May 28: Remembering the bomb, forgetting the people
Today marks the best of days and today marks the worst of days. May 28 or as a true patriot would call it “Youm-e-Takbeer” marks the day when Pakistan registered its might in modern warfare and arsenal by successfully conducting a controlled nuclear explosion.
Pakistan with its sensitive and strategic geographical location also became armed with perhaps the most powerful weapon (though there are some who still believe education is the most powerful weapon). Pakistan had the attention of the world and especially had its good neighbor, India, and our favorite piñata (minus the candies), Uncle Sam, up in arms. What followed was a series of embargoes – the Rupee being devalued by 50% and the then Nawaz Government being left with no option but to freeze US$10 billion in private forex reserves. Interestingly, according to Nawaz Sharif himself, he denied an aid package of US$ 5 billion by President Clinton which was offered conditional to Pakistan not carrying out the tests.
15 years later, one may ask how has the common Pakistani actually benefited from Pakistan developing its nuclear arsenal? We currently have surpassed India in terms of our nuclear reserves and by some estimates are scheduled to take the third place after America and Russia in terms of nuclear bombs by 2020. Between the Ministry of Water and Power and various government bodies, Pakistan’s electricity demand is 14,000 to 17,000 MW.
Appallingly, our nuclear program which has produced over 100 bombs produces less than 1000 MW electricity for the country!
This looks even sadder when one recalls history as back in the 1950s under US President Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace Program, Pakistan, India and Iran were supposed to be prototypes of promotion of positive use of nuclear energy such as electricity. However, given Indian intentions of building a bomb, Pakistan joined the rat race.
The nuclear bomb has not entirely been a waste. It does serve as an undeniable deterrent keeping violence from escalating between India and Pakistan when unfortunate incidents like 26/11 take place. Saudi Arabia which vicariously massages its Muslim ego through Pakistan on military turf has been visibly happy with us since 1998.
It is also the one and only (and wrong) reason for proud patriotic Muslims to call the country the “Fortress of Islam”.
Where many beam with national and religious pride on May 28, to me at least it is a day or mourning and national embarrassment. Where so many of us recall hills and mountains moving in Chagai with the thunderous roar of a successful nuclear test, how many of us reflect on the massacre of members of the Ahmadiyya Community at Lahore? The attack took place at the Community’s house of worship which I am not legally allowed to call a Mosque. 94 people were killed and more than 120 were injured during Friday prayers. The so called Fortress of Islam could not protect the people inside it. US did not need to put an embargo or send a drone nor did India need to conduct any covert operation or surgical strike. It was the work of home bred terrorists who continue to creep into our mosques, cultural centers and streets and are not limited to FATA anymore.
Various political parties had issued statements of condemnation when the attack took place but no prominent politician was seen at the mass funeral held at Rabwah for the victims. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan along with the Punjabi wing of Taliban (considered to have links with Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and SSP) accepted responsibility for the attack, the same group with which the current Nawaz government is gearing to negotiate with.
The Lahore massacre is perhaps just the tip of the iceberg. It defines the circumference if our society is conceived as a circle. The genocide of the Hazara community and the targeted killing of Shias in Karachi (three including two children were gunned down today) is a clear sign that this circle will keep getting smaller and smaller.
Our grudges and holier than thou attitude had dehumanised us to the extent that now we do not even condemn brutality or terrorism if our own kin has not suffered from it.
To those who want to continue to live in the bubble with their misplaced sense of nationalism believing that Pakistanis are gatekeepers of jannah and Pakistan is the cradle for the next holy army, remember May 28 for the successful nuclear blasts.
But those concerned with struggling to return basic human values and rights to this society, remember May 28 as also the day we failed our people.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.