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Pakistan's Nuclear Weapons Program

The Beginning

If India builds the bomb, we will eat grass or leaves, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto - 1965

Last changed 6 August 2001

Historical Background

Since the dawn of civilization modern day Pakistan has been an integral part of India. The Indus River valley, now in Pakistan, was the center where ancient Indian civilization was founded, spreading through the plain of the Ganges, and into southern India. Pakistan has also been the principal corridor into India from the Mediterranean and Central Asian worlds. Islam entered India though Pakistan in the century after Islam's founding and soon converted the Sindh area on the lower Indus. Centuries later Central Asian Islamic empires invaded, sacked, proselytized, and ruled northwestern India through the Pakistani corridor. This entry point, closely connected to the Islamic world of the Middle East, became heavily Muslim in time but remained an integral part of Indian society. Islam was hardly confined to this region, converts were found throughout India but were also concentrated particularly in the impoverished floodplain of the Brahmaputra River in eastern India.

India was always divided into a number of separate states throughout its history, becoming unified for the first and only time under the British Raj in the 18th Century. The origin of Pakistan's identity distinct and separate from the rest of India is quite recent. It arose after the beginning of the Twentieth Century, indeed well after World War I. In hindsight it hardly seems to have been predestined. The modern state of Pakistan is the construct largely of one man - Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

During three decades of growing Indian agitation for independence a rift developed and steadily grew between the predominantly Hindu Brahmin leaders of the movement and Ali Jinnah, the leading Muslim nationalist. In 1917 Hindu and Muslim (as well as Parsi and Sikh) nationalists were united behind the program expressed in the Lucknow Pact which demanded national self-determination and also specified proportional legislative representation for the various religious communities. This principle - that Muslims would be guaranteed representation proportionate to their numbers in government - set a standard that Jinnah would judge all future proposals. The Hindu-dominated All Indian Congress dropped this principle in favor of at-large voting with no set-asides for minority communities in the 1920s, a policy seemingly neutral and "ethnically blind" on its face, but one that naturally favored the Hindu majority. This issue crops in multi-ethnic societies the world over, such as in recent debates about affirmative action in the US. Jinnah and the Muslim League split with the Congress over this issue at the December 1928 All-Parties Conference.

From then on the inevitable differences and tensions that arise between social groups differentiated by religion and economics pulled the two sides apart without any tendency for rapprochement. Partly it was due to the tendency of Hindu leaders to favor the members of their own religion, castes and families to the detriment of the minority Muslims, a tendency that had led to the 1928 fracture. Partly it was due to a deliberate strategy of the Raj to divide the nationalist movement so as to weaken it and perhaps keep India British. Partly it was the rise of Islamic consciousness that forms a major theme in 20th Century history. But mostly it was the growing convictions of Jinnah, fed by all these influences. It did not help that the leading figure of the Hindu-based independence movement (the satyagraha), Mohandas K. Gandhi, chose to adopt the trappings and pose of a sadhu, a Hindu holy man, a posture that did not appeal at all to Muslim Indians.

In 1930 the concept of a separate Muslim state was proposed for this first time, instead of merely a guaranteed political base within a unified Indian state. This hypothetical state was given a hypothetical name "Pakistan" meaning "land of the pure".

The last chance for avoiding partition was a proposal developed by a three-man commission sent by the British cabinet in 1946. The proposal was for a three-tier federal structure with a large degree of self-rule for regions devised along communal lines. Jinnah and the League accepted the proposal, even though it was less than the independent Muslim state they now preferred. But true to form, the Congress leaders - particularly Jawaharlal Nehru - found nothing but difficulty with it, leaving partition as the only option.

So it was that less than 19 years after that fateful Conference, the history of India was irrecovably altered when at midnight on 14-15 August 1947 the calamitous partition of British India into the modern states of India and Pakistan took place.

It is clear to everyone that the legacy of partition is a key driving force behind the nuclear standoff that now exists between India and Pakistan. Partition split apart a region that had been united for millennia amid communal massacres on a scale never before seen, leaving in its wake the unresolved issue of contested Kashmir - a Muslim-majority region held by Hindu-majority India under dubious political and legal circumstances. The skirmishing that has continued now for over fifty years, punctuated by outbreaks of full-scale war (in 1947, 1965, and 1971), and limited war (1999), have given both nations ample motivation to develop potent weapons to gain advantage over -- or restore balance with -- the other.

Origin of Pakistan's Nuclear Weapon Program

Unlike India's nuclear weapons program, that traces back to an early but indefinite time, Pakistan's program arose at a very definite date - 24 January 1972. On this date President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto committed Pakistan to acquiring nuclear weapons at a meeting held in Multan in the wake of the country's devastating defeat in the 1971 Bangladesh war ([Kargil Report 2000], this is apparently also discussed in: Securing Nuclear Peace, News International, 5 October 1999 by Agha Shahi, Abdul Sattar and Air Chief Marshal Zulfikar Ali Khan).

This war developed when the bi-regional state of Pakistan, split into East and West Pakistan on either side of India, held its first national election in December 1970. The dominant party of the more populous East Pakistan won a majority of the seats in parliament, but West Pakistan, accustomed to monopolizing political and military power, responded by ignoring the election result. And on 25 March 1971 West Pakistan forces arrested the winner Mujibur Rahman, and launched a campaign brutal military repression on the Bengalis of East Pakistan. This resulted in tens of millions of refugees spilling into India, some of whom took up arms against the Pakistani government. By autumn the Indian-East Pakistani border had become something close to a combat zone, with India and Pakistan trading intense firing across the border, while armed rebels operated from safe havens in India. In late November PM Gandhi authorized Indian forces to cross the border to "pursue" Pakistani forces. Pakistan responded by a massive strike against Indian air bases in western India on 3 December, and declaring war on 4 December. India had spent months preparing for this escalation, indeed had deliberately provoked it, and launched an overwhelming 3-pronged attack into East Pakistan. Unable to hold back the Indian invasion, Pakistan attempted to counter with an attack in Kashmir, gaining several miles of territory before being halted by Indian forces. The Indian army on the other hand had surrounded Dacca, the capital of East Pakistan by 15 December, and its garrison surrendered the next day. On 17 December a cease-fire was accepted by both sides, effectively ending the war.

The war had been a crushing defeat for Pakistan, which had lost more than half its population. Despite the close relationship with China that had developed over the previous decade, Chinese support for Pakistan during the most extreme crisis of Pakistan's existence came to nought. China failed to provide any significant assistance for Pakistan, such as applying pressure on India's border. The net result was that Pakistan suffered both a serious military defeat, demonstrating its inferiority to India in military terms, and a permanent irreparable loss in its strategic position by the new found independence of East Pakistan. And the much feared (by India) Pakistan-China axis had turned out to be a "paper tiger".

Thus the immediate motivation for Bhutto's decision was to deter India's conventional arms superiority. Years later, after India's 1974 nuclear test, when Pakistan's nuclear program became public knowledge there have been persistent attempts to paint it as a response to India's nuclear challenge.

The decision had earlier roots of course, and India's nuclear aspirations were not unconnected with them.

Pakistan initiated a national nuclear program later than did India, but still at a relatively early date. The Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission was set up in 1956 so that it could participate in the Atoms for Peace program announced by the Eisenhower administration, but development was slow in its early years. In 1960 Dr. I.H. Usmani was appointed Chairman of the PAEC. Usmani would be responsible for setting in motion many of the critical programs and institutions that would later give Pakistan nuclear weapons. Usmani started PINSTECH (full name variously given as the Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Sciences and Technology, and the Pakistan Institute of Science and Technology) and the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant. One of Usmani's most momentous achievement is said to be the training program under which brilliant young Pakistanis were selected and sent for training abroad. Between 1960 and 1967 some six hundred were selected of whom 106 eventually returned with doctorate degrees.

Also in 1960 the US gave Pakistan a $350,000 grant to help prepare Pakistan for its first research reactor which the United States agreed to supply two years later. This reactor, a 5 MW light-water research reactor known as the Pakistan Atomic Research Reactor (PARR-1), began operating in 1965 at PINSTECH in Nilore. The primary proponent of the nuclear program at this time was the Minister of Mineral and Natural Resources -- named Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

This same year, when China's first nuclear test seemed imminent, factions in India including India's most politically prominent scientist (Homi Bhabha, who also led India's nuclear program), were openly agitating for nuclear weapons. Evidence suggests that India's new interest in the nuclear option was of great concern to Pakistan. Reports from the fall of 1964 into mid 1965 indicate considerable concern by President Ayub Khan, and his Foreign Minister, who was none other than Ali Bhutto [Pervkovich 1999, p. 108]. In March both men met with Chou En-lai in Beijing, a meeting both felt had very positive results and developed Chinese support for Pakistan. It was shortly after this, in mid-1965, that Bhutto uttered his famous and prophetic oath about matching India's nuclear capability.

Although Pakistan did not know it at the time, when Ali Bhutto made his decision to proceed with a weapons program in 1972, an Indian team had already been engaged for a few years in developing a prototype nuclear explosive device (in fact, at that moment the basic design for India's first nuclear device was already complete). The knowledge that India already possessed a nuclear option, and that it might choose to "go nuclear" within the next several years, certainly informed Bhutto's decision.

The Bangladesh War also helped create a relationship between Pakistan and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) or "North Korea" which would later help Pakistan considerably in acquiring delivery systems for its nuclear arsenal in the 90s.

During mid-1971 Bhutto approached North Korea in an effort to obtain critically needed weapons. An agreement was quickly reached and on 18 September 1971 the first arms shipment from the DPRK arrived in Karachi. On 9 November 1972, only one day after withdrawing from SEATO, Pakistan announced that it was establishing formal diplomatic relations with the DPRK. Military assistance to Pakistan continued through the late 1970s, with the DPRK providing artillery, multiple rocket launchers, ammunition, and a variety of spare parts [Bermudez 1998b].

1972 also saw Canada supplying Pakistan with a heavy-water reactor for the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUPP), and a heavy-water production facility. This facility has always operated under international safeguards, but it has been the subject of repeated speculation about future Pakistani intentions since it has the capability of producing sufficient plutonium for several bombs a year.

India's first nuclear test, known variously as "Smiling Buddha", the PNE (for "Peaceful Nuclear Explosive"), and most recently Pokhran-I, occurred on 18 May 1974. It provided an additional stimulus to the Pakistani weapons program, which had made little headway up to that point, and Bhutto increased its funding. One consequence of the test was ironically to hamper Pakistan's program as the test sharply escalated international attention to proliferation and led to increased restrictions on nuclear exports to all nations, not just India. On the other hand the US also boosted aid to Pakistan, including restarting military aid, which helped to improve Pakistan's conventional military position.

The foundation of any nuclear weapons program is the production of the special nuclear materials required for weapons - plutonium or highly enriched uranium for a basic program for producing fission weapons. Without these materials no weapons can be made. The Pakistani program is based on an indigenously constructed centrifuge uranium enrichment plant, using technology misappropriated from the European uranium centrifuge consortium URENCO, made up of Britain, Germany, and the Netherlands. Serious work on the plant commenced in 1976 with the establishment of the Engineering Research Laboratories (ERL) at Kahuta near Islamabad.

The source of the intelligence gathered at URENCO, and the driving force behind its development into an industrial scale process in Pakistan, was a German-educated Pakistani metallurgist named Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, who can be fairly called the father of the Pakistani nuclear program for without his expertise the uranium enrichment process would have been beyond Pakistan's means. Despite Khan's fame and flair for publicity and self-promotion, which has often led observers to conclude otherwise, he was never the overall leader of the Pakistani nuclear program and was not in charge of the development and testing of Pakistan's actual nuclear weapons.

A. Q. Khan
Dr. Abdul Qadeer
Khan in 1993
A. Q. Khan
204x408, 12 K

A. Q. Khan was employed from 1972 to 1975 by the Physical Dynamics Research Laboratory (FDO) in Amsterdam, which was a subcontractor to Ultra-Centrifuge Nederland (UCN). UCN, located in Almelo, Netherlands, was the Dutch partner of the tri-national European uranium enrichment centrifuge consortium URENCO, made up of Britain, Germany, and the Netherlands. While at FDO/UCN Khan worked with two early centrifuge designs, the CNOR and SNOR machines. In 1974 UCN asked Khan to translate classified design documents for two advanced German machines, the G-1 and G-2.

Shahid-ur-Rehman relates in his book The Long Road to Chagai that Khan wrote to the Prime Minister in September 1974 offering his services to Pakistan. Evidence of the effect of Khan's passing of information on centrifuge technology and design, and on the URENCO component suppliers, to Pakistan can be seen in the initiation of the Pakistani purchase of components for the uranium enrichment program beginning in August 1975.

In January 1976 Khan left the Netherlands for Pakistan abruptly. A.Q. Khan initially worked under the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), headed by Munir Ahmad Khan. Friction quickly developed and in July 1976 Bhutto gave Khan autonomous control of the uranium enrichment project, reporting directly to the Prime Minister's office, an arrangement that has continued since. A. Q. Khan founded the Engineering Research Laboratories (ERL) on 31 July 1976, with the exclusive task of indigenous development of Uranium Enrichment Plant. Construction on Pakistan's first centrifuges began that year. The PAEC under M. A. Khan went on to develop Pakistan's first generation of nuclear weapons in the 1980s [Perkovich 1999; pp. 308-309].

Due to Khan's efforts, the slow recognition of the program by western intelligence, and the weak export controls at the time, Pakistan made rapid progress in developing U-235 production capability. When export controls on nuclear usable materials were imposed on Pakistan in 1974, the focus was on technology applicable to plutonium production, not uranium enrichment. According to Khan in a 1998 interview, the first enrichment was done at Kahuta on 4 April 1978. The plant was made operational in 1979 and by 1981 was producing substantial quantities of uranium.

In recognition of A. Q. Khan's contributions the ERL was renamed the A.Q. Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) by President Zia ul-Haq on 1 May 1981.

Khan was convicted of espionage in the Netherlands in 1983 in absentia and sentenced to four years in prison. The conviction was later overturned in 1985 for failure to properly deliver a summons to him.

Pakistani work on weapon design began even before the start of work on uranium enrichment, under the auspices of the PAEC. In March 1974, Munir Ahmad Khan called a meeting to initiate work on an atomic bomb. Among those attending the meeting were of Hafeez Qureshi, head of the Radiation and Isotope Applications Division (RIAD) at PINSTECH, Dr. Abdus Salam, then Adviser for Science and Technology to the Government of Pakistan and Dr. Riaz-ud-Din, Member (Technical), PAEC. The PAEC Chairman informed Qureshi that he was to work on a project of national importance with another expert, Dr. Zaman Sheikh, then working with the Defence Science and Technology Organization (DESTO). The word "bomb" was never used in the meeting but Qureshi exactly understood the objective. Their task would be to develop the design of a weapon implosion system. 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 Islamabad.

The work at Wah began under the undescriptive codename 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 explosive lenses to be used in the nuclear device. This expanded however to include chemical, mechanical and precision engineering of the system and the triggering mechanisms. It procured equipment where it could and developed its own technology where restrictions prevented the purchase of equipment [Azam 2000].

France agreed to construct the 137 MW(e) Chasma Nuclear Power Plant (CHASNUPP) in the Central Punjab during the early 1970s. The primary work was conducted by the French firm Saint Gobain. As part of this project, France agreed to supply Pakistan with a fuel reprocessing plant to produce plutonium. In response to American pressure, France and Pakistan eventually agreed that reprocessing plant would be placed under international safeguards. The IAEA accepted the application for this facility in February 1976. Later in the year Canada decided to abruptly terminate the fuel supply for KANUPP. By this Pakistan has discovered uranium deposits in western Punjab and began to exploit them [CIA 1978].

1976 also saw the first preparations made for eventual nuclear tests. Dr. Ishfaq Ahmad, Member (Technical) and Dr. Ahsan Mubarak of the PAEC were dispatched to Baluchistan to conduct helicopter reconaissance of potential test sites with the assistance of the army 5 Corps located at Quetta. 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.

The PAEC requirement was for a mountain with a completely dry interior capable of withstanding an internal 20 kt nuclear explosion. A likely site was found in the form of a several hundred meter tall granite mountain Koh Kambaran in the Ras Koh range (also referred to as the Ras Koh Hills). The Ras Koh in the Chagai Division of Baluchistan rise at their highest point to 3009 metres. After a one year survey of the site, completed in 1977, plans were finalized for driving a horizontal tunnel under Koh Kambaran for a future test. [Azam 2000]. (It is interesting to note that Azam cites an incorrect height for Koh Kamabaram of 185 m. Comparing the prominent white band on the mountain, which satellite photography shows is 520 m long, to photographs of the actual mountain show that it is over 500 m high.)

Disturbing developments occurred in Pakistan during 1977 and 1978. As had happened in 1971, an attempt to conduct national elections led to chaos and military action. PM Zulfikar Bhutto held elections in March 1977, which his party (the Pakistan Peoples Party or PPP) won, leading to charges of fraud; in April Bhutto declared martial law in three major cities; in June this order was declared illegal by the supreme court and was rescinded, new elections were scheduled for October; on 5 July Army General Zia-ul-Haq launched a coup that took over the government. The military quickly took control of the nuclear weapons program, control it is maintained to the present day - placing Pakistan's nuclear arms outside of the authority of the civilian government (when it has even had one).

Brig. Muhammad Sarfraz, who had provided support to the PAEC survey team, was tasked by by (now) President Zia-ul-Haq in 1977 with creating and leading the Special Development Works (SDW) which was entrusted with the task of preparing the nuclear test sites. The SDW was formally subordinate to the PAEC but directly reported to the (now) Chief of the Army Staff Sarfraz. Meetings between SDW and PAEC officials and ul-Haq led to the decision to prepare a second site for a horizontal shaft. The site selected 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, prompting rumours that Pakistan had given airbases to the United States. The fact that US-AID had set up an office in Turbat, Baluchistan only added fuel to such rumours [Azam 2000].

Critical purchases of technology were made in 1977. Leybold Heraeus of Hanan, Germany sold Pakistan vacuum pumps and equipment used for operating centrifuges, and the United Kingdom sold 30 high-frequency inverters for controlling centrifuge speeds.

It was during 1977-78 that India, and other nations, became aware of the scope of Pakistan's nuclear program. A declassified 1978 CIA analysis shows that the CIA had become aware of nuclear weapon design group operating in Pakistan. The study focuses entirely on Pakistan's potential for producing plutonium (particularly KANUPP) with no attention to the possibility of uranium enrichment as an option (although one entire page was redacted so the possibility of passing mention cannot be excluded) [CIA 1978]. It soon became apparent that unlike many abortive nuclear projects initiated in other nations, Pakistan's program was huge, lavishly funded, well organized, and likely to succeed. As a result France cancelled the planned sale of a reprocessing plant at Chasma.

The reactor part of the CHASNUPP project was also cancelled by France in 1978. By the time France decided to terminate assistance to Pakistan, at least some important technological information had already been transferred to Pakistan.

In March 1979 US intelligence announced that the Kahuta uranium enrichment plant in Pakistan had been commissioned. On 4 April the hard-line nature of Zia ul-Haq's regime was emphasized when former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged. Finally on 25 December the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, ensuring that despite its nuclear weapons program Pakistan would be the beneficiary of a massive infusion of US weaponry, as well as US economic and diplomatic support. The possibility that the US would impose meaningful sanctions of any kind on Pakistan due its nuclear program became slim, then nil when the aggressively anti-Soviet Reagan administration came to power.

During the late 70s and early 80s, a number of Pakistani agents were arrested trying to violate export control laws in the west. In November 1980 Albert Goldberg was arrested at a US airport while attempting to ship two tons of zirconium (useful for reactor construction) to Pakistan. A.Q. Khan attempted to order 6000 maraging steel rotor tubes in 1983. In 1984 three Pakistani nationals (including one Nazir Vaid) were indicted in the US for attempting to smuggle out 50 krytrons (high speed switches suitable for implosion detonation systems), and in 1987 the purchase of US maraging steel was attempted. Large quantities of materials were successfully purchased without being detected, including a German uranium hexafluoride manufacturing plant.

China became involved with supporting Pakistan's program at an early stage. Pakistan's location is of extreme strategic value to China bordering as it does Afghanistan, Russia, India, and China itself. Pakistan had begun cultivating a relationship with China to counterbalance India in 1962, when China and India were at war and the US was offering measured support to India. In February 1963 Foreign Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had signed treaty with China formally demarcating their border. Chinese technicians and scientists were present at Kahuta in the early 80s, a relationship that no doubt provided direct benefits to both nuclear programs. Pakistan received many benefits from Chinese technical resources, and China obtained details of the URENCO centrifuge technology.

By 1980 a number of centrifuges were believed to be operating in Pakistan. In the late 1980s Pakistan began publishing technical articles about centrifuge design, flaunting their capability and placing design details, previously secret, in the public domain. Among these was an 1987 article co-authored by A. Q. Khan on balancing sophisticated ultracentrifuge rotors.

The test shafts were completed in 1980 [Azam 2000], and in April 1981 US Senator Alan Cranston revealed Pakistan's test site construction activity in Baluchistan [Perkovich 1999; p. 228-229]. According to a statement made before the Kargil Committee, the Indian military agency RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) had assessed that by 1981-82, Pakistan had enough weapons grade enriched uranium to make one or two uranium weapon cores [Kargil 2000]. This assessment seems much too early in the view of other observers, and the assessment may be connected with intelligence about the shaft construction.

The Wah Group had a weapon design - an implosion system using the powerful but sensitive HMX as the principal explosive - ready for testing in 1983. The first "cold test" of a weapon (i.e. a test of the implosion using inert natural uranium instead of highly enriched uranium) took place on 11 March 1983 under the leadership of Dr. Ishfaq Ahmed of the PAEC. This test was conducted in tunnels bored in the Kirana Hills near Sargodha, home of the Pakistan Air Force’s main airbase and the Central Ammunition Depot (CAD).

The Kirana Hills test tunnels were reportedly bored by the SDW after the Chagai nuclear test sites, i.e. sometime between 1979 and 1983. As in Chagai, the tunnels had been sealed after construction to await tests. As Prior to the cold tests, an advance team opened and cleaned the tunnels. As [Azam 2000] relates:

After clearing 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.

One of the principal objectives of the test was to determine whether the neutron initiator (probably a polonium beryllium design similar to those used in the first US, USSR, UK, and Indian bombs) to reliably start a fission chain reaction in the real bomb. However, when the button was pushed, most of the wires connecting the device to the oscilloscopes 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 oscilloscopes confirmed that the neutrons had indeed been produced. A second cold test was undertaken soon afterwards which was witnessed by Ghulam Ishaq Khan, Lt. Gen. K.M. Arif and Munir Ahmed Khan.

By March 1984, Kahuta Research Laboratories (KRL) had independently carried out its own cold tests of its own nuclear device design near Kahuta. This seems to have been at best a secondary weapon design program, not a co-equal relationship like has long existed between Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore. Azam relates that by 1998, KRL had conducted many fewer weapon cold tests than the PAEC, and when it came time to put the test operation into practice it was the PAEC that controlled the operation, and it was PAEC devices that were tested. The KRL program may have been either a backup effort or even a rogue or vanity program on the behalf of A.Q. Khan.

The mid-eighties saw indications of the growing nuclear capability of Pakistan pile up. In 1984 Pakistan announced that it now had the capability of producing low enriched uranium [Albright 1997; p. 273]. At this time approximately 1,000 centrifuges were operating at the facility, and this apparently marked Kahuta's move to full operational status. But Kahuta is reported to have had serious start-up problems though which delayed the achievement of full production.

Periodic revelations confirming the successful advance of the Pakistani program were turning up with some regularity. Drawn to the limelight, the leader of Pakistan's uranium enrichment program Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan held periodic interviews boasting about Pakistans nuclear prowess. It was in such an interview in February 1984 that he first made the claim that Pakistan had achieved nuclear weapons capability. In July 1984 the New York Times reported that US intelligence had learned that the previous year that China had supplied Pakistan with the design of an actual tested nuclear device - the design of China's fourth nuclear weapon tested in 1966 with a yield of 25 kt. This is said to be a low weight (200 kg class) solid-core bomb design. Reports have also surfaced that China also provided sufficient HEU to construct one or two weapons in 1983. In 1998 A. Q. Khan stated that Pakistan had acquired the capability to explode a nuclear device at the end of 1984.

In March 1985 a West German court convicted a German businessman of smuggling a complete uranium hexafluoride manufacturing plant to Pakistan. Also in March the US concluded that Pakistan had made such progress in uranium enrichment capability that the Reagan administration sought an assurance from President Zia that Pakistan would refrain from enriching uranium above the level of 5%. In July 1985 it was reported by ABC that Pakistan had successfully conducted a "cold" implosion test - firing a complete krytron-triggered implosion system with an inert natural uranium core (Khan late reported that cold tests had been conducted in 1983 and 1984). Taken together these indicators pointed to Pakistan acquiring the ability of conducting a nuclear test if it chose to do so within the next year. By mid-1986 US intelligence had concluded that Pakistan had produced weapon grade uranium [Albright 1997; p. 273]. Cold implosion shots were conducted in the Chagai Hills area of Baluchistan in September 1986. In 1987 Pakistan acquired a tritium purification and production facility from West Germany, as well as 0.8 grams of pure tritium gas illegally (the German parties who were convicted of illegally exporting tritium in 1990).

Between 1983 and 1990, the Wah Group developed an air deliverable bomb and conducted more than 24 cold tests of nuclear devices with the help of mobile diagnostic equipment. These tests were carried out in 24 tunnels measuring 100-150 feet (30-50 m) in length which were bored inside the Kirana Hills. Later due to excessive US intelligence and satellite attention on the Kirana Hills site, it was abandoned and the cold test facility was shifted to the Kala-Chitta Range. The bomb was small enough to be carried under the wing of a fighter/bomber such as the F-16 which Pakistan had obtained from the US. The Wah Group 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, the latter requiring a sophisticated high speed parachute system. Today, the PAF has perfected all four techniques of nuclear weapons delivery using F-16, Mirage-V and A-5 combat aircraft [Azam 2000].

The KRL initiated development efforts on liquid fueled missiles during the early-mid 80s (the Hatf-1 and Hatf-2 programs) but despite considerable assistance from the China made little progress initially.

Pakistan's missile developments got another major boost during the mid-80s with the resumption of cooperation between North Korea and Pakistan, which has lapsed temporarily after Zia's rise to power. Both countries were active in supporting Iran during the Iran-Iraq War, a relationship through which Pakistan learned of the DPRK's growing missile capabilities. North Korea had provided Iran with 160 Scud-Bs, known as Hwasong-5s in North Korea, and was assisting with the development of 500 km and 1300 km range systems. The exchange with the DPRK was extended to include nuclear technology as well, with Pakistan advising North Korea on its own nuclear developments [Bermudez 1998b].

There some significant ups and downs in the Indo-Pakistani relationship from late 1985 through early 1987. The rapidly developing Pakistani nuclear capability provided motivation to establish a modus vivendi between the two nations. In December 1985 Zia and Gandhi met in New Delhi and agreed to a pact not to engage in attacks on each others nuclear facilities (a situation that would left India rather the worse off due to the proximity of its production reactors to urbanized areas). It would not be signed until 31 December 1988, or fully implemented (through an exchange of data about their facilities) until 1993. In the year following this promising development, an ambitious but poorly managed military exercise by India lead to an unexpected crisis.

This crisis was precipitated by Exercise Brasstacks, the largest military exercise in Indian history conducted to test and demonstrate India's ability to deal with a major war with Pakistan. This exercise was planned by Gen. K. Sundarji, now Army Chief of Staff and began in July 1986. It reached its crisis stage in December when India had a total of nine divisions deployed in Rajasthan adjacent to the Pakistani province of Sindh. India had not undertaken any measures to alleviate Pakistan's concerns about having such a massive armed force so close to its border, such as inviting observers, or sending advance notice of maneuvers. Pakistan accordingly mobilized its own forces - sending Army Reserve North and Army Reserve South to locations close to India's border where they could strike at Punjab or Kashmir. Pakistan's concern was not unwarranted, military maneuvers have been used to mask planned attacks before - notably Operation Badr, the stunningly successful Egyptian and Syrian surprise attack that opened the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Poor intelligence and communications, and a disengaged and volatile Rajiv Gandhi made a bad situation worse in January, leading to an atmosphere of real crisis on 18 January 1987. Gandhi's decision to begin airlifting troops to Punjab on 20 January threatened to escalate the crisis out of control.

The Kargil Committee heard testimony that at about this point Pakistan conveyed a nuclear threat to India. This was officially communicated by Pakistan's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Zain Noorani to the Indian Ambassador in Islamabad, SK Singh, something not known publicly until 2000. It was also communicated by A.Q. Khan to Indian journalist Kuldip Nayar on 28 January, near the height of the crisis. Nayar however shopped the story around for a few weeks, and it was not published until 1 March, after the matter had been resolved. Nonetheless it left a lingering sense of nuclear threat associated with the Brasstacks affair. The potential for even non-hostile actions to create dangerous situations has unfortunately not been a lesson well learned, judging from further crises that have followed in 1990, 1998 and 1999.

Pakistan's slow progress in manufacturing ballistic missiles led, following India's February 1988 test of its Prithvi ballistic missile, to China increasing its assistance. In particular China agreed to provide complete missile systems - both the 600 km M-9 (CSS-6/DF-15) and 280 km M-11 (CSS-7/DF-11) missiles. The first of these systems began arriving during late 1988 [Bermudez 1998b].

The New York Times Magazine reported in March 1988 that US officials had by then concluded that Pakistan had enough weapon-grade uranium for 4 to 6 nuclear weapons. By then Pakistan had begun construction of a second enrichment facility at Golra, 10 km west of Islamabad [Albright 1997; p. 273].

Two dramatic changes altered the strategic environment for Southwest Asia in 1988. The first was the Soviet decision in February 1988 to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, a move that removed the geopolitical rationale for the US support for the Pakistani military regime, and the reluctance to pressure Pakistan on account of its nuclear weapons program. The second change was on 17 August 1988, when President Zia ul-Haq, the architect of the militarization of the nuclear program, was killed along with thirty other people, when the aircraft in which he was travelling crashed in what is suspected to be an assassination.

In the aftermath of Zia's death, the military stepped aside and permitted the return of Pakistan to democracy three months later. In November 1988 Benazir Bhutto, the daughter of Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who had been overthrown and executed by Zia, became Prime Minister herself. The nuclear weapons complex remained in the hands of the military, who formed an independent center of power not under the control of the civilian government. PM Bhutto was in fact unaware of the status of the nuclear program, and when Pakistan passed the milestone of manufacturing fissile cores for weapons she first learned of it from the US Ambassador to Pakistan.

1989 marked a turning point in the strategic situation in South Asia because it was in this year that Pakistan, and in response India, began creating real nuclear arsenals by stockpiling complete, ready-to-assemble weapons.

Throughout the 80s, due to its strategic importance the US had been loathe to pressure Pakistan on its nuclear weapons program. To avoid invoking sanctions against Pakistan the Republicans in Congress had passed the Pressler Amendment which stated that as long as the administration could certify that Pakistan had not acquired nuclear weapons no sanctions would be invoked. To avoid triggering the Pressler amendment a series of "red lines" had been drawn for various milestones, such as producing weapon grade uranium, converting it to metal, and fabricating a core. But as Pakistan passed them one by one the Pressler Amendment, passed to avoid sanctions, became an inevitable trigger for them instead. The last certification was made in 1989, with great difficulty. Bhutto thus faced having to deal with the imposition of sanctions for a program she had done nothing to advance and did not control. Bhutto's knowledge of the Pakistani program was in fact wholly dependent on briefings given her by US officials in February and June 1989 [Burrows and Windrem 1994; pp. 79-81]. Benazir Bhutto did succeed in halting production of highly enriched uranium in June 1989 prior to a trip the US.

During early 1989 Pakistan announced that it had tested two 500 kg payload missiles, the Hatf-1 with a range of 80 km and the Hatf-2 with a range of 300 km. This significantly increased tensions with the US and led to a distinct chilling of PRC-US relations since Chinese assistance had led to the development of these systems [Bermudez 1998b].

In 1990 a second nuclear crisis developed in which Pakistan attempted to pressure India with its presumed nuclear arsenal. This new crisis arose early in 1990 over Muslim-majority Kashmir. The seeds of this crisis had been sown in April 1987 when Rajiv Gandhi's Congress (I) Party had contrived with the aid of the local Kashmir National Conference to steal the state election. Intimidation, harassment, and ballot tampering were widespread (and widely reported) but the Congress-National Conference Alliance emerged with slightly less than 50% of the vote, yet obtained 80% of the seats. Widespread protest followed over the next few years, much of it violent, which was met with harsh repression. An armed insurgency developed, and after Gandhi's defeat in November 1989 it escalated further.

In January 1990 the new Indian government sent 150,000 troops to restore order and established military rule. At this even the government's Kashmiri allies defected to the opposition. Pakistan had established training bases for Kashmiri insurgents months before, but now the Pakistani support for the insurrection went into high gear, and Pakistan's government began high profile protests of the situation. The Kargil Commission Report states that "In January 1990, Pakistan's Foreign Minister, Sahibzada Yakub Khan, visited Delhi and spoke to the Indian Foreign Minister, I.K. Gujral and the Prime Minister V.P. Singh in terms which they regarded as verging on an ultimatum." The report then adds that the Pakistan Air Force was then placed on alert, and the Indian Air Force followed suit. The rhetoric on both sides escalate rapidly during March and April. On 13 March PM Bhutto traveled to Pakistani controlled Kashmir and promised a "thousand year war"; Indian PM Singh responded on 10 April calling on India to be "psychologically prepared for war with Pakistan". It is believed that weapon grade uranium production was resumed at that time.

Both civilian governments appeared to be too weak to be able to back out of the confrontation, and on the Pakistani side events were actually being controlled by the military. The Kashmiri training camps were run by the Pakistani secret intelligence organization, the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate), and General Aslam Beg and his close ally Pres. Ghulam Ishaq Khan gave Bhutto little room to maneuver.

Then in late spring US intelligence intercepted messages indicating that the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), the developer and custodian of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, had assembled at least one nuclear weapon [Perkovich 1999, p. 308]. There was additional evidence of suspicious activity detected, such as convoys traveling from nuclear storage sites, and F-16 aircraft on runway alert suggesting they were already armed [Burrows and Windrem 1994; pp. 83-85]. This prompted the George Bush administration to send a high-level team, headed by Deputy National Security Adviser Robert Gates, to meet with leaders of both governments. In Pakistan the team met with Gen. Beg and President Ghulam Ishaq Khann on 20 May (PM Bhutto was out of the country at the time); and with PM Singh, Foreign Minister Gujral, and Principal Secretary Deshmukh in India on 21 May. The American team found the two sides concerned about the prospects of war breaking out, but neither seemed much concerned about the prospects of a nuclear war. The American team revealed to the Pakistanis that they were aware of Pakistan's nuclear preparations, preparations that apparently came as a surprise to Pres. Khan, and was the subject of sharp exchanges. The Indians on the other hand knew nothing of Pakistan's preparations, and were not told about it by the Americans. The KRC Report's [Kargil 2000] version of this is as follows:

"American accounts describe Robert Gates' visit to Islamabad in May 1990, and his warning to President Khan and General Aslam Beg against any rash action against India. The Pakistanis describe this as one more instance when their nuclear deterrent prevented Indian aggression. During this crisis, the Kahuta establishment was evacuated, a fact that the Indian mission in Islamabad communicated to Delhi."

In the end a list of confidence building measures proposed by the Americans served as the basis for a negotiated withdrawal from the crisis over the next six weeks. The KRC Report concludes "On the 1990 events referred to above, there are varying perceptions among Indian officials. The majority view is that there was an implied threat." [Kargil 2000]

As the crisis was winding down in June, Peter Galbraith, South Asia specialist for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met with Benazir Bhutto to brief her about her own nation's nuclear activities during the crisis. She was completely surprised by the revelations. The US had by this time determined that Pakistan had converted 125 kg of weapon grade enriched uranium to metal and had fabricated the cores for seven weapons [Burrows and Windrem 1994; pp. 60-61]. In a follow-up meeting In July US Ambassador Robert Oakley informed her that the US was not going to be able to certify Pakistan again under the Pressler Amendment. This prompted Bhutto to try and obtain a briefing on the program from her own government. Three times over the next month she contacted Pres. Khan and requested that he convene the committee that ran the nuclear weapons program, but each time he demurred. Then on 6 August 1990, Pres. Ghulam Ishaq Khan announced Benazir Bhutto had been removed from office, a move Bhutto later described as a "nuclear coup" triggered by her efforts to obtain nuclear accountability.

According to the KRC Report in August 1990, information was received from a sensitive intelligence source that in any future confrontation, Pakistan might use nuclear weapons as a first resort. V.P. Singh and I.K. Gujral have a vivid recollection of this report [Kargil 2000].

Although much has been made of the 1990 crisis as the first example of nuclear deterrence in South Asian affairs, Perkovich argues persuasively that nuclear weapons played little or no role in the decisions made by the leadership of the two nations in generating, then resolving the crisis. The only real influence Pakistan's nuclear preparations had was to prompt the US to get involved as mediator, a role that proved to be quite valuable in defusing the situation. The incident serves to underscore the independence that Pakistan's military exercised in controlling the nations nuclear capabilities, even in a period of supposed democratic rule. In October 1990, Pres. Bush informed Congress that he could no longer certify that Pakistan did not have the bomb, thereby triggering the Pressler Amendment. The decertification of Pakistan as a non-possessor of nuclear weapons was scarcely a revelation to India, indeed many there felt that it was long overdue. Nonetheless the formal change in US position created new leverage for supporters of an openly nuclear armed India.

As a result of US pressure, in 1991 Pakistan allegedly stopped enriching uranium to weapon grade levels. SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) estimated that at that time Pakistan had acquired 120-220 kg of highly enriched uranium (8-15 weapons worth). Pakistan did not stop or even slow its uranium enrichment program though, it merely began stockpiling uranium hexafluoride enriched to no more than the 20% level. This level of enrichment represents the bulk of the "separative work" required to enrich natural uranium to weapon grade levels. By running low to moderately enriched uranium through an appropriately configured centrifuge cascade it can be quickly enriched to weapon grade levels, and in the end Pakistan would have lost none of its weapon-grade uranium production. This appears to be exactly what happened after the May 1998 Indian/Pakistani test series. A.Q. Khan claimed after the test that Pakistan had never stopped making bomb-grade HEU during the 1980s and 1990s."

On 7 February 1992 Pakistani Foreign Minister Shahryar Khan stated in an interview with the Washington Post that Pakistan had the components to assemble one or more nuclear weapons. This went farther than statements from any other "non-weapon state" at the time in admitting to the existence of a nuclear arsenal [Albright and Hibbs 1992]. In July 1993 General (retired) Mirza Aslam Beg, now former army chief of staff, claimed that Pakistan had tested a nuclear device. Since no information about an actual nuclear explosion by that time has come to light, and Pakistan's own comments after its 1998 test series confirm that those test were its first, Beg's comments presumably refer to the hydronuclear (zero-yield) test of a weapon design which had been reported several years earlier.

The Chasma nuclear power plant project was resumed in the early 1990s, this time under IAEA safeguards, and with the China Nuclear Energy Industry Corporation (CNEIC) as the foreign supplier. The reactor was redesigned and its capacity expanded to 300 MW(e). The reactor is based on China’s first indigenous reactor, Qinshan-1. The first concrete was poured on 1 August 1993, and primary construction of CHASNUPP was completed in late 1995. CHASNUPP began operations in November 1999 and was connected to the power grid (run by the Karachi Electric Supply Company) on 14 June 2000.

Relations with South Asia during the first two years of the Clinton administration (1993-1994) were marked by an effort to overcome the impasse that existed between India and Pakistan, and achieve some sort of agreement to restrain the nuclear competition between the two states. Efforts at avoiding nuclear weapon deployment had clearly failed, so the emphasis shifted to arms limitation in some form such as a cutoff in fissile material production, and a commitment to forgo nuclear tests. The re-election of Benazir Bhutto as Prime Minister of Pakistan in October seemingly provided a boost to this effort by restoring democratic government. Unfortunately the relations between India and Pakistan proved to be a zero-sum game -- a gain for one nation was perceived as a loss by the other, and what each nation desired to gain proved to be greater than what the others were prepared, or were politically able, to offer. In particular the more favorable position taken by the US toward Pakistan after Bhutto's election was unacceptable to India and caused the Indians to dig in their heels; and Bhutto was too weak domestically to commit to the types of restrictions and inspections that were necessary in light of Pakistan's sense of inferiority with India. So in the end nothing came of considerable diplomatic effort.

Benazir Bhutto, although out of the loop on Pakistan's nuclear programs, had strongly supported the missile programs, and Pakistan's collaboration with China and North Korea on missile and nuclear issues, from the time of her first election as Prime Minister. In 1992 a Pakistani delegation visited the 125 Factory in Pyongyang (and possibly the Sanum-dong military research-and-development facility) to examine the No-dong. DPRK Deputy Premier-Foreign Minister Kim Yong-nam traveled to Pakistan on 4-7 August 1992 to discuss a number of issues, including missile cooperation and North Korean sales of Hwasong-6 and possibly No-dong missiles. Pakistani experts are believed to have been present for the DPRK’s 29-30 May 1993 tests of the No-dong at the Musudan-ri Launch Facility [Bermudez 1998a].

1993 saw the establishment of the National Development Complex (NDC) built by the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission's (PAEC) under the direction of Dr. Samar Mubarakmand. The NDC was set up as a center for solid fuel missile development using Chinese technology. The Shaheen ballistic missile program was initiated in 1995 and assigned to the NDC. This program was intended to develop missiles with ranges in the MRBM class. The 750 km range Shaheen-I began development at the beginning of 1996, and the prototype was ready for test flight two years and three months later, but was not test fired in 1999 [PTI 2000].

In December 1993, two months after her re-election Benazir Bhutto, traveled to China and North Korea. Although she publicly denied it, subsequent events indicate that she was seeking, among other items, increased cooperation in ballistic missile development and, in particular, a system capable of striking strategic Indian targets. Shortly afterwards, Pakistan established a ballistic missile program at the Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) at Kahuta with similar objectives that competed with the NDC Shaheen project. This program was based on North Korean liquid fuel missile technology and amounted to a Pakistani effort to manufacture the No-dong missile under the name Ghauri (Hatf-5) [Bermudez 1998a].

Official contacts and technical cooperation between Pakistan and North Korea increased after the establishment of the Ghauri project. DPRK Foreign Ministry and State Commission of Science and Technology delegations visited in 1994, then in late November 1995, a DPRK military delegation led by Marshal Choe Kwang (vice-chairman of the National Defense Commission and minister of the People’s Armed Forces) traveled to Pakistan. This visit was of special importance since Choe is believed to have finalized an agreement to provide Pakistan with key components from either the No-dong or Taep’o-dong programs, about 12 to 25 No-dong missiles, and at least one transporter-erector-launcher (TEL). Choe met with Pakistani President Sardar Leghari, Defense Minister Aftab Shaban Mirani, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Chief of Naval Operations, Commander of the Air Force, and various other military officials. Choe is also believed to have visited the missile-related production facilities in the Faisalabad Lahore area and possibly even Jhelum (the area from which Ghauri was subsequently launched).

Most of the missiles and supporting equipment were delivered to KRL in the spring of 1996 by the Changgwang Sinyong Corporation (a.k.a., North Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation/Bureau) which had earlier supplied missiles and components to Iran during the mid-1990s. On 24 April 1998 the US State Department imposed sanctions against both the Khan Research Laboratories and Changgwang Sinyong Corporation (the second time for both) [Bermudez 1998a].

The years 1995-1996 proved to be watershed in the history of South Asia, and in nuclear proliferation efforts world-wide. The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) came up for review and extension in 1995. Since its original drafting in 1968 the NPT had steadily gained adherents until by the mid-90s the vast majority of states in the world had signed it (by 2000 only 4 states out of 191 had not signed it - with India and Pakistan being half of the four). Pakistan indicated that it was willing to sign - if India did. India had endorsed the NPT in principle, but had refrained from signing because it objected to the establishment of "legitimate" nuclear weapon states limited to the 5 nuclear armed nations then in existence. The NPT committed these nuclear states to good faith efforts at eliminating their arsenals but in the nearly 30 years since no effort in that direction could be discerned. India insisted that the nuclear states commit themselves to a specific timetable to accomplish the disarmament which they themselves had agreed to undertake when joining the NPT. The nuclear weapon states unanimously refused to consider this approach.

When the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was introduced directly into the UN General Assembly on 9 September 1996, it was adopted by a vote of 158 to 3, only India, Bhutan and Libya voted against it. Pakistan, which had said that it would sign the CTBT only if India did, abstained from voting. As one of the 44 nations possessing nuclear reactors, the CTBT cannot go into effect without India's and Pakistan's signatures however.

In March 1996 the New York Times reported that KRL had received 5000 high-strength rare earth ring magnets, which can be used as magnetic bearings in gas centrifuges, from the state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation. The US intelligence community believed the magnets were intended for the suspension bearings found at the top of enrichment centrifuge rotors and violated Chinese commitments to restricting sales of "dual use" materials. The shipment was made between late 1994 and mid-1995 and was reportedly worth US$70,000. The ring magnets would allow Pakistan to double the number of installed centrifuges and thus double its total enrichment capacity.

Since the 1980s Pakistan had been working on a heavy water "research" reactor at Khushab. This reactor is alleged to be "indigenous", but was developed with technical assistance from China which also supplied the heavy water. The Khushab reactor is not subject to IAEA inspections. Khushab has a capacity variously reported at between 40 MWT to 50 MWT (but as high as 70 MWT). It was "commissioned" in March 1996, but began operating only in April 1998 [Albright 1998b].

During 1996 and 1997 Pakistan's ties to India improved under the civilian rule of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Partly this was due to the natural moderating effect of pluralistic civilian government, but partly it was due to Pakistan's both relative and absolute decline. Since the end of the Cold War, and the Afghanistan War, Pakistan had lost its strategic importance to both the US and China and with it some or all of their financial and technical support. While India's economy had been growing robustly since 1992 and had a positive trade balance, Pakistan's economy had deteriorated seriously and was running massive deficits both in trade and in government spending. Pakistan had also failed to establish a stable social order - the military existed outside of civilian control (when civilian control even existed), the bulk of the Pakistani economy was under the control of a small number of wealthy families that exercised near feudal control over large areas of Pakistan, and radical Islamic fundamentalist organizations formed yet another independent state-within-the-state. This last independent power arose as a result of the Afghanistan War, when the increasing Islamicized Pakistani military granted considerable autonomy and funding to Mujaheedin training camps in Pakistan. After the end of the war, these Islamic factions turned their attention to radicalizing Muslim ethnic groups inside China, quickly alienating Pakistan's erst-while patrons. China's disenchantment with Pakistan accordingly raised its interest in a rapprochement with India, further undercutting Pakistan's position.

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