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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Happy Birthday My Bomb The Dearest

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: May 24, 2012

Mian Nawaz Sharif must and should gloat in glee for making the only ‘Citadel of Islam’ absolutely invincible, and above all, for making the Glory of the Almighty directly proportional to the size of our nuclear arsenal. Before the hyper-nationalists, the puritans and patriots issue some decree against me, let me clarify. Another Yaum-e-Takbeer is around the corner. Why do we need to tie the Glory of God to our nuclear assets? Anyone, please?

I still have clear recollection of the summer of 1998. Someone returned from Pakistan and narrated the jubilation of the nation. How everyone was on cloud nine after witnessing a befitting response to the archival, India. The jingoistic slogans were the newsworthy items in the rather nascent internet publications from Pakistan. People were ecstatic, much like as if they had won the World Cup against India.

I am no political, military or security analyst, but in my humble opinion, it was a tremendous opportunity that Mr Sharif failed to seize. Mentally, perhaps, he was on the cricket pitch of Lahore Gymkhana, playing his favourite sport. He rode on the idea of ‘tit for tat’ and a monumental political gain — a solid ‘sixer’ and a great victory almost guaranteeing him another term. What an irony; almost a year later, he found himself behind bars in the Attock Jail, if my memory serves me right. What a pity, the ‘man of the match’ was given such an unprecedented and shabby treatment.

Again, if I am rewinding the events accurately, the Clinton White House had intervened prior to the nuclear test. Diplomatic efforts were made to sway the premier on our end. The premier had refused to budge and traded the ‘day of a lion’ over ‘thousand years of a jackal’, Never mind that the same ‘lion’ was seen acting like a ‘mouse’ perhaps a year later in New York. But such is life. There is a saying in Urdu that loosely translates as: ‘Sometimes, the days are much longer than the nights, and sometimes, it is the other way around.’ Need I say more? The same overly blown honour deflated so rapidly, it honestly evokes uncontrolled mirth.

While we are on the subject of sports and games, any amateur cardplayer will tell you that you never show your strength or weakness in a game. Keep your cards close to the chest, and play the game, maximising your advantage. If Mr Sharif had negotiated with the State Department at that juncture, perhaps it would have been a win-win situation for Pakistan. Who knows, the circular debt could have been written off, some aid specific to healthcare, education and entrepreneurial ventures could be on the table. A nation without the shackles of debt would have been much better off by 2012. Ah, the pavilion cheers...ah, the honour, probably, is priceless and non-negotiable.

Again, to the hyper-patriots, no one is suggesting that the plan of going nuclear should have been shelved. It should have continued as planned, except for the much touted and revered ‘tests’. If you take it astep further, the same technology should have been geared towards the energy issues of the country. A country so deficient in basic power, literally crippling its public at all ends, would have been in a much better shape. Where life and commerce are so adversely impacted, you find an extremely irate public, screaming for its basic needs. Yet, we thump our chests for possessing the ‘bomb’. This sure bombs the whole idea of this bomb. I would refrain from mentioning the ‘father of the bomb’ here, as that is a different subject for another day. However, I would urge people to Google John Stewart and Dr A Q Khan. The Stewart skit on him is an absolute classic.

As anything in our promised land, there is a twisted ‘Islamic’ angle to this great achievement for the entire Ummah. The question here is not the existence of the bomb, the question is our misplaced priorities. Our emotions have always outsmarted our pragmatism. We live in that emotional bubble, which cocoons us from all facts and reality. The real war in the modern day is not about a nuclear arsenal, but information and economic resources. Nations who master those skills will be ahead of the game.

Those of us who live in an imaginary and illusionary world of strength based on the bomb ought to revisit Economics 101. There is a rudimentary concept of guns and butter. We really need to go over that concept over and over again. The butter should trump everything, although I would go for vegetable shortening with zero trans-fats in this day and age. Well-fed stomachs have adequate energy to charge ideas, which are much stronger than any bomb. Thriving nations with innovative ideas and endless commerce explode with excitement and prosperity. You find people energised with optimism as they are armed with possibilities. Until this concept finally gels, it is time to sing the ‘happy birthday, my bomb, the dearest’ song. After all, it is 14 years old. The question that still lingers is, has this teenager made us any safer? I will end here at this note: just ask the Almighty yourself, how His Glory can reign supreme in our hearts forever.

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