Ishfaq Ahmad (Urdu: اشفاق احمد; born 3 November 1930; D.Sc., Minister of State, SI, HI, NI, FPAS), is a Pakistani nuclear physicist, associate professor of high-energy physics at the National Center for Physics, and as of present, the current science advisor to the Government of Pakistan.
A versatile theoretical physicist, Ahmad made significant contributions in the thoeretical 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.
Early life and education
Ahmad was born in Gurdaspur, Indian Punjab state of the British India, to Indian Muslim family. After completing his matriculation from a local high school in Gurdaspur, Ahmad and his rest of the family settled in Lahore, Pakistan, as a follow up of the Indian partition. Ahmad enrolled in the Punjab University and studied 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 Tahir Hussain. With his master's degree, he obtained Honours diploma and secured a gold medallion for the recognition of his work in physics. He taught 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 to and went 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 work in physics. His thesis were written on fluent French and English language, and reluctantly returned to Pakistan under the terms of Colombo Plan contract. 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.
Academia and CERN
In 1952, Ahmad served as a visiting professor of undergraduate 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. Prior to 1960s, Ahmad also performed government-sanctioned physical experiments on nuclear physics at the Risø Laboratory and the Meuse Underground Laboratories of France. In 1965, Ahmad joined the senior staff of CERN and conduct pioneering research on π particle. He published an investigated report on absorption of Pion's cross sections and the range of complex atom's energy of the pion particle.
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, CERN 1994., source
In 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 observer state at CERN."
After his retirement from PAEC, Ahmad joined the faculty of Institute of Theoretical Physics of Quaid-e-Azam University as an associate professor of physics. He would later taught a two semester course in nuclear engineering at the Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences. In 1999, he was one of the co-founders of the National Center for Nuclear Physics (NCP) at the campus Quaid-e-Azam University and has served its first chair of its board of governors. As of current, he is serving as a Council Member of IIASA which specialisation in mathematical modelling and simulation.
Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission
Ahmad had been affiliated with the PAEC since 1960, initially working as a "senior scientist", a position he held until 1966. He was brought up as secretary of PAEC in 1967 and accepted the directorship of atomic energy center at Lahore in 1969. At PAEC, Ahmad closely collaborated with Abdus Salam, while independently working on the theories of proton decay and beta decay. He further engages his research in Path integral formulation (by using the methods of vector calculus). Ahmad later contributed in proton chain reaction, and built the first Ion track along with Naeem Ahmad Khan and Noor Muhammad Butt.
1971 war and atomic bomb project
After the 1971 war with India, the government had sent Ishfaq Ahmad as a chief scientist at 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 director of the Nuclear Physics Division in 1972.
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 Province. 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.
Upon returning to Pinstech, Ahmad began to complete the mathematical calculation for the Critical mass of the 235U and the multiplications of nuclear fission in an exploding of an atomic weapon. In 1976, the Nuclear Physics Division succeeded in producing the first local 10kg of Yellowcake at the New Laboratories. Later, on the division later concluded its first production of the 239Pu, the weapon grade plutonium at the New Laboratories in 1983 which was later tested with the nuclear device.
At Pinstech Laboratory, Ahmad produces the first Photographic plate to identify the fissile latter 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 to 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.
Later work and activism
State honours and recognition
In 1989, Ishfaq Ahmad was bestowed with first state honour, Sitara-e-Imtiaz by Benazir Bhutto; and Hilal-e-Imtiaz in 1995 which was honoured to him by Prime minister of Pakistan. In 1998, Ahmad received the highest state honour, Nishan-e-Imtiaz, given to any nationals of Pakistan, for his services done to the country in a colourful state ceremony. The same year, he was awarded gold medallion by the Institute of Leadership and Management in Lahore. In 2000, Ahmad was conferred with honorary doctorate in engineering physics by the Punjab University.
Global Change Impact Studies Centre
Dr Ishfaq Ahmad’s efforts has led to the creation of the Global Change Impact Studies Centre (GCISC) in Islamabad where, for the first time, research on Climatic Change is being undertaken in Pakistan. GCISC serves as the Secretariat of the Prime Minister’s Committee on Climate Change. After the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, the Government has decided to establish a Center for Earthquake studies in Islamabad, under the technical direction of Dr. Ishfaq Ahmad.
Advocacy for Nuclear power
Ishfaq Ahmad is internationally known for his long-standing public advocacy for the nuclear power plants for the industrial and socioeconomic 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.
Awards and honours
- Nishan-i-Imitiaz (1998)
- Hilal-i-Imtiaz (1995)
- Sitara-i-Imtiaz (1989)
- Gold Medal, Society of Engineering, Materials and Metallurgical Engineering (SEMME), Karachi, (1998)
- Gold Medal, Geological Society of Punjab, (1998)
- Who's who in atom, American Institute of Physics (1969)