Nuclear success amid overall failure By Kamran Yousaf

On May 28, Pakistan observed the 21st anniversary of nuclear tests. This year the debate was who deserved the credit for making the country a nuclear power? For PML-N supporters, the jailed former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, was the one who took the ‘bold’ decision in the face of the mounting US pressure. They often cite the famous telephone call by then US president Bill Clinton, who offered Nawaz five billion dollars of financial package in exchange for not conducting the tests in response to the India’s nuclear explosions. But Nawaz, as his supporters claim, turned down the offer and decided to go ahead with the tests. The PTI and other PML-N critics dispute that claim. They believe that Pakistani scientists and the military leadership deserved the actual credit for making Pakistan nuclear.
While this debate will continue, the real issue we seldom dwell on is: Why has Pakistan miserably failed to replicate this technological feat in other fields? Acquiring nuclear weapons is not a joke by any means. Currently, there are only eight declared nuclear weapons states in the world. Israel, it is thought, also has nuclear bomb but deliberately follows the ‘doctrine of ambiguity’.
The US, China, Russia, France and the UK, all permanent members of the UN Security Council, were officially declared nuclear states before Pakistan and India laid their claims in 1998. North Korea also joined the race later. But except Pakistan and North Korea, all other countries having nuclear weapons are in the list of top 20 leading exporters of the world. In fact, all these countries are economic powerhouses. This means their progress is not restricted to military prowess only.
Some would argue that comparing Pakistan with these powerful countries is unjustified. It is true if Pakistan has any comparison, it must be with the neighbouring India. Notwithstanding the size of India, it is now fast becoming a global economic power simply because of the reforms it has undergone over the past many years. India’s burgeoning economy and trade ties with outside world have considerably enhanced its political clout at the global level.
On the other hand, where does Pakistan stand? No doubt joining the exclusive club of nuclear countries was not an ordinary achievement for a country that has so many challenges to deal with.
But the question one must ask is: how and why does a country that has been able to acquire the most sophisticated weaponry struggle to emulate the same in other areas? The absence of technological advancement in other spheres of life is the main reason behind Pakistan’s faltering economy.
While everyone including politicians, generals and scientists claim credit for the nuclear programme, the situation is totally different when it comes to Pakistan’s failures in other sectors.
One key factor that helped Pakistan become a nuclear state is that despite international pressure and US sanctions, every government and institution owned the nuclear programme. That ownership certainly is lacking when it comes to challenges on the economic and political fronts. Every new government blames its predecessor for the precipice. The end result of this blame game is that we are moving in a vicious cycle where no one is ready to own up the problems.
Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence may have prevented India from launching a full-scale war following the Pulwama attack but this alone will not guarantee our survival. The former Soviet Union is a prime example. Ultimately, it is the country’s economic progress that can ensure its survival. In fact, economic and political instability can make our nuclear programme vulnerable in the eyes of powerful countries.
Therefore, Pakistan needs to show the same determination — as it has shown for decades for the nuclear programme — to bring the country on a par with other nuclear states as far as economic prosperity and political stability are concerned.
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