Addressing a gathering in Islamabad, Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan said that Pakistan could have become a nuclear power as early as 1984 but the then President General Zia ul Haq "opposed the move".
Nuclear Armed Pakistan has the ability to “target” Delhi in five minutes, according to Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, who is considered the father of that country’s nuclear programme.
Addressing a gathering on the 18th anniversary of Pakistan’s first nuclear tests, which were carried out under his supervision in 1998, Khan said Pakistan could have become a nuclear power as early as 1984 but the then President General Zia-ul-Haq “opposed the move”.
The 80-year-old nuclear physicist said Gen Zia, who was Pakistan’s President from 1978 to 1988, opposed nuclear testing as he believed the world would intervene militarily in such a scenario.
Further, he said, it would have also curtailed international aid that Pakistan was receiving due to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan at the time.
“We were able and we had a plan to launch a nuclear test in 1984. But President Gen Zia-ul-Haq opposed the move,” Khan said on Saturday.
Khan said that Pakistan has the ability to “target” Delhi from Kahuta near Rawalpindi. Kahuta is home to Kahuta Research Laboratories (KRL), Pakistan’s key uranium enrichment facility, linked to the atomic bomb project.
In 2004, Khan had to accept responsibility for the proliferation of nuclear technology and forced to live a life of official house arrest. In 2009, the Islamabad High Court declared him to be a free citizen of Pakistan.
“Without my services, Pakistan would never have been the first Muslim nuclear nation. We were able to achieve the capability under very tough circumstances, but we did it,” said Khan. But Khan said he regretted the treatment meted out to him during Gen Pervez Musharraf’s rule.
Nuclear scientists in the country have not been given the respect that they deserve, he said. “We are facing the worst, given our services to the country’s nuclear programme,” said Khan.