By S. M. Hali
The 13th anniversary of “Yaum-e-Takbir”, commemorating Pakistan’s crossing the nuclear threshold, passed uneventfully, apart from an attack in Bajaur Agency in which eight persons were killed and dozen other injured. Numerous national and international events have taken place since 1998 but the detractors of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons’ program have not forgiven Pakistan for committing the cardinal sin of going nuclear. As early as 1979, the United States cut off aid to Pakistan under section 669 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA) on the plea that Pakistan had broken the taboo of going nuclear and had secretly begun construction of a uranium enrichment facility. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan changed the circumstances and aid to Pakistan was restored since the US needed Pakistan as an ally to contain and defeat the USSR in Afghanistan.
Throughout the eighties, there were various reports in the international media, blackballing Pakistan’s nuclear program. Israel, India and elements in the US joined forces to criticize and target Pakistan. During the same period, the book “Islamic Bomb” and a BBC documentary by the same title were released, citing Pakistan’s nuclear weapons endeavour.
The US government continued to turn a blind eye due to its strategic need of Pakistan. In 1985 the Pressler Amendment [section 620E(e) of the Foreign Assistance Act] was approved by US government, necessitating a total cut-off of U.S. aid to Islamabad unless the US president can certify that Pakistan does not possess a nuclear weapon, and that continued US aid will significantly decrease the probability of its developing one in the future. President Reagan and his successor, Bush (senior) continued providing the waiver, but the moment the USSR was routed from Afghanistan, the US government invoked the Pressler Amendment, imposing embargos on Pakistan.
More trouble and further sanctions were fated for Pakistan, when it indulged in Kargil adventurism. Pakistan became a pariah state, when the military removed the democratically elected Mian Nawaz Sharif from the seat of power and installed General Musharraf. Pakistan’s status changed overnight with 9/11 and General Musharraf’s complete submission to the US. From the “most sanctioned”, Pakistan became the “most allied” non-NATO ally and bent backwards to accommodate US demands of providing its bases for the US war on terror, housing US servicemen, CIA operatives and even committing Pakistan’s Armed Forces in the effort. When the going got tough in Afghanistan, pressure started mounting on Pakistan to “Do More”; one of the leverages being used was Pakistan’s nukes. First it was the disclosure of nuclear proliferation through “Khan Network”, followed by a media tirade on the security of Pakistan’s nukes and the threat they posed if they fell in the grasp of terrorists, followed by organized and well choreographed attacks on Pakistan’s defence installations like the GHQ, Naval War College, Air Force facilities and most recently, PNS Mehran.
There is a method in the madness because Pakistan has traversed this route earlier as mentioned above. The “Khan Network” was used as a millstone around Pakistan’s neck and pressure has been applied whenever the need arose to blackmail Pakistan into submission and action. It has become crystal clear through recent events that not only is Pakistan’s nuclear program used to pressurize Pakistan, but the very nukes are in danger of being confiscated through international and US legislation on the subject. According to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the five officially declared nuclear weapon states US, Russia, UK, France and China are signatories to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Four more states, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea, have developed nuclear weapons outside the treaty. Iran has a nuclear power program, which is alleged to hide a nuclear weapons program.
South Africa destroyed its nuclear weapons in 1991, while Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan, inherited nukes from USSR but have now either destroyed or sent them back to Russia under US/UN pressure. To build a case against Pakistan, besides its military installations, an attack on a nuclear facility is imminent, so that it can be demonstrated that Pakistan is incapable of guarding its nukes. It is imperative for Pakistan to take steps to thwart and frustrate such a conspiracy. Some Pakistani pacifists believe Pakistan should hand over its nukes for international safekeeping, without realizing that if Pakistan had not possessed nukes, it would have been devoured by India and a number of other detractors, decades ago. Only the people of Pakistan can decide the future of the nukes, for which they have sacrificed and are ready to guard with their lives.