Bhutto’s obsession with Islamic bomb


By S. Ishrat Hussain

Just before the beginning of the month of Ramzan this year, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan advised country’s youth that they can learn Islamic ethics and values while watching Turkish TV serial Ertugrul. I want our children and youth to know what the difference is about our culture. The show was already a hit in many countries. Prime minister’s promotional speech made it more popular in Pakistan than in any other country.

I believe in diversity because it reduces narrow mindedness. It is always good to know about the cultures and history of different Islamic nations. But let me remind you, that even as on today June, 14, 2020 Pakistan still is the only nuclear state within Islamic world. How many of you out of 22 billion are aware of the struggle behind to become a nuclear state? I can assure you, you can count them on fingers. Unfortunately even PPP’s own governments didn’t do anything to raise awareness among the masses about the challenges and obstacles faced by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto writes from his death cell: My single most important achievement which I believe will dominate the portrait of my public life is an agreement which I arrived at after an assiduous and tenacious endeavour spanning over eleven years of negotiations. In the present context, the agreement of mine, concluded in June 1976, will perhaps be my greatest achievement and contribution to the survival of our nation. We were on the threshold of full nuclear capability when I left the government to come to this death cell. We know that Israel and South Africa have full nuclear capability. The Christian, Jewish and Hindu civilisations have capability. The Communist powers also possess it. Only the Islamic civilisation was without it, but that position was about to change. What difference does my life make now when I can imagine of my countrymen standing under the nuclear cloud of a defenceless sky.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto preferred to be hanged rather than surrender to military dictator Gen Ziaul Haq.

Bhutto’s eleven years of negotiation began around 1965. It was the year of Indo-Pakistan war. It was the year in which Pakistan had its US military aid suspended and Bhutto declared, if India builds the bomb, we will eat grass or leaves, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own. We have no alternative, atom bomb for atom bomb.

Few weeks after the fall of Dhaka on 20 January 1972, Bhutto called together his eminent scientists at Nawab Sadiq Hussain Qureshi’s residence in Multan. Bhutto told them that fate had placed him in a position where he could make decisions that would lead the country to become Nuclear power. Can you give to me? He asked. There was a pin drop silence. According to most estimates Pakistan was at least twenty years behind India. Bhutto scowled, one of the young scientist recalled. He looked at the junior scientists before him for a positive response. Bhutto repeated his question: Can you give it to me? Some of the junior scientists replied, yes it would be possible, Sultan Bashir Uddin Mahmood shouted. Bhutto fired back: But how long will it take to build a bomb? When Bashir Uddin mumbled, maybe five years, Bhutto thrust three fingers into the air. I want in three years. It isn’t making firecrackers, you know, one of the scientist piped up. We don’t know how long it will take. But one of the younger scientist Sulfikar Ahmed Butt shouted it: It can be done in three years.

Bhutto smiled. Well much as I admire your enthusiasm, this is a very serious political decision, which Pakistan must take. So can you do it? Everybody present agreed to agree that Pakistan could do it, given sufficient resources and facilities.

In 1976 Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto ordered test tunnels to be constructed at two locations in Ras Koh range in the Chaghai District, and Kharan desert Balochistan. In the autumn of 1976 an army corps led by Brigadier Sajawal Khan Malik, was ordered to help A. Q. Khan raise a nuclear facility at the Kahuta site. Brigadier Sajawal would remain a key aide until Khan retired in 2001.

US secretary of the state Henry Kissinger had tried to head Bhutto’s nuclear ambitions during a meeting in New York, offering him a deal. Bhutto was to terminate his reprocessing project in favour of US supplied facility that would be located in Iran and be made available to all countries in the region. Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld had devised the scheme arguing that Iran needed a nuclear programme to meet its future energy needs. But Bhutto rejected the offer. The US Senate proposed an amendment to the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act to block economic and military aid, threatening to cut off Pakistan’s annual $162 million aid package. The noise from the US Congress suited Bhutto, as he had no intention of going ahead with the costly reprocessing plant. Bhutto hoped that if Pakistan was seen to abandon its reprocessing plans under US pressure it would not have to compensate the French when it finally pulled out of the deal.

In 1977 Bhutto was fighting a four sided battle. On one side he was provoking Carter to put pressure on France. On a second front he was trying to keep the Kahuta plant concealed from the West. On the third front he was fighting with the agitation in the country and on the fourth front he was keeping a check on the generals by meeting them every day. And during this period he was casting a net across the world for the purchase of necessary parts for the research laboratory.

During an emotional address to the National Assembly, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto charged Washington with financing a vast colossal, huge international conspiracy to oust him. The bloodhounds are after my blood, foreign dollars were flooding into Pakistan to pay for the rising agitation. He claimed that Henry Kissinger had personally told him, that if he failed to fall in line over the nuclear issue, we will make a horrible example of you. Bhutto revealed how US diplomats had been intercepted plotting his downfall on the phone.

Back in 1979, the Israelis had been shown a classified US memo by their counterparts in India. Intercepted on its way from the US embassy in New Delhi to the secretary of state, it confirmed that the US privately believed Pakistan would be able to explode a bomb within two or three years, most likely by 1981.(George Perkovich, India’s Nuclear Bomb)

A sarcastic question is often asked, why Bhutto is still alive?

(The writer is a freelance writer and critically analysis the social affairs. He is based in London.)