Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan,[note 1]NI, HI, FPAS ( ( listen); Urdu: ڈاکٹر عبد القدیر خان; born 27 April 1936), known as A. Q. Khan, is a Pakistani former nuclear physicist and a metallurgical engineer, who founded the uranium enrichment program for Pakistan's atomic bomb project. Khan founded and established the Kahuta Research Laboratories (KRL) in 1976, serving as both its senior scientist and Director-General until he retired in 2001. Khan was also a figure in other Pakistani national science projects, making research contributions to molecular morphology, the physics of martensite alloys, condensed matter physics, and materials physics.
In January 2004, the Pakistani government summoned Khan for a debriefing on his active role in nuclear weapons technology proliferation in other countries after the United States provided evidence of it to the Pakistanis. Khan formally admitted his responsibility for these activities a month later. The Pakistani government dismisses allegations that Pakistani authorities sanctioned Khan's activities.
After years of official house arrest during and following his debriefing, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on 6 February 2009 declared Abdul Qadeer Khan to be a free citizen of Pakistan, allowing him free movement inside the country. The verdict was rendered by Chief Justice Sardar Muhammad Aslam. In September 2009, concerned because the decision also ended all security restrictions on Khan, the United States warned that Khan still remained a "serious proliferation risk".
Khan was born in 1936 in Bhopal in a Pashtun Family, he often said that he is a pathan in many interviews. He in an interview also said that he belongs to Yousafzai tribe as many pashtuns in Bhopal belongs to this tribe including many other pashtun tribes. Bhopal had been a centre of pashtuns in times of nawabs. Many pashtuns migrated from Afghanistan and Pakistan to India specially in Madhya Pradesh in various places like Bhopal, Sironj, Silwani, Shujalpur, Jaora etc. British India. His mother, Zulekha (née Begum), was a housewife. His father, Abdul Ghafoor, was an alumnus of Nagpur University and an academic who served in the IndianEducation ministry then permanently settled the family in Bhopal State after he retired in 1935. After the partition of India in 1947, his family emigrated from India to Pakistan in 1952, and settled in Karachi, Sindh. Briefly attending the D.J. Science College, he enrolled at Karachi University in 1956 to study physics. In 1960, he graduated with a degree in physics with a minor in mathematics, while his degree concentration was in solid-state physics.
For a short time, Khan worked for the city government as an inspector of weights and measures. In 1961, he went to Germany to study metallurgy at the Technical University in Berlin but made a transfer to Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands in 1965. At Delft, he obtained an engineer's degree in technology (equivalent to MS) in 1967 and joined the Catholic University of Leuven for his doctoral studies. Supervised by Dr. Martin Brabers at Leuven University, Khan received a D.Eng. degree in metallurgical engineering in 1972. His doctoral thesis included fundamental work on martensite and its extended industrial applications to the field of morphology.
Research in Europe
Main articles: Nuclear power in the Netherlands and Netherlands and weapons of mass destruction
Receiving his doctorate engineering in 1972, Khan joined the senior staff of the Physics Dynamics Research Laboratory in Amsterdam from a recommendation by his mentor, Martin J. Brabers. His initial studies were on the high-strength metals used in the development of centrifuges.Gas centrifuges were first conceived by AmericanphysicistJesse Beams as part of the Manhattan Project but the studies were discontinued in 1944. The Physics Laboratory was a subcontractor for Urenco Group which was operating a uranium-enrichment plant in Almelo, Netherlands. Established in 1970, Urenco employed the centrifuge method to assure a supply of enriched uranium for nuclear power plants in the Netherlands. When Urenco offered him to join the senior scientific staff there, Khan left the Physics Laboratory where he performed physics experiments on uranium metallurgy, to produce reactor-gradeuranium usable for light water reactors.Urenco used the Zippe-typegas centrifuges— a method invented by Germanmechanical engineerGernot Zippe in the Soviet Union's program.Enrichment of uranium is an extremely difficult physical process, as U235 exists in natural uranium at a concentration of only 0.7%; Urenco used the Zippe method to separate the fissileisotopesU235 from non-fissile U238 by spinning UF6 gas at up to ~100,000RPM. His pioneering research led to the improvement of the Zippe method, which at that time, was an emerging technology whose publications were classified by the Soviet Union. Khan's leading-edge research in metallurgy brought laurels to Urenco, which had him as one of the most senior scientists at the facility where he researched and studied. His pioneering research greatly improved the technological efficiency of the Zippe method; eventually, Urenco gave Khan access to the blueprints for the Zippe centrifuge to find mathematical solutions for the physics problems in the gas centrifuges.
1971 war and return to Pakistan
Main articles: Operation Smiling Buddha, Project-706, and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto § Father of the Nuclear weapons program
On 20 January 1972, PresidentZulfikar Ali Bhutto approved a crash program to develop an atomic bomb after a seminar – the Multan meeting – with scientists at Multan. Reporting directly to Bhutto, the program was managed by Munir Ahmad Khan, the chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC); the outcomes of the 1971 war had greatly threatened Pakistan's strategic position. Earlier efforts had attempted Implosion-type nuclear weapons using military-gradeplutonium.
Before 1974 Khan had no knowledge of the program, which calls into question his "father-of" claim. Following India's surprise "Smiling Buddha" in 1974, Bhutto accelerated Pakistan's effort to attain atomic capability. Sensing the importance of the test, Munir Ahmad launched the secretive Project-706.
After learning of the nuclear test, Khan wanted to contribute to the military posture. He approached Pakistan government officials, who dissuaded him, saying it was as "hard to find" a job in the PAEC as a "metallurgist".
Undaunted, he wrote to Prime Minister Bhutto, highlighting his specific experience, and encouraged him to develop an atomic bomb using military-gradeuranium. According to Kuldip Nayyar, although the letter was received by Prime minister Secretariat, Khan was still unknown to the Pakistan government, leading Bhutto to ask the ISI to run a complete background check and prepare an assessment report on him. The ISI assessed him as "incompetent" but Bhutto was unsatisfied and eager to know more about him, eventually asking Munir Ahmad to dispatch a PAEC team to meet him. The PAEC team, including Bashiruddin Mahmood, arrived at the Almelo at his family home at night. After an interview, the team returned to Pakistan and Prime Minister Bhutto decided to meet with Khan, and directed a confidential letter to him. Soon after, Khan took a leave from Urenco, and departed for Pakistan in 1974.
Initiation and atomic bomb project
Main article: Project-706
In 1974, Abdul Qadeer Khan went to Pakistan and took a taxi straight to the Prime minister Secretariat. The session with Bhutto was held at midnight and remained under extreme secrecy where Qadeer Khan met with Bhutto, Munir Ahmad, and Mubashir Hassan– the Science Adviser. At this session, he enlightened the importance of uranium as opposed to plutonium, but Bhutto remained unconvinced to adopt uranium instead of plutonium for the development of an atomic bomb. Although Bhutto ended the session quickly, remarking: "He seems to make sense." Early morning the next day another session was held where he focused the discussion on HEU against plutonium with other PAEC officials presented. Even though, he explained to Bhutto why he thought the idea of "plutonium" would not work, Qadeer Khan was fascinated by the possibility of atomic bomb. Many of the theorists at that time, including Munir Khan maintained that "plutonium and the fuel cycle has its significance", and insisted that with the "French extraction plant in the offing, Pakistan should stick with its original plan." Bhutto did not disagree, but saw the advantage of mounting a parallel effort toward acquiring HEU fuel. At the last session with Zulfikar Bhutto, Khan also advocated for the development of a fused design to compress the single fission element in the metalisedgun-type atomic device, which many of his fellow theorists said would be unlikely to work.
In 1975, Khan finally joined the atomic bomb program, and became a member of the enrichment division at PAEC, collaborating with dr. Khalil Qureshi– a physical chemist.Calculations performed by him were valuable contributions to centrifuges and a vital link to nuclear weapon research. He continued to push his ideas for uranium methods even though they had a low priority, with most efforts still aimed to produce military-gradeplutonium. Because of his interest in uranium, and his frustration at having been passed over for director of the uranium division (the job was instead given to Bashiruddin Mahmood), Khan refused to engage in further calculations and caused tensions with other researchers. He became highly unsatisfied and bored with the research led by Mahmood; finally, he submitted a critical report to Bhutto, in which he explained that the "enrichment program" was nowhere near success.
Kahuta Research Laboratories
Main articles: Engineering Research Laboratories and Kahuta Test
Prime MinisterBhutto sensed great danger as the scientists were split between military-gradeuranium and plutonium. Therefore, he called Khan for a meeting and with the backing of Bhutto, Khan took over the enrichment division from Bashiruddin Mahmood at PAEC; thus separating it into founding the Engineering Research Laboratories (ERL). Wanting no PAEC involvement, Khan's request to work with the Corps of Engineers was granted by the Pakistan government in 1976. The Engineer-in-Chief directed BrigadierZahid Ali Akbar of Corps of Engineers to work with Qadeer Khan in ERL. The Corps of Engineers and Brigadier Akbar quickly acquired the lands of the village of Kahuta for the project. The military realised the dangers of atomic experiments being performed in populated areas and thus remote Kahuta was considered an ideal location for research. Bhutto would subsequently promote Brigadier Zahid Akbar to Major-General and handed over the directorship of the ERL, with Qadeer Khan being its senior scientist.
On the other hand, the PAEC did not forgo the electromagnetic isotope separation research and a parallel program was conducted by theoretical physicistG.D. Alam at Air Research Laboratories (ARL) located at Chaklala PAF base, though G.D. Allam had not seen a centrifuge, but only had a rudimentary knowledge of the Manhattan Project.
At first, the ERL suffered many setbacks, and relied heavily on the knowledge from URENCO brought by Qadeer Khan. Meanwhile, in April 1976, theorist GD Allam accomplished a great feat by successfully rotating the first generation centrifuges to ~30,000 RPM. When the news reached Qadeer Khan, he immediately requested to Bhutto for G.D. Alam's assistance which was granted by the PAEC, dispatching a team of scientists including GD Alam to ERL. At ERL, Khan joined the team of theoretical physicists headed by theorist G.D. Alam, working on the physics problems involving the differential equations in the centripetal forces and angular momentum calculations in the ultra-centrifuges. On 4 June 1978, the enrichment program became fully functional after G.D. Alam succeeded in separated the 235U and 238Uisotopes in an important experiment in which A.Q Khan also took part. Contrary to his expectation, the military approved to the appointment of Major-General Zahid Ali as the scientific director of the entire uranium division.
In 1981, when General Akbar was posted back to combat assignments, Khan took over the operations of ERL as its interim director and senior scientist. In 1983, his appointment as director of ERL was personally approved by President Zia-ul-Haq who renamed the ERL after him. Despite his role, Khan was never in charge of the actual development of atomic bombs, mathematical and physics calculations, and eventual weapons testing. Outgoing General Zahid Ali recommended Munir Ahmad appointment as the scientific director of the atomic bomb project. This appointment came as a shock to Khan and surprised many in the government and the military as Munir Ahmad was not known to be aligned to conservative military. The government itself restricted to provide full scientific data of atomic projects and had him required the government security clearance and clarifications of his visits of such secret weapons development sites, which he would be visiting with senior active duty officers.
In 1984, the KRL claimed to have carried out its own cold test of a nuclear weapon, which was unsuccessful while PAEC under Munir Khan had already carried out another test in 1983, codenamed: Kirana-I.
PAEC's senior scientists who worked with him and under him remember him as "an egomaniacal lightweight" given to exaggerating his scientific achievements in centrifuges. At one point, Munir Khan said that, "most of the scientists who work on the development of atomic bomb projects were extremely "serious". They were sobered by the weight of what they don't know; Abdul Qadeer Khan is a showman." During the timeline of atomic bomb project, Qadeer Khan pushed his research into rigorousTheoretical Physics calculations and topics to compete, but yet failed to impress his fellow theorists at PAEC, generally at the physics community. In later years, Abdul Qadeer Khan became a staunch critic of Munir Ahmad Khan's research in physics, and on many different occasions tried unsuccessfully to belittle Munir Khan's role in the atomic bomb projects. Their scientific rivalry became public and widely popular in the physics community and seminars held in the country over the years.
Uranium tests: Chagai-I
Main articles: Chagai-I and Chagai-II
Many of his theorists were unsure that gaseous uranium would be feasible on time without the centrifuges, since Alam had notified to PAEC that the "blueprints were incomplete" and "lacked the scientific information needed even for the basic gas-centrifuges." However, calculations by Tasneem Shah, and confirmation by Alam showed the possibility of improvise transformation of different centrifugal methods. Against popular perception, the URENCO's blueprints were based on civilian reactor technology; the blueprints were filled with serious technical errors. Its SWU rate was extremely low that it would have to be rotated for thousands RPMs on the cost of taxpayer's millions of dollars, Allam maintained. Calculations and innovation came from the team of his fellow theorists, including mathematician Tasnim Shah, and headed by theorist G.D. Alam, who solved the centrifugal problems and developed powerful versions of the centrifuges. Scientists have claimed that Qadeer Khan would have never gotten any closer to success without the assistance of Alam and others. The issue is controversial; Qadeer Khan maintained to his biographer that when it came to defending the "centrifuge approach and really putting work into it, both Shah and Alam refused.
In 1998, India conducted the series of nuclear tests at the site located in Pokhran, Rajasthan. Political momentum in Pakistan began to build up on conservative Prime MinisterNawaz Sharif by the influential political circle to authorize the nuclear testing program. Together with PAEC, Khan repeatedly lobbied in seeking the permission in favor of the tests. At the NSC meetings with Prime MinisterNawaz Sharif, Khan even maintained that the tests could be performed at the controlled test site in Kahuta. But this was rebuffed by the military and Prime MinisterSharif ordered Ishfaq Ahmad of PAEC to perform the tests in Chagai due to their long experience of performing the tests in the past.
When the news reached him, a furious Qadeer Khan was badly upset and frustrated with the Prime minister's decision. Without wasting a minute, Khan drove to Joint Staff Headquarters where he met with the Chairman joint chiefs General Jehängir Karamat, lodging a strong protest.General Karamat thereupon called the Prime minister, and decided that KRL scientists, including Qadeer Khan, would also be involved in the test preparations and present at the time of testing alongside those of the PAEC. It was the KRL's HEU that ultimately claimed the successful detonation of Pakistan's first nuclear devices on 28 May 1998, under codename Chagai-I. Two days later, on 30 May, a small team of scientists belonging to PAEC, under the leadership of Samar Mubarakmand, detonated a plutonium nuclear device, codename Chagai-II. The sum of forces and yields produced by devices were around ~40.0kt of nuclear force, with the largest weapon producing around 35–36kn of force. In contrast, the single plutonium device had produced the yield of ~20.0kt of nuclear force and had a much bigger impact than uranium devices.
Many of Qadeer Khan's colleagues were irritated that he seemed to enjoy taking full credit for something he had only a small part in, and in response, he authored an article, Torch-Bearers, which appeared in The News International, emphasising that he was not alone in the weapon's development. He made an attempt to work on the Teller design for the hydrogen bomb, but PAEC had objected the idea as it went against government policy. Known for taking full credit of something he had only small contribution, he often got engrossed in projects which were theoretically interesting but practically unfeasible.
Proliferation of URENCO technology
See also: Atomic proliferation
Proliferation network was established to acquire knowledge on electronics materials for centrifugetechnology at the ERL by Khan, in the 1970s. This atomic network was subsequently used by Libya, North Korea, Iran and China as media reports first surfaced on trade negotiations between China and Pakistan for the sale of (UF6) gas and HEU. Allegations were made that "Khan paid visit to China to provide technical support to Chinese nuclear program when building a HEU plant in China's Hanzhong province. The Chinese government offered nuclear material from their side, but Pakistan refused, calling it a "gift of gesture" to China. According to an independent IISS report, Zia had given a "free hand" to Khan and given unlimited import and export access to him. The report showed that his acquisition activities were on the whole not supervised by Pakistan governmental authorities; his activities went undetected for several years.
Court controversy and US objections
Main article: Operation Brasstacks
Pakistan's scientific activities rapidly attracted the attention of the outside world, which quickly suspected outside assistance. Suspicions soon fell on Khan's knowledge obtained during his years working in the Urenco Group. In 1983, Khan was sentenced in absentia to four years in prison by the local court in Amsterdam for attempted espionage. When the news reached to Pakistan, BarristerSM Zafar immediately travelled to Amsterdam and filed a petition at the Court. Zafar teamed up with Qadeer Khan's old mentor professor Martin Brabers and his Leuven University to prepare evidence for the case. At the trial, Zafar and Martin argued that the technical informations supplied by Khan were commonly found and taught in undergraduate and doctoral physics at the university. The sentence was overturned on appeal on a legal technicality by the Court. Reacting on the suspicion of espionage, Qadeer Khan stated: "I had requested for it as we had no library of our own at KRL, at that time". He strongly rejected any suggestion at Pakistan's proliferation attempts and stressed: "All the research work [at Kahuta] was the result of our innovation and struggle. We did not receive any technical "know-how" from abroad, but we cannot reject the use of books, magazines, and research papers in this connection."
In a local interview given in 1987 he stated that: the U.S. had been well aware of the success of the atomic quest of Pakistan. Allegedly confirming the speculation of export of nuclear technology, the Pakistan Government sharply denied all claims made by Qadeer Khan. Following this, Khan was summoned for a quick meeting with President Zia-ul-Haq, who used a "tough tone" and strongly urged Khan to cease any information "he'd been providing in statements, promising severe repercussions if he continued to leak harmful information against the Pakistan Government." Subsequently, he made several contacts with foreign newspapers, denying any and all statements he had previously released. After U.S. terminating major aid to Pakistan, Benazir government reached an understanding with the United States to "freeze" and "capped" the program to LEU which is up to 3–5%. Later, the program was restored back to 90% HEU in 1990, and on July 1996, he maintained, "at no stage was the program of producing 90% weapons-grade enriched uranium ever stopped".
North Korea, Iran and Libya
Trade and diplomatic relations were established between Pakistan and North Korea since Prime MinisterZulfikar Bhutto's period in the 1970s. After Prime MinisterBenazir Bhutto's state visit to North Korea in 1990, it was reported that the highly sensitive information was being exported to North Korea in exchange for missile technologies. On multiple occasions, Khan alleged that Benazir Bhutto had "issued clear directions" for that matter. In 1993, downloaded secret information on uranium enrichment was delivered to North Korea in exchange for information on developing ballistic missiles.
In 1987, Iran wanted to purchase a fuel-cycle technology from Pakistan, but it was rebuffed. Zia decided that the civil nuclear co-operation with Iran was purely a "civil matter" and part of maintaining good relations with Tehran; Zia did not further approve any nuclear deals, but Khan passed over a sensitive report on centrifuges in 1987–89. It was only in 2003 that the nature of such agreements were made public when the Iranian government came under intense pressure from the Western world to fully disclose its nuclear program.
Accepting the tough IAEA inspections, it revealed that Iran had established a large enrichment facility using centrifuge based on the Urenco, which had been obtained "from a foreign intermediary in 1989". The Iranians turned over the names of their suppliers and the international inspectors quickly identified the Iranian gas centrifuges as Pak-1's–the gas centrifuges invented by Khan during the atomic bomb project.
In 2003, the IAEA successfully dismantled Libya's nuclear program after persuading Libya to roll back its program to have the economic sanctions lifted. The Libyan officials turned over the names of its suppliers which also included Khan. The same year, the Bush administration launched its investigation on Khan's leak in 2001 and 2002, focusing on Khan's personal role.
Dismantlement and revelation
Libyan government officials were quoted saying that Libya bought nuclear components from various black market dealers, including Pakistan. US officials who visited the Libyan plants reported that the centrifuges were very similar to the Pak-1 centrifuges in Iran. By the time evidence against Khan had surfaced, he was a public icon in the Pakistan and the government's Science Adviser. His vigorous advocacy for atom bombs and missiles became an embarrassment to the Pakistan government. On 31 January 2004, Khan was dismissed from his post, and the government launched a full-fledged investigation of the allegations surrounding him. The Wall Street Journal quoted unnamed "senior Pakistan government officials" as conceding that Khan's dismissal from KRL had been prompted by US suspicions. On 4 February 2004, Khan appeared on state-owned media Pakistan Television (PTV) and confessed to running a proliferation ring, and transferring technology to Iran between 1989 and 1991, and to North Korea and Libya between 1991 and 1997.
Although Khan was not arrested, national security hearings were launched by the joint law officers from JAG Branch. The debriefings implicated the former chief of army staff general Mirza Beg. The Wall Street Journal quoted US government officials saying that Qadeer Khan had told the military lawyers that General Beg had authorized the transfers to Iran. According to IISS reports, for several years Khan had security clearances over import and export operations which were largely unsupervised and undetected. Khan's security has been tightened since the 1970s, and he never travelled alone; always accompanied by the secret agents of the Pakistani military establishment.
Pardon, IAEA calls, and aftermath
Main article: Benazir Bhutto atomic technology controversy
See also: Pervez Musharraf atomic proliferation controversy
On 5 February 2004, President Musharraf pardoned him as he feared that the issue would be politicised by his rivals. The Constitution allows the President of Pakistan to issue presidential pardons. The hearings of Khan badly damaged the political credibility of President Musharraf and the image of the United States. While, the Pakistan media aired sympathising documentaries, the political parties on the other hand used that issue politically to the fall of Musharraf. The US Embassy had pointed out that the successor of Musharraf could be less friendly towards the United States; this restrained the United States from applying further direct pressure on Musharraf due to a strategic calculation that may led the loss of Musharraf as an ally.
Strong calls were made by many senior IAEA officials, U.S. and European Commission politicians, have Khan interrogated by IAEA investigators, given the lingering scepticism about the disclosures made by Pakistan regarding Khan's activities. All such requests were however strongly dismissed by the Prime minister Shaukat Aziz and the Pakistan government, terming it as "case closed".
In December 2006, the WMDC headed by Hans Blix, a former IAEA chief and UNMOVIC chief; said in a report that Abdul Qadeer Khan could not have acted alone "without the awareness of the Pakistan Government". Blix's statement was also reciprocated by the United States government, with one anonymous American government intelligence official quoting to independent journalist and author Seymour Hersh: "Suppose if Edward Teller had suddenly decided to spread nuclear technology around the world. Could he really do that without the American government knowing?".
In 2007, the hearings were suspended when Musharraf was succeeded by General Ashfaq Pervez Kiani as chief of army staff. Officially, all security hearings were terminated by the ChairmanJoint Chiefs General Tariq Majid on November 2008; Khan was never officially charged with espionage activities nor any criminal charges were pressed against him. The military maintained that the debriefings were the process of questioning Khan to learn and dismantle the atomic ring. The details of debriefings were marked as "classified" and were quickly wrapped up quietly following the fall of General Pervez Musharraf.
In 2008, in an interview, Khan laid the whole blame on Musharraf, and labelled Musharraf as a "Big Boss" for proliferation deals. In 2012, Khan later implicated Benazir Bhutto in proliferation matters, pointing out to the fact as she had issued "clear directions in thi[s] regard." Domestically it is believed by some that Khan was made a scapegoat by President Musharraf to prove his uttermost loyalty to the West whose support was urgently and desperately needed for the survival of his presidency.
Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan
Last changed 2 January 2002
By Carey Sublette
Long celebrated as the "Father of the Pakistani Bomb", A. Q. Khan deserves credit for providing Pakistan with the means for producing nuclear weapons, for without the uranium enrichment gas centrifuge plant built under Khan's leadership, using classified and proprietary plans and technology that he stole from his former employer URENCO, Pakistan would not now have the ability to build dozens of nuclear weapons. He has spent most of the last quarter century as the public face, indeed the very personification, of Pakistan's nuclear establishment. His frequent willingness to make colorful and inflammatory public statements ensured his notoriety and hold on the limelight, up until his surprise forced retirement in March 2001. But much of the credit he has been awarded - and has done nothing to discourage - for being virtually the sole force behind Pakistan's nuclear and missile programs is not deserved.
The hero of Pakistan's nuclear weapons capability was born in present day India, in Bhopal State, in 1936 - the son of a teacher in a family of modest means. For five years, between the 1947 establishment of India as an independent state and 1952, Khan was a citizen of India. Then the Muslim Khan immigrated to Pakistan with his family as did millions of other Muslims before and after the 1947 partition of the two states. After graduating from school in Karachi he went to Europe in 1961 to continue his studies. First in Germany he attended the Technische Universit�t of West Berlin, then in Holland where he received a degree in metallurgical engineering at the Technical University of Delft in 1967. Eventually Khan received a Ph.D. in metallurgy from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium in 1972.
After graduation Khan went to work for the Physical Dynamics Research Laboratory (FDO), a subsidiary of Verenigde Machine-Fabrieken, in Amsterdam in May 1972. FDO was a subcontractor to Ultra-Centrifuge Nederland (UCN) - the Dutch partner of the tri-national European uranium enrichment centrifuge consortium URENCO, made up of Britain, Germany, and the Netherlands.
Since Khan had lived in Europe from 1961 on and was married to a Dutch national (as the Dutch security service BVD believed) the very personable Khan had little trouble getting a security clearance - a limited security clearance. Curiously Khan's wife Henny was not Dutch though, but a Dutch-speaking South African holding a British passport.
Elementary principals of security were not, it seems, observed by any part of the URENCO establishment. Routine procedures, such as wearing identification badges marked with the level of clearance appear to have been unknown. Once someone gained access to part of a facility with one level of clearance, there seem to have been few if any barriers to moving to higher level areas. The customary practice of checking the security clearance level of a person before signing out to classified documents to them appears to have been ignored.
Within a week of starting with FDO A. Q. Khan was sent to the UCN enrichment facility in Almelo, Netherlands. A visit to an external facility would normally require the transmittal of security paperwork to be granted access. This procedure was ignored by both FDO and UCN, because Khan was not cleared to visit the UCN facility, though he would do so repeatedly during his employment.
The multi-lingual engineer was tasked with translating highly classified technical documents describing the centrifuges in detail. In the course of this work, he often took the documents home, with FDO's consent, even though this was also a breach of normal procedure. In his first two years Khan worked with two early centrifuge designs, the CNOR and SNOR machines, then in late 1974 UCN asked Khan to translate highly classified design documents for two advanced German machines, the G-1 and G-2. These represented the most sophisticated industrial enrichment technology in the world at the time.
Khan spent 16 days over the course of a month in the highest security area of the Almelo facility while studying these machines. During this period he had unsupervised access, and was noted roaming around, writing notes in a foreign script, but with the lax security culture no attempts to stop him or investigate his activities [Weissman and Krosney 1981; pp. 175-179], [Burrows and Windrem 1994; pp. 362-364].
Shahid-ur-Rehman relates in his book The Long Road to Chagai that Khan wrote to the Prime Minister in September 1974 offering his services to Pakistan, which means that he had definitely begun his espionage activities by the time he went to work with the G-2 and G-2. Evidence of the effect of Khan's passing of information on centrifuge technology and design, and on the URENCO component suppliers, to Pakistan can be seen in the initiation of the Pakistani purchase of components for the uranium enrichment program beginning in August 1975.
In January 1976, on (according to Khan) the invitation of Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, he suddenly left Europe with his family before his espionage was detected. The Khans's departure was deceptive, Henny wrote to neighbor's saying they were on vacation and Abdul had suddenly fallen ill. Khan later sent a letter of resignation, effective in March, to FDO from Pakistan.
A.Q. Khan initially worked under the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), headed by Munir Ahmad Khan. A small centrifuge pilot facility was initially set up at Sihala, several kilometers southeast of Islamabad. Friction quickly developed and in July 1976 Bhutto gave Khan autonomous control of the uranium enrichment project, reporting directly to the Prime Minister's office, an arrangement that has continued since. A.Q. Khan founded the Engineering Research Laboratories (ERL) on 31 July 1976, a few kilometers from Sihala, outside Kahuta near Islamabad, with the exclusive task of indigenous development of Uranium Enrichment Plant. Construction on Pakistan's first centrifuges began that year. The PAEC under M. A. Khan went on to develop Pakistan's first generation of nuclear weapons in the 1980s [Perkovich 1999; pp. 308-309].
Due to Khan's efforts, the slow recognition of the program by western intelligence, and the weak export controls at the time, Pakistan made rapid progress in developing U-235 production capability. When export controls on nuclear usable materials were imposed on Pakistan in 1974, the focus was on technology applicable to plutonium production, not uranium enrichment, and the focus was on plants and complete systems, not components. By using Khan's detailed information of components and suppliers Pakistan was able to circumvent these controls.
According to Khan in a 1998 interview, the first enrichment was done at Kahuta on 4 April 1978. The plant was made operational in 1979 and by 1981 was producing substantial quantities of uranium.
In recognition of A. Q. Khan's contributions the ERL was renamed the A.Q. Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) by President Zia ul-Haq on 1 May 1981.
A later Dutch security enquiry revealed that Khan had probably appropriated much of the UCN facility's secrets. Starting in 1978, he was also named in numerous other Western inquiries and media reports about secret purchasing operations for components for Pakistan's uranium enrichment plant.
Khan acknowledges he did take advantage of his experience of many years of working on similar projects in Europe and his contacts there with various manufacturing firms, but denies engaging in nuclear espionage for which a court in Amsterdam sentenced him in absentia in 1983 to four years in prison. An appeals court two years later upheld his appeal against the conviction and quashed the sentence for failure to properly deliver a summons to him.
The prosecution had the option to renew the charges and issue a fresh summons for trial, but given the impossibility of serving him a summons behind the curtain of Pakistani security the Dutch government decided against pursuing the case any further - a fact that Khan claims as an admission that there was no substance to the case.
"The information I had asked for was ordinary technical information available in published literature for many decades," Khan said in a speech afterwards about his two letters to his contacts that became the basis for his prosecution.
"I had requested for it as we had no library of our own at that time."
Of course the classified documents he undoubtedly copied and sent to Pakistan, as well as his written notes were not in the possession of Dutch security and thus could not be used to build a case against him.
Khan insists that the Pakistani centrifuge program is indigenous and that the equipment used in it was developed and manufactured locally. In 1990 Khan declared "All the research work was the result of our innovation and struggle. We did not receive any technical know-how from abroad, but we can't reject the use of books, magazines and research papers in this connection." [Burrows and Windrem 1994; pp. 368]
It has been reported that a CIA analyses of Pakistan's huge purchasing program showed that they had succeeded in obtaining at least one of almost every component needed to build a centrifuge enrichment plant [Weissman and Krosney 1981; pp. 190].
The notion - expressed by Khan - that his personal access to detailed classified and proprietary ultracentrifuge designs was coincidental to his role in leading Pakistan's enrichment program, that he declined to employ the knowledge he had gained at FDO to assist Pakistan's program in constructing an enrichment plant in five years, and that the wholesale importation of the entire technology suite required to build a European-designed centrifuge plant does not constitute "technical know-how from abroad" cannot be taken seriously, to say the least.
The massive purchases of foreign equipment - continuing up through the purchase of ring magnets from China in the mid-90s, show heavy dependence on foreign technology and components. But even so, the plants themselves are Pakistani developments -- Pakistan had to design and build the facilities, assemble the systems from components, while manufacturing components themselves that they could not obtain in sufficient number. This is quite unlike reactors and plutonium separation plants that other proliferating countries have acquired ready-made and were trained to operate by their suppliers.
Khan, because of the secrecy enveloping Pakistan's nuclear program, has lived heavily guarded by security men. Over the years there have been a number of incidents involving encounters between foreigners and the heavy-handed security surrounding Khan and KRL. In late July 1979, unidentified men stopped and beat severely the French Ambassador and his First Secretary as they were driving by Khan's laboratories in Kahuta. A few weeks later in August a journalist for the Financial Times named Chris Sherwell trying to locate Khan's house to conduct an interview in Islamabad was beaten up and then arrested and charged with fictitious crimes, forcing him to leave the country. Later a British diplomat's son was detained by police after losing his way in the Islamabad district that houses Khan [Weissman and Krosney 1981; pp. 193], [Henderson 1993].
Despite the secrecy and security, Khan has taken the public spotlight on numerous occasions, attracting some criticism for seeking publicity in contrast to his more discrete counterpart in India, Abdul Kalam.
It was on such an occasion - an interview in February 1984 - that he first made the claim that Pakistan had achieved nuclear weapons capability.
And when the 1986-87 Exercise Brasstacks crisis was at its height on 28 January 1987 - an outbreak of warfare between India and Pakistan seemed imminent due to a confrontation over military exercises near the border - A.Q. Khan made threatening remarks regarding Pakistani nuclear retaliation to Indian journalist Kuldip Nayar, apparently intending that they be conveyed to the Indian government. Nayar however shopped the story around for a few weeks, and it was not published until 1 March, after the matter had been resolved. Nonetheless it left a lingering sense of nuclear threat with India.
Khan's public pronouncements also helped generate the tense atmosphere in which India's 1998 nuclear tests were conducted. In an inauspiciously timed visit, Bill Richardson led a high level U.S. delegation that visited New Delhi and then Pakistan on 15 April. During the visit Khan, told the Urdu daily Ausaf "We are ready to carry out nuclear explosion anytime and the day this political decision will be made, we will show the world," during an informal chat with journalists. "We have achieved uranium enrichment capability way back in 1978 and after that several times we asked different governments to grant us permission to carry out a nuclear test. But we did not get the permission," the daily quoted him as saying. Asked when Pakistan would carry out a nuclear test, Dr. Khan was quoted as having said, "Get permission from the government." Khan was not a spokesman for the government at the time, but he remained extremely influential and was still closely connected with the corridors of power in Pakistan.
As a result, not everyone in Pakistan holds Khan in awe. Some who have worked with him remember him as a egomaniacal lightweight given to exaggerating his expertise. "Most of the scientists who work on weapons are serious. They are sobered by the weight of what they don't know," said Munir Ahmad Khan, the former head of the PAEC. "Khan is a showman."
Despite his extreme prominence (Khan is one of the most famous men in Pakistan) and undoubted importance in Pakistan's acquisition of nuclear weapons, A. Q. Khan was never in charge of the actual development of nuclear weapons themselves (despite common assumptions to the contrary, which Khan did nothing to discourage). Weapons development, and their eventual testing, was carried out by the PAEC.
During the 1990s Khan lived in a spacious single-story house, located in Islamabad near the Faisal mosque, with his wife Henny and two daughters. The road outside his house is a public thoroughfare, but there are safety bumps in the road surface to slow traffic and a permanent security post is opposite the house. On the road, his car is escorted by four-wheel drive security vehicles with sirens and lights blaring and flashing.
Khan keeps a small menagerie of pets. Each day at sunrise, he takes a sackful of peanuts when he walks into the wooded Margala Hills across from his home and feeds the monkeys. Declared Khan, the day after his country exploded another nuclear device, "I am the kindest man in Pakistan. I feed the ants in the morning. I feed the monkeys."
Abdul Qadeer Khan's official career came to an abrupt end in March 2001, when he and PAEC Chairman Ishfaq Ahmed were suddenly retired by order of General (and now President) Pervez Musharraf. What prompted this move can only be speculated, but the Pakistani weapons program - which has been sponsored, run, and controlled by the military from its outset - is now mature, and it may be that Musharraf, who was busy mending fences with the outside world, wished to tie down some loose cannons that were a source of irritation with India and the United States. Both men were offered the post of "adviser to the chief executive", which Khan eventually rejected after much vacillation. Khan is now described as "Special Adviser to the Chief Executive on Strategic and KRL Affairs" a wholly ceremonial title. ([Mushtaq 2001], [Guinnessy 2001]).
Reuters and Los Angeles Times news reports were used in preparing this article.