THE MAN WHO DESIGNED PAKISTAN’S BOMB- Spurred by Salam

When Riazuddin—that was his full name—died in September at age 82 in Islamabad, international science organizations extolled his contributions to high-energy physics. But in Pakistan, except for a few newspaper lines and a small reference held a month later at Quaid-e-Azam University, where he had taught for decades, his passing was little noticed. In fact, very few Pakistanis have heard of the self-effacing and modest scientist who drove the early design and development of Pakistan’s nuclear program.

Riazuddin never laid any claim to fathering the bomb—a job that requires the efforts of many—and after setting the nuclear ball rolling, he stepped aside. But without his theoretical work, Pakistan’s much celebrated bomb makers, who knew little of the sophisticated physics critically needed to understand a fission explosion, would have been shooting in the dark.

A bomb maker and peacenik, conformist and rebel, quiet but firm, religious yet liberal, Riazuddin was one of a kind. Mentored by Dr. Abdus Salam, his seminal role in designing the bomb is known to none except a select few.

Spurred By Salam

Born in 1930, Riazuddin and his twin brother, Fayyazuddin, were often mistaken for each other. Like other lower middle class Muslim children living in religiously divided Ludhiana, they attended the Islamia High School run by the Anjuman-i-Islamia philanthropy. The school had no notable alumni, and was similar to the town’s single public and two Hindu-run schools. Nothing suggested that these two boys squatting on floor mats, laboriously writing Urdu alphabets on wooden tablets, were to become anything special.

In March 1947, as the creation of Pakistan from India drew close, communal riots engulfed the Punjab. Neighbor turned against neighbor; the soil was drenched with blood as entire populations migrated from one side to the other. Riazuddin’s family entered Pakistan from the Wagah border in early October. The brothers enrolled at Lahore’s MAO College but soon moved to Government College, where they performed well but not spectacularly so. A teacher suggested that Riazuddin study physics rather than engineering. Riazuddin agreed, and Fayyazuddin followed.

More:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.