Munir Ahmad Khan
|Munir Ahmad Khan|
Munir Ahmad Khan (1920–1999), NI, HI.
|Born||20 May 1926|
|Died||22 April 1999
|Institutions||Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission
International Atomic Energy Agency
Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology
Government College University
National Centre for Theoretical Physics
|Alma mater||Government College University
North Carolina State University
Illinois Institute of Technology
Argonne National Laboratory
|Academic advisors||Rafi Muhammad Chaudhry
Prof. George B. Hoadley
|Known for||Pakistan's atomic deterrent program
Pakistan's nuclear energy program
Work on reactor physics
|Notable awards||Hilal-e-Imtiaz (1989)
Munir Ahmad Khan (Urdu: منير احمد خان; b. 20 May 1926 – 22 April 1999; NI HI), was a Pakistani nuclear engineer and a nuclear physicist, who served as the chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) from 1972 to 1991. He is credited among the persons who are called as "father of the Pakistan's atomic bomb project", for their role in Pakistan's integrated atomic bomb project— the clandestine Cold war program developed the atomic weapons that ultimately resulted in first successful atomic bomb testing on May 1998 as Chagai-I in Balochistan. These tests are considered one of few milestones in Pakistan's history in which, the nuclear devices were developed and produced under a programme of which Khan served its technical director.
A technical adviser to the newly created PAEC since 1958, Khan used that position in IAEA for lobbying for country's industrial nuclear power development. A proponent of an arm race with India, he remained associated with his country's various strategic science projects for more than four decades until his death in 1999. After securing the chairmanship of the Board of Governors of the IAEA from 1986–87, he made a strong case for Pakistan's peaceful development on nuclear energy. Serving till 1999 as visiting professor of physics at the Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences in Islamabad, his notable achievements as included the establishment of the first international conference in science in Pakistan; that promoted research in physics, mathematical sciences, and science and technology in the country. He also made critical contributions on the development of the nuclear fuel cycle including the setting up of the plutonium program as well as the establishment of reprocessing plants. In 1986, he entered into a comprehensive civil nuclear energy agreement with China, which led the established the C-1 reactor at the Chashma Nuclear Power Complex.
- 1 Youth and early life
- 2 Early professional work
- 3 Zulifikar Ali Bhutto's trusted aide
- 4 Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC)
- 5 Legacy
- 6 Quotes by Khan
- 7 State Honors
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Youth and early life
Munir Ahmad Khan was born in Kasur, Punjab, British Indian Empire into the Punjabi Pathan family on 20 May 1926. Educated from Lahore, he enrolled at the Government College University in 1942 and graduated with double bachelors in physics and mathematics at the prestigious Government College University in 1946 as a contemporary of the Nobel Laureate Professor Abdus Salam.
He enrolled at the Punjab University in 1949 and began studying the electrical engineering; he graduated in 1951 with a bachelors in electrical engineering with an academic Roll of Honour. In 1951, Khan joined the teaching faculty at the University of Engineering and Technology (UET) to instruct courses on undergraduate mathematics. After wining the Fullbright scholarship, Khan went to the United States and joined the North Carolina State University where he completed his master's program in electrical engineering in 1952.
Studies in United States
While in the United States, Khan gradually lost interests in electrical engineering and began his studies on advance physics courses. In 1953, he moved to Chicago and began taking interests in thermodynamics and began post-graduate work on kinetic theory of gases at the Illinois Institute of Technology which continued until 1956 during which time he also received preliminary training in atomic energy. By 1956, he was selected for the Atoms for Peace initiatives and participated in the Nuclear Engineering training program at the North Carolina State University while continued his research on nuclear power sources at the Argonne National Laboratory, Illinois.
In 1957, he completed his master's program and earned master of science in nuclear engineering in 1957. He was part of the third batch of NCSU's graduates who had specialized in reactor physics and nuclear engineering. Major part of his research in nuclear reactors were carried out at the Argonne National Laboratory were operated by the USAEC and the Chicago University where, on 2 December 1942 a team of scientists achieved the first self-sustaining chain reaction in a nuclear reactor, which is considered to be a crucial step in the development of the first atomic bomb.
Early professional work
While at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Khan was awarded Sigma-Xi fellowship in recognition of his research work. His early professional work was with the Wisconsin-based Allis-Chalmers where he worked as a system engineer for a short time before joining the Commonwealth Edison in Chicago. It was during his work with Allis-Chalmers that Khan began taking interests in nuclear physics due to company's background on nuclear technology. During World War II, the Allis-Chalmers was a sub-contractor and manufacturer of pumps and equipment for the K-25 gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment plant, at Oak Ridge, Tennessee for the Manhattan Project.
At the Commonwealth Edison, Khan's work took place working on a project on building the EBR-I– the world's first commercial nuclear power plant. All of early professional work took involved working in nuclear project, which lead Khan to enrolled at the nuclear engineering program of the NCSU
In 1957, Khan served as a Resident Research Associate in the Nuclear Engineering Division of the Argonne National Laboratory where he worked as a reactor design engineer on "Modifications of CP-5 reactor." He then served in the Reactor Division of the American Machine Foundry Company, AMF Atomics, where he worked on the "Thermodynamic Design of Japan Research Reactor-2" till 1958.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
After graduating in nuclear engineering from the United States, Khan was offered to joined the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 1958, becoming a staff member in Professional Grade P-5. Eventually, he joined the IAEA's Nuclear power division and was the first Asian member from any developing country who was appointed at a senior technical position in the IAEA. In 1958, Khan joined the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) technical branch, serving at the advisory board. At IAEA, he earned the nickname as the "Reactor Khan, and began assisting Pakistan at IAEA on nuclear issues.
By 1961, he was a senior officer responsible for reactor technology at the Reactor Division of the IAEA, and from 1968, Khan was now heading the IAEA's Reactor Division till 1972.
His major responsibilities as head of IAEA's Reactor Division included developing and implementing programs in the field of research in reactor utilization in nuclear centers, technical and economic assessment of nuclear power reactors, world survey of nuclear power plants for developing countries, construction and operating experience with nuclear stations, fast breeder reactors and nuclear desalination.
As a senior IAEA staff member, Khan also organized more than 20 international technical and scientific conferences and seminars on heavy water reactors, advanced Gas Cooled Reactors, plutonium utilisation, performance of nuclear power plants, problems and prospects of introducing nuclear power in developing countries, Small and Medium Power Reactors and coordination of programs for research in Theoretical Estimation of Uranium Depletion and Plutonium build-up in Power Reactors in the United States, Soviet Union, United Kingdom, France and Canada. In 1961, he prepared a technical feasibility report on behalf of the IAEA on Small Power Reactor projects of the United States Atomic Energy Commission.
While at the IAEA, Munir Khan also served as Scientific Secretary to the Third and Fourth UN International Geneva Conferences on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy in 1964 and 1971 respectively. He also served as Chairman of the IAEA Board of Governors from 1986–87 and was the leader of Pakistan's delegations to 19 IAEA General Conferences from 1972–90. He also served as a Member of the IAEA Board of Governors for 12 years.
International Centre for Theoretical Physics
Since the 1940s, Munir Khan and the Nobel Laureate in Physics, Professor Abdus Salam were associates who studied Physics and Mathematics together at Government College, Lahore. Khan recognised the importance of Theoretical physics, and had studied its "real world" applications that related to the field of nuclear engineering, whilst trying to solve the reactor physics problems. During 1967, he and Salam prepared a proposal for setting up a nuclear fuel and plutonium reprocessing plant in Pakistan, which was deferred by President Field Marshal Ayub Khan on economic grounds.
In fact, Khan was the first person at the IAEA who was consulted by Abdus Salam in September 1960 about the establishment of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), Trieste. Khan played a very important role in the establishment of the ICTP by way of securing the support of the IAEA the cause. According to Khan, Nobel laureate Isidor Rabi and Homi Bhabha, members of the scientific advisory committee of IAEA, unanimously opposed the establishment of ICTP. Privately, Bhabha wanted to establish the ICTP in Mumbai, but Salam refused. Therefore, Khan teamed up with Salam and established the ICTP in Italy, despite many initiatives taken against it. Following the same tradition, in 1976, Abdus Salam and Munir Khan established the Annual international Nathiagali Summer College on Theoretical Physics and Contemporary Needs in Pakistan where the first conference was held on Theoretical physics and Quantum Mechanics in 1976. Munir Khan took special interest in holding the first INSC in 1976 and since then it has evolved into an annual event and an institution for interaction between Nobel Laureates and scientists from the developing world. He invited hundreds of scientists from all over the world to come to Pakistan and interact with Pakistani scientists.
In December 1972, Abdus Salam directed two Pakistani theoretical physicists, Riazuddin and Masud Ahmad, who were working under him at the ICTP, to report to Munir Khan on their return to Pakistan where they formed the "Theoretical Physics Group" (TPG) in PAEC. This group would go on to develop the theoretical design of Pakistan's nuclear weapons.
On August 1996, Khan met Abdus Salam in Oxford. Khan wrote:
My last meeting with Abdus Salam was only three months ago. His disease had taken its toll and he was unable to talk. Yet he understood what was said. I told him about the celebration held in Pakistan on his seventieth birthday. He kept staring at me. He had risen above praise. As I rose to leave he pressed my hand to express his feelings as if he wanted to thank everyone who had said kind words about him. Dr. Abdus Salam had deep love for Pakistan in spite of the fact that he was treated unfairly and indifferently by his own country. It became more and more difficult for him to come to Pakistan and this hurt him deeply. Now he has returned home finally, to rest in peace for ever in the soil that he loved so much. May be in the years to come we will rise above our prejudice and own him and give him, after his death, what we could not when he was alive...—Munir Ahmad Khan paying tribute to Abdus Salam, 
Munir Khan's efforts at lobbying for the up-gradation and strengthening of the Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences (PIEAS), which he had established in 1976 as Pakistan's premier institute for physics and engineering, resulted in PIEAS being awarded university status in 1997 as a full-fledged science research institute status by the government in 2000, culminating as the Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences (PIEAS).
Munir Khan remained associated with the PIEAS as the associate professor of physics, a passion that remained entire his life, and was instrumental in scientific competition in the PIEAS between students and professors.
Zulifikar Ali Bhutto's trusted aide
Munir Ahmad Khan became increasingly concerned about politics and international affairs after Pakistan's 1965 war with India. Although, he did not personally know Bhutto at the time though he had seen Bhutto's role in PAEC in 1958 as Energy Minister.
Khan had his first meeting with Bhutto in October 1965 in Vienna and asked him to inform the Pakistan government about the quick advancement and advanced status of the Indian nuclear programme; many options were drawn out by Munir Khan to Bhutto for Pakistan to acquire its own nuclear deterrence capability. As Bhutto sensed the importance of the issue, he arranged Munir's private meeting with President Ayub Khan on 11 December 1965, at the Dorchester Hotel in London. Without wasting time, Munir Khan asked President Ayub Khan to pursue the nuclear deterrent against the India's armed nuclear threat. While President Ayub Khan patiently listened to Munir Khan's offer, which according to Munir Khan, was available free of safeguards and at an affordable cost from international supplier states, the President swiftly dismissed the offer since he believed that Pakistan "was too poor to spend" so much money and ended the meeting that if needed, Pakistan would "somehow buy it off the shelf".
Although the meeting was not successful as expected, Bhutto and Munir Khan vowed to deter the Indian nuclear threat with Bhutto quoting: "Don't worry. Our turn will come". This was the beginning of their association, and Munir Khan increasingly became involved with politics and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
Finally, the goal of making Pakistan a nuclear power saw its first milestone when country's first commercial nuclear power plant was inaugurated in Karachi 28 November 1972. There, Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Munir Khan recalled their past association and similarity of views about developing nuclear capability for Pakistan. While addressing the Munir Ahmad Khan, Bhutto said:
|“||"Since 1965, I have been in close touch with you (Chairman PAEC) and we have had many occasions to discuss how atomic energy can help in the development of our country. That is why soon after assuming this office, I not only placed the Atomic Energy Commission under my direct control, but asked you to return to the country and serve the nation. I am glad that the Atomic Energy Commission is on the move with a well-defined and broad-based programme for the future. I believe that Pakistan's survival lies in using nuclear research, nuclear technology, and nuclear power for the betterment of its people. The Government will give the fullest support to the Programme of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and this country will make the necessary resources available to bring the promise of atomic energy to the people of Pakistan at the earliest possible time".||”|
In his inaugural address, the Munir Ahmad Khan addressed the Prime Minister of Pakistan Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and stated:
|“||"I remember the day in October, 1965 when I had the opportunity of discussing with you the tremendous potential which atomic energy had and the role it could play in the development of our country. You not only listened but insisted that I present my view to higher-ups. I went. But my pleadings made no impact and I was dubbed as another mad man who thought like Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. But the times have changed and so has the destiny of our country".||”|
Throughout the development of the atomic bomb in the 1970s and 80s, Munir Khan continued his left-wing associations with the Peoples Party even after Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was overthrown in a coup led by Zia-ul-Haq who shifted in Bhutto in the Adiala Jail. Bhutto continued to send messages to Munir Ahmad Khan inquiring about the progress of various projects of the atomic bomb project when the Chairman of PAEC would visit the former Prime Minister of Pakistan in jail on the pretext of delivering oranges and vitamins to update him on the status of the nuclear weapons program. Benazir and Murtaza Bhutto were instructed by her father to have keep the contacts with Munir Ahmad Khan.[nb 1]
Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC)
On 16 December 1971, Pakistan ultimately called out for a ceasefire to end the war with India and unconditionally surrendered to India, which culminated with the East-Pakistan becoming the independent Bangladesh. On 20 January 1972, President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto chaired a winter session at Multan which was arranged and held by Abdus Salam and authorized the crash program to develop an atomic bomb for sake of a "national survival". President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto invited Khan to take over the work on the crash program, a task that Khan threw himself into with full vigor. In spite of having been unknown to many senior scientists, Khan busied himself on development of the crash program, assisting in fast neutron calculations. The fact that Khan was not a doctorate holder, his extensive experience as nuclear engineer and then director of reactor physics division at IAEA, enabled him to direct senior scientists to work under him on nuclear projects. In a short time, he impressed the conservatively-aligned military by the breadth of his knowledge and his unparallel singular grasp in engineering, ordnance, metallurgy, chemistry and interdisciplinary projects that would differs the physics.
A detailed framework was established and submitted to Prime Minister's Secretariat which envisioned the infrastructure establishment of numerous manufacturing plants and facilities needed to master the complete nuclear fuel cycle. On November 1972, he and Salam assisted President Bhutto in inaugurating country's first 137MWe commercial nuclear power plant, KANUPP-I. On December 1972, Khan joined Salam to initiate the work on fast neutron calculations necessary for the physics mechanism for the atomic bombs. On 20 December, Abdus Salam established the Theoretical Physics Group (TPG) in PAEC after calling two theoretical physicists working at the ICTP to meet with Khan at the Quaid-e-Azam University.
The TPG under Salam began calculating hidden physics and mathematics problems and seeking solutions for fast neutron calculations as well as theoretically developing appropriate designs for the atomic bombs. In 1973, Salam took over the additional work on fast neutron calculations working directly under the PAEC.
One of the important act was to called for a meeting for physical development of bomb at his Pinstech building, inviting mechanical engineer Hafeez Qureshi and chemical engineer dr. Zaman Shaikh from DESTO. Attending with the Salam and Riazuddin of TPG, it was decided to established the secretive Directorate for Technical Development (DTD) which would conduct engineering calculations for the physical development to make the bomb. During the meeting the word "bomb" was never used, but the participants fully understood what was being discussed.
The next day, Salam, Riazuddin and Khan chaired a last meeting with Lieutenant-General Qamar Ali Mirza and the Engineer-in-Chief of the Corps of Engineers to handle its part in atomic bomb project, with first starting the construction of the Metallurgical Laboratory (Met Lab). Meanwhile, the DTD busied itself to developed the chemical explosive lenses, tampers, a sub-critical sphere of fissile material could be squeezed into a smaller and denser form.
The TPG worked under Salam until 1974; after Salam's departure, the TPG was instituted under Riazuddin directly reporting to Khan, and continued to develop new indigenous nuclear weapons designs which were tested in various cold tests by PAEC. In the months and initial years following Khan's taking over the atomic bomb project, the PAEC's corporate management entered into agreements with France, Belgium, Canada, and Germany for the supply of a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, a heavy water plant and a nuclear fuel fabrication plant, which were to be under IAEA safeguards. None of the agreements were made feasible and further abrogated by each states when India conducted its surprise nuclear test in 1974 and Pakistan's stance on refusing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
1971 war and atomic bomb project
In 1972, the development efforts were directed to a plutonium-implosion type weapon, called Kirana-I. On 18 May 1974, Khan was in Peshawar for laying the foundations of an agriculture center at Nuclear Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA), when India surprisingly conducted a nuclear test; therefore, Khan cancelled the meeting despite civil engineer Farhatullah Babar's recommendation and flew to Islamabad to hold talks with Zulfikar Bhutto. Farhatullah Babar has described Khan's response after Indian explosion:
The day (May 18, 1974) India immaturely exploded her device, Munir Khan was in Peshawar where he had laid the foundation of an agricultural center and had planned a press conference in the evening... When Munir Khan heard the news, he cancelled the press conference. I insisted to continue the conference as it was planned, Munir Khan refused and said: "You should not expect me to talk about potatoes and onions when the Indians are exploding a nuclear device close to our border....".
As he returned to Islamabad, Khan wrote a lengthy and detailed paper titled "India's nuclear explosion: Challenge and Response", and published his paper in IAEA soon after. Sensing the political importance of the test, Khan launched the initiated secret work on uranium enrichment under Bashiruddin Mahmood. Khalil Qureshi, a physical chemist joined the uranium enrichment project in 1975, and did most of the calculations on military-grade uranium. In 1976, metallurgist Abdul Qadeer Khan further collaborated with Bashiruddin Mahmood and Khalil Qureshi on uranium enrichment project. Technical difficulties and peer problems led to separation of uranium enrichment project and put it under the Corps of Engineers with dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan being its chief scientist. The atomic bomb project quickly transferred from civilian Ministry of Science to the military. By June 1976, the team of scientists and engineers under the physicist GD Allam began rotating the first experimental centrifuges at the Air Force Science Research Laboratories.
|“||"We were not just making the bomb, but building science and technology....||”|
—Munir Khan describing the atomic bomb efforts, 
In 1976, Khan tasked Ishfaq Ahmad and Ahsan Mubarak to scout for a suitable nuclear test site with the help from the Corps of Engineers and Geological Survey of Pakistan (GSP). The team searched for a high scalar altitude graphite-mountain that would be suitable to take more than ~40kn of nuclear force when the chain reaction from a uranium or plutonium-based nuclear device using lithium /or beryllium reflectors. The team completed the site selection and development work of the nuclear test sites at Chaghi and Kharan in Baluchistan by 1980. Meanwhile, the TPG completed the research on Fast neutron calculations, hydrodynamics, and the designing of the fission weapons by 1978 and by 1982–83, work on the bomb was completed by PAEC.
The joint work of the various groups working in the Directorate of Technical Development and the Theoretical Physics Group in PAEC led to the first cold-test of a working atomic bomb on 11 March 1983, without the fissile material to prevent the nuclear fission, on a site that Munir Khan codenamed Kirana-I. A test team headed by Ishfaq Ahmad, the test's preparation and calculations were oversaw by Khan; other invitees to witness the test included senior statesman that Ghulam Ishaq Khan, and senior military officers including general Khalid Arif.
One of Khan's achievements is his technical leadership of the atomic bomb project, modelled on the Manhattan Project that prevented the exploitation and politicisation of the atomic bomb project into the hands of politicians, lawmakers, and the military officials. Khan focused on developing the atomic weapons and a diverse nuclear program, and regarded this clandestine atomic bomb project as building the science and technology for the country.
The 1974 was a difficult year for Pakistan and it was anticipated that Pakistan would now have to face international embargoes and sanctions on acquisition of nuclear technology and equipment from supplier states. So a long-term effort was launched for the indigenous production of spare parts, equipment and components for the atom bomb and the energy project.
To oversaw the uranium enrichment project, a Uranium Coordination Board (UCB) was set up to manage and supervise the enrichment project with Khan remained the scientific director of atomic bomb project; it had Ghulam Ishaq Khan, AGN Kazi, Agha Shahi its members. The UCB was eventually took over by the military with Major-General Zahid Ali Akbar becoming its director with Abdul Qadeer Khan was made its chief scientist.
During a visit to PAEC's Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology (PINSTECH), in November 1986, the President of Pakistan, General Zia-ul-Haq praised the work being carried out in PAEC. He wrote in the visitor's book:
|“||It has been a matter of great pride and satisfaction to see what all is going on in (Pakistan) Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC). It was heartening to see the progress that has taken place..... I congratulate Munir and his associates for all that they have done.... The People of Pakistan are proud of their achievements and pray for their success in the future.||”|
Plutonium test: Chagai-II
From the outset, Khan focused on the indigenous development of a plutonium program as part of the fuel cycle. Despite many difficulties, Khan and PAEC successfully developed and managed the plutonium infrastructure. Khan lobbied and enlightened the importance of plutonium-tritium device and countered the scientific opposition that was led by fellow scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, who opposed the plutonium route and favoured the uranium atomic bomb. Khan concentrated the development efforts on plutonium implosion-type fission device, in a single group of TPG, which became to known as Chagai-II. Khan countered and later abandoned the developmental efforts on uranium gun-type fission weapon, when on developing the theoretical design, a problem was discovered by TPG who put efforts to work with Qadeer Khan on gun-type in 1976.
The gun-type fission weapon is a simpler design that only had to work with uranium-235 but a possibility of weapon's chain reaction to reach the limit of fizzle level was identified; therefore, the TPG and Khan abandoned the gun design in favour of an implosion-type weapon. In 1983, a milestone was done when a joint work of scientists produced the artificial non-nuclear fission reaction at Kirana Atomic Tests Site (KATS) where the reactor-grade plutonium was used to defer the weapon to go fission. In May 1998, the success of plutonium bomb was proved when it was reported that PAEC conducted a test of a powerful plutonium device, Chagai-II, to artificially produced the nuclear fission, and this plutonium device had the largest yield of all the uranium bombs.
In 1999, Khan described the large scientific efforts and PAEC's contribution in heading up and building Pakistan's atomic bomb project, as he stated:
In 1979-80, the PAEC completed the iron-steel tunnels in Chagai region. On March 11, 1983, we successfully conducted [our] (cold) test of a working atomic bomb. That evening, I went to General Zia with the news that Pakistan was now ready to make an atomic bomb. We conducted this cold test long before the fissile material was available for actual test. We were ahead of others.....—Munir Ahmad Khan, Statement giving to news media in 1999, source.
Arms race and diplomacy with India
By 1979, the atomic bomb program was no longer a secret to the world, especially India who was alarmed by the success of this crash program. Aggressive measures were taken towards modernizing the Indian nuclear programme in parallel to advancing the Indian space programme. As a military policy maker, Khan initiated clandestine defence projects in the military, including lobbying for missile program and other strategic projects.
Witnessing successful launch of the Indian ISRO's Rohini in 1980 through its own SLV, Khan lobbied for elevation of the Space Research Commission, securing funds for the space projects. Helping to appoint Salim Mehmud as chairman of Space Research Commission, Khan secured fundings for the development of country's first, the Moon-I, which was eventually launched in 1990. Development on unguided-gravity bombs, tactical weapons for PAF's Air Force Strategic Command were watchfully completed under Khan's guidance. The air force engineers successfully installed the system in PAF's Mirage-5, A-5, and the F-16s as the F-16s successfully performed and mastered the low-level laydown aerial techniques, conventional free-fall drop—a method to drop gravitated nuclear bomb through fighter jets. At international conferences, Khan criticised India for its nuclear programme, and in 1999, Khan defended Pakistan's non-nuclear weapon policy as well as the nuclear tests when he summed up his thoughts:
In 1972, we (Pakistan) made a [nuclear policy] statement... that [Pakistan] wanted a nuclear-free zone in South Asia (so) that the resources in the sub-continent could be focused on solving problems of poverty and deprivation of [one] billion people in this region of the world. But India did not listen to (Pakistan).... Now that we have responded to India's nuclear aggression, (Pakistan) hope that they will listen to us...
In 1981, Israel's surprised the world after attacking on Iraq's nuclear program. Great panic was caused in Pakistan and hectic discussions now began to take place between ministries of Science, Foreign Affairs, and Defence over this issue each day. In 1983, the ISI gained advance knowledge on similar plans on attacking Pakistan's facilities, namely KRL and Pinstech. Although the PAF was high alert, the Pakistan government leaked prior information to Khan who was at the IAEA to mediate the tensions in the region. At that time, Khan was attending the IAEA's General Conference on nuclear safety issues and received a secret-coded message, through Ambassador of Pakistan to Austria Abdul Sattar, from the Foreign ministry. Khan invited dr. Raja Ramana of Indian Atomic Energy Commission to the dinner at the Imperial Hotel at Vienna to confirm the veracity of the knowledge. Reportedly, Khan told Raja Ramana that "any attack on Pakistan's [nuclear] facilities would trigger a possible Pakistan retaliatory strike on Indian nuclear facilities at Trombay, which will result in the release of radioactivity causing a major disaster. Upon returning, Raja Ramana held leaks information to Indian government and convened Khan's message to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi about Pakistan's retaliatory strikes. Plans were postponed and the matter subsequently shelved.
Government work and advocacy
Since 1975, Khan had been lobbying for resolving energy crises by depending on nuclear power sources, and had been in direct negotiation with British BNFL and French CEA for a reprocessing plant at Chashma. Despite each facilities were put under the IAEA inspections, none of the plans were feasible due to U.S. objections. By the time, the CEA cancelled the project, the PAEC had acquired 95% of detailed plans reprocessing plant which resulted in local constructions of the New Labs. By 1980s, Khan had been serving as the Science Advisor playing integral role in implementing policies on science.
In 1985, Khan lobbied for another plutonium production plant at Khushab, which is known as Khushab Complex; and gained the approval of Khushab I— a multipurpose heavy water plant, and a tritium production complex. In 1987, Khan had been lobbying for acquiring nuclear plants from China which resulted in constructing the commercial nuclear power plant in Chashma. Acting as Minister of State, he assisted Foreign minister Yaqub Khan in Beijing where he signed the agreement on behalf of Pakistan with Chinese Premier Li Peng.
This accord opened the way for Pakistan to receive Chinese assistance in setting up four 300MWe commercial nuclear power plants under IAEA safeguards at Chashma. Therefore, PAEC reached an agreement with China in November 1989 for the supply of 300MWe CHASHNUPP-I commercial nuclear power plant. In February 1990, French President Mitterrand visited Pakistan and announced that France had agreed to supply 900MWe commercial nuclear power reactor to Pakistan which was to be under IAEA safeguards. Shortly afterward, Khan stated that the signing of civil nuclear cooperation agreements with China and France had broken a fifteen-year virtual embargo by western states on the supply of nuclear power plants to Pakistan. In 1990, Khan entered in negotiations with France but remained unsuccessful to acquire commercial nuclear plant from France when Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was dismissed from the government.
When Abdus Salam was ejected from his position in 1974, Khan symbolised of many scientists thinking they could control how other peers would use their research. During the timeline of atomic bomb project, Khan was seen as a symbol of both moral responsibility of scientists, and to the contribution to the rise of Pakistan's science while preventing the politicisation of the project. Popular depiction of Khan's views on nuclear proliferation as a confrontation between right-wing militarists (symbolised by Abdul Qadeer Khan) and left-wing intellectuals (symbolised by Munir Khan) over the moral question of weapons of mass destruction. Babar portrayed Khan as "tragic fate but consciously genius", and also dubbed him as "Nuclear Sage" of Pakistan. In 1999, Khan staunchly the backed his country's nuclear technology project, as he puts it:
The genius of Pakistan (since its establishment in 1947) is her science and her scientists and engineers. Mixing science with politics is very, very dangerous. This will contaminate the politics which is never clean, with radioactivity, and it will destroy the science as we witnessed in [Nazi] Germany in 1940s when their atomic bomb project was politicised for [absolute] political gain. Without a comprehensive [nuclear and political] policy, things do not work, and no country can go developed its nuclear project without having some kind of framework in which to operate. We had to develop a political strategy to launch our project without arousing great deal of suspicion and opposition at the international level, because no body in the world wanted to see Pakistan to became nuclear power. But we had no choice [as mentioned by Bhutto in 1965]. I can tell you...... that it is not only the Western countries; we were wronged by some of the countries who we regard as our friends. It is not because the people in those countries oppose this project, but the government’s felt, the rulers felt that Pakistan would become too strong.—Munir Ahmad Khan, statement on May 1999, source
As a scientist, Khan is remembered by his peers as brilliant researcher and engaging teacher, the founder of nuclear engineering in Pakistan. In spite of his academic discipline, Khan had diverse interests in nuclear physics and theoretical physics where he researched and worked under his mentor Abdus Salam on many problems arising theoretical physics and the nuclear engineering. An award, Munir Ahmad Khan Gold Medal, is named after him at Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences. After years of urging of many of Khan's colleagues in PAEC and his powerful political friends who had ascended to power in the government, President Asif Ali Zardari bestowed and honored Khan with the prestigious and highest civilian state award, Nishan-e-Imtiaz in 2012 as a gesture of political rehabilitation.
As military and public policy maker, Khan was a technocrat leader in a shift between science and military, and the emergence of the concept of the big science in Pakistan. During the Cold war, scientists became involved in military research on unprecedented degree, because of the threat communism and Indian integration posed to Pakistan, scientists volunteered in great numbers both for technological and organizational assistance to Pakistan's efforts that resulted in powerful tools such as laser rangefinder, the proximity fuse and operations research. As a cultured, intellectual, nuclear engineer who became a disciplined military organiser, Khan represented the shift away from the idea that scientists had their "head in the clouds" and that knowledge on such previously esoteric subjects as the composition of the atomic nucleus had no "real-world" applications .
Quotes by Khan
- "We have to understand that nuclear weapons are not a play thing to be bandied publicly. They have to be treated with respect and responsibility. While they can destroy the enemy, they can also invite self destruction."
- "While we were building capabilities in the nuclear fuel cycle, we started in parallel the design of a nuclear device, with its trigger mechanism, physics calculations, production of metal, making precision mechanical components, high-speed electronics, diagnostics, and testing facilities. For each one of them, we established different laboratories".
- "Many sources were tapped after the decision to go nuclear. We were simultaneously working on 20 labs and projects under the administrative control of PAEC, every one the size of Khan Research Laboratories."
- "On 11 March 1983, we successfully conducted the first cold test of a working nuclear device. That evening, I went to General Zia with the news that Pakistan was now ready to make a nuclear device."
- In 1977, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto instructed his children, Benazir and Murtaza, to keep in touch with the Chairman of PAEC. In 1978, Munir Khan told Benazir and Murtaza that the designing process of the bomb was completed and, Zulfikar Bhutto expected the nuclear test in August 1978. Munir Khan then told Murtaza and Benazir that the tests are moved to December 1978, but delayed indefinitely due to political and diplomatic considerations of the country. Benazir Bhutto, however, continued her ties with Munir Khan and awarded him the Hilal-i-Imtiaz in 1989 for his services to Pakistan's nuclear program in developing nuclear fuel cycle technology for the country.
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MGen Zahid A. Akbar
|Science Advisor to the Prime minister Secretariat
5 July 1977 – 1 August 1993