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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Pakistan’s Nuclear Program Chronology

1990 - 1999

1990 began with reports of secret construction of a new, unsafeguarded nuclear research reactor with components sourced from Europe.

In reaction to Indian Army war games near the Indo-Pakistani border in the spring of 1990, Pakistan reportedly prepared to drop one of seven weapons from a specially configured C-130 cargo plane (02 December 1992 NBC News report).

The US News cited “western intelligence sources”, claiming Pakistan recently “cold-tested” a nuclear device and was going to build a plutonium production reactor. The article also claimed Pakistan was engaged in nuclear cooperation with Iran.

The London Sunday Times cited growing U.S. and Soviet concerns about the Pakistani nuclear program. The paper claimed F-16 aircraft were being modified for nuclear delivery purposes and US spy satellites had observed “heavily armed convoys” leaving Pakistan’s uranium enrichment complex at Kahuta towards military airfields.

Defense & Foreign Affairs Weekly reported “US officials now believe that Pakistan has quite sufficient computing power in country to run all the modeling necessary to adequately verify the viability of the country's nuclear weapons technology.”

The Washington Post documented 3 recent efforts by Pakistan to acquire special arc-melting furnaces with nuclear and missile applications (for melting uranium and plutonium).

In October of 1990, President Bush announced that he could no longer provide Congress with Pressler Amendment certification that Pakistan does not possess a nuclear weapon. Economic and military aid was duly terminated, though the Bush administration continued to permit a limited number of commercial military sales to Pakistan. Pakistan handled the cutoff with little public rancor and committed itself to freezing the nuclear program in an attempt to placate the United States.

Once again, Pakistan proposed to India the commencement of a multilateral conference on the nuclear proliferation in South Asia. And once again, it was rejected.

The Wall Street Journal said Pakistan was buying nuclear-capable M-11 missile from China. This would be the second instance in which Pakistan purchased M-11 missiles. Sen. Moynihan said in a television interview, “Last July [1990] the Pakistanis machined 6 nuclear Pakistan warheads. And they've still got them.”

The Time quoted a businessperson as saying, “BCCI is functioning as the owners' representative for Pakistan's nuclear-bomb project.” The Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) was established in 1972. It went defunct in 1991 after being found to be involved in massive amounts of money laundering and other financial crimes.

After numerous treaty opportunities, India and Pakistan finally entered an agreement prohibiting attacks on each other's nuclear installations. And in July of 1991, reliable reports from Islamabad confirmed that Pakistan had frozen production of HEU and halted the manufacturing of nuclear weapons and components.

The Pakistani foreign secretary publicly discussed Pakistan's possession of “cores” of nuclear devices. The US Government determined that China had transferred items controlled under the international MTCR to Pakistan in late 1992.

In December of the same year, the US Government asked Pakistan to return eight US Navy frigates and a supply ship that had been leased to the Pakistan Navy, which accounted for more than half of Pakistan's major surface combatants. In the same month, Senator Larry Pressler reportedly stated in a press interview that he had been told by the CIA that Pakistan had assembled 7 weapons and could air drop one in a matter of hours (Dec. 1, 1992 NBC News broadcast).

Pakistan proposed to India the creation of a missile-free zone in South Asia. The treaty was not accepted.

On 25 August 1993, The United States imposed "Category II" sanctions against certain Chinese and Pakistani entities that were involved in an M-11 missile-related transfer, which is prohibited under US law. “Category II” sanctions require the denial of new export licenses for MTCR Annex items, both munitions and dual use items, and the denial of U.S. government contracts relating to MTCR Annex items with the sanctioned entities for two years.

The Clinton Administration, in 1993, citing what it considered to be asymmetrical treatment accorded to Pakistan and India over their respective nuclear programs, proposed revising the Pressler Amendment and certain "country-specific" sections of the Foreign Assistance Act. The administration argued that by the time nuclear nonproliferation provisions had been added to the Foreign Assistance Act, India had already acquired the capability to build nuclear weapons and thus Pakistan had borne the brunt of most United States sanctions.

Plans to revise the Pressler Amendment were withdrawn by the Clinton Administration because of strong criticism from a number of influential members of Congress, including Senator Pressler himself.

In April of the same year, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott visited Islamabad to propose a one-time sale of F-16 fighter aircraft to Pakistan. Delivery of the planes would be contingent on specific commitments from Pakistan regarding its nuclear program, including a verifiable cap on the production of fissile materials. Talbott states that there is "broad agreement" between the United States and Pakistan on the goal of "first capping, then reducing, and eventually eliminating weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles from South Asia."

Again in September 1995, The Clinton Administration proposed revisions to the Pressler Amendment, citing the Amendment's roadblocks to cooperation with Pakistan's Government in areas such as combatting terrorism and furthering US commercial interests in Pakistan.

On 01 January 1996, India and Pakistan exchanged lists of atomic installations which each side had pledged not to attack under a confidence-building agreement signed in 1988. Both nations will continue to do so on 01 January of every year until the treaty is dissolved.

In January 1996, The Brown amendment was signed into law to relieve some of the pressures created by the Pressler sanctions, which had crippled parts of the Pakistani military, particularly its Air Force. The Brown amendment allowed nearly $370 million of previously embargoed arms and spare parts to be delivered to Pakistan. It also permitted limited military assistance for the purposes of counter-terrorism, peacekeeping, anti-narcotics efforts, and some military training, and allowed the continuation of economic and humanitarian aid.

Pakistan commissioned an unsafeguarded nuclear reactor in Khushab, expected to become operational in the late 1990s, that would provide the country with the capacity to produce weapons-grade plutonium.

Pakistan's main nuclear weapons laboratory, the A.Q. Khan Laboratory in Kahuta, purchased 5,000 ring magnets from China. The ring magnets would allow Pakistan to effectively double its capacity to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons production.

In July 1997, Pakistan confirms test firing of new indigenous Hatf missile. A few months later, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif claimed Pakistan possessed nuclear weapons, saying that, "Pakistan's nuclear capability is now an established fact. Whatever we have, we have a right to keep it...."

In late May 1998, Pakistan detonated five nuclear devices. Pakistan claimed that the five nuclear tests measured up to 5.0 on the Richter scale, with a reported yield of up to 40kT.

On May 29, 1998, Pakistani Foreign Minister Gohar Ayub Khan said in an interview with the AP that “Pakistan is now a nuclear weapons state.” Foreign Ministry Secretary Shamshad Ahmad said that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons capability was meant solely for national self-defense. “It will never be used for offensive purposes”, he said in a prepared statement. On 30 May 1998, Pakistan announced that it had tested multiple nuclear warhead, one with a yield of 12 kilotons, bringing the total number of claimed tests to six.

Pakistan’s Khushab plutonium production reactor was completed and came on-line in 1998.

On June 2, 1998, Pakistani Ambassador Munir Akram called together a Special Session of the Conference on Disarmament. He stated that Pakistan had attempted to bring the South Asian security situation into the light of the international community for some time, but to no avail. He also made clear that Pakistan’s nuclear program and weapons R&D was only in response to the “dangers of combat - including the nuclear threat - emanating from India”, the lack of International response to aggression by India against Pakistan, and the need to develop an effective deterrent.

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Page last modified: 02-08-2011 15:30:20 ZULU