The cold days of early January rekindle the warm memories of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the founding chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party. Among his many achievements was his resolve to make Pakistan a nuclear power against all odds. As a nation, the Pakistanis do register his efforts but they hardly know the details of his contribution to this cause. Pakistans atomic programme started with the setting up of an 'Atomic Energy Council in 1956 with a paltry budget of 2.5 million rupees. The programme received impetus in 1958 with the entry of Bhutto in President Ayubs Cabinet as the Minister of Fuel, Power and Natural Resources. During his nineteen years of association with the Atomic Energy Commission from 1958 to 1977, he transformed this organisation from 'no more than a signboard of an office to the most important programme upon which now, depends the strategic defence of the whole country. This is why Bhutto stands out as a great statesman. What he could envision half a century ago, others around him could not. Once the Indians had procured an atomic power reactor from the Canadians in 1962, Bhutto pressed the latter for a similar deal the same year and through his brilliant negotiating skills successfully hammered out an agreement in 1965 for the KANUPP reactor. Not many people are in the know that his nuclear efforts were opposed tooth and nail by Ayubs Finance Minister Shoaib and the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Said Hassan. But true to his character, Bhutto did not relent. In order to keep pace with the Indian atomic enterprise, he demanded President Ayub to sanction 300 million rupees for buying a reprocessing plant in 1965 but his 'request was turned down, the reason given being that Pakistans economy was not in a state to bear such a heavy burden. Just imagine who was how far sighted. Well before India conducted its first nuclear test in 1974, Bhutto stated in 1969: All wars of our age have become total wars... it would be dangerous to plan for less and our plans should, therefore, include the nuclear deterrent.India is unlikely to concede nuclear monopoly to appears that she is determined to proceed with her plans to detonate a nuclear bomb. His prophecy turned true within five years. He reminded the nation that if Pakistan restricted or suspended her nuclear programme, India would blackmail her. His warnings proved cent percent correct because after conducting their second nuclear tests in May 1998, the then Indian Home Minister L K Advani issued a number of threats. He warned Pakistan to 'roll back its anti-India policy immediately otherwise it will prove costly to her. At another instance, while rejecting the possibility of any dialogue with the Kashmiri freedom fighters, he bellowed that Indian forces would resort to hot pursuit operations across the Line of Control. The credit of reorganising the nuclear establishment also goes to the PPPs chairman. After assuming premiership, he created a Ministry of Science and Technology and made the chairman of (PAEC) directly answerable to him, thus relieving the scientists of all bureaucratic bottlenecks ensuring full freedom of action. The Indian detonation at Pokhran compelled him to launch Pakistans military nuclear option with urgency. However, the Americans appeared to be the biggest stumbling block in his way. Being unable to stop the Indians from going nuclear, they were determined to halt Pakistan from achieving nuclear parity with India. On the eve of his 1975 visit to Washington, Robert Gallucci of the Policy Planning Group in the State Department prepared a paper whose crux was if Bhutto insisted on his countrys compulsions to go nuclear, he should be confronted by the argument that any effort on Pakistans part to move in the nuclear direction would lead to a denial of any conventional military supplies. Bhuttos unflinching efforts to secure the atomic reprocessing technology caused additional headache to the US government so much so that in May 1976, in a meeting chaired by the Foreign Secretary Henry Kissinger, it was proposed that the influence of the Shah of Iran be used to discourage Bhutto in his nuclear drive. Almost two years of intensive bargaining with the French enabled the Pakistani prime minister to ink the pact guaranteeing the supply of a reprocessing plant in early 1976 but the day the deal was publicly announced, American President Ford had a personal letter delivered to Bhutto urging him to cancel the agreement with the French. The Pakistani reply was a curt 'no but Bhutto got duly irritated on two counts: one, when Pakistan was negotiating with the French during '74 and 75, the US did not strongly oppose the prospective deal. Two, owing to the American sensitivities, the French government demanded tougher safeguards from Pakistan and Bhutto had literally agreed to all the French demands in this regard, and in doing so went out of his way to meet the non-proliferation concerns of the nuclear experts at the US State Department. Once, he had indirectly allayed the American fears, he was justly dismayed at the US insistence that Pakistan should cancel her deal with the French. Kissingers August 1976 visit to Pakistan proved crucial in sealing the fate of Bhutto. In an appearance before the press in Lahore, the US foreign secretary assured that there would be no confrontation between the two countries on the nuclear issue but behind-the-scenes, he adopted the 'carrot and stick policy whereby he promised the supply of Bf 110 fighter bombers as carrots and the stick was the warning that the US would adopt a tougher non-proliferation approach and might make an example of Pakistan. Kissinger thought that he could easily terrorise the prime minister of a weak Third World country. History proved him wrong. He was an able diplomat but a poor judge of men. Unlike most leaders of small states, Bhutto was not spineless. He stood up to the Americans by refusing to compromise on Pakistans nuclear deterrence. It is a fact that he had to pay through his life for his heroic resistance but then such can be the cost of confronting a superpower. The important point is that how many leaders of the world are willing to bear such a cost. Hardly any That is why Bhutto stands taller in the gallery of the great leaders. Email: