Mountains Move – The Story of Chagai
crossed the nuclear threshold to become a declared nuclear weapons state
on 28 May 1998 after it detonated five nuclear devices in the Ras Koh
Hills in Chagai, Balochistan.
nexus with Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme first became known to
the Pakistani public and the world back in the early 1990s when a book,
Critical Mass, written by William E. Burrows and Robert Windrem was
the story goes further than that.
story of Chagai began in Quetta, Balochistan in 1976 when 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.
PAEC team comprising Dr. Ishfaq Ahmad, Member (Technical) and Dr. Ahsan
Mubarak landed at Quetta and were provided the helicopter as per the GHQ
instructions. Over a span of three days, the PAEC scientists made several
reconnaissance tours of the area between Turbat, Awaran and Khusdar in the
south and Naukundi-Kharan in the east.
objective was to find a suitable location for an underground nuclear test,
preferably a mountain.
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. Ras Koh Hills are independent of and
should not be confused with the Chagai Hills further north on the
Afghanistan-Pakistan border, in which, to date, no nuclear test activity
has taken place.
PAEC requirement was that the mountain should be “bone dry” and
capable of withstanding a 20 kilotonne nuclear explosion from the inside.
Tests were conducted to measure the water content of the mountains and the
surrounding area and to measure the capability of the mountain’s rock to
withstand a nuclear test. Once this was confirmed, Dr. Ishfaq Ahmed
commenced work on a three-dimensional survey of the area.
survey took one year to conduct and, in 1977, 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 20 kilo-tonnes
of nuclear force. In the same year, Brig. Muhammad Sarfraz, who, in the
interim, 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 subsidiary of the
PAEC but directly reporting to the Chief of the Army Staff which was
entrusted with the task of preparing the nuclear test sites. Brig. Sarfraz,
for all practical purposes, headed the SDW, a nuclear variant of the
Pakistan Army’s famous Frontier Works Organization (FWO) which built the
primary task of the organization was to prepare underground test sites
(both horizontal and vertical shafts) for 20-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.
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 Chagai-Ras Koh-Kharan areas became restricted entry zones and were
closed to the public, prompting rumours that Pakistan had given airbases
to the United States. The fact that US-AID had set up an office in Turbat,
Balochistan only added fuel to such rumours.
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.
the nuclear test sites at Ras Koh and Kharan took 2-3 years to prepare and
were completed in 1980, before Pakistan acquired the capability to develop
a nuclear weapon. This showed both confidence and resolve in Pakistan’s
nuclear programme as well as faith in Almighty God.
March 1974, 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. The word “bomb” was never used in the
meeting but Qureshi 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,
work at Wah began under the code of Research and Qureshi, Zaman and their
team of engineers and scientists came to be known as “The Wah Group”.
Initial work was limited to research and development of the explosives to
be used in the nuclear device. However, 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.
first cold test of its nuclear device was carried out on March 11, 1983 in
the Kirana Hills near Sargodha, home of the Pakistan Air Force’s main
airbase and the Central Ammunition Depot (CAD). 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. The test was overseen by Dr. Ishfaq Ahmed.
tunnels at Kirana Hills, Sargodha are reported to have been bored after
the Chagai nuclear test sites, i.e. sometime between 1979 and 1983. As in
Chagai, the tunnels at Kirana Hills had been bored and then sealed and
this task was also undertaken by SDW.
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 Sargodha 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 F-16 was, however,
destroyed and had to be written off.
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 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. A
second cold test was undertaken soon afterwards which was witnessed by
Ghulam Ishaq Khan, Lt. Gen. K.M. Arif and Munir Ahmed Khan.
need to improve and perfect the design of Pakistan’s first nuclear
device required constant testing. As a result, 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.
March 1984, Kahuta Research Laboratories (KRL) had independently carried
out its own cold tests of its nuclear device near Kahuta.
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,
Mirage-V and A-5 combat aircraft.
11 and 13 May 1998, Indian 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”.
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.
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.
Road to Chagai
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 Minister
of Defence, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gohar Ayub Khan, the Minister
of Finance & Economic Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, the Foreign Secretary,
Shamshad Ahmed Khan and the three Chiefs of Staffs of the Army, Air Force
and Navy, namely General Jehangir Karamat, Air Chief Marshal Pervaiz Mehdi
Qureshi and Admiral Fasih Bokhari respectively.
Dr. Ishfaq Ahmed, Chairman of the PAEC was on a visit to the United States
and Canada 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. Dr. Mubarakmand was 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. Dr.
Mubarakmand had supervised several cold tests since 1983 and was
responsible for overseeing all of PAEC’s classified projects. Also, in
attendance was Dr. A.Q. Khan, Director of the Khan Research Laboratories (KRL),
were two 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?
discussions went on for a few hours and encompassed the 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 and 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. The
remainder spoke in favour of conducting the tests.
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.
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.
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.
DCC meeting concluded without any resolution of the two agenda points.
Chairman of the PAEC, Dr. Ishfaq Ahmed, cut short his foreign trip and
returned to Pakistan on 16 May 1998. On the morning of 17 May 1998, he
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.
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 of the DCC meeting of 15 May 1998 were
decided. Firstly, 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 Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), who were the
best equipped and most experienced to carry out the tests.
18 May 1998, the Chairman of the PAEC was again summoned to the Prime
Minister House where he was relayed the decision of the DCC. “Dhamaka
kar dein” (Conduct the explosion”) were the exact words used by the
Prime Minister to inform him of the Government’s decision to conduct the
nuclear tests. The PAEC Chairman went back to his office and gave orders
to his staff 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.
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.
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 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.
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
19 May 1998, two teams of 140 PAEC scientists, engineers and 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) and 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.
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 down the aircraft 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
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.
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 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.
date and time for Pakistan’s rendezvous with destiny was set for 3:00
p.m. on the afternoon of 28 May 1998.
28, 1998 dawned with an air alert over all military and strategic
installations of Pakistan. The Pakistan Air Force had earlier been put on
red alert to respond to the possibility of an Indian and Israeli
pre-emptive strike against its nuclear installations. PAF F-16A and F-7MP
air defence fighters were scrambled from air bases around the country to
remain vigilant and prepared for any eventuality.
twilight, the automatic transmission data link from all of Pakistani
seismic stations to the outside world was switched off.
Chagai, it was a clear day. Bright and sunny without a cloud in sight. All
personnel, civil and military were evacuated from ‘Ground Zero’ except
for members of the Diagnostics Group and the firing team. They had been
involved in digging out and removing some equipment lying there since
members of the team reached the Observation Post (OP) located
10-kilometres away from Ground Zero. The firing equipment was checked at
1:30 p.m. and prayers were offered. An hour later, at 2:30 p.m., a
Pakistan Army helicopter carrying the team of observers including PAEC
Chairman, Dr. Ishfaq Ahmed, KRL Director, Dr. A.Q. Khan, and four other
scientists from KRL including Dr. Fakhr Hashmi, Dr. Javed Ashraf Mirza,
Dr. M. Nasim Khan and S. Mansoor Ahmed arrived at the site. Also
accompanying them was a Pakistan Army team headed by General Zulfikar Ali,
Chief of the Combat Division.
3:00 p.m. a truck carrying the last of the personnel and soldiers involved
in the site preparations passed by the OP. Soon afterwards, the all-clear
was given to conduct the test as the site had been fully evacuated.
the 20 men present, one young man, Muhammad Arshad, the Chief Scientific
Officer, who had designed the triggering mechanism, was selected to push
the button. He was asked to recite “All praise be to Allah” and push
the button. At exactly 3:16 p.m. the button was pushed and Muhammad Arshad
stepped from obscurity into history.
soon as the button was pushed, the control system was taken over by
computer. The signal was passed through the airlink initiating six steps
in the firing sequence while at the same time bypassing, one after the
other, each of the security systems put in place to prevent accidental
detonation. Each step was confirmed by the computer, switching on power
supplies for each stage. On the last leg of the sequence, the high voltage
power supply responsible for detonating the nuclear devices was activated.
the firing sequence passed through each level and shut down the safety
switches and activating the power supply, each and every step was being
recorded by the computer via the telemetry which is an apparatus for
recording reading of an instrument and transmitting them via radio. A
radiation-hardened television camera with special lenses recorded the
outer surface of the mountain.
voltage reached the triggers on all five devices simultaneously in all the
explosive lenses with microsecond synchronization.
the firing sequence continued through its stages, 20 pairs of eyes were
glued on the mountain 10 kilometres away. There was deafening silence
within and outside of the OP.
short while after the button was pushed, the earth in and around the Ras
Koh Hills trembled. The OP vibrated as smoke and dust burst out through
the five points where the nuclear devices were located. The mountain shook
and changed colour as the dust of thousands of years was dislodged from
its surface. Its black granite rock turning white as de-oxidisation from
the radioactive nuclear forces operating from within. A Huge cloud of
beige dust then enveloped the mountain.
time-frame, from the moment when the button was pushed to the moment the
detonations inside the mountain took place, was thirty seconds. For those
in the OP, watching in pin-drop silence with their eyes focused on the
mountain, those thirty seconds were the longest in their lives. It was the
culmination of a journey which started over 20 years ago. It was the
moment of truth and triumph against heavy odds, trials and tribulations.
At the end of those thirty seconds lay Pakistan’s date with destiny.
Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs would later describe it as
“Pakistan’s finest hour”. Pakistan had become the world’s 7th
nuclear power and the first nuclear weapons state in the Islamic World.
days later, Pakistan conducted its sixth nuclear test at Kharan, a flat
desert valley 150 km to the south of the Ras Koh Hills. This was a
miniaturized device giving a yield which was 60% of the first tests. A
small hillock now rises in what used to be flat desert, marking the ground
zero of the nuclear test there.