Bhutto and Youm-e-Takbeer (National Science Day)
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was a prominent figure in Pakistan’s nuclear prowess. Pakistan became independent from India, yet remains hostile towards it due to deeply rooted issues. After East Pakistan separated from Pakistan, hostilities rose when India successfully tested nuclear explosions in 1974. To Pakistan, this was nothing short of a threat. Thus, the country embarked on a mission to develop its very own nuclear weaponry.
Power Struggles and Bhutto’s Resilience
World War 2 ended and resulted in several new states. These states were weak and fragile. Additionally, they were dependent on developed economies. Bhutto perceived the pain of these weak communities and resolved to unite these weaker forces so as to stop exploitation by the rich. Procuring nuclear weapons was a surefire step towards breaking the hegemony of developed economies.
Some Pakistanis opposed the idea of nuclear weaponry. They claimed processing plants were useless and costly. Therefore it was best to avoid nuclear development to prevent ‘obvious’ failures. Some international forces wanted nuclear power to stay in their hands. With its awe-inspiring qualities, they could threaten the weaker nations and exploit them. For instance, it was used to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War 2. Thus it was that the new states began to view these countries with fear.
Nonetheless, Bhutto chose to rebel. He was upset at the developed nations’ strategies. After India’s 1974 nuclear test, he gave a famous quote in a press conference:
“We will eat grass, go hungry, but we will make the nuclear bomb. We have no other choice.”
Bhutto was aware of the progress in neighbor countries. Moreover, he was aware of how these nations gained self-respect and how they secured honor and dignity. It was his passion to truly free Pakistan from the dominance of other countries. He was not fond of the idea of charities with strings attached.
Bhutto reached Canada on the 24th of February 1976. In Ottawa, he announced that the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) had formally approved an agreement between Pakistan and France. The agreement was for a nuclear reprocessing plant in Pakistan. The next day in New York, then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger tried to dissuade Bhutto. But Bhutto remained adamant.
After India’s 1974 explosions, Bhutto stated that the threat would not intimidate Pakistan. Furthermore, he said that nuclear blackmail would not work. With the power of a nuclear bomb, Bhutto saw himself as a great leader. Constant American pressure to ease off nuclear plans resulted in the US cutting off Pakistan from aid in 1979.
Without assistance and aid, Pakistan and Bhutto truly struggled to keep the nuclear dream alive. India was equipping itself. Nehru was travelling America and Europe for increased nuclear power. Only the Chinese were willing to help Pakistan. But they too had their limits. They were not a very powerful country at the time.
Finally, after eleven years of constant struggle, Bhutto began seeing the fruits of his efforts. The French agreement enabled Pakistan to get nuclear assets.
Abdul Qadeer Khan and Bhutto
Abdul Qadeer Khan was born in Bhopal in 1936. After the 1947 partition, his family shifted to Pakistan in 1952. Khan studied physics in Karachi University. He graduated from KU in 1960 with a degree in physics and a minor in math. He worked for the government briefly before shifting to Germany to study metallurgy. Khan finished his doctoral studies there as well.
It was not until after 1974 that Khan learned of a crash program Bhutto had approved in 1972. Fascinated, he approached government officers to apply for a job as a metallurgist. Undaunted, Khan wrote to Bhutto himself, mentioning his many achievements and experience. He encouraged Bhutto to work on an atomic bomb with military grade uranium. On receiving the letter, Bhutto ordered a background check on Khan. The ISI, which conducted the check, declared Khan as incompetent. However, Bhutto was not satisfied. He eventually requested Munir Ahmad to round up a PAEC team to meet him in Germany.
After the interview by the PAEC team, Bhutto wrote to Khan, requesting a meeting. Delighted, Khan arrived in Pakistan and met Bhutto. The meeting took place at midnight. Khan argued for uranium instead of plutonium. The discussions continued and Bhutto was impressed by the scientist.
By 1975, Abdul Qadeer Khan joined the atomic bomb project. He also became a part of the PAEC’s enrichment division. He performed vital calculations that had strong connections to the research on nuclear weapons. Also, Khan kept pushing his ideas on uranium methods. But these ideas did not hold much significance. His work is prominent to this day.
Without a doubt, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was passionate about living a life of equality, dignity, honor, and prosperity. Especially in the context of Pakistan. He was the most prominent figure in Pakistan’s nuclear program. Bhutto was quick to realize the magnitude of the threat of India’s nuclear abilities. He had warned against the proliferation of such weapons. But his warnings fell to deaf ears, especially in the United Nations, where they passed empty resolutions.
Bhutto was a man of his words. His farsightedness and courage benefits Pakistan to this day in terms of nuclear power. Today, Pakistan stands strong and able to face outside threats with its atomic strength. Today, Pakistan stands with dignity because of one man’s insistence and struggles.