The nation proudly celebrates and rightly so 28 May every year as ‘Youm-e-Takbir’ to commemorate the historic development on this day in 1998 when Pakistan restored the balance of power in the South Asian region by successfully testing its five nuclear devices in response to a series of nuclear explosions by India.
The day highlights the vital contribution of the decision (to go nuclear) to the national defence and speaks volumes about the professional acumen of Pakistani scientists, engineers and technicians, who mastered the world’s most complicated technology despite internal limitations and external challenges.
This year Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif announced ten-day celebrations on completion of 24 years of nuclear tests, declaring “Na Jhuky thay na Jhuken gay” (didn’t kneel down, wouldn’t kneel down) as the theme of the day as the then Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif decided to make Pakistan the world’s first Muslim nuclear power in the face of intense pressure by some influential powers, which tried carrot and stick policy to dissuade him from going nuclear but he chose to uphold the national security interests of the country.
Pakistan has long been using nuclear technology for peaceful purposes but it was forced to adopt the path of military application of the technology due to various factors.
India’s explosion of the nuclear bomb in 1974, and subsequent explosions of 1998 were the most critical factors but the loss of East Pakistan, the continued Indian intransigence and its creeping occupation of Jammu and Kashmir created an environment of fear and insecurity for Pakistan, which forced the then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to develop a nuclear weapons program to discourage further Indian belligerence.
On receiving reports about India’s nuclear programme, Bhutto is reported to have said “Pakistan will fight, fight for a thousand years.
If India builds the bomb… we will eat grass, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own… We will have no other choice”.
There were apparently insurmountable challenges, the most important being the fuel cycle, as unlike India no other country was willing to cooperate in this field and even France backed out of its commitment for supply of a reprocessing plant at an advanced stage of its implementation under pressure from the United States.
Bhutto assigned the task of enrichment of uranium to the legendary scientist Dr.Abdul Qadeer Khan, who successfully accomplished the mission with the help of a team of committed scientists, engineers and technicians.
Such was his contribution to the country’s nuclear programme that Dr.A.Q.Khan became an eye-sore for enemies of Pakistan, who made him the target of their scathing and malicious propaganda throughout his life.
Similarly, Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) also came up to the expectations of the nation by designing and developing the design, which made the nation proud and sent a strong message to the enemies of the country when the device was successfully tested in the famous mountains of Chaghai in Balochistan.
On this day, the entire nation expresses its gratitude to all those who contributed their share to the development of the country’s nuclear programme.
National media, especially this newspaper, was also in the forefront of efforts to defend and project the nuclear programme in its true perspective and the founding Editor-in-Chief of Pakistan Observer late Zahid Malik authored books on the subject giving the most authentic account of the genesis and evolution of the programme.
Pakistan always believed in peaceful co-existence and has no aggressive designs against any country of the world but it faced formidable threats to its survival because of imperialist and expansionist designs of India ever since creation of an independent Pakistan in 1947.
Pakistan has limited resources and cannot afford to engage in an arms race with India, which is amassing all sorts of weapons from all parts of the globe besides closer cooperation from world powers in nuclear and missile technologies.
In this backdrop, Pakistan’s nuclear programme was designed as deterrence and defence analysts say it made full-scale war with India redundant.
It is a matter of satisfaction that despite discriminatory attitude of the world powers and imposition of crippling sanctions, from time to time, successive Pakistani governments and national leaders opted to keep the programme relevant by supporting required research and development.
However, as the traditional notion of security is changing, there is realization among strategists, analysts and economists that to ensure comprehensive human security, Pakistan must ensure economic security, energy security, food security and environmental security for its masses.
All this can only be achieved if there is political stability, continuity of consensus economic policies and programmes and continued focus on initiatives like China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that has the potential to change the socio-economic landscape of the country.