Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan: Unpopular Pakistani hero in the West

When the TV was turned on early yesterday morning, the news of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan’s death was being aired on every channel. The Internet was no different. Basically, all the information was the same, only the style was different. One by one I was reading, listening, and watching the news, but a film of memories was playing in my mind that had been spread for a little over 3 decades.

Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan

Before exploring my memories of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, I think it is necessary to clear up a misunderstanding. In most places, he is described as the “founder of Pakistan’s nuclear program,” which is incorrect.

The late Dr. Sahib must have played a pivotal role in Pakistan’s ‘military nuclear program’, but Pakistan’s peaceful (civilian) nuclear program began in the 1950s, under which the Islamic world in 1972 The first nuclear power plant, KANUPP, had started operations in Karachi.

It’s 1987, I came to college from a new school in those days. Unlike my peers, I always had a picture of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan in my wallet, which I had cut out from a special issue of the monthly ‘Practical Science’.

What I had read about Dr. Sahib by then was so impressive that I, like thousands of other young Pakistanis, started dreaming of becoming a ‘nuclear scientist’, and that is why science is my favorite subject. Became. I didn’t become a scientist, but I did become a ‘scientific journalist’, and that title became my permanent identity.

Regardless of the honors bestowed on Dr. Sahib, the recognition of his services, and all the controversies surrounding his personality, the fact remains that Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan has undoubtedly been the most popular scientist in Pakistan.

Bhopal, Pakistan, and Europe

According to the records, He was born on April 1, 1936, in Bhopal. However, Dr. Sahib’s most authoritative biographer and longtime friend, the late Zahid Malik, writes that ‘Dr. Sahib’s actual date of birth is April 27, 1936:’ Could not attend the exam and the exams started in the first week of April. It was reported that when it came time to send Dr. Sahib for admission, he was one month younger than 16 years.

Mohammad Zaki Siddiqui, Headmaster of Hamidia High School (Bhopal), considering his intelligence and academic ability, did not consider it appropriate to waste a year and wrote the date of birth as 1st April (1936). I was allowed to sit for the matriculation examination. (Reference: Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan and Islamic Bomb (Parts I and II); by: Zahid Malik, Published 1998)

After the formation of Pakistan, most of Dr. Sahib’s family migrated to Pakistan while he passed the matriculation examination in Bhopal with his parents and came to Pakistan in 1952. He came here and settled in Karachi with his elder brothers. In 1954, he studied for a while at DJ Science College and then enrolled at Karachi University, which in those days was located in the middle of the city in the ‘Old City Area’, right in front of the Urdu College. Today this place is called ‘Abdul Haq Campus’ of Federal Urdu University.

After completing his BSc from Karachi University in 1957, Dr. Sahib was for some time an inspector in the Department of Weights and Measures at KMC, but he wanted to pursue higher studies. That is why, as soon as he received a scholarship to West Germany in 1961, he quit his job and moved to Germany.

After studying metallurgy at the Technical University of West Berlin, he moved to the Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands in 1965, where he earned an engineering degree in materials technology in 1967 and an MS in Pakistan. Is equal to Meanwhile, Dr. Sahib had married a German woman named Heine.

Dr. Sahib’s next destination was the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, from which he received his Doctor of Engineering in 1972 under the supervision of Dr. Martin Bieber. In the same year, Dr. Sahib got a job at the FDO in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and moved to Amsterdam with his wife and two daughters.

He also won more than a dozen gold medals during his career. — File Photo: AP

He also won more than a dozen gold medals during his career.

As a subcontractor, the FDO belonged to the Urenco Group, which supplies enriched uranium to nuclear power plants in the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. In this way, Dr. Sahib had a great opportunity to understand uranium enrichment very closely and to put it into practice. The same skill of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan came in handy in Pakistan’s military nuclear program.

Return to Pakistan

Dr. Sahib was deeply shocked by the signing of Pakistan in 1971 and then when India detonated its first atomic bomb in May 1974 under the name ‘Smiling Buddha’, Dr. Sahib’s anxiety began to reach its peak. In a short span of a few months, he wrote letters to several Pakistani institutions and offered his services, but received no response from anywhere.

Eventually, Dr. Khan somehow managed to get a letter from the then Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in which he referred to his expertise in uranium enrichment and expressed hope that he would help build an atomic bomb. Can do Bhutto himself wanted Pakistan to make an atomic bomb as soon as possible and give a blunt answer to India. “We’ll eat grass, but we’ll make atomic bombs,” he said. Had given a statement.

Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto met Dr. Sahib without delay and then introduced him to experts from the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) who had been working on a secret government plan to build an atomic bomb since 1972. Under this project, work was being done to make an atomic bomb from enriched plutonium.

During the meeting in December 1974, Dr. Khan strongly supported the use of enriched uranium for the atomic bomb and strongly criticized the use of plutonium. As a result, he was sent back to the Netherlands, where he continued to provide expert advice on the project.

But on his return to the Netherlands, he was viewed with suspicion and, eventually, returned permanently to Pakistan in 1976. In the absence of Dr. Khan in the Netherlands, cases of theft of ‘intelligence’ were registered against him, but later technical Studies have shown that all of this intelligence is common in high-quality metallurgy textbooks. Therefore, Dr. Sahib was acquitted of these cases.

Upon his return to Pakistan in 1976, Dr. Khan’s services were handed over to the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, but this exacerbated the pre-existing tensions between the PAEC and Dr. Khan. Proving his understanding of the matter, Bhutto set up a separate Engineering Research Laboratory (ERL) in the same year and appointed Dr. Khan as its head.

Due to its establishment in Kahuta, the laboratory became known as ‘Kahuta Research Laboratory’ which was renamed as ‘Abdul Qadeer Khan Research Laboratory’ in 1981 by the order of President General Zia-ul-Haq.

Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan: Unpopular Pakistani hero in the West | Rean Times
Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan Qadeer Khan welcomes Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to inaugurate a symposium in Islamabad organized by Nuclear Research Laboratory.

It is important to note here that two types of uranium are naturally found in abundance: uranium 238 and uranium 235; These are called isotopes of uranium. Only uranium 235 is useful for use in nuclear power plants or atomic bombs, while uranium 238 is of no use for this purpose.

The proportion of uranium 235 in a pure uranium sample is only 0.7% (zero point seven percent) which has to be separated from uranium 238. Only 5% to 20% of enriched uranium 235 is sufficient in a nuclear power plant, but to make an atomic bomb, uranium 235 with 90% or more enrichment is required, also called ‘bomb-grade uranium’. Goes

Islamic bomb and the claim of Professor Qadir Hussain

Work on the same ‘bomb-grade uranium’ at Kahuta Research Laboratories was expedited and many technical issues were resolved. According to the late Mr. Zahid Malik, “Pakistan under the leadership of Dr. Khan had achieved its first success in the manufacture of bomb-grade uranium in 1978.

This is also true because the term ‘Islamic bomb’ became popular in the Western media at the same time. Documentaries, essays, and even books have been made on the subject. In all this ‘investigative journalism’, Pakistan’s nuclear program, especially Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan and Kahuta Laboratories, was the main target of criticism and was presented to the world as a ‘villain’.

However, it was not just the Western world, but in 1979, Professor Qadir Hussain, a physics teacher at Urdu Science College, Karachi, came up with a new claim that the method used to enrich uranium in the Kahuta laboratory was his. Invented a few years ago, during research at the Atomic Energy Commission.

Traders in Aabpara Chowk distribute sweets on the occasion of a successful nuclear blast
Traders in Aabpara Chowk distribute sweets on the occasion of a successful nuclear blast.

At first, he tried to get a patent for this method he invented in Pakistan but failed. In the next phase, he filed a lawsuit against the government of Pakistan and Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, which was well received in the international media. In 1987, Professor Sahib filed a patent application in the United States, which was finally granted in 1995, and he was granted an American patent (No. 5,417,944) for his ‘invention’. It is a different matter that so far no one in the United States has been willing to buy and use this patent.

I still remember that the monthly Science Digest, Karachi, used to publish articles in favor of Professor Qadir Hussain and the record of this case with great care. In the history of Pakistan, it is known as the ‘Qadir Qadir Controversy’, in which he once mentioned that the weekly Takbir (in favor of Dr. Abdul Qadir Khan) and the monthly Science Digest (in support of Prof. Qadir Hussain) Came to litigation against the other.

When the 75th issue (Platinum Jubilee Number) of the monthly Science Magazine, published under the editorship of Mr. Syed Qasim Mahmood, was published in January 1991, it included a special article by Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan which he wrote to Syed Sahib. Sent on request. In this article, Dr. Khan reviews uranium enrichment in great detail.

However, he did not say much about Professor Qadir Hussain’s claim. (I also remember this incident because from the same issue Syed Sahib promoted me from ‘Deputy Editor’ to ‘Editor’ of Science Magazine.)

Extensive services

It seems that by the early 1990s, many issues related to the atomic bomb in Pakistan had matured as Kahuta laboratories expanded their services from uranium enrichment to missile manufacturing and other defense equipment. done. These include anti-tank guided missiles, Anza missiles, radar systems, electronic systems, and laser range finders, as well as ballistic missiles such as Ghauri I, Ghauri II, and Hatf I.

Pakistan’s nuclear blasts

After the Indian nuclear blasts in May 1998, the pressure on Pakistan for retaliatory nuclear blasts intensified and on May 28, 1998, Pakistan also restored the rapidly deteriorating balance of power in the subcontinent by detonating a nuclear bomb in Chaghi.

It would be more accurate to say that the blasts were the result of decades of hard work by thousands of experts from the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and Kahuta Research Laboratories. Despite the fierce hostility on this occasion, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan and Dr. Samar Mubarakmand were both presents in Chaghi. As expected, with these bombings, new sanctions were imposed on Pakistan, but the race to take ‘credit’ for this great achievement began at home, in which politicians and scientists were equally involved.

The cover of the Dawn newspaper the day after the atomic bomb; the Dawn Archives
The cover of the Dawn newspaper the day after the atomic bomb; the Dawn Archives

I still remember that in those days the weekly Takbir had published an article on Pakistan’s nuclear blasts in which Professor Qadir Hussain was called the ‘real hero’. This was surprising to me because Takbir was the same magazine that had in the past sued Science Digest in support of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan.

Nuclear secrets for sale

Time passed and then the year 2004 came. In the government of General Pervez Musharraf, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan had a ‘de-briefing. Speaking on PTV in front of the entire nation, Dr. Sahib admitted that he had been providing ‘nuclear secrets’ to other countries and apologized to the nation for his action.

Everyone knew that by making Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan a scapegoat, the necks of some ‘real elders’ were being saved, but no one dared to say so. After his ‘confession’, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan was kept under house arrest for many years. After General Musharraf, a decision was made in favor of Dr. Khan and he was once again granted independence.

Former Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz is addressing a ceremony marking the first anniversary of the atomic bombing. Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan and former Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmad Khan are also present on the stage.
Former Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz is addressing a ceremony marking the first anniversary of the atomic bombing. Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan and former Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmad Khan are also present on the stage.

But by then Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan had broken down badly. My first and last meeting with Dr. Sahib was in 2014 at the house of his sister who lives in Karachi. I was with Siddique Sheikh Sahib, who introduced me in very good words. After hearing the introduction, Dr. Sahib said: ‘Hey, you are so capable, what are you doing in Pakistan? Go, go somewhere else. If you stay here, you will end up like me! ‘

As a Pakistani, this sentence seemed very strange to me. Government and institutional affairs with Dr. Sahib may have been the same, but his respect and esteem in the hearts of ordinary Pakistanis have never diminished. One section constantly criticizes Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, but there is no denying that Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan is still the most popular name in science in Pakistan.

Inspired by his personality, millions of young Pakistanis are still attracted to science and technology. This love of the Pakistani nation is the greatest honor for Dr. Sahib.

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