We start our story from exactly 22 years ago, at this exact time, the Chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) was summoned to the PM House in Islamabad and given the historic order: “Dhamaka Kar dein”
#Pakistan #Nuclear #YomeTakbir
The PAEC Chairman went back to his office and immediately gave orders to his team to prepare for the tests. Simultaneously, GHQ and Air Headquarters issued orders to the relevant quarters in 12 Corps, Quetta, the National Logistics Cell (NLC), the Army Aviation Corps and
No. 6 (Air Transport Support) Squadron respectively to extend the necessary support to the PAEC in this regard. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) also directed the national airline, PIA, to make available a Boeing 737 passenger aircraft at short notice for the ferrying
of PAEC officials, scientists, engineers and technicians to Baluchistan at a short notice whenever required.
Here we go a little in the past:
Wayyy back to 1974 when in March Hafeez Qureshi, who at the time was heading the Radiation and Isotope Applications Division (RIAD)
at the Pakistan Institute of Science & Technology (PINSTECH) at Nilore and a mechanical engineer par excellence, was summoned by the then Chairman of the PAEC, Munir Ahmad Khan in a meeting that was attended, among others, by Dr. Abdus Salam,
then Adviser for Science and Technology to the Government of Pakistan and Dr. Riaz-ud-Din, Member (Technical), PAEC. Qureshi was told that he join hands on a project of national importance with another expert, Dr. Zaman Sheikh, then working with DESTO
(Defense Science & Technology Organization)
The word “bomb” was never used in the meeting but he knew exactly what he was being asked to do. Their task would be to build the mechanics of the bomb. The project would be located at Wah,
appropriately next to the Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF), in the North-West Frontier Province and conveniently close to the capital, Islamabad.
This EXTRAORDINARY group of scientists that actually constructed the first bomb was known as the WAH GROUP
Initial work was limited to R&D of the explosives to be used in the nuclear device. But, the terms of reference expanded to include chemical, mechanical and precision engineering and triggering mechanisms.
It procured equipment where it could and developed its own technology where restrictions prevented the purchase of equipment.
Now we jump ahead to 1976, when in Quetta Brig. Muhammad Sarfraz, Chief of Staff at 5 Corps Headquarters received a transmission from the
Pakistan Army General Headquarters (GHQ), Rawalpindi. The message directed the Corps Commander to make available an army helicopter to a forthcoming team of scientists from the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) for operational reconnaissance of some areas in Balochistan.
The PAEC team spent 3 days & several aerial reconnaissance tours of the area b/w Turbat, Awaran and Khusdar in the south and Naukundi-Kharan in the east, looking for a mountain which should be “bone dry” & capable of withstanding a 60 kilotonne nuclear explosion from the inside.
After a hectic and careful search they found a mountain which matched their specifications. This was a 185-metre high granite mountain in the Ras Koh Hills in the Chagai Division of Balochistan which at their highest point rise to a height of 3,009 metres.
It was decided that the proposed tunnel to be bored in the mountain should have the overburden of a 700 metre high mountain over it, making sufficient to withstand 60 kilo-tonnes of nuclear force.
In the same year, Brig. Muhammad Sarfraz, who had been posted to GHQ Rawalpindi, was summoned by President Zia-ul-Haq and was told that the PAEC wanted to lease him from the Army to carry out work related to the Pakistan nuclear programme.
This resulted in the creation of the Special Development Works (SDW), a nuclear variant of the Pakistan Army’s famous Frontier Works Organization (FWO). The SDW was a subsidiary of the PAEC which was entrusted with the task of preparing the nuclear test sites.
The primary task of the organization was to prepare underground test sites (both horizontal and vertical shafts) for 60-kilotonne nuclear devices, with all the allied infrastructure and facilities.
The sites had to be designed in such a way that they could be utilized at short notice (in less than a week) and were to be completed by December 1979 at the latest.
After a series of meetings between SDW and PAEC officials and the President of Pakistan,
it was decided that SDW should prepare 2-3 separate sites. Therefore, a second site for a horizontal shaft was located at Kharan, in a desert valley between the Ras Koh Hills to the north and Siahan Range to the south.
Subsequently, the Chagai-Ras Koh-Kharan areas became restricted entry zones and were closed to the public.
A 3,325 feet long tunnel was bored in the Ras Koh Hills which was 8-9 feet in diameter and was shaped like a fishhook for it to be self-sealing.
The test site at Kharan was 300 by 200 feet and was L-shaped. Both test sites had an array of extensive cables, sensors and monitoring stations. In addition to the main tunnels, SDW built 24 cold test sites, 46 short tunnels and 35 underground accommodations for
troops and command, control and monitoring facilities. At Ras Koh, some of these were located inside the granite mountains.
Both the nuclear test sites at Ras Koh and Kharan took 2-3 years to prepare and were completed in 1980, before Pakistan had actually built a nuclear weapon.
There was a need to improve and perfect the design of Pakistan’s first nuclear device which required constant testing of the trigger mechanism and related mechanics of the bomb.
This is was Project-706 or the Kirana Cold Tests.
Cold Test (CT) is a means of testing the working of a nuclear device without an explosion. This is achieved by triggering an actual bomb without the fissile material needed to detonate it.
And in 1983-1990, Pakistan conducted 30 such nuclear cold tests.
As the cold test tunnel sites had been sealed after they were readied, prior to the cold tests, an advance team was sent to de-seal, open and clean the tunnels and to make sure the tunnels were clear of the wild boars that are found in abundance in the region.
The damage which these wild boars could do to men and equipment could not be understated when one such wild boar later cost the PAF an F-16 when it sheared off the aircraft’s front undercarriage as it came in to land at Sargodha Air Base.
Luckily, the pilot ejected with minor injuries. The $20 million (in 1983) F-16 was, however, destroyed and had to be written off.
After clearing of the tunnels, a PAEC diagnostic team headed by Dr. Mubarakmand arrived on the scene with trailers fitted with computers and
diagnostic equipment. This was followed by the arrival of the Wah Group with the nuclear device, in sub-assembly form. This was assembled and then placed inside the tunnel. A monitoring system was set up with around 20 cables linking various parts of the device with oscillators
in diagnostic vans parked near the Kirana Hills. The Wah Group had indigenously developed the explosive HMX (His Majesty’s Explosive) which was used to trigger the device.
The device was tested using the push-button technique as opposed to the radio-link technique used at Chagai fourteen years later. The first test was to see whether the triggering mechanism created the necessary neutrons which would start a fission chain reaction in the real bomb
However, when the button was pushed, most of the wires connecting the device to the oscillators were severed due to errors committed in the preparation of the cables. At first, it was thought that the device had malfunctioned but closer scrutiny of two of the oscillators
confirmed that the neutrons had indeed come out and a chain reaction had taken place. Pakistan’s first cold test of a nuclear device had been successful and 11 March 1983 became a red letter day in the history of the Pakistan nuclear programme.
Between 1983 and 1990, the Wah Group conducted more than 24 cold tests of the nuclear device at Kirana Hills with the help of mobile diagnostic equipment. These tests were carried out in 24 tunnels measuring 100-150 feet in length which were bored inside the Kirana Hills.
Later due to excessive US intelligence and satellite focus on the Kirana Hills site, it was abandoned and the CT facility was shifted to the Kala-Chitta Range.
Some nuclear cold tests were also conducted in Kahuta by KRL (more on the differences between KRL and PAEC later)
During the same 1983-1990 period, the Wah Group went on to design and develop a bomb small enough to be carried on the wing of a small fighter such as the F-16. It worked alongside the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) to evolve and perfect delivery techniques of the nuclear bomb
using combat aircraft including ‘conventional freefall’, ‘loft bombing’, ‘toss bombing and ‘low-level laydown’ attack techniques. Today, the PAF has perfected all four techniques of nuclear weapons delivery using F-16 and Mirage-V aircraft
(although now the delivery options include a triad of land, air and sea based systems, and Ra’ad Mark II nuclear cruise missile can be loaded onto a JF-17 A/B as well.)
On 11 and 13 May 1998, India conducted what it claimed were a total of 5 nuclear tests at Pokhran, Rajasthan
near the Pakistan border and declared itself a “nuclear weapons state”. This act by India destabilized the balance of power in South Asia heavily in India’s favour. The dust at Pokhran had yet to settle when high-ranking Indian government officials and military personnel began
issuing provocative statements against Pakistan. India declared that it would pursue a “pro-active” policy on Jammu & Kashmir. Pakistan was told to realise the “new geo-political realities in South Asia”.

The underlying message for Pakistan was this “give up your claim on
Jammu & Kashmir and become forever subservient to Indian hegemony in South Asia”. India was now the nuclear weapons power and Pakistan wasn’t. Therefore, it is Pakistan which must capitulate on Jammu & Kashmir and only the dictate of India would be allowed in South Asia.
In the event of another India-Pakistan War, India would be able to use nuclear weapons if its Armed Forces were defeated or put in a tight corner. Indian warplanners felt that the use of small battlefield nuclear devices against the Pakistan Army cantonments, armoured
and infantry columns and PAF bases and nuclear and military industrial facilities would not meet with an adverse reaction from the world community so long as civilian casualties could be kept to a minimum. This way, India would defeat Pakistan, force its Armed Forces
into a humiliating surrender and occupy and annex the Northern Areas of Pakistan and Azad Jammu & Kashmir. India would then carve up Pakistan into tiny states based on ethnic divisions and that would be the end of the “Pakistan problem” once and for all.
Such a plan could never be allowed to succeed. In the face of national survival, all other things become secondary. Therefore, it was decided that Pakistan had to go nuclear to guarantee its security and survival.
A meeting of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) was convened on the morning of 15 May 1998 at the Prime Minister’s Secretariat, Islamabad to discuss the situation arising out of the Indian nuclear tests. The meeting was chaired by the Prime Minister of Pakistan and
attended by the Ministers of Defence, Foreign Affairs, Finance & Economic Affairs, the Foreign Secretary, and the three Chiefs of Staffs of the Army, Air Force and Navy.
The responsibility of giving a technical assessment of the Indian nuclear tests and Pakistan’s preparedness to give a matching response to India fell on the shoulders of Dr. Samar Mubarakmand, Member (Technical), PAEC, in charge of the PAEC’s Directorate of Technical Development
(DTD), one of the most secretive organizations in the Pakistan nuclear programme the location of which is one of Pakistan’s best kept secrets and unknown to the world. Also, in attendance was Dr. A.Q. Khan, Director of the Khan Research Laboratories (KRL), Kahuta.
There were 2 points on the DCC’s agenda: Firstly, whether or not Pakistan should carry out nuclear tests in order to respond to Indian’s nuclear tests? Secondly, if Pakistan does go ahead with the tests then which of the two organizations, PAEC or KRL, should carry out the tests?
Here, it is pertinent to mention that from the start of Pakistan’s Nuclear weapons program, two separate organisations were conducting separate developments namely Kahuta/Khan Reasearch Laboratories (KRL) and Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), both with separate designs
The discussions went on for a few hours and encompassed financial, diplomatic, military, strategic and national security concerns. Finance Minister Sartaj Aziz was the only person who opposed the tests on financial grounds due to the economic recession,
the low foreign exchange reserves of the country & the effect of inevitable economic sanctions which would be imposed on Pakistan if it carried out the tests. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif neither opposed nor proposed the tests. Remainders spoke in favour of conducting the tests.
While giving his technical assessment on behalf of the PAEC, Dr. Mubarakmand said that Pakistan had a modern state-of-the-art international standard seismic station near the capital, Islamabad, and also had seismic stations located all over Pakistan including at locations near
the Pakistan-India border. He said that these seismic stations had recorded only one nuclear device on 11 May 1998 at Pokhran and not three as India was wrongfully claiming. He said that the remaining two, in all probability, had fizzled out, i.e. were failures.
He also said that no thermonuclear or hydrogen test was carried out on either 11 or 13 May 1998 by the Indians as none of the yields were big enough for such a test. In all likelihood, the Indians may have attempted a thermonuclear test, but it too had failed.
Dr. Mubarakmand added that if it is decided that Pakistan should go ahead with nuclear tests of its own, then the PAEC is fully prepared to carry out the nuclear tests within 10 days.
Dr. A.Q. Khan, speaking on behalf of KRL, also asserted that KRL was fully prepared and
capable of carrying out nuclear tests within 10 days if the orders are given by the DCC. Dr. Khan reminded the DCC that it was KRL which first enriched uranium, converted it into metal, machined it into semi-spheres of metal and designed their own atomic bomb and
carried out cold tests on their own. All this was achieved without any help from PAEC. He said that KRL was fully independent in the nuclear field. Dr. Khan went on to say that since it was KRL which first made inroads into the nuclear field for Pakistan, it should be given
the honour of carrying out Pakistan’s first nuclear tests and it would feel let down if it wasn’t conferred the privilege of doing so.

Thus, both the PAEC and KRL were equal to the task. However, PAEC had two additional advantages which KRL didn’t.
Firstly, it was PAEC which had constructed Pakistan’s nuclear test site at Chagai, Baluchistan. Secondly, PAEC had greater experience in conducting cold tests than KRL.

The DCC meeting concluded without any resolution of the two agenda points.
On the morning of 17 May 1998, the chairman of PAEC received a call from the Pakistan Army GHQ, Rawalpindi informing him to remain on stand-by a meeting with the Prime Minister. He was thereafter summoned by the Prime Minister House, Islamabad where he went accompanied by
Dr. Mubarakmand, the Prime Minister asked the PAEC Chairman for his opinion on the two points which were discussed in the DCC meeting of 15 May 1998. Dr. Ahmed told the Prime Minister that the decision to test or not to test was that of the Government of Pakistan.
As far as the PAEC preparedness and capability was concerned they were ready to their duty as and when required to do so. The Prime Minister said that eyes of the world were focused on Pakistan and failure to conduct the tests would put the credibility of the Pakistan nuclear
programme in doubt. The PAEC Chairman reply was, “Mr. Prime Minister, take a decision and, Insha’Allah, I give you the guarantee of succes”. He was told to prepare for the tests but remain on stand-by for the final decision.
We know that the order to conduct the tests was given on 18 May 1998. Since the DCC meeting of 15 May 1998 proved inconclusive, it is believed that a more exclusive DCC meeting was held on 16 or 17 May 1998 attended only by the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister,
the Finance Minister and the three Chiefs of Staff of the Army, Air Force and Navy. This meeting has never been officially acknowledged but it must have been held as neither the Prime Minister alone nor the Chief of the Army Staff alone could have made the decision to conduct
the nuclear tests. The DCC was the only competent authority to decide on this matter, especially since the National Command Authority (NCA), Pakistan’s nuclear command and control authority for its strategic forces, did not exist at that time.
In this meeting, the two agenda points were decided:
Pakistan would give a matching and befitting response to India by conducting nuclear tests of its own. Secondly, the task would be assigned to the PAEC who were the best equipped and most experienced to carry out the tests.
Here we come full circle to the beginning of the tweet thread when on May 18 1998, the Prime Minister gave the official order:
“Dhamaka Kar Dein”
When news reached Dr. A.Q. Khan at KRL that the task had been assigned to PAEC, he lodged a strong protest with the Chief of Army Staff, General Jehangir Karamat. The Army Chief, in turn, called the Prime Minister. It was decided that KRL personnel would be involved
in the final preparation of the nuclear test site alongside those of PAEC as well as present at the time of testing.

In the meantime, PAEC convened a meeting to decide the modus operandi of the tests and how many tests to carry out. This meeting was chaired by Dr. Ahmed
(Chairman PAEC) and attended by Dr. Mubarakmand and other scientists and engineers of the PAEC. It was decided that since the Indian nuclear tests had given an opportunity to Pakistan to conduct nuclear tests after 14 years of conducting only cold tests,
the maximum benefit should be derived from this opportunity. It was, therefore, decided, that multiple tests would be carried out of varying yields as well as the live testing of the triggering mechanisms. Since the tunnel at the Ras Koh Hills had the capability to conduct six
tests, therefore, six different nuclear devices of varying designs, sizes and yields were selected, all of which had been previously cold tested.
Immediately afterwards, began the process of fitness and quality checks of the various components of the nuclear devices and
the testing equipment. A large but smooth logistics operation also got underway with the help of the Pakistan Army and Air Force. This operation involved moving men and equipment as well as the nuclear devices to the Ras Koh test site from various parts of the country.
Here we stop the thread to give you some time to rest 😅😁
We shall continue tomorrow from the events on 19 May 1998
Stay tuned on this thread
Allah Hafiz
From here we start our thread again from the events of May 19 to May 27: these will be short and leading upto the actual tests but obviously the grand finale will be on May 28.
Today I will also include some of the interesting diplomatic and smuggling quarks and pictures:-
On 19 May 1998, 2 teams of 140 PAEC scientists, engineers & technicians left for Chagai, Balochistan on two separate PIA Boeing 737 flights. Also on board were teams from the Wah Group, the Theoretical Group, the Directorate of Technical Development (DTD) & the Diagnostics Group.
Some of the men and equipment were transported via road using NLC trucks escorted by the members of the Special Services Group (SSG), the elite commando force of the Pakistan Army.
The nuclear devices were themselves flown in completely knocked down (CKD) sub-assembly form on a Pakistan Air Force C-130 Hercules tactical transport aircraft from Rawalpindi to Chagai, escorted even within Pakistani airspace by four PAF F-16s armed with air-to-air missiles.
The security of the devices was so strict that the PAF F-16 escort pilots had been secretly given standing orders that in the unlikely event of the C-130 being hijacked or flown outside of Pakistani airspace, they were to shoot it down before it left Pakistan’s airspace.
The F-16s were ordered to escort the C-130 at a designated airfield in Balochistan with their radio communications equipment turned off so that no orders, in the interim, could be conveyed to them to act otherwise.
They were also ordered to ignore any orders to the contrary that got through to them during the duration of the flight even if such orders originated from Air Headquarters.

Once in Chagai, the parts of the nuclear devices were separately taken to the five ‘zero rooms’
in the kilometre long tunnels at Ras Koh Hills in Chagai. Dr. Samar Mubarakmand personally supervised the complete assembly of all five nuclear devices. Diagnostic cables were thereafter laid from the tunnel to the telemetry.
The cables connected all five nuclear devices with a command observation post 10 km away. Afterwards, a complete simulated test was carried out by tele-command.

This process of preparing the nuclear devices and laying of the cables and the
establishment of the fully functional command and observation post took 5 days.

On 25 May 1998, soldiers of the Pakistan Army 5 Corps arrived to seal the tunnel. They were super vised by engineers and technicians from the Pakistan Army Engineering Corps,
the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) and the Special Development Works (SDW).

Dr Samar Mubarakmand himself walked a total of 5 kilometres back and forth in the hot tunnels checking and re-checking the devices and the cables which would be forever buried under the concrete.
Finally, the cables were plugged into nuclear devices. The process of sealing the tunnel thereafter began with the mixing of the cement and the sand. It took a total of 6,000 cement bags to seal the tunnel.
The preparations were completed for PAKISTAN’S FINEST HOUR
How did we reach here? What did it take?
Here’s a brief timeline of important events:

1955: Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission set up to promote peaceful uses of atomic energy.

1965: Pakistan’s first nuclear research reactor at Parr, Rawalpindi, starts functioning.
1974: India tests a device of up to 15 kilotons and calls the test a peaceful nuclear explosion. Pakistani Prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto calls a meeting of Pakistan's top scientists of intention to develop nuclear arms.
26 May 1990: First Pakistani nuclear bomb successfully tested.
You heard that right, the first Pakistani nuclear bomb was actually tested in 1990, 8 years before 1998.
On May 26, 1990, China tested a Pakistani bomb (Pak-1) on Pakistan’s behalf at the Lop Nur test site.
The so-called “Event No. 35” was most likely a uranium implosion bomb and gave invaluable information on our preliminary designs.

January 06, 1996: India and Pakistan exchange lists of atomic installations which each side has pledged not to attack under an over seven-year-old
confidence-building agreement.

September 06, 1997: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif claims Pakistan possesses nuclear weapons.
June 1998--The foreign ministers of the United States and seven other industrialized countries announce that they would act together to postpones loans to Pakistan by international financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.
May 1998: There was HUMINT that Israel might undertake preemptive airstrikes with India’s help on Pakistani nuclear facilities (in 1983 an earlier Israeli plan like this was thwarted by the ISI and PAF who promised similar retaliation on Israeli facilities)
Israeli aircraft were
even spotted in Pakistani airspace a few times.

In the mid-1980s alone, Israel reportedly tried on three separate occasions to interest India in a joint attack on Kahuta, the nuclear development plant in north-east Pakistan, just across the border from India.
Later on the Israeli chief of staff personally had to deny that Israel will conduct the attack to Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington
May 1998: German Chancellor tells world that Pakistan has conducted a nuclear test. This was a few days before the actual test and the worldwide tension was such that fake news started popping up.
Pakistani embassies across the world had their telephone lines ringing off the hook
25 May 1998:
PIA Flight 544 from Gwadar gets hijacked by armed Indian R&AW operatives who were under the guise of BLA operatives and demanded the plane be taken to India and Pakistan to deter from nuclear test.
The Plane was taken to Hyderabad, Pakistan where
The outlook was changed to an Indian airport and SSG commandos in the guise of Indian airport officials negotiated and welcomed the hijackers.
They were all, obviously, caught
Back to the Ras Koh Hills:

The tunnel was sealed by the afternoon May 26, 1998 and by the afternoon of 27 May 1998, the cement had completely dried out due to the excessive heat of the desert. After the engineers certified that the concrete
had hardened and the site was fit for the tests it was communicated to the Prime Minister via the GHQ that the site was ready.

The date and time for Pakistan’s rendezvous with destiny was set for 3:00 p.m. on the afternoon of 28 May 1998
Here we stop again and will continue to the Dhamaka on May 28. In the meantime here are some interesting pictures:-
Dr. Samir Mubarakmand
A. Q. Khan posing in the actual nuclear test tunnel (only known picture).
The test director, Dr. Samar Mubarakmand, was probably too busy to pose.
Pakistani scientists. A.Q. Khan is present, but not Samar Mubarakmand. Perhaps this is the representation from KRL
Pakistani scientists posing with a nice view of Koh Kambaran in
the background. The 28 May shot was fired in a tunnel bored
underneath this mountain. The principal scientists responsible for
developing the devices and conducting the tests were the team leader
Dr. Samar Mubarakmand (right of the man in the blue beret) and
Dr. Tariq Salija and Dr. Irfan Burney, all of the PAEC. The better
known A.Q. Khan of KRL is left of the man in the beret (who may be
General Zulfikar Ali, the ranking military officer present).
The mountain one day before the test
Tunnel entrance
Instrument and diagnostics bunker
PAEC officials smiling in confidence one day before the tests.
Salute to these brainy men
Security entrance to the test site
With this shot of the Pakistani Flag 🇵🇰 in front of the mountain less than 24 hours before the test, we leave you.
We will pick up again on May 28 to the historic DHAMAKA
Thank You for your patience.
You can follow @WPCION.
Tip: mention @twtextapp on a Twitter thread with the keyword “unroll” to get a link to it.

Latest Threads Unrolled: