On May 28, 2008, religious and political parties in Pakistan marked the 10th anniversary of Pakistan's 1998 nuclear tests, conducted in response to India's nuclear tests earlier that month. The day was celebrated as Yaum-e-Takbeer, or day of praise to Allah.
Pakistan's nuclear bomb has been called "the Islamic bomb," both at home and abroad; Pakistan is the only Islamic nation to have this distinction.
On this 10th anniversary, Pakistan's eminent nuclear expert Pervez Hoodbhoy, professor of nuclear physics at Islamabad's Qaed-e-Azam University, published an article assessing the impact of the nuclear bomb on Pakistani society over the past decade. In it, Prof. Hoodbhoy argued that Pakistan's nuclear bomb has deepened a culture of violence in Pakistani society, making the country extremely insecure and frightened of its own future, and considered how Pakistan could become a normal and more secure nation.
Pakistan's Biggest Loss From the Bomb Was Not Material – But Psychological and Political
"[Ten years after the bomb], Pakistan has turned out to be a country that is badly insecure and frightened of its future. Sorrowful faces see bunkers everywhere; soldiers, machine guns in hand, are lined up behind sandbags; there are roadblocks and barbed wires on roads. In Baluchistan and the Federally-Administered Tribal Districts, helicopter gunships and fighter jets fly in the skies.
"Today, we are in a state of war on many fronts – but the bomb provides us with no security on any front. On the contrary: If we are faced with such a situation, the bomb is a cause of it. And at least because of it, no hope can be seen for a reprieve. Today, on this day in this month [28th May], let's see the present in the light of the past.
"Some people say that India forced Pakistan to conduct nuclear tests. In reality, this could be the truth. India misled about its 'peaceful' nuclear program; India first conducted the tests; then it issued threats to Pakistan; and Pakistan felt hurt... But as soon as Pakistan pursued the same path, it forgot that it began with hesitation and provocation. Immediately [following the explosion] the bomb created its own factors.
"After the Chagai [Hill tests], Pakistan changed. The nation, full of excitement and enthusiasm, was unhappy with the international sanctions [previously] imposed on it but these did not bother it much. In these circumstances, [what followed was] the heavy burden of weapons-program expenses, and an exodus of capital from the country... "
"The Bomb Changed the National Mindset"
"And one historical incident resolved this problem. After the U-turn [in Pakistani policy on the Taliban] after 9/11, the West came running, filled the government coffers and saved the state from breaking up.
"However, the biggest loss was not material, but psychological and political. Its consequences cannot be eliminated... The bomb changed the national mindset; most importantly, it changed the way the military and politicians thought, spoke and acted....
"For diplomats and politicians, the bomb was a guarantee that the world would bring India to the negotiating table [on the Kashmir issue]. In the current of this success, the Pakistani leadership adopted a strategy of confrontation vis-à-vis India, i.e. jihad [in India], by means of Islamic fighters who had the protection of Pakistan's nuclear weapons."
"What Followed was the Kargil War"
"What followed was the Kargil war. This secret attack [on Indian Kashmir] in the early days of January 1999 was the brainchild of General Pervez Musharraf, and it was he who put it into operation.
"But to blame Pervez Musharraf, which is fashionable these days, is like sacrificing the truth for an easy explanation. In the state of this nuclear trance in Pakistan you could hardly find a voice against this [military] campaign [in Indian Kashmir]; six months passed, 1,000 lives were lost; the nation had to face a humiliating defeat."
"The Bomb Promoted a Culture Of Violence Which… Acquired The Form of a Monster with Innumerable Heads of Terror
"But the Kargil war was just one consequence [of the bomb]. The most significant reality was that the bomb promoted a culture of violence which, at the hand of circumstances, acquired the form of a monster with innumerable heads of terror; and today Pakistan is badly in its grip. Many mujahideen who thought that the Pakistani army and politicians had cheated them vowed revenge, and turned their guns on their patrons and trainers.
"In the cities of Pakistan, body parts began to be seen scattered on roads; the targeting of schools and colleges by the Taliban and the beating to death in the streets of dacoits are all the consequences of this...
"In the near future, Pakistan faces real danger, not from India but from terrorism and fundamentalism. The rule of the state has already disappeared from some regions of the country. Terrorists repeatedly target Pakistani officials, soldiers, and their wives and children – to the point where not even their fortress-like residences are safe. It is understandable that the officers are frightened of driving government vehicles, of wearing uniforms, or of stopping at traffic signals."
It Was a Lie That the Bomb Could Provide Security to Pakistan
"That the bomb could provide security to Pakistan, its people, or its armed forces was a lie. The bomb cannot help us recover those areas occupied by people like [Taliban commanders] Baitullah [Mehsud] and [Maulana] Fazlullah. Because of this bomb, we can definitely destroy India and be destroyed in response. But its function is limited to this. The benefits of the bomb that have been spoken about were only empty talk.
"Some people may ask: Didn't this bomb save Pakistan from being swallowed up by India? Even if India had wanted to, it would have been impossible. The conventional weapons Pakistan used to deploy for its defense were sufficient. If the powerful U.S. could not swallow up Iraq, then there is no way that a middle-ranking power like India could occupy Pakistan, which is four times bigger than Iraq.
"Some people think that due to the bomb Pakistan gained prestige in the world. There is no doubt that after the nuclear tests, Pakistan's popularity grew in Muslim nations and came crashing down sharply afterwards. According to a recent BBC survey, Pakistan is one of the five nations which are disliked the most: Iran [was disliked by] 54 percent [of respondents], Israel [by] 52 percent, Pakistan [by] 50 percent, the U.S. [by] 48 percent, and North Korea [by] 44 percent. It's of no use whether due to nuclear weapons a nation gets prestige or loses it."
"But the Bomb Was Unsuccessful Even in Uniting the Nation"
"It was thought that the bomb would unite Pakistan, would nurture a nation free of inequality. In 1999, Yaum-e-Takbeer was marked nationwide, and this was its exact message.
"But the bomb was unsuccessful even in uniting the nation. Today, it is true that many people in Punjab province want the bomb even now. But the unhappy people in Sindh province want water and jobs, and they accuse Punjab of snatching all that was theirs.
"The Baluch people are angry that the site of the atomic test [Chagai Hills] where radioactivity is all around is on the soil of Baluchistan province. Many [Baluch] people have taken up arms to demand that the Punjabi [Pakistani] Army leave them alone. The Pashtun people [of the North West Frontier Province] who are caught in the war between the Taliban and the U.S. and Pakistani forces are longing for protection from [the attacks of] the Pakistan Air Force and the U.S. predators."
"How Can You Convince Your People And The World That This Country Has A Future?"
"Now the question is, how and in what way Pakistan can be made a normal and more secure nation? How can you convince your people and the world that this country has a future?
"The threat looming over Pakistan is internal. Therefore, there is no point in producing more atomic war heads, or conducting more nuclear tests, or buying more U.S.-made F-16 fighters and French-made warships."
"The Path To Progress Is To Nurture Durable And Active Democracy"
"The problems of Pakistan's security cannot be resolved by modern and better weapons. A nation that has no education worthy of the name and can barely find something to eat cannot be secure. An active state cannot discriminate against its citizens over race, religion, faith, or economic status. Power and violence cannot create a sense of citizenship.
"The path to progress is to nurture durable and active democracy; to develop the economy for the sake of peace rather than for preparing for war; to establish a federation in which the grievances of provinces can be effectively dealt with; and to create a society that respects the rule of law."