Khan Research Laboratories

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Khan Research Laboratories
State emblem of Pakistan.svg
Former name
  • Engineering Research Laboratories
  • Kahuta Research Laboratories
  • Dr. A. Q. Khan Research Laboratories
  • Project-706
Established 31 July 1976 (1976-07-31)
Field of research
Location Kahuta, District Kahuta, Pakistan

The Khan Research Laboratories,[1] previously known at various times as Project-706, and Engineering Research Laboratories, is a Pakistan Government's multi-program national research institute, managed and operated under the scrutiny of Pakistan Armed Forces, located in Kahuta, Punjab Province.[citation needed] The laboratories are one of the largest science and technology institutions in Pakistan, and conducts multidisciplinary research and development in fields such as national security, space exploration, and supercomputing.[2]

While the laboratories remain highly classified, the KRL is most famous for its research, development, and production of Highly-Enriched Uranium (HEU), using gas-centrifuge (Zippe-type) technological methods roughly based on the model of the Urenco Group—the technology brought by Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, who worked there as a senior scientist.[2] Since its inception, this institutes employed large number of technical staff members with majority being physicists and mathematicians, assisted by engineers (both army and civilians), chemists, and material scientists.[3] Professional scientists and engineers are also delegated to visit this institute after going under close and strict screening and background check, to participates as visitors in scientific projects.[3]

During the midst of the 1970s, the laboratories were the cornerstone of the first stage of Pakistan' atomic bomb project, being one of the various sites where the classified scientific research on atomic bombs were undertaken.[2]


Main article: Kahuta Project

As early as in 1970s, the early stage of the Pakistan's atomic bomb program focused on its primary efforts on producing and developing a weapons-grade plutonium device under the research led by Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC). In 1974, India conducted a surprise nuclear test (Smiling Buddha), the PAEC launched a clandestine uranium enrichment project with nuclear engineer Sultan Mahmood becoming its director; Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan joined the Sultan Mahmood in 1974. Work at the Kahuta site was initiated by Prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, as part of Project-706.[4][5]

After disagreeing with Sultan Mahmood's calculation and feasibility report submitted to the government, Prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto detached the work from the PAEC and made Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan the director of the uranium enrichment project in 1976. The uranium project was moved to Kahuta where the project was established as Engineering Research Laboratories (ERL). Wanting a capable administrator, Bhutto asked the Chief of Army Staff for the selection, and the Engineer-in-Chief chose Brigadier Zahid Ali Akbar to lead the program.[4] Because the experiments were deemed too dangerous to conduct in a major city, the operations were moved in a remote mountainous northern areas of Pakistan.[6] Both the facility and its related laboratories, and the nearby city of Kahuta, were built by the Pakistan Army Corps of Engineers under command of Lieutenant-General Zahid Ali Akbar.[6] The Military Engineering Service of Pakistan Army also contributed in the construction of the uranium enrichment plant at Kahuta.[7] Conducting a classified research, the facility was heavy secured by both the Pakistan Army and the Pakistan Air Force (PAF).[6] All employees needed badges to pass a checkpoint, and the laboratories are electronically fenced and guarded.[6]

Originally known as Engineering Research Laboratories (ERL), the facility was renamed Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) in May 1981 by the President and Chief of Army Staff General Zia-ul-Haq in the honor of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan.[8] KRL began producing HEU in 1986, and Pakistan's fabrication of weapons may have begun soon thereafter, with highly enriched 6UF being reduced to uranium metal and machined into weapon pits. By the late 1980s, Pakistan was advertising its nuclear capabilities; publishing technical articles on centrifuge design, including a 1987 article co-authored by Qadeer Khan on techniques for balancing sophisticated ultracentrifuge rotors.[9]

According to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, Chinese technicians were present at Kahuta in the early 1980s, an unconfirmed indicator of Chinese assistance in the development of equipment at Kahuta.[10] The U.S. intelligence community concluded that 5,000 ring magnets supplied by China in 1996 were meant for special suspension bearings mounted at the top of rotating centrifuge cylinders. During his debriefings in 2005-7, Qadeer Khan alleged that in the 1980s the military government of President General Zia-ul-Haq had him and the KRL to lead the establishment of HEU programme in the Chinese nuclear program, and provided technical support to China's centrifuge and other classified programs.[11] Abdul Qadeer Khan also alleged that "KRL has built a centrifuge facility for China in Hanzhong province".[11]

Extended projects[edit]

Apart from operating the uranium enrichment facilities, the KRL includes a ballistic missile-space research laboratories[12] that competes with the PAEC to produce advanced ballistic missiles ranging for targeting enemy combatant targets and the space exploration. Its space-missile exploration projects based on producing the liquid fuel rockets in comparison to solid fuel rockets projects of the National Development Laboratories (NDL). The KRL's missile projects are widely believed to be based on North Korean technology; exchanges took place in the late 1990s. The following missiles have been produced by KRL:[13]

The continuing efforts to make the laboratories more science efficient led the Ministry of Science (MoSci) to grant a three research and fellowship programmes with the Government College University with the support of Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF).[14][15] Since 1980 at present, the KRL continues to develop the research work on computational mathematics, supercomputing and advanced mathematics to the extended applications to natural sciences.[16]

National security[edit]

The KRL performs variety of weapons science and engineering projects for Pakistan Defence Forces. Since the 1980s, the KRL is involved in numerous military equipment and conventional weaponry development projects. The resulting systems have been put into service by the Pakistan's military and exported to other friendly nations. The following is a list of known equipment produced under these projects:[12][13]

KRL is said to have entered into an agreement with Malaysian businessman Shah Hakim Zain to export weapons to Malaysia.[17]


  1. ^ Originally, the concept was conceived during the post-1971 war, and the programme was launched in 1974 under the codename "Project-706". In 1976, the laboratories was founded in 1976 as a highly sensitive, centralized, and secretive facility to coordinate the scientific research for the clandestine atomic bomb project. The laboratories were founded by Abdul Qadeer Khan who served its senior scientist at first, and was built under the engineering management of the Corps of Engineers. Since 1976, the laboratories has been multiply referred as to "Engineering Research Laboratories (ERL)"; the "Kahuta Research Laboratories (KRL)"; Dr. A. Q. Khan Research Laboratories (also KRL)" or alternatively denoted as "Khan Labs"
  2. ^ a b c Pike, John. "Kahuta: Pakistan's Special Labs". Tuesday, May 16, 2000 12:00:01 AM. Federation of American Scientists. Retrieved 1 May 2012. 
  3. ^ a b et. al. unknown (staff writer). "Sample Preparation Facilities". GC University Press. Retrieved 20 October 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Khan, Abdul Qadeer (29 July 2009). "Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Kahuta". The News International, 2009. Retrieved 5 May 2012. 
  5. ^ Babar (M.Sc Civil Engineering), Farhatullah. "Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the atomic bomb project". Pakistan Peoples Party, (Directorate-General for the Public Relations and Media Broadcasting Publications). Directorate-General for the Public Relations and Media Broadcasting Publications. Retrieved 5 May 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c d Koelbl, Susanne (2011-06-28). "'We May Be Naive, But We Are Not Idiots', Pakistan Nuclear Development.". Spiegel Online. Susanne Koelbl of the Spiegel Online. Retrieved 2011. 
  7. ^ PA, Pakistan Army. "KAK Bridge to KRL". Frontier Works Organizations (1989). DIrectorate of Inter-Services Public Relations. Retrieved 5 May 2012. 
  8. ^ Pike, John. "Kahuta: Khan Research Laboratories: A.Q. Khan Laboratories: Engineering Research Laboratories (ERL)". The Federation of American Scientists (Updated Tuesday, May 16, 2000 12:00:01 AM ). Federation of American Scientists (FAS). Retrieved 5 May 2012. 
  9. ^ Upadhyaya, Gopal S. (2011). "§Dr. A.Q. Khan of Pakistan". Men of Metals and Materials: My Memoires. Bloomington, Indiana, United States: p. 248pp. ISBN 9698500006.
  10. ^ Khan Research Laboratories
  11. ^ a b Kan, Shirley A. (2009). "§A.Q. Khan's nuclear network". China and Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Missiles: Policy issues. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service (CRS): Congressional Research Service (CRS). pp. 5–6. ISBN Congressional Research Service (CRS).
  12. ^ a b
  13. ^ a b
  14. ^ GCU. "Department of Physics, KRL". Government College University. Department of Physics and Mathematics (GCU). Retrieved 5 May 2012. 
  15. ^ GCU. "Abdus Salam Chair in Physics in KRL". Government College University. Abdus Salam Chair in Physic (GCU). Retrieved 5 May 2012. 
  16. ^ Techmoot. "Tasneem Shah of KRL". Techmoot. Retrieved 5 May 2012. 
  17. ^ Malaysia Today Article

External links[edit]