Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy: The father of Pakistan’s Nuclear Programme

You might be asking yourself, why in the world should someone oie_2872139cWpjHHRmfeature a politician on a science blog, especially in a series called Pak Science Legacy; well the reason is because this politician happened to bring together the finest minds of Pakistan in an endeavour to keep up with the world in the fields of science. It was the need of the hour. The Manhattan project in the United States and the replication of that process in the Soviet Union had started a race to see who would beat who in a battle of wits. Knowledge, not military strength, would shape the world in the next century. And Suhrawardy knew that better than most.

Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy
Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy

Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy was appointed as Prime Minister of Pakistan under Major General Iskander Mirza in 1956.

Maj. Gen. Iskander Mirza
Maj. Gen. Iskander Mirza

He stayed for only thirteen months (Iskander Mirza’s government had four different PM’s in a tumultuous period of almost four years) but in that time he established a society of scientists that would go on to lead Pakistan in the race for knowledge. This was the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC).

Pakistan’s scientific community at the time was small but prestigious. Many of them have been covered here in the Pak Science Legacy series. They weren’t necessarily nuclear scientists but they brought expertise to the table that Pakistan needed at the moment. And Suhrawardy had the foresight to begin harnessing that expertise so that a foundation may be laid for the future. Dr. Salimuzzaman Siddiqui was appointed as Suhrawardy’s Science Advisor and Dr. Raziuddin Siddiqui headed the research in to the alternative use of nuclear energy.

Saleemuzzaman Siddiqui(third from left) and Raziuddin Siddiqui (third from right)
Saleemuzzaman Siddiqui(third from left) and Raziuddin Siddiqui (third from right)

At the time Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy’s aim was to harness nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, in order to generate power. But further down the line, his decision was to become the basis for Pakistan’s nuclear bomb programme. He also laid the foundation of the KANUPP-1 power plant in Karachi in 1956 on the recommendation of the PAEC. The project went in to cold storage for more than a decade after Suhrawardy was removed as Prime Minister but was finally completed in 1972 under the Bhutto administration.KANUPP1

Suhrawardy also established nuclear medicine through the PAEC. Research labs that sponsored radiochemistry and biochemistry projects began working on cures for cancer and eliminating tumours.

Also, during the 60s, with the establishment of SUPARCO, Pakistan’s now forgotten space agency, the PAEC, lent it’s support to the newly born organisation and helped launched the first Pakistani rockets in to space.

Suhrawardy resigned in 1957 under immense political pressure from his peers, especially the President Iskander Mirza. But his most lasting legacy would see Pakistan’s place in the world irreversibly changed.

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