KARACHI: A retired general associated with an apex government body overseeing operational command and control of Pakistan’s nuclear assets, a former diplomat who had closely experienced the country’s journey of becoming a nuclear power, and a former senator who had served as a federal minister have agreed that despite fears of economic default and growing political instability, the country’s strategic and nuclear position has rema­ined unchanged as there has never been any compromise on its safety.

The consensus of opinion is also backed by the assertions came a couple of days ago when the country’s prime minister and the finance minister stated that there would be ‘no compromise’ on the country’s nuclear and missile programme and they were “jealously guarded by the state”.

At the launch of a book titled The Security Imperative-Pakistan’s Nuclear Deterrence and Diplomacy by Amba­ssador Zamir Akram at the Pakistan Institute of Interna­tional Affairs (PIIA) on Satur­day, the speakers were confident about the future of Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programme, but at the same time admitted that stable economic conditions were needed to give strength to the country’s security.

After an hour-long discussion about the book, the panellists — retired Lt General Khalid Ahm­ed Kidwai who is adviser to the National Command Author­ity (NCA), author of the book Amba­ssador Zamir Akram and former senator Javed Jabbar — replied to the questions asked by the audience. The answers showed their agreement with the government’s position on the status of Pakistan’s nuclear programme.

Ambassador Zamir Akram’s book on Pakistan’s nuclear programme launched

“There is no argument on what you are saying,” replied Gen Kidwai while responding to a question about the relevance of nuclear deterrence when the country’s economy was facing a worst crisis of its history.

“The economy should support security and I principally agree with that the current crisis is really very severe,” he added.

However, replying to another question, he ruled out any threat to the country’s nuclear and missile programme against the backdrop of the current economic crisis amid speculations about reasons behind a delay in the agreement with the IMF, which could provide a critical lifeline to control a balance-of-payments crisis and a recent visit of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) head to Pakistan.

“That was a very innocent visit,” Gen Kidwai said referring to the recent visit of the IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi. “But unfortunately it was linked with the IMF programme. The Foreign Office clarified the position but it was too late. A negative impression was created on social media.”

He said: “Let me be very clear that there have been some tactical ups and downs, but Pakistan’s strategic position has never changed [on nuclear programme].”

Earlier in his address, the author, Ambassador Akram, shared his experiences and briefs of his book recalling Pakistan’s journey to become a nuclear power that was mainly aimed at “not to fight wars but to prevent wars” amid the persisting threat from India.

He gave full marks to former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto saying that the credit went to him who made every possible move to make Pakistan a nuclear power. “If I am asked to give credit to only one person for this achievement, it should be Zulfkar Ali Bhutto,” he said.

“If he wasn’t there, Pakistan wouldn’t be a nuclear power today. He even realised very early about this and even when he was not prime minister he pursued this programme as foreign minister.”

The author mentioned “many unsung heroes” of Pakistan’s nuclear programme, including scientists and technicians, who “started from scratch”, who were needed to be recognised for their great contribution and tireless efforts.

About his attempt to build a true narrative of Pakistan’s nuclear programme through his book, the author recalled how it was not welcomed mainly in the western circles.

“I have completed this book by early 2022. I came in contact with Oxford University Press for its publication. They held its three reviews including one conducted by their foreign expert. After all reviews the final proposal was sent to Oxford University for approval. It took four months and finally I was told by the person I was in contact with that: sorry we didn’t get the clearance,” he said, adding: “Frankly speaking, it didn’t surprise me. The British would definitely not be happy with the book and they don’t want themselves to be answerable before their American cousin.”

Former Senator Jabbar while sharing his experiences and observations claimed Pakistan’s nuclear programme was never a military-driven programme, as it was a political decision with full endorsement of the military establishment calling it “perfect example of civil-military partnership”. He lauded Ambassador Akram to gather the facts, collect every true detail and build the rightful narrative of Pakistan’s nuclear programme through his book which otherwise “demonised” within and outside the country.

Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2023

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