Prof.Dr Ishfaq Ahmed

Ishfaq Ahmad (Urdu: اشفاق احمد; born 3 November 1930; D.Sc., Minister of State, NI, HI, SI, FPAS), is a Pakistaninuclear scientist. He is Chairman of the Board of Governors (BOG) of the National Center for Physics (NCP), Islamabad, and has been Special Advisor to the Prime Minister and Advisor to the Planning Commission of Pakistan.[1]

In 1960, he joined PAEC and was allowed to proceed abroad for postdoc work at Niels Bohr Institute of Physics at Copenhagen; University of Montreal, Canada; University of Paris – Sorbonne, France. Upon return from postdoc, he started work at the Lahore Centre of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) in 1965. Ahmad served at various key positions in PAEC, such as Director Training, Secretary PAEC, Director of the Atomic Energy Centre, Lahore and Director of the Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology (PINSTECH), Islamabad. He became a Member of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission in 1975, raised to the position of Senior Member in 1988 and Chairman of the Commission in 1991. He earned public and international fame in May 1998 when under his leadership PAEC conducted country’s first public atomic tests (see Chagai-I and Chagai-II) in a secret weapon-testing laboratory in the Balochistan Province of Pakistan.[2]

He served as the Chairman PAEC for 10 years and after his retirement in 2001, he became Special Advisor (strategic program) to the then Chief Executive/President and later the Prime Minister of the Country, with the status of Federal Minister. In 2008, his services were placed at the disposal of the Planning Commission (P.C) of Pakistan and he became Advisor (S&T), with the status of Minister of State ( He also served as Deputy Chirman of the P.C from 15-01-2010 to 31-04-2010 ( During his stay at the Prime Minister’s Secretariat and later at the Planning Commission, he developed a strong interest in the science of climate change and established the country first climate change research and policy oriented centre namely Global Change Impact Studies Centre (GCISC) ( He, served as chairman of the national task force on climate change and led the preparation of country’s first climate change policy published in 2010, while he was acting Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission (

Early life and education[ .]

Ahmad was born in Gurdaspur, Indian Punjab state of the British India, to Indian Muslim family.[1] Ahmad obtained his early education from Attock (then Campbellpur), Jalandhar(Indian Punjab), Faisalabad (then Lyallpur) and Lahore, Pakistan. Ahmad enrolled in the Punjab University, Lahore to study Physics, and earned his undergraduate, B.Sc. degree, in Physics in 1949.[1]

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.[2] With his master’s degree, he obtained Honours diploma and secured a gold medallion for the recognition of his work in physics.[1] 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.[3]

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.[3] 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 (Ag-Br). 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 mathematics at the Government College University, before accepting the professorship of mathematics at the University of Parisin 1959.[4] He engaged his research in theoretical physics and obtained a one year long research fellowship at the Niels Bohr Institute for Theoretical Physics.[5] 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.[6]

Ahmad also performed experiments on nuclear physics at the Meuse Underground Laboratories of France.[7] In 1965, Ahmad published a research report on absorption of Pion’scross sections and the range of complex atom’s energy of the pion particle.[8] 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: theLarge Hadron Collider (LHC).

—Ishfaq Ahmad, 1994, source[9]

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.[9] 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.[9] This was followed by In 1998, Ishfaq Ahmad, as PAEC chairman, reached another contract with CERN.[9] 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.[9]

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.”[9]

Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission[ .]

Main articles: Kirana Hills, Ras Koh Hills and Chagai Hills

See also: Chagai-I and Chagai-II

In 1960, he joined PAEC at Sr. Scientific Officer and was allowed to proceed abroad for postdoc work at several world renowned institutions such as Niels Bohr Institute of Physics at Copenhagen; University of Montreal, Canada; University of Paris – Sorbonne, France. Finally, he settled down for work at the Lahore Centre of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) in 1965. Ahmad held the post of Sr. Scientific Officer until 1966.[10]

Ahmad served as Director, Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology (PINSTECH), Islamabad, Pakistan, 1971-1976; Director, Atomic Energy Center (AEC), Lahore, 1969-1971; Secretary, Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), 1967-1969. In 1976, he became a 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 March 13, 1991 to December 19, 2001.

As Member (Tech), PAEC he was responsible for supervising technical work on fuel cycle and the needs for development of nuclear capability. During his tenure as Member and Chairman of the commission, PAEC achieved landmark achievements in the development of the complete fuel cycle capability, spanning from front end to back end.

While he was Chairman PAEC, Ahmad has been heading the country’s delegation at International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Vienna, Austria. In his capacity as head of country’s delegation he served as Chairman of the Board of Governors of IAEA on its turn. 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.

Ahmad was also conscious of the nuclear knowledge preservation needs of the developing countries. In 2002, he presented a paper on Managing Nuclear Knowledge in a meeting of the Senior Officials of IAEA. This talk made a long lasting impact on the IAEA’s program on NKM (Nuclear Knowledge Management) to preserve institutional memory. (

Pugwash Conferences[ .]

Ahmad, on the motivation from Prof. Abdus Salam, has been regularly participating in the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs (

Pugwash Conferences take name from the location of the first meeting, which was held in 1957 in the village of Pugwash, Nova Scotia, Canada, birthplace of the American philanthropist Cyrus Eaton, who hosted the meeting. The mission of the Pugwash Conferences is to bring scientific insight of the catastrophic threat posed to humanity by nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. It draws its inspiration from the Russell-Einstein Manifesto of 1955, which urged leaders of the world to “think in a new way” to renounce nuclear weapons and to find peaceful means for the settlement of disputes between them.

At Pugwash, Ahmad lectured several topics in giving awareness on nuclear power sector of the country for economic uplift. He was a strong supporter of Pakistan’s peaceful nuclear program and highlighted that at Pugwash conferences, however, when India did nuclear explosion and Pugwash did not voice on it, Ahmad decided not to participate in future Pugwash Conferences.

1971 war and atomic bomb project[ .]

After the 1971 war with India, the government sent Ishfaq Ahmad to the Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology (PINSTECH).[10] 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.

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.[11] 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.[11] 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.[11] 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.[11] Once this was confirmed, Ishfaq Ahmed finalised the work on a three-dimensional survey of the area.[11]

In 1976, PAEC succeeded in producing the first local 10kg of Yellowcake at the New Laboratories [12] and later on produced the 239Pu, the weapon grade plutonium at the New Laboratories in 1983, which was later tested with the nuclear device.[13][14]

At PINSTECH, Ahmad produced the first Photographic plate to identify the fissile matter in natural uranium when it is explored.[15] However due to its classified research, the knowledge of such detector is completely classified.[15] 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.[16]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.[17]

A first device was physically manufactured by 1983, and transported to Sargodha air force base for a first test.[citation needed] On 11 March 1983, a first cold test, codenameKirana-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.[18] 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.

Chagai tests[ .]

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.[citation needed] 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.[19] Evidently, the fission devices were had contained the boosted-fissionHEU 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, thesuperposition 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.[20]

Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority[ .]

In his capacity as Member Technical, PAEC, Ahmad was also made Chairman of the National Board for Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection (NSRP), established under PNSRP ordinance 1984. On his recommendation to Mr. Munir Ahmad Khan (then Chairman PAEC), work on the establishment of an independent Nuclear Safety Commission was initiated. A directorate of nuclear safety and radiation protection under Mr. Ahmad (then Member Technical) was established with Mr. Nasim Ahmad (an ex. student of Mr. Ahmad at Govt. College, Lahore) as the Director. The directorate was later renamed as DNSL (directorate of nuclear safety and licensing) headed by Mr. Javed Hashmi. Mr. Ahmad and Mr. Hashmi jointly worked on the preparation of PNRA (Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority) act. His efforts culminated when PNRA act was approved by the Govt. of Pakistan and an independent national nuclear regulatory authority was established in 2001. Mr. Jamshed Azim Hashmi served as first Chairman of PNRA.

Later work and activism[ .]

After his retirement from PAEC, Mr. 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), Islamabad. Mr. Ahmad sereved as elected President of the Pakistan Academy of Sciences and he is life time Chairman of the Board of Governors of the National Center for Physics (NCP) – a Center established on the pattern of Abdus Salam International Center for Theoretical Physics (ASICTP) 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.[21]

Global Change Impact Studies Centre (GCISC)[ .]

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 toClimate 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.[22]

Center for Earthquake Studies (CES)[ .]

After the October 8, 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.

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)[ .]

Having keen interest in the simulation and modelling, Ahmad made a lot of efforts to establish links and research collaboration between Pakistani scientists and highly renowned world institutions such as IIASA ( International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis), Austria. When Ahmad was special Advisor to the Prime Minister, he invited a high level delegation from IIASA to Pakistan. The delegation led by the then Director IIASA, Prof. Leen Hordijk, visited Pakistan in 2006 ( and had a meeting with the PM of Pakistan. As a result, Pakistan became a council member of IIASA with Ahmad being the council member.

At IIASA, Ahmad pursued for the establishment of new research areas such as water resource modelling, etc., which were directly addressing the needs of the developing countries like Pakistan. Ahmad also supported the contribution of experts from Pakistan in the development of GAINS-Asia model by the Air Pollution & Economic Development (APD) group of IIASA.

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.[23][24] 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 powerinfrastructure in the country as well as the need of Pakistan’s usage of nuclear power for its economical growth.[25] 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.[26]

State Honours, Awards and Recognition[ .]

In 1989, Ishfaq Ahmad was bestowed with first state honour, Sitara-e-Imtiaz by Benazir Bhutto; and Hilal-e-Imtiaz in 1995.[1] 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.[1] The same year, he was awarded gold medallion by the Institute of Leadership and Management in Lahore.

  • Nishan-i-Imitiaz (1998)
  • Hilal-i-Imtiaz (1995)
  • Sitara-i-Imtiaz (1989)
  • Gold Medal, Pakistan Academy of Sciences (1998)
  • Gold Medal, Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) (1998)
  • Gold Medal, Society of Engineering, Materials and Metallurgical Engineering (SEMME), Karachi, (1998)
  • Gold Medal, Geological Society of Punjab, (1998)
  • Doctorate of Science Honoris Causa, UET Lahore, 2000.
  • Who’s who in atom, American Institute of Physics (1969)
  • Elected President of the Pakistan Academy of Sciences (2007)
  • Board of Directors of the Abdus Salam Center for Solid State Physics, Government College University, Lahore, 2006–present.
  • Board of Governors of the Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology (GIKI) (2002)
  • Chairman and Board of Governors, Riazuddin National Center for Physics, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad (2001)
  • Fellow of the Islamic World Academy of Sciences (2000)
  • Fellow of the Nuclear Society of Pakistan (1997)
  • Elected fellow of the Pakistan Nuclear Society (1993)
  • Honorary Fellow of the International Nuclear Energy Academy (INEA)
  • Honorary Member of World Innovation Foundation (WIF), UK (2006)
  • Board of Governors of the Government College University, Lahore (1989–1996)
  • Fellow of the Pakistan Academy of Sciences (1983)
  • Fellow at Niels Bohr Institute of Theoretical Physics, Copenhagen, Denmark (1961–1962)
  • Member of the Board of Sponsors of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
  • Member of the Board of Physics Olympiad of Pakistan.
  • An honorary Council Member of International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA).

Fellowships[ .]

Publications[ .]

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.

Research papers[ .]

1. Trajectories structure in fine-grained emulsions, Ann. ACFAS, 23, 111-112, 1957. (

2. Structure des trajectoires dans les émulsions à grain fin, avec Ishfaq Ahmad, 1er Colloque International de Photographie Corpusculaire. Strasbourg, 1957

3. Identification of particles in the fine grain emulsions with Ishfaq Ahmad and Jean-Louis Meunier, 1er Colloque International de Photographie Corpusculaire. Strasbourg, 1957

4. Photometric analysis of the trajectories in ionographic detectors, 25th ACFAS, Univ.Laval,Quebec, Nov.3,1957.Ann.ACFAS,24, 119, 1958.

5. An optical model of the granular structure of trajectories, 2nd Symposium photography corpuscular Montreal 1958. ACFAS, 26th Congress, University of Ottawa, 31 Oct.- 2 Nov. 1958.


7. The ionographic detector considered a pulse source, PC II, PUM, 314- 316, 1959.

8. Influence du diamètre moyen des grains vierges dans une émulsion 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 (

9. Influence of the gelatin on the granular size distribution of silver bromide during the production of ionographic emulsions, PC III, PUM, 128-134, 1964. (

10. Ionographic emulsion made with a mixture of polyvinyl alcohol and albumin, ACFAS, 32nd Congress, Univ. Ottawa, Ontario, Nov. 6-8, 1964. 1964, Ann. ACFAS, 31, 76-7, 1965.

11. Ionographic emulsions loaded with diamond powder, ACFAS, 32nd Congress, Univ. Ottawa, Ontario, November 6 to 8,

12. (3,3) Resonance in the Nucleus – Progress of Theoretical Physics, Journal of the Physical Society of Japan. Vol 35 (3), 1966 (

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.

14.‘Seasoning’ of latent damage trails in lunar samples, Nature 254, 1975, pp 126–127.

15. Anisotropy in the track development properties of various crystallographic planes of natural quartz crystals, Radiation Effects, Vol. 30(3), 1976, pp 159–165.

16. The use of Alpha Sensitive Plastic Films (ASPF) for uranium/thorium exploration and prospecting. Radiation Physics and Chemistry, Vol. 11(6), 1978, pp 295–297.

17. The measurement of radon and thoron by solid state nuclear track detectors, Radiation Effects, Vol. 35 (1-2), 1978, pp 35–43.

18. Track structure and identification of particles in nuclear emulsions. Nuclear Instruments and Methods, Vol. 173(1), 1980, pp 15–20.

19. Some important considerations in the use of solid state nuclear track detectors for radon gas concentration measurements. Nuclear Instruments and Methods, Volume 173 (1), 1980, pp 183–189.

20. Field experience about the use of alpha sensitive plastic films for uranium exploration. Nuclear Instruments and Methods, Volume 173(1), 1980, Pages 191-196

21. CERN and Pakistan: a personal perspective, 2003 (

22. Managing nuclear knowledge in a developing country: Pakistan’s perspective. Int. J. Nuclear Knowledge Management. Vol 1(1-2), 2004, pp 90–97.

23. MANAGING NUCLEAR KNOWLEDGE: ROLE OF IAEA AND ITS TECHNICAL COOPERATION PROGRAMME, International Conference on Nuclear Knowledge Management Strategies, Information Management and Human Resource Development, 7–10 September 2004, Sacley, France. (

24. DEVELOPING COUNTRIES AND THE CHALLENGE OF CLIMATE CHANGE, International Conference on Environment: Survival and Sustainability. 19–24 February 2007, Cyprus (