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Pakistan's quest for nuclear power, India's worriment
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, while a member of Gen. Ayub Khan's cabinet in 1960 was Pakistan's first leader who discerned the significance of developing nuclear power capabilities for his country's political and military standing in the Indian sub-continent.

After Pakistan's defeat in 1965 war, Bhutto had inter alia announced that "even if we have to eat grass, we will make nuclear bomb". Thereafter humiliating defeat in 1971 war at the hands of spirited Indian armed forces, Pakistan as a nation led by Bhutto got baffled and strongly perceived that Pakistan cannot defeat India militarily and required nuclear deterrent.

Then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (1971-77) who died on April 4, 1979, made an immense contribution to equip Pakistan with nuclear weapons.

Bhutto's farsightedness coupled with shrewdness led Pakistan to its successful nuclear programme. Although Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) was in existence since March 1956, but it was following a 'non-weapon policy' firmly. After a few months of Bangladesh war in December 1971, Bhutto convened a secret meeting of Pakistan's top fifty scientists, engineers, military officers and bureaucrats at Multan on January 24, 1972 and outlined a plan for country's nuclear programme.

Bhutto, in the secret meeting, also announced Pakistan's decision to have nuclear bomb within three years. However, the then PAEC Chief Dr. I.H.Usmani opposed Bhutto's nuclear weapons ambitions in the meeting and he was swiftly replaced by Dr. M.A. Khan.

Bhutto as President, inaugurated Karachi Nuclear Power Project (KANUPP), Pakistan's first nuclear project on November 1, 1972, which started working in July 1973 with 125 MW capacities but Pakistan was far behind from India in the field of nuclear power. After India's nuclear explosion took place in Pokhran in 1974, Bhutto was more determined to have nuclear capabilities with a faster pace.

600 Pakistani scientists were sent abroad to get training in nuclear sciences. He encouraged talented scientists including Munir Ahmed Khan, Nobel Laureate Dr. Abdus Salam and infamous A.Q. Khan to join secret nuclear plan code named 'Project-706' planned in 1972, which started in 1974 to develop Pakistan's first atom bomb using uranium, at the initial cost of US$ 450 million, with financial assistance from Saudi Arabia and Libya.

Bhutto's political career was cut short by Gen Zia-ul-Haq who staged a military coup on 5 July, 1977. Later on April 4, 1979 Bhutto was hanged in Rawalpindi jail. Before it, in 1978, when Munir Khan, the then Chairman of PAEC visited Bhutto in his jail cell, he informed Bhutto about Pakistan's almost acquiring requisite capabilities for nuclear weapons and bomb, Bhutto asked Gen. Zia to explode the bomb, but he did not oblige his political enemy.

Subsequently, daughter of Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto remained in power twice, firstly in December 1988-1990 then in October1993-1996. Contrary to general belief that Ms Benazir Bhutto was a 'bog standard' Prime Minister of Pakistan, it was she who changed the complexion of regional power balance by initiating capabilities to pursue plutonium production in Pakistan with Chinese assistance in 1990 and then mothering birth of Taliban in 1993, which changed the region's security scenario.

Benazir Bhutto carried forward his father's ambitious nuclear plans and took initiative to make Pakistan a nuclear country with Chinese and North Korean assistance, clandestinely. China was a major contributor to Pakistan's nuclear programme as it provided weapon-grade uranium fuel and complete design of a tested nuclear weapon. Pakistan also resorted to smuggling of some critical equipment from USA, Germany, UK and Canada for developing its nuclear programme.

In 1996 Benazir Bhutto had publically declared that if India conducted a nuclear test, Pakistan would be forced to act in same way. Finally, on May 28 and 30, 1998 Pakistan, under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif successfully exploded six underground nuclear devices in the Chagai, about 1500 km away from Islamabad, located in Baluchistan province and close to Pakistan-Iran border.

Significantly, Pakistan is only nuclear power in the Muslim world. It is estimated that in 2015, Pakistan had 110 nuclear warheads. Pakistan is also a member of nine-country' 'nuclear weapons club', including USA, Russia, France, United Kingdom, China, Israel, India and North Korea.

Pakistan's armed forces have also been equipped with nuclear missiles of different types, such as, surface-to-surface missiles with range from 300km to 2,700km, cruise missiles with range 700km, anti-tank guided missiles with range between 3-4km, different types of air to air missiles with operational range from 60km to 350km and surface to air missile with 500m to 5km.

With regard to use of nuclear power for producing electricity, while Pakistan's total installed capacity of power generation is 22,797MW whereas only 10000MW out of which about 852MW is being produced by nuclear stations at Karachi Nuclear Power Project (KANUPP ), Chashma Nuclear Power Plant No 1 and 2 (CHASNUPP) and at Khushab Nuclear Complex (KHUSHAB). Meanwhile, to meet growing power shortage in country, on August 20, 2015, China aided Karachi Costal Power Project was launched by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Known as KANUPP- II and KANUPP-III, to be built by China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNP) the project involves the installation of two nuclear reactors, capable of generating 1,100MW each after being operational in 2019. Earlier, foundations of KANUPP- II and KANUPP-III were laid in November 2013.

However, this Chinese project has attracted some serious safety concerns for the safety of the people of Karachi and its people. Meanwhile, China Zhongyuan Engineering Corporation (CZEC) is already constructing two nuclear reactors viz. CHASNUPP II and III in Mianwali, which are likely to be completed in 2016 and 2017 respectively and would generate 340MW each.

Pakistan's nuclear development programme, since its inception remained controversial due to some or other reasons, including flouting of international norms for purchase of nuclear components and devices, smuggling of components, stealing of uranium centrifuge blue prints from Netherlands by A.Q. Khan in 1976 then selling nuclear technology to Iran and Libya by him in 1990s and reports of Pakistan's secret liaison with Saudi Arabia over transfer of nuclear technology.

Since Pakistan is not member of Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), Pakistan's all nuclear facilities are not under safeguard of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),which is a great cause of concern to the world safety, particularly to India.

Joe Crincione, an international nuclear safety expert and the President of USA based Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation, in an interview to 'Forbes' had described Pakistan as the "most dangerous country on the earth" as it has arsenal of over hundred nuclear bomb but government is weak and unstable, country's economy is fragile, intelligence and military agencies are highly influenced by strong radicals and extreme influence and presence of Al-Qaeda and a number of Islamic extremist groups were operating in the country.

Moreover, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) of USA in a report had also disclosed (November 24, 2014) that Pakistan has world's fastest nuclear programme and by the year 2020 it may have up to 200 nuclear devises. It is further estimated that Pakistan might be building 20 nuclear warheads annually.

Notably, Muhammad Khurassani, spokesperson of Tehrik-e-Taliban, Pakistan (TTP) the most dreaded militant outfit, claimed (April 20, 2015) that TTP had successfully tested an indigenously developed missile 'Omar-1', which triggered the debate about safety of nuclear warheads in Pakistan. Khurassani further claimed that Taliban were capable of developing 'modern lethal weapons' and Taliban fighters were being trained by its engineering unit to use modern technology.

Khurassni's sensational claim might have made the world over nuclear safety experts more worried about the vulnerability and safety of Pakistani nuclear heads. America is so concerned about such apprehensions that its security agencies were reportedly formulating a contingency plan to prevent nuclear weapons of Pakistan falling into the hands of terrorists.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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