Critical Review of Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb

Critical Review of Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb Feroz Khan’s Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb tells the story of Pakistan’s nuclear program and its army’s intelligence. Feroz Hassan Khan writes this story with the experience and background as a 30-year Pakistani Army member who played an important role in Pakistan’s security policy on nuclear weapons. This book tells us the story of the Pakistani government, using scientists and the military power to acquire nuclear weapons.

The story goes into great detail explaining how the nuclear weapons were obtained and how their nuclear program was organized.

This book is a must read for anyone wanting to know more information about the Pakistani nuclear program. Khan’s background in the Pakistani Army makes this story a very interesting read. Khan retired as the director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Affairs with the Pakistani military. He spent the final years of his career “dedicated to the nuclear program” and used this insight of information and analysis to help him write this story (Khan x).

Khan also uses important interviews with “key civilian leaders, military officers, and nuclear scientists” to aid his work (Khan xi).

However, Khan also mentions that many people were wary of entering an arena of the politics of this book out of fear that their information would be distorted. These people denied interviews or asked that their information be used without “direct attribution” and wished to stay anonymous within the book (Khan xii).

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Khan mentions in the preface, “interviews conducted for this research would not have been possible without the approval of former president Pervez Musharraf, and with the consistent support of Lieutenant General Khalid Kidwai”(Khan x”).

It is interesting to consider hat Khan may have not been able to write this book if it wasn’t for his relationship by marriage to General Pervez. Did Khan receive permission and support while writing this work those others would have not received? This is something very interesting to consider when thinking about the politics of the spread of military information. Khan organizes this book into five main sections each of which contain various subsections.

Each of these sections helps to explain, “how and why Pakistan managed to overcome the wide array of obstacles that stood between it and nuclear weapons” (Khan 1). The irst part of the book describes Pakistan’s beginnings and its emerging rivalry with India. Pakistan was barely able to survive until the US discovered them as a strategic ally whose location could help contain the communist threat. As the United States’ ally, Pakistan became fascinated with atomic energy and became determined to become educated in the subject.

Khan describes the fact that Pakistani leaders were at first very reluctant in pursuing a nuclear weapons program. The development of nuclear technology began to be very promising but the war with India caused a downhill spiral in development and the relationship with the US. This section ends wltn Bnutto coming to power wnlle snowlng tne results 0T tne war In Inala. we learn that Bhutto also tells Pakistani nuclear scientists to begin nuclear weapons development. The second section continues with the development of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program.

It examines the steps that were taken by Pakistani leaders and scientists to develop a strong nuclear development program. The development of the fuel and a system of uranium enrichment technology was a long and slow process for the Pakistani’s requiring black market trade of restricted materials. Khan egins to describe the grey areas of nuclear trade that “ran like a nuclear Wal- Mart”. Khan tells of dedicated people that were determined to go through political and technical hurdles in the underworld of nuclear trade to get the proper materials.

He also explains three significant factors that handicapped Pakistan which created the necessity for the secretive trade networks. First, “no other country with similar nuclear ambitions faced such stringent nonproliferation barriers” (Khan 162). Meaning that the Pakistani nuclear program had the longest road to travel to achieve success in terms of nuclear weapons. Second, because of economic burdens and political unrest, Pakistan was left vulnerable and had little to no leverage of its own and depended heavily on international institutions and aid.

Combined with the aid needed from foreign institutions the third factor that handicapped Pakistan was the “deterioration of regional security’ (Khan 163). Pakistan faced potential threats on two fronts and did not posses the economic or military strength to support themselves in the face of an attack. The final section of part two discusses the innovation that came along with the development of nuclear weapons. This included things such as beam welding and ring magnet machines.

The Pakistani nuclear program also received valuable materials from foreign groups such as the Dutch company Van Doorne Transmissie and the British firm Emerson Electric (Khan 168). These items were very important for the success of the nuclear program and included high frequency inverters and hardened steel tubes. These attempts by A. Q. Khan to obtain very important materials sounded bells in many intelligence agencies around the world resulting in state regulations and controls that were put in place to “prevent Pakistan nd others from seeking and exploiting weak national regulations.

However, when one company backed down there were always others to replace them. Khan mentions the eagerness of European companies to buy from them, “they literally begged us to buy their equipment. We bought what we considered suitable for our plant and very often asked them to make changes and modifications according to our requirements (Khan 171). Once the materials were acquired the Pakistani nuclear program leaders needed plutonium to finish their creation. The Pakistani’s wanted to use nuclear power plants as sources of plutonium and turned o China to help them.

On September 15, 1986, the two countries “entered into a new nuclear cooperation agreement that promoted peaceful uses of atomic energy’. This allowed China to send two nuclear reactors to Pakistan. These reactors were light water reactors and are not good sources of weapons-grade plutonium. Khan mentions that Islamabad “always had plans to construct an indigenous reactor and reprocessing facility in order to produce plutonium for strictly military purposes and intended that all externally supplied facilities for civilian use would be under IAEA safeguards”.

The final pages of the section discuss the ins and outs T tne OITTerent pnases 0T proauctlon 0T tne Tuel cells ana necessary components Tor the creation of a nuclear weapon including the involvement of more European firms in the export of new materials and nuclear plants. Part three of Eating Grass discusses the weaponization of Pakistan’s nuclear devices and its delivery system. Khan argues at the beginning of chapter 11 that the three military crises with India, although diffused, Zulfiqare Ali Bhutto’s decision to acquire a nuclear weapons capability’ .

He suggests that the crisis and near wars in the 90’s and 2000’s reinforced a belief in the “invincibility of nuclear weapons” (Khan 207). Here we see a shift in the ideological character of Pakistan from a modest state for Muslims to an Islamic state breeding the politics of Islam. The US continued to be involved in the nuclear politics of China and Pakistan. This led to the US’s recognition of the People’s Republic of China and the return to power of “Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s Congress Party’ to India. (Khan 208). This greatly influenced the security policies and nuclear programs in Pakistan.

The United States view on nuclear nonproliferation was beginning to take control of its actions across the world. In September 1979, the US withdrew the A-7 aircraft deal with the warning that economic assistance would also be cut off if Pakistan continues with its nuclear program. Despite the warnings the production of fissile material was completed and the final stage of production was the creation of a working delivery system. This became the toughest stage for Pakistan because of the global barriers that were being put in place to limit nuclear weapons trade with strict requirements.

The US gave Pakistan many warnings to Pakistan about their responses to India’s weapons acquisitions. At the time Pakistan was easily influenced because of the economic dependence on foreign countries. With the continuation of the Pakistani nuclear program the US halted f-16 shipments and froze nearly “$300 million in military supplies to Pakistan”. The relationship between the United States and Pakistan had never been so harsh. This fueled the passion and need for a Pakistani nuclear weapon and the Pakistani program turned to finding an alternate possibility for missile delivery.

Pakistan ooked to a space-science research program called SUPARCO that had been researching ballistic missiles capabilities in space. Army Chief General Aslam Beg asked SUPARCO to develop a ballistic missile and after a short while they were able to produce two missiles named “Hatf-l and Hatf-ll”. Pakistan tested these missiles in February 1989 and declared them a success despite a max range of 300 KM and being very inaccurate. However, the strict regulations being put into place and intense diplomatic pressure to halt the program, Pakistan faced “eating grass or giving up the bomb”.

On May 1 1, 1998 India tested two nuclear weapons, which took Pakistan by surprise. General Jehangir Karamat ordered an immediate assessment of the situation and called a meeting to decide Pakistan’s response. After much discussion the leaders in Pakistan came to the conclusion that they were in a catch-22 in terms of responses they could offer. “If Islamabad responded in kind to the test, it would Join India in the proverbial “dog house” and would be the target of sanctions.

This would cripple Pakistan’s already weak economy, which in turn would further weaken its conventional defenses, leaving it ulnerable to coercion and exploitation. On the other hand, if Pakistan did not respond to the test, the credibility of its nuclear deterrent would be undermined and could encourage Inala to take aggressive actlon In Kasnmlr ana PaKlstan” ( After much debate and many attempts by the US to stop the Pakistani military from testing a missile, the Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif gave the green light for a nuclear test.

The PAEC wanted to explode 6 different types of nuclear bomb but could not afford to so only two were chosen to for tests while the other four would be detonated by trigger. The Pakistani military took every precaution to make sure that surveillance flights and satellites could not track anything that was going on concerning the testing of the nuclear weapons. This included making tunnels and structures out of adobe to look like normal buildings. There were also crews of people that would clean and cover up tracks from vehicles driving to the tunnels and bunkers.

If Pakistan knew they would be punished for the test of nuclear weapons by the US why would they through such a great deal to hide them? The fact that Pakistan went through such great hurdles to test these weapons shows the heavy dependence n foreign aid and support that they required to survive. (The support and aid Pakistan was given from foreigners will come up again at the end of the review). At “exactly 3:16 p. m. Pakistan Standard Time, Arshad prayed “All Praise be to Allah” and he pushed the button” (Khan 281).

This triggered the detonation of all the bombs and that night Pakistan announced that the total yield of all the tests were forty kiloton (Khan 281). The test was a success and Pakistan became the 7th nuclear-capable state in the world. Part 4 begins with chapter 15 and tries to identify why nearly three ecades of United States led nonproliferation policies failed to stop Pakistan from creating and testing a nuclear weapon. Clinton became very active with test ban treaties in Pakistan and voiced his Judgment to them. Clinton set out five benchmarks for Prime Minister Sharif to adhere to.

These five conditions included: ” unconditional adherence to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), significant constraints on missiles, including a commitment not to deploy ballistic missiles, termination of unsafeguarded fissile material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT), adoption of nternational norms and policy guidelines to control the export of dangerous technology, and  resumption of direct political dialogue with India to settle Kashmir and other disputes”. Clinton also noted that if Pakistan linked the US measures with a resolution on Kashmir, it would be a “prescription for diplomatic paralysis”.

The US also proposed the “minimal deterrence posture” and explained it to Pakistan as a way to put pressure on India. Major General Zulfiqar Ali Khan became angry when he read this proposition but Feroz Khan himself calmed im down and provided talking points for the general to discuss with the US. Khan, to assure the reader that Pakistan can handle nuclear capability, mentions the Pakistani leaders inexperience with nuclear weapons. He argues, “Pakistan’s leaders at the time of the crisis were too inexperienced in nuclear matters to fully exploit the protection of its nuclear umbrella.

The meeting between Zulfiqar Ali Khan and Einhorn went well but Ali Khan voiced his opinion on a few matters. His main argument was that some of the US’s requirements were unrealistic and Ali Khan did not want to compromise Pakistani national security. As terrorism hit the United States Clinton saw Pakistan as an important ally and needed “cooperation with Islmabad to deal with A1-Qaeda in Afghanistan”. However, Musharraf and Islamabad’s community of people believed that the United States had a “utllltarlan vlew 0T PaKlstan” ana Olan’t expect mucn 0T anytnlng Trom tnem.

PaKlstan would rather stick to the course of preserving its nuclear capability and security interests. Before continuing any further negotiations with the United States, Pakistan waited for the Clinton administration to leave and to find out who would take office or the following term before continuing any more negotiations. As George W. Bush took office, hope was restored to Islamabad. Pakistan believed that because Bush “was not an enthusiast of arms control issues” that nuclear control would not be the centerpiece of the affairs between the two states.

After the attacks of 9/1 1 the United States started “Operation Enduring Freedom” and Pakistani airspace was controlled by the US in their attack on Afghanistan. This worried the Pakistani’s because of the secret missile silo’s and other sensitive areas that the US did not know about. They did not want the US to accidently discover one of these sites and put the Pakistani military and nuclear program under scrutiny. The US launched two more operations after Operation Enduring freedom but to no success. The US then started to shift the focus of their attention from Afghanistan to Iraq, which was a relief to Pakistan.

India, however, was angered over the fact that the Pakistani military was supporting the US in their operations of in Afghanistan. On December 1 5, 2001 , “India’s Cabinet Committee on Security decided to mobilize for war” against Pakistan. Pakistan began to mobilize its troops against the Indian movements. At the same time that there was a Hindu-Muslim battle in the Indian State of Gujarat, the US launched Operation Anaconda, which distracted the Pakistani military enough to where they did not have their full attention on the battles going on in India.

After this conflict in India there were times of peace and times that the military was on full alert. Despite the ever-changing military environment the Pakistani Nuclear program “took its final shape during the period of conflict. By 2002, Pakistan had established its air and land nuclear forces and created ballistic missile units”. The final part of Eating Grass shows us what nuclear issues and challenges Pakistan is dealing with today. The main debacle in Pakistan is between Musharraf and A. Q.

Khan and the repercussions of the Khan networks. Feroz Khan tells us “A. Q. Khan continues to cause national embarrassment with routine diatribes in the media especially against former president Musharraf, and by fghting battles in Pakistani courts”. This has greatly affected the Pakistani image and is now considered “grossly irresponsible”. Feroz Khan ends his story by saying that the Pakistani people have a good reason to be proud of their capabilities. They secured, built, and managed one of the most advanced technologies in the world.

There is no other achievement that compares to the undertaking that went on for forty years including the trial and almost destruction of their nuclear program. Khan describes Pakistan today as a country that stands divided between “moderates with a liberal outlook of a modern state, and conservatives who have a vision of a theocratic state” (Khan 390). He ends his story on a sad note, describing the Pakistani nation devastated by a terrible flood. Nearly one third of the country was submerged displacing 25 million people and decimating two hirds of crops and other food sources.

Combined with massive unemployment, inflation and corruption, Pakistan is turning “into a state of stagflation” Throughout the book Khan acknowledges the fact that Pakistan received vital resources Trom outs10ers sucn as tne utcn D , Brltlsn, ana Frencn. In cnapter 8 describes the grey market, which was used to acquire restricted items and technologies. Khan stresses Pakistani ingenuity but at the same time suggesting that this production and creation of a nuclear weapon would not have been possible without illegal trade activities between foreign countries.

This skews the ending of the book where Khan expresses that the creation of the nuclear bomb was their greatest success. How can the greatest success of a nation be the reliance on a foreign companies economic and material goods to support your failing nuclear programs? Khan’s account of the Pakistani nuclear weapons program is very detailed and contains some very secretive information. The fact that Khan was an insider during this time makes his story even more believable. However, for readers who do not have knowledge of Pakistani nuclear history, the ability to determine fact from iction is heavily blurred.

Khan’s expertise and emotional interest for the Pakistani nuclear program could affect the way vital information is portrayed to change the view of Pakistan’s part in the nuclear nonproliferation age. Despite all this, Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb, tells a wonderful story of the history of the Pakistani nuclear program and the trials and tribulations that it went through to become a nuclear state. Bibliography Khan, Feroz. Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb. Stanford University press, 2012. cook.

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Critical Review of Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb. (2019, Mar 19). Retrieved from

Critical Review of Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb
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