Cover Story

Salvaging the Nuclear Honour

How can we protect our nuclear assets from those we ask for alms and aids every so often?

By Hamid Mir | February 2023

“We will eat grass, but make a nuclear bomb.”
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is remembered for saying the above words at the Punjab Governor’s House in Lahore in 1974. Staying true to his word, Z.A. Bhutto invited Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan from the Netherlands to Pakistan to make an atomic bomb. Much to the world’s surprise, Pakistan successfully made the bomb, however, both Bhutto and Dr. Khan were also made an example for pursuing their nuclear ambitions. Today, Pakistan is a nuclear power, but its nuclear assets are hanging in the balance at the hands of global powers looking desperate to deprive Pakistan of its nuclear capability. In his autobiography, Professor Fateh Muhammad Malik, who is Pakistan’s prominent intellectual, researcher and academician, has narrated many historical events, of which he is an eyewitness.

In 1974, when Hanif Ramay was the Chief Minister of Punjab, he brought Professor Fateh Muhammad Malik on deputation from the Department of Education to the Department of Information and Prof. Malik became the Chief Minister’s Special Assistant for Information on the day when India carried out its nuclear tests in Pokhran in the state of Rajasthan, India. The next day, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto came to Lahore to give the country’s official reaction to India’s nuclear tests. A huge stage was prepared for him in the Governor’s House, on which representatives of all the provincial governments were present. Speaking on the occasion, Z.A. Bhutto said that Pakistan would get its own nuclear bomb even if we had to eat grass.

Prof. Fateh Muhammad Malik’s autobiography titled “Ashiana Ghubart Se Ashiyan Dar Ashiyan” has recently been published and is easily available in bookstores across the country. In his autobiography, Prof. Malik writes that when Bhutto made this announcement, there was so much excitement in the audience, however, the authorities sitting on the stage seemed to be quite worried and started looking at each other. Then within a brief period of time, many important personalities including Hanif Ramay left the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Prof. Malik has taught at some of the world’s leading universities such as Columbia University in America, Heidelberg University in Germany, and St. Petersburg University in Russia, in addition to many educational institutions of repute in Pakistan, and that is why he does not make any claims without substantial proof.

He believes that Bhutto was threatened by the US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to stop the nuclear programme, but when Bhutto did not abandon the programme, he met a terrible fate. When a political leader reaches the peak of his popularity, then maintaining the fame becomes a formidable challenge for him as a slight error or a discrepancy between words and actions may immediately turn him from a revered hero to an evil figure. In 1970, according to Prof. Malik. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was so popular in Punjab that some grey-headed citizens would say, “If Bhutto hangs his party’s ticket around a dog’s neck, people will vote for that dog too.”

When Bhutto came to power, he could not strengthen his party and it weakened further due to the infighting between ideological workers and opportunistic landlords. In his book, Prof. Malik says it is a pity that the people of the Pakistan People’s Party did not realize that General Yahya Khan and his imperialist American patrons had given power to Bhutto under compulsion after their successive failures and when Bhutto enraged the imperialist forces, General Ziaul Haq was deployed to topple Z. A. Bhutto.

Read More