Timeline of Pakistan’s Nuclear Programme

1956- Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) established with the establishment of the Atomic Energy Research Council (AERC)

1960- Dr. I.H. Usmani, a physicist and an ex-ICS officer, takes over as PAEC Chairman from Dr. Nazir Ahmad (1955-60)

1961- PAEC sets up an Atomic Energy Mineral Centre at Lahore

1963- Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science & Technology (PINSTECH) is established at Nilore, near Islamabad. Construction work begins under the guidance of the American architect Edward Stone.

1965- September 6th-21st, second Indo-Pak war

1965-October, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto visits Vienna and meets Mr. Munir Ahmad Khan. They discuss India’s nuclear plans and Pakistan’s future nuclear roadmap. Their private meetings continue till 1972.

1965-December 11, Munir Khan meets President Ayub Khan at the Rochester Hotel, London. Ayub remains unconvinced that Pakistan needs to take notice of India’s nuclear program and acquire nuclear facilities while they were still easily available. Munir comes out of the meeting and tells Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, “The President did not agree.” Bhutto replies, “Don’t worry, our turn will come.”

1965- December 21st, the 5 MW Pakistan Research Reactor-1 (PARR), supplied by the United States, becomes critical.

1965- September; Construction of 137 MW Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUPP) 137 MW begins near coast of Karachi under a contract from Canadian General Electric Company (CGE)

1967- The Electronics Division is established at PINSTECH

1967- Nuclear Physics Division (NPD) is established at PINSTECH

1967- Reactor School is established in PINSTECH to train scientists and engineers, and put R&D on fast track

1968- Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty is completed. Pakistan refuses to sign.

1970-Reactor School becomes operational

1971- July; Construction of KANUPP is completed

1971- August 1st, KANUPP reactor becomes critical

1971- October 21st, generation of electricity is achieved at KANUPP

1971- December, third Pak-Bharat war. Bharat invades East Pakistan subsequently making into Bangladesh.

1971-December President Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto takes over as President of Pakistan soon after the fall of East Pakistan. He immediately asks Mr. Munir Ahmad Khan, a nuclear engineer working as Head of Reactor Engineering at the IAEA, to return to the country and prepare a feasibility status report on Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure. Munir Khan takes a round of all PAEC establishments and prepares a status-report which is submitted to ZA Bhutto before the Multan Conference.

1972- January 2nd, President Z.A.Bhutto calls a meeting of senior scientists and engineers at Multan where he announces the intention of building an atomic bomb for Pakistan. This meeting was attended by the future Nobel Laureate, Dr. Abdus Salam, PAEC Chairman (1960-72) Dr. I.H.Usmani and other senior scientists. It was here that Bhutto announced that he was appointing Mr. Munir Ahmad Khan, a nuclear engineer working as Head of Reactor Engineering Division at the IAEA as PAEC Chairman (1972-91) and head of the nuclear weapons program. This was the day when Pakistan embarked on its quest for the atomic bomb.

1972- PAEC was transferred from the Science and Technology Research Division to the President’s Secretariat

1972- March, Mr. Munir Ahmad Khan formally takes over as Chairman PAEC

1972-May, PAEC submits a detailed nuclear plan to President Bhutto which calls for the establishment of a various nuclear plants and facilities. This plan is aimed at acquiring complete control of the nuclear fuel cycle

1972- November 28, Pakistan’s first nuclear power plant, KANUPP, inaugurated by the President of Pakistan, Z.A.Bhutto, Dr. Abdus Salam and PAEC Chairman Mr. Munir Ahmad Khan.

December 1972- Two theoretical physicists working at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste, Italy, asked to report to the PAEC chairman by Dr. Abdus Salam. This marked the beginning of the “Theoretical Physics Group” in PAEC that would develop the designs of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

1972- Radio Isotopes and Applications Division (RIAD) established at PINSTECH

1973-Dr. Riazuddin travels to the United States and obtains all the declassified information on the Manhattan Project. On his return to Pakistan, he is appointed Member (Technical), by chairman PAEC.

1973- Nuclear Materials Division (NMD) established at PINSTECH, which played a critical role in Pakistan’s nuclear program.

1972-PAEC decides not to pursue plans to acquire and build a pilot-reprocessing plant which is downgraded and is on offer from the UK Atomic Energy Authority. It is also decided to open negotiations with the French and the Belgians for an upgraded reprocessing facility.

1973- March, PAEC and Saint Gobain Nucleaire (SGN) of France, sign an initial contract, to prepare the basic design for a large-scale reprocessing plant at Chashma, one with a capacity of 100 tons of fuel per year.

1973-March, A team of three PAEC scientists and engineers is sent to the headquarters of the Belgian firm Belgonucliare at Mol for participation in the designing of a pilot reprocessing facility and obtain training in reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel.

1973-December, PAEC chairman announces the discovery of large-scale uranium deposits in Dera Ghazi Khan. He also announces plans for setting up 15-24 nuclear reactors by the end of the century to meet two-thirds of Pakistan’s energy requirements. This plan could not be implemented due to international sanctions and apathy of successive Pakistani governments.

1973- The Theoretical Physics Group in PAEC decides to opt for an “implosion” design for the atomic bomb in place of the gun-type bomb. Dr. Zaman Sheikh is also tasked with the development of the explosive lenses of the nuclear device.

1974-March, PAEC Chairman summons a meeting to start work on the nuclear weapons program. This meeting marks the beginning of Pakistan’s efforts to locally produce nuclear weapon design and development. In this meeting, the “Wah Group” is constituted under PAEC’s Directorate of Technical Development (DTD) to start work on the  manufacture, triggering mechanism, implosion system, mechanical and precision systems and all other related development areas for a developing an atomic bomb. It was attended by Mr. Muhammad Hafeez Qureshi, Dr. Ishfaq Ahmad, Dr. Zaman Sheikh and Dr. Riazuddin and other scientists.

1974- March 25, An explosive manufacturing plant is set up to develop the explosive lenses for the nuclear device. This decision is taken in a meeting between PAEC chairman and the head of the Pakistan Ordnance Factories, Wah, Lt. General Qamar Ali Mirza, and attended by Dr. Abdus Salam, Dr. Riazuddin and Mr. Hafeez Qureshi.

1974- October 18th, contract between PAEC and SGN for the Chashma plant is signed.

1974-May 18; India tests a device of up to 10-15 kilotons, at Pokhran, in the Rajasthan desert, 40 miles from the Pakistani border, and calls the test a “Peaceful Nuclear Explosion”

1974- May 19, Prime Minister Bhutto declares in a press conference that Pakistan will not be intimated by India’s nuclear blackmail.

1974- Pakistan proposed to India the establishment of a nuclear weapons free zone in south Asia.

1974-June 15; Prime Minister Z A Bhutto chairs a meeting of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet to finalize the future course of the nuclear program in response to India’s nuclear test. In this meeting, he gives his official go-ahead to PAEC to begin work on the atomic bomb.

1974- Several PAEC scientists and engineers at PINSTECH carry out successful experiments of various uranium enrichment technologies and complete “proof of concept studies” of first uranium separation in PAEC Labs. These include gaseous-diffusion, electromagnetic separation, jet-nozzle, gas-centrifuge, and laser methods for uranium enrichment.

1974-Oct-Nov. PAEC chairman asks a nuclear engineer, S. Bashiruddin Mahmood, to prepare a feasibility report for setting up of a centrifuge-based uranium enrichment program. Mahmood is appointed as the head of this project, known as Project-706 which begins under the deceptive name of Directorate of Industrial Liaison (DIL)

1975-Feb 15; PAEC chairman hand-carries a feasibility report for getting formal approval and setting up of a $450 million nuclear weapons program comprising; a) a centrifuge-based uranium enrichment plant at Kahuta; b) a nuclear weapons design and development team led by Dr. Riazuddin and Hafeez Qureshi; c) a uranium refining plant at Baghalchur (BC-1) and a uranium hexafluoride production complex at Dera Ghazi Khan.

1975- March-April, DIL begins work at the pilot-scale centrifuge plant in the barracks of Chaklala airport under Bashiruddin Mahmood.

1975- PAEC embarks to establish an elaborate network for arranging the supply of necessary materials and equipment from suppliers and companies for the Uranium Enrichment and Plutonium Reprocessing programs of the PAEC

1975- Reactor School upgraded and the Centre for Nuclear Studies (CNS) established at PINSTECH which trains and produces over 2000 high caliber nuclear scientists, engineers and technicians, and provides the trained manpower for the nuclear program

1975- July, Mr. S. A. Butt  is posted at the Pakistani Embassy in Brussels, in charge of science and technology division to establish an elaborate network for arranging the supply of necessary materials and equipment from suppliers and companies for the Uranium Enrichment and Plutonium Reprocessing programs of the PAEC

1975- Ford Administration offers Pakistan 110 A-7A “Corsair II” attack-aircraft in return Pakistan should withdraw from SGN contract.

1975-December- Dr. AQ Khan returns to Pakistan from Holland.

1976-March-April- Dr. AQ Khan resigns from Urenco and joins PAEC’s Project-706 as Principal Scientific Officer/ Director, under S. Bashiruddin Mahmood.

1976- Site selection, procurement of necessary materials and machines and recruitment of technical staff for the uranium enrichment project Kahuta Research Labs (KRL) completed.

1976- R & D for producing indigenous gas-centrifuges begun in DIL at the Chaklala Research Lab by PAEC.

1976-July 31, Project-706 made autonomous of PAEC and a Governing Board set up with Ghulam Ishaq Khan, AGN Kazi, Agha Shahi, and Munir Ahmad Khan as its Members. Dr. AQ Khan takes over from S. Bashiruddin Mahmood as Project-Director and the project is renamed Engineering Research Laboratories (ERL)

1976- Sites for tunnels at Chaghi and Kharan for nuclear tests which are ready by 1980.

1976-December; Canada stops supplies of fuel and spare parts to KANUP

1976- Construction work begins of a Chemical Plants/Production Complex at D.G.Khan by PAEC under Dr. Muhammad Shabbir, which is complete by April 1980, and is equipped to supply sufficient quantities of UF6 or Uranium Hexafluoride Gas to KRL to be used as “FEED” for Enrichment, as it is the crucial raw material that is “enriched” into weapon grade bomb fuel.

1976: PAEC establishes the International Nathiagali Summer College on Physcis and Contemporary Needs. In 1974, Dr. Abdus Salam suggested to PAEC that an annual international forum for scientists from developing countries be organized to encourage greater communication and flow of ideas among them. He also offered the assistance and co-sponsorship of the International Center for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), Trieste. Since then, it has evolved into an institution and is regularly held each year.

1977-Dr. Ishfaq Ahmad takes over as Member (Technical) PAEC from Dr. Riazuddin. The Theoretical Physics Group of PAEC under Dr. Riazuddin completes work on the theoretical design of the bomb by 1977.

1978- Pakistan proposes to India a joint Indo-Pakistan declaration renouncing the acquisition and manufacture of nuclear weapons

1978- August, France breaks the agreement of the Chashma Reprocessing Contract under American pressure. All the blue prints of design of the plant are handed over by SGN to PAEC prior to the cancellation of the agreement.

1978-December- PAEC successfully manufactures the first fuel element for KANUPP. PAEC Chairman presents it to General Zia-ul-Haq.

1978-June 4, Scientists working in the Engineering Research Laboratories succeed in enriching uranium by separating U-238 and U-235 isotopes at the Chaklala centrifuge laboratory. They comprise Dr. GD Alam, Mr. Anwar Ali, Dr. Javed Arshad Mirza and Mr. Ijaz Khokhar. Dr. AQ Khan informs General Zia and PAEC chairman Munir Ahmad Khan informs Z A Bhutto of the historic event.

1978-August, France suspends the Chashma reprocessing plant contract with Pakistan.

1979- April, Father of Pakistan’s nuclear program and former President & Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto is executed.

1979 — The United States cut off aid to Pakistan under section 669 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 FAA) after it was learned that Pakistan had secretly begun construction of a uranium enrichment facility

1979 – Pakistan proposed to India mutual inspections by India and Pakistan of nuclear facilities


1979 – Pakistan proposed to India simultaneous adherence to the NPT by India and Pakistan
1979 – Pakistan proposed to India simultaneous acceptance of full-scope IAEA safeguards


1979-PAEC completes the Kundian nuclear fuel fabrication plant and begins producing of indigenous nuclear fuel for KANUPP.
1980- PAEC loads first fuel bundle in KANUPP


1981- PAEC completes the Pilot Reprocessing Plant “New Labs” at PINSTECH.


1981- Reagan Administration lifts economic and military sanctions and embargoes against Pakistan.


1981- May 1, ERL renamed Dr. AQ Khan Research Laboratories by General Zia-ul-Haq.

1983- March 11, PAEC’s Directorate of Technical Development, successfully conducts the first “cold” test of a nuclear device. A second cold test is conducted shortly afterwards and is witnessed by Vice Chief of Army Staff, General KM Arif, Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Munir Ahmad Khan. From 1983-1992, DTD carries out 24 cold tests of different designs of nuclear weapons.

1983- March 11, following the first successful cold test of a working nuclear device, PAEC chairman informs the President of Pakistan, General Zia-ul-Haq that now Pakistan is ready to make an atomic bomb whenever it wants.

1983-A Computer Training Centre set up in PAEC.

1984- Dr. AQ Khan gives interviews in which he talks of Pakistan’s ability to successfully enrich uranium to any level required.

1985 – Pressler Amendment [section 620E(e) of the Foreign Assistance Act] requires a total cut-off of U.S. aid to Islamabad unless the president can certify that Pakistan does not possess a nuclear weapon, and that continued US aid will significantly decrease the probability of its developing one in the future.

1985- Plutonium Production Heavy Water Reactor at KHUSHAB started by PAEC.

1986- Commenting on Pakistan’s nuclear capability, General Zia, President of Pakistan, tells interviewer, `It is our right to obtain the technology. And when we acquire this technology,’

1986-KRL starts producing weapons-grade highly enriched uranium.

1986-Pakistan and China sign a historic civilian nuclear cooperation agreement. This agreement is signed by Foreign Ministers of the two countries in the presence of PAEC chairman and his Chinese counterparts in Beijing.

1987- Pakistan proposed to India an agreement on a bilateral or regional nuclear test ban treaty

1987- DTD develops a nuclear weapon design small enough to be carried by all PAF aircraft.

1987- Hot tests conducted by PAEC at the New Labs reprocessing plant.

1987- PAEC begins work on the heavy water production plant at Khushab and also on the Heavy Mechanical Complex-3 project.

1987- PAEC acquires a tritium purification and production plant from West Germany.

1987-PAEC reportedly receives a solid-fuel propellant plant from China.

1988- President Zia tells Carnegie Endowment delegation in interview that Pakistan has attained a nuclear capability `that is good enough to create an impression of deterrence.’

1989- PAEC Chairman Mr. Munir Ahmad Khan and Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan receive the Hilal-i-Imtiaz award from the Govt. of Pakistan

1989- November 2, PARR-2 achieves critical stage

1989-November, Pakistan and China reach an agreement for the supply of a 325 MW Chashma-1 Nuclear Power Plant (CHASNUPP-1). PAEC chairman says that this deal has broken an international embargo on Pakistan for the supply of nuclear power reactors.

1990-PAEC completes loading of all Pakistani nuclear fuel bundles in KANUPP.

1990-Dr. Samar Mubarakmand, appointed Director of the National Development Complex project.

1990- October ; 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. The transfer of 71 F-16 A/B, P-3 Orion, Harpoon SSM, M-198 Towed-artillery, and other military equipment shipment is halted even though Pakistan paid for these items

1991-Pakistan proposed to India commencement of a multilateral conference on the nuclear proliferation in south Asia

1991- India and Pakistan enter agreement prohibiting attacks on each other’s nuclear installations.

1991-PAEC completes the up-gradation of the 5 MW PARR-1 to 10 MW and coverts it from HEU to LEU fuel through indigenous efforts.

1991- April; Dr. Ishfaq Ahmad takes over as PAEC Chairman as Mr.Munir Ahmad Khan retires after 19 years.

1991-December; PAEC and China National Nuclear Corporation sign contract for the construction of the 325 MW CHASNUPP-1 project.

1992- PAEC cold tests its latest nuclear weapon design.

1992- Pakistani foreign secretary publicly discusses Pakistan’s possession of `cores’ of nuclear devices

1992- December; 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 because of sanctions.

1993- Pakistan proposed to India creation of a missile-free zone in South Asia

1993- National Development Complex completed and Dr. Samar Mubarakmand assumes charge as it’s Director-General.

1993- The Clinton Administration, 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.

1994- The Clinton Administration withdrew its proposal to revise the amendment because of strong criticism from a number of influential members of Congress, including Senator Pressler himself.

1994- April; Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott visits 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.”

1995 – September;  The Clinton Administration proposes revisions to the Pressler Amendment, citing the Amendment’s roadblocks to cooperation with Pakistan’s Government in areas such as combating terrorism and furthering US commercial interests in Pakistan. Under the Brown Amendment, the US would not deliver the controversial F-16 aircraft or resume an official military supply relationship with Pakistan, but the President decided to sell the F-16 aircraft to other countries and return the proceeds to Pakistan

1995- PAEC begins work on the solid-fuelled Shaheen missile system in NDC under the direction of Dr. Samar Mubarakmand.

1996- January 1st; 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

1996- January 23rd; 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 the 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

1996- October 3rd, Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto called for the convening of a South Asia security conference that would deal with, among other things, Kashmir and the nuclear arms issue

1996- Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif while addressing a political rally said “Let me tell you that we [Pakistan] have atomic bombs… Pakistan’s nuclear capability is now an established fact. Whatever we have, we have a right to keep it….”

1996- PAEC completes Pakistan’s first indigenous 50 MW Khushab plutonium production reactor which was begun in 1985-86.

1997- The Centre for Nuclear Studies attains the status of a University and it is renamed the Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences (PIEAS)

1997- The Khushab plutonium production reactor goes critical.

1998- April, KRL tests the liquid-fuelled IRBM, Ghauri, to a range of 1,100 kms.

1998 April; PAEC “commissions” the 50 MW Khushab plutonium production reactor which becomes operational.

1998- May 11 and 13. India carries out five underground nuclear tests in Pokhran.

1998-May 28, PAEC’s Directorate of Technical Development carries out five nuclear tests at the Chaghi nuclear test site. Pakistan’s Foreign Office terms it as “Pakistan’s Finest Hour”.

1998-May 30, PAEC carries out one more nuclear test at the Kharan desert test site, 150 kms away from Chaghi. This is the most advanced and compact of all nuclear weapon designs tested by Pakistan.

Collected & compiled by Syed A, Mansoor Ahmed and H Khan.

Last Updated July 5, 200