22/03: Separating facts from myths: Pakistan's nuclear program

I found this old interview (from 2004) of Dr. Samar Mubarakmand by Hamid Mir of Geo News. It sheds some light on the start of the Pakistani nuclear program and how it has evolved over time. He also talks about the possibility of hostile elements talking control of Pakistan's strategic nuclear assets. The role of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan is also mentioned. It makes for an interesting read.

nuke sign


Chairman NESCOM

Hamid Mir is here with Capital Talk Special. Today we will have a talk with a personality who is associated with Pakistan’s nuclear program for the last 42 years, yes 42 years. Surely you must be thinking that Pakistan’s nuclear program had begun 30 years ago during the era of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, so who is this personality who is associated for the past 42 years with Pakistan’s nuclear program. So today you will be able to meet this personality and let me tell you that this is his first formal interview, and he is the same person who has been busy with the recent successful tests of Pakistan’s Shaheen and Ghaznavi series of missiles. So let me introduce you to Dr. Samar Mubarakmand, who is the chairman of National Engineering and Scientific Commission (NESCOM) and he is associated with Pakistan’s nuclear program for the past 42 years.

Hamid Mir: Dr. Sahib first of all please tell us when did our nuclear program begin?

Samar: In 1962 when I was first associated with this program, the first phase of this program was underway, at that time the development of manpower and human resource required for this program was initiated. A large number of people were sent abroad by the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission for higher studies and to acquire PhDs, and they were sent to the world’s best universities and I also went to Oxford for my PhD during that time. So during the 1970s and 80s, manpower was further expanded and developed and trained. Along with this, in the 60s the Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology, also known as PINSTECH was set up where a research reactor was established. At that time Pakistan consisted of two parts, East and West Pakistan, and at that time a research reactor and an atomic accelerator was also set up at Dhaka, and many scientists were also trained there. So basically some facilities for research were set up in the country and people were sent abroad for higher studies. So when India conducted its atomic test in 1974, at that time our Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto sahib had already resolved that Pakistan would also run its own atomic program and nuclear weapons program, so when India conducted its test in 1974, this resolve transformed into practical reality.

Hamid Mir: So we can say that research had begun in the 60s….

Samar: Yes research had begun in the 60s.

Hamid Mir: And this practical work on this research began in the 1970s?

Samar: Yes in the 1970s that research transformed into an atomic program.

Hamid Mir: You joined this research in 1962?

Samar: Yes I joined the PAEC and began to be associated with this research.

Hamid Mir: Dr. Sahib please tell us that the former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission of Pakistan, late Munir Ahmed Khan sahib once told us that our first cold test was conducted in 1983, will you please tell us something regarding this?

Samar: Yes, when our program began in 1974, first of all we had to develop an infrastructure, which included a very big design team of nuclear physicists which by the Grace of Allah still exists and is very competent and if required can deliver a new atomic bomb design to the country every three to four months, as per our requirements. Then facilities were also created for manufacturing, because when a bomb is being designed and made, facilities for explosives are needed, ultra-high precision facilities of mechanical engineering are required, then electronics have to be fully mastered, then once a weapon has been developed, then a totally different technology has to be mastered to test that weapon because testing is such an event that once you press a button, the bomb is detonated and the entire test is over in a few micro-seconds. So you should have such a capability of testing that in those one or two microseconds, the yield of the bomb is measured accurately and the performance of the bomb is properly gauged and understood. So all this was done and by 1983 the first bomb was also developed, which was ready for a cold test. Then you need some tunnels in the mountains for conducting a test, which should be in a strong rock wherein the tunnels should be constructed so that during a test no radiation or damage is leaked outside the mountain. This infrastructure also took 5-6 years to develop, and work on it continued from 1977 to 1982-83. When we were ready for a cold test, the government gave us permission to conduct it, and it was the month of March, during which the first cold test was conducted and believe me, it was conducted very discreetly. We drove big trucks without drivers for many hundreds of kilometers ourselves and our scientists acquired heavy driving licenses for this purpose and then conducted the cold test.

Hamid Mir: Where was the cold test conducted?

Samar: I cannot tell you the site where the cold test was conducted…

Hamid Mir: So the cold test was conducted under your supervision?

Samar: Yes it was conducted under my supervision because I was the leader of the test team at that time. So when the test took place, Allah Almighty gave us success and believe me the joy that we had for the cold test at that time was so much that we realized that today we have become a nuclear power, but we could not express it because we were told to keep it secret.

Hamid Mir: You just said that our scientists are so competent that they can develop a new bomb design every three to four months but some people in the international media say that Pakistan’s nuclear program is not indigenous and is dependent on bits and pieces (components and equipment) taken from here and there.

Samar: Look, components and equipment are available throughout the world and their utility is dual use, you can also use them for peaceful applications, like electronic components that can either be used in a radio or can be used in an atomic bomb, there is steel, which can either be used in a bridge or can be used in an atomic bomb also, so this is no argument, dual use items are available of every kind and from every where, which if you need you can acquire. Now you know that the Internet is available, if you go on the Internet, you can get crude designs of a bomb also. But if designs are also available in the world and if materials are also available in the black market, then 30-40 countries in the world should have been able to develop atom bombs by now. What is the thing that is an obstacle for a country to develop this capability of a bomb? What we are able to gather from our 40-42 year experience is that we have had almost two generations who have been associated with this program. First we trained the manpower, then we began work on the bomb, then we conducted the first cold test, then there was a design in the cold test which we knew would certainly work but where and how would we use it, because it was such a large size which could not be fitted on to a missile or an aircraft. So after 1983 till 1998, we developed 5-6 more designs, conducted their cold tests and not one but more than one cold tests, and we confirmed that they were the right designs, and we developed them in large quantities and kept them with us, and when we had a chance, we tested all these designs, and all of them were successful, all six of them. Now after passing through this experience, and after working in this program for so many years, and I mentioned the Internet to you also, and I also talked about materials, after saying all this I think no one should have any doubt in his mind that after acquiring four components from the black market, and after getting a design from the internet, it is not an easy task that any one can do. So anyone cannot do it, because if anyone could do it so easily, then many countries would have done it by now.

Hamid Mir: From 14-15 years, Libya and Iran have been buying components and materials from the black market, but they could not develop anything?

Samar: This is proof of the fact that they tried very hard to acquire materials from the black market to develop a program but the bottom line is that until and unless there is a human resource available in a country which understands this work to such an extent that it is able to develop and raise this program from zero to 100% all by itself, till then this work cannot be accomplished.

Hamid Mir: There is another important thing, please tell us about it, on 28th May 1998, who carried out the nuclear tests?

Samar: I was leading that team. I was working for the Atomic Energy Commission at that time. And I have worked in the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission from 1962 to 2001. And because atom bombs were developed in PAEC, the entire testing capabilities were there, all the tunnels were developed by the Atomic Energy Commission, site was theirs, I was leading the team that was looking after this program in the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission from every angle, so it was natural for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to have given this responsibility to me. And I went to Chaghi with 140 scientists, engineers and technicians and there we conducted these tests.

Hamid Mir: But we had heard that Dr. Qadeer sahib was also present at Chaghi?

Samar: Look, we cannot carry out an atomic test at the spur of the moment, without preparation. I visited Chaghi for the first time in 1981. We installed the instruments in the tunnels, prepared the tunnels according to our requirements, we built atomic bombs during this time also, conducted their cold tests, and when we were asked to carry out these tests, we were given only six days notice. This work cannot be done in six days alone. This was successful in six days only because we were working on and were associated with this program, with the test site, with testing procedures for 20-25 years and we have developed all these processes and procedures ourselves. So technically we had complete mastery over all this work. When these tests were conducted, our team went there on 20th May, and on 28th May, in the early morning, the tunnels were plugged and the preparation for the test was complete and on 28th May, around was the time selected for testing. So at that time, at about 2.45 pm, some of our guests arrived to witness the tests, and Dr. Qadeer Khan sahib was also one of them.

Hamid Mir: He (Qadeer) came to see the tests?

Samar: Yes he came there to see the tests and it was the first visit of his life to Chaghi. And he came there at the invitation of the chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, and he arrived 15 minutes prior to the explosions. At that time we were present at a remote site 15-20 kms away from the test site from where we had to conduct the tests. So he came there and joined us in the Dua and then we conducted the test in his presence and we showed him the test and other guests also saw the test.

Hamid Mir: Now the general impression in the world is that tests were only carried out on 28th May, was there any test on 30th May as well?

Samar: We carried out five tests on 28th May, and we conducted another test on 30th May. We have another test site, which is approximately 150 kms away from Chaghi, which is in a desert, and this was an underground test. The Chaghi tests were carried out in tunnels inside a mountain. So the test on May 30 was of immense importance for us because we tested the last and latest design of the atom bomb that we had developed, and we had already carried out its cold test, so we had to test the design of this test on May 30. And this bomb is very small in size and is very efficient and powerful in yield and this bomb is fitted on to many of our delivery systems such as missiles and aircraft. So it was very important for us that this test should be successful and Allah Almighty gave us a lot of success in it.

Hamid Mir: So in May 1998, not five but six atomic tests were conducted?

Samar: Yes six tests were conducted.

Hamid Mir: Dr. Sahib we are listening to the story of Pakistan’s nuclear program and nuclear tests from you and surely a common Pakistani is very happy to know that Pakistan has now become nuclear power, but some people say that Pakistan’s nuclear program has been rolled back?

Samar: Look; if a program has to be rolled back, you should keep an eye on three to four things. First of all the manpower, the human resource and the people who are working on the program, if the government wishes to roll back the program, the first thing it will do will be to break that team. There is a perception in our country, may be it is because we live in South Asia where there is the concept of idol worship, we tend to associate one particular individual with every work, we consider him to be our hero, and people think that this program is going on only because of this one individual, and there is a major flaw in this thinking, that if for some reason you remove that hero from the scene, so common people will think that the program has ended. So the perception of roll back will automatically emerge if you associate the success of the whole program with this one individual. Today I want to tell you in very clear terms that in the nuclear program, in developing a nuclear weapon, there are 15-20 technologies involved, which include uranium exploration, mining of uranium, refining of uranium, you have to dig out uranium from the earth, then convert it into gas, then its enrichment, then it has to be converted into metal, then it has to be machined, then explosives have to be developed and machined and given the shape of an atomic bomb. Then there are many other things which are used in the making of a bomb and which are developed, and I don’t want to go into their details now, then designs have to be developed in which a team of nuclear scientists and physicists is involved, then there has to be a test team so that when a bomb has been made, it is tested, and I have told you that in a test you have to obtain the complete data in one micro-second on how the bomb has performed, then tunnels have to be constructed which is the job of geo scientists, then if you have to convert this bomb into a deliverable weapon, because otherwise it is only a device which you can put on the ground and detonate it by joining afew wires, but if you have to deliver it by an aircraft or a missile, it involves many other requirements such as radars, electronics, computers, and when all these systems and technologies are integrated, only then a deliverable weapon is developed. Now in these 15-20 technologies, in each one of these technologies we have a scientist of international repute, international eminence and international level who is leading that particular team, who has 600 to 1000 men working under him who are middle-level, lower-level and technician-level people. In the same way you can take the case of missiles. In missiles, there are more technologies involved that an atomic bomb and if I go into their details, it will take a lot of time, and there also there are 15-20 people of this level, who pertain to guidance, controls, aerodynamics, of designing and developing rocket motors.

Hamid Mir: so you are saying that all these people are working in their respective fields?

Samar: Yes, all these 30-40 people of top international level are with us and our team is intact and they are working in their respective fields.

Hamid Mir: So Dr. Sahib you were saying that all people are working in their fields and the program has not been rolled back?

Samar: Yes absolutely, and the second thing that needs to be seen is that if the government wished to roll back the program, it can cut our budget. I assure you that each year we get our budget as per our requirements and it is never cut and even now our budget is the same as it used to be in the past many years and the government is also very serious to take this program forward. So in this respect I assure you that the budget we require is provided to us, we spend it with a lot of responsibility, there are many checks and balances over us, our audit is conducted regularly, and our scientists work with a lot of honesty. Then the third thing that has to be seen is that you keep getting technical targets and the government continues to give us technical targets about what we have to do. So if you are given money and you also have the human resource but you don’t have work to do, even then the program can be rolled back. Yyou should note that first we built the Ghaznavi, then we tested it, then we developed Shaheen-I, version 1, and tested it in 1999, then we developed Shaheen-I, version 2 , which had a greater range than the previous one, and then in October 2002, we conducted its two tests, then in October 2003, we conducted two tests of Shaheen-I, version 2, before that in May 2002 we conducted tests of Ghauri and Abdali. Last year we delivered the missiles and mobile launchers of Shaheen missiles to Pakistan Army and we equipped one complete regiment/battery with these missiles. Now we have again equipped the Army with a battery of Ghaznavi missiles along with launchers, so what does this mean? it means that new missiles are being developed, their new versions are being developed, when we first fired Shaheen-I, its accuracy was different, and now its accuracy is less than 90 meters, Ghaznavi’s accuracy is 58 meters.

Hamid Mir: Will you please tell us what is 58 meters and 90 meters accuracy?

Samar: Now Shaheen’s full range is 700 kms, in the last test, we placed a flag in the ground after completing 700 kms, there neutral observers were stationed and were asked to tell us themselves where the missile falls and we fired the missile from 700 kms away and the missile hit the ground within 90 meters of the target.

Hamid Mir: Now some of our very responsible column writers, on the basis of foreign media reports, are writing that Pakistan’s missile program has been rolled back and some American codes have been installed on those missiles which are known only to the Americans and not to us and whenever we would need to fire the missile, we will have to ask the codes from America and only then the missile would be launched?

Samar: Look, if we can develop a complicated thing like a missile or a difficult thing like a nuclear weapon, then we know full well how to safeguard them also. We don’t need to get these codes from anywhere. We have a National Command Authority, which has a Command and Control Wing, which controls all our nuclear weapons and missiles. We have adopted the world’s most advanced command and control system. And it is a very important part of that system that secret codes must be installed in all our weapons. When a weapon needs to be used, the person who is using it is given the code a few moments prior to the weapon’s use, and when he feeds that code via the computer, then that weapon is armed and the weapon can only be used in this way. So we have developed these codes ourselves and when these codes are installed at the time of the manufacture of these weapons and they cannot be installed on them later on. Our Command Authority knows what are these codes and these are very secure.

Hamid Mir: You have told us a very important point that these codes cannot be fitted into these weapons after they have been manufactured?

Samar: Yes these codes are fitted at the time of manufacture and it is not possible for anyone to take these weapons somewhere and then use them or detonate them and these weapons cannot be used by anyone who wishes to use them. Their safety is of immense significance and we take great care of this at the time of their manufacture.

Hamid Mir: You said that you also know how to protect these weapons. There is a famous journalist Seymour Hersh who has also written many books, his research articles are published in New Yorker magazine, a few days back he was in Pakistan, here he said that Pakistan’s atomic assets are very unsafe and if religious extremists rebel against the government and declare war or topple the government, they can take these atomic weapons and missiles somewhere else, can this happen?

Samar: No this is impossible, it is just like creating a popular story, it does not happen like this, it is a very serious matter, I will put a nuclear weapon on the road, you can keep it there for 10 months and I guarantee you that no one can use it or detonate it or cause any destruction from it. These weapons cannot be used like this.

Hamid Mir: How is it possible Dr. Sahib, if you put such a weapon on the road and I will give a truck to a suicide bomber who will hit the weapon on the road.

Samar: No, he will only break the nuclear weapon by hitting it but it will not detonate. If an atomic bomb which is fitted onto a missile or an aircraft and if that missile or aircraft is launched and crashes inside your own country, that weapon will not work, the weapon will fall and break but will not detonate. There is a mechanism and procedure for its detonation, first you give it a code, if you throw a weapon on the ground, it will break but a nuclear explosion will not take place, the explosive inside it will explode, but the nuclear reaction that has to take place will not be triggered. It will be just like detonating 100 kg of explosives.

Hamid Mir: So when Mr. Seymour Hersh who is a senior American journalist writes such things, he does not have information or writes only for propaganda?

Samar: I think his designs are only for propaganda and as I said his aims would be to publish a popular story, as there is no science in what he is saying. Weapons don’t work like this.

Hamid Mir: Now if we talk of missiles, you have told us something about Ghaznavi, what is Shaheen, you have now fired Shaheen-II also?

Samar: Shaheen-II is the front line missile of the entire family of missiles being made Pakistan, starting from Hatf-I to Abdali, to Ghaznavi to Shaheen-I version I and Shaheen-I version II to this Shaheen-II. Shaheen-II is a solid fuelled missile, it is a very big missile and weighs 25 tons and consists of two-stages. It has a rocket motor which activates when the missile lifts off which takes the missile to a height of 25 kms after which the rocket motor of second stage is activated and the first stage rocket motor separates at this stage. Then the second stage motor takes the missile to a height of 130 kms and after this its re-entry vehicle which includes the warhead and terminal guidance and control system, this is known as re-entry vehicle, this is then separated from the second stage motor which then takes it forward and after making very accurate corrections takes the missile to a height of 600 kms in orbit after which the missile is brought down and it enters the atmosphere and hits the target.

Hamid Mir: first it goes 600 kms up in the atmosphere, then what is its range ahead of that?

Samar: Its range is 2500 kms and we have fired it to the last boundary of Pakistan’s territorial waters, which is about 2000 kms, and we had selected a target of 1800 kms for it. Its total range is 2500 kms.

Hamid Mir: What is the basic difference between Shaheen-I and Shaheen-II?

Samar: The range of Shaheen-I is 700 kms, its diameter is 1 meter, its length is 11 meters, Shaheen-II’s range is 2500 kms, its diameter is 1.4 meters, its length is 17.5 meters and it weighs 25 tons.

Hamid Mir: A while ago you were telling us that you conducted the first test of Shaheen-I in 1999, then in 2002, then in October 2003, why did you conduct tests of Shaheen-I again and again?

Samar: When missiles are produced, and by the Grace of Allah these missiles are now in mass production, we are also giving them to the Army and there is a qualification procedure for missiles. One batch is manufactured and one missile is fired and tested from that batch. So if that missile performs accurately as per its specifications, then it is said that the whole batch has qualified.

Hamid Mir: Now Dr. Sahib lets talk something about proliferation. I have this four year old advertisement which was published in Pakistan’s English newspapers and at that time you were in the Atomic Energy Commission. The advertisement is from the Ministry of Commerce but there is also mention of the Atomic Energy Commission in it and this advertisement which contains a list and enriched uranium is also included in that list and it says that Pakistan is willing to export a lot of nuclear materials along with enriched uranium and other equipment and materials. At that time you were in the Atomic Energy Commission and on the basis of this advertisement the leader of opposition Benazir Bhutto in many western countries is claiming that during the era of General Pervez Musharraf proliferation started. So would you like to give a response to this?

Samar: I do wish to clarify this issue. This advertisement is an advertisement of an application form which was given in the newspaper by the Ministry of Commerce. If you look at this application form, all the countries in the world who manufacture nuclear materials or such dual use items which can be used in nuclear programs and have peaceful uses also, all such countries in order to prevent such materials and equipment from falling into wrong hands via export, this form is also available in all those countries.If any person wants to sell any such material or component outside his country, and if someone from a foreign country wants to purchase any such material or component from him, first such a person has to fill this application form, and take permission from the respective ministry of commerce for export. And the ministry of commerce asks the buyer where he intends to use that material or component and asks an end use certificate from that buyer. The ministry then decides on the basis of the end use certificate whether the material or component should be exported to that buyer or not. And if the ministry of commerce grants an export license, only then that material or component can be exported. Pakistan in order to bring its export control culture to the level of advanced countries of the world who are nuclear powers has adopted this application form, which is an international form, and asked the ministry of commerce to advertise it so that if someone wants to sell any dual use item or material outside this country, so first he fills this form and takes permission from the government. It is not that we are always ready to sell these materials, this form is an advertisement of a list of materials that if someone wishes to buy any items from this list of material mentioned in the advertisement, he will have to first fill this form and take permission from the government.

Hamid Mir: Can Pakistan sell enriched uranium to any country or organization or person after filling this form?

Samar: Look, it depends on how much enriched uranium someone wants to buy from you. Someone can buy one milligram from you also, it has medical applications, you know that all the treatment in cancer hospitals is through nuclear materials that emit radiations. These radiations are used in cancer treatment. Similarly, a lot of research work is done in universities by students and they use these materials in very small quantities, not even one gram, but they study the properties of materials by taking a thousandth part of a gram of such materials and also study the energy of the radiations from these materials. When we were students at Oxford, we had worked with these materials.

Hamid Mir: So they are used for research purposes?

Samar: Yes for research and if someone has to buy this material for research in such small quantities, the export control regime is applied there also and the application form will have to be filled in and permission from the government taken before any such material is exported.

Hamid Mir: Dr. Sahib, we are talking about proliferation. There are many reports in foreign newspapers that some people after making and copying some drawings and formulas have sent them abroad, these people can be a very big threat and in this way atomic technology and secrets can be transferred to someone else. So is such a thing possible?

Samar: Look, I want to say this with a lot of clarity that if you are working in the nuclear program in the country, you sign an oath of secrecy on the first day of your work, all of us have signed this oath of secrecy and we understand it and we follow it very strictly. We have worked for 42 years on this program and in our department (PAEC) this culture was very strictly enforced that we will not even tell the other Directorate about or work, which are the Directorates of the Atomic Energy Commission also. Any person who required any information, he was given restricted access to that information according to his requirement only. Even the scientists working on different projects would not discuss their work with each other or amongst themselves. So this was the act of secrecy. Therefore if any scientist has violated the act of secrecy by exporting any secret, any document or paper, or any equipment or technology to any extent, this is a violation of the act of secrecy and I believe this is a very big injustice done to the nation because it is a trust that the nation has in us from day one and we should not violate this trust. Now regarding the issue of proliferation, and I am talking in the context of the world that the world has said that Pakistan has committed proliferation, there is a very obvious thing in all this, and because we are experimentalists and we have actually worked on the bomb, if someone would give me some drawings and formulas and ask me to build an atom bomb, so can I do it? To build a bomb, I would need training, I would need those machines by which atom bomb is manufactured, I would need raw materials, components which I can use in those machines to build a bomb, and most importantly I would need test equipment to test if bomb has been properly developed and works accurately or not. Now these are five things, design, training, materials, machines, and test equipment. Now for any country that does not know anything about such a program, if it is provided with one or two of these things or steps, so even then it cannot build an atom bomb until it does not have that human resource which is capable of developing that program from beginning to the end indigenously.

Hamid Mir: So what you are saying is that even if someone has given some secrets and drawings to Iran, Libya and North Korea, unless these countries have proper trained people with them, they cannot build nuclear weapons?

Samar: Yes unless there would be proper trained people in these countries, who have been educated in these disciplines and have the mental ability to accomplish this task from beginning to the end, if they have such a capability and you give them some things, then may be their program that would normally take 9.5 years if it would otherwise take them 10 yrs to accomplish this task because of your help and if they don’t have the capability, they will never be able to do it and the proof of this is the fact that it has been 14 yrs for people to have taken drawings, but nothing has been done till now.

Hamid Mir: So then what is the black market, why is the IAEA is so scared of the black market and is saying that some scientists have links with the black market?

Samar: Yes , as I mentioned to you earlier, the black market can cut short the time for your program and if you would need 10 years to do something, then because of the black market you may be able to do it in 8 years if you can get some things from the black market. But if you are able to get some things from the market but you don’t have the capability for doing other things, then you cannot reach anywhere. So this point needs to be understood that we have developed a capability over 40 years, we have 50,000 trained people who are working and who understand their work, we have machines, infrastructure, materials, we have our own uranium, and we have everything of our own. If today I have to buy some steel from somewhere which is not available in Pakistan or if I have to buy some electronic components which are also used in a radio and which are not made in my country, so if I buy some of these components from the market instead of building everything myself, it will only save me some time, but if someone were to give me some nuts and bolts and four transistors and ask me to build an atom bomb, so I will not be able to do it.

Hamid Mir: Dr. Sahib, after listening to your talk, a question would have come up in the minds of many viewers and the question is very genuine, that question I put in front of you, if the 1983 cold test was conducted by Dr. Samar Mubarakmand, if the atomic tests of 28th May 1998 were also conducted by Dr. Samar Mubarakmand, so then what did Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan do?

Samar: Look I have told you very clearly……

Hamid Mir: No, what was his role then?

Samar: His role was also of importance. We had designed the atomic bomb and manufactured it, we needed fuel for that, you can take the example that you have manufactured a motorcar for which we need petrol, so the fuel is enriched uranium, and Dr. Qadeer Khan had a very competent team of scientists, and most of them had gone there from the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, and Dr. Qadeer was the administrator of this team in Kahuta. And this team at Kahuta developed and installed the facilities, which are necessary for the enrichment of uranium. So this is also one very important link in 15-20 equally important links needed for building an atomic bomb. So uranium itself is explored, refined and transformed into gaseous form by the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and then this gaseous uranium goes to Kahuta where it is enriched which is also a difficult job and which is accomplished by the scientists of Kahuta, and there is a very big team of 10-12000 people who are working there, and after the uranium has been enriched, it is handed back to the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission where it is converted into metal and then used as fuel in a bomb, which is also developed by PAEC.

Hamid Mir: Also please tell us what is difference between Ghauri and Shaheen missiles? It is commonly presumed that the Ghauri was the brainchild of Dr. A.Q.Khan?

Samar: Ghauri missile runs on liquid fuel. The entire family of Shaheen missiles, Ghaznavi, Abdali, Shaheen version I & II etc are all solid fuelled missiles. The complete system of solid fuel missiles is designed and developed in my organization, NESCOM; all these solid fuelled missiles are designed, developed and mass-produced in NESCOM. And the Ghauri missile program began in Kahuta but at present the warhead of Ghauri is also developed in NESCOM and is our responsibility because warheads of Shaheen system missiles or Ghauri or for fighter aircraft are all developed by NESCOM.

Hamid Mir: You remained associated with Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission for 40 years, now NESCOM has been established, what is the reason behind its establishment and what is its role?

Samar: Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission is a research institution and in research one thing is first created and tested and is then brought to such a level where it can be used and is ready to be mass-produced. But when you have to undertake mass production of a particular item, whether it is a missile of nuclear warheads, which you have to develop and produce in large numbers, and when they are produced in such a way that they can be used by the Army or the Air Force, for this purpose a dedicated and separate organization is always established, whose responsibility is to produce strategic weapons in large numbers.

Hamid Mir: Thank you very much Dr. Samar Mubarakmand sahib.
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Comments made

Yes, when our program began in 1974, first of all we had to develop an infrastructure, which included a very big design team of nuclear physicists which by the Grace of Allah still exists and is very competent and if required can deliver a new atomic bomb design to the country every three to four months.


Sorry, this is ludicrous on its face; designs take longer than that (and, yes, I know a bomb designer, Edward Teller's LLNL protege).

Plus we now know the design in question (we (the US) got it from the Libyan program). It is for an enriched uranium implosion device with a design yield of 44kt.

Of PRC origin, of course, with factory floor instructions down to the torque and type of thread-locking adhesive (AKA "Loctite") to use for each bolt.

I'm not even going to bother with the rest of the interview, he contradicts well known and established facts.

Bottom line, as always: get a copy of Nuclear War Survival Skills (the manual on tested expedient nuclear war survival.)

- Harold
23/03 09:02:50
@ Harold:

Thanks for commenting.

The key thing this interview again brings forth is that Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan was just a part of the effort out of those of many other people to develop the nuclear arsenal. Many Pakistanis believe otherwise. He has been idolised as the father of this program which to me, is wrong.

Dr. Samar Mubarakmand was Chairman of NESCOM so I don't expect him to be impartial in his views but the interview answers some questions I myself had about the nuclear program like the role of Dr. Khan, the delivery mediums (missiles), IAEA and the black market especially when considering Dr. Khan' proliferation network, and fears about rolling back of the nuclear program among other things. I myself didn't knew that a test was carried out on 30th of May too.

What was given to the Libyans may have been the same or a different design. I am not in the know about that.

I don't put my trust with so called "well known and established facts", as you call them. The reason is that these so called "facts" always appear whenever the US wants to pressurize the government/Musharraf to do something undesirable. The financing of these think tanks or individuals who propagate these "facts" is also questionable. Hence, their veracity is highly suspect. The rumours about the Khushab reactor and now the good cop/bad cop strategy being played out in Washington by republicans/democrats respectively, further leads credence to my viewpoint.

Before the war with Iraq, it was considered a fact that Iraq had WMD. This fact turned out to be a lie by the US administration and intelligence just to get support for their illegal war. They seem to be creating, finding and financing trouble just to keep dollars flowing into their budgets. I wouldn't call this "reputable" in any way.
23/03 11:20:27

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