Ishfaq Ahmad, D.Sc., Minister of State, SI, HI, NI, FPAS (3 November 1930 – 18 January 2018), was a Pakistani nuclear physicist, emeritus professor of high-energy physics at the National Center for Physics, and former science advisor to the Government of Pakistan.
A versatile theoretical physicist, Ahmad made significant contributions in the theoretical development of the applications and concepts involving the particle physics, and its relative extension to the quantum electrodynamics, while working as senior research scientist at the CERN in 1960s and 1970s. Joining the PAEC in late 1950s, Ahmad served as the director of the Nuclear Physics Division at the secret Pinstech Institute which developed the first designs of atomic bombs, a clandestine project during the post-1971 war. There, he played an influential role in leading the physics and mathematical calculations in the critical mass of the weapons, and did theoretical work on the implosion method used in the weapons.
Since 1960s and onwards, he has been a high-ranking official at the IAEA as part of the Pakistan Government's official mission, working to make the peaceful use of nuclear power for the industrial development. Having chaired the PAEC from 1991 until 2001, he has been affiliated with the Pakistan Government as a Science adviser to the Prime minister on strategic and scientific programs, with the status of Minister of State. A vehement supporter for the peaceful use of nuclear energy, he earned public and international fame in May 1998 when he oversaw and directed PAEC to perform country's first public atomic tests (see Chagai-I and Chagai-II) in a secret weapon-testing laboratories in Balochistan Province of Pakistan. He died on 18 January 2018, aged 87 in Lahore.
Ahmad was born in Gurdaspur, Indian Punjab state of the British India, to a Kakazai family. Ahmad obtained his early education in Jalandhar (Indian Punjab), Faisalabad (then Lyallpur) and Lahore, Pakistan . Ahmad enrolled in the Punjab University in Lahore to study Physics, and earned his undergraduate, B.Sc. degree, in Physics in 1949.
After entering in the post graduate school at the Punjab University, Ahmad obtained his M.Sc. degree, in 1951, after submitting his master's thesis on nuclear physics, which was supervised by Rafi Chaudhry. With his master's degree, he obtained Honours diploma and secured a gold medallion for the recognition of his work in physics. He taught various undergraduate physics laboratory courses at the Government College University while working on fundamental concepts in nuclear physics with his university mentor. In 1954, he won the scholarship under the Columbo Plan fellowship program and went to Quebec, Canada for his doctorate studies.
Ahmad attended the doctorate school at the Université de Montréal and did a two-year-long course in Particle physics and engaged his research on theoretical physics. In 1959, Ahmad obtained D.Sc. in Nuclear physics after submitting his doctoral works on concepts on advancing on particle physics. His thesis were written on fluent French and English language, and reluctantly returned to Pakistan under the terms of Colombo Plan contract. His DSc thesis were supervised by Prof. Pierre Demers and covered a wide range of research in the study of elementary particles by using the deployment of special fine grain nuclear emulsion (AgBr). During his long doctoral studies, Ahmad studied nuclear reaction at the Montreal Laboratory with supervisors and scientists role in the Manhattan Project. Upon his return to Pakistan, he joined the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) as a senior scientist.
In 1952, Ahmad served as a visiting professor of mathematics at the Government College University, before accepting the professorship of mathematics at the University of Paris in 1959. He engaged his research in theoretical physics and obtained a one-year-long research fellowship at the Niels Bohr Institute for Theoretical Physics. In 1962–64, he accepted the professorship in physics at the University of Montreal and the University of Ottawa. In Ottawa, he carried out pioneering research in particle resonance and published important publications in theoretical physics.
Ahmad also performed experiments on nuclear physics at the Meuse Underground Laboratories of France . In 1965, Ahmad published a research report on absorption of Pion's cross sections and the range of complex atom's energy of the pion particle. He recalled his Cern experience in 1994:
In 1994, I visited CERN as chairman of PAEC. The visit took place on the initiative of Pakistani (theoretical) physicist Ahmed Ali, who works at DESY. It brought back good memories of my earlier visits, which date back to 1962 when I came to CERN as a young post-doctoral fellow working at the University Institute of Theoretical Physics in Copenhagen (now the Niels Bohr Institute) to perform a nuclear emulsion experiment. During my visit in 1994, I was fascinated to see the exciting developments in physics that were taking place at CERN, and I had only one wish— that my own country, Pakistan — should somehow become involved in scientific collaboration with CERN, and that our physicists and engineers could also become part of the most advanced, challenging and rewarding scientific endeavour: the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).—Ishfaq Ahmad, 1994, source
In the 1990s, Ahmad played a pivotal role in building closer relations with the CERN, and lobbied tirelessly for PAEC to reach an agreement with CERN. In 1997, Ahmad, as chair of PAEC, signed an agreement with CERN in the up gradation of the CMS detector and the financial contribution worth one million SFr for the construction of eight magnetic rings for the detector. This was followed by In 1998, Ishfaq Ahmad, as PAEC chairman, reached another contract with CERN. The signing of the agreement was followed by the state visit of CERN's director Christopher Llewellyn Smith with whom Ahmad signed a collaborative agreement that provided an entry point for Pakistani's scientist (respectively PAEC) into the CMS collaboration.
In 2000, another treaty between PAEC and CERN was signed that covered the construction of the resistive plate chambers required for the CMS muon system. In Press Conference with Luciano Maiani, Ahmad quoted: "I very much hope and wish that these developments may eventually lead to Pakistan becoming an associate member of CERN."
In 1960, Ahmad joined the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) as senior scientist and was allowed to proceed aborad for post-doctoral work at several of the world's most renowned research institutions. Ahmad published papers in physics at the Niels Bohr Institute at Copenhagen; also at the University of Montreal in Canada as well as the University of Paris – Sorbonne in France . Finally, he settled down for work at the Lahore Centre of the PAEC (PAEC) in 1965. Ahmad held the post of Senior Scientific Officer until 1966. From 1969 until 1971, Ahmad was the director of the Atomic Energy Center in Lahore; and then served as secretary of PAEC from 1967 till 1969. In 1971, Ahmad became director of the Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology in Nilore until 1976. In 1976, he became a Science Member of PAEC, raised to the position of Senior Member in 1988. He became Chairman of the Commission in 1991 and remained its Chairman from 13 March 1991 to 19 December 2001.
While he was Chairman PAEC, Ahmad has been heading the country's delegation at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Austria. At IAEA, he was always very keen for getting technical support and the breaking of the isololation of scientists from third world. On his persuasion IAEA's technical assistance program was adapted to cater for special needs of the developing countries. In this regard a Standing Advisory Group on Technical Assistance and Cooperation (SAGTAC) was established; Ahmad served as the first Chairman of the Group.
After the 1971 war with India, the government sent Ishfaq Ahmad to the Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology (PINSTECH). When Munir Ahmad Khan became the chairman of PAEC and was put in charge of secret atomic bomb project, Munir Khan appointed Ahmad as the director of PINSTECH, where he remained up to 1976. Ahmad served as the director of the Nuclear Physics Division at the secret Pinstech Institute which developed the first designs of atomic bombs, a clandestine project during the post-1971 war. There, he played an influential role in leading the physics and mathematical calculations in the critical mass of the weapons, and did preliminary theoretical work on the implosion method used in the weapons.
As early as in 1976, Ahmad, in a seismic team led by geophysicist Ahsan Mubarak conducted a three-dimensional geometrical survey and made several reconnaissance tours of the suitable areas in Balochistan. After a one-year-long survey, the team found a mountain which matched their specifications. The 185-meter high-rise granite mountain was founded in the Ras Koh region of the Chagai Division of Balochistan, which at their highest point rise to a height of 3,009 metres. Ahmad had long noted that the underground weapon-testing laboratories in the mountain should be "bone dry" and capable of withstanding a ~20 kilotonne nuclear force from the inside. Within a week, further test experiments were conducted to measure the water content of the mountains and the surrounding area and to measure the capability of the mountain's rock to withstand a nuclear test. Once this was confirmed, Ishfaq Ahmed finalised the work on a three-dimensional survey of the area.
In 1976, PAEC succeeded in producing the first local 10kg of Yellowcake and later on produced the 239Pu, the weapon grade plutonium in 1983, which was later tested with the nuclear device.
At PINSTECH, Ahmad produced the first Photographic plate to identify the fissile matter in natural uranium when it is explored. However, due to its classified research, the knowledge of such detector is completely classified. The NPD developed the Thermoluminescent Dosimeter to measure the detection of alpha particles emitted in the decay of radon and thoron gases. Ahmad collaborating with Hameed Ahmad Khan —director of Radiation Physics Division – in the development of CR-39, a type of particle detector. Ahmad gained expertise in nuclear emulsion and developed a first classified nuclear emulsion that provided information about the mass, charge and velocity of the particles producing the track.
A first device was physically manufactured by 1983, and transported to Sargodha air force base for a first test. On 11 March 1983, a first cold test, codename Kirana-I, of a device was secretly carried out at the weapon-testing laboratories built inside the Central Ammunition Depot (CAD) of Sargodha AFB. The test was overseen and conducted by a small team of scientists led by Ahmad, while calculations on quantum oscillator was conducted by Theoretical physics group. Other invitees and attendees included the Munir Ahmad Khan, Samar Mubarakmand, and Masud Ahmad of PAEC whilst others were high-ranking civilians officials of elite civil bureaucracy and the active-duty officer of the Pakistan military.
In 1991, Ahmad was officially approved as the chairman of PAEC by the Prime minister of Pakistan after Munir Khan retired. During this time, he had been a senior scientist and acted as official science advisor to the government of Pakistan on many occasions. In 1998, Ahmad visited Canada to deliver lecture on quantum physics at the Montreal Laboratory when the news of surprise nuclear tests, codename Pokhran-II, of India reached to him. On 16 May 1998, Ahmad cut short his trip and returned to Pakistan to attend meeting with Prime minister Nawaz Sharif, and arranged his meeting with Prime minister on 17 May 1998. The message was bestowed to him by the Joint Headquarters at Rawalpindi, informing him to remain on stand-by a meeting with the Prime Minister. After commencing the meeting with the Prime minister, Ahmad received green signal from the government of Pakistan to conduct country's first test as a suitable reply to Indian nuclear aggression.
Ahmad personally supervised the test preparations as he also suggests the codenames of the tests. On 28 May 1998, the PAEC, sided by KRL and corps of engineers, performed the first nuclear tests, codename Chagai-I which was followed by Chagai-II two days later, on May 1998. Evidently, the fission devices were had contained the boosted-fission HEU nuclear process, that came from the KRL. But, on 30 May, the second test, codename Chagai-II, was performed completely under the command and control management of the PAEC. The fission devices, on a second test, were reportedly had contained the weapon grade plutonium, producing around at ~20kt of nuclear force. All together, the superposition of sum of the forces and the total blast yield was ranged at the nearly ~40kt of nuclear force, according to the PAEC scientific data.
After his retirement from PAEC, Ahmad developed keen scientific interest in the science of climate change. This interest lead to the creation of 2 new centre viz Global Change Impact Studies Centre (GCISC) and Center for Earthquake Studies (CES), both initially attached to the National Center for Physics (NCP) in Islamabad. Ahmad served as elected President of the Pakistan Academy of Sciences and is the lifetime Chairman of the Board of Governors of the National Center for Physics (NCP)— a research institute established on the pattern of International Center for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) at Trieste, Italy.
He also put Pakistan on the governing Council of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Austria, which conducts policy related research using mathematical modeling and simulation tools.
Dr Ishfaq Ahmad's efforts led to the creation of the Global Change Impact Studies Centre (GCISC) in Islamabad where, for the first time, research on policy issues related to Climate Change is being undertaken in Pakistan. The centre, an autonomous organisation under the federal govt, works in collaboration with national institutions such as Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD), National Agricultural Research Centre (NARC), WAPDA and PCRWR etc. The centre has also established collaborative relationship with international institutions, most importantly The Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), Trieste, Italy. GCISC, with Dr. Arshad M Khan as its Executive Director, also serves as the Secretariat of the Prime Minister’s Committee on Climate Change.
After the 8 October 2005, Kashmir earthquake, the Government has decided to establish a Center for Earthquake studies in Islamabad, under the technical direction of Dr. Ishfaq Ahmad. The centre under the directorship of Mr. Shahid Ashraf and Dr. Ahsan Mubarak started work in collaboration with world leading scientists such as Prof. Elchin Khalilov of Azerbaijan. The centre conducts research using a Gravitational Wave Recorder housed at the National Centre for Physics, Islamabad.
Ishfaq Ahmad is internationally known for his long-standing public advocacy for the nuclear power plants for the industrial and socio-economic growth. On international forums, Ahmad deterred the international pressure mounted on Pakistan after conducting its tests, instead highlighted the achievements gained by Pakistan on its nuclear power infrastructure in the country as well as the need of Pakistan's usage of nuclear power for its economical growth. In 2012, Ahmad lobbied for the HMC-3 consortium to be listed as first commercial nuclear power corporation and helped the consortium to acquired its first license to manufacture nuclear materials for industrial power plants.
In 1989, Ishfaq Ahmad was bestowed with first state honour, Sitara-e-Imtiaz by Benazir Bhutto; and Hilal-e-Imtiaz in 1995. In 1998, Ahmad received the highest state honour, Nishan-e-Imtiaz, given to any national of Pakistan, for his services to the country in a graceful state ceremony. The same year, he was awarded gold medallion by the Institute of Leadership and Management in Lahore.
D.Sc. Thesis (UQAM): Structure and Identification of trajectories in fine grain ionographic emulsions, under the direction of Pierre Demers, Faculty of Science, University of Montreal, Canada, 1958.
6. L'INFLUENCE DU DÉVELOPPEMENT SUR LA STRUCTURE DES TRAJECTOIRES ET SUR LE VOILE DANS LES ÉMULSIONS À GRAINS FINS, Canadian Journal of Physics, 1959, 37(12). pp. 1548–1552. (http://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/pdf/10.1139/p59-171)
nucléaire sur la structure des lacunes. Ahmad Ishfaq and Max Morand. Comptes rendus hebdomadaires des séances de l'Académie des sciences, France, 1959, Vol. 1–3 (T248, part 1), pp. 1798–1800 (http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k32002/f1836.image).
1964, Ann. ACFAS, 31, 76–7, 1965.
13. The role of pre-irradiation annealing in changing the track development characteristics of glass track detectors. Nuclear Instruments and Methods, Vol.131(1), 1975, pp. 89–92.
19–24 February 2007, Cyprus (https://www.springer.com/environment/sustainable+development/book/978-3-540-95990-8).