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A historic overview of Pakistan’s nuclear program

28th May will always be a historically relevant and important day for Pakistanis around the world. On this day precisely 17 years ago, Pakistan conducted five successful nuclear tests, showing off to the world its capability to attack the enemy with deadly precision. As the nation beamed with joy and celebrated with fervour, the global community was not particularly impressed. According to Prime Minister Nawaz, then United States President Bill Clinton had personally telephoned him and asked Pakistan not to conduct its nuclear tests, yet the Islamic Republic still went ahead with its program.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif conducts press conference after the successful nuclear test

After suffering a humiliating loss to India in 1971 and one half of the Islamic country seceded from itself, Pakistan knew it direly needed nuclear weapons. The program was initiated initiated by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was founding father of the country’s largest political party, Pakistan Peoples Party. In a speech, Bhutto had famously declared that, “If India builds the bomb, we will eat grass or leaves, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own.”

Bhutto founded Pakistan’s nuclear program

It was also Bhutto who recruited Pakistani scientist from Netherlands, Abdul Qadeer Khan to head the nation’s nuclear program. Pakistan’s program acquired sensitive uranium enrichment technology and expertise throughout the years. Dr. Khan was a German-trained metallurgist who brought with him knowledge of gas centrifuge technologies that he had acquired through his position at the classified URENCO uranium enrichment plant in the Netherlands. As India conducted the successful test of its first ever nuclear device test in 1974, Pakistan’s nuclear program gained strength, momentum and motivation.

Bhutto’s government was toppled by General Zia in 1977, and the military dictator reversed many of his predecessor’s policies ( as adversaries are bound to do). Though Zia transformed Pakistan’s societal trends overnight from being liberal to conservative, he dared not interfere or discontinue the nuclear program Bhutto had initiated. In 1985, Pakistan crossed the threshold of weapons-grade uranium production, and by 1986 it is thought to have produced enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon.

Successive governments after Bhutto’s did not discontinue the nuclear program

On 28th May 1998, in response to India’s second successful nuclear test, Pakistan responded in kind to her hostile neighbour to the east. Five successful nuclear tests made it clear to the world that Pakistan was a force to be reckoned with and not taken lightly in matters of defence and military might.

Ras Koh Hill in Chagai District- where the tests were conducted
Site of the nuclear test.
PM Nawaz jubilant after Pakistan successfully conducts its nuclear tests

Though Pakistanis have hailed nuclear scientist Dr.Abdul Qadeer Khan, who is credited with equipping Pakistan with the nuclear bomb, there are many who disapprove of the nation’s capability to strike the enemy with the weapon of mass destruction. Pakistan and India, the two hostile neighbours who have fought multiple wars against each other, are quite similar when it comes to the arduous challenges the two countries face. Pakistan is a third world country with plenty of education, electricity, food and shelter woes that it must adhere its attention to. However, tense relations with India have led to a disproportionate spending on Pakistan’s budget, which should otherwise cater to the country’s civil problems highlighted above. activists of the slogan ‘books not bombs’ have definitely called for an end to the arms race between both nuclear armed countries of South Asia.

Dr.Abdul Qadeer Khan- the brains behind the project

However, Youm-e-Takbir will be celebrated in Pakistan and also by Pakistani spread across the globe. The day sparks patriotism no doubt as every Pakistani knows had it not been for our nuclear weapons, keeping India at bay would have been difficult and almost impossible.




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