ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States, Syeda Abida Hussain has revealed that Pakistan had started its nuclear programme in 1983 during former military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq’s time and it was completed in 1992.

In an interview with a private news channel, Hussain, also an ex-cabinet member of Nawaz Sharif’s government, said she was appointed as ambassador to the US on the recommendation of the then
president Ghulam Ishaq Khan during the first premiership of Nawaz Sharif after she lost the election.

The former ambassador said that during her stint as Pakistan’s envoy in Washington, most of her communication used to be with President Ishaq Khan. “Khan had tasked me to keep the Americans engaged in talks till Pakistan completes its nuclear program in 18 months,” she said.

According to Hussain, the US administration including diplomats, senators, and congressmen repeatedly advised Pakistan against the execution of the nuclear program.

When asked about the source of communication between her and Ishaq Khan in absence of modern tools, Hussain said she had visited Pakistan five times to get briefings from the president during the 18 months. “I used to avoid using the phone knowing that it could be tapped,” she said.

Since the nuclear program was under the purview of the president, Hussain said most of her conversations used to be with him, and not the prime minister. “This is also because President Ghulam Ishaq Khan did not trust anyone,” she maintained.

When asked about whether Nawaz felt bad for bypassing him and directly communicating with the president, she said: “He never revealed it.”

Hussain also said that Al Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden had supported and funded ex-PM Nawaz Sharif. “He (Osama Bin Laden) supported Mian Nawaz Sharif at one time. However, that is a complicated story. He (Osama) used to extend financial assistance (to Nawaz Sharif),” Hussain said, recalling that at one time Bin Laden was popular and liked by everyone including the Americans.