The scale and magnitude of the success of Pakistan’s nuclear program can only be understood if it is placed in some kind of measurable context. Let me try doing that.

Read the book titled” Two Minutes Over Baghdad”; it’s a fascinating story about how Israeli Airforce destroyed Iraq’s nuclear Reactor “ Tammuz One” on 7 June 81 and with it Saddam Hussain’s ambitions of leading Iraq into leadership role of the Arab/ Muslim world. Destruction of this reactor was accompanied by murder of many of Iraq’s leading scientists and engineers effectively sealing any possibility of Iraq going at it again.

That’s how serious the world was then against any Muslim country becoming nuclear power.

More recently, Iran’s nuclear ambitions are one of the major reasons for pushing it back into sanctions yet again. And it is not easy for Iranians despite being major oil exporters. When push came to shove, even its strategic ally, India, took no time in deserting it. These sanctions are being enforced through brutal power with more to come because Americans didn’t have to make major naval and other redeployments focused around the Strait of Hormuz merely as show of force.

In this backdrop, it is pretty sobering to think that technologically primitive Pakistan, not as well-endowed financially as Iraq or Iran and also not as important for anyone as Israel is for America , went around everything and everyone to become a recognised nuclear power and a Muslim country too. If asked to express themselves frankly, only a handful of countries would like Pakistan’s nuclear capability. In fact quite a few would actually vote to take it back. Some wouldn’t mind destroying it physically if possible.

If ever documented, Pakistan’s journey from apparently innocuous KANUP(Karachi Nuclear Power Plant) to KRL( Khan Research Laboratory) onto Chaghi Hills would pale the combined genius of John Le Carre, Robert Ludlum and Fredrick Forsyth.

From Dr Usmani to Dr Qadeer and Dr Samar Mubarakmand, from Ayub Khan to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Ishaq khan, Ziaul Haq and Mian Nawaz Sharif, there’s a long list of scientists, engineers and leaders who rightly deserve to be credited for their contributions in developing Pakistan’s nuclear capability. It will be unfair not to recognised Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) for the lions share in this regard. By his own admission, even the wiliest of foxes, Dr Henry Kissinger couldn’t help recognising his genius when he outwitted the good doctor twice. Once on Lahore Airport when Henry Kissinger wanted to discuss Pakistan’s nuclear program, ZAB told him politely that he couldn’t talk about it because of impending elections in Pakistan in 1977 and second time the Dr got hold of ZAB on Paris Airport where he was told that it was pointless to talk about it, this time because of impending elections in America. Only ZAB could do that to Henry Kissinger

ZAB also doesn’t get credit for one more critical decision that proved to be the game changer. He took this project out of routine bureaucratic channels and set up a special system involving only the most essential offices and persons. He put Army in charge with COAS coordinating all aspects of the program and reporting directly to the PM/ Chief Executive. Everything and everyone else kept changing but this constant, the Army, didn’t. It not only ensured much needed continuity, smooth and easy execution of the program removing all possible administrative and other hurdles but guarded it jealousy the way only army can. But for this crucial measure, who knows what would have happened given the uncertainties and lethargy that afflicts us as a nation.

Just one of the many incidents to make it clearer; Gen Abdul Waheed Kakar, on his first ever visit to USA was told that Americans are very keen to discuss this program. He response was sharp and clear, “No, Pakistan’s nuclear program is off limits”. As he landed in Washington and was being driven to his hotel, he was informed that Americans are adamant and will bring this subject up during negotiations. They were messing with wrong man. Gen Waheed Kakar ordered his staff there and then, “We are going back. Book our tickets back for Pakistan on the first available flight. I will never talk about something absolutely crucial for Pakistan’s security”. Americans had to concede to the will of this diminutive but rock solid COAS. Others preceding or following him didn’t waver either.

When we eulogise all others for their great contributions in giving us across the spectrum strategic deterrence, don’t forget this singular and crucial role played by our army. It will also be unfair if we don’t recognise the brave and courageous people of Pakistan without whose unflinching support we would be nowhere.