Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb

Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb

Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb

Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb


The history of Pakistan's nuclear program is the history of Pakistan. Fascinated with the new nuclear science, the young nation's leaders launched a nuclear energy program in 1956 and consciously interwove nuclear developments into the broader narrative of Pakistani nationalism. Then, impelled first by the 1965 and 1971 India-Pakistan Wars, and more urgently by India's first nuclear weapon test in 1974, Pakistani senior officials tapped into the country's pool of young nuclear scientists and engineers and molded them into a motivated cadre committed to building the 'ultimate weapon.' The tenacity of this group and the central place of its mission in Pakistan's national identity allowed the program to outlast the perennial political crises of the next 20 years, culminating in the test of a nuclear device in 1998.

Written by a 30-year professional in the Pakistani Army who played a senior role formulating and advocating Pakistan's security policy on nuclear and conventional arms control, this book tells the compelling story of how and why Pakistan's government, scientists, and military, persevered in the face of a wide array of obstacles to acquire nuclear weapons. It lays out the conditions that sparked the shift from a peaceful quest to acquire nuclear energy into a full-fledged weapons program, details how the nuclear program was organized, reveals the role played by outside powers in nuclear decisions, and explains how Pakistani scientists overcome the many technical hurdles they encountered. Thanks to General Khan's unique insider perspective, it unveils and unravels the fascinating and turbulent interplay of personalities and organizations that took place and reveals how international opposition to the program only made it an even more significant issue of national resolve.


This book took six years to compile. What began as a simple quest to compress a holistic account of the Pakistani nuclear program turned into a Rubik’s cube. As a first-time writer setting out to pull together a balanced and objective account on a subject considered taboo for decades, I ran into the proverbial Clauswitzian “fog of war,” where a maze of claims and counterclaims made the research difficult.

Like many aspects of Pakistan’s politics and history, its nuclear story is awash with controversies and competing narratives. Yet, the most intriguing aspect during the course of this research was facing the challenge of the relentless disinformation campaign unleashed on the Pakistani nuclear program. Gore Vidal’s famous quotation emphasizing that a “[d]isinformation campaign has metastasized to a level where myth threatens to overthrow history” aptly applies to the case study of Pakistan. This was one reason that galvanized my efforts in telling the story of the Pakistani nuclear program and my interest in writing this book.

In the case of new nuclear states—such as India, Israel, and Pakistan—the necessity to keep the nuclear weapons program covert in order to resist international proliferation pressures has added another layer of opacity. The habits that come with decades of secrecy do not disappear overnight just because the country has conducted a declared nuclear test. Furthermore, as with many developing countries, the Pakistan government does not open its national archives to outside scrutiny, especially on matters of national security. Even nonofficial accounts, such as newspaper and journal articles, are difficult to access with collections often incomplete.

On top of these challenges, reconstructing the Pakistani case is vexing because its nuclear history is still contested by those who took part in the program. As this study will show, the establishment of two rival organizations—the . . .

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