Thumbnail images: 

Pakistan’s Islamic Identity


Pakistan has been a country in search of its identity right from its inception. Very few among the founders of Pakistan had any idea how this artificially created country would forge into the dynamics of a future world. The two-nation theory was based on two dominions, which Britain carved out for self-governance by Hindus and Muslims. However, India became a secular republic and Pakistan became an Islamic Republic, a couple of years after Independence. It was formed to establish her Islamic identity. In search of a role model for the Islamic Republic, it has forfeited its identity and meandered into cultural obscurity.


Pakistan is still struggling to get out of centuries of her strong sub-continental and Persian moorings to find a niche for itself in the Arab world. It was Zia-ul-Haq, who brought in ‘Wahhabi’ fundamentalism in day to day lives of the Pakistanis. He also diluted the professional ardour of Pakistani Army by Islamic ensembles.  The motto of the Army was changed from ‘Unity, Faith & Discipline’ to ‘Faith, Piety & Jihad’. Officers of the army were subjected to religious evaluation in their performance report. Mullahs were called to give lectures at training institutes to preach ‘Salafi’ ideology. The strong cultural identity of Pakistan is its Indo-Persian origin and efforts are on to subsume it into an alien Pan-Arabism. Losing their rich original roots of a diverse multi-cultured, multi-language, multi-ethnic societal mix of Punjabis, Bengalis, Baluchis, Sindhis and a multi-coloured myriad of Pashtuns and other tribal cultures and transforming the variegated and vibrant cultural, social fabric into drab fundamental Arabic mould is an exercise that Pakistani government and mullahs are struggling with unabated tempo.


Pakistan’s inability to see its strength in diversity cost its eastern wing, and its persistent refusal to learn from the lessons of the past would be its nemesis in times to come. The spate of violence in Baluchistan; internecine conflicts in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; frequent violence in Sindh; and the Sunni-Shia conflict is tearing it asunder! There is no doubt that there are adequate indicators even to the most indolent for carrying out realistic prognosis of its future and plan its survival strategy. 


Pakistan’s National Identity?


Amidst domestic strife and chaos, what stands out is the Pakistani Army, which calls the shots. It has ruled the country for over three decades and even when the civil government was in power the Pakistani Army took key policy decisions on foreign affairs, particularly in its relation to India, China and the US.  It is this entity that determines the defence budget.  It is the one that has the nuclear button. It also controls the ISI and the entire range of illegal activities of nuclear proliferation. It also controls the Afghan Taliban against Afghanistan and terrorist organisations that fight in Jammu & Kashmir such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Hizbul Mujahedeen.  It also controls the ‘Haqqani Network’ that operates against the US forces in Afghanistan. It controls millions of dollars to spread terrorism in Afghanistan, India, Iran, China’s Xinjiang Province and world over. Suffice it to say that Osama bin Laden was kept incognito in Abbotabad for five years at a stone’s throw from Pakistan Military Academy. Pakistan’s national identity has been subjugated by the predominance of Pakistan Army’s identity. As someone said “Pakistan is not a nation with an Army but it is an Army with a nation.”


Pakistan’s Nuclear Identity


Many attribute Pakistan’s Nuclear Programme as a consequence to India’s Peaceful Nuclear Explosion in 1974, when Bhutto said “Pakistanis will eat grass but make a nuclear bomb.”  However, Pakistan’s nuclear aspirations started much earlier in 1958 itself, when Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission was established. Her defeat and disintegration in December 1971 spurred her quest for nuclear weapons with greater vigour. On 20 January 1972, just about a month after the war, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the then President of Pakistan addressed a conference of nuclear scientists and engineers at Multan and asked them to make a bomb.  In 1990, China conducted a proxy test for Pakistan using the simplest of design CHIC 4, with enriched uranium on 26 May 1990 at Lop Nur.  Again in the same year, China supplied to Pakistan high-tech ‘ring magnets’ essential for nuclear particle separation for making radioactive ‘Highly Enriched Uranium’ (HEU). A. Q. Khan, addressing a meeting in May 2016, unequivocally claimed that Pakistan could have exploded the bomb as early as in 1984 but was not allowed to do so by President Zia-ul-Haq. Notwithstanding his claim, Pakistan earned its nuclear spurs on 28 May 1998, when it exploded its nuclear devices in response to Indian nuclear tests two weeks before. Pakistan had earned its identity of producing the ‘First Islamic Bomb’. 


Pakistan as a ‘Missile Power’


In 1987, China concluded a deal with Pakistan to export M11 SSM (500Kg/300 KMs).  84 of these missiles were received by Pakistan in 1993. During the same period, Pakistan also imported Rodong Missiles from North Korea. The US imposed sanctions both on China and Pakistan for violating ‘Missile Technology Control Regime’ (MTCR). Over a period of 2-4 years the sanctions were lifted and they had very limited effect on the ‘Nuclear and Missile’ programme of both the countries. A range of missiles have been developed by Pakistan by reverse engineering the North Korean Rodong I and Chinese M-11 missiles. It suffices to say that Pakistan presently has the entire range of missiles for a full spectrum of operations at a regional level. She has established her identity as a ‘Missile Power’. 


Pakistan’s Identity as a Nuclear Proliferator


In 1976, Bhutto first went on a visit to North Korea and established rapport with the recluse country. It was the start of a long relationship of proliferation. The visit was followed up by his daughter, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in early 1990 and the first lot of Rodong I, Long Range Missiles, was purchased by Pakistan. In exchange, Pakistan gave them ‘civil nuclear technology’. A decade later, A. Q. Khan’s nuclear technology proliferation was in full swing. In 2002, the US officials produced evidence that he had exported ‘gas centrifuges’ to help North Korea produce HEU. He confessed to his involvement in illegally exporting nuclear technology to North Korea, Iran and Libya. Pakistan government disowned his activities but Khan said that the Pakistani government was in full knowledge of his activities. He also claimed that General Mirza Aslam Baig, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and General Pervez Musharraf, over different periods, were in full knowledge and sanctioned this proliferation. The track record of Pakistan in unabashed proliferation was so thoroughly exposed that it really looks comical that it is competing with India for entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), at par with India. China’s support to Pakistan’s entry into NSG is only to stall India’s entry, as it knows very well that no sane country in the world, would ever give entry to Pakistan into the NSG. It is also not surprising that China, whose track record in nuclear and missile proliferation is second only to Pakistan, is supporting a more accomplished friend.


China has been the real force behind the proliferation of nuclear technology to North Korea.  Pakistan was to do the dirty work and was a proxy to Chinese evil game. The Chinese strategy was to keep two vassal and rogue states on its either flanks that would be fully under her control: North Korea and Pakistan. North Korea is dependent on China for 75 percent exports and 76 percent imports. Presently, only China has some sort of control over Pyongyang and the whole world has to contact it through China. To keep North Korea powerful and unassailable is in the long-term Chinese interests. If the North Korean regime is ousted, then the United Korea would be under the US influence and the US troops would have a common land border with China. China might have to contend with the full might of Japan, the US and a United Korea! Hence, the Chinese strategy entails that North Korea needs to be a nuclear weapon state to survive. To directly give nuclear technology would invite sanctions; hence Pakistan is the ready loyal minion to do the dirty work for China. Pakistan, ever genuflecting and waiting to display her loyalty to China, was the best candidate to proliferate nuclear weapons technology to North Korea. As per Shirley Khan, an advisor to the US Congress on Asian Security Affairs, Islamabad’s nuclear proliferation to North Korea during late 1990s corresponded with an increase in Chinese support for Pakistan’s Nuclear Programme. It proves the complicity between China and Pakistan in nuclear proliferation to North Korea.


[This opinion piece forms a part of an article series – “Pakistan and the Proliferation Axis” – of the Science, Technology & Security forum.]


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are personal.