The missile research and development program was the Pakistan Ministry of Defence secretive program for the comprehensive research and the development of guided missiles. Initiatives began in 1987 in a direct response to equivalent program existed in India and was managed under the scrutiny of the Ministry of Defence in close coordination with the other related institutions.
On moral grounds, no chemical weapons were developed as the program focused towards developing the short to medium range missiles with a proper computer guidance system. The project started in 1987 and has since spawned several strategic missile systems capable of carrying both conventional and nonconventional payloads. In its early stage, the Hatf missiles were made feasible as well as developing the Ghauri missile program. Further development led to the introduction of ballistics and cruise missiles by different scientific organizations in the 2000s.
Planning and initiatives for the program began in 1987 based on an intelligence estimates on the existence of the missile program of India, which was taking place under the Indian DRDO. Memoirs written by former chief of army staff General Mirza Beg, the eventual planning of the program began in 1987, with many of the organizations associated with the Ministry of Defence. The program was delegated to Space Research Commission, DESTO, KRL, and PAEC, all individually working on the program under the MoD and the MoDP.
President Zia-ul-Haq had held several national security meetings with the MoD and MoST officials to give crucial authorization for the launch of the program in 1987. The major motivation for this program, according to a military official, was to counter the India's ingeniously developed Prithvi system, first successfully tested in 1988. Only Hatf project was made it operational in 1987–88. Restriction and strict technology transfer monitored by the MTCL by the numbers of Western countries and the United States slowed the efforts for the program. In a direct technological race with India, the program was focused more towards ingenuity.
The program was aggressively pursued by Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's government faced with the missile gap with India with apparent testing of Prithvi-I missile in 1990 and strongly advocated and lobbied for the program's feasibility in the 1990s. From 1993 to 1995, the program focused on developing the comprehensive short- to medium-range missiles systems to deter missile threat from India. The program picked up speed under the control of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and its existence was kept under extreme secrecy. Crucial decisions were taken by Benazir government and technologies were developed under administration ultimately resulted in the successful development of both short– and medium-range systems.
Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is described as a political "architect of Pakistan's missile technology" by Emily MacFarquhar of Alicia Patterson Foundation. At the leftist convention held in 2014, former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani said, "Benazir Bhutto gave this country the much-needed missile technology".