Another nuclear anniversary

PAKISTAN: Another nuclear anniversary
By Pervez Hoodbhoy
Dawn, 28 May, 2009

Once upon a time making nuclear bombs was the biggest thing a country could do. But not any more; North Korea’s successful nuclear test provides rock-solid proof. This is a country that no one admires.

It is unknown for scientific achievement, has little electricity or fuel, food and medicine are scarce, corruption is ubiquitous, and its people live in terribly humiliating conditions under a vicious, dynastic dictatorship. In a famine some years ago, North Korea lost nearly 800,000 people. It has an enormous prison population of 200,000 that is subjected to systematic torture and abuse.

Why does a miserable, starving country continue spending its last penny on the bomb? On developing and testing a fleet of missiles whose range increases from time to time? The answer is clear: North Korea’s nuclear weapons are instruments of blackmail rather than means of defence. Brandished threateningly, and manipulated from time to time, these bombs are designed to keep the flow of international aid going.

Surely the people of North Korea gained nothing from their country’s nuclearisation. But they cannot challenge their oppressors. But, as Pakistan celebrates the 11th anniversary of its nuclear tests, we Pakistanis — who are far freer — must ask: what have we gained from the bomb?

Some had imagined that nuclear weapons would make Pakistan an object of awe and respect internationally. They had hoped that Pakistan would acquire the mantle of leadership of the Islamic world. Indeed, in the aftermath of the 1998 tests, Pakistan’s stock had shot up in some Muslim countries before it crashed. But today, with a large swathe of its territory lost to insurgents, one has to defend Pakistan against allegations of being a failed state. In terms of governance, economy, education or any reasonable quality of life indicators, Pakistan is not a successful state that is envied by anyone.

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