Our (nuclear) Hobson’s choice

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Like May 28th,1998, today we direly need to forge an identical resolve

 

Every year this day needs to be reiterated because it tells us why we went nuclear. It was not an inherent death wish we acted upon but rather the only way forward for a state that was left with no option

 

 

Life, be it of individuals or states, is marked by the crossroads encountered and choices made under immense pressure. On 28th May, 1998, Pakistan, its leadership and its people made a tough choice that decided its place in the comity of nations.

The six nuclear tests by Pakistan codenamed Chagai-I comprehensively answered India’s Pokhran-II tests performed two weeks earlier. That tit-for-tat response by Pakistan angered the global powers-that-be who were furious as they didn’t expect such an exact and prompt reply from the Pakistani side without obtaining an approval or a nod first from them. Which, dare us not forget, was impossible to be granted by so-called guardians who were first to possess all things nuclear.

Every year this day needs to be reiterated because it tells us why we went nuclear. It was not an inherent death wish we acted upon but rather the only way forward for a state that was left with no option. The Indian manic nuclear designs brought Pakistan to a point where the only way out was the one our leadership opted. To pay our neighbour back in the same coin so that he too can know that not every entity can be devoured at its sweet will, that was the message that is still fresh in the memory of a country that aspires to become a regional bully.

There was excruciating pressure on our state both internally and externally. Our leadership, spearheaded by PM Nawaz Sharif back then, resisted the onslaught by movers and shakers of the world as they firstly tried to entice the government with trade opportunities and lure Pakistan with aid and incentives on the sole condition of not detonating the bomb. The PM didn’t budge an inch on his decision and Pakistan became the 7th state to possess nuclear capabilities.

In retrospect, the seeds of hatred sowed at the time of partition of the subcontinent blackened the hearts and minds of millions of people in both countries and resulted in many estranged generations. The wars of ‘65 and ‘71 further alienated India and Pakistan or to describe the relations more aptly in Tariq Ali’s (famous intellectual and writer) words, “The hostility between India and Pakistan has become a habit to which both the elites have become addicted”. The famous saying of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto that pronounced Pakistan’s resolve to gain nuclear capability “even if we have to eat grass” rightly depicts the mind-set that an ordinary Pakistani still has. The testing of nukes was not to up the ante on India but to spell out the message that it can’t bully Pakistan around. The message was loud and clear and it was heard, deciphered and understood well.

As much as this occasion warrants celebration it invites introspection on an individual as well as a collective level. We’ve proved to our dear neighbour, once and for all, that we can assert ourselves if and when any aggression is sensed on its part. Now, we need turn our attention to fight numerous spectres at home.

Pakistan presently finds itself embroiled in a muddled situation. Although this time it is of a different nature. This time it is about enemy within. Once again, we need to take tough decisions sans fear and favouritism. Unfortunately, the Pakistani state is rife with many hydra-headed monsters in shapes of terrorism, unemployment, ubiquitous corruption, heightening poverty, illiteracy and most worryingly is becoming a society where the chasm between haves and have-nots is getting broader every passing day. We need the same resolve, the same dedication and the same commitment to battle these ailments.

 

All the non-issues and transitory topics that are roaring and raging today will be settled or withered away with the passage of time. The whole hullabaloo surrounding the so-called Panamagate and the TORs and the inquiry commission must not be used as an excuse

 

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif back then mustered the courage to push the button despite the odds and paid the price dearly by being sheared off his premiership and thrown in the jail in a coup. Today the people of Pakistan have put him once again in power and expect him to deliver on the above-mentioned issues.

All the non-issues and transitory topics that are roaring and raging today will be settled or withered away with the passage of time. The whole hullabaloo surrounding the so-called Panamagate and the TORs and the inquiry commission must not be used as an excuse to not address the issues that are more perennial and pertinent than Panama and its leaked papers.

To end my column, I would like to postmortem an ages old phrase. There was this stable owner, Thomas Hobson, who used to give the customer a choice to take the horse standing next to the stable door or walk away without one. In today’s lingo, ‘take it or leave it’. Back in May ‘98 we were offered a Hobson’s choice to detonate or remain docile. We opted the former and triumphed. Today, dearest sirs and ma’am’s, history has rhymed for us once again. The choice we are given? To put our house in order or allow the bullies to run riot in a land we call home.

1 COMMENT

  1. The purpose of Indian Nuclear Tests had one and only primary purpose. The purpose was to rat it out, or expose the Pakistan nuclear capability, which was secret, and enjoying enormous benefits of doubt, without paying the resultant penalty. For India, it did not make any difference, as it was already in the International nuclear doghouse.

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