Shutdown in Quetta on 12th anniversary of Pakistan’s nuke tests

Quetta, May 28 (IANS) While the rest of Pakistan observed Youm-e-Takbeer Friday in remembrance of the scientists who had conducted nuclear tests on this day 12 days ago, Quetta observed a shutdown to protest the tests that were conducted in Balochistan.

The shutdown was called by the Baloch National Front (BNF) and most markets in this Balochistan capital wore a deserted look.

Wearing black ribbons, BNF volunteers took out rallies but no untoward incident was reported, Online news agency reported.

The nuclear tests were conducted May 28, 1998 in Balochistan’s Chagai hills area as a tit-for-tat response to India’s tests May 11 of the same year.

The BNF is an alliance of eight Baloch nationalist organizations who are against participation in Pakistan’s parliamentary space. Formed in February 2009, BNF had Ghulam Mohammed Baloch as its secretary general until he was killed in April of that year.

In sharp contrast, Nawaz Sharif, who was Pakistan’s prime minister when the tests took place, vigorously defended them, saying he had rejected a $5 billion package offered by then US president Bill Clinton to refrain from doing so.

‘I told him (Clinton) that we are not among those people who are sold for a few dollars, not now and in future too. Thus we successfully carried out our nuclear tests,’ Sharif told party activists at a Youm-e-Takbeer function in Lahore.

Sharif said the entire nation was united in favour of the nuclear tests and Mushahid Hussain, who was the information minister at the time, ‘was the first person who advised me’ that they should be conducted in reply to those by India.

‘It was the democratic government that took the bold decision of conducting nuclear tests and if there was a dictator, he would have never gone for the tests,’ Sharif maintained.

The reference was to former president Pervez Musharraf, who deposed Sharif in a bloodless coup in 1999 and ruled for nine years.

The nuclear tests had made this country’s defence ‘undefeatable and Pakistan became the first nuclear power of the Islamic world’, Sharif said.