Islamabad - As Pakistan has already achieved deterrence and created balance of power in sub-continent after its successful nuclear tests 21 years ago, it is time to divert resources towards the economic development of the country, believes renowned physicist Dr Samar Mubarakmand – who played a crucial role in achieving nuclear status for Pakistan.

In an interview with The Nation, Dr Samar said that the title of nuclear status not only brought ‘respect’ for Pakistan but also ruined Indian dream of dominating in the region.

Recollecting his memories of May 28, 1998, when Pakistan tested its nuclear bomb, Dr Samar said that it was 03:16pm when the button for the atomic test was pressed and next 35 seconds became nerves breaking for scientists present at the nuclear test site at Chaghi.

“We knew the computer would take 35 seconds to detonate the bomb, but nothing happened. Another six seconds later, a tremor was felt which turned into a strong earthquake which announced to the entire world that Pakistan has become a nuclear state,” he said.

The nuclear physicists describing the nature of the blast said that after the earthquake, 30-kilometer mountainous range initially started becoming white and in a few moments the mountain was white like snow. “The spot where the bomb was installed became hot red,” he said.

Dr Samar said that efforts for making the country a nuclear state begun in 1972, but were augmented after 1974 when India for the first time tested its nuclear bomb in Pokhran and created an imbalance in the region. Though at that time Pakistan didn’t respond, the defence planners had decided to maintain the balance of power with India in the sub-continent, he added.

“India had five times larger army than Pakistan and to meet that military might, we needed to allocate huge resources, which were not possible [due to economic constraints],” said Dr Samar.

He said that to cover the gap and ensure defence against ever hostile India, Pakistan decided to launch its own nuclear programme and started it from the platform of Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC). Through PAEC we had started the training of human resource for the nuclear programme as early as 1960 and sent our young graduates to world best institutions and when the programme was launched it had enough human resource to run it, he added. So, when Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto met with scientists in 1972 in Multan, where Dr Abdus Salam was also present, and asked about starting the nuclear defence programme, the team of scientists responded in an affirmative nod.

Dr Samar Mubarakmand said the next step was the discovering of uranium and its enrichment which was successfully led by Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, while a PAEC team of theoretical physicists worked on the design of the bomb. Initial bombs were larger in size, he revealed.

The scientist said that in 1983, Pakistan held a cold test of the design which remained successful and they asked then government of General Ziaul Haq for the hot test at Chaghi, which was not permitted. The scientists then started working on reducing the size of the atomic weapon.

“It was important to reduce the weight of the atomic bomb, and when at Chaghi the nuclear tests were done in 1998, physicists had designed around six different sizes of bombs by that time,” Samar said.

In 1996, news was leaked from the United States that India was all set to test its nuclear bomb in Pokhran. The Pakistan side also reached Chaghi and processed the plugging for the hot test. But, India dropped the plan due to international pressure.

“[As much as] 80 percent preparation of nuclear tests was done in 1996, so the scientists’ team took only 30 hours in assembling the atomic bombs in tunnels at Chaghi in 1998,” said Dr Samar.

He also said that though India claimed testing five hydrogen bombs on 13th and 15th of May in 1998, the scientific systems in the US, Norway, Australia and Pakistan detected only single successful test. “And the power of the one successful test was almost same as that of the earlier tests at Pokhran conducted in 1974,” he added.

Dr Samar said that test, Pakistan side also called a meeting of the defence committee of the cabinet under then PM Nawaz Sharif and I was asked about our preparation for the nuclear tests. “Considering the opinion of the majority it was decided that Pakistan will go for its nuclear tests and respond to India in a louder tone with six nuclear blasts in Chaghi and Kharan,” he added.

Finally, the government gave the go-ahead on May 19, 1998, and the team of scientists reached Quetta on 20th on helicopters. “Few bombs in crates also travelled with us in helicopters,” he said.

The bomb was assembled inside the narrow tunnel to keep it hidden, while remote control was set around 20 kilometres off the detonating site. “It was done in five steps, the computer switched on the power, then voltage, then high voltage, safety switches were closed, then second safety switches were closed, and the bomb was finally detonated in almost 35 seconds only,” he said.

Commenting on the international pressure Pakistan faced in 1998 after its nuclear tests, Dr Samar said that the world is not a fair place and western powers were averse to emergence of a strong Islamic power.

He recollected that before Pakistan proved its nuclear capability, the Indian PM said in their parliament that New Delhi was the leading power of sub-continent and now entire Kashmir was also part of India. It was also said that India will now drive Pakistan’s economic, defence and foreign policy. It was testing time for the whole nation and a challenge for Pakistan as to if it could take its sovereign decisions or not, he said.

“But after Pakistan’s nuclear tests, there was silence from the Indian side,” said Dr Samar Mubarakmand. He said that if Pakistan would not have taken this step, no one in the world would have accepted it as a nuclear state and country would have become weak politically and militarily. He said that later events also proved that the nuclear status helped Pakistan maintain peace in the region and prevented large scale wars between the two neighbours.

“Kargil crisis, Indian parliament attack, Bombay blasts, and Pulwama attacks are examples when nukes helped in keeping the peace,” Dr Samar said. He said that India deployed 800,000 military troops on the border during Kargil episode but avoided crossing the border, and if Pakistan wasn’t a nuclear state, there could have been an all out war.

“Such capabilities are the strength of the nations, and when you cannot respond power with power, peace can’t be maintained,” he said. He added that May 28 is the day of pride for the nation and a source of respect for Pakistan in the world.

Talking about the way forward after achieving the nuclear status, the nuclear physicists said that now when the country has achieved deterrence, and it has tactical and strategic weapons, the focus should be economic development.

“We should divert our resources towards economic, industrial, agricultural, educational and health development. We should also work for social welfare and improve the living standard of our people. But for all this to happen, we need conscientious and honest politicians,” he said.

“But we should also remain vigilant, never lose focus and make our departments strong so they could respond to any aggression of the enemy,” he stressed.

[As much as] 80 percent preparation for the nuclear tests had been done in 1996, so, the scientists’ team took only 30 hours in assembling the atomic bombs

in tunnels at Chaghi in 1998.