Pakistan and weapons of mass destruction

Pakistani nuclear weapons program

Pakistan is one of nine states to possess nuclear weapons. Pakistan began development of nuclear weapons in January 1972 under Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who delegated the program to the Chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) Munir Ahmad Khan with a commitment to having the bomb ready by the end of 1976. Since PAEC, consisting of over twenty laboratories and projects under nuclear engineer Munir Ahmad Khan, was falling behind schedule and having considerable difficulty producing fissile material, Abdul Qadeer Khan was brought from Europe by Bhutto at the end of 1974. As pointed out by Houston Wood, "The most difficult step in building a nuclear weapon is the production of fissile material";[13] as such, this work in producing fissile material as head of the Kahuta Project was pivotal to Pakistan developing the capability to detonate a nuclear bomb by the end of 1984.


  • A. Q. Khan, the chief of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program—who remains a nationalist hero even though his smuggling network evidently sold nuclear technology to North Korea, Libya, and Iran—recently invoked the Bangladesh war as an apology for his dangerous brand of nuclear proliferation: “Had Iraq and Libya been nuclear powers, they wouldn’t have been destroyed in the way we have seen recently. If we had had nuclear capability before 1971, we would not have lost half of our country—present-day Bangladesh—after disgraceful defeat.”
    • Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide. Epilogue
  • In Pakistan, in particular, the military are seen as the bulwark and protector of the nation and are largely free from civilian control and scrutiny. The infamous Inter- Services Intelligence Directorate has backed and funded terrorist groups in India, the disputed territory of Kashmir, Afghanistan and Central Asia, not for the good of those countries or of Pakistan itself. It is widely accepted that some of Pakistan’s generals have sold nuclear technology to North Korea. Civilian leaders who have tried to rein in the military have rapidly found themselves out of office and, if they are lucky, in exile. In both India and Pakistan civilian politics have taken on a military tinge, with some political parties sponsoring paramilitary organisations whose members wear uniforms, march in formation with flags and carry sticks to menace their opponents.