Youm-e-Takbeer is celebrated every year in Pakistan on 28th May to commemorate the historic nuclear tests in 1998, which made Pakistan the seventh nuclear nation of the world and the first Muslim state equipped with the nuclear arsenal. Youm-e-Takbeer, which literally means the “the day when Allah’s name was exalted” is celebrated with great zeal across the country and is a reminder of the struggle and great odds that Pakistan overcame to build a nuclear weapon, despite starting with a weak technological base and facing strong countervailing pressure from the West.
The decision to develop nuclear technology in Pakistan was first contemplated during the time of General Ayub Khan with the help of Professor Abdus Salam expertise. The program was formally initiated however, during the time of Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto after a meeting of physicists and engineers at Multan in January 1972, shortly after the loss of East Pakistan in 1971. India tested its “device” for the first time in 1974 which gave Pakistan’s nuclear program an altogether new momentum.
The arrival of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan in 1975 considerably advanced Pakistan’s efforts to develop nuclear technology who was put in charge of building, equipping and operating Pakistan’s Kahuta facility, established in 1976. After many setbacks due to heavy pressure exerted by the US and other western authorities, Pakistan finally crossed the threshold of weapons-grade uranium production by the year 1986 and was believed to have produced enough fissile material for developing a nuclear weapon. Pakistan continued advancing its uranium enrichment program, and according to sources, the nation had acquired the ability to carry out a nuclear explosion in 1987.
Pakistan’s Nuclear Tests:
When India first tested its nuke in 1974, it had already gone to war with Pakistan three times. However, in 1994 when they tested their medium range Prithvi missile it was taken as a clear indication and warning that their missile and nuclear technology could be used against Pakistan. In June 1997, India started deploying missiles on their western border. It was a period of great tension with troop movement happening on both sides of the border and many believed that war between the countries was imminent.
On 11th may 1998 India tested three of its nukes and on 13th may tested yet another two nukes to show their strategic strength in the region. On March 18th, after the explosions, the Home Minister, L.K. Advani, called on Pakistan to “realize the change in the geo-strategic situation in the region”. He warned Pakistan against trying to intensify a separatist Muslim insurgency in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir. The intervening period between when India shocked the world by conducting the tests and when Pakistan made the decision to carry out the tests was strife with anxiety and demoralization. No one really knew how things would turn out.
After much deliberation and in spite of extreme pressure from the West, not to respond in kind, the then Prime minister of Pakistan, Mian Nawaz Sharif finally took the decision to test the Pakistani nukes for balancing the power in the region. Amid slogans of “Allahu Akbar”, Pakistan conducted its first test on 28th May, 1998, by detonating five of its primary nuclear weapons at 1030 GMT at the Ras Koh hills in the Chaghai District of Baluchistan. Later on 30th May, 1998, yet another test was carried out in the same area. Shortly after the first test, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made a memorable address to the nation and said that the five tests by India had made the action “inevitable”. He said, “The enemy in their extreme arrogance has forgotten the rules of communication and are openly threatening us. Today’s date is history in the making. God has given us the opportunity to take this step for our country’s defense which was inevitable. We never wanted to participate in this nuclear race. We have proved to the world that we would not accept what is dictated to us.”
Pakistan’s Atomic Bomb as a Deterrent:
Pakistan does not harbor any aggressive designs against any state. It has no hegemonic aspirations in the region. Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine states that its motive for pursuing a nuclear weapons program is to counter the threat posed by its principal rival India – in addition to countering threats from its western border and the seas. Territorial integrity, political harmony and peace are the ultimate goals behind developing our nuclear arsenal.
Pakistan has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) or the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and remains steadfast in its refusal to sign the NPT, stating that it would do so only after India signed the Treaty. India, unlike Pakistan has always exhibited hegemonic designs in the region and is labeled as “big brother” due to its imperialistic nature, being involved in a number of conflicts with its neighbors that range from water disputes to land and territorial disputes. It has gone to war with China and has invested hugely in Afghanistan despite the poverty in its own country.
The Islamic Bomb: Deterrence against threats to the Islamic World:
Due to Pakistan’s brotherly ties with its fellow Islamic countries, its nuclear weapon is often referred to as the “Islamic Bomb”. Our nuclear tests were not only celebrated in the country but in the Islamic world also. In Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s famous words, “The Christians have it, the Jews and even the Hindus have it, and it is time the Islamic world developed it too”.
Israel’s design in the Middle East is no secret from anyone and they see the Pakistan-Saudi Arabia relationship with apprehension and consider it as a potential threat. There have been documented proofs that Israel has attempted to sabotage our nuclear program. After successfully destroying an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981, Israel allegedly planned a similar attack on Pakistan’s nuclear facilities at Kahuta in collusion with India in the 1980s. Using satellite pictures and intelligence information, Israel reportedly built a full-scale mock-up of Kahuta facility in the Negev Desert where pilots of F-15 and F-16 squadrons even practiced mock attacks.
Pakistan’s First-Strike/ Second-Strike Policy:
No first use or NFU refers to a nuclear state’s pledge or a policy not to use nuclear weapons as a means of warfare unless first attacked by an adversary. Pakistan has not declared its NFU policy, and left it vague, as evidenced by ex-President Pervez Musharraf’s statements in May, 2002. Musharraf said that Pakistan did not want a conflict with India but that if it came to war between the nuclear-armed rivals, he would “respond with full might.” These statements were interpreted to mean that if pressed by an overwhelming conventional attack from India, Pakistan might use its nuclear weapons.
This intentional vagueness on NFU is a diplomatic maneuver and acts as a deterrent against armed conflict with other countries.
Pakistan’s Nuclear Technology:
According to a rough estimate by western analysts, Pakistan has a stockpile of around 100 to 120 nuclear weapons which is actually more than India’s capacity. Pakistan also has multiple delivery capability such as long-range, short-range rockets and aircraft and it is making efforts to add naval capability with sea-launched missiles.
Apart from that Pakistan has made great advances in field of developing Tactical nuclear weapon (TNW) also known as non-strategic nuclear weapons and perfecting the technique. Only a few nuclear states have the capability and India does not have it yet. Tactical Nukes refers to a nuclear weapon which is designed to be used on a battlefield in military situations. This is opposed to strategic nuclear weapons (Non-Tactical Nuclear weapons) which are designed to produce effects against enemy cities and other larger-area targets for general deterrence.
Pakistan’s short range missile Hatf 1X named Nasr, has a range of 60 km and carries nuclear warheads of appropriate yield with high accuracy with shoot and scoot attributes. This quick response system addresses the need to deter evolving threats. Developing Tactical Nuke Technology is a preemptive measure against India’s Cold-Start-Doctrine which allows India’s conventional forces to perform holding swift and unexpected attacks in a manner that it could act before international pressure could come to bear on India and before the Pakistani military could react.
The US which is the only country in the world to have used nuclear bombs, has always expressed concerns regarding the security of Pakistan’s nukes. Western propagandists claim that Pakistan’s nuclear program may fall in the hands of “jihadists”. Most unfortunately however, some Pakistanis, our so called analysts have also sold their souls to the aliens and have often provided arsenal in the hands of propagandists to cause harm to Pakistan.
The West is skeptic of Pakistan’s development of Tactical-Nukes which is considered quite dangerous in the battle-field. All this propaganda is done to depict Pakistan’s nukes as hazardous and risk prone. Pakistan has repeatedly assured the world that despite threats of violence or terrorist activities, its nuclear arsenal is in safe hands. Whenever there is change of leadership within our nuclear institution, the guidelines provided by the previous leadership are followed. Our nukes are secured at different strategic locations and are not stored in assembled form which minimizes threats to security. The US generals have often acknowledged the safety and security of Pak nukes. The recent report NSI 2014 has labeled Pakistan as the “most improved nation” for nuclear security.
Right-wing / Left-Wing Governments:
One more argument in Pakistan’s favor is that Pakistan has never had radical Islamist governments coming into power. Whereas in the case of our neighbor, the Indian Right-wing BJP has just swept the polls. The US and the West have always displayed double standards on the matter of nukes. The US signed an agreement with India which helps them acquire nuclear raw material to produce more bombs. India who has also not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, has been given exemption by the NSG on the recommendation of US, France and Russia despite the fact the NSG is not supposed to supply nuclear-related materials to the country that has not signed the NPT.
US Nuke Security Lapses:
The US which is most critical of Pakistan’s capability to secure their nukes, has often had lapses in their own nuclear security procedures at important installations. In 2012 there was news of a security officer who had slept on the job and also used an unauthorized cell-phone inside a high-security facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Incidentally this had not happened the first time. Also, recently during a test at a naval nuclear power plant, thirty senior sailors were apprehended in an alleged cheating scandal. The test was meant to qualify them to train others to operate the power plants. Incidentally this is also not the first exam-cheating scandal to hit the US military.
The Cuban Crises:
Hiroshima and Nagasaki are not the only examples of the American nuclear misadventure. Two highly developed and so called civilized nations came to the brink of a fully-fledged nuclear conflagration in 1962 when the then USSR decided to station nuclear weapons within reach of the U.S. in Cuba. At that time, Soviet missiles could only reach European targets, but could not be launched to hit American soil. American missiles, however, were capable of reaching the Soviet Union. The world witnessed thirteen days of nail biting suspense until the issue was mutually resolved. The crises is generally considered as the moment in which the Cold War came within a hair breadth of turning into a nuclear conflict. This was also the first documented evidence of Mutually Assured Destruction – MAD – being a determining factor in any armed conflict.
The Pakistani Nation rightfully takes pride in its nuclear capability. 28th May 1998 was the second most important day in Pakistan’s history, the first being Pakistan’s independence in 1947. It was a day which liberated us in so many ways, restored our pride and confidence in our abilities. In spite of this Pakistan understands the need to eliminate nuclear weapons entirely from the world for the sake of international peace but it cannot and should not do so as long as the powerful nations of the world do not comply. In fact the powerful must take the initiative as a good will gesture. Disarmament should be universal and verifiable. Human Moral does not teach us to take away the knives from the weak and let the strong keep their axes. There is no treaty in the world that can obligate Freedom-Lovers to give up their power to resist subjugation.