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Published on 15 Sep 2013 | over 4 years ago

This BBC Panorama Documentary was broadcast on the 16th of June 1980. Project 706 was the codename of a project conducted during the Cold War and Russo-Afghan War whose objective was to develop Pakistan' first atomic weapon. The mainstream goal of the project was the development of an atomic bomb using uranium technology. Despite the aim and focus of the project, Pakistani scientists and engineers gained expertise in the use of reactor-grade plutonium, and successfully produced weapon-grade plutonium by the early 1980s. The project was launched after the secession of East Pakistan as a result of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 and Pakistan War in Bangladesh. It was an effort which was led by Pakistan. Project 706 refers specifically to the period from 1974--1983 when it was under the control of former prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, and later on under the military administration of Major-General Zahid Ali Akbar Khan of the Pakistan Army Corps of Engineers. The project's roots lay in scientists' fears since 1967 that India was also investigating nuclear weapons of its own. Developing nuclear technology for Pakistan was a mainstream goal and a dream of Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who initiated the scientific research in 1972.

Before the launching of Project-706 in 1974, the initial scientific research, starting from 1972, was directed and organized by renowned Pakistani scientist Abdus Salam. From 1974, the research was led by engineers Munir Ahmad Khan of PAEC and Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan of KRL Khan Research Laboratories. Time magazine has called Project-706 Pakistan's equivalent of the United States' Manhattan Project. The project cost US$450 million (raised by both Libya and Saudi Arabia) which was approved by Bhutto in 1972.

Project 706 led to the creation of multiple production and research sites that operated in extreme secrecy and ambiguity. As well as research and development, the project was also charged with gathering intelligence on Indian nuclear efforts. The Project was honourably disbanded from its service when Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) carried out the first cold test of a miniature nuclear device on 11 March 1983. Scientists and Military officers who participated in the Project were given higher promotion in their respective services, and conferred with high civil decorations by the Government of Pakistan.

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