The honourable Dr. Blair corrected himself and said that he meant that Pakistan was on the path of disintegration and he said that he was fearful because of the state of Pakistan’s economy. My obvious retort was that the United States was passing through one of the worst economic crunches in its history since the crash of 1929, why did he not conclude that the US is on the path of disintegration? He replied that the leaders of Pakistan were corrupt, to which my response was that a few corporate leaders and some politicians in the USA were reportedly corrupt and that is how they brought about the current economic meltdown.

By S. M. Hali

Countdown to Zero is a documentary film released in 2010 which argues that the likelihood of the use of nuclear weapons has increased since the end of the Cold War due to terrorism, nuclear proliferation, theft of nuclear materials, weapons, and other factors.The documentary film released in theatres in the US in mid 2010 and in London on June 21 this year to coincide with the summit of Global Zero, the organization, which is the driving force behind the concept of destroying all nuclear weapons. The film features interviews with leading statesmen and experts, including Tony Blair, Jimmy Carter, Mikhail Gorbachev, Robert McNamara, Pervez Musharraf, Valerie Plame Wilson and J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the Atom Bomb. 

I happened to attend a security seminar in London last week, organized by Thomson Reuters Foundation, where a special screening of the film was arranged for the participants. Dr. Bruce Blair and Matthew Brownintroduced the film and fielded questions after the screening. Dr. Bruce Blair is Co-Coordinator of GLOBAL ZERO and President of the World Security Institute and an expert on US and Russian security policies, specializing in nuclear forces and command-control systems. The duo explained that the idea for the film occurred after watching Al Gore’s Nobel Peace Prize winning documentary about global warming, An Inconvenient Truth. More than 84 people were interviewed for the film, including Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy, the peacenik and a former Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz from Pakistan. The film discusses the perils of nuclear weapons, the horror it wreaked in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the dangers that lurk ahead if terrorist organizations get hold of nuclear weapons.

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In all fairness, various nuclear and radiation accidents at Chernobyl and the USA were discussed critically, including nuclear weapons disasters involving the United States Air Force bombers, in which they either jettisoned their weapons with nuclear warheads or crashed or disappeared without a trace. When it came to Pakistan, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan network was flogged mercilessly, while a video footage was shown with Osama bin Laden negotiating with some unnamed Pakistani engineers, trying to obtain a nuclear weapon. In the Q&A session, Dr. Bruce Blair expressed concern that Pakistan was on the brink of disintegration and in case its nuclear weapons fell into the hands of the Al-Qaeda or Taliban, it would be a major disaster. I took on Dr. Blair and asked him what were the parameters on which he had based his conclusion that Pakistan was on the brink of disintegration.

The honourable Dr. Blair corrected himself and said that he meant that Pakistan was on the path of disintegration and he said that he was fearful because of the state of Pakistan’s economy. My obvious retort was that the United States was passing through one of the worst economic crunches in its history since the crash of 1929, why did he not conclude that the US is on the path of disintegration? He replied that the leaders of Pakistan were corrupt, to which my response was that a few corporate leaders and some politicians in the USA were reportedly corrupt and that is how they brought about the current economic meltdown.

When Dr. Blair was speechless, I explained to him that far from being on the brink or path of disintegration, the Pakistani nation is very resilient and was passing through a temporary crisis, but will certainly bounce back. As far as the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons is concerned, there is an operational and fully active nuclear command authority, which has put in place checks and balances that will ensure both the safety and security of Pakistan’s nukes. I further added that nuclear weapons are not akin to tennis balls, which can be hidden under one’s armpits and stolen and later lobbed at targets like hand grenades. They required a sophisticated technical knowhow and wherewithal, which was far beyond the capacity of the ragtag militia comprising the Al-Qaeda and Taliban. I did point out to him the danger of nuke thefts lurking in India, where Naxalite insurgents are effective in 22 states, posing a clear and present danger since they are operating in the Red Corridor of India, which also houses India’s nuclear facilities and the Al Qaeda are reported to have approached the Naxalites to steal nukes from the Indian arsenal for them. Dr. Bruce was unaware of this threat.

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Countdown to Zero may be a noble idea but will only be effective if all the nuclear weapon states agree to destroy each and every nuclear weapon in a credible manner simultaneously.

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