May 28: Remembering the bomb, forgetting the people

Published: May 28, 2013

In this photo, Pakistani Army soldiers guard nuclear-capable missiles at the International Defence Exhibition in Karachi on Nov. 27, 2008. PHOTO: AFP

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.

Read more by Jibran here or follow him on Twitter @MJibranNasir


Jibran Nasir

A lawyer and civil and political rights activist. He is the co-founder of Elaj Trust, Pakistan For All and Never Forget Pakistan. He tweets @MJibranNasir (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Umair

    wat kind of blogs u guys come up wid ? what is the link between a bomb and living standard of people here in Pakistan ?Recommend

  • Abdullah Nizamani

    In 1965 Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto said, “Pakistan will fight, fight for a thousand years. If India builds the Atom bomb. Pakistan will eat grass or leaves, even go hungry, but we (Pakistan) will get one of our own Atom bomb. We (Pakistan) have no other Choice.”

    And after 48 years Pakistanis are eating grass and leaves, some even cannot afford the grass..

    Welcome to Pakistan and Youm e Takbeer Mubarak.Recommend

  • Burhan

    Jibran..thanks again for showing the picture outside bubble too:)Recommend

  • Saad riaz

    What a lame blog… We invest in defence because our neighbours are very friendly :DRecommend

  • Sarah Khan

    Well done, once again, Jibran. We need more people like you who have the courage to take up what the real issues are. Good to see that there are people like you who have an alive man’s conscience to also remind us of the Ahmedi massacre that occurred on this very day that we shamelessly continue to celebrate with much hollow pride What good would a bomb bring to a country where the minorities are not guaranteed the basic dignity to survive as equal citizens.

    @Umair: I cannot imagine an educated person asking the kind of question that you asked. A country that has no resources to provide food and clean drinking water to its population is squandering away money on expanding its defence budget and meaningless nuclear arsenal. Let me spell it out for you: to accumulate weapons, you have to cut down the budget for development.Recommend

  • Sana

    very well said !!!!Recommend

  • THE

    @Abdullah Nizamani: What is the vast majority of India eating? Recommend

  • Effendi

    I like your views. Hope more of sane people like you somehow enter the political arena of this country. Maybe then we can have a better ideology of this country. For now, bomb zindabad! Recommend

  • Antebellum

    Agree with @Umair. There is no link between our nuclear arsenal and the sorry state of our country, society and economy.

    We have a nuclear arsenal because the people entrusted with building it were honest, hard-working and competent, something which can never be said about our rulers and administrators. For the entirety of our existence we have been ruled over by incompetent, selfish and corrupt politicians, bureaucrats, generals and economic managers. And when sh*t hits the ceiling these idiotic pseudo-liberal bloggers start bad-mouthing everything good that we have, our faith and the nuclear arsenal.

    On this day, the 28th of May, I, on behalf of all the proud and patriotic Pakistanis, salute all the people (scientists, engineers, technicians, bureaucrats, politicians and military-men) who worked day-in day-out to make this country’s defence ironclad.Recommend

  • opler

    we can’t eat bombs but bread!Recommend

  • roadkashehzada

    unfortunately there is no archive of newspaper of 1998. if we can see the statements from leaders of shining and incredible india may be we ll have a better view of the situation in 1998.
    decisions are easy to assess after they are made, imagine a non nuclear pakistan. wht stopped india to invade pakistan in 2001 after one of the bigget military stand off and again after mumbai attacks? we cry daily on drones, but wht stopped US from going all out on pakistan?
    about the number of nuclear arsenals, pakistan doctrine is to use smaller bombs for targeted attacks. also when we see reports of US forces ready to take over pakistani nuclear, may be pakistan has to maintain large arsenal to safeguard against such threats.
    some topics are easy to write. pakistani bashing is one of these topicsRecommend

  • Tribune Reader

    Dude u just spent too much time talking about the Bomb, and not enough about those Anti Ahmedi Riots of the 50’s, i doubt many know details about that.Recommend

  • Junaid

    Well Mr. Umair, the bomb has a lot of connection with the living standards of the people. Pakistan is currently reported to spend around $2 billion on nuclear weapons per year if we include the environmental and health costs and this figure will rise as Pakistan expands its nuclear program. This is a very large given the fact that our total national foreign reserves at its peak was $16 billion. I am quite sure that you aware of the state of our government schools and health facilities so please tell me if $2 billion is a large figure or not?

    I must add that I am a supporter of Pakistani nuclear program, given our circumstances. However, it is so tragic that we consider this our biggest achievement since we have no other. Sectarian violence continues, people are braving up to 20 hours of load shedding a day, our economy is in tatters. Nuclear bombs have proved to be a very effective deterrent but please for heaven’s sake lets not make it a national pride when we as a nation are capable for so much more.Recommend

  • Abdullah Khan

    When I read the headline on Google News the first thing came in my mind was that the article must be published in Express Tribune and I was right as this is the only newspaper which relies more on propaganda and less on professionalism. Almost always lacks balance in its editorials and even in reporting on certain issues.
    The bomb was for the people. Before the bomb India cut Pakistan into two in 1971, attacked us in 1965 and captured Siachin in 1984.

    After the bomb Pakistan initiated Kargil and Kashmir. India could not dare to repeat 71 despite stationing its troops on Pakistani border for 11 months in 2000.

    The best economy in the world is that of America and China and both the countries are military powers. Kuwait had/have most valued currency and can be termed as most prosperous country in the world from almost all aspects but could not defend its territory when attacked by Iraq.
    Israel is just like a dot on earth map but is living like a dagger in the chest of Arabs due to its military might.
    So the people can live honorably when their defense is strong. And they can afford eating grass within their own boundaries only when their defense is strong otherwise they may not afford the luxury of ‘eating grass’ within their country.
    Defense budget of Pakistan is just 18% of total budged and budget of Pak army is just 9 percent. We cry over 18% but do not look upon the remaining 82% from which we spend just under 2% on education and even less on health. Where goes the remaining 78% ? Anybody’s guessRecommend

  • Fareeha

    @umair we produced hundreds of bombs but how much electricity did we produce from the atomic energy. We have made people suffer, and get killed. Our strategic assets have turned against us. if someone wants to establish good relationship with India we are quick to call them traitors. We cannot safeguard our minorities. The bomb will not give us respect in league of nations. Making a bomb is nothing to celebrate. Our priorites are mis directed and mis guided and we are failing as a nation. Recommend

  • Zar Aslam

    Brilliant! Succinct and beautifully articulated. Every point you make is interesting, valid and food for thought…if only people were thinking.Recommend

  • Aamna Fasihi

    I watched you explaining your Manifesto on Faisal Qureshi’s Morning show with a PTI youth candidate. I was really impressed by your school of thoughts. The way you pointed the serious issues like Karo Kari, Wanni in the urban parts of our country and Shia genocide as a time bomb we created with our own hands and now sitting on it, in which no NATO or Israeli or American lobbies are involved, was just too extra-ordinary. I myself never pondered over that side of the picture. If no one else, your perspective and also this blog awakes me.
    28th May can be aptly described as the day we proved that no nation of this world can destroy us now, only we can destroy it OURSELVES!Recommend

  • ayesha

    We protect our borders with nuclear power but forget to protect our masses from terrorist and forget to give them basic necessities of life.Recommend

  • Sarah Khan

    Interesting facts:

    -Pakistan named one of its nuclear missile systems Abdali after Afghan king Ahmed Shah Abdali, oblivious of the fact that in the Third Battle of Panipat, after he was invited by ShahWaliullah to invade India to ‘protect Islam’, Ahmed Shah Abdali invaded Kashmir, burned the city of Lahore and killed tens of thousands of Indian Muslims in what is now Pakistan.
    -Pakistan possesses more than 110 nuclear warheads capable of producing enough energy that can destroy half of the world, but does not have enough electricity to meet the basic needs of its population. The country continues to suffer the worst and the longest power outages and the industry sits idle for 14 hours every day.
    -As by 2011, Pakistan spent seven times more on arms than on schools, while Pakistan has one of the world’s largest out-of-school populations. The discrepancy is so large that only one-fifth of Pakistan’s military spending would be sufficient to finance universal primary education in the country.

    Thank you for your attention. Now let’s all dance with joy and celebrate ‘Yaum-e-Takbeer’ Recommend

  • Taimoor

    Reading the comments on this article shows just how important it is to remove twisted and edited versions of historical events from our textbooks.Recommend

  • Anadil

    ofcourse there is a strong connection between nuclear bombs and living standards… Defence budget comes at the cost of development budget… n plz visit people living around Chagai.. They have been birthing deformed babies..this also caused resentment in balochistan

    @ Abdullah Khan– India didnt slice us into two parts in 71, our own stupid policies and ill-treatment of bengalis did so… Besides we still had the kargil misadventure in 1999. This is an excellent article,, We want change but what is that change, we dont know.. Nuclear bombs are bad for the environment.. Recommend

  • Historian 1

    After reading comments here i am now satisfied that the nuclear bombs thrown by US over Japan was a positive step. It proved to be a deterrent and avoided many many wars ( perhaps third world war) and helped making world a safer place.Recommend

  • Jalil Ahmed

    In my opinion every nation or country must set their list of priorities that what is most important for them from 1 to 10,if a nation dies because of famine then food must be their supreme requirement,they cannot eat metal or bomb instead of wheat,but when it is a matter of their survival then obviously the priorities change as per need of the hour.But my question to all those creators of the so called Atom Bomb,did the nation get any benefit from this so far,i think the answer is no,because bombs cannot protect any nation,instead it brings dome and destruction.It can increase the number of your enemies than friends,since the explosion our relations with our neighbors deteriorated,more people are inclined towards extremism,drone attacks have become
    daily routine,we could,nt resist to american pressure after 9/11,we have become isolated from the rest of the world.
    Then for what noble cause we are having atom bombs,instead we should have developed our nuclear capability for reducing energy crises.It is time to wake up rather celebrating bomb days. Recommend

  • http://17472/may-28-remembering-the-bomb-forgetting-the-people Noor Ahmed

    Our nuclear weapons defeated India in Kargil. Our great army with nuclear warheads stopped US drone attacks. These costly weapons also solved water problems, power problems, corruption, terrorism, suicide bombings, honour killings, blowing up schools, inflation etc.etc. Long live our army and nuclear bombs. Let us continue like this for the next five generations.Recommend

  • Parvez

    I liked the spirit of the article, but don’t fully agree with its logic. Let me ask a question to make my point : If we had not developed the bomb do you think we would have had a decent governance system, no power shortages, a credible judicial system, a decent educational and health system etc, etc………………I think not.

  • Queen

    The writer of the blog needs to understand that the issue of current energy crisis is different from Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence. We cannot blame the scientists who developed the nuclear bomb for the shortage of electricity. It was the responsibility of the governments to have had made efforts for the construction of dams and barrages.

    If the writer thinks that the detonation of nuclear devices is linked with current energy crisis, then i am sorry to say that he is wrong. If Pakistan would not have had conducted the nuclear tests, then India would have had waged war against Pakistan.

    It is due to Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence, that India failed to wage war after the attack on the Indian Parliament. Even though it had deployed its troops at the LOC for this purpose.

    In short Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence is necessary to maintain balance of power in region. Recommend

  • CrankShaft

    A lot of different societal issues jumbled up into one article.Recommend

  • Midhat

    Very Naive! Our current state is due to corruption, bad governance and incompetence of the democratically elected rulers and not because of why the military sector developed. The money is there for social and economic developemenal projects as well but unfortunately the honest rulers aren’t
    Investment in defence cannot be related to extremism, shia genocide, poverty cannot undermine the importance of defence when you have nuclear countries as neighbours with whom you fought 4 wars with!!Recommend

  • http://lahore K. Salim Jahangir

    it was not made during his time.Pakistan had a bomb at the time when Ziaul Haq was in power.Fail to understand why these celebrations, amounts to showing red to the bull,hence more sanctions. Recommend

  • Nasir

    Thanks for pointing out the forgoten Ahmadis !Recommend

  • Danish Bhutto

    Dear Mr. J.Nasir! National security is more important than any other thing. Claiming Nuclear Power status was a must at that that time. I never deny other saddening things you’ve pointed out but I’ll link them more to a head-to-toe mismanaged and corrupt statesman and bureaucrat, not the Nuclear Assets which I believe, are a deterrent to next war with our “loving” neighbors. Recommend

  • Salman Khan

    It’s not a blog on living standards!, It’s really a good piece that relates clearly how we Pakistanis have a falsely perceived notion about nationalism & arrogant views about our nuclear weapons that fails to address the worsening situation of home bred terrorism that’s killing the Pakistani people with impunity!Recommend

  • GIndian

    On a positive note there will never be another full scale Indo Pak war unless suicidal tribal crazies take over the administration of Pakistan, which I think will never happen through ballot.
    One nuclear reactor can significantly reduce the power shortage in Pakistan.
    India’s ultimate aim is to develop Thorium based nuclear power plant and India is well ahead in Thorium based nuclear research. Abundant mineral like Thorium is the safest nuclear fuel and a Thorium based nuclear plant is meltdown proof. India is a contributing member of seven nation experimental nuclear fusion reactor, which is being buil in France. Brilliant Pakistani nuclear scientists should take part in International ventures. Recommend

  • Adeel Ahmed

    @Abdullah Nizamani: Thank you for your enlightining thoughts Mr. Nizamani…but do you or your servants, or the shopkeeper, or the milkman, the police man, the fruit seller, the judge, the teacher etc have been eating GRASS since then?

    Please talk some sense and not the usual rhetoric by propagandist against this tech. What do you say about your beloved INDIA …. do they not EAT GRASS ????? even though exploded nukes way before we did…..Recommend

  • tanvir

    expect tribune to publish such tastelessRecommend

  • Saira

    Being a nuclear power has saved us from many tight spots after 2001 India is not just one enemy of Pakistan. USA, israel, Afghanistan we have a long list of enemies. We are fighting a war at two fronts one external at Afghan and Indian border and one internal with all extremism in the name of Islam and in this kind of time we need a little believe in what we have not all that kind of negativity you pointed out

    For every genocide we blame government just but there is a little bit responsibility of neighbors too but all the people were standing just like watching a free show. Our government is a failure we all know that but what part others “Amm AWAM” played in saving the ahmedis its always easy to put the blame on someone else its so like our political leaders

    Last but not least Mr writer you should be ashamed of yourself for saying 28 May is “day or mourning and national embarrassment” because you have insulted many Pakistanis for believing in something. Now for me there is no difference between you and extremist in Pakistan because you all have same school of thought where just you are right and all others are wrongRecommend

  • Abdullah Nizamani

    @Adeel Ahmed: I have not said anything that undermines the importance of nukes. By saying “eating grass” I am actually pointing to the successive governments after Bhutto era. Thy have not done anything since then. So please read the comment again and cool your temper.Recommend

  • ati

    Pakistan is not in a race of building the arsenal , it is India blooming its military budget and constantly trying to threaten Pakistan (can be easily figured on the indian media ) .Recommend

  • Rafae Ghani

    What the supporters of nuclear technology and extremely tunnel-visioned jingoists have in common is an innately inadequate and in many cases flawed conception of the very technology they defend.

    Nuclear technology cannot be examined on the common barometer of conventional warfare, as by the virtue of it’s devastating force and ability to wipe out entire cities means armies think twice before deploying them. Most hard-line jingoists are pointing toward the theory of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) which, I agree, has prevented the escalation of military crises with India and prevented the total hegemony of the West being imposed on us. MAD ensures that conflicts don’t arise simply because an escalation into nuclear war between competing countries would lead to both countries being bombed to bits.

    However, the cornerstone of MAD, is not the number of nuclear warheads or how fast they can be deployed, but the NATURE of nuclear weapons. Even if Pakistan and India disarm, and have only a few warheads left, the theory of MAD will apply between them and towards West as well, because of the devastating nature of just ONE warhead.

    Having established this, I now question the jingoists: Given that only a few warheads are needed, why has the military establishment splurged on making a huge redundant wasteful arsenal? Do we really need enough warheads to wipe out the world when our closest military threat is next to our border, or in fact home-grown? (Which means we cannot even deploy these nuclear warheads). My affront arises when such gross mismanagement takes place by the very “competent” men and women that supporters of nuclear weapons salute. W

    What should have happened was that a limited arsenal, adequate to ensure our security interests are met, should have been made. The resources would then have been channeled into healthcare, education, sanitation etc. which could have tangibly improved the lives of the masses.

    What actually happened is the generals and heads of state got together and demanded that they should have the more toys than India and the biggest toys to play with. Reminds me of the movie “Dr. Strangelove”. Utter disgrace.Recommend

  • AbdulRahim

    What relation is being made between the making of an atom bomb and our failures to provide welfare to our people. Sorry to say but there is absolutely so sense in this discussion. The making of nuclear arsenal was a positive for our country and our wellbeing, it is not the reason for our current situation. You should appreciate the achievement of our people having made nuclear arsenal, while alot of the world is struggling to, and blame our situation on someone who is liable for it.Recommend

  • mind control

    @Abdullah Khan:

    The bomb was for the people. Before the bomb India cut Pakistan into two in 1971, attacked us in 1965 and captured Siachin in 1984.

    And after the Bomb Pakistan lost Waziristan to a rag tag bunch called Taliban.
    It lost Swat to Mullah Radio and people of Swat are still living as IDPs.
    And now Pakistan is going down on its knees in surrender to the TTP.

    Great going indeed.Recommend

  • Yasir Mehmood

    Pakistan would have been in a sticky situation like Iran had we have not conducted tests in 1998. Check out some news from the 90’s US congress passed (pressler amendment seeking sanctions on Pakistan May-1992 ) this happened way before 1998. If US and Israel have a right to nuclear weapons so do Iran should have but they don’t inspite of the fact that Iran has never invaded a country. Who will decide who is right. If Iran Conducts tests US will come to the negotiation table straight away.Recommend

  • Shujaat A Khan

    @Abdullah Khan:
    India did not cut Pakistan into half. We the people of West Pakistan and our Army killed close to a million of our own people in East Pakistan . Do not blame someone else for our own wrong doing. Its easy to blame than to fess up the truth.Recommend

  • Qudsia

    As others have pointed out, Pakistanis are suffering from lack of food and other necessities yet the government has allocated a disproportionate amount of funding to the nuclear program — money which could have helped the economy and condition of the general population. Perhaps the argument here is that we had a sufficiently threatening nuclear program for defense purposes, so there was no need to keep building it up to present state, when we clearly could not afford it as a nation.

    Secondly, being a nation where the average person is suffering economically, being a nation where there is no law and order, and being a nation where mass massacre of minority communities is soon ignored as if it never happened, or worse, as if it should have happened…there is no sane reason to strut around merely based on the fact that the country has nuclear weapons.

    I think considering world politics, a nuclear weapon is pretty much all Pakistan has going for it at present, but one should not be boastful about it. If one is actually religiously motivated, one should prostrate before Allah the exalted, in sheer humility that despite all the crimes and injustices that go on in the country, He has given Pakistan this crutch to stand on.

    I think at this juncture, people should be very cautious and worried as well. With all the corruption that is rampant in the country and with all the political and social chaos, and perhaps keeping in mind tragic events from Islamic history rampant with traitors, it may not be all that difficult to lose these weapons to a more clever, better scheming nation. Educating the country, improving the living conditions, and making a just society would do much more for Pakistan’s actual defense, otherwise at the rate of current degeneration, no one needs bombs to destroy Pakistan, it is already on that path, unfortunately.Recommend

  • Qudsia

    Thank you for remembering the easily forgotten.Recommend

  • Tahira Tahir

    Thank you for your poignant article Mr. Nasir. May 28 should be a day of self-reflection for Pakistanis; instead of being proud of developing a weapon of mass destruction capable of killing thousands, we should be focusing on how we have failed our own citizens and taking measures to rectify the situation.Recommend

  • Anthony Alfidi

    Nuclear arms reduction may someday get to zero. US and Russia can cooperate on missile defense because Y2K set the precedent.