A.Q. Khan's Thirteen-Page Confession

The following is the thirteen-page confession of A.Q. Khan. 

I was in Belgium in December 1971 and had just submitted by Ph.D. thesis when I saw the most painful and humiliating scenes of the surrender of the Pakistan Army in Dacca. To see our officers and jawans with crosses on their backs and their heads shaven being herded like cattle by Indian soldiers being kicked and hit with sticks was such a traumatic scene that I would never forget it my whole life long.

In May 1974 I was working as a Senior Scientist at FDO in Amsterdam and had specialized in uranium enrichment technology, the most advanced and the most complicated technology that the Dutch, the Germans and the British had perfected after spending billions of dollars over a 20 year period. Even today it is the best technology for enriching uranium.

On 18th May, 1974 the Indians exploded their first nuclear weapon. Appreciating the immediate dangers posed to Pakistan’s security and very existence, I offered my services to the Prime Minister, Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. On 20th December 1974 I paid a short visit and explained the whole process to the Prime Minister and told him that I could give Pakistan nuclear capability. After explaining the process to Munir Ahmed Khan, Chairman PAEC, we went back to Holland. On 21st December 1975 we again came on holiday. I went to see the progress of the work done in one year, which turned out to be almost nil. I explained this to the Prime Minister, who asked me to stay back and send my resignation to FDO. It was a tough decision for me and my family but we decided to stay so I could serve my beloved Pakistan. I was appointed Advisor to PAEC in June 1976. For six months I had worked without being paid and under miserable and disgusting conditions. I was later paid Rs. 3,000 per month.

Working under PAEC proved to be impossible, hence the Prime Minister detached the Project from PAEC and made it independent under a Board of Coordination with Mr. A.G.M. Kazi (Chairman), Mr. Agha Shahi (Secretary General Foreign Affairs) and Mr. Ghulam Ishaq Khan (Secretary General Defence ) as members. We were to work directly under the Prime Minister.

One should not forget that I had brought with me technology, experience and personal notes worth billions of dollars. Without my knowledge and experience, Pakistan could never - repeat never - have become a nuclear power. It was only because of my initiative, knowledge and achievements that our nation can walk straight and tall today!

How I organized the work, set up the facilities and organized a most efficient network of companies to import materials and equipment is part of our history. I personally supervised each and every aspect of the Project and prepared the drawings and specifications to give to the suppliers. I trained hundreds of scientists and engineers who were initially totally ignorant of this high technology. The speed of the work and our achievements surprised our worst enemies and adversaries and the West stood helplessly by to see a Third World nation, unable even to produce bicycle chains or sewing needles, mastering the most advanced nuclear technology in the shortest possible span of time.

Our mastery of this most advanced and invaluable technology enabled us to sign a historic contract for a giant plant in China. Because of my assistance to the Chinese, they in turn helped Munir Ahmed Khan in various projects that had been stagnating for years (i.e. UF6, Reprocessing, Conversion, Production Reactor etc.).

By 1984 we had conducted successful cold tests and had manufactured all components for 30 nuclear devices. Upon my personal request, the Chinese Minister for Nuclear Technology had gifted us Kg 50 of weapon-grade enriched uranium, enough for 2 weapons. This gift clearly illustrates the importance the Chinese attached to the enrichment technology they received from me. I had asked for this to neutralize Indian nuclear blackmail and the imminent security threat to our country.

Work was progressing very fast and I worked 14 to 16 hours a day, 7 days a week to get the job done against all odds, against all embargoes and despite the non-availability of trained manpower or expertise.

In August 1988 President Gen. Ziaul Haq died in a tragic air crash. Elections were held and Benazir Bhutto became the Prime Minister. Gen. Imtiaz, former M.S. to Mr. Bhutto, became Advisor on Defence to the Prime Minister and took over the supervision of the nuclear programme.

In 1985 the revolution in Iran took place and there were many in Pakistan who sympathized with the revolution and change of dress code. Kahuta had a large number of Shias working there. One senior officer, Hanif Khalil, was even reported to have contacted the Iranian Ambassador, Mr. Mousavi, but, apprehensive of overzealousness and leakage to favour Iran, I warned him to be more cautious and carefull.

In 1989 or 1990 COAS, Gen. Aslam Beg, promised to give the Iranians a few weapons and technology in lieu of 10 years of our defence budget. The Iranian Army Chief, Shamkani, flew to Islamabad in his own plane to pick up the weapons and papers. Admiral Sirohey as Chairman JCSC had a hard time trying to get out of this commitment, in which he succeeded. Later there was a lot of pressure by the COAS on Gen. Imtiaz and P.M. Benazir Bhutto to honour his commitment. Under pressure, Gen. Imtiaz asked Dr. Hashmi (I was out of station) to give some centrifuge parts and drawings etc. to the Iranians. He (Hashmi) asked him to wait until my return. When I got back, Gen. Imtiaz advised me to get components of two old (P-1) discarded machines and pack them into boxes together with 2 sets of drawings prepared by the late Mr. Khokhar. These drawings on their own were not sufficiently detailed to enable mastery of this difficult technology. The components and drawings were handed over to the late Dr. M.Z. Niazi for further disposal. As you know, Dr. Niazi was a confidante of Benazir Bhutto and Gen. Imtiaz.

It was some time in 1994 or 1995 that Dr. Niazi requested me to see a few Iranian scientists passing through Karachi from China on their way to Dubai and then on to Teheran. I met them in our guesthouse in Karachi for about half an hour. I did not know any of them and they didn’t give any names. They said that they could not make any progress with their programme and asked whether it would be possible for me to visit them or to send a team for a few weeks. I flatly told them that it was not possible to have that kind of contact. They then asked a few simple questions and I advised them to study the available scientific literature, which contained all the information they were asking for. They seemed to be ignorant of the basic knowledge available in publications.

During Gen. Zia’s rule, Benazir, her family, Gen. Imtiaz and Dr. Niazi were financially supported by Col. Gaddafi. It was reliably reported that Col. Gaddafi had given $ 200 million to the late Mr. Z.A. Bhutto to launch our nuclear programme. This was confirmed by Mr. Khalid Hassan, Press Secretary to Mr. Bhutto, in the mischievous BBC film “Project 706 - The Islamic Bomb”. I believe that one set of the drawings and components given by me was given to the Iranians and the other to the Libyans.

Dr. Z.K. Niazi used to travel between Dubai, Tripoli and London and in Dubai he became friendly with Farooq of Sri Lanka through a British common friend named Peter. He probably brought a Libyan in contact with Farooq and asked him to arrange a meeting during one of my trips to Turkey.

Once when we went to Istanbul (I donot know the date) to have discussions with Dr. Heilingbrunner, Lerch and Ruegg, Farooq (Sri Lanka) told me that a friend of Dr. Niazi’s would like to see me in the nearby Sheraton Hotel. We were staying at Hotel Dilson, Taksim Square. I met the gentleman, a plump darkish person who introduced himself as Magid or Mageed. He said that they wanted to start some R & D programme in the enrichment field and had been given assurances of Pakistan Government assistance. I said they lacked the trained manpower and infra-structure. He said that they could still start learning and do some laboratory experiments. I gave him a brief idea of how complex and difficult the whole technology was. After about half an hour we left and he said he would contact Farooq (Sri Lanka) whenever necessary. He was not a technical person.

We did not hear from them for years and then during one of our trips to Turkey to meet our Turkish and Swiss suppliers, Tahir (nephew of Farooq) said that his uncle had phoned to say that a gentleman from Libya was there to see us. I met this gentleman with Tahir. He was of medium stature, average weight and a bit bald. He introduced himself as an Engineer and the name I understood was Mahfooz (you mentioned it as Matooq). He said he was now planning to start the programme as nothing had been done so far and he wanted to start on a small laboratory scale. I told him the plant needed a lot of space and many workshops and manpower. He said that they could go underground, to which I replied that it was not possible for such a big plant with all the facilities to go underground. Since he was planning on a small scale, he thought they might set up a farm of camels or goats and put one or two small sheds in between to put up the laboratory and start training the people in various technologies (vacuum, welding process, computer etc.). I suggested they first send enough people abroad for degrees/training and then start the research programme. He seemed to like that idea. We met for about half an hour at the most. We did not meet again for a long time. After 4 or 5 years, while in Dubai, Tahir invited us to dinner in his flat and the whole Matooq family (9 or 10 people) was there too. He said that they were now starting the work and that he was in touch with foreign suppliers. These had agreed to supply components, equipment etc. through Dubai and other countries. I just listened, being sure in my mind that there was not a committed approach and that they would not be able to achieve much. What they needed was commitment and trained manpower, neither of which they had. I met this same gentleman at dinner at Tahir’s place once or twice more over a period of 4 to 5 years. On those occasions he never discussed any technical matters or asked any questions. I only heard him discuss payment problems to suppliers with Tahir. Tahir once mentioned that Matooq was always taking away quite a bit of money for his personal use. There was always a young man named Karim with him. The last time I met him was in Casablanca for half an hour at tea when we were going to Timbuktu. Tahir said he had asked to see him there as the suppliers were making his life difficult. Tahir asked him to send some money as quickly as possible as the suppliers were pressing him very hard and chasing him. Matooq neither gave me any detail of his work nor asked any questions. I was aware that Tahir was assisting him with the placing of orders according to the supplier’s quotations. It was business between user and supplier. The suppliers had all the drawings that we had originally given them as well as their own modified drawings and were, thus, in a position to supply the requested or suggested products, make their own suggestions and/or submit quotations. Even when we met the last time, I was sure that the Libyans were unable to run any machine properly, not to talk of enrichment. Since I never visited their country or saw any film of their facilities, I did not know anything about their programme. I had heard that they had not even erected a single shed to do some preliminary work.

Western suppliers were supplying components etc. and one factory in Malaysia, owned by the son of the Malaysian Prime Minister, Ahmad Badawi, was producing milk/oil tankers, liquid petroleum tankers etc. A Swiss Engineer had put up some machines in this factory to manufacture some components. The components intercepted on the ship near Italy were reportedly manufactured there. Pakistan or KRL had nothing whatsoever to do with it.

At one time Tahir asked if he could hire some retired/nearly retired engineers for his factory. Farooq (KRL) was quite unhappy at being demoted and was interested in a good job. Mr. Nasimuddin was nearing LPR and wanted to find a job abroad as his children were studying in the U.S.A. I asked them to send their C.V.s to Malaysia. Mr. Nasimuddin paid a visit there but did not like the place and preferred a government job in the Middle East. Farooq showed some interest, but then preferred to stay back as he was hoping that Mr. Azmat would retire and that he would again be promoted to the post of D.G. That was the end of their interest in Malaysia.

If the Libyans have any papers/drawings bearing our name or signatures etc, they must have obtained them either from Farooq (Sri Lanka), Tahir or our old suppliers, as the two first-mentioned had them in Dubai for our use.

I have heard that Tahir is being interrogated by the Malysian, American and British authorities and is telling all sorts of stories to save himself. He must be saying the things that the interrogators want to hear from him, even though they may be incorrect.

I did not ask anybody in KRL to send any gas to Libya and it is impossible to get 2 tons of gas out of Kahuta without this discrepancy being found out or caught. Our material balance sheet is foolproof. If one believes in the disappearance of this quantity of gas, one could also accept the possibility of the disappearance of Kg 200 or 300 weapon-grade material, which is also impossible.

The suggestion that I ever asked for a Libyan passport is both ludicrous and preposterous. I lived in Europe for 15 years and could have got nationality of Germany, Holland or Belgium, but I was proud to keep my Pakistani passport. H.H. Prince Mamdouh bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, brother of King Fahd, offered us (Gen. Chowhan, Dr. Nazeer and me) Saudi passports during one of our visists to the Islamic Development Bank meetings in Jeddah, but I very politely refused. H.H. Gen. Shaikh Mohammad bin Zayed, Chief of the U.A.E. Armed Forces and Deputy Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, offered me U.A.E. nationality many times together with a luxurious villa, which I also politely refused. I discarded all these lucrative and attractive offers and preferred to work and live in Pakistan.


The Iranians went on their own to buy, process or manufacture components and equipment. We did not hear from them for years. Some 10 odd years ago Tahir asked for some P-1 components from Farooq (KRL). I don’t remember the exact details. As you mentioned, some small components (200 sets) were collected from our old, discarded stock or a few may have been manufactured and sent by Farooq (KRL) to Tahir, who then probably passed them on to some Iranians. There were no casings, bases, feed systems, scoops etc. Without this system the machine is useless and hence the components were of little value in the overall project. Furthermore, the components were old, mostly rejected due to being out-of-tolerances. They could, at the most, be useful for assembling a few machines but it would not have been possible to make them run to the desired speed. You have to be extremely competent and expert to assemble, balance and run these machines to full speed (63,000 rpm). I allowed it as it was earlier sanctioned by Gen. Imtiaz and the Government and it would keep the Iranians happy and our friendship with them in tact. That the Iranians failed to achieve any progress in 15 years, shows the complexities and extreme technical expertise required to master this technology.

It is most unfortunate that, having been betrayed by their own opposition nationals (Mujahideen Khalq Group) and having failed in their effort to achieve any progress, the Iranians have reportedly pointed their finger at us and are now putting us into trouble. They say that they have not given any names or sources from Pakistan. This was emphatically assured and conveyed to me through Izaz Jaffery by ex-Ambassador Agha Siraj Mousavi himself.

The spirit behind giving some assistance to Iran or Libya was to maintain friendly relations between them and us. At no time did I seriously believe that they were capable of mastering this technology as they didn’t have the required infra-structure, the trained manpower or the technical know-how.
North Korea

After approval from the Prime Minister and the COAS, a contract was signed with the North Koreans for a Km 1500 surface-to-surface guided missile. A delegation led by me and including Gen. Mian Mushtaq, DGCD, Admiral Sohail Ahmed Khan, Col. Qazi, Dr. Mirza, Nasim Khan and others visited North Korea for about 5 days. Later their team came here and the deal was finalized with the participation of the then DGCD, Gen. Ziauddin, Dr. Samar Mubarakmand and Chairman Suparco, Mr. Sikander. The Korean team was officially allowed to stay at Kahuta once the products started coming. This was some time in 1993-4. They had to work in the shops and instruct our engineers and technicians in the making of the components. Most of their work was in the two machine shops that were also producing and assembling centrifuges and centrifuge sub-assemblies. They became interested in the technology and some engineers spent a lot of time with Khokhar in his shop where rotor tubes, bellows, etc. were being made and there was a test-bed of P-2. Khokhar was making the liquid fuel rocket engine and needed the Koreans the whole day on a daily basis. During the course of their stay it is quite possible that he explained some details of centrifuge machines to them.

Some time in 1996, when the missile project was in full swing, some payments from the GHQ to the Koreans were pending. Somebody from GHQ advised Gen Kang, the Korean representative, to pay some money to Gen. Ziauddin to get the money released. Gen. Kang gave him a suitcase containing $ 0.5 million. Gen. Ziauddin informed Gen. Waheed, COAS, and they returned the money to Kang. Gen. J. Karamat, CGS, came to know of this and phoned me after a few days saying that I should arrange with Gen. Kang to pay this money to him for some secret army funds. He would then sanction the payment of their outstanding charges. He phoned me a few times to expedite the matter. I talked to Gen. Kang and he gave me the $ 0.5 million in cash, which I personally delivered to Gen. J. Karamat. In the meantime Gen. Karamat became COAS and said to me that he needed more money for the same secret funds and that I should talk to Gen. Kang. Gen. Kang came back to me after a few days and said that his boss was willing to give a further $ 2.5 million, provided we helped them with the enrichment technology. They already had a production reactor and were producing plutonium. They had also manufactured a few weapons as, according to Gen. Kang’s boss, they had received Kg 200 plutonium and weapon designs from the Russians in the mid-fifties after the Korean War. They had shown Dr. Mirza and me the perfect nuclear weapon, technologically more advanced than ours. They wanted this technology only for fuel for the power reactors as it cost only 1/10 of that of the diffusion process and required only low capital investment. They were not interested in weapon-grade production of material and did not ask any questions or for drawings for specially designed cascades for weapon-grade material. I informed Gen. J. Karamat; he agreed and gave me a go-ahead. I asked my people to prepare 20 outdated P-1 machines and gave them. Since they were working in the plant and were familiar with the P-2 machines, they asked for 4 of these too. I discussed the matter with the COAS and obtained his approval. After that I personally gave the remaining $ 2.5 million to Gen. Karamat in cash at the Army House to make up the whole amount. The senior engineers at Kahuta were responsible for the Korean’s movements and work. People at the plant were mixing with them every day and taking them around or discussing things with them. I was hardly there. I used to go to Kahuta for 3 or 4 hours to do administrative work and mostly spent the time in my office or with Brig. Behram who was making a launcher, which was our priority at the time. The Koreans took the machines in their own plane with which they were bringing missile parts for us. Security Staff was always present to check incoming and outgoing cargo. Even Dr. Mirza and Nasim Khan made some control panels and software packages and gave them. The Koreans had brought some UF6 gas for analysis, which we tested and found that it was not pure enough. They requested a few Kg of depleted gas for comparison purposes, which we gave them. Technically and monetarily it had no value. One could buy such a sample from abroad. One flowmeter was given to them as a sample. A flowmeter is an ordinary instrument in a UF6 plant. It is banned for Pakistan but available in the open market in Europe. They, in return, taught us how to make Krytrons (fast switches), which were banned items and are needed in nuclear weapons detonation. This was very valuable to us.

After having been here for years, the COAS (Gen. Pervez Musharraf) desired that we should send the Koreans back immediately. They left within 3 days. After that we had no more contact with them.

I left KRL on 31.3.2001 and that was that.

As far as the destroying of any papers or gate passes is concerned, I only advised people not to keep any papers or records that could implicate Pakistan with transfer of technology or equipment to North Korea at any later stage. At that time there were various lobbies against Pakistan and I feared that these papers could, if falling into wrong hands, be used to implicate Pakistan. It was only meant as a precautionary measure.

I have done nothing against the interests of Pakistan and whatever I did could not have resulted in proliferation of nuclear weapons. It was primarily meant to keep up our friendship with those countries that had been helping Pakistan from time to time.

I would like to reiterate that I never - repeat never - ever put foot on Iranian or Libyan soil.

Dr. A.Q. Khan

In early 1989 Gen. Aslam Beg asked me if I could help the Iranians in enrichment technology so that they could also achieve nuclear capability. He was convinced that, if Iran had this capability, it would work as a shield between Pakistan on the one side and the U.S.A. and other Western countries on the other side and that these countries would then not be able to undertake any mischievous or adventurous action against Pakistan. I agreed in principle, but told him I could only do so with a go-ahead from the Government. When Gen. Imtiaz told me to do the needful, I did so as I knew he must have obtained clearance from the Prime Minister.

So also was the case with Libya. Dr. Zafar Niazi told me that it had been cleared by the Prime Minister, upon which I took the necessary action.