Pakistan is becoming the world’s most irrelevant nuclear power

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Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Shahbaz Sharif, declared 28 May to be a public holiday. The House of Sharif, the family in control of one of the two dynastic political parties (the PML-N) of Pakistan, chose to remind the population that this was the day, in 1998, when Pakistan openly launched tests of its nuclear weapons. This was done in response to India’s nuclear test which was undertaken a few weeks before. Although the prime minister of the time, Nawaz Sharif, the current prime minister’s brother, wanted to remain in Washington’s good books, Pakistan’s rulers, especially the military top brass, felt it was absolutely essential to respond in kind to New Delhi’s brazenly dangerous act.

Islamabad was willing to face the repercussions of its nuclear tests, and the US duly slapped devastating sanctions on the Islamic Republic immediately. Pakistan’s ruling elite employed a nationalist narrative that attempted to affirm the country’s sovereignty. The reality was that — as is the case of most of these imperialist sanctions — the only people who would have to endure and survive (or not) such Western economic warfare were the already disenfranchised and exploited vast majority of ordinary Pakistanis. The political and business elites would continue to enjoy lavish lifestyles. The rulers deployed rhetoric about “Pakistanis willing to eat grass” in order to defend the country’s nuclear programme. What this camouflaged and obfuscated was the fact that those already so impoverished were already on the brink of “eating grass”, and that they would be the people who would continue to do so with US sanctions on the country.

The already well off would continue to eat their five-course meals, on the backs and blood of the social majorities.
Nevertheless, the hoo-ha about this day is just one more attempt by the prime minister to obtain a minimal level of legitimacy in a country that mostly detests the regime installed by Pakistan’s generals. This sentiment is not only found in ousted and jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s political party, the PTI, but also across society and among those of varying ideological orientation. The population at large has had enough of the political musical chairs of both the House of Sharif and the House of Bhutto-Zardari, the latter being the family controlling the other major dynastic political party in the country, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).


The celebration of “nuclear test day” by Sharif and the generals is meant to be a “show of strength” by a country whose rulers are desperate to demonstrate how they can stand up to any power trying to interfere in and violate Pakistan’s sovereignty. At least, that’s what they want the country’s people to believe. In reality, such asinine theatrics conceal the colossal cowardice of the country’s military and civilian elite.

The fact that this clownish military-civilian regime prioritises its “military prowess” because of its nuclear tests in 1998 is not only absurd, but also scandalous and even criminal at this juncture. Pakistan has the world’s fifth largest population, and sixth largest — and nuclear armed — military. It seems that this regime, like others before it, loves to showcase its ostensibly strong military via such meaningless gestures. And in this period of Israel’s genocide in Gaza, having a public holiday to celebrate the Pakistani armed forces’ capabilities and gallantry reveals the shameful and tragic embarrassment which characterises the country’s rulers.

There has been a serious and necessary question mark over the past few months about what concrete actions countries, particularly those in the Muslim world, can undertake to help stop Israel’s savage assault against the Palestinians in Gaza. The legitimate popular criticism and condemnation of Muslim rulers’ unwillingness to act beyond mere rhetorical flourishes is palpable throughout the world of Islam.

Putting aside the valid claims of the pre-existing criminality of the Pakistani military top brass, the nation’s — and indeed, the world’s — people are livid that the whole weight of the armed forces are not deployed by the generals, even as a warning that Islamabad will confront Tel Aviv in some way if the genocide continues. How difficult would it be for Pakistan’s armed forces, perhaps joined by others in a coalition, merely to announce that they will be leading a protection force for the suffering people of Gaza?

Even the hint of such a force would surely make Zionists think twice before continuing their butchery.
Alas, Pakistan’s generals remain fairly consistent in their worldview: facilitate imperial hegemony as best as possible at any given time, and be more than willing to position and utilise the country’s troops to murder its own population, which is done abundantly in provinces such as KPK and Balochistan. The military high command had few qualms about submitting to the “War on Terror” and losing tens of thousands of its own soldiers within the country’s own borders.

When one indulges in an even cursory and preliminary conversation with ordinary Pakistanis, it becomes obvious how incensed they are at Israel and the spineless rulers of Pakistan. In fact, the indignation — even among those sections of the population that face repression inside the country — is reaching levels whereby many are speaking of a “people’s army” to defend the Palestinians from Israelis.

Until the generals and their civilian pals in the House of Sharif and House of Bhutto-Zardari use the country’s armed forces for something useful, like protecting a besieged population, they will be ridiculed, and rightly so. However, even a minimal moral-ethical impulse may be too much to ask of the nation’s vicious elites. Pakistan is now seen as a “paper tiger” that has miraculously been degraded to the status of a banana republic. The supposed Islamic Republic has become the “Imbecilic Republic” for many.

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Disclaimer: Pakistan is becoming the world’s most irrelevant nuclear power - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect point-of-view

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