Dr. Munir Ahmad Khan was born on May 26, 1926 in Kasur. He got his early education at the Government Central Model School, Lahore. In 1946, Dr. Munir A. Khan gained his BSc degree in Physics and Mathematics from Government
Dr. Munir Ahmad Khan
Dr. Munir Ahmad Khan was born on May 26, 1926 in Kasur. He got his early education at the Government Central Model School, Lahore. In 1946, Dr. Munir A. Khan gained his BSc degree in Physics and Mathematics from Government College Lahore.
In 1949, he earned a BSc in Electrical engineering from Punjab University's Engineering College, Lahore, where he also served as an Assistant Professor. In 1951, Munir A. Khan traveled to the United States on a Fulbright scholarship and Rotary International Fellowship where he earned an M.S in Electrical engineering in 1952 from North Carolina State University. In 1953, Munir Ahmad Khan carried out post-graduate research work at the Illinois Institute of Technology until 1956 where he received preliminary training in atomic energy. In 1956, he was selected for the Atoms for Peace Program, under which he was trained in Nuclear Engineering, and earned his MSc in Nuclear engineering at the North Carolina State University and the Argonne National Laboratory, Illinois under auspices of the International School of Nuclear Science and Engineering (ISNSE).
In 1957, he was part of the third batch of ISNSE's graduates who had specialized in reactor physics and nuclear engineering. The Argonne National Laboratory and the ISNSE were operated by the University of Chicago where, on December 2, 1942 a team of scientists achieved the first self-sustaining chain reaction in a nuclear reactor, which is considered to be a crucial step in the development of the first Atomic bomb. While at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Munir Ahmad Khan was elected to the Sigma-Xi, the scientific research society of America, in recognition of his research work. During his post graduate studies at IIT, he also worked briefly with Allis-Chalmers in Milwaukee, WI, and later with Commonwealth Edison Chicago, as a Systems Planning Engineer. Allis-Chalmers was a sub-contractor and manufacturer of pumps and equipment for the K-25 gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment plant, at Oak Ridge, Tennessee for the Manhattan Project in World War II. When he was working with the Commonwealth Edison as a Systems Engineer, the company was building the world's first commercial nuclear power reactor. Hence, he received his practical training in atomic energy from 1954-1956 at Commonwealth Edison Manufacturing Company.
In 1957, Munir A. Khan served as a Research Associate in the Nuclear Engineering Division of the Argonne National Laboratory where he worked as on "Modifications of CP-5 Reactor." He subsequently served as a Reactor Design Engineer in the Reactor Division of the American Machine Foundry Company, AMF Atomics, where he worked on the "Thermodynamic Design of Japan Research Reactor-2" till 1958. After gaining MSc in Nuclear engineering, Munir Ahmad Khan joined the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 1958, becoming a staff member in Professional Grade P-5, where he served in the Division of Nuclear Power and Reactors, Department of Technical Operations, IAEA. He was the first Asian from any developing country who was appointed at a senior technical position in the IAEA in 1958. By 1961, he was a senior officer responsible for Nuclear Power Reactor Technology and Applications, Reactor Division, IAEA, and from 1968 headed the IAEA's Reactor Engineering and Nuclear Fuel Cycle activities till 1972. He was known in the IAEA as "The Reactor Khan". His major responsibilities as head of IAEA's Reactor Engineering and Nuclear Fuel Cycle activities included developing and implementing programs in the field of research in reactor utilization in nuclear centers, technical and economic assessment of nuclear power reactors, world survey of nuclear power plants for developing countries, construction and operating experience with nuclear stations, fast breeder reactors and nuclear desalination. As a senior IAEA staff member, Munir Khan also organized more than 20 international technical and scientific conferences and seminars on heavy water reactors, advanced Gas Cooled Reactors, plutonium utilization, performance of nuclear power plants, problems and prospects of introducing nuclear power in developing countries, Small and Medium Power Reactors and coordination of programs for research in Theoretical Estimation of Uranium Depletion and Plutonium build-up in Power Reactors in the United States, Soviet Union, United Kingdom, France and Canada.
In 1961, he prepared a technical feasibility report on behalf of the IAEA on Small Power Reactor projects of the United States Atomic Energy Commission. While at the IAEA, Munir Ahmad Khan also served as Scientific Secretary to the Third and Fourth UN International Geneva Conferences on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy in 1964 and 1971 respectively. He also served as Chairman of the IAEA Board of Governors from 1986–87 and was the leader of Pakistan's delegations to 19 IAEA General Conferences from 1972-90. He also served as a Member of the IAEA Board of Governors for 12 years.
Munir Ahmad Khan had extremely cordial and close relationship with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and remained one of Bhutto's extremely close confident until Bhutto's death. In October 1965, as Foreign minister, Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto visited Vienna, Austria, when Munir Ahmad Khan informed him of the status of Indian nuclear program and the options Pakistan had to develop its own nuclear deterrence capability. Both agreed on the need for Pakistan to develop a nuclear deterrent to meet India's nuclear threat. Consequently, Mr. Bhutto arranged Munir Ahmad Khan's meeting with then President of Pakistan, Ayub Khan, on December 11, 1965, at the Dorchester Hotel in London. Munir Ahmad Khan told President Ayub Khan that Pakistan must acquire the necessary facilities that would give the country a nuclear deterrent capability, which were available free of safeguards and at an affordable cost, President Ayub Khan remained unconvinced.
While this meeting was going on, Bhutto was pacing up and down the hotel lobby, and when Munir Ahmad Khan came out and told Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto what had happened, he replied, "Don't worry. Our turn will come".
Immediately after the fall of East-Pakistan in December, 1971, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto assumed power from Yahya Khan and became country's President. Bhutto immediately called Munir Ahmad Khan from Vienna to Pakistan and announced that a meeting of Pakistan's top scientists and engineers would be held at Multan. On January 20, 1972, Bhutto appointed Dr. Munir Ahmad Khan as Chairman of Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) at the Multan meeting of senior scientists and engineers.
After his appointment at Multan, Mr. Munir Ahmad Khan took over as Chairman of Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission from Dr. I.H.Usmani on March 15, 1972. Within two months, he submitted a detailed nuclear plan to Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto which envisaged the establishment of numerous plants and facilities needed to master the complete nuclear fuel cycle. PAEC entered into agreements with France, Belgium, Canada, and West Germany for the supply of a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, a heavy water plant and a nuclear fuel fabrication plant, which were to be under IAEA safeguards. But after India's 1974 nuclear tests, these agreements were abrogated by the supplier states due to Pakistan's refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Following India's surprise nuclear test, codename Smiling Buddha, in 1974, PAEC, under Dr. Munir Ahmad Khan, began work on the indigenous development of the nuclear fuel cycle, outside IAEA safeguards. Therefore, on February 15, 1975, Munir Ahmad Khan obtained approval from Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto for funding a $450 million nuclear weapons program. This proposal included the setting up of uranium and plutonium exploration, mining and refining plant at Baghalchur; a uranium conversion (oxide, metal and uranium hexafluoride (or UF6) gas production complex at Dera Ghazi Khan, which provides the crucial UF6 feedstock for uranium enrichment at Kahuta; and a uranium enrichment plant based on centrifuge technology at Kahuta. These projects were launched by PAEC in 1975 and were completed by 1980. PAEC had also begun Research and development work on uranium enrichment in 1974 and in 1976. Dr. Munir Ahmad Khan also initiated work on the nuclear fuel fabrication. When Canada cut off supplies of nuclear fuel and spare parts in December 1976, PAEC developed its own fuel within two years and began loading KANUPP-I reactor with indigenous nuclear fuel by 1980. Dr. Munir A. Khan also launched the uranium enrichment project under the code-name Project-706. All this work was begun in late 1974 and completed by PAEC under the overall supervision of Munir Ahmad Khan by 1976.
By June 1976, PAEC scientists and engineers began rotating the first experimental centrifuges. The enrichment project was renamed Engineering Research Laboratories (ERL) when Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan took over the project in July 1976 and was made autonomous in the following month. A Coordination Board was set up to manage and supervise the project. This Board was headed by Mr. Ghulam Ishaq Khan, and had AGN Kazi, Agha Shahi and Munir Ahmad Khan as its members. However, ERL continued to remain under the overall supervision of PAEC till 1977 after which it was separated and made independent, but throughout the subsequent years and the 1980s, Munir Ahmad Khan continued to serve as Member of the Coordination Board for the enrichment project as Chairman of PAEC.
During his 19 years as Chairman of PAEC, Munir Ahmad Khan also established numerous nuclear medical and agricultural centers, a Computer Training Center, Karachi Nuclear Power Training Center (KNPTC) and other infrastructure projects. In 1990, Munir Ahmad Khan also laid the foundation of the National Development Complex (NDC) which played an important role in Pakistan's missile program and produced the solid-fueled Shaheen missile systems.
Munir Ahmad Khan also initiated several defense and conventional weapons-related projects in PAEC during his tenure as Chairman, which included ballistic missile projects and laser products for the Pakistani armed forces. A commercial subsidiary of PAEC, Al-Technique Corporation of Pakistan Ltd (ATCOP) was established in 1986 for producing laser products for the country's armed forces. ATCOP specialized in making Laser Range Finders; Laser Designators; Integrated Fire Control Systems; Systems for Tank Retrofit and Upgrade Programs; Passive Night Sights; V/UHF Radio Sets; and Optical Components. Dr. Munir Ahmad Khan was awarded "Hilal-e-Imtiaz" by former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 1989. He remained Chairman of PAEC for 19 years till 1991 when he retired with the status of Minister of State. After retirement, he was elected as Fellow of the American Nuclear Society, the International Nuclear Academy, the President of the Pakistan Nuclear Society and the Pakistan Institute of Electrical Engineers. He also served as Advisor to the Islamic Development Bank on Science and Technology.
Dr. Munir Ahmad Khan died on April 22, 1999 aged 72.