Bhutto and Pakistan’s nuclear programme

Bhutto’s main achievement was to set specific tasks and the direction of making Pakistan a nuclear power.

Tariq Osman Hyder April 18, 2011

In assessing the contribution to Pakistan by former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, it cannot be disputed that nuclear deterrence is the key strategic factor safeguarding Pakistan’s national security and that Mr Bhutto was the architect and prime mover towards the attainment of this capability.

Pakistan was faced by a paucity of scientists, facilities and, most of all, poverty of vision, compared to India. The Pakistan Atomic Energy Council, the forerunner of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), predated Mr Bhutto’s induction as minister of energy in 1958, after which the development of the nuclear infrastructure became a key focus. The PAEC could rely on his support for funding. The establishment of the Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology, the Pakistan Atomic Research Reactor under the US Atoms for Peace programme, and the contract for Pakistan’s first power reactor KANUPP owed much to his support.

In his 1967 book, The Myth of Independence, Mr Bhutto correctly assessed that India appeared determined to proceed with its plans to detonate a nuclear bomb, and that Pakistan must therefore embark on a similar programme. The 1971 war reinforced Bhutto’s conviction that Pakistan must have nuclear capability. He chose Dr Munir Ahmad Khan to take over the PAEC and, a few years later, Dr AQ Khan to set up a centrifuge plant, the cutting-edge technology of which was assessed by the West as beyond implementation by any developing country. Meanwhile, Dr Abdus Salaam continued as scientific adviser.

With trained manpower available, Dr Munir Ahmad indigenised capacity building and also started a number of infrastructural (nuclear fuel cycle-related) projects as well. These complemented the centrifuge programme and also helped run KANUPP. The latter became necessary following India’s testing of its nuclear weapons in 1974, because that led to Canada stopping fuel supplies altogether.

The centrifuge programme provided the enriched uranium which, by the early 80s, gave Pakistan nuclear capability. Of course, leaders depend on reliable professional advice. There were some blind spots. The safeguards on KANUPP depended on an agreement between Pakistan and supplier Canada and this would have lapsed within six months of the agreement’s abrogation. Pakistan had every right to do this when Canada stopped its fuel supplies. Had that been done, an early start to the plutonium route could have been taken. In the absence of such a move, the PAEC should have started work on an indigenous dedicated reactor earlier, rather than waiting 15 years.

Mr Bhutto’s main achievement in the nuclear field was to set the scientific community the specific task of making Pakistan a nuclear power and to appoint managers and allocate resources to proceed in that direction. The centrality of his vision has been substantiated by the fact that every successive government has further developed Pakistan’s nuclear programme and resisted efforts by foreign powers to restrict this capability. The recognition that our nuclear deterrent capability is vital for Pakistan’s defence and place in the world has become a unifying consensus in the country.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th,  2011.

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COMMENTS (30)

Romm | 9 years ago | Reply | Recommend the scale of Indies entering into this Blog and Spewing Venom against Pakistan Speaks the Need for Pakistan to have Nuclear Devices capable of Shaking Incredible India. Has Any indian Blog been Bombarded by Pakistanis as this one. It speaks India'ss Shallowness and their inability to behave like a Super power. After reading this Indians should have shame and Ought to Mind their own poverty and Weaknesses.
Mahmood | 9 years ago | Reply | Recommend @Ajay: Dear read the assessments of Indian army about Pakistan, how do they see it and book on Siachen by Ex . General in the area will be eye opener for you about capabilities of Pakistan Army. And Pakistan made enemy out of India? History is a bitter truth, Why Patel agreed for Pakistan? Why Bapu was killed? Read Ram Chandra Guha in Outlook how Indian government developed a department to destabilize and finish Pakistan in early 1970's. See why in Naxalites corridor Indian forces call the Naxalite area as Pakistan. Bigger weapons are rarely used, as atom bomb but their implications are enormous. That is the reason world power want to limit it and world raises false alarms of nuclear take over by so-called Taliban. Reports of our death are highly exaggerated time and again and if it happens, then there will be more than 300 people .......... for what? Use imagination!
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