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Pakistan - India: The need for public education on the horrors of nuclear war

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asians Against Nukes - Year 10 February 12, 2009 URL: groups.yahoo.com/group/SAAN_/message/1238 ... Dawn (Pakistan) 11 Feb, 2009 Dr Khan’s new mission?
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 12, 2009
      South Asians Against Nukes - Year 10
      February 12, 2009
      URL: groups.yahoo.com/group/SAAN_/message/1238


      Dawn (Pakistan)
      11 Feb, 2009

      Dr Khan’s new mission?

      by Zubeida Mustafa

      DR A.Q. Khan, who is a hero to many as the father of Pakistan’s atom
      bomb, was declared a free citizen by the Islamabad High Court last
      week. The government has said it will appeal against the ruling.

      Yet many rejoiced at Dr Khan’s winning his freedom that was said to
      be limited by mutually agreed conditions imposed on him by the
      government. The scientist has promised to spend his days “spreading
      education” though it is not clear what his message will be.

      Pakistanis could certainly benefit from some knowledge about the
      hazards and dangers of nuclear weapons. It is a pity that when
      Pakistan embarked on the road to nuclearisation, the hawks in the
      establishment who controlled policymaking did not deem it necessary
      to inform the public honestly about the destructiveness of the atom
      bomb. Most people believe it to be a bigger bum with greater
      explosive power.

      There are issues that need to be articulated comprehensively before
      one can really expect Pakistanis to formulate an informed opinion on
      nuclear weapons. Policymakers have waxed eloquent about the
      compulsions of national security and the need for building bulwarks
      to protect the country from our enemies without informing us that
      foreign policy is the other side of the coin that can reinforce
      defence if executed judiciously.

      It is only fair that the cards are laid squarely on the table so that
      our people understand the balance of power that exists between
      Pakistan and India (which has been officially projected as our
      enemy). They will not fail to recognise the disparity between the
      elements that go into the making of national power, such as
      geopolitical/strategic strength, economic resources, population,
      social capital, strength of government and size of territory.

      The reality of the imbalance between the two countries has not
      deterred our hawks from indulging in jingoism. Since barely one in
      five people in Pakistan is old enough to have vivid memories of the
      last war we fought with India in 1971 when we lost half the country,
      the population is easily deceived into believing that our disputes
      can only be resolved on the battlefield. But this time the
      devastation would be worse. We have to factor in the insurgency in
      Fata and Swat and its spillover in other regions of Pakistan and also
      consider the nuclear bomb when calculating the prospects of winning
      or losing. But who wants a Pyrrhic victory?

      A wealth of material has been published on the impact of an Indo-
      Pakistan nuclear war but few would have read it. In Out of the
      Nuclear Shadow, Pervez Hoodbhoy and Zia Mian give rough estimates of
      the casualties that can be expected. They are mind-boggling.
      Calculating on the basis of the data available for Hiroshima, they
      say that similar attacks on 10 Indian and Pakistani cities would lead
      to the death of 2.9 million people with another 1.5 million severely
      injured and 3.5 million slightly injured (by which the writers
      probably mean the victims would suffer from the side effects of
      radiation that caused deformities in unborn children of victims for
      years in Japan).

      Hoodbhoy and Mian add, “There is also the loss of key social and
      physical networks that make daily life possible: families and
      neighbourhoods would be devastated, factories, shops, electricity and
      water systems demolished, hospitals and schools and government
      offices destroyed.”

      But that is not all. It needed the creative brilliance of Kamila
      Shamsie, the young author of Burnt Shadows, to capture in vivid
      passages the pain and trauma of this destruction. It is ironical that
      her book was launched a day before Dr A.Q. Khan won his freedom.

      Describing the few moments after the atom bomb hit Nagasaki, Shamsie
      writes, “The light is physical. It throws Hiroko forward, sprawling.
      Dust enters her mouth, her nose, as she hits the ground, and it
      burns…. She stands up. The air is suddenly hot and she can feel it on
      her skin. She can feel it on her back. She glides her hand over her
      shoulder, touches flesh where there should be silk. Moves her hand
      further down her back, touches what is neither flesh nor silk but
      both…. Now there is no feeling. She taps the place that is neither
      flesh nor silk but both. There is no feeling at all.”

      This is fiction, but based on painstaking research by Shamsie.
      However, what Emiko Okada, a hibakusha (survivor of the nuclear
      attack on Hiroshima), had to say was not fiction. Visiting Pakistan
      as a member of the Hiroshima World Peace Mission on the 60th
      anniversary of the nuclear attack, Okada described graphically the
      destruction she herself witnessed and experienced as an eight-year-
      old on that fateful day. “My sister Mieko was 12 when the bomb was
      dropped. She had stepped out of the house and was hit by the blast.
      She vaporised never to be seen again.” Those researching the
      devastation of Hiroshima have confirmed that shadows on the ground
      were the remnants of vaporised bodies.

      It is time people were educated about this devastation — about TheDay
      After (a 1983 film depicting the horrific aftermath of a nuclear
      attack). A recent Time magazine interview with Alan Robock, an
      environmentalist who had been a member of a

      team researching a “nuclear winter” scenario that could follow a
      nuclear war, is quite revealing.

      Talking about a nuclear war between India and Pakistan in which each
      country uses 50 Hiroshima-sized weapons, Robock says, “That’s enough
      firepower to kill around 20 million people on the ground. We were
      surprised that the amount of smoke produced by these explosions would
      block out sunlight, cool the planet, and produce climate change
      unprecedented in recorded human history.”He also pointed out that
      there would be a shortening of the growing season by a couple of
      weeks affecting some crop yield and causing a severe food crisis.

      The aftermath of a nuclear war needs to be discussed coolly. It would
      also help if a similar exercise were to be carried out on the other
      side of the border. Dr A.Q. Khan could invite the former president of
      India, A.P.J. Abul Kalam, the father of the Indian bomb, to join
      hands with him in this mission.


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