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Pakistan's Nuclear Program - Why is it Necessary?

Updated on September 13, 2016

Pakistan appears at the top of charts listing critical U.S. intelligence gaps.Washington Post

Pakistan's Nuclear Program and its Atomic Bomb has been subject to much controversy and conspiracy theories.

Pakistan's Nuclear Assets are criticized for being vulnerable to terrorists, being too expensive, useless and above all aggressive. The other side of the picture is that with a mighty hostile neighbor, India and some other troublesome players in the region like Israel, the atom bomb is the last resort measure to maintain balance of power in the region.

“We(Pakistan) will eat grass, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own (Atom bomb). The Christians have the bomb, the Jews have the bomb and now the Hindus have the bomb. Why not the Muslims too have the bomb?.... We have no other choice!”
― Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Emphasizing the need of Atom Bomb.

Due to the extreme secrecy surrounding this highly clandestine Nuclear Program any such interpretation of this complex issue will only serve to satisfy our curiosity but as this is an already exhausted topic, this article attempts to defend the indispensable nature of the Pakistani Atom bomb by placing a unique perspective in light of historical and current facts.

Pakistan conducted its first cold test way back in the 1983, 15 years before the 1998 tests. PAEC chairman Munir Ahmed Khan is reported to have said,

"On 11 March 1983, we successfully conducted the first cold test of a working nuclear device. That evening, I went to General Zia with the news that Pakistan was now ready to make a nuclear device."1

Pakistan's Nuclear Bomb serves as a Deterrence

The West often criticizes our Nukes as being a burden on country's meager resources and something which is useless and seldom used. Well this narrow judgement is far from reality, it is actually the bomb alone which plays a vital role in guarding our sovereignty and in a wider context the whole nation. Pakistan's Nuclear assets are the key to maintaining strategic balance in the region. This has been very evident in certain situation throughout the course of history of the country.

In our quest to justify Pakistan's Nuclear assets we will highlight those situations where the nukes played a major role in protecting the integrity of the state.

Operation Brasstacks was the largest mobilization of forces since world war II. Larger then any NATO exercise.

1987 Brasstacks Crisis.

During the 1986-87 India did an overwhelming show of its military might by mobilizing nearly its entire army near the Pakistani border under the pretext of exercising, the aim was to attack Pakistan by a preemptive surgical strike as a senior Indian General himself recounts:

"Brasstacks was no military exercise. It was a plan to build up a situation for a fourth war with Pakistan....."

Lieutenant General P.N. Hoon, Commander Western Command, source[10]

By this time however Pakistan had already made the nuclear bomb and Pakistani President Zia-ul-Haq did not fear to threaten India with this. Zia visited India to watch a cricket match in Jaipur with Rajiv Gandhi to ease the tension. It is widely alleged, at one point Zia leaned over to Rajiv Gandhi and said,

"If your forces cross our border by an inch, we are going to annihilate your cities."[3]

Whether or not he spoke those words, India soon withdrew its army.

2001-2 Military Standoff (Operation Parakram).


Again in 2001-2 India and Pakistan came very close to war when in response to terrorist attacks on Indian Parliament India once again amassed its army on the border hoping to eject Pakistan out of Kashmir. Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee ordered his troops to prepare for a "decisive battle"The Guardian. But again India was restrained from attacking by the looming threat of Pakistan Atomic Bomb. Pakistan at that time did not deny its right to use nuclear weapons first if it faced a significant threat and therefore considering the threat of starting a nuclear war and partly because of international mediation India withdrew its forces from the border.

A famous Pakistani Economist in view to the situation stated that:

It was a big upset about what happened to the economy after the [atomic] tests in 1998, but was consoled that in 2002, when India mobilized half a million troops on the border after an attack on its parliament in 2001, but was finally forced to withdraw the "due to the danger of a nuclear retaliation by Pakistan....

—Sartaj Aziz, defending Pakistan's decision to tests its nuclear capability in 1998

Pakistan's Tactical Nuclear Weapons, the Answer to India's Might

Short Range Surface to Surface Multi Tube Missile Hatf IX (NASR).
Short Range Surface to Surface Multi Tube Missile Hatf IX (NASR). | Source

To avoid being tracked by the sophisticated US satellite tracking systems Pakistani authorities prefer to transport nuclear warheads and other components by road in normal traffic rather then using protected conveys. So the next time you spot a container on the highway it could just be carrying nuclear warheads!

Recently Pakistan has initiated the development of Tactical Nuclear Weapons to counterbalance India's conventional might and to counter a conventional invasion by India at tactical level. The aim of these weapons is to strike on advancing armored columns and other battlefield formations heading for Pakistani territory with high accuracy and halt them in there tracks. Invading army if found funneling through the many canals and rivers in Punjab will be sitting ducks for this missile. Real time surveillance required to quickly identify targets can be obtained through AEW&C planes of air force. India has around 4,000 tanks while Pakistan has got around 2,500 of them, this edge in quantity is balanced by the edge in tactics on the Pakistani side. The moment Indian Armour comes out of its bases it will have the looming threat of Nasr over it.

An ISPR release describes the tactical ability of this missile stating:

Thanks to Former President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, he was given the proposal of developing the bomb through Uranium route by A.Q. Khan and through the Plutonium route by PAEC scientists. Bhutto ordered both routes to be initiated simultaneously. Due to his decision Pakistan now has miniature nuclear warheads which can only be made by using plutonium.

"NASR, with a range of 60 km, and inflight maneuver capability can carry nuclear warheads of appropriate yield, with high accuracy. This quick response system, which can fire a four Missile Salvo ensures deterrence against threats in view of evolving scenarios. Additionally NASR has been specially designed to defeat all known Anti Tactical Missile Defence Systems". ISPR release 13 feb 2011

Electricity Generation, The dire need of the Country. (Nuclear Power in Pakistan)

Chashma Nuclear Power Complex
Chashma Nuclear Power Complex | Source

Pakistan has three licensed commercial nuclear power plants with installed capacity of 725 Mwh combined, generating only 3.6% of the country's electricity.

Although there is no harm in stating that electricity generation is a grave requirement of the country in view of the ongoing power crisis and nuclear power is a cheap and viable alternative to oil, production of weapon grade material is also suspected to be taking place at these power plants.

Thus Nuclear Power is the solution for the aggravating power crisis in the country and perhaps also required to meet the demand of weapon grade material. Much criticism is hurled when Pakistan tries to promote nuclear power not to notice that most developed countries of the world use nuclear power to generate a significant proportion of their total electricity generation. France generating 78.8%, Britain 14.4%, USA 17% and Russia 16% from nuclear power plants but Pakistan only 3.6%.

Apart from these three commercial reactors, Pakistan has six other reactors operational for research and plutonium production.

Though this was albeit off the topic of nuclear weapons but I found it necessary to mention that as many of he world powers are generating cheap electricity through Nukes we also have the right to do so in view of the very serious power crisis ravaging the country and high prices of oil which is being currently used for electricity generation.

Feature Concerns

The chief motive of most public debate about Pakistan's Nuclear Program continues to be its struggle with India that has shaped Pakistan's history and its politics since the inception of these two states. Pakistan's Nuclear weapons are widely perceived as a retort to India's Nuclear weapons and its larger conventional force as well as the bitter experiences of 1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999. Pakistani fears of Indian hegemony have increased over the recent years as India's economy has started to grow at a much faster rate then Pakistan's which means that India can increase its already large defense budget at an even faster rate.

US officials suggested in 2008 that Pakistan was "producing nuclear weapons at [a] faster rate then any other country in the world" Wikileaks

A long term concern now driving Pakistan's Nuclear Program is the United States Policy of countering the rise of China as a key strategic and economic player in the region by forming a stronger US strategic relationship with India. The feature of Pakistan's Nuclear Program and that of India, thus might be knotted with the emerging contest between United States and China.

"Pakistan's nuclear program occupies a central place for the defense of the country."

— General Raheel Sharif, Chief of Army Staff [1]

[1] The News 21-Feb-2014

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    • pramodgokhale profile image

      pramodgokhale 3 years ago from Pune( India)

      Clandestine nuclear program with help of Chinese and stealing of technical know how it made it. India can defend herself without bomb. India has nuclear arsenals but as a deterrent .

      My friend to run such shows of rockets and missiles, it requires strong economy and infrastructure and heavy industry, India started from scratch and with her own efforts made it , during cold war puppet regimes of Pakistan Under Super power America) waged war against India and lost it. The stories you can publish Zia said like this or that .It does not hold much water and language of the article is provocative and of false claims.

      If both nation's go to war Pakistan can not survive and day dreams are useless.The nation which was built on hatred and killings , how they can

      win Kashmir because people of Pakistan are not free and without democracy how you can liberate Kashmir ?? why you could not stop hanging of Saddam if Iraq is Muslim Brother.

      pramod gokhale

    • alikhan3 profile image
      Author

      StormsHalted 3 years ago from Karachi, Pakistan

      no doubt Chinese, Canadian and American help was provided for our nuclear program but keep in mind nothing comes for free no one is that good to give you anything for free..... secondly of course India can defend itself itself without a bomb .....thirdly India has good economy.......now what else should I acknowledge ???

      as far as the the ....... tilt.......... of the article is concerned everything except that zia statement is quoted with full accreditation and proof so u may check them ........ else identify anything that is exaggerated....?

    • pramodgokhale profile image

      pramodgokhale 3 years ago from Pune( India)

      alikahn3

      Sir,

      i respect you and your views that any country in this world needs deterrence to defend herself. To fight war with imported weapon for unfinished target like Kashmir, Siachen and blood letting , plus as you say that nuclear weapons only will save either side No it will destroy both and destruction and radio active waste the other nations will need to clear the debris.

      So far no nuclear weapon nation has threatened to use nuclear weapons and if threat comes from anyone definitely world will intervene .

      Look Syria , it seems that crisis will be settled peacefully and Syria agreed to not to use chemical weapons .

      We in India wish Pakistan as a self reliant nation produce everything what she needs. Pakistan has potential to become medium sized economy in globalization era and capable to generate wealth and employment.

      thanking you

      pramod gokhale

    • profile image

      Rathore 3 years ago

      Nations need strong economies, wealth generation, strong defences and may be nuclear weapons also, but you will agree with me that nations needs indoor toilets also to live a civilised life.

    • alikhan3 profile image
      Author

      StormsHalted 3 years ago from Karachi, Pakistan

      clever objection placed skilfully in mild words .......

    • wilderness profile image

      Dan Harmon 3 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      To answer the question of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto: Because Islam has allowed far too many mad, radical muslims whose stated goal is to kill anyone not Muslim to roam free. When the Islamic states contain those terrorists that spread their religion through fear, murder and terror the world might look differently at nuclear power there.

    • alikhan3 profile image
      Author

      StormsHalted 3 years ago from Karachi, Pakistan

      This is a misconception prevailing in western countries that Islam has

      "Allowed" these extremists to kill anyone not acting according to there own perspective.

      It's a whole big debate about when Muslims can declare so called "Jihad" against a Non-Muslim aggressor which I cannot summarize in comments but if you are keen to know about it I can provide you with references.

      Those Taliban which are currently on war with the state of Pakistan are not considered to be on Jihad by our most senior scholars and Jurists.

      On the other hand those which are fighting against US in Afghanistan are agreed to be on Jihad by most Jurists.

      Again I said its a complex discussion which cannot be satisfied by me in comments.

      Next we see the issue that terrorists are very active on Pakistani land and can potentially seize Nukes, Pakistani Security forces are far too strong to be Overwhelmed by these elements. Pakistan Army maintains a separate Corps level formation just to administer its Nuclear Facilities so their should be no doubt about the security of our nuclear weapons until and unless in a rare scenario the threat is from the bigger players in International Arena.

    • wilderness profile image

      Dan Harmon 3 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      From the western point of view, it doesn't matter whether primary church leaders have declared Jihad or not; mad terrorists are killing indiscriminately in an all out effort to create fear and force control. And when national leaders, Muslim or not, allow those people to exist within their borders and fund their projects they become part of the problem.

      But it doesn't matter why it is being done, or allowed. It is there; the terrorists exist within the Islamic state and as long as they do the rest of the world is going to look very poorly on the existence of atomic weapons or power in close proximity to them. The world views them as mad, as barbaric and uncivilized and will not allow such power to fall into their hands.

      No one can read the future, but my own prediction is that Islam will civilize itself, shedding some of it's more egregious tenets, just as Christianity did. The rest of the world will force the issue sooner or later, if nothing else with a near total embargo. Neither the Islamic state or Islam itself can survive cut off from the rest of the world; the people there, the man in the street, will not allow it. And so Islam will become civilized, following the rest of the world. And when that happens nuclear power, if not weapons, should not be a problem.

    • profile image

      waqaxi 3 years ago

      Well Mr.pramodgokhale civilized country also need civilized people not the rapists like india. Economy is not the meter to show the growth of country when the people eat rat cause of poverty. Civilized nation definitely needs toilet so india should do because they have few slumdog millionaires. In Pakistan we are think one day we will protect all indian girls to give them a happy married life like sania mirza...i hope u understand my feelings....

    • profile image

      Truth 3 years ago

      No country in the world should be allowed to have nuclear weapons. India is willing to talk in this direction, are other Nuclear powers willing to talk about it? No!!! The only way to stop countries from having Nukes is if no country has Nukes.

      Can Alikhan please tell us if there are any terrorist training camps in India where we produce terrorist and send them across the border to Pakistan to fight Jihad? Relations between India and Pakistan will improve drastically if the terrorism exported from Pakistan stops.

      If Pakistan thinks that its Nukes can allow it to export terrorism to India then its wrong thinking. To some extent Pakistans Nukes has protected it, however any further terrorist attack on India with a clear link to Pakistan will result in a precision military strike against Pakistan on the terrorist camps in Pakistan. Your nukes cannot save you in this scenario.

      You might have tactical nuclear weapons but India's latest nuclear doctrine has made it clear that India doesn't differentiate between tactical nuclear attack and a full fledge nuclear attack. Hence it makes no sense for Pakistan to use a small nuclear device against India and then invoke a massive Indian nuclear second strike. Pakistan can already throw its tactical Nukes down the drain.

      India's nuclear doctarine is pretty clear... it will not use the Nukes first and it will never use Nukes against any non nuclear country.

    • MG Singh profile image

      MG Singh 17 months ago from Singapore

      I am a soldier and am appalled at the ignorance of a nuclear attack. Suffice that Pakistan in a nuclear war will cease to exist. There is no discussion on that and mny senior friends of military establishment in Pak concur with me.

    • profile image

      Mir Bugti 14 months ago from Austraila

      I have been reading all the comments and no wonder Pakistan needs nuclear defence, almost all commenters Indians and full of hatred.... and in one of your hubs Ali I read they want co existence.... height of hypocrisy

    • AshutoshJoshi06 profile image

      Ashutosh Joshi 5 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Nuclear Weapons as detterence may have helped the Pakistani cause of spreading terrorism in South-East Asia and ROW. A conventional warfare is not a possibility for a rogue state with a crippled economy. But what Pakistan should understand is that its first nuclear strike policy would only lead to its anihilation.

    • emge profile image

      Madan 5 months ago from Abu Dhabi

      I wonder whether people realize that in a nuclear conflict Pakistan will simply cease to exist.

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