan] This plan was still under consideration when President Bush stopped the aid to


[Malik] Was there any moment when you had to switch from //high enrichment// to low


[Khan] No, we never switched from high to low. We knew that it would have been very

difficult for us to do so.

[Malik] Did you have the Army //support//?

[Khan] Yes, the Army has always supported the program. No one knew about the

program in the beginning, except Gen Arif, not even the vice chief of Army staff. Gen

Arif was a member of the board, and he was very //supportive//. Gen Arif was a very

sensible and a no-nonsense person. In fact, Gen Zia owed his unmitigated rule to Gen


[Malik] When did you begin the production of the delivery system?

[Khan] We had planned to start the missile program in 1981, because we knew that it

was just a matter of time before we would acquire expertise in high enrichment — the

nuclear bomb. So the delivery system was needed then. Since Gen Zia was engaged in

the Afghan war, he did not allow us to begin the missile program. We began the missile

program in 1988. It was Benazir Bhutto’s government.

[Malik] So it started after Gen Zia’s plane crash.

[Khan] Yes, after Zia’s plane crash. Gen Baig supported us a lot. We began our missile

program by producing short-range missiles. I was the chief coordinator of the Khanpur


[Malik] Where did you manage to get the required know-how for the Khanpur Factory?

[Khan] It was our //joint venture// with China.

[Malik] M11 missile was produced there.

[Khan] Yes, M11 missile was produced there. The Chinese did not want to violate the

MTCR [Missile Technology Control Regime], as they were internationally committed to

it. The range of the missile was 500 km, but China kept the range at 290 km.

[Malik]: What about North Korea?

[Khan] Gen Waheed Kakar was the chief of staff during Benazir Bhutto’s second

government, and he was a very //powerful and patriotic// person. I said to Kakar that the

missile being produced at Khanpur was of a low range, and we needed to have //longrange

missiles// to reach the far-flung cities of India and to ensure our //deterrence//. I

discussed the issue with Benazir Bhutto as well. She said if Kakar would approve, then

we could cooperate with North Korea.

[Malik] Benazir Bhutto visited North Korea.

[Khan] Yes, she visited North Korea, but what Hussain Haqqani [present Pakistan

ambassador to the United States] has said in his book is rubbish.

[Malik] Did you go to North Korea in 1994?

[Khan] Yes, I had a visit to North Korea to discuss missile technology. Then the North

Koreans came to Pakistan and received money from Benazir Bhutto so that we could

start the missile program.

[Malik] How costly was the deal?

[Khan] It was not that costly; I think it was hardly worth $50 million.

[Malik] Did we transfer any nuclear technology to North Korea in exchange of the

missile technology?

[Khan] No, we did not.

[Malik] Did you //frequently visit// North Korea?

[Khan] I have only been to North Korea twice — in 1994 and 1999. In 1999, Gen

Musharraf sent me along with Gen Iftikhar, who was the then chief of Air Defense

Command. We were fighting India at Kargil, and we were in dire need of //antiaircraft

missiles//. Musharraf said that we could purchase the missiles from North Korea. We

went to North Korea and purchased 200 missiles from them.

[Malik] Did you ever provide any kind of technological help to North Korea?

[Khan] A North Korean team would visit the Kahuta plant during the same period, as our

missile deal was taking place, and it was no secret. Gen Kakar knew about it; everyone

knew about it. They would stay at a guest house in the vicinity of Kahuta plant, because

we did not have any other nuclear facility and our missiles were also being

manufactured there. We did not spend any additional amount on the missile program.

The expense that was incurred on the missile program was that of the construction of

prefabricated shades, which we would use in those missiles, and purchase of a few

machines. The North Korean engineers would visit our director generals in their

departments to observe different operations. But nuclear technology cannot be learned

by visiting a nuclear site and observing a few machines.

[Malik] You were accused of having transferred nuclear //technology// to North Korea.

[Khan] These are just accusations. I cannot comment on this topic at the moment.

[Malik] What about Iran?

[Khan] Iran was interested in acquiring nuclear technology. Since Iran was an important

Muslim country, we wished Iran to acquire this technology. Western countries pressured

us unfairly. If Iran succeeds in acquiring nuclear technology, we will be a strong bloc in

the region to counter international pressure. Iran’s nuclear capability will neutralize

Israel’s power. We had advised Iran to contact the suppliers and purchase equipment

from them.

[Malik] Were the suppliers same as yours?

[Khan] Yes. The Iranian officials would meet them in Dubai. We had told the Iranians

that the suppliers were very //reliable//.

[Malik] Musharraf had stated in his book that P1 centrifuges were taken from Pakistan to

North Korea.

[Khan] There are different stories behind this accusation. According to Musharraf, this

event took place in 2001. Musharraf himself was the chief executive and the chief of

staff. The Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI] men performed their duties at the airport. If the

material was being transported, then it meant it was being transported with Musharraf’s


[Malik] It means that it is true that the material was transported to North Korea?

[Khan] May be.

[Malik] This issue got magnified after George Tenet’s visit to Pakistan during the

Musharraf regime.

[Khan] According to Musharraf, Tenet had shown him //drawings// of P1 centrifuges.

Those drawings did not carry my name or that of my laboratory, but Musharraf claims

that he knew the drawings belonged to me. Is he a technician to the extent that he could

figure out a P1 drawing? We had stopped the P1 production in 1983 and switched over

to P2. Musharraf might have been an insignificant colonel at that time, who could not

enter the Kahuta plant. He did not have even an iota of what a P1 drawing could have

looked like, but, according to him, he knew it was P1. So it is ridiculous for Musharraf to

claim that it was a P1 drawing.

[Malik] What about the why you appeared on television and gave //confessional


[Khan] Sometimes, a man can sacrifice a lot for his country. I had a lucrative job in

Holland, which I left for my country.

[Malik] Were you pressured by Musharraf into giving the statement?

[Khan] Yes, they pressured and threatened me.

[Malik] What about Libya?

[Khan] Libya had purchased the equipment from the same suppliers.

[Malik] Were those suppliers recommended by you?

[Khan] Be it Libya, Iran, or Pakistan, the same suppliers were responsible for providing

the material through the same third party in Dubai.

[Malik] Who was that third party in Dubai?

[Khan] It was a company with which we had established links when we could not

receive the material from Europe. They were Sri Lankan Muslims.

[Malik] Was Abdullah Abdali’s son also involved in this game?

[Khan] Abdali’s son was a Malaysian. There was a company in Dubai that would

manufacture parts for Libya.

[Malik] Many people fear that Pakistan’s nuclear assets can fall into wrong hands.

[Khan] It is just propaganda by the West. Western journalists are very clever, and they

publish anti-Pakistan articles.

[Malik] Is there any possibility of proliferation or leakage from our nuclear facility?

[Khan] No, it is all propaganda.

[Malik] How developed is our technology?

[Khan] My team was very competent. All of us had studied in a foreign land. We made it

without any foreign help. That team is no more, and now the system is run by

youngsters. I have not been in touch with that program for the last eight years.

[Malik] Was our technology good enough in 1998 when we conducted the tests?

[Khan] Yes, it was good enough.

[Malik] Do you think there is pressure on Pakistan to switch its high enrichment program

to low one?

[Khan] All you need is to maintain some deterrence. If you believe that your deterrence

is credible enough, then you do not need to produce infinite volume of weapons.

[Malik] Do you think we follow ethos of minimum credible deterrence?

[Khan] Yes, we do.

[Malik] How will you like to serve your nation in the future?

[Khan] My father was a teacher. I want to work in the education field. I was the project

director of the GIK [Ghulam Ishaque Khan] Institute. I had contributed a lot to develop

GIK. I made an institute of genetic engineering in Karachi, an institute for mental health

and a polytechnic institute in Mianwali. It is not difficult to come up with a useful

educational policy.

[Malik] What Muslim ideology should we follow in Pakistan?

[Khan] Education should be our priority. Our society is a victim of degeneration.

Pakistan was a much better country in 1952. The people were very nice and honest.

[Malik] Do you think our leaders are indifferent to the problem faced by the people?

[Khan] The leadership is drawing heavy loans from the IMF, which is matter of concern.

IMF is dictating the government to increase the electricity tariff.

[Malik] How can Pakistan deal with this crisis?

[Khan] We have enormous resources, and manpower is the most important of all. We

made possible what Western analysts had declared impossible for us.

[Malik] There has been no change in the previous government’s policy about your house


[Khan] Yes, those policies are continuing because of the US pressure.

[Malik] What should be our attitude toward drone attacks?

[Khan] We cannot afford to confront the United States, but we have our sovereignty.

Musharraf will sell Pakistani citizens in exchange for dollars.

[Malik] Do you have any message for the nation?

[Khan] They should work hard and be hopeful.

[Malik] Do you have any message for the leadership?

[Khan] They should make decisions independently.

[Malik] Do you think a trial should be held against Musharraf?

[Khan] Yes, a trial must be held against him. Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti’s murder, Red

Mosque operation, and Musharraf’s action against the Supreme Court judges are just a

few of his crimes.

[Malik] The radicals had reportedly made an attempt to attack nuclear installations?

[Khan] This is again nonsense. It is impossible to reach there. We had constructed the

site in 1976, and ever since, we have maintained impregnable security around the


[Malik] Thank you very much, Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, for sparing your time for us. We

pray for your good health and freedom.

[Khan] Thank you very much.

[Malik] This brings us to the end of our special program.