"Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong; they are the ones to attain felicity".
(surah Al-Imran,ayat-104)
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User Name: AQKhan
Full Name: Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan
User since: 8/Jul/2009
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Wednesday, July 15, 2009
By A Q Khan

Today's article is in reply to the many requests I receive to write about specific topics. The two I have chosen vary greatly, but both were of great importance in my life. The first is more about Bhopal. Many readers seemed to have been fascinated by the history of the Begums of Bhopal and the beauty of its lakes, parks and wildlife. Many readers wanted to know more about the tolerance and religious harmony that prevailed there.

Usually the Begum/Nawab appointed a Hindu as prime minister and many Hindus held important high posts. In schools, boys and girls were segregated, but Hindus and Muslims studied together. At college level there was co-education. Our Hindu mathematics teacher, Mr Pirbhu Dyal, used to take the Islamiat class if Mr Amin, the Islamiat teacher, was absent. There was no compulsion, but many Hindu scholars also became great scholars of Persian and Urdu. We used to go to the big temple near our house for weddings and Hindus attended nikah ceremonies of their friends in mosques. There were never any communal riots. Although Muslims in Bhopal were religious-minded, they were not religious zealots. Before I migrated to Pakistan, I was not aware of the word "Shia." There were Syeds and Sunnis. Moharram was observed with sobriety "“ no films were shown for 10 days and no marriages or other functions were held throughout the month. Syeds and Sunnis intermarried "“ they prayed together, they fasted together, they lived together in harmony. My family's decision to migrate to Pakistan was based on perceived better future prospects.

It was not until I came to Pakistan in 1953 that I saw ethnic violence. I was shocked that somebody could behave like Maseelma Bin Kazzab and get away with it so easily. History has shown that the British were to thank for much of this mischief by applying the well-known practice of divide and rule. Those who were patronised became loyal British citizens and never accepted Pakistan as an Islamic state. Right from the beginning they indulged in intrigues, anti-state policies and ridiculing and sabotaging any national policy or project that could make Pakistan strong and viable.

This brings me to the second topic I have been requested to write about "“ some of the issues raised by detractors of Pakistan's nuclear programme. Some of those most critical of the programme have a bureaucratic background and hearsay knowledge, with very little scientific, strategic or educational knowledge on the subject. Some are even reported to be CIA-paid agents. If the critics had witnessed the massacres of 1947, the ignominious defeat in the 1971 war and the naked aggression of the Indians, they would talk differently. I saw trains loaded with murdered Muslims entering Bhopal. I experienced the humiliation during migration.

With a good educational and professional background, and after having lived in Europe for 15 years where I had excellent career opportunities, I give all that up with a very specific purpose "“ to turn Pakistan into a nuclear power for deterrent purposes. Naturally, I could not have done it alone. Without the hard work, competence and dedication of my colleagues and staff and support from Mr Bhutto and subsequent rulers and army chiefs, nothing would have been achieved.

Let me answer a few specific claims made by critics:

1. Nuclear weapons do not act as a deterrent.

About 25 years ago, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said that nuclear weapons had given Europe permanent peace. Did not Indian home minister L K Advani taunt us after India's nuclear tests that we should learn to walk with our heads down and that India would occupy Kashmir by force? Has India dared to do so? Other than Gen Musharraf's misadventure in Kargil, there have been no major skirmishes since.

2. The Americans did not use nuclear weapons in Vietnam and the Russians did not use them in Afghanistan, so why do we need them?

The Americans used nuclear weapons in Japan only after they had been attacked in Pearl Harbour and even this retaliatory use was (and is) heavily criticised from many sides. In Vietnam they were the aggressors. Though they used brutal force in Iraq and Afghanistan, falsely accusing them of aggression, even then they could not find moral justification to use tactical nuclear weapons, not even against North Korea. The same applies to the Russians in Afghanistan. The world at large, and even their own public, would never have accepted such an immoral act.

3. Large amounts of money were spent on the nuclear programme which Pakistan could ill afford.

Everyone knows we had to start from scratch, so costs included buildings, equipment, salaries, housing, medical care, education, transport and utilities. Despite all these expenses our budgetary requirements were between $20 to $25 million per year (at that time $1=Rs9.90), which, in later years, included the production of sufficient numbers of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. In the first 15 years we spent about $300 million. Let us compare what this means in practical terms. Our annual budget was almost half the cost of a modern fighter aircraft and less than the loss incurred to the air force when one of its aircraft crashed. Three French submarines cost almost $3 billion. Imports of Chinese tanks are worth $900 million. That of RBS-70 anti-aircraft missiles, $200 million, F-16 at $1.5 billion and JF-17 aircraft $1 billion. I could give many more examples, but these will suffice here. It seems paltry to criticise expenditure on the nuclear programme when loans worth Rs52 billion were written off by President Musharraf. Loans that were mostly given without proper collateral and to those with "specific" connections. If, as claimed, expenditure on the nuclear programme is considered to be "wasted," this so-called "wastage," taken over a period of 25 years, is still less than half of that written off on bad loans. Ask Mr H U Beg, Gen Arif, Gen Beg and Gen Kakar if this is not true. They knew how much we were spending.

4. There were no spin-offs from the money spent on our nuclear programme.

Although, admittedly, industrial/educational spin-offs did not really happen in a way that they should have done, thanks to the inefficiency of the bureaucrats, there were many gains in other areas, such as:

-- Acquisition of highly advanced technologies and the creation of a scientific culture.

-- Provision of employment to almost 10,000 people, including a large number of highly qualified, foreign-trained scientists and engineers.

-- Training facilities provided to hundreds of scientists and engineers at foreign universities.

-- Production of conventional weapons for the army (anti-tank missiles, anti-aircraft missiles, multi-barrel rocket launchers, anti-armour depleted uranium munition, laser rangefinders, mine-clearing line cords, etc.) worth hundreds of millions of dollars at very economical rates, allowing the army to become self-reliant.

-- The saving of millions of dollars in foreign exchange on army procurements.

-- Recognition and respect for scientists and engineers within the country for the first time.

I leave it to the public to decide whether it has been a bad deal for Pakistan and whether it should be termed as a "futile" decision on the part of Mr Bhutto, Mr A G N Kazi, Mr Agha Shahi, Mr Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Mr Aziz Ahmad to start this programme, and Gen Zia, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, Mr Nawaz Sharif, Gen Aslam Beg and Gen Waheed Kakar to see it through to its logical conclusion.

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