Ever since the revelation that Abdul Qadeer Khan had been operating a nuclear black market, Pakistan has had to constantly defend its right to be a nuclear power in a way that India — which went nuclear at the same time as us, or Israel, which never officially admitted to its nuclear capability — never had to. The international community continues to worry that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons may fall into the hands of terrorists, a fear that ignores the many changes we made to our nuclear protocols and safety in the last few years. Thus, while Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s call for us to be given civil nuclear technology at a nuclear-security summit in Seoul will most likely be rebuffed, perhaps, the time is right to admit Pakistan to the club of responsible nuclear powers.
The benefits of a civil nuclear technology deal to Pakistan are clear. Perhaps, the most important benefit is that it will allow us to harness nuclear energy in service of our energy woes. The rest of the world, particularly the US, might have some reservations but those could be easily addressed. If Pakistan is so keen on a nuclear deal, the US could propose some conditions that allow them to keep a greater watch on our nuclear activities.
For us, the aim is to be treated on parity with India as a nuclear power and find a solution to the power crisis. If we were able to produce nuclear energy, this could also prove beneficial to the US, which because of its enmity with Iran has been trying to throw a spanner in the Iran gas pipeline. Thus, we are within our rights to demand civilian nuclear technology. The greatest fear — that our nuclear weapons may fall into the hands of the Taliban — have always been inflated, since the military itself has been repeatedly attacked by militants and would have no desire to hand over to them a weapon that would make them untouchable.
Having demonstrated our nuclear safety and security, it is time for the world to acknowledge us as a legitimate nuclear power.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 28th, 2012.