Pakistan’s Nuclear Program Chronology
1980 - 1989
In 1980, U.S. Nuclear Export Control statutes were violated by the attempted exportation of components of inverters used in gas centrifuge enrichment activities. Export Control violations occurred again in 1981, when Albert Goldberg was arrested attempting to ship 2 tons of zirconium to Pakistan. Zirconium is used in nuclear reactor operations as nuclear fuel cladding material and can lead to nuclear weapons development.
In 1981, an Associated Press (AP) story cited the contents of a reported US State Department cable, stating, “We have strong reason to believe that Pakistan is seeking to develop a nuclear explosives capability…Pakistan is conducting a program for the design and development of a triggering package for nuclear explosive devices.” The publication of the book, Islamic Bomb, in 1981 cited recent Pakistani efforts to construct a nuclear test site.
Pakistan's top nuclear scientist, Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, said in a 01 June 1998 interview that in 1982, Pakistan had successfully enriched uranium by 90%, and that Pakistan had conducted a large number of cold tests, establishing that their nuclear weapon design could work. Several European press reports in 1982-1983 indicated that Pakistan was using Middle Eastern intermediaries to acquire bomb parts (13-inch 'steel spheres' and “steel petal shapes”).
In 1983, multiple reports claimed that Pakistan had obtained a pre-tested, 25kT atomic bomb design from China, as well as enough bomb-grade enriched uranium (HEU) to build one to two nuclear weapons.
A Declassified US government assessment in 1983 concluded that “There is unambiguous evidence that Pakistan is actively pursuing a nuclear weapons development program…We believe the ultimate application of the enriched uranium produced at Kahuta, which is unsafeguarded, is clearly nuclear weapons.” President Zia stated, in 1984, that Pakistan had acquired a “very modest” uranium enrichment capability for “nothing but peaceful purposes.” In response, President Reagan reportedly warned the Pakistani government of “grave consequences” if it enriches uranium above 5%.
Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, said in a 01 June 1998 interview that Pakistan's capability to manufacture a nuclear bomb had been achieved in 1984, and that he had written to General Zia that Pakistan was ready to carry out a live nuclear test on a week's notice. A 1985 ABC News report stated that the US believed Pakistan had “successfully tested” a “firing mechanism” of an atomic bomb by means of a non-nuclear explosion, and that US krytrons “[had] been acquired” by Pakistan.
U.S. Nuclear Export Control Violation occurred in Texas, 1985, with the exportation of krytrons (nuclear weapon triggers). The US cancelled license for export of a flash x-ray camera to Pakistan (for nuclear weapon diagnostics) the same year because of proliferation concerns. Furthermore, the Pressler Amendment [section 620E(e)] of the FAA required a total cut-off of U.S. aid to Islamabad unless the president could certify on a yearly basis that Pakistan did not possess a nuclear weapon, and that continued US aid would significantly decrease the probability of it developing one in the future.
Bob Woodward’s 1986 article in the Washington Post cited an alleged DIA report that said Pakistan had “detonated a high explosive test device between Sept. 18 and Sept. 21 as part of its continuing efforts to build an implosion-type nuclear weapon” and Pakistan had produced uranium enriched to a 93.5% level. Around the same time, press reports from various sources cited a U.S. “Special National Intelligence Estimate”, concluding that Pakistan had produced weapons-grade material.
Commenting on Pakistan's nuclear capability, General Zia told interviewers, “It is our right to obtain the technology. And when we acquire this technology, the Islamic world will possess it with us”, indicating a willingness to proliferate said nuclear technologies.
A 1986 declassified memo to then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger states, “Despite strong U.S. concern, Pakistan continues to pursue a nuclear explosive capability…If operated at its nominal capacity, the Kahuta uranium enrichment plant could produce enough weapons-grade material to build several nuclear devices per year.” The Kahuta plant could produce upwards of 6 nuclear weapons per year if operated at peak capacity.
Pakistan proposed to India an agreement on a bilateral or regional nuclear test ban treaty in 1987. The proposal was refused.
A U.S. Nuclear Export Control Violations occurred in Pennsylvania with the attempted export of maraging steel & beryllium (used in centrifuge manufacturing and bomb components).
The London Financial Times reported that US spy satellites had observed construction of a second uranium enrichment plant in Pakistan. Pakistan's leading nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan, stated in a published interview that “what the CIA has been saying about our possessing the bomb is correct.” And a West German official confirmed that nuclear equipment recently seized on its way to Pakistan was suitable for “at least 93% enrichment” of uranium; blueprints for a uranium enrichment plant were also seized in Switzerland.
Again, U.S. Nuclear Export Controls were violated in California with the attempted exportation of oscilloscopes and computer equipment, both useful in nuclear weapon R&D.
According to a photocopied report of a German foreign ministry memo published in Paris in 1990, a UK government official told a German counterpart in the European nonproliferation working group in 1987 that he was “convinced that Pakistan had `a few small' nuclear weapons.” A Hedrick Smith article in New York Times reported that US government sources believed Pakistan had produced enough HEU for 4-6 bombs.
China concluded a deal with Pakistan to sell M-11 missiles and launchers. In 1988, President Reagan waived an aid cutoff for Pakistan due to an export control violation. In his formal certification, he confirmed that “material, equipment, or technology covered by that provision was to be used by Pakistan in the manufacture of a nuclear explosive device.”
President Zia told the Carnegie Endowment Delegation in a 1988 interview that Pakistan had attained a nuclear capability “that is good enough to create an impression of deterrence.” This is in line with Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine of “minimum credible deterrence”.
Multiple 1989 reports claim Pakistan was in the process of modifying US-supplied F-16 aircraft for nuclear delivery purposes. The information was found in wind tunnel test documents from the West German intelligence service.
Pakistan had a test launch of their Hatf-2 missile system. The Hatf-2 has a payload of 500 kilograms and range of 300 kilometers; it meets the “nuclear-capable” standard under the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). Following this development, CIA Director Webster told a Senate Governmental Affairs Committee hearing that “clearly Pakistan is engaged in developing a nuclear capability.”
Media outlets claimed that Pakistan acquired tritium gas and a tritium production facility from West Germany in the mid-1980's. An ACDA unclassified report cited Chinese assistance to Pakistan’s missile program. The UK press cited nuclear cooperation between Pakistan and Iraq in 1989.
An article in Nuclear Fuel stated that the United States had issued “about 100 specific communiqués to the West German Government related to planned exports to the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and its affiliated organizations”; the exports reportedly included tritium and a tritium recovery facility. An article in Defense & Foreign Affairs Weekly stated “sources close to the Pakistani nuclear program have revealed that Pakistani scientists have now perfected detonation mechanisms for a nuclear device.”
Reporting on a recent customs investigation, West German magazine Stern reported, “since the beginning of the eighties over 70 [West German] enterprises have supplied sensitive goods to enterprises which for years have been buying equipment for Pakistan's ambitious nuclear weapons program.”
In 1989, Gerard Smith, former US diplomat and senior arms control authority, claimed US had turned a “blind eye” to proliferation developments in Pakistan and Israel. Senator Glenn also voiced his opinion on the issue, delivering two lengthy statements addressing Pakistan's violations of its uranium enrichment commitment to the United States and the lack of progress on nonproliferation issues from Prime Minister Bhutto's democratically elected government after a year in office; Glenn concluded, “There simply must be a cost to non-compliance--when a solemn nuclear pledge is violated, the solution surely does not lie in voiding the pledge.”
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|