Nuclear maestro departs | By Muhammad Usman


Nuclear maestro departs

DOCTOR Abdul Qadeer Khan was a divine gift and returned to his heavenly abode in early hours of 10 October 2021, leaving the nation shocked, pained, grieved and impoverished.

It was an act of providence for Pakistan, out of its infinite reservoir of benefaction to deal with pal of extreme adversity befallen upon us; the debacle of 1971.

Its grim implications could have kept us down and out for times to come if power equation between Pakistan and India emerged, would have remained still.

With its dismemberment, Pakistan was half, Indian regional arrogance was burgeoning and the world was quickly in agreement that over lordship of the region now belonged to India.

Every now and then, world’s big powers sounded Pakistan to kowtow India as other smaller countries do in its neighbourhood, being short in means to make it a perfect match with it.

As a result of obtaining scenario, Pakistan was precariously placed. Coupled with this, India was also scaling giant strides for acquisition of nuclear capability.

After break-up of Pakistan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was the in charge of Pakistan. He possessed a profound sense of history.

He exactly knew that a country cannot live with dignity in such a tight spot until it produces the equalizer. Being enormously difficult conventionally, he saw symmetry in acquisition of nuclear deterrence.

This clarity of mind did not dawn on him in the aftermath of the tragedy of 1971 rather, it was incubating in his mind when he was a Minister in Ayub Khan’s cabinet or even before.

His famous rallying cry was “We (Pakistan) will eat grass, even go hungry but we will get one of our own Atom Bomb) – we have no choice” nevertheless, now it assumed a sharper edge and greater degree of urgency. He was desperate to acquire it to balance the power equation.

In Jan 1972, he virtually begged Nuclear Bomb from Pakistani scientists, at science conference in Multan but much to his dismay and anguish, no concrete assurance could come to fore because Pakistan neither had the expertise nor infra-structure to pursue its path meaningfully. In May 1974, as expected, India exploded its first nuclear bomb.

For obvious reasons, it dramatically tilted the balance of power heavily in Indian favour. India proclaimed that its test is purely for peaceful purposes but for Pakistan it was perplexing and indigestible.

No nation could live on a good will of another nation. It needs to have a tit for tat. Bhutto’s anxiety and desperation touched new heights but could only grumble with nothing substantive in hand. Despite his efforts, there was yet no breakthrough which could be relied upon.

Here comes a metallurgist, meet Bhutto and assures him of his expertise to build the nuclear bomb. Bhutto did not question how a metallurgist could do this single-handedly.

He believed his self-assurance and readily entrusted him the task “Impossible”. Probably he saw through glint in his eyes, spark in his soul and fire and steel in his heart to deliver the nation of agony of living on the mercy of a cunning and mean enemy.

He stood to the test of rare time singularly and produced what the nation wanted “Atom Bomb” while writing a breathtaking and scintillating chapter in history of critical mass. The world knows him as Doctor A Q Khan.

With nuclear capability of Pakistan, dream of Indian hegemony is dead. Though at times, out of its sheer lunacy and misplaced hubris, it attempted adventurism but ultimately, had to sneak back into own shell while finding a resolute Pakistan ready with its credible nuclear deterrence.

Pulwama incident was the latest episode of its agonizing serial. Notwithstanding its lobbing/bidding worldwide, India is bracketed with Pakistan when it comes to practical because it is loaded with real explosive consequences, not of superficial content.

It is anathematic for India to be equated with Pakistan, being lesser in population by seven times and four times in size. The nuclear weapon is qualitative margin which has bridged the gap comprehensively.

Besides India, other countries, adversarial to Pakistan, also have to take its nuclear factor in calculation whenever, finalizing their macabre schemes against Pakistan. This definitely keeps insanity in check.

From 1976 to 1984, Pakistan’s nuclear program raced through its infancy to maturity and mesmerized the world.

It was no less than a magic feat by a country which was unable to make a needle. Its account resembles with as something of a fairytale.

It is an unparalleled and huge accomplishment in so short time and could only be done by a man who on the inside had something aflame. Yes, it was inferno inside Doctor AQK, inflamed and fuelled by humiliating events of 1971 and nuclear explosion of India, posing consequential threat to security of Pakistan.

This caused him to leave a respected job and a bloated style of life abroad and jumped into unchartered waters undeterred.

The fear of unknown could not scare him to take the plunge and produced what was unknown in the past of critical mass then by dints of patriotism, ingenuity of mind, singleness of purpose, industry and improvisation.

On receiving tip off about him, he instantly became a “wanted man” by forces inimical to Pakistan but he continued uninterrupted fearlessly as his chosen cause for him was larger than his life.

The nation gave him a blank cheque and he returned it with a stamp of unassailable national security. No amount of gratitude and romance could requite what he has done for this nation.

Only Allah could reward him. As a nation, we also indebted to his family for accompanying him painstakingly in his arduous odyssey for exclusive cause of Pakistan. May Allah rest him in eternal peace at the highest rank, Ameen.

— The writer, a retired Lt Col, is a senior columnist based in Islamabad.

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