ISLAMABAD - Pakistan had acquired nuclear technology in 1983 and was capable of conducting full-scale nuclear explosions on a week notice but the fast unfolding developments in the region kept the country away from becoming a nuclear power till it finally happened in 1998.Veteran nuclear scientist and architect of Pakistan’s nuclear programme Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan said this during a detailed conversation with this journalist on Sunday in connection with Pakistan’s 14th anniversary as nuclear power (today).Recalling the bygone times, Dr AQ Khan revisited some pertinent happenings concerning Pakistan’s nuclear programme and the challenges that evolved it. “We had become a nuclear power by fall 1983 and early 1984. I had informed the then President General Ziaul Haq that we were in a position of launching full-scale nuclear explosions on a seven-day official notice,” the nuclear scientist recalled. “But due to the Afghan Jihad and a number of related factors, our plan got delayed as General Zia was reluctant and we finally achieved this milestone in 1998.”Fourteen years back on the same day (May 28), Pakistan had conducted five nuclear explosions followed by one more nuclear test a day after, in response to India’s five nuclear tests in the same month, three on May 11 and two on May 13.“We would never have let India conduct nuclear tests before us had our intelligence agencies shared with us the Indian plans to go for nuclear tests. I wanted Pakistan to carry nuclear tests before India because we were ready since 1983 against Indian nuclear build-up,” Dr Khan said.Panic had gripped Pakistan’s ruling elites when India had gone for the nuclear explosions, “Our government was shaken. They were not expecting this kind of step from India. The rulers did not have the nerve to respond to these tests in a befitting manner, so I and my team had to intervene,” the scientist further recalled.Thereafter, Dr Khan said, he and his team members at Kahuta Research Laboratories (KRL) warned the government of quitting the KRL if Pakistan was not to conduct the nuclear tests. “This worked. We finally became a declared nuclear power. Despite the government’s overwhelmingly defensive reaction to Indian nuclear explosions, some government functionaries played a commendable role to get us go for the tests,” he said appreciating the role of former Foreign Minister Gohar Ayub Khan, former Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmad Khan and the late Anwar Zahid, Principal Secretary to the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Fourteen years on, Pakistan is not the country, Dr Khan says, he had ever dreamt of. “There’s terrorism, corruption, exploitation, injustice and what not. You name any evil and it’s here. I could never have imagined even in my worst nightmares that all this would happen here with the country of Quaid-e-Azam. There’s this subtle dichotomy between what the ruling elites are and what they pretend to be. While the poor die of poverty, the rulers throw away millions in decorating their wardrobes with expensive suiting and valuables. This is not Quaid’s Pakistan. The rulers have to mend their ways before it’s too late and people get at their necks.”Dr Khan, who returned from Karachi the previous day, said the simple life styles of the representatives of Karachi business community impressed him to a great deal. “They are the ones who contribute billions in the national exchequer but lead modest lives unlike our rulers who gobble billions from the people’s money and live like royal kings.”On Pakistan’s defence, the nuclear scientist said, the national security is in safe hands and there is no threat to the country’s nuclear programme from “any force on the planet.” “By the grace of God, we have made Pakistan’s nuclear programme invincible. No force on this planet could dare sabotage it. It’s highly safe and secure. The only threat to our sovereignty comes from within-from the corrupt and puppet rulers. There’s no external threat. I urge the people to elect sincere and dedicated leadership in the next election. Don’t stay at homes, come out and vote for patriot people when you have to. That’s the only way we can rid ourselves of this corrupt lot of vested interests” On the possible resumption of Nato supplies, Dr Abdul Qadeer khan said, in 1970s and 80s, Pakistan was not dependent on foreign aid. “But excessive reliance on big powers has landed us in the sorry state of affairs we are grappling with today. The ruling elites want the Nato supplies to get resumed within no time so that they can fill in their already overloaded pockets. We should decide what’s in our best interest-that serves the people of Pakistan best.”