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Re: Najum Mushtaq, “Missing the Point in Pakistan,” March 27, 2008
While most of the arguments made in Najum Mushtaq’s article are valid and help describe how Pakistan has become a threat to itself, the writer fails to make a convincing case for why Pakistan should not remain a nuclear power. In fact, I think he is missing the point.
It is naive to think that Pakistan’s people or its government would even consider such a suggestion. Likewise, for the United States, it wouldbe politically impossible to considerpushing this agenda, especially when it is closing nuclear deals with neighboring India.
Pakistan’s interest is to protect its sovereignty and build a strong defense. Its nuclear weapons infrastructure has also served as an educational tool for the country and its elite, helping it to compete with world-class technical and scientific standards and to prevent it from looking upon India with envy.
Mr. Mushtaq rejects the idea of assisting Pakistanin the technical and political know how that countries like the United States and France havelong experience with.But providing that kind of assistance would help diminish old suspicions and belie fears of unwarranted pressure tactics.
Diplomacy and technical assistance aimed at helping Pakistan become a responsible member of the nuclear club is the only way to handle the situation in that country. Other current examples support this case. In the heated situation over Iran’s nuclear program, have demands that Iran not develop its own nuclear capabilities achieved anything? And in North Korea, have we not learned that even exorbitant amounts of money have failed to buy back or destroy weapons and capabilities that took years to develop?
—Ulrike Siddiqi, Honolulu, Hawaii
Najum Mushtaq responds:
Why shouldn’t Pakistan keep nuclear weapons? Because all the major reasons for keeping them—deterrence, national pride, and low-cost “minimum deterrence”—have proved wrong. During the 1999 Kargil conflict, it became abundantly clear that having nuclear weapons would not deter Indian aggression. Estimates of Pakistani casualties vary from 2,000 to 4,000. The humiliation of an unseemly retreat did little to furbish Pakistan’s image as a “responsible member of the nuclear club.” Nor has it proved cheaper to maintain a minimum nuclear deterrent, as compared to boosting conventional forces. Pakistan’s defense budget has gone up significantly every year since the 1998 nuclear tests.
Similarly, it is flawed to say that maintaining a nuclear weapons infrastructure serves as “an educational tool for the country and its elite, helping it to compete with world-class technical and scientific standards,” to quote Ms. Siddiqi. As one eminent Pakistani physicist has said: "Genuine science in Pakistan has actually shrunk, not grown, over the last three decades.”.Rather than investing in the abysmally under-developed and substandard science education and introducing the use of technology in daily life, Pakistan has spent untold and unaccounted for billions of dollars in making weapons that are of no use in war or peace.
The claim that going nuclear has strengthened Pakistan’s sovereignty and independence also sounds hollow, given the direct involvement of the Pentagon through assistance programs to build the capacity of the Pakistani army to ensure safety of the nuclear weapons.
—Najum Mushtaq, Nairobi, Kenya
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