Sample this from the Pakistan Prime Minister’s mid-September interview to an international media outlet: “So when a nuclear-armed country fights to the end, to the death, it has consequences.”
And this from his August 30 opinion piece in the New York Times: “If the world does nothing to stop the Indian assault on Kashmir and its people, there will be consequences for the whole world as two nuclear-armed states get ever closer to a direct military confrontation.”
Ever since India revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5, Imran Khan has issued multiple threats of a devastating nuclear war in the Asian subcontinent.
In what could be a disturbing revelation for the international community, an India Today TV Open-Source Investigation has found the Pakistani Prime Minister isn’t venting empty rhetoric — his intolerable threat to humanity could well be real.
Remember, Islamabad is globally notorious as a major proliferant of nuclear materials and expertise. Back in 2004, Pakistan emerged at the centre of an unprecedented nuclear scandal — the father of its atomic bomb, Abdul Qadeer Khan, was exposed as the world’s most sophisticated smuggler of nuclear technology to rogue regimes.
Fast forward to September, 2019: India Today TV’s Open-Source Investigation discovers that the heart of Pakistan’s nuclear project at Kahuta in Rawalpindi district, set up by Khan himself in 1976, may have covertly expanded its uranium-enrichment program over the past five years.
The OSINT findings lift the veil of secrecy surrounding the fortified site, officially identified as a global threat. The International Atomic Energy Association has called this lab “an illicit source of nuclear technology” and “a serious challenge to nuclear-non proliferation”.
High-resolution satellite images, accessed by India Today TV’s OSINT team, confirm the presence of a new facility 800 meters from the old nuclear workshop at Kahuta’s Khan Research Laboratory.
When analysed closely, the pictures reveal how a piece of land turned from an empty helipad in 2014 to a possible nuclear centrifuge facility in 2019.
The damning new images have a dark backstory. Research by independent global think tanks have earlier pointed to an under-construction structure at the same facility.
The Nuclear Threat Initiative, Jane’s and the Institute for Science and International Security agreed that the structure, then being built, resembled a nuclear centrifuge, a facility where uranium is enriched into potent fuel for nuclear bombs.
But foreign watchdogs have remained inconclusive as the construction continued at Kahuta.
New satellite images obtained by India Today TV, however, finally confirm that the structure is spread over six hectares and is fully ready.
It’s surrounded by a thick two-meter boundary wall and a camouflaged rooftop, the pictures show in what are the telltale signs of a clandestine nuclear program.
“Satellite images that I saw very clearly indicate the intent that was from that point onwards. I think it is very surprising that the international community hasn’t made enough noise about it,” noted retired Air Vice-Marshal Sunil Nanodkar, when shown the latest pictures.
“The facility is coming up close to the Kahuta facility where there is a lab from which weaponisation of Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities is taking place. I think we need to watch it clearly in terms of what is going to be its capacity. We know it’s a nuclear facility.”
Ravi Kumar Gupta, a former director at the DRDO’s public interface division, echoed similar concerns.
“It shows Pakistan is trying to expand its nuclear-enrichment facility. We cannot ignore the fact that it is very close to the Khan Research Laboratory, the very place where it developed its nuclear bombs and missiles, so it has to be taken very seriously by the world community,” he warned.
Pakistan also has a civil-nuclear program assisted by China. But the Khan Research Facility is not under IAEA’s global safeguards.
With Prime Minister Imran Khan already putting the onus of any future nuclear flashpoint on the international community, experts believe it’s high time the world powers intervened.
“These pictures bring you very close to Iranian and North Korean facilities. If today we say it’s only Iran and North Korea — and not Pakistan — then there is something fishy. I think we need to take it up. We need to raise it on all international forums,” said Vice-Marshal (retired) Nanodkar.
According to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, Pakistan’s stockpiles comprise 90-110 nuclear warheads.
These warheads, defence experts caution, would be chiefly for Pakistan’s land-based nuclear delivery systems, including the medium-range Babur cruise missile, the ballistic Shaheen 1A missile and even the tactical short-range Nasr missile — all pointed solely at India.