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Pakistan Nuclear Weapons - A Chronology


1965: Pakistani nuclear research reactor at Parr, Rawalpindi, starts functioning.

1968: Nonproliferation Treaty completed. Pakistan refuse to sign.


1974: India tests a device of up to 15 kilotons and calls the test a ``peaceful nuclear explosion.'' Pakistani Prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto tells meeting of Pakistan's top scientists of intention to develop nuclear arms.

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

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

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


Early 1980's--Multiple reports that Pakistan obtained a pre-tested, atomic bomb design from China.

Early 1980's--Multiple reports that Pakistan obtained bomb-grade enriched uranium from China.


1980--U.S. Nuclear Export Control Violation: Reexport via Canada (components of inverters used in gas centrifuge enrichment activities).


1981--U.S. Nuclear Export Control Violation: New York, zirconium (nuclear fuel cladding material).

1981--AP story cites contents of reported US State Department cable stating `We have strong reason to believe that Pakistan is seeking to develop a nuclear explosives capability * * * Pakistan is conducting a program for the design and development of a triggering package for nuclear explosive devices.'

1981--Publication of book, Islamic Bomb, citing recent Pakistani efforts to construct a nuclear test site.


1982/3--Several European press reports indicate that Pakistan was using Middle Eastern intermediaries to acquire bomb parts (13-inch `steel spheres' and `steel petal shapes').


1983--Declassified US government assessment concludes that `There is unambiguous evidence that Pakistan is actively pursuing a nuclear weapons development program * * * We believe the ultimate application of the enriched uranium produced at Kahuta, which is unsafeguarded, is clearly nuclear weapons.'


1984--President Zia states that Pakistan has acquired a `very modest' uranium enrichment capability for `nothing but peaceful purposes.'

1984--President Reagan reportedly warns Pakistan of `grave consequences' if it enriches uranium above 5%.


1985--ABC News reports that US believes Pakistan has `successfully tested' a `firing mechanism' of an atomic bomb by means of a non-nuclear explosion, and that US krytrons `have been acquired' by Pakistan.

1985--U.S. Nuclear Export Control Violation: Texas, krytrons (nuclear weapon triggers).

1985--U.S. Nuclear Export Control Violation: US cancelled license for export of flash x-ray camera to Pakistan (nuclear weapon diagnostic uses) because of proliferation concerns.

1985/6--Media cites production of highly enriched, bomb-grade uranium in violation of a commitment to the US.

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.


1986--Bob Woodward article in Washington Post cites alleged DIA report saying Pakistan `detonated a high explosive test device between Sept. 18 and Sept. 21 as part of its continuing efforts to build an implosion-type nuclear weapon;' says Pakistan has produced uranium enriched to a 93.5% level.

1986--Press reports cite U.S. `Special National Intelligence Estimate' concluding that Pakistan had produced weapons-grade material.

1986--Commenting on Pakistan's nuclear capability, General Zia tells interviewer, `It is our right to obtain the technology. And when we acquire this technology, the Islamic world will possess it with us.'

1986--Declassified memo to then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger states, `Despite strong U.S. concern, Pakistan continues to pursue a nuclear explosive capability * * * If operated at its nominal capacity, the Kahuta uranium enrichment plant could produce enough weapons-grade material to build several nuclear devices per year.'


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

1987--U.S. Nuclear Export Control Violation: Pennsylvania, maraging steel & beryllium (used in centrifuge manufacture and bomb components).

1987--London Financial Times reports US spy satellites have observed construction of second uranium enrichment plant in Pakistan.

1987--Pakistan's leading nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan states in published interview that `what the CIA has been saying about our possessing the bomb is correct.'

1987--West German official confirms that nuclear equipment recently seized on way to Pakistan was suitable for `at least 93% enrichment' of uranium; blueprints of uranium enrichment plant also seized in Switzerland.

1987--U.S. Nuclear Export Control Violation: California, oscilloscopes, computer equipment (useful in nuclear weapon R&D).

1987--According to photocopy of a reported German foreign ministry memo published in Paris in 1990, UK government official tells German counterpart on European nonproliferation working group that he was `convinced that Pakistan had `a few small' nuclear weapons.'

1987 -- China concluded a deal with Pakistan to sell M-11 missiles and launchers.


1988--President Reagan waives an aid cutoff for Pakistan due to an export control violation; in his formal certification, he confirmed that `material, equipment, or technology covered by that provision was to be used by Pakistan in the manufacture of a nuclear explosive device.'

1988--Hedrick Smith article in New York Times reports US government sources believe Pakistan has produced enough highly enriched uranium for 4-6 bombs.

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--Multiple reports of Pakistan modifying US-supplied F-16 aircraft for nuclear delivery purposes; wind tunnel tests cited in document reportedly from West German intelligence service.

1989--Test launch of Hatf-2 missile: Payload (500 kilograms) and range (300 kilometers) meets `nuclear-capable' standard under Missile Technology Control Regime.

1989--CIA Director Webster tells Senate Governmental Affairs Committee hearing that `Clearly Pakistan is engaged in developing a nuclear capability.'

1989--Media claims that Pakistan acquired tritium gas and tritium facility from West Germany in mid-1980's.

1989--ACDA unclassified report cites Chinese assistance to missile program in Pakistan.

1989--UK press cites nuclear cooperation between Pakistan and Iraq.

1989--Article in Nuclear Fuel states that the United States has issued `about 100 specific communiques to the West German Government related to planned exports to the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and its affiliated organizations;' exports reportedly included tritium and a tritium recovery facility.

1989--Article in Defense & Foreign Affairs Weekly states `sources close to the Pakistani nuclear program have revealed that Pakistani scientists have now perfected detonation mechanisms for a nuclear device.'

1989--Reporting on a recent customs investigation, West German magazine Stern reports, `since the beginning of the eighties over 70 [West German] enterprises have supplied sensitive goods to enterprises which for years have been buying equipment for Pakistan's ambitious nuclear weapons program.'

1989--Gerard Smith, former US diplomat and senior arms control authority, claims US has turned a `blind eye' to proliferation developments Pakistan in and Israel.

1989--Senator Glenn delivers two lengthy statements addressing Pakistan's violations of its uranium enrichment commitment to the United States and the lack of progress on nonproliferation issues from Prime Minister Bhutto's democratically elected government after a year in office; Glenn concluded, `There simply must be a cost to non-compliance--when a solemn nuclear pledge is violated, the solution surely does not lie in voiding the pledge.'


1989-1990--reports of secret construction of unsafeguard nuclear research reactor; components from Europe.

Spring 1990 -- Pakistan reportedly reacted to Indian Army war game maneuvers near its border by preparing to drop one of seven weapons from a specially configured C-130 cargo plane. [02 December 1992 NBC News report]

1990--US News cites `western intelligence sources' claiming Pakistan recently `cold-tested' a nuclear device and is now building a plutonium production reactor; article says Pakistan is engaged in nuclear cooperation with Iran.

1990--French magazine publishes photo of West German government document citing claim by UK official that British government believes Pakistan already possesses `a few small' nuclear weapons; cites Ambassador Richard Kennedy claim to UK diplomat that Pakistan has broken its pledge to the US not to enrich uranium over 5%.

1990--London Sunday Times cites growing U.S. and Soviet concerns about Pakistani nuclear program; paper claims F-16 aircraft are being modified for nuclear delivery purposes; claims US spy satellites have observed `heavily armed convoys' leaving Pakistan uranium enrichment complex at Kahuta and heading for military airfields.

1990--Pakistani biography of top nuclear scientist (Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan and the Islamic Bomb), claims US showed `model' of Pakistani bomb to visiting Pakistani diplomat as part of unsuccessful nonproliferation effort.

1990--Defense & Foreign Affairs Weekly reports `US officials now believe that Pakistan has quite sufficient computing power in country to run all the modeling necessary to adequately verify the viability of the country's nuclear weapons technology.'

1990--Dr. A.Q. Khan, father of Pakistan's bomb, receives `Man of the Nation Award.'

1990--Washington Post documents 3 recent efforts by Pakistan to acquire special arc-melting furnaces with nuclear and missile applications.

October 1990 -- 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.


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

1991--Wall Street Journal says Pakistan is buying nuclear-capable M-11 missile from China.

1991--Sen. Moynihan says in television interview, `Last July [1990] the Pakistanis machined 6 nuclear Pakistan warheads. And they've still got them.'

1991--Time quotes businessman, `BCCI is functioning as the owners' representative for Pakistan's nuclear-bomb project.'

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

July 1991 - Reliable reports from Islamabad confirm that Pakistan had frozen production of HEU and halted the manufacturing of nuclear weapons components.


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

Late 1992 -- The US Government determines that China had transferred items controlled under the international Missile Technology Control Regime to Pakistan.

December 1992 -- 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.

01 December 1992 -- Senator Larry Pressler reportedly stated in a press interview that he had been told by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that Pakistan had assembled seven weapons and could air drop one in a matter of hours [Dec. 1, 1992 NBC News broadcast].


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

25 August 1993 -- The United States imposed "Category Two" sanctions against certain Chinese and Pakistani entities that were involved in an M-11 missile-related transfer, which is prohibited under US law.

Late 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.


Early 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.

April 1994 - 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."


April 1995 -- Prime Minister Bhutto visits Washington.

September 1995 -- The Clinton Administration proposes revisions to the Pressler Amendment, citing the Amendment's roadblocks to cooperation with Pakistan's Government in areas such as combatting 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.


01 January 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.

January 1996 -- 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 permited limited military assistance for the purposes of counter-terrorism, peacekeeping, anti-narcotics efforts, and some military training.

March 1996 -- Pakistan commissioned an unsafeguarded nuclear reactor, expected to become fully operational in the late 1990s, that will provide it with a capability to produce weapons-grade plutonium.

Late 1996 -- Pakistan's main nuclear weapons laboratory, the A.Q. Khan Laboratory in Kahuta, purchased 5,000 ring magnets from China. The ring magnets would allow Pakistan to effectively double its capacity to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons production.

03 October 1996 -- 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.


04 July 1997 -- Pakistan confirms test-firing of new indigenous Hatf missile.

06 September 1997 -- Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif claims Pakistan possesses nuclear weapons, saying that: "Pakistan's nuclear capability is now an established fact. Whatever we have, we have a right to keep it...."


28 May 1998: Pakistan detonates five nuclear devices. Pakistan claimed that the five nuclear tests measured up to 5.0 on the Richter scale, with a reported yield of up to 40 KT (equivalent TNT).

30 May 1998 Pakistan tested one more nuclear warheads, with a yield of 12 kilotons, bringing the total number of claimed tests to six.

Sources and Resources

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